Wicked and Wise

 Day Five: The Twelve Days of Christmas 

THE INTRODUCTION

Nativity paintings typically feature Mary, Joseph, and the little baby Jesus surrounded by angels, shepherds and the animals. And, almost always, the Magi are painted into the scene. I get the shepherds and angels but why the Magi? Who were they and why did they come? 

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Mary, Jesus, the wise men and in the background, is Joseph. Maybe not historically or culturally accurate, but it sure looks good at Christmas!

THE WISE

The Magi were scholars, astronomers, and philosophers. In their culture, they were highly important and wielded great influence. They were King makers, so, those on thrones rose to power because of Magi. They were commissioned to serve the royalty of the Babylonian empire.

Do you remember the Daniel of Daniel and the lions den? He became a person of  significance for interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. As a reward, the King made him ruler of the province and made him the chief Magi, Daniel 2:48:

“Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

Daniel taught them the prophecies of the one to be born king of kings. As king makers, they took this seriously and each generation passed the prophecies to the next one. They followed the time line that Daniel provided and when the time arrived, they looked for the sign, an evening star leading them to the infant king. 

THE WICKED

Herod was King of Judea and a wicked man. He wasn’t a rightful heir to the throne since he was neither Jewish or a descendant of King David. Herod wielded great power and placed his sons in positions of regional authority and used his political connections in Rome to expand his domain. He was possessed with unquenchable ambition and even murdered some of his family to eliminate potential rivals. 

When Herod heard about the birth of Jesus, the newly born King of the Jews, he immediately launched a search for the infant to have him killed. 

HerodtheGreat1_original
Herod: The wicked and violent King of Judea

THE WICKED AND THE WISE

  1. The wicked sought to kill Jesus while the Wise sought to honor him.
  2. The wicked put down threats while the Wise pursued divine opportunity. 
  3. The wicked feigned interest in worshiping while the Wise worshiped with awe.
  4. The wicked would give Jesus a sword while the Wise sought to give him royal gifts. 

TO CLOSE

On Christmas Eve, children will leave milk and cookies as gifts for Santa. Come Christmas morning, Santa will have left gifts for children. But I wonder, what will Jesus get? Are we finished giving to the one born the King of Kings?

Will there be praise and glory for our Emmanuel? Perhaps it depends on whether we are more like the wise or more like the wicked.

What does Jesus has on his wish list this year?

What gifts does he look for you to give?

Merry Christmas!

A Most Wonderful Time

Day One of Twelve Days of Christmas

 INTRODUCTION

Do you know what time it is? According to the song it’s the best time of the year. Maybe it is. You may be asking, “What’s all the excitement about?” The answer is found with the guys who composed the song so let’s check in with them. Do you know Edward Pola or George Wyle? No? I’ll wager you know their song,

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

They wrote and published the song in 1963, and that same year Andy Williams recorded it on what would become an immensely popular Christmas album cleverly entitled,

The Andy Williams Christmas Album”

SOME LYRICS

Absorb the nuance and embrace the happiness embedded within the words. Of course it’s the most wonderful time of the year. How could it not?

“With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer,

It’s the hap-happiest season of all, with those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings when friends come to call,

There’ll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

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Not my typical Christmas, not even close. Maybe if it was in color?

A WISTFUL SONG?

The song paints a picture of a Christmas I’ve never had. The lyrics ring out in joyous rapture about holiday parties, friends greeting you with good cheer, and gay happy meetings when friends stop by. Remember when “gay” meant having a merry time?

The people sure seem happy. With caroling in the snow and toasting the marshmallows, how could they not be happy? It sounds wonderful and it should, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 Frankly, Christmas isn’t like that for me. I’m often rushed and stressed with deadlines to meet, events to attend, and things to plan and produce. Kids aren’t jingle belling, nobody drops by and there isn’t any snow for caroling.

A SCROOGE?

Nope, I love Christmas. But the song elevates an experience beyond my reach. Maybe it’s the Christmas you always have, but not me. No, for me the joy of Christmas is found elsewhere: it’s in the Messiah’s birth.

All year, I’m about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But in the holidays, I’m all about his birth. I lift him up, high and exalted, for coming to our world. As the angel said,

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”

TheNativity (600 x 300)

 

TO CLOSE

I live in Houston, so there probably won’t be snow for caroling. Instead, I’ll be thinking how the universe shivered in awe as Emanuel came as an infant King.

For the next twelve days, I’ll blog about the Christmas story, beginning with his childhood and moving each day towards his birth. Please join me.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Merry Christmas

Jerusalem or Shechem: You Decide

They stared at me, glared and watched me. I didn’t belong.

In China

I was taller than most, had different skin, and my language was different. The Chinese stared and glared.

In Haiti

I was taller than most, had very different skin, and my language was different. The Haitians stared and glared.

But in Houston, where I belong, nobody stares, glares, or notices me. Its home.

About Jesus

In Galilee and Judea, Jesus wasn’t noticed either. But when he went to Shechem, he stood out like a sore thumb. He…

  • looked different.
  • sounded different.
  • had different customs.
  • was a foreigner.

Shechem was the epi-center of everything important to its residents.

  • It’s where Abraham received God’s covenant.
  • Jacob owned land in Shechem.
  • Joshua led the Israelites to Shechem.
  • It had Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of worship.

The problem was that Shechem was in Samaria and the Samaritans hated the Jews. The Jews were racist, despised the Samaritans and considered them less than dogs. Twice the Samaritans built a temple on Mt. Gerizim and twice the Jews tore them down.

But Jesus had to go to Samaria. Not by lack of roads, but because he had spiritual business. He offered salvation to a Samaritan woman, who told her community about him, and then he offered salvation to them too.

The woman wasn’t rich, powerful, or respected. She wasn’t morally acceptable. But Jesus offered her living water, the Holy Spirit, not because she deserved it, but because she didn’t. She was a broken, fallen person and a perfect representative of a broken and fallen people, the Samaritans. 

The Amazing Messiah

He didn’t argue their differences, didn’t debate who was right, or attempt to change her perspective. He just offered a new perspective, that he was Yahweh’s anointed and that he came to offer the Father’s love and the Father’s gift, the Spirit.

To Close

Shechem was Samaria’s spiritual center and Mt. Gerizim was their sacred place to worship. She had reason to worship there, and reason to be proud of it.

But in the Messiah’s kingdom, worshipping God wouldn’t be about geography, skin color, or historical significance. Nor would it be a religion for the morally superior. Jesus came and waited by the well for her. 

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His Kingdom calls forgiven sinners to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.

Shalom

Happy Birthday Rick!

Today is my 61st birthday. Happy birthday Rick.

The Doctor

So, a few weeks ago I went to my Doctor for a checkup. He checked me out, looked me over, listened to my heart and lungs, and everything else that Doctors do. Then he sent me to the lab for blood work. That’s what they call it: Blood Work.

The Results

I had the follow-up visit yesterday. Results: I’m healthy. Not perfect, but not bad. He reviewed my blood pressure, heart rate, and the blood work. He graded me:

  1. Cholesterol: A+ (it was 118)
  2. Blood pressure: A+ (it was 122/82)
  3. Heart rate: A+ (it was 78)
  4. Blood sugar: A+
  5. PSA: A+
  6. Liver function: A+
  7. Kidney function: A+

And so on.

It was a good report and I felt great about it. In fact, I was feeling medically smug, and was mentally patting myself on the back. I thought, “Rick, you’re as healthy as Superman! A 61-year-old Superman, but healthy.”

Then he said, “Rick, you need to lose 40 pounds, I want you to change your eating habits and get fit. No fad diets, just hard work and discipline. It’s your assignment for the next year.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t Superman, but aging, overweight, and not invincible.

Okay

So, its back to the gym every morning. It’s stretching, lifting, and cardio. It’s healthier, greener foods, and fewer, healthier calories. 

The Spiritual Side

Jesus did some bloodwork. It’s called Calvary, the cross, the Roman execution for the worst criminals, and it was bloody. Not to mention the scourging and the crown of thorns.

The Bible
Jesus did some blood work too. 

In Judaism, a sacrifice was an offering to God. The blood of a lamb and the lamb itself were offered to the Lord in supplication for their sin.

John recorded, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  

To Close

  • By his stripes, we are healed.
  • By his sacrifice, we are forgiven.
  • By his blood, we are cleansed.
  • By his death, we are redeemed.
  • By his resurrection, we are made new.

In Jesus, the weight of my sin was taken away. He put it on himself.

Happy Birthday Rick

Shalom!

Quiet Moment to Connect

2015-09-08-14.21Have you ever been singing a well-known song when, wham – out of nowhere, the lyrics just knock you over? That happened to me last Sunday while singing a much loved classic, “How Great Thou Art.” Here are the words that reached out and gripped my heart.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Stuart Hine, an English missionary to Poland, wrote these lyrics. He was moved to do so by a poem by Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg entitled, “O, Great God.” Hine added the lyrics and made a new arrangement of the melody that Boberg gave to the poem, making it into the song we know as, “How Great Thou Art.”

Turns out that Hine had some unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian mountains which inspired him to write the song. The mountains were special to him and from these mountain experiences he completed the song. I find that looking down from lofty mountain grandeur inspires me also. I treasure the brooks and streams and gentle mountain breezes, all of which remind me of the Spirit of God.

Our Father is also in the urban centers with their crowds of people, cars, and buildings. He may be harder to find in the city, or maybe city life makes it harder for me to look for him?

Be encouraged to find a quiet moment to reconnect with your Creator. It takes faith and our heart’s desire to find Him when surrounded by so much that discourages closeness with the Father. But, try anyway. He is there and wants to be found. And, He’s worth it. Thank you Mr. Boberg and Mr. Hine for “How Great Thou Art.”