Posted in Faith

It’s Christmas!

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Today, we celebrate Jesus’ birth! 🙂

Reflecting on Luke 2, I love to think about what was happening on that night.

A census was issued by Caesar Augustus to have families return to their birthplace. Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be counted.  He was going to register Mary who was pledged to be married to him. Most of us are familiar with the story of an innkeeper that told them there was no room, however Answers in Genesis gives this account as a reasonable explanation for what really happened:

Joseph and Mary probably stayed with Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem, but because of the large influx of people, the house would have been crowded and the kataluma (guest room) was full. Consequently, Joseph and Mary would have been relegated to living in the lower level of the house. It is hard to believe that pregnant Mary would have been turned away from a relative’s home in a society that greatly valued familial ties.

Archaeologists have excavated first century homes from the Judean hill country. They have discovered that the upper level served as a guest chamber while the lower level served as the living and dining rooms. Oftentimes, the more vulnerable animals would be brought in at night to protect them from the cold and theft. This sounds strange to many of us, since we wouldn’t dream of bringing some of our cattle into the house at night, but even today in some countries of Europe (e.g., Germany and Austria), the farmhouse and the animal quarters are often different parts of the same building.

This is where the manger comes into play. Mary likely gave birth to Jesus in the lower level of a crowded house, in which some of the animals had been brought in for the night. She then wrapped Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid Him in the manger (feeding trough).

And thinking of the shepherds out in the fields that night, it’s incredible to think what they saw and heard.  It probably started out as a normal evening, and then within moments, an angel appeared (most likely, the shepherds had never seen them before) and told them not to be afraid.  Sure, no problem.  But then, the shepherds are told:

I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. -Luke 2:9-12

Can you imagine just minding your own business and then a being appears next to you with a message? And then immediately after that, the sky opens and more angels show up, singing?

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST HEAVEN, AND ON EARTH PEACE TO THOSE ON WHOM HIS FAVOR RESTS!

To be alive and witness these events had to be amazing! I know the shepherds had to be initially fearful, because an angel told them not to be, and there must have been an ignition in their hearts to go see what was happening because they “hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” Luke 2:16

Here’s the part I love: He used unlikely messengers.  And I’m not talking about the angels.  I love that God chose shepherds to carry the message to the people.  Then they spread the news of what they saw, praising and glorifying God for what they had seen and heard.  Oh, to be near people that rejoice and get excited about what the Lord is doing! Never before, did they have hope like that! Up to that time, those who knew the Lord only knew that one day He would send a Messiah to save them, and here they were in the fields, getting the message firsthand.  What an honor!

I’m in awe, as well, of the role of shepherds. They obviously take care of sheep, but how exactly? They provide food, water, protection in the field and when walking through rivers, shelter from storms, and restoration to the fold when one runs off.

And how incredible that the Lord used the same role to describe Himself, to say that He is our Good Shepherd! In John 10, Jesus explains to the Pharisees about those who are able to enter the sheep pen by the gate, not other means. He is equating access to the Father through Him, our Good Shepherd.  He says that those who know Him hear His voice, which is the same as shepherds who have a specific call to their sheep.  Others can mimic the shepherd, but the sheep won’t respond.  So it should be with us.

I segued to shepherds because I love the correlation between one who protects sheep and the ONE who protects us.  Jesus was sent by God to become man, to be able to identify with us in our flesh, to be tempted and resist, so He could prove that we could do the same. He also humbled Himself by doing His Father’s will.  He sacrificed His life for His sheep (US!) and died on the cross so that when God and the Holy Spirit resurrected Him three days later, not only did He fulfill Scripture, but He conquered death FOREVER for those who believe in Him.  Death no longer has a hold on us!!  And there is also now a WAY, a DOOR to get to the Father that is not through human means, no matter what people tell you.  We have FULL ACCESS to our Heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And all of this was to be accomplished by our Lord whom we celebrate today.

So it’s an honor to reflect on the good news that brings us great joy this Christmas morning!  Jesus came to Earth to fulfill His redemption plan for us.  I am so thankful for the way He modeled righteous living, His continual and unending mercy and grace, His forgiveness that is never withheld and His precious, sacrificial love.  He was fully God and fully man so that He could redeem us.

When you are sipping coffee, watching wrapping paper fly by, and listening to Christmas music, may you take a moment to stop and reflect on all that this baby meant and still means for our salvation.

Glory to God in the Highest INDEED!

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Posted in Faith

HE IS RISEN!! ALLELUIA!

I woke up this morning and the tears just fell…I know it’s Easter morning and my spirit is rejoicing today because I know I’m free!! One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Matthew 28: 1-10,

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Jesus did just as He said He would. And in Luke’s account, He states how two of the disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and were actually discussing with Jesus (though they didn’t know it at the time it was Him) and their understanding of His death. They were questioning where His body was and Jesus rebuked them saying they were foolish.  Didn’t they know that Christ had to suffer those things to bring His Father glory? My Quest Study Bible says in the sidebar that the reason Jesus called them foolish was because they were so caught up in their dreams of the Messiah establishing an earthly, political government that they missed His true intent: to rule the world through Spiritual power.

Continuing on in the story, Jesus then went to their house with them and after breaking bread with them, revealed to them who He was. God opened their eyes and they knew He was among them! (Luke 24:13-35)

My heart has been singing for the last hour because I know I’m free. The Bible also states that each believer should, “…Set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

I know the reason for the hope that I have. I was lost and am now found. I was blind, but now I see. Those words from the hymn “Amazing Grace” resonate within me so deeply because I know who I could’ve become if I’d stayed who I was, but now my life has meaning to it. I have a purpose and God has a plan for me. He disciplines those He loves, and I welcome those healthy boundaries so I can be under His protection. I delight in Him and am honored to be His child. Jesus rose from the dead to provide a way for me to go to the Father. Before I would’ve been TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE in my rags of sin and cloths of shame. But He dressed me in Himself and presented me to God to say, “She is mine.”

Good Friday was good because Jesus became human and died a human death to conquer death. He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and rose three days later to prove that He was (is) who He said He was. Nothing else is required by Him or us. The door is open to God and we can go to Him directly. We are free indeed! My chains are gone, I’ve been set free!

May you go forward and live as people of light. We are no longer restricted by the darkness, but are free in Christ!! That is certainly cause for celebration! If you were walking in darkness (1 John 1:6), I pray for you today, that you may walk in the light and be transformed! YOU ARE NOW ACCEPTABLE TO CHRIST!!

May He dwell in you richly! I love you.
God be with you and may He bless you!