Monday, December 26, 2005

A Christmas Challenge

My absence should not be interpreted as me being a Scrooge…not at all…but instead one sick dog. On Friday…an ongoing cough caught up with me and had me in bed for the last two and half days. My best laid plans for Christmas were set aside…and instead exchanged for switching between the bed and the sofa. My biggest accomplishments were feeding Nathan and Moss…and taking down the trash. Doesn’t sound like much…but trust me…even that took some effort.

The words I uttered most in the last two and half days were, “please God help me”…so today I am most grateful to be feeling better.

Unfortunately, I did let so much of the Christmas busyness keep me from focusing on Jesus. I surely hope that next year…I don’t loose sight.

One of the challenges I had wanted to try this year was from David Fisher at Pilgrim’s Scribblings. David is always one to inspire, encourage and challenge you. One of his postings prior to Christmas was to read Luke 2 each day before Christmas and come up with 12 rules of Christmas.

I did actually start it…but each time I waded in to reading Luke 2 I found so much to take away. But before this blessed Christmas season has passed entirely…I thought I’d try to write down some of the lessons I see in
Luke 2:1-40.

What from a human perspective, what seems like an inconvenience at an exceptionally bad time…is actually something God has ordained and is part of His plan.

It couldn’t have been an easy thing for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem just as she was about to deliver her firstborn child. But indeed it was part of God’s plan…because the promised Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem. So God had to get them there…from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Our God…who uses earthly rulers to accomplish his plans…caused Caesar Augustus to issue a decree.

Our first choice and God’s first choice may not always be the same.

What expectant mother would choose to give birth in a stable? But here again…we can see God’s wisdom. In the stable…Mary and Joseph would be afforded the privacy they would have lacked in the inn. No one would be intruding on them during this most vulnerable time. The stable was likely a cleaner place than the inn. And the warmth of the animals…helped protect both the new born babe and mother. Would the shepherds have been allowed in the inn as easily as they were at the stable…following the angel’s declaration of the good news of the Savior’s birth?

God values those who are seemingly insignificant in society…even lowly shepherds. He entrusts his message of the birth of the Christ child to these men. The shepherds listened to the message, believed…and chose to go witness for themselves the sight of the babe wrapped in clothes, lying in a manger. They didn’t doubt or question that it was God who had given them this message. There were excited and hurried off to find the babe…and they told others. They didn’t keep the message to themselves…they shared God’s good news. They glorified and praised God for all that they had seen.

Do I value those who are low and seemingly insignificant? What do I do with God’s Word that He has entrusted to me? He has entrusted me with the Bible…his very own Word. Am I eager to share it with others? Am I obedient to follow God’s leading? Do I praise and glorify God…not only with my words…but also my deeds?

Do I have the faith of Simeon?

Simeon was said to be righteous and devout. He had been promised that he would not die before he had seen the Christ child. Yet Simeon was very old…but he still believed. He was there at the temple and waited for the Christ child to be brought for his time of purification. He didn’t leave the temple…he didn’t get discouraged when it didn’t happen earlier at time that he would have preferred. He waited…on God’s timing…and trusted God’s promise.

He was looking for Jesus…and when he saw him…he recognized him. He took Jesus into his arms…and praised God. He acknowledged that God was faithful to his promise. That indeed he had seen God’s promised salvation. He recognized that Jesus was not only Messiah for the Jews…but also the hope and salvation of the Gentiles too.

Would I be like Anna…who worshiped in the temple night and day? Would I recognize the Christ child when I saw him? Would I recognized him for what he was…the promised Messiah sent to redeem his people? Do I give thanks to God for my redemption…of which I am unworthy and could never earn?

What a wonderful and rich story. What wonderful pictures of people to emulate. The overriding presence in this story…is God. God the Father…who’s plan was being carried forth. God the Son…who set aside his glory…to take on human form so he might pay the price for our sins. God the Holy Spirit…bearing witness to Simeon that he would not die before he witness the promised the Messiah. God who is holy, perfect, righteous and just…also loved sinful man so much that he sent his only begotten Son to pay the price for our sin that we might be redeemed. A message not only for Christmas…but for each day throughout the year.

May you know the peace of God and the joy of Jesus’ birth. And remember…be sure to share that good news with others.

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