Daily Archives: December 8, 2013

Advent: the hope of Christ

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15.13

Does Christmas thrill you? Does knowing Jesus thrill you? Does living life thrill you?

It thrills me. I have always been that way, for as long as I can remember. I haven’t allowed myself to be jaded by the world when it comes to my relationship with Jesus nor do I give it (the world and those around me) the power to rule my life. I do have “off” days just like everyone else, but I don’t stay there, maintaining a victim’s mentality. It’s dark there and I do not like the dark, not when I’ve experienced the Light.

Children get excited at the coming of the season and I remember my excitement as a child fondly. I got to wear my new Christmas dress – never in red, forever in green (ah, the perks of being a redhead). Christmas meant some quality family time, not that we lacked in that the rest of the year, but it was extra-special at Christmas. Everyone was a little bit nicer. People gave more, of themselves and of their material wealth. Why couldn’t (or can’t) it be like that all year round?

Now, I know that Christmas, or the holidays in general, are not easy for everyone.

These may be some of the darkest days of the year for you. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one recenlty and this is your first holiday without them, or your second, or third. Perhaps you’re lonely. Maybe being single this time of year is the worst thing for you. Or maybe it’s just busyness. Adults get so wrapped up in the busyness of planning parties, trimming the tree, maxing out their credit cards, paying bills, wrapping, shipping and taking/planning trips. Maybe you’re one of them and you’re exhausted just thinking about all that you have to do this holiday season.

Know that you’re not alone.

There is hope.

90f2e26207b2fa8064b89f7c2eecdf8cJust as the chords of “O Holy Night” strike up “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn,” Christ came to offer hope.

How do we find it?

Just as total darkness can’t hold back the light of a tiny flame, the smallest increment of Hope provide joy, peace and purpose.

There is hope.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11.1

Just as Israel had hope for the Messiah, we too have hope for our future: an eternity with Jesus.

This world isn’t any easy place to live. Yes, it’s true that Christ said that his yoke would be easy and his burden would be light (   ), but he didn’t say that the life lived following him would be easy.

Sure, it’s easier in some ways – when trials strike, we can stand tall and face them with a reckless fearlessness unparalleled to any other. We have a hope.

But it’s hard to make that stand. It’s hard to go against the grain and follow God’s current which flows against the ways of this world. You often feel alone when taking a stand for what’s right and holy. Satan will try to discourage you by getting to focus on half-truths and the ways this world is falling apart at the seams.

Is there hope in this dark, cruel world? Yes!

Hope invaded our world 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. If we want hope (not to mention the peace and joy that comes from knowing Jesus personally) to invade our lives, we must do what those shepherds and wise men did in Jesus’ day.

We must come and bow before the King.

Hope, peace and joy is available to those who will humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you confess that you are a sinner? Do you admit your need for a Savior? Do you believe that Jesus gave it all for your sins? Will you choose him? Do you trust him?

Sadly some people only think about Jesus once a year – at Christmastime. Deeply touched, they resolve to know him personally. The moment passes and the pressures of the new year lead them away from the manager.

There is a great danger in coming near to Christ and never making a commitment.

You can’t cram for heaven the way some college students cram for their chemistry exams.

You can’t take a crash course to get into heaven.

Sooner or later, you’ve got to make the choice to follow him and make that choice daily.

Is there room in your heart, in your life, for Jesus? Are you ready to follow him? Are you willing to meet the cost it takes to follow him?

I pray for God’s grace in your life as you make that decision.

traditions: the holly and the ivy

750e351dedf22ea28c1769015e565e21Adding a touch of green, something alive, in the midst of the white snow, makes Christmas that much warmer and brighter. That touch of décor is made that much more attractive with the added red, gold, purple, and blue hues of the holidays.

I have garland wrapped around the spires on my balcony, with white lights that now shine through the fresh layer of snow, giving it a glistening sheen – with just a touch of Christmas – and one swath of it hanging over my make-shift mantle; my entertainment center.  I don’t have any tinsel garland wrapped around my tree, but I do have it up at work. It’s frilly and a little messy when cut, but it does the job.

But how do these Christmas traditions connect with Jesus?

The Holly: Did you know that in Scandinavia, this plant is known as the Christ Thorn? The prickly leaves represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries represent the drops of blood shed by Christ.

The Ivy: Ivy has to cling to something for support as it grows just as we need to cling to Christ for support in our lives and we become what God ultimately created us to be.

Beautiful connections, aren’t they?

December 8: bethlehem’s supernatural star

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2.2

Over and over the Bible baffles our curiosity about just how certain things happened. How did this “star” get the magi from the east to Jerusalem?

It does not say that it led them or went before them. It only says they saw a star in the east (verse 2), and came to Jerusalem. And how did that star go before them in the little five-mile walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem as verse 9 says it did? And how did a star stand “over the place where the Child was”?

The answer is: We do not know. There are numerous efforts to explain it in terms of conjunctions of planets or comets or supernovas or miraculous lights. We just don’t know. And I want to exhort you not to become preoccupied with developing theories that are only tentative in the end and have very little spiritual significance.

I risk a generalization to warn you: People who are exercised and preoccupied with such things as how the star worked and how the Red Sea split and how the manna fell and how Jonah survived the fish and how the moon turns to blood are generally people who have what I call mentality for the marginal. You do not see in them a deep cherishing of the great central things of the gospel – the holiness of God, the ugliness of sin, the helplessness of man, the death of Christ, justification by faith alone, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the glory of Christ’s return and the final judgment. They always seem to be taking you down a sidetrack with a new article or book. There is little centered rejoicing.

But what is plain concerning this matter of the star is that it is doing something that it cannot do on its own: it is guiding magi to the Son of God to worship him.

There is only one Person in biblical thinking that can be behind that intentionality in the stars – God himself.

So the lesson is plain: God is guiding foreigners to Christ to worship him. And he is doing it be exerting global – probably even universal – influence and power to get it done.

Luke shows God influencing the entire Roman Empire so that the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery. Matthew shows God influencing the stars in the sky to get foreign magi to Bethlehem so that they can worship him.

This is God’s design. He did it then. He is still doing it now. His aim is that the nations – all the nations (Matthew 24.14) – worship his Son.

This is God’s will for everybody in your office at work, and in your neighborhood and in your home. As John 4.23 says: Such the Father seeks to worship him.

At the beginning of Matthew we still have a “come-see” pattern. But at the end the pattern is “go-tell.” The magi came and saw. We are to go and tell.

What is not different is that the purpose of God is the ingathering of the nations to worship his Son. The magnifying of Christ in the white-hot worship of all nations is the reason the world exists.

© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org