by Suzy Schultz
Michael L. Ford
excerpts from past year editions of
Ministries Daily Thought
well as new material
The promise of a Messiah, a sent one from God, to deliver us from the penalty of sin is as old as manís sin. Immediately after The Fall the Lord God pronounced that He would produce such a Savior, and He said it as part of His curse upon the serpent:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and
her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis
Eve thought that this prophecy had already been fulfilled in the birth of her
first born outside of the Garden when she said, I have gotten a man from the
Lord. (Genesis 4:1)
We are often careless in our reading and fail to notice that the sent One is referred to as the seed of the woman. The problem in this situation first of all is that a woman does not contain or have seed naturally. Secondly, in order for a woman to demonstrably produce a man of her own seed, she would have to do so quite apart from the seed of a man. Hence there would be a need for a virgin to conceive and bear a son.
Paul writing in reference to this wrote thusly:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians (3:16) Abraham and his offspring had the promise of redemption, but the promise rested in only one. And this one had to be unique in that it was born of a daughter of Abraham without the involvement of a man. It follows that the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to the demonstration of His qualification to be exactly who He is.
O Lord, wondrous are your ways. You intentionally make things too difficult to perform, then you do it.
The scoffers reach out and invent fables to deny your deeds,
The worldly wise stumble at that which would make them acknowledge that you are both greater and wiser than they,
And in the end, thou art God. Thy word is sure and true.
Many outside of Christianity refer to it as a bloody religion. For it
requires a sacrifice. Like the Hebrew faith, which unfolded through the Chosen
People the need for a deliverer, Christianity understands that without the
shedding of blood there is no remission for sin. (Hebrews
9:22) Furthermore Christianity knows that the sacrificing of bullocks and
other things can never wipe away the sins of the world. (Isaiah
Those who criticize Christianity for being bloody, often would embrace Hinduism and its offspring such as Buddhism with its pantheon of gods such as Shiva (or Siva), The Destroyer. Or perhaps they would like to embrace some pagan or new age ritual, each of which has some form of sacrifice hidden in its dark recesses. Often they practice yoga or some other discipline they do not understand, thinking they are enlightened.
Christianity has a sacrifice for sin. It is not to placate the anger of some
unreasoning god; it is to satisfy the righteousness of the Holy God in whom all
fullness dwells. Nothing of this world could ever be offered as a sacrifice for
sin. No matter how many sacrificial lambs were inspected in Solomonís Temple,
there was never found one lamb who could be offered, that would effectively take
away sin once and for all. God, in order to satisfy His justice, would provide
Himself a Lamb. (Genesis 22:8)
But when the fullness of the time was come, God send forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5) The God we serve not only gave Himself in the Person of His Son for our sins, but in doing so He gave us the ability to become a part of His family.
During the Christmas season we observe the time when the unspotted Lamb of God was presented to a lost and dying world for inspection. Being found perfect in all His ways He would take your sins and mine upon Himself. This is the God of love.
Not a lot is known about the man Joseph. But the Bible pays him this tribute. He was a just man. (Matthew 1:19) What does this mean? If we believe God was as concerned with the selection of the man who would provide for the child Jesus as He was for the vessel by which He entered this world, this is important.
First of all, when Mary was found to be pregnant, she was subject to be stoned as an adulteress. Being betrothed to Joseph, she was just as committed to be his wife and his alone as she would be on their wedding day. Two possibilities would exist in the eyes of those around about. She had either been with someone else, or she had lain with Joseph before the appointed time. The penalty was that she should be stoned to death. But Joseph, being just, was concerned that no scandal should touch either Maryís family or his own.
Secondly, being just, he was concerned with being obedient to God. Genuine
justness, is not the mere involvement of a man with religious ritual or being
active in programs. It is a deep and abiding concern about how God views him and
his actions. Justness requires a willingness to be obedient to God on a personal
level. This qualified Joseph to be a man God could communicate with directly
knowing that he would be able to discern between what was of God and what was of
the devil. (20-21)
Third, there was the issue of boldness. The picture that emerges for me in the Scripture is that Joseph is a bold man. A man that works with his hands in a labor that takes patience and endurance is not often thought of as bold. Concentration on the work of carpentry makes for a quiet and contemplative demeanor. Genuine boldness is not the show that some put on. It is the ability to do what it takes when the challenge is set before the man. When Joseph saw the right way to go and act in a manner pleasing to God, he unswervingly set out to do it. (24) A truly just man must be bold to meet the calling of God upon his life, whatever it might be.
The Bible is a book that both discloses and conceals. Its disclosure is both superficial and deep in that it includes the hidden and marvelous things of God. Sandwiched somewhere in the middle of this process of concealing and revealing are questions that might not be essential to issues of life and death or even the wonders of the godhead. But they serve to increase our understanding about people in the Bible and the depth of the divine plan. This is why it is necessary to study very carefully what the Word of God says and how it says it.
We can learn about Joseph, the almost anonymous husband of Mary in such a manner. Consider the account of the angelic visitation made to him and the words that were uttered on that occasion. In Matthew 1:20 the angel says, Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. It is very easy to overlook the fact that for the angel of the Lord to be able to address Joseph in such a manner he had to be talking to a man who already had deep spiritual understanding and insight.
Though the Old Testament had repeatedly taught the truth of the existence of the Holy Ghost, we fail to understand in our day that many of the Jewish people were utterly oblivious to such a concept. A demonstration of this occurs in the Book of Acts when Paul encounters Jewish disciples of John the Baptist. Their testimony was that We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. (Acts 19:2) Those these men had been raised in the tradition of Judaism and set under the teaching and preaching of John the Baptist they were ignorant of a reality that was central to the angels message to Joseph.
When Joseph is informed about what has been done, he does not need to have the existence of the Holy Ghost explained to him. There is not even a record that the need of such a pregnancy had to be explained to him. The explanation contained in Matthew 1:22-23 is given for our benefit, not for his.
We do not think of the challenge of faith that confronted a fourteen-year-old virginal Jewish girl named Mary on a day in Nazareth. It must have been rather awesome to be confronted by an angel named Gabriel. After all, angels just come from the throne of God, are not something you run into every day. But an encounter with such a being would be more a challenge to the knees not to buckle than a challenge to faith.
No doubt, being a devout young woman of the House of David, she had considered that she and her future husband Joseph might well be part of the lineage of the next true King of Israel. They were both of that same line. But, at a time when so many false Messiahs had already come and gone, and Israel still was in bondage to Rome, belief in the soon coming of the Kingdom probably seemed remote. Now that was an idea that would require faith. The thought that she in her poverty and youth might actually be mother to this King would strain her belief.
But the angel said, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the House of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:32-33) Though this was consistent with Godís promises to Israel, at the moment the promise was given Maryís faith was surely challenged.
Another day she would again find her faith in this message from God tested would be at Calvary. But the empty tomb would surely have wiped away any faltering of faith forever. Unfortunately, the empty tomb has not reassured many that yet do not believe in the coming visible rule and reign of the Lord. But God promised Mary that the child who would come from her would have a literal, visible, and continuous kingdom.
This was the way the angel delivered the promise. This was the way Mary believed the message. This is the way it will be.
Nearly everyone knows about the story of the three wise men who traveled seeking to discover He would be born King of the Jews. (Matthew 2:2) They made an error in consulting Herod the Great that would ultimately work out for the fulfillment of prophecy.
Herod had not been born a king. His start in life had been secured for him by his father, Antipater. All his life Herod struggled to keep and expand what he had. It was actually in his struggle against one challenge, the Jewish Hasmonean leader Antigonus, that he finally succeeded in getting Mark Antony, along with Octavian, to convince the Roman senate to appoint Herod king of the Jews. At the pleasure of Rome, he became the king of a people who disdained his lineage and despised his actions.
Once Herod had secured his estate, he did not know when to quit struggling. As a result of his fears, his favorite wife, her children and her mother, many of his friends and others closest to him, would all die. One Roman leader remarked he would rather be Herodís pig than Herodís son. It is not surprising that Herod feared the One who had the right to Davidís throne by birth, and whose coming had been foretold in Scripture.
The British monarch takes his throne to hold till "He who is worthy comes." Herod tried to take his throne and hold it for Herod. But man does not live forever. He must have known his days grew short when wise men came into his court seeking the rightful King of the Jews. Herod respected the Scripture to some extent for he inquired of those learned in it where the King would be born. (2:3) Did he think he could circumvent God? In his attempt to do so, he became the instrument of the fulfillment of the Word.
Herod caused the weeping heard in Rama. (2:17) At the time of his own death, about a year later, realizing there would be no mourning for him. He ordered "all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation" shut up within the hippodrome and killed at his death. His orders to insure "memorable mourning" at his death were not carried out. (Some equate Revelation 12:1-7 with these events.) 6.
Each year there are people who raise some skeptical point or other about the
Christmas story. Like every other part of the Bible account, eventually the Word
of God proves true and the skeptics are left with their fine theories blown away
with the wind of truth. Now people have even ventured to opine that the wise men
were not from the east at all, even though the Bible clearly states that is the
direction from whence they came. (Matthew 2:1)
This is consistent too for the direction from which we might expect wise men to come following a star. To the east and north of Jerusalem lay the region of the Fertile Crescent known as Mesopotamia. This was the land of ancient Babylon and modern Iraq today. That region was the home of occult astrological religion that had a better basis in astronomy than what is practiced today. But nevertheless, the religion of the region and those who practiced the "Chaldean science" was pagan. Even though they would place great significance to a cosmic event, how would they know that the star they followed belonged to He who was born King of the Jews?
The answer to this riddle might well be found in the Scripture, in the
writings of Daniel. You will remember that Daniel was carried away to Babylon
captive as a young man. There he distinguished himself as a wise man and a seer.
(Daniel 1:19-20) It seems evident that
Daniel himself studied writings and wrote things down that we do not have access
to. Because of his studies he knew the length of time the children of Israel
would be in captivity. (9:2) It was
perhaps in response to his confessional prayer that followed this revelation
that it pleased the Lord to reveal to him the time line to the coming of the
Messiah. (Daniel 9:24-26)
It is highly likely that some five hundred years after his time, the wise men of the east would be very interested in what Daniel had to say about anything, but especially the future. >From his writings in would be very clear that the time for the Anointed One to appear was at hand. They came to worship the One who was the Son of God and the son of David; the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
On the eighth day of His entrance into the world, the Lord Jesus Christ was circumcised in the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant that He had made with Abraham many years before. (Genesis 17:9-14) Connected with the giving of this covenant sign, Abrahamís wife Saraiís name was changed to Sarah. (17:15) We now know that the provision for circumcision on this particular day is another sign of Godís care. On this day more than all the days of his life, a child is most protected in such a surgical procedure. (And the circumcision served also to protect Jewish women from certain infections that can be sheltered under the foreskin.)
The circumcision of the Lord Jesus Christ was probably performed in the
little synagogue of Bethlehem. Mary would then have accomplished the first seven
days of her separation as unclean. (Leviticus
12:2) But after the circumcision, she could not enter into the sanctuary,
nor touch any hallowed thing for another thirty-three days. (Leviticus
It was then, following the days of her purification, she and Joseph could journey the short distance to Jerusalem to present Jesus in the Temple. (Matthew 2:22) Two things should be noted about the offering that was to be presented by the new mother in the Temple on this visit: First, the offering recounted in Matthew is different from the one described in Leviticus. Secondly, this offering was to be presented by the mother on her own behalf. (Leviticus 12:7a) We can then notice that Mary did have a lamb with her as required in the Law of Moses. His name is called Jesus.
In this first presentation of the Lamb of God in the Temple, He had already fulfilled all the law required of Him at that point in His life through the faithfulness of His earthly parents. During this visit His lineage and right to Davidís throne would be apparent, for His Name would be recorded in the records kept and preserved within the Temple walls. The Bible records no scribe pausing to wonder at these things.
He is often pictured as living in the Temple, but the Bible calls him "a man in Jerusalem." (Luke 2:25) But he was a unique man in his day, not because he was "just and devout," nor because he was "waiting for the consolation of Israel," but because the "Holy Ghost was upon him." (25) You see, in those days every true believer did not know the abiding presence of the Spirit of God upon their lives. In fact, even those who were prophets of God usually experienced the coming and going of the Holy Ghost in their lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon however, and not an occasional thing.
Another thing that made Simeon unique was that he had the promise of God given to him that marked out an event pertaining to the duration of his life. He had been promised that he would "not see death before he had seen the Lordís Christ."(26) In this day, when God called men have often known something about the goal of their ministry when they were called or shortly after, this fact seems less important than it actually is. We need to remember how the knowledge of Godís plan and purpose is revealed in communion with Him. The reason Simeon had the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost and knowledge of Godís plan was the communion they enjoyed.
It was the strength of the relationship Simeon had with God that allowed the Spirit to direct him to the Temple, to be in a certain place on a certain day. (27) This required the submission of his will to Godís will. Like Simeon we can acknowledge our greatest blessings have come in the submission of ourselves to the will of the Most High. Simeon held the Lord Jesus Christ in his arms. Can you imagine the awesome feeling he must have experienced? Though He has often held me, it would be quite another matter to hold Him. Yet Simeon did just that.
Oh Lord, that I might know You, and so abide continually in sweet communion, recognizing always Your will for my life.
Simeon was a man unique among his fellows. In a day when the nation groaned under the bonds of being a conquered and occupied people there was much interest in freedom. Some Jews were members of a group called Zealots and interested in preparing for a day when they could again reestablish the Nation of Israel by force. But Simeon was a man who was truly one of Godís soldiers. He had been set on a watch from which he would not be relieved until Messiah came. (Luke 2:26) He is very much a watchman such as is described in certain Old Testament passages.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was brought to the Temple, he immediately recognized the One for whom he had been waiting. Simeonís expressive prayer to his commander contains the elements of a soldier asking to be relieved of his duty:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy
word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. (Luke 2: 29-30)
Simeon recognized that his part in Godís plan had just about been accomplished.
The blessing or decoration bestowed upon Simeon by God would be that he should speak as a prophet and reveal Jesus would be:
A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel. (2:32) And he would reveal to Mary, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Öthat the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (2:34-35) How true his words have proven over the past two thousand years.
Today the Lord Jesus Christ continues as the light that lights the Gentiles and He is the glory of Israel. We must fall before Him and recognize our need of Him as Savior or fall prey to our sins and the temptations that are traps leading to destruction. Since Simeonís prophecy the manner in which many have responded to the offense of the Lord Jesus Christ has revealed the true thoughts of their hearts. Yet there remains a day when Simeonís prophecy will be completely fulfilled.
Anna is one of those people who almost appear in the pages of the Bible unnoticed. (Luke 2:36-38) Yet her role, that lasted but a moment, is full of significance. For instance the Word of God says she was a widow (37), of great age (36). She had been widowed just seven years after her marriage. This probably means that as a young woman of about 21, her world had fallen apart. (36) She had been a widow about eighty-four years. This would make her, at the time she met the Lord Jesus Christ, about a hundred and five years old.
The picture of Anna as a prophetess who departed not from the Temple but served God with fasting and prayers brings to view a situation commended to the church in 1Timothy chapter 5. Here a place of service for widows who are without resource in the world is described. The local churches would be well blessed with women like Anna serving in their environs. You will notice that when seeing to whom Anna communicated her knowledge.
Along with notice of Annaís great age is a notation that she is of the
tribe of Aíser or Asher. Two blessings are pronounced upon that tribe that may
be significant. Jacob blessed Asher in Genesis 49:20 and Moses blessed Asher in
Deuteronomy 33:24-25. Certainly Jacobís prophecy of Asher yielding a royal
dainty or delight was fulfilled in Annaís recognition, adoration, and
declaration of Messiah to those who had been waiting for Him. (38)
Anna was certainly acceptable to the rest of the children of Israel in accordance with the prophecy of Moses. She also was blessed with health and vigor in her great old age as Moses foretold, but what of that seemingly obscure statement to "let him dip his foot in oil?" Oil is used in various forms for anointing, food, medicine, and light. In finding refuge in the Temple, and a place of blessing in her old age Anna already knew the good of those things that really count in life. What more good could possibly come to a person in this world than seeing the salvation of God?
Commandments for Christmas
Pastor James E. Ward of Stockbridge Georgia gave these Ten Commandments for Christmas to his congregation when he published his monthly calendar. He says he found them in an old book by John R. Rice that said the original thought was by an anonymous writer. But, the commandments do sound very much like something Brother James might say. He did write a preamble to these Ten Commandments, and I share that with you also. Please pause to consider the importance of what is said, for here is more than just nice sounding words. He writes:
As we enter the Christmas season we must be reminded that Christ is the reason for the season. We do enjoy the bright colors, pretty wrappings, and wonderful music that goes along with this time. Thereís nothing wrong with any of those things within themselves. The problem is that many times we leave Christ out of our celebration. Please allow me to share with you Ten Commandments for Christmas:
1. Thou shalt not leave "Christ" out of Christmas.
2. Thou shalt not value thy gifts by their cost, for many shall signify love that is more blessed and beautiful than silver and gold.
3. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gifts. Thy love, thy personality, and thy service shall increase the value of thy gifts an hundredfold and he that receiveth it shall treasure it forever.
4. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus take the place of Christ, lest Christmas become a fairy tale rather than a sublime reality in the spiritual realm.
5. Thou shalt not burden thy servants. The sales girl, the mail carrier, and the merchant shall have thy consideration.
6. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its Christmas services are planned to help spiritualize the Christmas season for thee, thy family and thy friends.
7. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Let thy bountiful blessings be shared with the many who will go hungry and cold unless thou art generous at Christmas.
8. Thou shalt be as a little child. Christmas is the day of the Christ Child, not until thou hast become in spirit as a little child art thou ready to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
9. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Verily most of us spend much time and money getting gifts ready, but few seconds in preparing our souls.
10. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let thy Christmas list have Christ at the top and thy heart as thy gift. In so doing thou art as the Wise Men of old and verily thou shalt find thyself born again on Christmas Day.
May you have a very happy and blessed Christmas.
In His Name,
If we follow these Ten Commandments for Christmas I am sure we will not only have a happy and blessed Christmas, but will bless others also.
How do you communicate to Kindergarten children, four and five years old, about Christmas? This is a difficult question to answer. In this day and age with all its lights and commercialism to distract children, how do you get them to see what our observance of a birthday date for the Lord Jesus Christ is all about? So many adults do not seem to understand the day. One very young adult in the entertainment industry recently said it was all about feeling good towards other people you know. He had evidently grown up in a society that allowed him to miss the Christ in Christmas.
My idea in expressing Christmas was to tell the children it was all about God the Father giving the entire world a great big hug by sending His Son to be with them. After all doesnít the Scripture say For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life? (John 3:16) Children understand hugs as a great expression of love and so do most adults. When you stop to think about it the giving of the Lord Jesus Christ is like a hug from the Heavenly Father. It is a hug with godlike dimensions.
The giving of gifts is an expression of our love for others when it is done with the right motivation. Wasnít the giving of the Lord Jesus the Fatherís gift to us? Does not the Scripture say For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved? (John 3:17) That looks like the greatest gift that has ever been given by anyone to me. Oh precious salvation that makes it possible for all who will to safely rest in the arms of the Father!
The Scripture teaches us that we can have the adoption as sons through our Lord Jesus. This is only possible because of the marvelous birthday hug we received from the Father through the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. After I told the children about Godís Christmas hug I received many more hugs from the children than I usually do. Children understand hugs. Adults need to.
A few years ago the astonishing thought occurred to me. Unlike in the affairs of men where a father dies so the son might come into an inheritance, in the economy of God, the Son dies so that the Father might put everything under His feet. (Ephesians 1:18-22) This is how the Son of God comes into His inheritance so to speak. It seemed to me men get it backwards, and God, as usual, gets it right. With men, dying in order to inherit seems an impossibility. However, we see things only in the physical or carnal realm most of the time.
Since the time this insight first flashed upon me, I have come to the conclusion there is a great deal that we get backwards in our carnal nature. One of these is the celebration of birthdays. Contemplating my own birthday, I realized how I have gone about that all backwards for well over half a century. As a child, I was in anticipation of birthday presents and special treatment that I had done not one thing to earn. It never occurred to me during all those years that maybe I should be bringing a gift to the mother who bore me and show my appreciation to the father who had sacrificed to provide for me. But then, donít we get it backwards? After all, the only effort I had made to get into this world was a response to contractions.
Beginning to look at things from such a perspective I stopped to consider that if my model of thought were correct it should have some spiritual connection. But how could this be since at Christmas the entire issue is focused around the baby Jesus? Then I realized how this was no ordinary baby, but rather an event where the pre-existent God was made flesh and dwelt with us. In this case we see the Holy Spirit overshadowing the virgin Mary. He who in relationship to Messiah is "another such as Himself" is the means of conception. It is He who as the creative Word supervises the construction of each child in the womb. He oversaw His own growth and development in the womb. Yes the model fits, and Jesus deserves all the accolades due for His birthday.
When my children were small we made a decision to tell our children the truth about a lot of the popular fantasies of childhood. There was no Santa Claus. Mom and Dad buy gifts and put them under the tree for our children to express love for them. There is no Easter Bunny. This is again a time when we like to do something special for our children when we are taking special note of our Saviorís gift of salvation to us. A hard one to dismiss was actually the Tooth Fairy, but we let them know this pretence helped make the pain and loss of baby teeth easier.
It was not a problem for our children when we made this decision and told them the truth. My son told me he had not believed any of that stuff anyway. We explained to them that we wanted them to believe us when we told them about Jesus whom they had not seen any more than they had seen these imaginary persons. We were afraid they might think Jesus was imaginary too if we were not honest about these other things. But the problem we had was with adults, many of whom had been Christians active in churches for many years. Some even went so far as to tell me they thought I was being a bit mean to my children, robbing them of a harmless childhood fantasy. Fortunately they did not do like a person did to a friend of mine. This person told my friendís child he had a mean parent. That would have opened up World War III and guaranteed they would never have a chance to speak to my child again.
I do not get into disagreements with parents who choose to treat fairy tales as truth in their home, for they are responsible before God for the rearing of their children as I was for mine. I think in the majority of cases such shared fantasies probably do no harm. I just chose not to take the chance in my own home where I was accountable. I often think of Pilate who stood before our Lord Jesus Christ, the embodiment of truth, and asked what is truth? I find that so many today have the same mindset of that tragic Roman. I made my choice and stuck by it. Every parent has to do that for themselves.
During the entire history of mankind people have been waiting for and even longing for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eve was in expectation of a Savior, the Anointed One of God. She was driven from the Garden with the "seed promise" ringing in her ears, and when her first child was born among the thorns and thistles of a world groaning under sins curse she said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord." (Genesis 4:1) We do not know when her delusion was shattered. Surely by the time he killed his brother she must have realized Cain was not the promised one.
Job, suffering his boils and scabs, was in expectation of a Messiah. He
understood that the office of his expected deliverer was that of an intercessor
between him and God. It did not take him long to discover none of his friends
would not feel the need. He cried out for a days-man that was a man such as
himself, yet able to intercede with God. (Job
The Hebrew children in the captivity of Egypt expected a Messiah, but they quickly discovered Moses was a man of God but not a God-man. In every instance of history down through time people were in expectation of the deliverer. And, even though the Lord God had raised up deliverers for the sake of the people. One that was uniquely of womanís seed had not come.
Just before the Lord was revealed to the Jewish people over seventy people had appeared on the scene who gave themselves out to be the person sent from God. Each had died in their turn and the plight of the Jewish people became more desperate for they neither had peace without or within. After our Lordís ascension one more would show up named Simon bar Kochba. This one would be the center of untold suffering and misery. False Messiahís always caused the people grief.
Today we are anticipating the return of our Lord. His coming was eminent from the beginning, and His return could even be today.
Christ at Christmas
Somehow it still manages to slip through into the thinking of a lost world that Christmas involves selflessness. Even when people do not know or recognize the selfless act of the Son of God in humbling Himself to enter the world in the form of an infant they somehow seem to grasp the selflessness of Christmas.
Betsy Friauf of the Knight Ridder Tribune suggested that before people get sucked into the Christmas whirl that they pray about what the true meaning of Christmas is to them. I would suggest it would be wiser to pray about what is the true meaning of Christmas and how to share that meaning with others. It seems that so many people suffer from depression at Christmas. Advice to look within for meaning is likely to keep people focused on the losses and grief that caused depression in the first place. It would seem far more likely that people would be far more likely to snap out of their depression if they focused the One who is the truth, the life, and the way.
The traditions of large gatherings of family and friends are often events when a great deal of work must take place. Sometimes we see those things as a hardship and lose sight of what might be a rare time when those who have been blessings in our lives over many years are able to get together one more time, relax together and exchange pleasantries. Those meetings of friends and family can grow sparser and more barren over the years without them being diluted by the coldness of our hearts. Christmas is a time when we can do for those we love as unto Christ. As we plan and prepare we can invest the same love in the preparation as if the Lord Jesus was coming to visit.
In the course of our celebrations with loved ones it might be necessary to introduce some new moments to make the celebration more complete and meaningful. Some of those you love might not know the love of Christ. There are ways to bring Christ center stage in a loving way. The way that works in one household might not work in another. But then we should begin to plan with prayer.
I do not know the story of how Christmas lights came into practice. I suppose that could be found out should I take time to research the subject. At one time I thought the lighting and adorning of houses and trees in the yards were rather foolish affectations that wasted money and peopleís time. I have grown older since and watched the pleasure on many a personís face, both young and old alike, as they took in the wonderful lights of Christmas.
Some people go a bit overboard and others would if they could but afford it. Still some derive their pleasure from traveling about and seeing how ingeniously others have decorated and designed their displays. I must admit that while I have enjoyed some commercial sites light decorations, the best for me are those made with love and care at private homes. Especially those who have the central theme of our Lord Jesus Christ appeal to me.
The past couple years the lights have reminded me of another holiday separated at this time of the year called Hanukkah. It is a festival of lights that commemorates a miracle of God to accomplish the purification of the Temple, when it had been polluted by the evil Antiochus Epiphanes. As a result the Christmas lights have also come to remind me of the need for purity in the Temple of God that exists during this church age.
During the Christmas season individual believers should strive to remember they are now the Temple of God. We should consider that the Lord Jesus Christ whose birth into this world we commemorate at this time no longer resides in a stable but within us. Through us He intends that we be a light unto the world as we are illumined by Him. In a sense you might say we have become the true Christmas lights. But we can only shine out as the Temple is purified, and in celebration of that purification.
This Christmas let your light so shine before men.
I Want for Christmas
Every year someone asks me what it is I want for Christmas? As a child this was a serious question to ponder, and my list was often quite long. I do remember some years though when it was a thrill to receive some fruit and candy in a stocking along with one or two small toys. One year we had great fun with the song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth." What I cannot remember is whether the teeth in question were my teeth or baby brothers!
As we go older our desires change. For a number of years when people have asked me that question, I have responded that the things I want for Christmas cannot be bought with money. I enjoy the family gatherings with their good-natured teasing. I enjoy the quiet moments when we might gather and read the Gospel narrative of our Lordís birth. It is such a joy to hear my sonís masculine voice read to the family in my place. I enjoy the times we play Canasta together and drink spiced tea. These things are important and it grieves me to think a family member might not be present. As wonderful as the things I savor at Christmas time are, and as important as they are to me, this is not the most important thing that I want for Christmas.
I have heard people say that what they would like for Christmas is world peace, or that there would not be people going to bed hungry. They say this not knowing what they wish, for none of these this will happen until the One whose birth we celebrate returns as Lord indeed. Before that can happen there must be a time of turmoil and trouble in the world such as we have never seen before. Paul said that his hearts desire for Israel was that they might be saved. (Romans 10:1) He said this with some understanding that before that could happen some troublous times would come to pass. Being more limited in my vision than Paul or some prophet of old my desires for the Christmas moment is simpler. What I want to have for Christmas is the opportunity to share the Savior with one person who receives Him and gets to have a real Christmas where before they were just having a holiday. Now that would be good, wouldnít it?
The Scripture tells us that when the announcement of the birth of Messiah Jesus was made to the shepherds a multitude from heaven appeared singing, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14) This passage has been the focus of many a sneering remark by scoffers and unbelievers. They point out that since the angels first proclaimed it there has not been either peace or good will among men. For there have been as before wars and rumors of wars; cheating, lying, and stealing has gone on continually and even seems to be on the increase.
To this we reply that their observations of the conduct of mankind is quite true. We would agree that men have not only grown worse and worse, but in recent times become lacking in either civility or restraint. A large majority of people now seem to feel that whatever they desire should come to them no matter who gets hurt in the process. But then we would have to counter that all they have said has not one thing to do with what was proclaimed on that wondrous night over the hill near Bethlehem.
On the night in question there was not proclaimed a peace and good will of men towards men. A far greater thing was announced and that was the peace of God and good will of God toward all men. For slightly over four thousand years the world had been in expectation and in longing for just that moment. Now, for the past two thousand years, the world and all that are in it have been the beneficiary of the peace and good will that was exuded from the throne of the Most High on that night.
The world had waited for the One who would come to save men from their sins and deliver them from the power of sin forever. On that night His arrival was heralded, the peace and good will of not only the Father but all three Persons of the godhead, was sent forth. Now those who have lived after have been the special beneficiaries of the possibility of relationship with all the Persons of God and having His peace upon them.
Every year at this time people start doing things that have been described as "things that make you crazy." Now what these things are vary from person to person. For some the pain and panic of Christmas shopping is a thing that makes them feel as if they have gone out of control. Then they fall into deep bouts of worrying over whether they have bought each person on their list just the right thing to please them and bring out expressions of pleasure and gratitude. Some people even worry over whether they might have bought a less expensive gift for someone than the one they expect to receive. Whatever the thing is that makes a person feel "crazy" it is inappropriate and should be removed from their practice of observing Christmas.
It should be a principle of every believerís life that whatever they do, they should do it heartily as unto the Lord. This means we have a concern to do things well, but our ultimate cause is that it might be pleasing in Godís sight. "Things that make us crazy" cannot be pleasing in Godís sight because they do not have within them the spirit of a sound mind. It would be better to give no gifts at all than to fall into such a state as I have described. After all, should not gift giving be an expression of our pleasure that the Savior has come into the world and our lives?
One of my brother in laws produced a wonderful gift two years ago, and he gave each of us exactly the same thing. He made a picture with a Bible verse in it, and presented it in a nice frame. It has been a source of daily encouragement in my home office ever since. One of the best gifts I ever gave was purchased in June and put away for Christmas. I saw a multipurpose tool I liked and when I bought one for myself, I got a dozen more for male friends on my list. Someone told me a couple of months ago how much they still enjoyed that tool.
My wife has a recurring and very popular gift that she makes. Each year she gives a number of people on her list a homemade instant spiced tea. It is very good, and I love it through the winter season. Apparently so do many of our friends. She pours the love of her own hands into its preparation. It is not a burden of endless shopping, but a pleasure that is eagerly anticipated by those who have tasted its pleasure before. In the simple comfort it affords them, beside many an evening winter fire, is a reminder of how special they are to us.
Instead of lingering in the midst of the thing at Christmas that drive you crazy why not change your activity? Bringing out Bible based Christmas music is a wonderful way to focus on the season. Listening to Handelís Messiah is a personal choice but other selections speak to the ear. Listening to recordings of past Christmas Cantatas from your own church as well as special music from various sources can bring such peace and joy within the heart of the believer. Music, where the power of God is revealed in the words is without a doubt a gift from God to allow us to enjoy this season and every day we are given.
The world talks about a thing called "meditative idleness." But what the world wants you to do is to empty out your mind and focus on nothing. I would encourage what I call "contemplative thoughtfulness." What we need is to focus our minds upon that which is truly important. Here we take time from our busy schedule to be still and know who God is. We meditate upon the Word of God and that Person who is revealed to us in the word. The right focus of our mind is a sure cure for seasonal craziness and the best prescription for enjoying Christmas.
Days of Christmas
was sent this explanation for the Twelve Days of Christmas. I do not know if it
is true or not. But it is an interesting thought.
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ.
* The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
* Three French hens stand for faith, hope and love.
* The four calling birds are the four Gospels.
* The five gold rings recall the Torah (Law) the first five
book of the Old Testament.
* The six geese a-laying stand for the six days of creation.
* Seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
* The eight maids a-milking are the eight beatitudes.
* Nine ladies dancing? These are the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal.
* The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.
* Eleven pipers piping stand for the eleven faithful disciples.
* Twelve drummers drumming symbolize the 12 points of belief in the
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The material in this booklet was produced, for the most part, during the first three years of Jonsquill Ministries publishing the Daily Thought over the internet. It was gratifying during those years to see the growth of interest in people wishing to receive the "thought" and think on the things of God. During these months of forced interruption in the production of this daily study the writer has probably missed it more than the readers. We trust that this gap in our ministry endeavors will shortly be brought to an end.
In the mean time, this little booklet has been produced along with some others to make thoughts on particular subjects available to those who might find them of value. Our interest and purpose in these productions is to make available to Christians material that will not be commonly available from other sources yet could serve to make the Christian life a little richer.
We do not claim to be the sole proprietors of the information within these pages. If the material was solely our own it would likely be false information since the Word of God is not of private interpretation. We do not claim that we are the arbiters of great spiritual wisdom. Whatever we have is the gift of God, and He is worthy of any glory or appreciation that might accrue if merit is indeed found in this work. Such as we have we share. This is a Biblical principle.