I have a collection of manger scenes, some small, some large, all unique. I love getting them out each year and finding a special spot for them. For some reason, as I have looked at these over the last couple of weeks, my eyes have been drawn to the manger bed that holds the Christ-child. How strange to focus in on something so seemingly unimportant. Why not concentrate more on the angels and their glorious singing? Or the wise men and the shining star? Or even Mary and Joseph in their wonderment? Hmmm, the manger bed? What’s the point?
And then, it hit me. We, each one of us, are that simple but unique vessel that cradles Christ. Just as Jesus was laid in the humble feeding trough 2000 years ago, He has poured Himself into our hearts through His Spirit today. This truth is the Good News that the angels sang about! We, through faith in Him, have the opportunity to house His holiness. We are not the point, but we have the incredible privilege of holding the Answer to life so all can admire and behold the Point: Jesus.
This Christmas, and then forward, consider the indescribable gift we have been given: the humbled privilege of cradling the King of kings. Hold Him securely for yourself, and then lift Him up for others so they can behold their Savior.
And this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, and lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not ourselves (2 corinthians 4:7).
As we are now in the thick of the holiday season, the propensity to be distracted by so many things increases by the day, so much so that we lose focus of the one thing we are celebrating (see Luke 10:41-42). Let’s face it, we are a frantic and frazzled people, all in the name of Christmas.
Today, I’m hoping to pull you back in with some pleasant and peaceful thoughts about the one thing we are celebrating, Jesus.
The first thought is the lead-in question: If you were asked to describe your core personality with two words, what would those words be? Wholesome and happy? Calm and collected? Eager and excitable? Passionate and powerful? Think about this question for a while, and really answer it.
Now for the second thought, the main question: Do you know the two words that Jesus used to describe Himself? It’s found tucked into some of the most familiar verses that we know as believers:
Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Mt. 11:28-29
Wow, Jesus, King of kings, called Himself…gentle. Jesus, Lord of lords, deemed Himself…humble.
The awesome paradox continues from Isaiah 9:6:
The Wonderful Counselor… left His holy throne room.
The Mighty God…was placed in a mother’s womb, and then into a feeding trough.
The Everlasting Father…walked the dusty streets of Jerusalem, and also washed feet.
The Prince of Peace…was smitten, stricken, and crowned with thorns.
This God-man emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…and He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:7-8
So today, my friend, think of the one thing that’s important, especially during this season. As you hit the ground runnin’ with your feet, keep the gentle and humble One tucked in your heart. He is the One that we are celebrating. Sing Him a song or two: a song of worship as King of all creation, followed by a song of thanksgiving as Savior of the world.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, “God with us.” Mt. 1:22
When thinking of the age-old Christmas story, one of the most familiar portions of Scripture is when the angel greets the shepherds in the darkness of the night. This passage is read so repeatedly each year that the event becomes a common scene in our minds. But goodness, how uncommon this real-life event must have been! First, one angel, then, a host of angels suddenly appeared, proclaiming the promise that had been held behind a divinely closed curtain for thousands of years. Yes, the wait of the great reveal had been put on sovereign hold since Adam and Eve's exit from the garden.
God's people suffered much, but they held onto the hope of their future Messiah. Here is only one of the many promises:
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them...For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest of His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:2,6)
This particular promise came 700 years before the fulfillment of it. Here is a challenge for you and for me: at some time in the busyness of this celebratory holiday, let's take 7 uninterrupted minutes to sit quietly and...wait. Might I suggest to wait in the darkness of a silent night? While waiting, add faith, add hope, add love. His promise is for you too.
And now...join the shepherds. Put yourself there on the hillside with them:
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them...and said, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:9-14)
The long awaited suddenly happened. Jesus, the anticipated Promise, appeared.
He is the only valid answer to this sometimes weary, sometimes confusing, sometimes sorrowful life. In Christ, you never have to wait without hope.
Good news, He is the answer to eternal life as well. One more time, there will be another long awaited suddenly. In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…we will be changed (1 Cor. 15:52).
Until then and while waiting, take time to see His glory in the quietness of your Silent Night.
My friend and interior decorator Madelaine Singleton and I just got back from Mississippi and Florida where we presented the Christmas Wreath of Hope to a few local groups. Through Scripture, I told the purposeful meaning behind each decorative element that Madelaine used in her wreath demonstration. It was a pleasure to share this symbolic message. As we journeyed along together, we jokingly called ourselves the “Tell and Show” show.
My talk was packed with God’s word, and Madelaine’s teaching was detailed, but below are the 5 basic wreath instructions along with their truths. After reading, who knows, you might be inspired to hang a Wreath of Hope on your own front door!
1. Start with a GRAPEVINE WREATH. These barren branches represents our life without Christ. Jesus says, I am the vine you are the branches…apart from Me, you can do nothing. John 15:5
2. Add RED RIBBON. This ribbon represents the blood of Christ that He shed on our behalf, His life for ours. When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he cried out, Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29
3. Insert GREENERY (from your yard or from Michael’s). The green branches represent the new life that Christ brings. He cares for us, and He grows us. Jesus said, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
4. Add RED BERRIES. These colorful berries represent the fruit that Christ followers bear from knowing and walking with Him each day. Jesus says, He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. John 15:5
5. Add TWINKLING LIGHTS. These small lights represent the hope of Christ that lives inside of us through His Spirit. Scripture says, Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
The Wreath of Hope is now complete! However, let me mention that the circular shape even has meaning. The life we are living now is only half of the story; it is our “wilderness wandering” that Jesus graciously enters into to be with us. But the story is not over. Someday we will be WITH HIM, forever. Rest in this familiar promise, For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
This Christmas, make a wreath with your friends or with your children and share its meaning. We now have really good reason to decorate!
Last Sunday, my pastor Rob Sweet, enlightened me to a new thought concerning an ancient title. He pulled apart this familiar Christmas passage:
And a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah9:6
Concerning the title, Prince of Peace, Rob explained that another term for Prince is Administrator, and then, another word for Peace is Wholesness; thus, the Prince of Peace becomes the Administrator of Wholeness. I like this thought. It gives me a new perspective on what Jesus wants to do for you and me. Our well-being is His concern.
We must understand from the start that His peace is not like the world's peace which tends to numb feelings or cover hurts with temporary fixes. No, His peace does the opposite, really. The Prince of Peace seeks to expose wounds and uncover hurts for the purpose of administering wholeness in our souls. Truly, only Christ, through His Spirit can touch us with this kind of healing.
And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:17-18
Will you let the Prince of Peace have your heart this Christmas? Remember, even in the manger bed, the Messiah had the cross set before Him for the purpose of making you whole. There, He bore all your sorrow and all your sin.He reconciled all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20).Let Him have you, all your wounds, all your hurts, all your pain. Unveil your deepest longings as well as your most hidden sins to your Savior. This is why He came. He is able to administer peace that is beyond anything that this world could offer. Will you allow Him to do this for you?
This Christmas season, each day, say to Him in faith, "Prince of Peace, please come."
Not too long ago, my parents and I made a long drive from my home in Nolensville, TN all the way to Houston, TX. To stay alert during the 12 hour journey, I changed radio stations often, picking up all kinds of music along the way. I was delighted when I came across Christmas music; it was the first time to hear the familiar tunes of the season. I found myself snappin' and tappin' down the highway, over the river and through the woods. However, the longer I listened to the merry melodies, the more I began to realize, no Christmas carols, not one. I waited and waited, but to no avail. All the familiar songs were tossed around: I'll be Home for Christmas, Frosty the Snowman,Jingle Bells, but there was no: O Holy Night, Joy to the World, or O Come All Ye Faithful. Wow, no Christmas Carols at Christmas time? I was taken off gaurd, eager to enter into the season in both fun-filled lyrics and worshipful song. After a while, I felt empty, and actually quite exhausted. (I think I heard Rockin' around the Christmas Tree too many times in too short a span. Too much rockin' for nothin'.)
I know taking Jesus out of the season is not a new idea; Christmas is being stripped down to a mere happy holiday, year by year.We've seen it happen in our school system, in our mainstream stores, and in our social settings. Jesus is pushed aside, yet the holiday hooplah carries on. I liken it to attending an exquisite wedding without the bride and groom, or throwing a huge graduation party without the graduate. When the guest of honor is absent, these events are reduced to a large crowd of meaningless amusement. So is Christmas without Christ.
Truth be known, I think we should not expect the non-believer to celebrate Christ during this season. Why would a secular company chose to bear His Name? Or why would a main-stream radio station proclaim His good news? Of course, it saddens me to see our Christian heritage becoming a thing of the past. And, I'm sure it grieves the Lord as well.
But, I think what might grieve God more is when we, the believer, diminish Him at Christmas. How? By getting caught up in the hustle and bustle and expense of the season, by spinning from one activity to the next, by making a list and checking it (more than!) twice, by being so full of the season that there is no room to let Him in. So Christian, let's not worry so much about the world and it's predictable behavior of diminishing the holy-days. Instead, let's look within:
First, look into your own heart. Take quiet reverential time to acknowledge Jesus; proclaim one of His many Names in praise; carry this Name with you all day long.
Second, acknowledge Jesus in your home; share this heartfelt Name (from your quiet time) with your spouse and with your children.
Third, acknowldege Jesus in your "world." Give this Name to your neighbor, your co-worker, or your friend.
Keep His Name pulsating through your heart, your home, and your world, day after day, all season long.Your small voice from a sincere heart of faith in Christ Jesus will ring louder than any half-hearted banner or any seasonal red cup. I am certain, as the "secular Merry Christmas sayings" fade away to nothing, the faith-filled voices will not stop singing; they will rise in triumph and in adoration, worshiping Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings, the Lord of lords…the image of the invisible God…the head over all rule and authority…Immanuel, which translated means, "God with us". (Is. 9:6, I Tim. 6:15, Col. 1:15, Col. 2:10, Matt. 1:23)
Christian, as the world goes silent, 'tis the Season…to sing to the world.
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice
Now ye hear of endless bliss
Jesus Christ was born for this
He hath ope'd the heav'nly door
And man is blessed evermore
Christ was born for this
Christ was born for this.
(John Mason Neale, 19th century)
*3 Directional tools for you during this Christmas Season, located on the sidebar of my website:www.respitefortheweary.com:
1. Christmas Devotional: Who is this Jesus, and Why did He Come? (starts Dec. 1st)
2. Older Christmas posts: Celebrating Christmas
3. My new 365 day devotional book: The Heartbeat of God
Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him (Stephen). But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:2-3
We lift to you the people in this world who are being fiercely persecuted for their faith. Surround them as a shield; protect them from evil. Give them peace in the midst of uncertainties and assurance of your presence. Strengthen their faith in these trying times. Amen.