Category Archives: Christmas

Favored

OK–so here’s the deal. For the next few days, I want to focus on Christmas. We’re all thinking about it anyway. So I hope to inspire you just a little to make sure you meet Jesus in this Christmas season.

Here goes!

Why did God choose Mary? The answer is found in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter 1.

First, Mary was favored. And coming in, the angel said to her, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you,” Luke 1:28.  The Greek word for “favored one” is the word charis. At its root, it means grace…the idea of an undeserved favor or kindness extended to someone without them earning it. This was happening because God chose to be good to Mary (and all of us), not because she reached some level of spirituality never attained before. God was simply showing favor to Mary.

I’m guessing it didn’t feel much like a favor at first. Imagine the quandary she was in—pregnant outside of marriage in a culture where this is punishable by stoning. Think of how perceptions of Mary changed when it was no-longer possible to hide the bulging tummy. What cruel assaults on her character were thrust unjustly at this one chosen by God? Still, the angel calls her the “favored one” because there is no greater honor than to be chosen by God to serve…no greater service than to bear the very child of God in the womb. Though life would be hard and the days ahead tentative, what incredible meaning Mary’s life would hold because God chose her for this once-ever task.

Second, Mary was a bondslave by her own confession. “And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word,” Luke 1:38). This word in the original text is the word doule meaning a female slave. The King James Version translates this word “handmaid”. Mary was ready to do whatever Almighty God asked her to do. She did not see her life as her own. Because she realized that God owned her, she lived that way every day. She was willing to do what very few women were available to do. This Mary was ready to take abuse, be misunderstood, suffer hardship, accept a completely different course in life, to bear deity in the womb, and parent Immanuel (God among us)! And this decision was made in a brief encounter with an angel sent from Heaven! How could she do this? She was able because this was her modus operandi all the time. She always lived as a slave, recognizing that her life could be lived for a higher purpose and a greater call than she could ever imagine on her own.

Please notice something else. Mary had no idea how all of this would happen or turn out. She didn’t know if Joseph would reject her, if the community would stone her, what deity in the womb would feel like, or how she would raise and provide for this child. She only knew that God wanted her to do this…and He would guide her one step at a time.

We often want to know every detail, the cost required, the changes that will follow, and the end result of following before we ever take a first step. But almost always, God invites us to a journey without showing us many of the details. He just says, “Come”. He calls us to a journey of trusting Him every step of the way. Around each corner, beyond every hill, through every valley He calls us to take the next step—to follow through on the next leg of this faith experience.

As we celebrate God becoming man, Jehovah again invites us to come. Come to the manger and see Jesus. He came all the way from glory to enter a simple unassuming place so that all can come. But don’t kid yourself…it is a journey of faith, You see, once you gaze into the manger and see the face of Jesus, you will never be the same—not if you really see Him. We don’t know how we will be changed, nor what will be required as a result of this encounter. Still, God calls us to come.

Positioned

Zacharias and Elizabeth became the parents of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. “Prepare the way for the Lord!” he declared in later years. But it was only by God’s grace that John was ever born. It is an amazing thing that Zacharias and Elizabeth ever became a part of the Christmas story. Scripture tells us that these two simple but godly people positioned themselves to be a part of God’s most amazing plan for all of human history. “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord,” the Word reveals in Luke 1. God is giving us some important insight into why they were involved in the incarnation of the Son of God.

Would you like to position yourself for God’s involvement in your life this Christmas? You can. Zecharias and Elizabeth were “righteous” by “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” The key presented here is obedience. Even though, for this ancient couple, obedience meant adhering to so many details of the Old Testament law, verse six emphasizes that they were “righteous in the sight of God.” Theirs was not only an outward obedience (which is what the Pharisees had), but a purity and holiness of the inner person. Their outward behavior was a direct result of their inner selves. And God saw it. And God responded with abundance grace.

Our natural tendency is to want what God offers at a clearance price. We’re often unwilling to do what it takes to position ourselves for God’s involvement in our lives. We can drift through life hoping that every so often we hit the jackpot of God’s blessing upon us. Yes—God’s grace is undeserved. No—we cannot earn it or buy it. But God’s involvement in our lives almost always is found in the position of obedience and sincere authenticity before God. He sees the heart. He longs to extend His blessing and favor upon you. It’s just that so many of us are busy walking our path that we fail get in on God’s plans.

Stress-Free!

We’ve decided to keep Christmas really simple again this year. No gifts. That’s right–last season we decided to forgo presents since we were financially strapped. It was the best Christmas I ever remember–seriously! Don’t get me wrong…I like getting a nice gift as much as anyone, but I also get frustrated with the commercialism of Christmas. It has actually added so much pressure to our lives–needing to get things for all these people who don’t really need anything at all.

Knowing our children each had some financial challenges of their own,  Susan and I had discussed the possibility of not adding the pressure of gifts for the second year in a row. When we mentioned it to our kids, I could hear the audible sigh of relief and the hidden pressure of it all drain from their faces. “Oh! Thank you Dad!” was the response I received. One even gave me a high five!

Here’s what we’re going to do this Christmas. We are going to put our efforts into creating some special family times, making some memories, and focusing on the true meaning of Christmas. And eating lots of great food! Forget the pressure of the packages. We’re going to make sure we meet Jesus…and one another, STRESS FREE!

_____mas Without Christ

There are so many people that missed Jesus on that first Christmas.

Herod missed Jesus. The power-hungry king of Judea fixated on his own agenda and was determined to have control over his own destiny. After discovering where the Messiah was to be born, he sent off the magi with hopes of acquiring the infant’s location so that he could snuff Him out. Consider the bravado of such intentions. Herod thought He could out-maneuver God! Herod missed Jesus.

The religious leaders missed Jesus. The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, chief priests and high priests all missed Jesus that first Christmas. With a fastidious passion, these pastor-teacher types studied the scriptures laboriously in order to know the answers to every question imaginable. Many of these memorized the Old Testament scrolls completely! Yet, when it came to the hinge-point in all of human history, they were completely oblivious. Now that God was fulfilling the most incredible promise ever given with the greatest gift ever offered, they were totally ignorant.

The people on the streets of Bethlehem missed Jesus. Scripture records the fact that so many people visited Bethlehem at this time that there was “no room in the inn.” I’m guessing that things were too exciting and harried at the time. Just imagine all of the reunions taking place—families getting reacquainted again, childhood friends vaguely recognizing each other…and then musing over the good old days, or the insecurity of some who felt like “fish out of water” in this bustling environment of giddy, boisterous and energized masses. (Sounds a little like our Christmases today…) Besides all of this, the visitors must have been busy finding food, water, and the basic necessities of life. Attentiveness to the divine intersecting with the here-and-now was absent in this adventure. And so…the people on the streets of Bethlehem missed Jesus.

So–what are you doing in this Christmas season to make sure you do not miss Jesus? If you do not intentionally choose to find Jesus this Christmas, you will miss Him. That’s the nature of God’s gift. And we must find Him over and over. So, what could you do to be invite the Divine to invade your personal world right now? Remember–it’s all about Jesus.