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Luke 2:1-14 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!
It may have been in a cave much like this one we visited in Israel where we would find Jesus laying in a manger. Smelly, unclean and with the remnants of animal manure, caves such as this one were natural stables for shepherds.
I love to think on the birth of Jesus because it is a humbling reminder that Jesus was born as a human in the poorest of conditions. So significant the announcement of his birth was made to the lowest of society… shepherds. The Son of God born in the flesh.
It is in Matthew where we read about the visit of the Magi, wealthy outsiders. As if God is saying “I am sending my only son to you, the lowest of society, the highest of society, the outsiders, and everyone in between. He is a gift to all.
And he is human.
Jody mentioned in his sermon yesterday that Jesus knew temptations, poverty, frustration, weariness, disappointment, rejection, sorrow, ridicule, loneliness, and pain. We tend to think of Jesus as a superhuman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but we forget he was as human as you or me.
Philippians 2:1-11 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
God is for us, he knows us, he knows the pains and the joys of being human. Reflect on it today, as you begin the week and take comfort in a God who is for us all.
I love the holidays…
It starts with Thanksgiving for us, then Em’s birthday in December, Christmas, New Years, and concludes with Abby’s birthday in January. That is our holiday season, and it is full of hope, family, and faith. Even in difficult years, I have still loved everything that these holidays have become for me over the years. But I am fortunate because Jill’s family and my family cherish these times together, it has never been a time I have had to dread, ever.
There is a passage that was brought to mind this morning as I sat drinking my coffee watching the birds hang out in our burning bush and on the feeders. Matthew 6:25-33
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his )span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, )even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For )the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
I remember a day in 2010 we were still living in central Indiana and trying to raise the support necessary to move north and begin our campus ministry work. Things were going slow, support raising for our ministry was my full-time gig but we had to raise enough funds to live on, move on, and run the ministry. I was out hiking a trail wrestling with all of this, wondering if we would ever raise the funds necessary when a cardinal flew across the path. God and I were having a discussion which pretty much meant I was venting to God and not really listening at the moment. I see this bird and instantly I hear the passage in my head “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
It was as if God had spoken it directly to me simply by sending a cardinal across my path, he couldn’t have been more clear if He had audibly spoken it himself. God loves us, all of us. He sent Jesus to all of us, He died for us all. When the holiday season or any other season of life feels hopeless, remember this. God’s love does for us does not change. We may face a difficult life because of our own choices or because of the choices of other people but we still have hope that is found in the good news of Jesus Christ and the love of our Father. When we fix our minds on him, it makes the challenges of life much easier to navigate.
Today is a reminder to give thanks to God for the many good things he has given to each of us. As I sit and reflect this morning before we run off to spend the day with family, I am thankful for a wife who loves Jesus and for two beautiful daughters. I am equally thankful for extended family, friends, a fantastic church home, a roof over my head, and a job that I love.
I pray today that the worries and struggles of so many are replaced by thankfulness on the good things God has given. While the focus can quickly be left on the struggles, when we stop to be thankful for the good things that are in our life, it can make a huge difference in our hearts and in our faith.
Paul writes repeatedly about thanksgiving even though he often wrote while in chains. Philippians 4:5-7 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
What are you most thankful for?