Following the Star

Matthew 2:1-12 (NKJV)
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ’Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ’But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ’Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’ When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”

 

 

This is the first Sunday after Christmas Day. In actuality we do not know exactly what day Christ was born, but we do celebrate it on December 25th. As we saw in the Christmas story, the birth manger was visited by shepherds and angels; AND it was visited by three “Wise Men” – the Magi. Now there is a lot we do not know about these three men – wait – we are not even sure they were all men. Women also often ruled in this day and time. So we have here a visit that is very, very mysterious.

 
Let’s see – were there only three? We do not have an inkling.

 

Did they come from the same area? Where did they come from? No clue – Pesia maybe? I just don’t know.

How long did it take them to arrive at the manger? We just don’t know.

Did they bring family and or servants with them? Sorry….

Did they really ride camels or other animals – donkeys/mules? Probably not, but don’t know.

 

Wikipedia tell us that “Magi (Latin plural of magus ; Ancient Greeks. And the Biblical focus of Wikipedia says , “The Magi, also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, were in Christian tradition, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth “ And the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Magi (Plural of Latin magus; Greek magoi). The “wise men from the East” who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem.

 

I guess we can conclude from resources that they were Greek or at least from the East? Questions continue.

 

These Magi just appear, give the gifts and then are gone. What a tribute to the birth of Christ regardless of the particulars.

 
Think about this. We are all “wise men and women.” We looked for a Savior, the Christ, and found Him. Some of us traveled just a short distance, and many of use travelled far and for long periods of time. But amazing and wonderful that we found that babe in the manger and continue to follow Him.

 

And the number of people who seek and find Christ is growing and growing.  It is through the efforts of each one of us that this number grows. Christ said, 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19 – 20

 

Now we don’t know many facts of those Magi from the Nativity, but knowing we are all Wise Men/Women, let’s check out some things we can learn from this story.

 

A Wise Man/Woman must have a faith.

 

They just asked Herod – and they seemed to have been all together at this point – where the child who was born to be King of the Jews was because they saw the star in the West. Now this would assume they were from the East (to see the star in the west).

 

So now we need to ask, why would they do this? What could they possibly get out seeing a baby and so far away. There was nothing in it for them, except a dangerous journey. The only answer is belief. When they asked where He was born – they already know through belief that He existed.

 
So, what they wanted to know is where He was. They KNEW He was born. Now they just needed to find the location.

 

As your adventure in following “the star” began did your family and friends laugh at you or think you had gone off the deep end? Can you imagine those close to the Magi, and what they wondered or asked:

 

“Are you going on a journey?” “Yes.” “Where are you going?” “We don’t know for sure.” “How far is it?” “Well we don’t know that either.” “ How long are you going to be gone?” “Well we’re not quite sure on that either.” “Boy for wise men you sure don’t know much do you?”  (adapted from several Nativity story sources)

 

This kind of reminds us of Abraham when he followed God’s Word to leave his home or of Noah as he built that ark in the desert. And imagine what they said to Peter, Andrew, John and James as they walked off their fishing boats to follow Jesus.

 
“What are you crazy? Are you insane? Are you out of your minds? No not crazy – not insane – not out of their minds – men of faith.”

 

We must have faith; without it, there is no belief. It’s impossible to please God without faith.

 
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV) Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

 

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) – 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 

I am going out on a limb, since hundreds of people around the world read this message, to say that we are all people of faith or people on that journey to become a person of faith. And as such, we are willing to face the challenges of walking that path and facing the unknown, the dangers, the pitfalls.

 

Here is a true story about a shoemaker.

 

“William Cary was a shoemaker when one day he heard of the millions of people in India who had not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. He believed the great commission to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” He believed that that verse was speaking directly to him. So he volunteered to go to India but was told “Young man, sit down. When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help.” Cary went anyway – supporting himself. For seven years he worked without seeing a single convert – but by the end of his life he saw hundreds of churches and thousands of converts. Today he is known as the “Father of Modern Missions.” This man had great faith. He did not focus on the defeats, the ridicule, the danger. That is faith.

 

AND

 

The Magi intended to WORSHIP.

 

These wise men came to see this King to give gifts and to worship. The gifts represented those presented to royalty – a gift for a King. Gold represents wealth; frankincense is a hardened sap used for a worship incense. Myrrh is a lovely perfume that was developed to anoint the dead to preserve them. I believe this is symbolic for the future sacrifice of Christ.

 

And this brings us to the point that part of worship is Sacrifice.

 

The wise men sacrificed greatly by taking a dangerous and difficult journey that took them from their homes and rule for quite a long time. And riding a camel is not comfortable (Have you ever gotten on one and been lifted up as it stood – very scarey and uncomfortable). All this to worship Him.

 
Remember what David said in 2 Samuel 24: 24 24 But the king (David) replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

 

Romans 12;1 (NIV): Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

 

And in the NKJ translation –  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

 

Regardless of the version you read, the Bible says it all – the greatest sacrifice of all is to give your “self” to God and you have – at least in part if not all.

 

You sacrificed yourself by getting ready for a journey – a journey to get more information and to worship. You have sacrificed your time by worshiping Him and coming on to this site. If you can, and if you do/did, you will have sacrificed wear and tear and gas for your cars to get to church. And you donated or tithed to the church

 

. If you only can worship here, or the developing and soon to be introduced on-line church, and/or in http://thespiritualfamily.chatango.com/ ,perhaps you can support this ministry with a tithe/donation. Information on this is available by request. Just send us a note at livingwordspiritualministries@lwsm.net .  This site and the above do require financial support.

 

But the greatest sacrifice we can give God is our heart and soul. As Don Moen sings, “God is Good – all the Time,” can we be good to God and mankind all the time? Are we willing to put ourselves “out” to be a follower of Christ? To fish for men? Does He have your heart?

 

Finally, let’s look at how the Magi and their  CHANGE.

 

Matthew 2:12 (NIV) 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

Hmmm – “Very Interesting!” After worshiping the new born babe as the Savior, they did not return or travel the same way they had travelled before. This is true for today and all through the past. Having been introduced and accepted God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are never the same. We are CHANGED. We now travel another path
Here are some Old Testament examples also.

 

Jacob wrestled with God and never walked the same the rest of his life. “

 

Isaiah stepped into the presence of God and proclaimed in the NIV version of Isaiah 6:5 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”   From reading and studying, it is quite clear that he was never the same again and did follow a new path.

 

Job questions God over and over again concerning his suffering and when God shows up Job says,    “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” Job 40: 4-5. Job met God, stopped questioning and complaining, started listening, and became a changed man.”

 

The wise men were changed; we are changed. Everything is different. Our walk, our talk, our actions, our thoughts. We have accepted God into our hearts. Christ has become our savior.

 

The Wise Men, the Magi, were changed – all because of a little baby – a baby and a faith, a belief.

 

And you? Are you changed? Do you want to be changed? I urge you to find the Christ this Christmas season and bring Him into your heart. Then change the direction of your life – follow the Light.
Follow the path to salvation.

 

The wise men did it and so can you.

 

 

~~~~~

(If you are in need of prayer, contact us at the addresses below – http://thespiritualfamily.chatango.com or  livingwordspiritualministries@lwsm.net )

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The Christmas Story

From scripture: Luke 1 – 2: 21
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Then the angel left her.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn[c] of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[d]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.
2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[e] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

…..AND LATER…..

Matthew 2: 2 – 12

The Magi Visit the Messiah

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[h] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[i]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

~~~~~

The Christmas Story as told in our modern English language, based on the following scriptures.

Taken from scripture – Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20.

Mary, a virgin, was living in Galilee of Nazareth and was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. An angel visited her and explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and she would name him Jesus.

At first Mary was afraid and troubled by the angel’s words. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How will this be?” The angel explained that the child would be God’s own Son and, therefore, “nothing is impossible with God.” Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.

Surely Mary reflected with wonder on the words found in Isaiah 7:14 foretelling this event, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (NIV)

While Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant through the Holy Spirit, as foretold to her by the angel. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a grave social stigma. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, under Jewish law she could be put to death by stoning.
Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement, the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to verify Mary’s story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. The angel explained that the child within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that his name would be Jesus and that he was the Messiah, God with us.
When Joseph woke from his dream, he willingly obeyed God and took Mary home to be his wife, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps this noble quality is one of the reasons God chose him to be the Messiah’s earthly father.

Joseph too must have wondered in awe as he remembered the words found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (NIV)
At that time, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Probably due to the census, the inn was too crowded, and Mary gave birth in a crude stable. She wrapped the baby in cloths and placed him in a manger.
Out in the fields, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior had been born in the town of David. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. As the angelic beings departed, the shepherds decided to travel to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child.

There they found Mary, Joseph and the baby, in the stable. After their visit, they began to spread the word about this amazing child and everything the angel had said about him. They went on their way still praising and glorifying God. But Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart. It must have been beyond her ability to grasp, that sleeping in her arms—the tender child she had just borne—was the Savior of the world.
After Jesus’ birth, Herod was king of Judea. At this time wise men (Magi) from the east saw a star, they came in search, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews. The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring to Micah 5:2. Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they had found the child. Herod told the Magi that he too wanted to go and worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child.
So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. (Most likely Jesus was already two years of age by this time.) They bowed and worshipped him, offering treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. When they left, they did not return to Herod. They had been warned in a dream of his plot to destroy the child.

May the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ be a revelation to you to live in peace and harmony and love the Lord your God with all your heart.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Advent 4 – Prayer and Peace

4th Sunday in Advent
(on Christmas Day we will have the entire Christmas Story)
Let us focus on this final Advent Sunday on ~
The Reason for the Season
(exactly what happened, why, when, and how)

Isaiah 7:10-14 (NIV) (WHY? Prophecy)

10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 

 

Romans 1:1-7 (NIV) (What? Our Savior)
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a] was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b] by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV) (How and When? as God planned)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
~~~~~~~~~~

 
Sunday is the 4th Sunday in Advent, and here we begin our focus on prayer and peace.

 

We spoke of hope, then love, and last week joy, now peace and prayer. How better to conclude our Advent season – with peace and prayer.

God sent His son to earth to be an example of perfect peace and love. He did so in the most common and ordinary way ~

This child whose birth we celebrate is:

Descended “from David according to the flesh” (verse 3). Jesus is THE story but we must always remember who else was part of the story , necessary people needed to fulfill the prophecy. So this story also includes Mary and Joseph, shepherds, and how they and we as humans live in peace through our constant prayer with our faith in Him. Yes, the shepherd also because without their faith, they would not have followed the star. And such is true also of the Magii.

 
Was announced to be His beloved Son, especially later when He raised Him. Jesus speaks The Word; He is the Word – and the Word became flesh. (John 1). This is the Word we pray to and repeat prayers taught us. And it is through these prayers that we receive the peace that passes all understanding.

 
He whom we receive grace (verse 5). “G-RA-C-E stands for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). We receive grace and blessings through this Savior. What a gift and how we love to thank Him in our prayers and praise.

 

It is through this birth that we accept our invitation to be a servant – a servant of His. And it is through this that we receive our eternal life with Him.

 

Do we celebrate with prayer, praise, and a focus on peace on earth goodwill toward men? OR……………………….

 

“A teacher wants to know how each of her students celebrates Christmas. She calls on young Patrick Murphy, “Tell me Patrick, what do you do at Christmas time?” Patrick answers, “Me and my twelve brothers and sisters go to midnight Mass and we sing hymns, then we come home, and we put mince pies by the back door and hang up our stockings. Then we go to bed and wait for Father Christmas to come with toys.” The teacher asks another student, “And you, Jimmy Brown, what do you do at Christmas?” Jimmy replies, “Me and my sister also go to Church with Mom and Dad and we sing carols, and after we get home we put cookies and milk by the chimney and we hang up our stockings. We hardly sleep waiting for Santa Claus to bring our toys.”

“Realizing there was a Jewish boy in the class and not wanting to leave him out of the discussion, the teacher asks Isaac Cohen the same question, “Isaac, what do you do at Christmas?” Isaac replies, “Well, we go for a ride and we sing a Christmas carol.” Surprised, the teacher asks him, “Tell us what you sing.” Isaac goes on, “Well, it’s the same thing every year. Dad comes home from the office. We all get into the Rolls Royce, and we drive to his toy factory. When we get inside we look at all the empty shelves and we sing, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’ Then we all go to the Bahamas.”

 

Think about this:

 

“A visitor from Mars arriving on planet earth at Christmas time would have a hard time figuring out what it is we are celebrating. With all the snowmen and icicles on our lawns and decorations, the Martian might think it is just a winter festival. With Santa Claus and his elves and reindeer everywhere, the Martian might think that Christmas is a feast in honour of a fat bearded man dressed in red. And with all the shopping, eating, drinking and exchange of presents, the Martian might think we are simply having an end-of-year holiday.”

 

People celebrate Christmas today in various ways and for various reasons. On this fourth and last Sunday in Advent and just a few days before Christmas, we read this scripture above from Paul’s letter to the Romans so we can also think about the question:

What is the reason for the season?
Would the Martian ever see people kneeling in prayer together peacefully? What a joy that would be. To come upon a scene like that – all over the world – as people celebrated that birth that brought peace to the world.

Paul’s letter today tells a bit about himself, the Romans and then focuses on the Good News – what God has done by sendnig His Son, Jesus Christ. The birth of His Son – His only begotten Son is the reason for the season. This is the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In today’s vernacular we say, Happy Birth-day, Jesus. And the entire world says it; and Paul in this reading from Romans helps us to express the answer.

 
As we pray for the blessing of the new-born Child at Christmas, let us also ask Him to show us how we can serve God with gladness and joy all the days of our lives. And let us put our faith and trust in God as we approach Christ, His Son, the Light of the world and the Prince of Peace.
With the Hope, the Joy, the Love, and the Prayers for Peace….

 

What more could we ask for as a perfect Christmas gift.

 

Merry Christ’s Time (Christmas)

Never Ending Joy

Luke 1:14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of His birth

 

The great theologian Dwight L. Moody said, “Happiness is caused by things that happen around me, and circumstances will mar it; but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition. It is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about. The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.” [SOURCE: Dwight Lyman Moody as quoted by Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 6529.]

 

Catherine Marshall wrote:

 

“My friend Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a sky dark and threatening, with no sign of the sunset.

 

“As the plane’s engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. ‘You have noticed the windows,’ He murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. ‘Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here’s a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to abide in Me with continual peace and joy.

 

“‘You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway.

 

“‘And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it and you will be released, able to experience the peace that passes understanding.'”

 

 

CHRISTMAS J-O-Y

Every year we see Santa letters in the newspapers and magazines – letters children wrote to Santa Claus. Most of them are so cute we can’t help but smile and sometimes laugh out loud.

One said, “Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred.”
“Dear Santa, there are three little boys who live at our house. There is Jeffrey; he is 2. There is David; he is 4. And there is Norman; he is 7. Jeffrey is good some of the time. David is good some of the time. But Norman is good all of the time. I am Norman.”

 

“Dear Santa, last year you brought me a baby brother. You can skip our house this year, unless, of course, you were thinking of bringing a puppy.”

 

 

When I think of Christmas I think of________. How would you complete this sentence? Would you consider it to be a major headache, a pain in the neck, hectic, insanity shopping? Is it to you just a day when we get together as families and share presents, eat a big meal, and watch football games?   And probably falling asleep on the couch before the first quarter ends……”I am not asleep; I was just resting my eyes!” Right!

 

Where is the joy? What is the joy? The joy is the fact that we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior who came to this earth to be crucified, buried, and rose again – to grant us eternal life. We are joyfully redeemed because of His birth on this earth. Can you just imagine the joy shouted in heaven when He came to earth. Now, where is that joy? In ToysRUs, Walmart, Target???  No, there is only hassle, hassle, and headaches there.
During this Advent season let’s focus on our themes and only our themes – first was hope, then, love, now joy.

 

You can surround yourself with joy because it is a beautiful season of the year. It is a celebration for each of us. It does not matter what your financial situation is, your living conditions, your family lifestyle. Joy is a decision you make and it can be overwhelmingly joyful because you make the determination by what your emphasis is. Let’s look at three areas to emphasize in your minds and in your heart –

 

Put your first emphasis on the J for Jesus

 

Galatians 2:20 (NIV) 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Do you remember the old Television special for Christmas. Our dear Charlie Brown asks about Christmas and Linus recites the story of Christ’s birth from Luke Chapter 2. We must remember that Christmas is not….I repeat NOT about us and our family and gifts and friends and parties. It is about JESUS. And this is the great Joy to the World.
“One year a Christmas afternoon visitor asked five-year-old Ruth, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “’No, but then it’s not my birthday!’”

 

It is so easy and often encouraged in this day and age to ignore what this holiday is really about. What in the world are we supposed to be celebrating? The world and Satan want us to forget. We are now to say Happy Holidays. Politically Correct or the devil’s ally??   We can celebrate Kwanza and Winter Solstice and Hanukkah but not Christmas. I know this is just the Atheists and Satan trying to make Jesus disappear. But this will not happen as long as we Christians stand firm and hold that Joy of the Lord within us. Regardless of what the world wants us to thing, it is still possible and sometimes easy to forget what Christmas is about.

 

Remembering Jesus in Bethlehem as an infant AND remembering the He is the Savior and holding it in your heart is what being a Christian is about This little baby became a man and went to the Cross for us; and by His resurrection proved for you and for me that He is the Messiah. Hold this in our hearts – that is J – oy.

 

That alone should fill us with joy!

 

Put the Emphasis also on the O for Others

 
Acts 20:35 (NIV) 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

 

 

Putting our emphasis on Jesus and how He came for all brings us J o y. Because in Acts 20: 35 Paul shows us that joy comes in giving, in generosity. God presented us with the greatest gift of all – Jesus. The gift of true love. So we, too, can follow that example. Joy is not getting everything we want but in giving all we can give to – others. That is true JOY.

 

Remember always that Jesus said that whatever you do to the least of these, you do for me. Get that joy by finding someone, something in need, and in the name of Christ – give—give of your time and treasures. Ask the Lord to come to you and the Holy Spirit will show you where to find them/it. Follow and look. You will find joy by putting emphasis on others, not just yourself.

 

And lastly put a great emphasis on Y – for YOU

 

 

Isaiah 55:12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

 

 

Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

 

 

John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

 

 

And at the same time, we also need to emphasize our selves. Our attitudes will determine whether or not we will let joy come into our hearts. We must instantly forgive others and ourselves and open ourselves up to love everyone.

 
Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

 

 

We must remain encouraged about our walk with God, our life, our prospects. Regardless of what we may be going through, we must look up and always know the eternal plan. This is not always easy, especially in this day and age. We have to work at it and choose to emphasize the good, the true, the beautiful. We can do a daily exercise of positive, loving thinking. Choose JOY. The Bible directs us to stay on the “greener” side of the fence, to look out the window with the sunrise beaming, and He knows we can. We only need to put our focus, our attitude toward the Light of our Lord.

 

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy

 

 

You have a choice – be filled with Joy or be filled with unhappiness and heavy heart…full of Joy or full of woe.

 

“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man–His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God–when we present our bodies a living sacrifice”. – Vance Havner

 

Luke 1:14  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,

 

Joy – only you can make the decision to cloak yourself in this beautiful coat.  Put on the armor of God and accept His gift to you – Jesus, the Christ, the Lord and Savior.

 

What a joyful gift.

God’s Love …. And the Story Never Ends

Pray with me –
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By His coming nurture our growth as people of repentance, love, hope, and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

1 Corinthians 13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. …

 

Psalm 13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

 

Psalm 17:7 Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

 

Love  – a Never Ending Story…………………

 

As we continue our preparation (Preparing the way for the birth of our Savior), we first focused on HOPE. This week we will discuss LOVE. And what better word to emphasize during this season. God IS Love and because of His love for us He sent His Son.

 

During this Advent season, we will take side trips or digressions if you will. This week as we look at LOVE, we will do so in reflection and  prayer. So please, join me in the Prayer for our 2nd week of Advent and let this entire meditation / prayer encircle you during the whole week. Read it often and meditate on the true meaning of God’s Love.

 

Romans 8:28  says, “In everything God works for good for those who love God.” We have such a loving assurance in these words.

 

You love God and I love God. We realize that God’s power adjusts and regulates all things. We realize that God is mighty and can bring about complete change in any and all the circumstances of our lives.   He establishes perfect order and brings that into our lives.

 

To create this order, we must first rearrange or renovate our thinking.

 

Let’s ask God in His almighty wisdom to lead us into faithful thinking and let’s focus on the great omniscience of God. As we walk that path toward His light, let’s focus on that awareness that establishes His kingdom..

 

In this moment, I invite you to discover God and His Love within the peace of the silence of prayer.

 

(Take a moment to focus and feel God’s Love)

 

Do you realize that God and His love and His thoughts are with us right now. God is our guide; our helper in EVERY task we are given to do. God helps us to bring order out of every seemingly confusing and mystifying situation that confronts us. When we look to God, our mind is quickened and we can clearly realize which way we need to go and how to do so. With His love and our faith within that love everything is working together – and all for the good.

 

Even though situations face us, we can be calm in the wake of the storm and undisturbed by them.  God makes sure that all is well, regardless of what is before us. If we become confused and not sure what to do, we just need to trust in His love and direction. Prayer will give us answers.

 

Declare silently in prayer, that God’s wisdom and His love is your guide, and God’s law of harmony is the ruling principle of your life. Again, Trust in His Love.

 

As we realize that God is all-powerful and His power through total love is His creation and that creation is you and it is me. The hope, the peace, the joy, the love becomes who we are.  And we bring that into manifestation now in this time of prayer.

 

No matter what our needs might be, God is with us, and is able to meet them fully, wisely and with love. God is our light. God is our strength. God is our perfect help. In trusting God, we have at our call the greatest power that is available; a power that is instant, constant and unfailing.

 

God is the creator of all things. And all things love their Creator. They seek to work together for good to all who love God. We place our trust totally in God. We depend on God for help in every situation.

 

We are confident because we know we are not alone. God is with us. We are capable because we know that we do not rely on ourselves alone but we rely upon God working with us. We are successful because God is always successful. We work with God and God flows through our minds and our bodies. Every movement is directed by this divine love. All this because He loves us – always and unconditionally.

 

We have a knowing, in prayer, that God is working through us. And God working through us is equal to every demand.

 

No emergency of life can be greater than the power of God with His infinite wisdon and love for and in us to cope with it.

 

Lord, we claim that through your presence, power, and love that divine order is established and peace and stability is manifested in Your world.

 

We pray that these Godly thoughts are accepted within us and within our relationship with You. Lord, help us to act upon these thoughts this second week of Advent and always – every day and every moment during our Advent and Christmas season.

 

In the nature of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we say Amen.

 

Psalm 72
…………….3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness. 4 May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure[a] as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations.  6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth.  7 In his days may the righteous flourish and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

 

Romans 15:4-13 (NIV)
4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.  5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews[a] on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written:  “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” 10 Again, it says,
“Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people” 11 And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again, Isaiah says,  “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”  13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

In the above scriptures you will not see the word love, but you will feel it every sentence, so read it again and see and feel the love exude from them.

 

All the praises and encouragement and endurance they and we face – as long as we are one with the Lord and His Love – we will march onward, in praise and worship – – – knowing what lies ahead, eternal perfection.

 

May the Love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be alive in your hearts today and everyday.  Amen