And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” – Luke 2: 13-14 ESV
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” – Luke 1:46-55
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath that He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:68-79
Music is a big part of our Christmas. I have a hard time getting Kathy to NOT play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving! Going Christmas caroling was a part of our Christmas tradition growing up – we hadn’t been caroling in ages until last weekend when a few of us went out to UGA Family/Graduate Housing. We used to sing a lot more of the Christmas songs and hymns in church, too – we miss that.
From the angels song, to Mary and Zechariah’s praises, music has and is a part of Christmas. I was reading a devotion here recently that was discussing Mary’s “Magnificat” and how a simple, young girl reacted to the angel’s message to her. She burst forth into praise, song, and prophecy! How? Why?
And Zechariah first words after being mute for several months was song of praise and prophecy? Why?
I believe that when we – finite, mortal beings – come into the presence and wonder of the eternal God and are touched by Him, we naturally overflow with the knowledge of Him and from Him. We cannot help but praise, prophecy and express our love for Him. I believe this is why music is not only a part of Christmas but is a part of the Revelation saga and will be a part of our eternity with Jesus.
I don’t care if you can’t “carry a tune in a bucket” – if you truly believe that God is who He says He is and He is in you (as He is once you say “Yes” to Him), you should be making a “joyful noise unto the Lord”. This is not putting a fake smile on your face and falsely saying that everything is good, but it is an overflow of the joy that the gift of His grace and mercy should place in our hearts.
This Christmas, look at the words of the Christmas carols and hymns, hear them as if this is the first time. Open your hearts to the wonder of the story. And let the praise overflow from your heart and pour out from your lips.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. – Isaiah 9:2 ESV
I will make You as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth. – Isaiah 49:6b ESV
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16 ESV
I have always loved the lights of Christmas. Even though I have mostly outgrown the need to wake up early on Christmas morning, I still love getting up and just watching the lights on the tree in the stillness of the morning. Each year, Kathy and I find several occasions to go out and look for places to see Christmas lights.
One of my Christmas memories is of Dad loading all four kids into the car to look at lights and to search for Santa. Of course, this gave Mom a chance to finish wrapping presents :-). But we enjoyed the ride and the search. We always made it back home in time to be in bed well before Santa made his arrival.
It is again a season of lights. Not just for those who celebrate Christmas but for Jews who celebrate Hanukkah, with the candles of the menorah, and for Hindus who celebrate Tihar, the festival of lights. The Jews celebrate the power of God to do miracles in saving His people and the Hindus seek to call a goddess to bring wealth into the new year.
For followers of Jesus, the season is not so much the past or the future as it is about the now. Scripture shows us a contrast between the darkness and the Light and it is about His work in our NOW. We have seen Him and light shines on us. We seek Him and we find Him, the Light that fills the dark empty places of our lives. He was, and is and always shall be. He is the Miracle of our past and He is the One who brings true, eternal wealth into each of our years.
And He came for ALL – Jesus is the Light for the Nations! The task has been left to us to take the story of His salvation to the ends of the earth, completing Isaiah’s prophecy. As Christians, “little Christs”, we are to be lights that shine int the darkness wherever we are.
May the Light shine in your lives this Christmas and always!
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you —see that you excel in this act of grace also. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
As Corinth excels in faith, speech, and knowledge, Paul asks that they excel in another display of kindness. Paul has been working with the churches of Macedonia. The churches there have experienced great suffering and they endure deep poverty. Even so, they were generous in giving above their means to be a helping service to the ministry. We are familiar with passing the plate at church. There is surely a Biblical defense for it. This is not a message on tithing. This is about priority.
The churches in Macedonia received the message of Christ knowing the hardship it would bring. Receiving Christ’s message often made you an outcast, to the point of genuine despair. Even so, they wanted to help Paul and the apostles move the message forward. Macedonia’s giving was not just about payroll. The apostles distributed to those who were being persecuted. Some new believers had to relocate or hide for extended periods for survival sake. Sacrificial giving in that time meant someone else’s survival.
It can be just as dramatic in our time. We are enjoying incredible wealth relative to other societies. Other areas are under deep persecution. Even in Europe, radical Islamists are attacking Christians. In many places it’s illegal to follow Christ. Still, there are those daring, obedient believers who find a way in by His leading. They need support. Move forward men, finding those areas of influence that the Father reveals and contribute. Give generously in resources, time, effort… however the Father’s Spirit leads.
Get off the sideline. Give like you believe what He says. Give like it’s you who needs it, since we are one body.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. What was old has passed away, and the new is worth exclaiming over. This newness is from God who reconciled us through Christ Jesus. The entire world is now reconciled and our sins are forgiven.
Paul calls himself an ambassador for Christ, as we are also, pleading with those who will hear us to be reconciled to God. The price has been paid to come to the Father. Through His sacrifice we have become the righteousness of God. That should be stirring some excitement in you brother.
For an entire people group, reconciliation was a deep multi generational desire, and for others, adoption was a dream come true. Paul answers those hopes here, for all people for all time. Christ made a way, where there seemed to be no way. The message failed to be carried out of Jerusalem.
But God, rich in His mercy, already knew and had prepared
a way. We have tickets, free tickets, to draw near to the greatest showman ever. There is no entity who is more wondrous, powerful, creative, and thankfully, merciful. This is not a backstage pass, this is adoption: a rags to riches story like no other. We were once dirt, brought to life, we failed and transgressed, we lost our place, but God in His mercy showered us with Grace. He picks us up, dusts off our sins and clothes us with His glory from the inside out.
This is the greatest, most loving and sacrificial romance story ever told. The people of God were adulterous. You and I were stiff-necked and denied Him, still He pursued us to the grave to save us from ourselves. MOVE FORWARD MEN, as ambassadors of the greatest story ever lived out. The most consequential pursuit of a wandering loved one, and the sweetest of all romances. It is also the greatest fight scene ever.
The Son of God wore our sins, fought the grave and won. He WON! He won an unworthy prize in us, and gave us His worth, His name, His identity, clothing us in His righteousness. Exclaim it ambassadors!!