"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Psalm 119:18
God has brought us through another year and our Christmas celebrations are quickly filling the days. I was praying about which specific direction to take with the Christmas devotions, and someone posted a "Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing Plan" online. I don't have the source, but someone made a list of scriptures to copy every day through the month of December. (I found the source to be Shannan Long at www.swtblessings.com.) The instructions are to listen to God's voice as you copy the texts from your Bible. I want to use this list as our daily verses to prepare our hearts in recognition of the most wonderful gift ever given, the gift of love from God above, His precious Holy Son.
"14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
17 The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria." (Isaiah 7:14-17)
My Scofield King James Bible gives the date of this writing as 742 BC. As a child I always felt like I could not wait for Christmas, but the Jewish people waited thousands of years for God to fulfill His promise of the Savior. I still love the anticipation of this special time of the year. When my children were small I tried to do many things with them during the month of December to make memories of the joys of Christmas. We made ornaments, baked cookies, counted down the days, spent time with family and friends, and worked on Christmas speeches for the church plays. During the next 25 days, let's celebrate the real joys of Christmas and look at the blessed gift of God's promised Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
"6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6-7)
The first Christmas, long, long ago, Jesus came as "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) He had a meek and humble beginning, born in a stable and laid in a manger. His own people did not accept Him and He was killed on a cross. But, on the third day He rose again! We can be sure that just as the prophecies of His first coming were fulfilled, the promises of His second coming will also prove true. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and every knee shall bow to Him. Just look at His name; "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Today we are celebrating Jesus and all that His name implies.
"1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." Isaiah 11:1-5
Nathan told King David that God promised to establish his throne forever. "Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?" (II Samuel 7:18) In his youth David killed the giant Philistine and he became King over Israel and won many battles. Many would say that he was the greatest King over the Israelite people. But when God promised this blessing, David humbled himself before God and said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD?" God can use those who humble themselves before Him. "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10) If you read II Samuel 7 you will notice that God's blessing extended beyond David and reached out to his house, forever. Stay faithful in your work for the Lord, even if it seems so small. I believe that God can take our small service and use it for His glory even after we are gone.
"6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." Isaiah 11:6-10
(As we continue with our Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing Plan, I want to say that after some searching I found the source. There is a web site "Sweet Blessings" written by Shannon Long at www.swtblessings.com.)
The peace found in these verses is something we can look forward to in these dark dreary days. It will be glorious when the world is at peace in God's kingdom and even the animals are at peace with each other. But I want to focus on verse 10. We looked at the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophesy for the Jewish people. I am not a descendant of Abraham. I thought about this one night and I cried to think that without Jesus, without God's plan of salvation, I would have no hope. If God had not given His Son to die for the world, the Jews and the Gentiles, then I would be forever lost. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Jesus died so that I could live. Have you really thought about that? We don't have to spend eternity in the anguish of hell. We can choose life through Jesus. That is what Christmas means to me. Through Jesus we can have the love, joy, peace, and hope that only He can give.
"1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." Isaiah 40:1-5
John the Baptist was the chosen one to prepare the way of the Lord as we read in Matthew 3:1-3. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." I want us to look today at the thought of preparing for the Lord. I enjoy preparing for Christmas. I like decorating, baking special treats, and I even like cleaning my house to get everything ready for the special times with our family. It is even more fun when our grandchildren are here to help me decorate and make the cookies. I usually make my Christmas Things To Do List and also my shopping list. Oh, the preparations are happy, but busy, times. Let's look ahead in time and talk about preparing for the second coming of the Lord. Are we busy sharing our faith? Are we looking for the Lord to come again and living in accordance to His will. "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 24:44) John the Baptist did his part to prepare the way of the Lord. We need to do our part to prepare the way of His return.
"7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
9 Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." Isaiah 52:7-10
I really enjoy watching the Christmas movies on television. After watching so many I have noticed that most of them follow common threads. First, one of the main characters is looking for the "spirit of Christmas." Something happened in the past that took all the joy out of Christmas. Next, the couple that is together in the beginning of the movie is obviously not meant to be together and will split and one of them will find someone better half way through the movie. Also, many of the movies talk about the "magic of Christmas" and often Santa, or an angel, is involved to bring about this "magic." What I don't usually see in the recent Christmas movies are Nativity scenes. There are also very few religious songs and carols. I believe that the movement to do away with Christmas met so much opposition that our enemy decided to let us keep Christmas, but just take away the holy birth. As I read these verses in Isaiah I thought about the shepherds and how they carried the tidings of great joy to everyone they met. We can do this! There are many Christmas cards which still focus on the Savior's birth and many include scripture. We can set up our nativity pieces for our family and friends to see. We can shop and sing "Silent Night", "Away In A Manger", and "O Come All Ye Faithful" as we walk through the stores and wait in line to check out. We can have those beautiful feet of ones that bring good tidings. People can't find everlasting joy and the "spirit of Christmas" in traditions and snow falling. Santa can't bring about magic to fix all the problems in their lives. People need Jesus. When I prayed for forgiveness and asked Jesus to save me, He gave me the love, joy, peace, and hope that so many are seeking for. Proclaim the good tidings! "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
"14 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.
16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness." Jeremiah 33:14-16
This selection of scripture reminds us that the Lord will keep His promises to His people. I know this to be true. The Lord has never failed me and I am sure that He will be with me always. I want us to back up in this chapter to Jeremiah 33:3. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Oh, what a promise! There have been countless times in my life when I called out to my God. And many times when I could see no help for my situation, He opened my eyes and showed me "great and mighty things" which I had not seen. You may have problems. Most of the people I know have problems. And I can't do anything to help them. But I know a God who can! If you don't know Jesus, this little Babe in the manger, as your personal Lord and Savior, the LORD our righteousness, I hope that you will find Him this Christmas. We can't make it on our own. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" (Romans 3:10) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 8:8) In reading the verses above you may think that this message is only to the house of Israel. But Jesus came for all who would believe. Call unto Jesus. The Lord will answer your call of faith, and show you great and mighty things which you know not.
"9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:9-13)
"1 <<A Psalm for Solomon.>> Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.
2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth." Psalm 72:1-7
Today my mind goes back to the first Christmas play I wrote, though not with paper and pen. I was probably about eight, maybe a little older, which means my sisters were about 7, 4 and 2. The four of us performed the entire Christmas nativity story, complete with our own handmade towel head-dress pieces and blanket shawls. We practiced our parts, then asked Mom and Dad to sit in the living room and watch as we acted out the parts and sang the Christmas songs. With only four little people, we had to move from one part to another, as Mary and Joseph who were turned away from the inn, the angels and shepherds who came to the stable, and the wise men who sang, "We Three Kings" and offered Jesus their gifts. We closed our little drama singing "Joy To The World". Some of these verses we are reading are for the coming King of Kings. When He comes to reign the righteous shall flourish and we shall have our abundance of peace. "Joy To The World" by Isaac Watts 1719.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love;
And wonders of His love;
And wonders, wonders of His love.
"8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.
13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight." Psalm 72:8-14
As we continue with our Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing Plan we have another day of the glory and power of the King of Kings. These scriptures tell us that He shall rule over the whole earth and that everyone, from the poor in the wilderness to the kings on the thrones, will fall down before Him. Many today say that Christians are weak, in their need of a God and a Savior. As they view it as an insult, I see it as a compliment. I can praise the Lord in my weakness, for when I am weak, He is strong! I gladly bow on my knees in my sorrow, because He sends the Comforter to ease my pain. I call to Him when I am down, for only God can lift me up. Jesus is King of Kings, and He is also my Lord and Savior who loved me so much, He died to pay for my sin.
"9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11)
"15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.
16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.
17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.
18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.
19 And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.
20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." Psalm 72:15-20
As I read these remaining verses from Psalm 72, I am drawn to the last verse. "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." King David had seen a lot of battle in his day, not only from the enemies of Israel, but also from King Saul. He escaped from his hand more than once. He also had to flee when his son, Absalom, tried to take over the kingdom. But, as we read this final prayer, we don't see complaints to God of how he had been mistreated. We see glory and praise to God, "who only doeth wondrous things." I have often said that some people get better as they grow older, while others grow bitter with age. I want to be one of those who gets sweeter and sweeter with each passing year. I want to look back on my life and praise God for His blessings on me. I want to finish right! We are coming to the end of the old year and soon we will be in 2017, if the Lord tarries His coming. We don't know what the year will bring, but let's be determined to glorify God and follow Him. Because no matter what changes may come to this old world, "His name shall endure for ever;"
"1 O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.
5 The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.
6 O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice," Psalm 95:1-7
This is a wonderful Psalm of praise and thanksgiving and the invitation is clear. "O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation." The Psalm tells us to offer thanksgiving and bow down and worship God, our Creator. I want to look ahead to part of the 8th verse and continue with the thought, "To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart,..." The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this scripture. "Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." (Hebrews 4:7) I read this week that someone asked a preacher in a small town what the death rate was, and he answered "One a piece." We are all going to die and appear before God our Maker. We are not promised tomorrow. If you have never asked the Lord to save you, please don't wait until it is too late. Hear His voice today and don't harden your heart to His call.
"1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." Malachi 3:1-3
This is our last Old Testament prophesy of the coming of the Lord for our Christmas devotions. God spoke through His prophet Malachi and the Jewish people waited for the Mesiah. For four hundred years the prophets were silent as they waited for the messenger of the Lord. We have no recorded messages from the Lord in our scriptures for those long difficult years of waiting. I was raised in church and through the years I heard sermons that the Lord was coming again. The Bible tells us plainly that Jesus is coming again. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3) It has been 2,000 years since Jesus made that promise and His children have been waiting. I don't think we will have to wait much longer. Prophesies are being fulfilled, preparing the way before Him, just as John the Baptist prepared the way many years ago. Are you ready?
"18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." Matthew 1:18-20
As we come to the New Testament with our "Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing" list we find the Christmas story in the first chapter of Matthew. The scriptures tell us of Joseph's love for Mary in that he wanted to do what was best for her. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and calmed his fears and gave him instructions to follow. The angel of the Lord will appear to Joseph again to lead him into Egypt to protect Jesus. God used Joseph to guide and raise Jesus in His first years on earth. All of these Christmas stories will come together just as God planned for them to be.
"21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." Matthew 1:21-25
Jesus. Do you know Jesus? It is popular now to have many, many friends on social media. I see some people that have several hundreds of friends, but I wonder if they really know all those people. And it really doesn't matter how many friends are in your claim to fame, but it makes all the difference in the world if you don't know Jesus. Only Jesus can save you from your sins. "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) Only Jesus has the power to heal every sickness and disease. "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people." (Matthew 9:35) Only Jesus, who made the heavens and earth, has the power to walk on the water, and calm the storms. "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (Matthew 14:25-27) "And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." (Mark 4:39) We could go on and on with scriptures that tell us about Jesus, but Christianity is more than knowing about Jesus. Salvation is believing that Jesus is the way, and the only way to be cleansed from your sin and have everlasting life. "Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:10-12) Jesus. He's more than just a Baby in a manger. He is the Savior of the world. Do you know Him?
"1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel." Matthew 2:1-6
Have you ever wondered how the wise men knew about the star and the birth of the King of the Jews? I don't know, but we can look back to the book of Daniel and find some wise men of the East. Do you remember when King Nebuchadnezzar forgot his dream and was going to kill all the wise men because they could not interpret it for him? God showed Daniel the dream and the interpretation. "Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon." (Daniel 2:48) Daniel had been taken captive at a young age and he lived to be an old man in Babylon, serving under several kings. I believe that Daniel taught the wise men about God and many probably knew of his prophesies. I have always liked Daniel 1:8. "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself." As a child, captive in a foreign land, Daniel had the courage to stand strong in his faith. He stayed faithful all those years, and as an old man he was thrown into a den of lions for praying to his God. I believe these wise men had passed the prophecies down through all those years because of the faithfulness of God's prophet, Daniel. Stay faithful. God can continue to use our testimony for His glory even after we are gone.
"7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way." Matthew 2:7-12
I enjoy the nativity scenes we see at Christmas and I have several on display in my house, but as we look at these verses we will see that the pieces we have may not be accurate. First, when we look at verse 3 from yesterday we see that King Herod was troubled "and all Jerusalem with him." Then we see in our verses today that he is very concerned with this young child. We often have three wise men in our nativities, for the three gifts, but I believe that there may have been an entire caravan of wise men. I don't know that just three men would have troubled King Herod and all of Jerusalem. But, an entourage of this elite group would certainly have troubled the king. Now, we come to verse 8 and we see that he tells them to "search diligently for the young child" and also verse 11 tells us "they saw the young child" when they went into the house. Some time has passed since the shepherds went to the stable and found Mary and Joseph and the Baby in the manger. Verse 16 suggests that it could have been up to 2 years. It is interesting to notice in verse 9 that the "star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." The star moved in the sky to lead them to the Christ child. The wise men worshiped and presented their gifts. And finally, in verse 9 we see that God spoke to them through a dream, just as He had done for Joseph.
"26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be." Luke 1:26-29
Today we are making the move from the gospel of Matthew to Luke's gospel. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she is highly favored, the Lord is with her, and she is blessed among women. What an honor, to be chosen of God to be the mother of the Lord Jesus. After all the years of waiting for the promised Messiah, the time had come, and Gabriel was there to deliver this message that would bring salvation to a lost world. Christmas is almost here, and while we rush about, with last minute shopping and cooking, and visiting, let's make sure we take time to rejoice in the Lord Jesus and His gift of love that He brought to all who will believe on His name.
"30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Luke 1:30-34
I remember one time when I was young my Dad wanted me to go get something from the car... but it was dark outside. I was afraid to go, and I think he knew this because he told me that he would stand at the door and watch me. Just knowing that he was keeping his eyes on me calmed my fears. The phrase, "Fear not" is found in the Bible 63 times. "Be not afraid" is found 28 times. The angel told Mary, "Fear not...." and I believe that God calmed her fears. How else could she say, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" in verse 38? If we take time to think about the Lord watching over us it would calm our fears. Just as my Dad watched over me in the darkness and took away my fears, God is watching over us and He can take our fears and send peace that the world can't understand.
"35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." Luke 1:35-38
Sometimes when we read the Bible we view these people as "characters" in a story, who were created with a better persona, and we feel that things like that only happened in Bible days. There are two miracles of birth in these four verses and the angel said, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." I believe that God is still God, and nothing is impossible with God! Many times in my ordinary life, God has done the impossible. He has reached down to me with physical healing, spiritual uplifting, and met financial needs. During those times when I sink so low there is no where to look but up, I cry out to my Lord and He hears my cry and wipes the tears from my heart. When my burden is heavy, He comes to help me bear the load. James 5:16-17 tells us, "...pray one for another,... The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months." Angels don't appear and tell us what to do as they did in the Bible, but we have the Word of God, and we have prayer, and we have this promise, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."
"46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation." Luke 1:46-50
I have heard this song of praise by many who played the part of Mary in Christmas plays. As I read over it now, I see that except for a small segment, I can praise the Lord in the same way. Read these words again and think about how the Lord has blessed us in coming that first Christmas to be our Savior.
"My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: ...
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation."
"51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house." Luke 1:51-56
In our scripture today Mary is still at the home of her cousin Elisabeth and Zacharias. She completes her song of praise and stays about three months before going back home. Mary knows the Jewish history. She knows how God delivered His children time and time again. She knows of the promises made to Abraham and she is a descendant of Abraham. She has great faith, and she is blessed to be chosen to be the mother of the Christ child. She waited patiently for the birth of Jesus, her Creator, and yet her Child. Now, two thousand years later, we have the scriptures. We know the promises God made to His children. We have seen Good work in our own lives. We need to stay faithful and believe on the second coming of our Lord. He won't come as a meek child in a manger, but He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let's be ready!
"4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:4-7
"There was no room for them in the inn." The decree came from Caesar Augustus that the world should be taxed and all the people started on their journeys, "every one into his own city." (Luke 2:3) Travel would have been slow and difficult for Mary, "being great with child." By the time they arrived in Bethlehem, the inn was filled. Surely people noticed that Mary was near delivery, but no one offered her a place to stay. No one had room in their hearts for this couple in need. Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger, the precious Lamb of God, because "there was no room for them in the inn." Have people changed very much in the last 2,000 years? Many today have no room in their hearts for Jesus. Many today have no room in their lives for Jesus. As we continue with our Christmas celebrations, we need to make sure that among the shopping, and wrapping, and giving, we must be sure to make room for our Lord. He came to give Himself to save us from our sin. He deserves to have top priority in our lives. Especially as we celebrate His birth!
"8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." Luke 2:8-12
As some of my children say, "Happy Christmas Eve Eve." These are some of my favorite Christmas verses. I am looking today at the words of the angel, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Thursday morning I went to see my nephew and his wife, and their 9 month old baby. They just lost their house to a fire and they were trying to recover any furniture or items that could be salvaged. What I noticed most was that they seemed to have peace. It would be hard to lose almost everything you have, especially at Christmas, but even this devastation could not take away their inner joy. And I know why. Let's continue with the next verse, "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." It was several years ago, but I still remember when my nephew called me to tell me that he got saved. Some may find happiness in the things of the world, but those things can be gone in an instant. When we trust Jesus to save us from our sin He gives us peace and joy that comes from above, and these things below are just things. Please pray for Thad and Jan Watkins and their baby as they try to find another place to live. If you would like to make a donation to help them you can send it to the Thomasville Fire Department in Thomasville, NC, where Thad has worked for ten years.
"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, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." Luke 2:13-16
Since Michael and I got married 38 years ago we have been celebrating Christmas Eve at his parents house. As I write this, his Dad is in the hospital, so our plans have changed and we are praying that he will get to go home and spend Christmas at home. There has been much sickness in our family the last few weeks. And I know so many who have financial needs that make it difficult for them to give to others as much as they would like. Some were touched with hardships many years ago and they can't feel the love and warmth of Christmas. Christ was born in a lowly stable, and He came to heal the broken hearted, "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) He comforted His followers, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest ...for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29) After the angels appeared to the shepherds they said, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." If you are having trouble finding joy and peace this Christmas, do as the shepherds did and make haste to find Jesus. He can heal your broken heart, bind up your wounds, and give you the love, peace, and joy you are missing.
"17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:17-20
Merry Christmas! As we look at these verses of scripture we see three reactions to the birth of Jesus. First of all, we see that after the shepherds met the Christ child they told all those they met. We should follow this example and be witnesses for the Lord Jesus. They told and people wondered. Do we live in such a way that people wonder about our love for the Lord? Next we see that Mary pondered all these things in her heart. This shows how we should meditate as we read the Bible and think on the things of God. In verse 20 we see that the shepherds rejoiced and praised God. When we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and save us we can praise Him and live for Him so that He can be glorified through our lives. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!
"4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Galatians 4:4-7
Let's talk about time. "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son,..." The Jewish people waited many years for the birth of the Messiah. Some may have thought that God forgot His promise. But God will never forget the promises of His Word. Jesus came at just the right time. And He promised to come again. We don't know the time, but we can be sure He is coming. "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is." (Mark 13:32-33) Are you ready to meet God? Our time is short. We are almost through another year. "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (James 4:14) You can have everlasting life, and live forever in heaven. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18) Don't wait until time is up.
"5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8
(My wife is sick tonight and I am filling in for her with the following devotional thoughts...)
After watching dozens of Christmas movies over the last few weeks, I have seen so many different explanations of the "spirit of Christmas." Most have said little or nothing about the Christ child. Most have some explanation of "love" and giving to others. But the true "spirit of Christmas" is best described in a Christmas song written several years ago:
"Born to die,a cruel cross to bear.
He was born to die, that I His love may share.
Born to die, His precious life to give.
Born to die, that I might live."
Jesus left the glories of heaven to be born into a dirty stable. His baby bed was a filthy feeding trough for the animals. He came for the sole purpose of redeeming us from our sins. His goal from the time of His birth was a hill called Mount Calvary. As Paul said in his letter, "...he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." The true spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ--to give all that you have for others--to die that others may live--to be poor so that others may be rich. Thank you, Lord, for giving your all for me.
"9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11
(I am thankful to Michael for writing the devotional yesterday, and thankful that I am feeling much better.)
I saw an article last week about a bad car accident. The woman survived and is giving credit to the stranger who stopped and prayed for her. This may sound good as a headline, and the comments were positive, but not all correct. One person replied basically that all prayer is good and it doesn't matter which god you pray to, your faith is the power behind the prayer. That's wrong. These verses in Philippians put it so clearly, that I am going to repeat them so you can read them again, and think about the words.
"9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
People accuse Christians of being close-minded and not accepting other religions. Well, when it comes to salvation, I am very close-minded. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation and one day every knee shall bow to Him and confess that He is Lord.
"16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." James 1:16-18
I saw a short video produced by Forest Hill Church of Charlotte, NC, yesterday and I thought it would go well with our verses today. The video begins as the man wakes up, wrapped up in Christmas paper, and he shouts, "I'm alive." His wife awakens, also wrapped in gift wrap, and then the children walk into the room, as little gifts. He gets up and sees the face plate of the light switch wrapped in Christmas paper and exclaims, "Honey, the power works." He moves through the house where there are bows on the faucet and shower head, and his shoes are wrapped and topped with bows. He sees the gifts of his breakfast, his briefcase, and goes out to see his car, also totally wrapped in Christmas paper. He is excited and happy with each "gift" the Lord has given. The closing statement on the video reads, "This Christmas may you be grateful for all the gifts around you!" James 1:17 tells us, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Don't ever put your focus on the gifts you wanted, but did not receive. Instead be thankful every day for the many gifts the good Lord continues to provide.
"3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:3-7
We would all be really discouraged if we talked about what we were before the Lord saved us. Just as Paul reminds Titus, we were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and on the path that leads to destruction. What happened to turn our lives around? "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,..." There was nothing we did to merit salvation, but through God's great mercy and love, He washed us and clothed us in His righteousness. We are about to enter into a new year, and many will make New Year's Resolutions. It is good to review our course and make sure we are on the right paths, following good habits and living a healthy life. But there is nothing we can do to work our way to heaven. We can't buy a home in heaven by giving to others. "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:10 & 23) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Don't let another day go by without making sure you have accepted God's gift of salvation. You can have this hope of eternal life!
"O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people." Psalm 105:1
We finished our "Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing Plan" and the last day on the list says, "Choose your own verse." I asked the Lord to show me what would be best for the last day of the old year, before we welcome in the new. Several verses came to mind, but this one seems to be the one I need in my own heart. It gives us three things to do as we prepare for the New Year. First, be thankful. My daughter-in-law, Allison, sends us a "Thank you" card for every gift we give to her children. Micah and Maggie write and scribble, and color on the card and it always brings a smile to my face to receive such special mail. She is teaching them to be thankful. All we have comes from our gracious God, and we need to remember to say, "Thank you." Next, we see an invitation to prayer. Time and time again I have seen prayer make a difference in my life. God holds this universe together, and yet He loves us so much He hears and answers our prayers. Last in this verse, we see that we are to be witnesses for the Lord. We don't have to preach a message to our friends, or know a lot of scriptures to quote to them, we can be a witness by telling them what the Lord has done for us. That's what a witness is. Thank you for taking time to read our Daily Devotions. I pray that these simple thoughts have been an encouragement to you and I hope you will continue on this path with us into the New Year. If you believe our devotions will help someone else, please share it with them. "O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people."