BY JOYCE PELLETIER
Christmas! Year after year we celebrate His birth. Mary and Joseph make a long journey to Bethlehem. Consider who show up to honor Mary’s boy-child. The shepherds are with their flocks. The Magi made their way by following the star. Herod makes it a point to talk to the Magi. He was bold enough to ask them to report back so he could pay homage too. Herod had other thoughts about this child. He wanted to find Him so he could stop Jesus from carrying out the plan of salvation.
Who ever heard of such a thing? In our culture, we don’t do that to a child that comes into our family. We want to love, cuddle and protect them from the world they’ve come into.
Step with me on the side-line to see how Mary responds. She’s weary from this long journey to Bethlehem. It was not an easy trek on a jostling camel, to later give birth to the Son of God. I remember well those hours before giving birth to my two children. Life was hard during that era of living. Mary and Joseph had no place to rest. Remember there was no room for them in the Inn. They ended up in a barn filled with dusty animals.
They persevered! They knew God was with them. They had a sense of what was to happen that night. Joseph attended Mary as best he could. There was no room for them to rest. Yet, in the barn, on the straw, Mary laid down and went through the birth pangs. She laid Him in a manger.
Alas! The Holy Child was born, without harm or issues. Mary held her child for the first time in her arms, just like other new mothers do. She looked in awe of the amazing miracle that just happened. Soon she looks up and sees the shepherds make their way to honor the child. Oh, the joy she felt!
Not long after the Magi approached the child with gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They present their gifts in respectful reverence. They knew they were in a place of profound wonder. The animals were silent. The presence was something they never knew.
Soon after, the witnesses leave as quietly as they came. Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus settled in for the night.
The shepherds step away quietly in a state of amazement, as they return to the fields, cherishing the miracle they just encountered. The Magi left to return by another route home to avoid Herod and his devious plan.
Matthew 2:13 says that an angel appeared in a dream saying, “Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Time to rest for Mary and Joseph! Not really, but then an angel came to warn him to get up and go quickly to Egypt with his new family for safety.
What was about to happen!? All the sons under the age of two were about to be killed. Can you imagine the horror the fathers and mothers went through as their boy babies were whisked away and killed? This fulfilled the prophecy from Jeremiah. In Matthew 2:18 “The voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Joseph and Mary were obedient to make the long journey to Egypt. They didn’t know what the road ahead would be like, but they walked in faith and trusted God. As followers of Christ, we can do the same.
This is why we can believe what Proverb 3:5 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path".
BY JORDAN MAYER
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'”
This year I have been doing a Bible reading plan, one that takes you through Scripture in its entirety within the span of a year. If you have never done this before, I cannot recommend it enough. I appreciate the structure of these plans with a set of assigned readings each day, as well as the opportunity they provide to revisit some of the books I frequent less often (Leviticus anyone?) As we near the end of the year, I am ending in the book of Revelation. I think for many of us, the book of Revelation can be a daunting book. Although, I don't think it is half as daunting to read as it must have been to write! Imagine what it must have been like for John to witness these things and then attempt to describe them with words. Yet, we know that all of the Bible authors had some divine help!
Reading through this book during the Advent season helps me remember something: the best is yet to come. As has been mentioned before, advent literally means "coming". While this season celebrates the first coming, the birth of a Savior, it is also a season of eager expectation for Christ's second coming. The things that began when Jesus first came will find their resolution when He comes again.
Resolution. In music, resolution refers to a release of musical tension. Certain notes or chords create suspense and tension in the music, and the listener naturally expects a conclusion that resolves that tension. This is a fitting analogy for the time in redemptive history that we find ourselves in. God created, man fell, Jesus came...and now we wait. For those in Christ, our sins have been paid in full (Colossians 2:13-14), we are made free (Galatians 5:1), we are declared new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). And yet, like Paul, we are often frustrated in our desire to do right by our tendency to sin (Romans 7:19). Like the rest of creation, we groan inwardly in the midst of a broken world, eagerly awaiting what is to come. (Romans 8:23).
I love the language of this passage in Revelation for how beautifully it mirrors these two advents. "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God".
Remember the words of Isaiah, "'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:23).
God came down 2,000 years ago to dwell among us, to be with His people. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life, His Spirit comes to dwell inside of us. And one day, when Christ returns, we will be called up to Heaven to dwell in His presence for all eternity. These things that have taken place are wonderful realities; they are the foundation of our faith. And yet, the best is yet to come!
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
BY JORDAN MAYER
“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.”
When I was younger, I used to play a game with my brothers where we would go downstairs to the family room, close all the doors, shut off the lights, cover the windows, and then try to find each other in the near pitch-black room. Each of us would stumble about with arms outstretched, unable to see what obstacles might be in our way. In the context of our game, it was all part of the fun. But given a different set of circumstances, this darkness would be a source of unease, helplessness, and fear.
The Bible speaks of another kind of darkness. But rather than being physical, this darkness is spiritual. It describes the nature and condition of every single person in the world. As Proverbs 4:19 describes it, “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” As a result of our sin, we have become blinded to the things of God. We are both unwilling and incapable of accepting God’s truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). We walk about in spiritual darkness, actively choosing, and even loving, the dark that is our sin (John 3:19).
This state can be likened to the condition of the world described in Genesis 1:2. Darkness covered the deep. The earth was formless and void. In the absence of the light, there was only chaos and disorder. There is a wonderful word in Hebrew, Tohu v’vohu, that we translate as formless and void, or literally wild and waste. The idea is that the world is still in a state of disorder, of emptiness. It is unlivable. But then we read of God’s Spirit hovering over the waters, suggesting that God was about to do something about the present situation.
By the mere words of His mouth, God speaks light into existence. "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:3) In an instant, this formless darkness explodes into light and God sees it as good. He then proceeds with His masterful work of creation and finishes by calling it very good! (Genesis 1:31) This emergence of light is the pivotal moment that ushers in God's beautiful order, structure, and life into creation.
All throughout Scripture, we find this pattern of light closely connected to God's working power. Later on in the New Testament, we see this pattern of light show up again. An angel appears to shepherds out in the field, "and the glory of the Lord shone around them" (Luke 2: 9). The angel brings news of the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord. Wise men from the east follow a star to find the Christ child so that they may worship him (Matthew 2:1-2).
This very Jesus would go on to declare, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) This is the Good News that we celebrate at Christmas. The Light of the World has come! Just as God had a plan for addressing the darkness over the deep, He had a plan to address the darkness of our own sin. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) There is hope for all who walk in the dark and formless void of sin. It is through Jesus that we can be delivered from this domain of darkness and into His kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).
With this light now in us, God declares us new creations, transforming us from the inside out. And as we walk as children of the Light (Ephesians 5:8), we also become lights in the darkness of this world (Matthew 5:14). Like lighthouses pointing lost ships to shore, we are now called to point others to the light, truth, and hope of the Gospel. We once knew what it was like to stumble around in the dark. But now we have seen a marvelous light, and others must see it too!
BY JORDAN MAYER
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.”
In describing the Christmas season, many people will use the word hopeful. Despite all the stress and strife that has build up over the course of the year, most people will experience what is often described as the “Christmas spirit”. Energy, excitement, and anticipation builds as December 25th draws near. In the weeks following Thanksgiving, people try to be kinder, more patient, more understanding; hope is high. But as soon as the day comes, it passes. The parties end. The tree is taken down and the decorations are put away. As the Christmas festivities fade, so does the apparent hope of the season.
January is often attributed as the most depressing month of the year. It may seem puzzling given its close proximity to the holidays, but it reveals the shallowness of the world’s hope. Like a counterfeit toy, the world’s hope crumbles and breaks. Proverbs 13:12 aptly states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
So how do we cultivate a hope that lasts more than a day, or a month, or a year? Where do we find a hope that is not fleeting, but lasting? We begin by recognizing that hope is not found in a season. It is not a feeling or a vague, abstract sense that everything will just “work out” in the end. It’s not a wish or a crossing of the fingers. You see, our hope is not in something, but rather, someone.
In the book of Hebrews, the author writes to Jewish Christians who were having their own hope crisis. Amidst suffering and persecution, many of them were returning to the Law. It seemed a safe and familiar place to rest their hope upon. But, as the author contends, hope is not found in angels, prophets, priests, or sacrifices. Rather, all these things were meant to point to something greater. They were the copies made to reflect the genuine article. They were the shadows made to reveal the substance. They were all pointing to Jesus, the great prophet, priest, and king. It was Jesus who entered the inner place and tore the curtain gloriously in two, providing access for all to draw near to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
The Christmas story is the continuation of God’s marvelous plan of salvation for His people. This Jesus, who would die on the cross for our sins, came first as a small baby boy. The hope of the world was born in a manger.
Jesus is our hope. It is not only in what He’s done, but what He still plans to do. The Advent Season is not merely a reminder of his first coming, it is the eager expectation of His second! This is where our hope rests, as a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul.
As we draw near to this blessed Christmas Day, let us anchor ourselves in the Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3), the hope that does not put us to shame (Romans 15:13). And as we rejoice in hope, let us remember that the Good News of the Gospel, the greatest gift the world has ever known, is meant to be shared. Right outside our doors is a world desperate for hope. Let’s show them who He is!