Christmas Eve Reflection

 

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Tonight is Christmas Eve!

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Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem.
Where will they stay?
In the glow of candlelight,
celebrate this holy night.

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The innkeeper places fresh straw in the stable.
He does not know why.
In the glow of candlelight,
celebrate this holy night.

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The angels practice their praise.
  Can you hear the grandeur of their Glorias?
In the glow of candlelight,
celebrate this holy night.

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The shepherds routinely take care of their sheep.
They are unsuspecting of anything unusual.
In the glow of candlelight,
celebrate this holy night.

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A baby named Jesus is soon to be born.
 God’s Son – Emmanuel – God with us in the flesh
In the glow of candlelight,
celebrate this holy night.

Tonight is Christmas Eve!

Joyfully,
Cheryl

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Kings and Crowns

 

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My focus today is upon the Magi or the Wise Men. My earliest recollection of these men comes from the Christmas carol We Three Kings. Because of this Christmas carol, I often mistakenly think of these men being kings and that they were only three in number. Although these are false facts, other words of the carol about these men are true. They did come from the east to find Jesus and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In actuality, these men were a distinguished group of foreigners who studied astronomy and most likely had followed a star for over two years to find and worship the baby born to be king of the Jews. The Magi did not find Jesus in a manger because he was most likely nearly two years old and lived in a house with Mary and Joseph when they arrived. (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. – Matthew 2:11) They were not kings and they had no crowns.
crown-mfThe Magi were not kings but they were looking for a king as recorded in the gospel of Matthew. (Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” – Matthew 2:1-2) The idea that there might be a baby who would be king of the Jews was a threat to another king. I am referring to King Herod mentioned in the next verse of Matthew 2. (When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. – Matthew 2:3) King Herod did not want another king! King Herod did not know this Baby King loved him and had his best interests in mind. Unfortunately, people in positions of royalty are often threatened by those who they presume to become more powerful or popular than themselves. Herod was a king and he had a crown. However, he felt like his position as ruler was vulnerable.crown of thorns mf

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Looking again at Matthew 2:2, I note that the gospel writer refers to the newborn baby as being king of the Jews. At his birth, I see Jesus simply as a baby laying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. (see Luke 2:12) However, by wearing a crown of thorns when He was crucified for the sins of the world, He not only was king of the Jews but king of all. The day is yet to come at the end of the age when we will proclaim Jesus as King over all the earth and He will reign throughout all eternity. He will be riding on a white horse and on his head will be many crowns. On His robe and on his thigh will be the name KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. (taken from Revelation 19:11-19) Revelation 19:1 says, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. At the time of his birth, Jesus did not look like a king and he did not wear a crown. The first crown He wore was a crown of thorns. Now we wait for the day when He will be King of kings wearing many crowns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, my first legitimate reference to a king with a crown was King Herod and my second reference was to Jesus, but there is still another reference to people who will wear crowns. It is with great humility that I search for scriptures to support the reality that someday I will be among those who wear a crown. My crown will not be a tiara made of jewels. In fact, it will not be any kind of earthly crown. This crown will be known as the crown of life as described in James 1:12, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” The crown available to me is not only a crown of righteousness but it is also an imperishable crown according to Paul in I Corinthians 9:25.
I want to quote a couple of Psalms to substantiate my premise that there will be crowns for Christians. From Psalm 103, I have selected verses 1, 4, and 19. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name….Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;…The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.” I like these verses because they emphasize the rule of the Lord as well as the crown of love and compassion for me. Psalm 8:1-5 is another favorite of mine. I quote some verses from this section of scripture, “O LORD, our Lord,  How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!…  When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” (my emphasis) Here I sense the kingship and rulership of the Lord in the beginning verses, but the Psalmist concludes by saying that I am crowned with glory and majesty! Wow! If I am to wear a crown, it is a crown given to me by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And what do I want to do with my crown? I want to join the elders mentioned by John in Revelation 4:10-11, “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’” I am not a king but I will one day wear a crown.
I cannot help but think of the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns composed by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring. The first verse of this hymn is as follows:

Crown him with many crowns, The Lamb upon his throne:
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns All music but its own.
Awake, mu soul and sing Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless King Through all eternity.

JESUS! The Lamb of God who was born in a stable shared with little lambs, but who now is the Lamb upon the eternal throne of God. If we only believe in Him, He takes away our sins and gives each of us the crown of eternal life. He is not only King of the Jews, but He is King of all creation. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. The Magi came to worship Him. Herod was threatened by Him. I chose to follow the example of the Magi. I choose to worship Him and honor Him as King this Christmas season and throughout the rest of my life.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Shepherd’s Example

 

shepherd-2-pinterest-noteGod gives grace to the humble
James 4:6 New American Standard

shepherd-4-pinterest-noteThough the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Psalm 138:6

The scene for the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, was in a stall for cattle. His bed was a manger or a feeding trough. Not the sterile hospital suite that is common today. Jesus set the example of humility on the day of his birth. (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. – Luke 2:7)

sheepI am reminded that the first people to visit the newborn baby were shepherds who were taking care of their sheep in a nearby field that night. They came because the angels chose to invite them. They accepted the invitation and went without changing clothes. They did not feel the need to dress up to go to this birthday party. They went as they were. The shepherds did not realize this was a special day that would eventually become celebrated as Christmas. They were only being obedient to the voice of the angel who told them to go and see. (And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” … When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. – Luke 2:8-12, 15-16)

Although the shepherds were occupied with their job on this special night, they were not too busy to go see a baby who was noteworthy enough to have his birth announced by angels. They were lowly obedient men of God. Other people in the area looked down upon shepherds and their occupation, but God honored them. If God honored them, they were definitely going to honor God. Shepherds took care of newborn lambs and these shepherds were ready to go see the Lamb of God born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a small town but that did not mean great things could not take place there. Wasn’t it amazing that the only reason Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem was because of the required census? They did not choose this little town as a place of honor for the birth of the baby, but God did! God was portraying humility when He chose the birthplace for His Son. These shepherds did not decide to have their flock of sheep near Bethlehem because of the popularity of this city, but God orchestrated it for them to be in the area this specific night. God chose the humility of shepherds and the smallness of Bethlehem to reveal a special part of His story.

jesus-good-shepherdI have heard that these shepherds may have been caring for the flock of sheep that was being raised to be lambs used for sacrifices at the temple. Was it not appropriate that these men be the first to greet the Lamb of God? Did they not personally identify with the one who would grow up to be the Great Shepherd? I wonder if the words of the shepherd David warmed their hearts as they knelt before the manger of straw with the baby Jesus. (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23 NKJV)
nativityGod chose for His Son to be born in the manger of a barn because He wanted His Son to be received by all classes of people. By being born in a manger, the shepherds felt comfortable enough to go and see the Son of God. Shepherds were not able to identify with Jesus only at his birth, but throughout his life. One of the names for Jesus is Lamb of God. (The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29) Jesus is also known as the Good Shepherd. (“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” – John 10-11) I think a favorite scripture of any shepherd would be from the book of Isaiah. (He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. – Isaiah 40:11) Shepherds identified with Jesus and accepted him as one of their own just as Jesus identified with them and accepted them as his own.
As I think about the humbleness and lowliness of Jesus, I see a contrast with my mindset for the Christmas season. There were no blinking outside lights surrounding the stable where Jesus was born. (The angels were the ones who provided the spectacle in the sky.) There was no tree decorated for the holiday. (The only tree represented was that of the wood that was crafted into a feeding trough.) Christmas carols did not provide background music. (The voices of angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest” was the only music provided.) With these thoughts in my mind, I yearn to humble myself before God and kneel at the true scene of the birth of the Lamb of God born among the lambs near his stable. I aspire to personify the meekness of the Good Shepherd and the shepherds who worshiped at His manger. I long to celebrate Christmas like it was celebrated over 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. (For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Luke 18:14)

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Decorating Heart and Home for Christmas

This is the first week of December and I am beginning to think about Christmas preparations. Because I want to be prepared spiritually as well as physically for the celebrations on December 25, my desire is to decorate both my heart and our home for the holiday. So, the boxes of Christmas decorations have come up from the basement and the book entitled His Name is Wonderful by Warren W. Wiersbe has come off my bookshelf. Now I am ready to dig into the boxes to find ornaments to put upon our tree and to dig into the Bible to find scriptures to meditate upon within my heart. For my Bible study, I am focusing upon Isaiah 9:6 that lists five descriptive names for Jesus. According to Warren Wiersbe, these names prophesied by Isaiah had two purposes. First, each name revealed who the Messiah was to be as a person. Second, each name described a blessing the Messiah would share with us. Today we claim Jesus as our Messiah and He personifies each of these names. I will refer to more of Wiersbe’s comments throughout this blog.

While decorating our Christmas tree, I carefully handle each ornament and remember where and why we purchased the specific decoration. While decorating my heart for Christmas, I ponder carefully each specific Messianic name recorded in Isaiah 9:6. I want to gain new understanding of each definitive title for Jesus mentioned by Isaiah. I want to envision each specific name recorded by Isaiah as a unique Christmas ornament.

For unto us a Child is born,
unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

(It is interesting to note that the King James Version and the New King James Version are the only Bible translations that put a comma between Wonderful and Counselor resulting in two descriptive words rather than one. I like this distinction for my personal study.)

 

ornament-1WONDERFUL
His name is Wonderful. This takes care of the dullness of life. (W. Wiersbe)

You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
Psalm 77:14 New American Standard

During this busy season, life is certainly not dull for me but there are other times when life appears to be rather mundane. I can prevent this complacency by focusing upon the fulness of the wonder that is exhibited by Jesus and His life. I stand in awe of the revelation of not only His love, but also His power. Miracles are His wonders that fill the earth and my life.

My Reader, since Jesus is Wonderful, look for the manifestation of His wonderous works in your life this Christmas.

 

ornament-2COUNSELOR
His name is Counselor. This takes care of the decisions of life. (W. Wiersbe)

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Psalm 73:24 NIV

I definitely need the Lord’s counsel and guidance each day of my life, especially before the holidays. Without His help, I may not make the best decisions regarding Christmas preparations or major life decisions. Isaiah would not have described the Lord as a counselor if I did not require a counselor to live my life to the fullest.

My Reader, since Jesus is the Counselor, seek His counsel in a specific way each day of this holiday season.

ornament-3-mfTHE MIGHTY GOD
His name is the Mighty God. This takes care of the demands of life. (W. Wiersbe)

for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.
Luke 1:49 NIV

As the Mighty God, not only has He done great things for me but He continues to do great things for me. This gives me the assurance that I will accomplish everything I need to do before Christmas Day. It may not be all I want to do but it will be all I need to do. I must remember the availability of the mightiness and power of God on a daily basis. However, He is concerned about much greater purposes than my Christmas plans.

My Reader, since Jesus is the Mighty God, rely upon His power for your strength during the days of Christmas and every day.

 

ornament-4-mfTHE EVERLASTING FATHER
His name is the Everlasting Father. This takes care of the dimensions of life. (W. Wiersbe)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 New American Standard

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.
My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
John 19:10 New Living Translation

I like the wording of both of these translations and each one gives me a little different understanding. The thought of an abundant life is very appealing but I also like the description of life being rich and satisfying. “The dimensions of life” was a difficult phrase for me to understand. As I looked for some clarification, I found the word “magnitude.” I came to realize that life has a greater magnitude than the demands of preparing for the holidays. Warren Wiersbe says, “We live in time, but we live for eternity.” During this time of year, I might be tempted to think of abundance in relation to the number of gifts purchased or the amount of money spent. However, the abundance that God provides extends to eternity and has a much richer and deeper meaning. I do not want to get caught up in the materialism and commercialism of this holiday.
Jesus offers a dimension to my life that go beyond the natural realm to the supernatural realm. In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, “Father” meant “originator of” or “author of.” As Father, Jesus is the source of everlasting life because it is by accepting Him as our personal Savior, that we have the assurance of salvation.

My Reader, since Jesus is the Everlasting Father, see the baby in the manger as the source of eternal life as you celebrate Christmas this year.

 

ornament-5-mfTHE PRINCE OF PEACE
His name is the Prince of Peace. This takes care of the disturbances of life. (W. Wiersbe)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 NIV

Peace is a gift from God for the holiday season as well as all seasons of life. All of us have a legitimate concern for peace throughout the nations of the world but this is not the kind of peace offered by the Prince of Peace. God’s peace transcends even my request for sanity during the busyness of holiday preparations. It is a spiritual peace, not simply an emotional peace. I must strive to be at peace no matter what the circumstances are around me. The best way for me to experience this contentment is to fill my mind with scriptures that will allow the Lord to fill me with his presence.

My Reader, do not let stress overcome the peace of the Lord this season.

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JESUS
His name is Jesus. This is the name at which every knee shall bow. (Philippians 2:10)

“You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.”
Luke 1:31

Isaiah prophesied about him as the Messiah yet to come. He gave names that described him. However, Luke recorded the revelation given to Mary by an angel as to what His name was to be. Jesus – the name above all names.

Today I have taken time to embellish my mind with spiritual reminders of who Jesus is as well as to adorn our Christmas tree with decorative ornaments. The true meaning of the season will be more prevalent for me when I remember who I am honoring this season. I want to celebrate Jesus’ birth by commemorating who He is as a person and what He desires to do for me and all people. He is Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!

My Reader, take time to decorate your home for the holiday but also take time to meditate upon God’s Word so that your heart and mind will be filled with the message of Christmas.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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