Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

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Bitter to Better


Imagine what would happen if I picked fresh fruit from a lemon tree, squeezed the lemon juice into a glass and took a big gulp. Oh-oh! My face would probably pucker. The lemony liquid would be so sour that I would have a bitter taste in my mouth. Quickly, I would add a big spoonful of sugar. Hoping for a more refreshing taste, I would take another sip. From sour to sweet. From bitter to better.

The process “from bitter to better” results in the pleasant drink of lemonade. The opposite happens for a woman in scripture. The process “from better to bitter” occurs for Naomi in the book of Ruth.

We first learn about Naomi when she and her family move from Bethlehem to Moab. While living there, her sons married Moabite women. Over time, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Then she returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. She had no money and no male relative to provide for her. When she arrived, she requested to be called Mara. While Naomi meant pleasant, Mara meant bitter. Ruth 1:20-21 says, She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?’”

Subsequently, Ruth married a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz. According to Old Testament law, a kinsman-redeemer was a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. Boaz was a kinsman who redeemed, or vindicated, the family of Naomi by marrying Ruth. He redeemed the family of the deceased Abimelech, Kilion and Mahlon.

Ruth had a son, Obed. According to custom, Naomi became the nurse of this baby boy. The women of the community exclaimed that Naomi was blessed. Ruth 4:14 says, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!”

Naomi had a grandson. She had a family heritage. Obed is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5. Any bitterness Naomi once experienced was turned into joy.

Naomi went from better to bitter – and back to better. God knew Naomi had encountered a hard life and understood why she felt like Mara. However, He added sweetness to her bitterness. He revealed a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz.

God knows we will encounter difficulties that may cause us to become bitter. God provides us with a kinsman-redeemer named Jesus. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. With the help of Jesus, we can become better rather than bitter.

Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” There are numerous reasons why we may feel bitter. Unforgiveness can ferment within one’s heart resulting in a bitter feeling. Discouragement can settle into bitterness. Telling a lie can leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. If we focus upon a fleshly attitude, we will become bitter. If we concentrate on the Spirit, we will become better. We become pleasant as the name Naomi implies.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.“All things” means everything. With God’s help, we can learn from our mistakes and become better rather than bitter. Romans 8:29 goes on to say that God uses everything that happens to conform us into the image of His Son. Jesus was never bitter while living on earth.

With God’s help, there is no good reason for us to be bitter. Romans 8:31-35 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

With God’s help, we can be better. Romans 8:37-29 tells us, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why be bitter? We can be better when the Holy Spirit is our helper.

Although Naomi had been bitter, she changed for the better when Boaz became the kinsman-redeemer of her family. From bitter to better – from Mara to Naomi. Jesus is our savior, our kinsman-redeemer, who changes us from bitter to better. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (my emphasis)

II Corinthians 5:17 say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!The new is better – no longer bitter.

Naomi’s story reveals the changes in her personality from pleasant to bitter to better caused by her circumstances. It is interesting to note that the people of Bethlehem never followed Naomi’s request to call her Mara. She is always known as Naomi throughout the book. To the people of her heritage, she was always considered pleasant. They saw her as God saw her. I am glad God intervened in her life allowing her to become the woman He wanted her to be.

We have all heard the proverbial quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Naomi was given a bitter lemon. With God’s help, the sweetness of a kinsman-redeemer became part of her life. In her old age, she drank lemonade.

My Reader, what is happening for you today? Do you feel bitter? Do you want to feel better? Psalm 119: 103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Through His Word, God adds sugar to our bitter lemons. When we say yes to God, the Holy Spirit reveals His will through His Word making the bitter circumstances of our lives sweet. Drink the sweetness of His Word! Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Be refreshed with a glass of spiritual lemonade.

ASK!


Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matt 7:7-8

While “ask” is the first word this scripture, it is also the acronym for the three verbs:
Ask
Seek
K
nock

There is a corresponding promise for each action:
Ask and receive
Seek and find
Knock and be opened

ASK

When praying, can we ask for anything and get what we want? Can each of us be like a little child and say, “Give me, give me, give me!”? No, more is involved if we are to be confident that we will receive.

In Mark 11:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We must have faith in God’s ability to answer our request. We must have the kind of faith that trusts God to answer according to the way He sees best.

Jesus goes on to say in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
First, we must ask in the name of Jesus. This involves more than saying “in Jesus’ name.” Joseph Prince emphasizes that when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we acknowledge that our prayers will be answered because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – not because of who we are or what we have done.
Secondly, our Heavenly Father must be glorified. Ultimately, prayer is about what gives God glory.

SEEK

Seeking is not simply a verbal request. It’s action time. We seek God’s will by searching the scriptures. This helps us find out how to pray.

Luke 8:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
There is something to seek. And, there is something to be found. God plays a game of spiritual hide and seek with us. Amazingly, He always lets us find Him.

Matthew 6:33 instructs us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seeking is looking. Looking for God’s kingdom. We are not only to seek health or wealth. We are to seek God’s will. He has a unique plan for each of us. Unless we seek to know His kingdom plan, we may ask incorrectly.

David says in Psalm 27:8, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
To grow in our relationship with the Lord, we must seek Him rather than just what His hands can do for us.

KNOCK

Knocking is more than tapping on a door. It is a repeated pounding. When we are confident in what we ask and seek, we will knock tenaciously until the Lord answers. Knocking implies that we believe God has better and deeper things yet to be acquired.

In James 1:6 we are told, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
I associate knocking with believing while tapping reflects doubting. Knocking is persistent.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
If we have answered Jesus’ knock at our heart’s door. If we have invited Him into our life. Then, He will answer our prayerful knock upon the door of His throne room. Our answer may be just behind a door.

ASK – SEEK – KNOCK

The parable of The Lost Coin in Luke 15:8-10 is a good example of asking, seeking and knocking. The woman knocked on her neighbors’ doors asking them to help her seek her lost coin. Her need, or her prayer, was answered – the lost was found.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 is another inclusive scripture. “Then you will call upon Me (ask) and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search (knock) for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.”

Thank you, Lord, that we can ask and receive – seek and find – knock and have it opened!

Mary – JESUS – Mary

Imagine a group of books being held upright by a bookend at each end.

Now make some changes to this image and create a spiritual picture.

Replace the books with the life of Jesus. (Maybe a collection of 33 books – one for each year of His life.)
Instead of bookends, imagine a woman named Mary at the beginning and another Mary
at the end of Jesus’ life. Two ladies supporting Jesus at His birth and death.

Let’s make some comparisons between the two Marys. I will refer to one as Mary Mom (the mother of Jesus) and the other as Mary Magdalene (a woman uniquely positioned in Jesus’ inner circle of followers).

  • The young Mary, chosen by God to be the mother of His Son, was from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee. (see Luke 1:26)
    Mary, known as Mary Magdalene,
    was from Magdala, a fishing town on the western shore of Lake Galilee. (denoted by her name)

  • Mary Mom was a pure virgin whose baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (see Luke 1:31)
    Jesus cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene – at one time she was not so pure. (see Luke 8:2)

  • Mary Mom encountered an angel (Gabriel) when told she would bear a son named Jesus. (see Luke 1:30-31)
    Mary Magdalene saw an angel (a young man wearing a white robe) at Jesus’ empty tomb. (see Mark 16:5-8.)

  • Mary Mom was fearful but was told not to be afraid. She was perplexed by Gabriel’s visitation and message. However, he told her not to be afraid because she had favor with God. (see Luke 1:26-38 esp. v30)
    Mary Magdalene was fearful but was told not to be afraid. When she saw the empty tomb, she was bewildered. Then the angel told her not to be alarmed because Jesus had risen. (see Mark 16:5-8 esp. v8)

  • Mary Mom would have been the first person to hold Jesus as a human baby. (Isn’t this the privilege of a mother?)
    Mary Magdalene had intended to be the last person to hold Jesus’ human body. (Had she fulfilled her plan of preparing His body for burial at the tomb, this would have been her privilege.)

  • Mary Mom anointed Jesus for life. I think Mary Mom may have anointed Jesus (with baby oil?) before she wrapped Him in warm blankets. (an assumption by author)
    Mary Magdalene desired to anoint Jesus after His death. Because she had spices with her, I believe Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial. (see Mark 16:1)

  • Mary Mom wrapped baby Jesus in swaddling cloths before she laid Him in a manger. (see Luke 2:7)
    Although Joseph of Arimathea had already wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth, I believe Mary Magdalene had intended to provide a proper burial for the crucified Christ by wrapping His body in a linen shroud. (see Mark 16:46; John 19:25)

  • Both Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene were near the cross when Jesus was crucified.  (see John 19:25)

Looking closely at the spiritual image, I see one Mary holding baby Jesus at the beginning of His life and another Mary with the intent of holding His body at the end of His life. Jesus was surrounded and held by Mary Mom and Mary Magdalene. The words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18 seem an accurate description of Jesus’ life,Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One;  I was dead, and behold, I am alive for ever and ever!

This Sunday, we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Living One. We no longer hold Jesus as a baby in our arms (as Mary Mom) and there is no need to hold His body in the grave (as Mary Magdalene).

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

(Images provided by Pixabay.)

No Messy Manger for the Magi

 

While packing away our nativity scene for another year, I reminisce about the significance of each figure. I hold the Magi, or Wise Men, a little longer because I have not blogged about them in the past weeks. I must take time to ponder and print a few words about these men before this season is complete.

According to the Christian calendar, Saturday, January 6, 2018, is the church festival of Epiphany which commemorates the Magi coming to see Jesus. This was the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles because the Magi were not men of Jewish background.

Little is known about these mysterious Magi except that they were seeking a specific baby. Matthew 2:1-12 is the only scriptural account. For an extended time, these men determinedly followed a star. I think they would have visited a messy manger if God’s star had led them to that location. However, we can assume that they were still traveling when Jesus was born in the messy manger. Some say it possibly was as long as two years before the Magi found Jesus. Maybe these Magi represent those who are still traveling the road of life looking for Jesus today.

Although not historically accurate, these men have sometimes been referred to as kings. (Maybe because of the Christmas carol We Three Kings.) Chuck Missler has said that over time the truth and traditions about these men have been embellished. By the third century, the Magi were viewed as kings. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with the fact that the day is coming when Jesus reigns as King of kings. (See Revelation 19:16) Missler has also written that these ancient men were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They were known for having profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Here is another correlation – Jesus becomes the great high priest. (See Hebrews 6:20) If we associate kings and priests with the Magi, maybe we are types of Magi because Revelation 1:6 NKJV says, “(Jesus) has made us kings and priests to God his Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”

The Wise Men may not have been totally wise about whom they were seeking. They simply expected to find the one born king of the Jews by following a star. These men even stopped in Jerusalem to ask Herod what he knew about the baby. (see Matthew 2:2) While the Wise Men were not necessarily looking for an infant king in a castle’s cradle, neither were they expecting to find him in a messy manger. They just wanted to find Jesus! Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Although the Wise Men may not have been wise in every respect, they were wise enough to seek him. There is truth in the quote, “Wise men still seek Him.” Today, Jesus wants us to seek and to find Him.

John 1:11 says, “He (Jesus) came to that which was His own (the Jewish people), but His own did not receive Him.” John MacArthur points out that the Magi were “God-fearing, seeking Gentiles.” They followed a star that led them to the Messiah they had heard about since the days of Daniel. Through scripture, we know that Jesus came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. (See Romans 1:16) In a previous post, “Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger,”  I noted that shepherds were the first to visit Jesus when he was born in a messy manger. They were of Jewish lineage. Significantly later, the Magi worshiped Jesus –  they were Gentiles. According to Romans 14:11, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they (the Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The word “epiphany” originated in the Greek language and means “manifestation.” The worshiping Magi portray the picture of Epiphany because this season of the church celebrates the appearance or “manifestation” of a divine being, namely Jesus. However, an epiphany can also be defined as a sudden perception or revelation. In others words, a new understanding is “manifested.” Each of us encounters our own epiphanies when we come to illuminating discoveries or realizations. An enlightening fact of faith is an example of an epiphany. Or, it might be a moment when we become increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence. Since it is the beginning of the new year of 2018, now is a good opportunity for each of us to set the goal of becoming more receptive to personal epiphanies. May our epiphanies cause us to bow down and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Jesus: Majestic, not Messy

In a few days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! My heart and our home are ready. Our house looks “Christmasy.” My attention continues to be drawn to our nativity. With the little lights of the stable twinkling and the infant Jesus in the spotlight, Christ is the center of our Christmas scene. Today I see Jesus – not the messy manger. What if there were cobwebs and straw piles along with some dung around the manger that night over 2000 years ago? My focus is on Jesus. He is the light and the life. Today I want to correlate several verses of the first chapter of Ephesians in the Living Letters translation with the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2:7 NIV.

Now she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7
NIV

When Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born, Mary used a cow’s feeding trough for a cradle. However, before she laid him on his bed, she tightly wrapped him in a clean blanket. What a discrepancy between the purity of the newborn baby and the messy manger!

Long ago before He made the world God chose us o be His very own,
through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes,
without a single fault –
we who stand before him covered with His love.
Ephesians 1:4 LL

I focus on the highlighted portion of this verse. While thinking about Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths, I also picture myself swaddled in God’s love. All of us are privileged to be tightly wrapped in God’s perfect love even though we live in a world that appears to be like a messy manger.

Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that
He has poured out upon us because
we belong to His dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:6 LL

When Jesus was born, his cradle was a cow’s feeding trough. Thirty-three years later, he died on the cross creating the way for us to belong to Him. We no longer have to be controlled by the world’s mess. Jesus cleans up the messiness of our lives when He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (See I John 1:9) As the emphasized words proclaim, we belong to Jesus, not the world’s messy manager.

And this was His purpose: that when the time is ripe He will gather us
all together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth-
to be with Him – in Christ – forever.
Ephesians 1:10 LL

According to Matthew 1:23, Emmanuel was the name of the baby to be born of Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel means God with us. Emmanuel came to be with us at Christmas. Emmanuel will be with us forever! He is coming again to rescue us from the world’s messy manger. He will then take us to live with Him in the eternal city where He now resides in the throne room of God. (See Revelation 22:1-5) What a difference from the messy manger! Jesus says in Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

I pray for you constantly asking God the glorious Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you wisdom to
see clearly
and really understand who Christ is and all He has done.
Ephesians 1:17 LL

While gazing at the figure of baby Jesus in our nativity scene, I no longer see a messy manger. I  envision His majesty. He did not stay in a wooden cradle. He later died upon a wooden cross and rose again as the Savior of all who live in a messy world. Philippians 2:5-11 LL says, “Try to be like Jesus Christ Who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled Himself even further, going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised Him up in the heights of heaven and gave Him a Name which is above every other name, That at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In honor of the birth of Jesus, please join me in singing the first verse of Away In A Manger and the chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful.


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

 

 

Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger

Each day we are 24 hours closer to celebrating the birth of Christ. Although things are still a little messy around our house with Christmas preparations, I still need to take time to prepare my heart for the holidays. Once again, I stop to examine the figures of our nativity scene. Today my attention is drawn to the wooden shepherd. According to the scriptures, the shepherds were in a nearby field taking care of their sheep that starry night when Jesus was born. Suddenly, an angel personally delivered to them the birth announcement of the Savior of the world! They immediately decided to go see this baby. What a glorious birthing party they attended when they arrived at the stable in Bethlehem where they found Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus! (See Luke 2:8-20)

The shepherds did not bother to change clothes before they searched for this baby boy. They were dirty sheep tenders who lived in the open fields with their sheep. Currently, however, they were more concerned about finding the infant than they were about their appearance. It was probably natural for them to begin their quest for this little one in a stable since they were shepherds. Well, I guess they did have help from an angel. The messy manger was a location where the shepherds were comfortable.

I notice that when the shepherds went to Bethlehem, they left their sheep in the fields. Did they realize they were going to welcome the Lamb of God to this earth? (see John 1:29) Was this newborn babe worthy of a higher priority than taking care of their flock of sheep? Why would the Lamb of God be in a messy stable?

Although the shepherds had little knowledge about the infant who was introduced to them as the Savior Christ the Lord, I wonder if they felt a prophetic kinship with him. When they saw him, did they comprehend who he would become? Let us fast forward about 30 years when Jesus compares his life to that of a shepherd in John 10. In verses 1-6, Jesus shares about how sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd while they do not respond to the call of a hired hand. In verses 7-10, Jesus describes himself as the gate for sheep and in verses 11-18, he reveals himself as the good shepherd. Wow! When the shepherds visited Jesus, he was a baby in a manger. As a man, he became the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. What a future for the infant born in a manger!

The messy shepherds were comfortable around the Christ child because they found him in a messy manger. Today, Jesus is comfortable with our messy lives because He experienced a messy manger. According to John 1:29, He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, the messiness of our lives. Jesus is also the Good Shepherd who wants to take care of us and guide us so we will not get into more messes. Psalm 23 portrays an excellent example of a shepherd’s job physically and spiritually.

In conclusion, messy shepherds came just as they were, and that is how Jesus wants us to come to Him. I am reminded of the hymn Just As I Am with lyrics by Charlotte Elliott. Please join me in singing or reciting the first two verses of this hymn. It is a good way for us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!