The angel Gabriel came to the young Nazarene girl called Mary to tell her she was going to become pregnant. Inconvenient to say the very least. She was engaged. That would certainly blow that out of the window. It would also bring disgrace to her family. She live in a small town of mostly religious people that was certainly far less tolerant than today. Had Mary lived 2000 years later the solution would have been obvious. To continue her lifestyle and have the good life she wanted, she would have to do something about this unwanted baby. And with that child all mankind would have been lost as well. What looks inconvenient, or a burden to us, God can use for good. Even those things that we cause by our own sin, God can forgive, redeem, and use for blessing. Fortunately for us Mary was not of the modern mindset. She responded to the angel’s words, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”(Luke 1:38) The Redeemer was born. Through Him we have forgiveness, cleansing, and new life, even now in this modern enlightened age.
I don’t know if you are a morning person or an evening person. I don’t know how you wake up in the morning, whether alert or groggy, but an idea that has real value involves those three, four, or five minutes just before we put our feet on the floor. Those can be valuable minutes to set the tone for our day. Use them for a few moments of prayer. Perhaps the pray of St. Patrick which you can find on the internet, a portion of the prayer says, “May Christ shield me today. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,…” You might add Galatians 2:20, “It is not longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Or perhaps Colossians 3:17. In this way we remind ourselves that whatever the day holds the Lord is not far off, and is our strength and our joy in all we do.
We are in the midst of all the Christmas preparations, shopping, decorating, preparing for services at church, and more. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, the Christ. It is so much more than a time of busy, sometime frantic activity. It is so much more than even the beautiful story of the nativity. It is the time when we again declare that God came down from heaven, so that we might be fitted for heaven. This birth opens up for us the possibility of eternity in God’s Kingdom. This child is God incarnate. He came to be the Redeemer of mankind. This birth causes us to think beyond the confines of our own span of years. It is far more than a time of proclaiming peace and good will on earth. As we are well aware, peace and good will can easily pass just as the season does. We are encouraged to think beyond the season. The Christ Child came to give us life. Not physical life, but life in relationship to Almighty God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We were created for eternity, and we have begun to live that eternity right now. Our plans and directions today go far beyond the Christmas planning and buying season. For all that we are and do today fits us for the Kingdom to come.
Little children love to ask the question “why?”. It can be irritating to parents when it is frequently repeated, or is a word of defiance. However, it is a really good question. It is one we should never stop asking. Why has been the source of many discoveries. Let’s think of it in the context of our faith. The Psalmist asks it a dozen time in a little different form. “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”(77:12) To think about our Lord, to ponder all He has done, to meditate on His laws, is to ask why this has been established in this way. It is not arrogant or defiant. As with the Psalmist, it is humbly drawing near to God, and being open for the Holy Spirit to teach. As we read His holy word, and think about one or two verses, the Lord will bring other verses to mind that apply, and deepen our understanding. God doesn’t answer all of our why questions, but if they are asked in humility and trust He will bring His light to our lives.
War is never far from anyone’s attention. Whether it is news about Syria, or Afghanistan, or “cold” wars of economic sanctions and other measures, we constantly hear of “wars and rumors of wars”.(Matthew 24:6) War has existed ever since we rebelled and were driven from the Garden. The greatest war is that which takes place within us. It is a war of wills, our will against God’s will. It is the war between “I want” and “I know I should”. This war causes internal struggles, and erupts into external conflicts, whether individuals or nations. It is a war that will continue as long as we are in our human flesh. There is only one remedy for this war, a change from within. And there is only one source for that remedy in the God who created us. Our God chose to come among us to bring light into a dark world, providing the only means for changing the inner core of man that is the cause of war. Christmas celebrates the coming of that God, our God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The One who took into His own body the punishment all our hostility deserves, making it possible for us to have peace. Christmas celebrates the Prince of Peace. Not just general feelings of good will, but a true change of heart, that alone brings peace with God and man.
I’ve been thinking about angels this week since they are a part of my message for church on Sunday. There have been so many depictions of angels in art and statuary over time. Most of them are wrong according to the Biblical picture. Angels are usually shown as young female figures with large wings. They are mentioned in Scripture over 190 time, and it never says anything about wings. Cherubim and Seraphim are spoken of with wings, but they are a different class of being. So much for my pet peeve! Angels are real God created servant beings. Jesus spoke of children’s angels always seeing the face of the Father.(Matthew 18:10) And I don’t believe they leave us as we grow older. The Book of Hebrews tells us that some strangers we meet could be angels.(13:2) The point is that heaven is not far off. Our sentimental images do not come near to describe its glory and majesty. They are not to be worshiped or prayed to, but they are near at hand, and have helped in ways we are completely unaware. All of this is simply to say that angels are another aspect of the depth of love God has for His creation. And who knows, one of those strangers who has helped you along the way may have been an angel.
Attitude equals altitude, a saying goes. That is, the way one thinks of himself is the way he functions and achieves in life. Does this mean that we puff ourselves up with pride, and constantly point to what we have done? No. Paul has taught us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.(Romans 12:3) Also, in humility to value other above ourselves.(Philippians 2:3) So what should our attitude be? Speaking about his own walk in life, Paul says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”(Philippians 3:12) Our life is Jesus first. God has reached out to us in Jesus before we ever thought to come to Him. He has loved us and redeemed us. Therefore, we understand that we are children of God for Jesus sake. He called us, and made us alive. That is the attitude we have about ourselves. Not something we have done or accomplished, but the most wonderful gift that God has given in Jesus. This is who we are. Now, Paul invites us to “live up to what we have already attained.”(Philippians 3:16) Our altitude is living to the glory of God in the redeeming power of the cross of Christ. No pride of self accomplishment here, but the greatest joy of living and serving daily as children of God’s household.