Week of: December 26, 2017 Sharing by: Pam Crawford
“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he had done has been done through God.” - John 3:16-21
A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING During the Christmas season 2017, several questions and a few challenges got my attention from the Scriptures and several church sermons that I heard relating to the birth of Jesus Christ. In the quiet of my spirit I could hear the challenge to view Christmas this year outside the box of tradition and religion in order to answer a simple question “what does it all mean?”
When time permits I encourage you to re-read the story found in Luke 2:1-20. If we’re not careful we can allow this familiar Scripture of the birth of Jesus Christ to become mundane. As you read it pay close attention to the details of the following questions.  Why the shepherds?  Why share the good news of great joy?  Why a baby? Let’s take a look at the shepherds first.
Why Shepherds? “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people [Luke 2:9-10]. Now look at their response. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them1 [Luke 2:15-18].
The Shepherds were a group of ordinary men. People of that society that were considered lowly [less than]. They were out earning their living by keeping watch over their flock until the angel of the Lord appeared. I could not help but wonder why God would choose them to be His witnesses and what prompted their response? It says after they came and saw, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”
Why did they share good news of great joy? I imagine it was because they knew what they discovered was too important to keep to themselves. They understood they had a responsibility to share it with the flock they were responsible for. As ordinary people we too have a responsibility to share what we discover with those in our circle of influence.
What I have discovered over the years is this. Contrary to what the world would have you believe; the focus of the Christmas season should not be about Santa Clause, Elf On The Shelf, Black Friday, decorated trees, reindeer, snowmen, cookies and even the family gathering. It’s not that these things cannot be a part of the way you choose to celebrate; but when these things are the primary focus, it is in a sense a display of disrespect to the guest of honor. The focus of Christmas should be about a baby that was born over 2,000 years ago in a stable for a great purpose. In our gatherings He should be welcome and we should not be afraid to talked about what He has done for us. Imagine your birthday with little to no mention of you?
Why a baby? A baby enters into the world innocent. They have the opportunity to grow and develop physically, intellectually and morally. They have ability and emotion. They can cry and they can laugh. They feel pain – and they can be comforted. They can experience hurt and have days of great joy. They can make decisions and their decisions determine their fate. Good decisions bring joy – wrong decisions bring consequences. When they grow up they have a responsibility and the ability to remember where they came from. They have desires and they have free will to bring about either good or evil from their lives. At some point in every baby’s life they had to separate from the comfortable and step out into the great big world to find the way.
Could it be that God choose to come to this earth in the form of an innocent baby so that everyone would have the ability to relate to Him in the way of relational identification since we all entered that way? Could it be that God wanted us to come to a greater understanding of who He was as God who took on flesh [John 1:14] for the purpose of rescuing that which He created from the results of a fallen world destined for eternal separation? Could it be He wanted a personal relationship with us over traditional religion?
Had Jesus come as the Jewish people of His day were expecting, the story would be void of redemption. It seems they wanted grace [undeserved favor] without doing the work of repentance and surrender. This was the familiar way of the religious elite of that day. When God showed up on the scene as an innocent baby boy to eventually give His life for their souls, they rejected that idea and some still do today. Some teach their children a very different story than we can experience through the celebration of Jesus as the focus at Christmas. Thus why it is so important that Jesus be a part of His celebration on Christmas and every other day in the lives of those who profess to be His followers.
As people of faith what does this all mean? What did the Jewish people of Jesus' day miss? I believe it’s quite simple; they missed the truth of God’s Holy Word despite the fact that they had the Old Testament Scripture [Torah, (in Judaism) the law of God as revealed to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Pentateuch)]. In the Old Testament we learn that after Moses gave the 10 commandments, he told the people what they were to do with what they knew and he also gave them a few warnings we should not overlook. In Deuteronomy chapter 6, 7, and 8 we learn that Moses told the people that they were to love God with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind. He told them they were to keep all the commands, decrees and laws that the Lord directed him to give. They were to do what was right in the sight of God. They were to fear [respect, reverence] God. They were to be careful not to forget how God brought them through life. And they were to teach their children what they had discovered. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
Moses also gave a warning to the people should they forget to do what God had instructed him to tell them. “If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.”
How awful for us if God had stopped there! Thankfully the baby the Shepherds laid eyes on in Bethlehem grew up and in the end, He was faithful to sacrifice His life for us so that God’s purpose was fulfilled. The miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ was that He was born to die, so that you and I could live with God in Heaven forever. That is wonderful news for those who have and will choose to receive the gift! We cannot earn our way there, we only need to receive it. And from what we receive we are to obey. For those who continue to reject "The Word" [John 1:1] we are told that there will be eternal separation. May it not be!
Let us make Jesus a priority in the days and years ahead. What you don't understand, seek answers. What you discover, share. Be the teachers of the next generation. They need what Jesus died for them to have. It will either be the world or wisdom that will change the environment around us. Let's choose well.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” [John 1:12]. Within that right is a responsibility. Handle it with care.
In Christ by grace,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQWFzMvCfLE What a beautiful name - Hillsong
For further study – Glory https://www.fellowshipcleveland.com/glory
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