"A New Calendar"
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13-14
This is the time of year to change the calendar. Throw out the old one; put up the new. An old calendar will only confuse us and wreak havoc with our schedules. In a figurative sense too, hanging on to the old year may be a problem for us. Was it a year of heartaches and troubles? Dwelling on them may only make us more depressed. Was lt a year of bad decisions? Some may come back to haunt us.
Was it a year of sin? Of course it was—for every one of us. And we can't deny those sins, hide them, or undo them. So what should we do? The comforting Gospel message reminds us that we don't have to carry the weight of last year's sins around our necks. God took care of them long ago.
We can begin the new year with a clean page, so to speak.
When Jesus died on the cross, he felt the pain of physical torment. Worse, he endured the fury of God's anger. He suffered in a way we cannot even imagine. God punished him for our sins. All who believe in Jesus as their Savior have the benefits of his death. No wonder the Apostle Paul could write, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize tor which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13,14).
Paul knew he didn't have to let the sins of the past have a negative influence on his future. The new year for him was another year to go forward. Despite his ongoing weaknesses, the failings of his sinful human flesh, and the never-ending tug he would feel by Satan and the world, He would strive to live as his Savior wanted him to.
People often buy calendars with pictures of things they like, such as puppies, movie stars, classic cars, or nature scenes. Each picture offers satisfaction and joy as they travel through the new year. What pictures are on your 2016 calendar? lf we want each month to bring joy and satisfaction here's a suggestion. Let your Savior be the picture on your calendar and in your heart.
"Struggling with Loneliness"
"Hi ho Silver, away!” Those are feel-good words. The bad guys are in jail. The good guys win. The sun sets. Everyone’s happy. Well, almost everyone.
At the end of the day the hero is still the LONE Ranger.
Ever felt like the LONE Ranger? You saved the office from certain peril. You arrived with your son’s glove just moments before he took the field. You made everyone happy. You should feel like a hero. But so often when the sun sets, the feelings of loneliness rise. Like the Lone Ranger, at times our days end only with the companionship of a faithful, four-legged friend. Can God help me find real companionship? Imagine how Adam must have felt when he was the only human on the planet. Talk about lonely! But God saw Adam's deep need for companionship. Then by the power of God’s creative hand, Eve walked into his life. She was perfect for him.
If only God had a silver bullet like that for us!
Without sin, our loneliness would vanish as quickly as Adam's companionship appeared! But sin is real. We see it in everyone else. We see it in ourselves. And when we see sin, loneliness sets in. Listen to these words from a man who was no stranger to loneliness. While unfairly sitting in prison, the apostle Paul said: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).
More than a friend who tells you to “get out there” and find someone, these words tell you that Jesus got down here and found you. He took hold of you so you could “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
The silver bullet of companionship is seeing yourself as a companion of Christ. His love forgives your sin and creates a relationship with you unlike any other. Through faith in Jesus you are never alone.
"Easter Changes Everything"
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” - 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14
“Well, we know that she’s not struggling any more...she’s finally at peace.”
That common thought—expressed with resignation that the one who has died is no longer fighting disease—has some comfort to it. No one likes to see someone they love struggling with disease or even the effects of old age. From our point of view in this life, it seems like it would be better to rest in peace after a lifetime of ups and downs; trials and triumphs; depression and occasional joy; health and disease; all part of a in a continual decline that inches us daily closer to the END. When life’s endurance race comes to a close, most of us conclude that there must be some relief from it all. “Rest in Peace” even sounds a bit comforting, doesn’t it?
But when you dig a little deeper, seeing death as the END of life—even a difficult life—is not comforting. It’s final. It’s unavoidable. When people see death as the END, it looms over every day of life. Sometimes it comes at the end of lots of suffering and represents relief. More often, though, it comes at a time when people don’t want it to come, when we’re not ready for the END, and comfort is hard to find.
Let’s go just one level deeper. If people realize that death is the punishment for sin, as Scripture tells us, and a place of everlasting torment awaits the sinner, it is (quite rightfully) terrifying.
But Easter changes everything. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus whose who have fallen asleep in him.” Did you hear the comfort in that confession? First...death is described as sleep. This isn’t a wishful platitude that attempts to sugarcoat death or make it make less frightening. This is the Easter confidence, to be able to say that death is not an END at all. Death is not something that looms dark and ominous because we know that death has been defeated by the Savior, stripping it of its power over us and removing its sting forever.
Then...knowing that death is not an END to our loved one (or to us), we thrill to know that those who fall asleep in Jesus will be brought with him to life eternal. In that way, we can see death as the BEGINNING of life in heaven with Jesus. That’s an entirely different picture! Is it any wonder that Paul reminds us Christians that we don’t mourn the way the hopeless people of this world do? Yes, Christian funerals include tears. Christians hurt when loved ones die. Christians miss their loved ones and struggle with the new reality of life in this world without that person. But Christians don’t face death without KNOWING that in Christ there is the certain hope of resurrection. Christ’s empty tomb means victory. That is why Christian funerals, after a long time of suffering, feel much more like a victory celebration than a gloomy memorial of someone at the END of their life.
Oh...and one more thing. To some, it may seem that there is “rest” from life’s troubles only at the END of life. But Christians know that we don’t need to wait to be at rest and live in peace. Christ’s EASTER victory does that for us TODAY. Rest in peace every day of your life, Christian, because “we believe that Jesus died and rose again.”
"I need more... STRENGTH!"
After several attempts of twisting and tapping, the lid just wouldn’t budge. “Honey, can you open this for me?” Her teenage son is eager to flex his muscles. He opens the jar and hands it back to his mother.
Life is sometimes like that jar, isn’t it? Sometimes we just don’t have the strength we need to tackle what’s in front of us. Not the strength it takes to move a piano or to change a flat tire, but the strength we need to raise our children or to stay married to someone who is so difficult to live with. We need the strength it takes to go to work and deal with people who are rude, inconsiderate and lazy, or to walk to the mailbox that contains bills we’ll have difficulty paying.
I need more strength!
“Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth...He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak...Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)
What should we do when we need more strength? Hand that jar over to the Lord. He has all the strength we need and so much more. After all, he is the One who created the earth and everything in it. More than that, this strong, wise, loving God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. The all-powerful God came in human weakness to rescue us from sin and death. He was condemned and crucified. Weakness, right? No! Strength! Jesus used his strength to remain on that cross until every last sin of ours had been paid for. His empty tomb proves it. “Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Death has been defeated! The guilt of sin before God has been removed! By trusting in Jesus, life in heaven is waiting for us.
Need more strength? The One who created the earth has it. The One who died and rose for you has it. He is the One who gives us the strength to face each day with fresh confidence. Find that strength in his Word. And then be ready to soar. Be ready to soar on eagles’ wings with renewed strength! Be ready to soar on eagles’ wings through every challenge of life! Be ready to soar on eagles’ wings to the home that Jesus has prepared for you in heaven!
"What Does the Holy Spirit Do For Us?"
A famous doctor once conducted a series of autopsies in which he made a stunning observation. Here is how it happened.
He had carefully examined the body of a convicted murderer when he noticed a connection to the body of a convicted thief. The two individuals had the exact same internal problem. It got a little crazier. He went back over the notes from a few other cases and he discovered that a few more bodies had the same internal problem. But it didn’t stop there. He went back over all his cases and, regardless of the person’s background, all of the people had that same internal problem. The doctor shared his findings in a book which is still the top-selling book of all time.
Do you want to know what the connection was between all of those people? They all had heart problems. You have probably heard the name of the doctor. His name is Jesus. Jesus once pointed out (Mark chapter 7) that all evil thoughts and actions come from within the heart. When someone cuts you off on the highway and your first reaction is NOT to smile and wave, it comes from within the heart. When someone hurts your feelings and you want to hurt them back, it comes from within the heart. When you say something in anger that you immediately want to take back, it comes from within the heart.
That is the problem. So what is the solution? One man said it well, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (Psalm 51:10). We need new and pure hearts and God is the only one who can create them. This is where the work of God the Holy Spirit comes in. He uses something sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel to penetrate and change the heart. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God. Like a skilled surgeon, the Holy Spirit cuts deeply in order to heal divinely. The Holy Spirit uses that Word of God to teach us that the “blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:17). The Holy Spirit uses that Word of God to change the heart so that it beats with faith and hope and love. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God so that it pours out joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness.
On May 15, we will celebrate Pentecost. Among the many worshipful thoughts we will have on that day, remember to thank the Holy Spirit for your new heart!
"Talking About Titles..."
“The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
People spend a lot of time, money and effort to get a title after their name. Masters, doctorates and other post-graduate programs are in high demand. The appeal is understandable. Titles such as Doctor, Professor and a host of others provide opportunities to better ourselves and our circumstances.
There was one who had the highest of all titles already at his birth. The Bible describes it this way: “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Jesus is holy. He is the true Son of God. The titles “Holy One” and “Son of God” indicate that all power, wisdom and authority belonged to Jesus at birth because as true God he possessed them from eternity. His name is above every name and over every title and authority that can be given.
But that did not stop Jesus from seeking another title. This one was decidedly a step down. It did not require a four-year graduate program or hundreds of hours of evening classes. Rather, it required humble service. The Bible teaches, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus, who took the title Son of Man, did not come from heaven to earth to be waited on hand and foot. Rather, he came to take up our cause and to die a humble death on the cross—a death that should have been ours. These are some of the most astounding truths of the Christian faith—that God humbled himself and became also man, allowing himself to be tortured by his own creation, and be forsaken by God (!), to save humans from the sinful mess they could not save themselves from.
Give thanks that out of love for us, the one with the title Son of God was also willing to take the title Son of Man, in order to die for us on the cross. Our Savior Jesus is both true God and true Man. He is the perfect Savior we desperately needed—one who is holy and lived in our place and one whose innocent death counted for the whole world. Because Jesus loved us enough to do that for us, now through faith in him WE have been given a new title as well: Child of God!
Bear that title proudly and live your life for the One who gave it to you.
"The LORD Our Righteousness"
There’s nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes. The other day I shoveled a couple of cubic yards of sand in the heat of the day, and let me tell you, I was not a pretty sight when I finished. Sweaty and gross only begin to describe my condition. When you get like that, nothing feels better than a nice shower and putting on clothes that are dry and clean.
“In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.”
We have all made our spiritual clothes sweaty, dirty and gross. Our unkind words, unloving attitudes, and self-centered actions are like mud caked on our spiritual shirts. God is not going to let us into his house (heaven) wearing those kind of clothes!
But there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes! Jesus lived a completely righteous life. His spiritual clothes were never stained with a single sin. And then he said to you, “Change shirts with me.” He put on your shirt that was stained with sin, and in exchange he gave you his crisp, clean shirt. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus was wearing our sinful clothes when he suffered and died on the cross. In ex-change, he gave us his sinless clothes. Now, when God looks at us, he does not see dirty, sinful clothes. Instead, he sees the crisp, clean clothes of Jesus. The Bible puts it this way: “He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). We haven’t lived a perfect life, but Jesus has. And he lets that perfect life count for us. He is “The LORD Our Righteousness,” (Jeremiah 23:6). Because Jesus’ perfect life (his righteousness) counts for us, that means that we can get into heaven!
So the next time you finish some strenuous activity, remember with joy that Jesus put on your grimy, sinful clothes. And when you open your dresser and find a neatly folded shirt, remember that Jesus has put a fresh, clean shirt on you. You are clothed in his perfect righteousness, and there is nothing that feels better than a crisp, clean set of clothes!
"Jesus Is Everything We Need"
It’s a growing trend for business to incorporate subliminal messages in their logos. A close look at the FedEx logo reveals an arrow signifying that FedEx is going somewhere. The Tostitos logo has the figures of two people dipping a chip in salsa. The Amazon logo has a smile connecting the letters A and Z in its name to indicate that you can find anything on their site from soup to nuts or should we say from A to Z. And when you look at their website, you can find just about any-thing you could ever imagine.
“And my God will meet all your needs according
to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
It’s interesting then that no less than three times in the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals himself as the Alpha and the Omega. One such time is in chapter 1 verse 8 where we read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last letter. In other words, he is our A to Z. He is everything we need.
He meets our greatest need for forgiveness of sins with his own perfect life and subsequent suffering and death. He gives us faith to receive that forgiveness and all of the other blessings he connects to it, including salvation and eternal life. We can’t earn his forgiveness. We can’t go online to Amazon and buy it. Jesus simply gives it to us as a gift of his love.
From the beginning of our life to the end, he promises to be with us always. In times of trial and frustration, he supports and strengthens us. In grief and pain, he comforts us. With times of joy, he blesses us. And he promises to meet all our needs for food and clothes and shelter and companionship. We don’t have to wonder if he can or will. There’s no search bar where we have to type in the keywords of a product we’re looking for. Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, promises in his Word to supply all that we could possibly need, in this life and in the next in heaven.
"An Invitation From Your Shepherd"
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
With these words, the Apostle Paul by inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminds us that if we want to grow in our faith lives and in our spiritual maturity, if we want to have an increasingly close walk with God, we must spend time with God’s Word. “Spending time” with God’s Word is done through hearing, reading, and studying it. Of course, after we hear, read, and study that Word, we need to submit to that Word and meditate on how we can apply that Word to our lives for it to effect the changes God wants in our lives.
When we think of hearing the Word, the first thing that comes to mind is attendance at public worship. That’s where we are most used to hearing God’s Word. It’s an important part of our faith lives, to be sure. When we think of reading God’s Word, we generally think of reading the Bible on our own or reading something like Meditations on a regular basis. This is also important, because spending a little private time with God’s Word every day helps keep us spiritually alert and strong against temptations, which don’t take a break or come to us only on Sundays. When we talk about studying the Word of God, we generally think of Bible Class.
It’s this last one—Bible class—that I’d like to promote in this month’s lead article.
Bible Class is a wonderful opportunity to do all three of the above—hear, read, and study the Word. In addition, Bible class allows us to share spiritual insights with each other. It’s comforting to know that others struggle with the same things that you do! Bible class gives a person an opportunity to ask questions of the pastor—an opportunity that doesn’t come during the worship service or in one’s personal devotions at home.
One can participate as much or as little as one wants to in Bible class. Some of our members like to read the Scripture passages and are open about sharing things. Others in the class prefer to mostly sit and listen. Either way is fine! No one will pressure you to read or offer anything if you don’t want to. Here’s a great Bible class fallacy: Bible class is for “mature Christians” only. Bible class is for EVERYONE, no matter what level you feel your faith life is at. In fact, one could argue that Bible class is exactly where one should be if they feel insecure about their knowledge of God’s Word and its teachings.
Allow me to share a personal note with you. Every Sunday when I step into the pulpit, as the hymn is ending, I pray the same prayer every time. It goes like this: “Lord, bless the words of my mouth, that Your will be done through them: the beginning of faith, the strengthening of faith, the salvation of our souls, and the glorification of your name. Amen.” As that prayer indicates, your spiritual growth is one of my greatest concerns as your pastor. It’s an important part of my being your spiritual shepherd. I’m conscious of that when I prepare and deliver a sermon. But that’s also why I’m inviting YOU to Bible class. Won’t you please come? Consider this both an invitation from your earthly shepherd, and from your Good Shepherd.
"Jesus is... the Word"
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
“I give you my word,” we sometimes say to someone. When we say that, it’s our sincere promise to do what we say we will do. But are we—mortal, fallible weak human beings who are not in control of so many things in life—really able to keep all of the promises we make?
Consider the promise God makes to us. He promised forgiveness for our sins. He promised life rather than death. Then he kept his word by sending his only Son, Jesus Christ. To keep the promise of righting our wrongs, Jesus lived the holy life which we could not. To keep the promise of forgiving our sins, Jesus died the death we deserved. To keep the promise of giving us eternal life, Jesus rose from the dead. It is fitting, then, that in John 1, Jesus is called the Word. He is God’s promises in action. He is proof that God keeps his word. God said, “I give you my word,” when he made those promises. When he sent Jesus, he said, “I give you my Word.” Jesus made those promises reality.
God has made even more promises. He promises to help us when we are helpless, to strengthen us when we are weak, to comfort us when we are sad and hurting, and to guide us when we are lost. Such promises are more than just nice thoughts or good intentions. God will keep them. They’re promises from the God who gave his Word, Jesus, and kept his word to save us.
When we say, “I give you my word”, we say it be because we want to be trusted, to have others take what we say as true. “I give you my word; I’ll do more of the house-work,” says a concerned husband to his exhausted wife. “I give you my word; I’ll be there for you whenever you need help,” says one friend to another. “I give you my word; I’ll be at your soccer game,” says the young business man to his daughter, who only wants her dad to be proud of her.
But what happens when we hear that phrase without seeing results? It’s emptied of meaning. Ultimately, we need to see someone keep their word before we’ll believe them when they say, “I give you my word.” It’s frustrating when people make promises and fail to keep them. Just ask that daughter of the young business man who got called in to work and missed her soccer game. Broken promises hurt.
When God makes a promise, he always keeps it. He made a promise to right what we have done wrong—a promise literally signed in blood. For forgiveness and salvation, and many more blessings, you can always trust the promises of God.
"How to Really Say, 'Thanks'"
When I was a young boy, the event of my parents’ birthdays were something that always caused me a little anxiety. At my age I had no source of income, so I felt a little sad that I could not show my love for them by getting them a gift of some kind. I resorted to doing the only thing I could do, namely, getting my crayons out and making Mom or Dad a birthday card (now that I have children, I have found out that a hand-colored, “from the heart” birthday card is still the best gift I can get—but I didn’t realize that as a child!).
One particular time, on my Dad’s birthday, my older siblings had been able to buy gifts for my Dad. Again, I hadn’t. There I was with my little colored card. Though Dad said the card was wonderful, I just felt badly that my siblings all gave gifts that were “worth something”, and I could not. I tried to fight back the tears. But Dad saw. And Dad took me aside right then and there and said, “I love the card, Jim, but if you still want to give me a gift, there’s something you can still give me that won’t cost a penny, and it would better than any other gift…”
My heart jumped! To give Dad a gift that was better than all the others, and didn’t cost a penny? I’m sure that some of the excitement I felt was due to the prospect of being able to outgive my siblings for a change. But the real excitement was in being able to give Dad a great gift. A gift that would show my love and appreciation for everything he did for me. I looked at him, eagerly awaiting his gift suggestion. And his suggestion was…
“Just be a good boy.”
That was it?! “Just be a good boy”? Something didn’t sound right. It seemed too easy. But...wow...I could handle that. Dad sure didn’t need much to be happy, I thought. And I promised him that I would do that. But the very next day, when I complained about—and put off doing—one of the chores I had to routinely do, my Dad said to me: “Are you taking back your birthday gift to me already?” I felt as if I had been stabbed in the heart. I began to realize how difficult, how “costly” it would be to give him this gift continually. But also with that came the dawning insight how such a gift could make him truly happy and really show him my love and appreciation.
As we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving this month, and as we are again encouraged to let our “thanksgiving be translated into thanks-living”, we know what God wants most from us. In a word, it is obedience. Now that one word covers a bit of ground. Obedience to his call of faith. Obedience to his encouragement to keep that faith strong through regular use of Word and Sacrament. Obedience to the 10 Commandments, not as a means to salvation but as a way to show our love for him. Obedience to his call to serve in his kingdom in general and in our congregation in particular. Obedience to his Great Commission to get that saving message out to the world, starting with those closest to us. I’m sure we aren’t so naïve to think, as I did when I was a small boy, that this is “easy stuff.” It takes discipline, sacrifice, and sustained effort. And yet, as Paul reminds us, we are compelled by the love of Christ to love, serve, and honor God in all we do. The New Man in us yearns to obey God, despite the urgings of our sinful nature to do the opposite. God’s love for us will supply all the motivation we need, if we but open our hearts to that message of love and let it do its thing inside of us.
"It All Happened in Bethlehem"
“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
Winterset, Iowa claims John Wayne. Hodgenville, Kentucky claims Abraham Lincoln. Eisleben, Germany claims Martin Luther. Tupelo, Mississippi claims Elvis. But only Bethlehem can claim the two greatest kings in all history!
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
(from the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)
Yes, in this chosen little village called Bethlehem incredible things happened. Bethlehem’s story is the “tale of two kings.” That tiny little shepherd’s community produced its first great king 3000 years ago. As a boy, he spent countless hours working in the hills that surrounded his hometown, talking to sheep and probably smelling like one. He was Jesse’s little boy—nothing special. But then God’s finger pointed down at him as his chosen one—and he grew to be the great King David!
An ordinary village—an ordinary kid—God’s great plan!
Bethlehem is actually better known for a greater King. His name is known to all. He arrived in town late on an ordinary winter night. His parents had traveled days to get there and the trip was a lot for the very pregnant Mary could handle. The baby would come here...now. By the light of an oil lamp, the young couple from faraway Nazareth welcomed their newborn into the world and into the tiny village that would become known to people of all generations. That night, as the silent stars went by, almost no one noticed. But from that point on, Bethlehem would never be the same—in fact, this world would never be the same!
A lot has changed in 2000 years. Today, a high wall topped with razor wire surrounds Bethlehem. Most of the citizens of Bethlehem today worship an imaginary god that a sham prophet concocted hundreds of years after the birth of Jesus. A few ancient buildings show evidence of hundreds of years of warfare and hatred between enemies. Mary and Joseph would not recognize the place… neither would David.
But the hostile history of a sin-infected world has not erased the majesty of that place on that night nor the glory of the plan that made it happen. History’s hopes and fears were met there that night through the perfect plan of God—the arrival of his Son: Immanuel. Ordinary village—ordinary birth—God’s plan of Grace!
There was something very special shining in those dark streets of Bethlehem that evening—the Light of the World. Though Bethlehem was small among the clans of Judah, yet born in it was a King with a name that is above all names—a name that, in the end, will cause every knee to bow to him. The baby-king’s name is JESUS. For you and me, our knees already bend to worship him. THAT may be the most amazing thing about Christmas. God’s plan of grace, which included Bethlehem; David; shepherds; the virgin Mary; Magi from the east; etc, also includes US. He came to Bethlehem—to his own people—but they didn’t recognize him. But by the Holy Spirit’s work, he gave us the right to become children of God! While the world goes through the superficial motions of Christmas again this year, we see Jesus—God With Us—God For Us!
Bethlehem may seem like a meaningless little village, small among the clans of Judah. But from that little town—on that Holy Night—came the One on whom we build our hope of heaven.
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great, glad tidings tell; Oh, come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!