Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christmas + 1 Day

Bobservations Column
Pastor Bob Lawrenz

In the final days of Moses (Deuteronomy 33, 34), we learn of his blessings upon each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. They are at the cusp of entering The Promised Land, and out of the plains of Moab, Moses went up Mt. Nebo, not far from Jericho. From that mountain top, the Lord showed him all of the land which God had sworn to Israel and his descendants.

Moses died there, seeing the Promised Land, but he was unable to enter into it with the Tribes. Moses was buried there in an unknown grave in Moab. Because Moses is iconic to the Jews, if they had been able to create shrine at his grave, it would have been a shrine to a man, and not to God.

The heart of man enshrines its leaders and places where great events occur. The Muslims are the example: if something great has occurred in their faith, a shrine is built, and the shrines of others are torn down. Medina, Mecca, and the Temple Mount at Jerusalem with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome Of The Rock are all examples. Statues and monuments have been destroyed here too!

God buried Moses in an unknown grave because He did not want the Jews to enshrine Moses, but to worship Him. Celebrations of Moses would stand side-by-side with God’s great works, and that raises a man up much higher than he deserves. When Lucifer tried this, he was cast to the lower parts of the earth!

The location of the Garden of Eden is also unknown, and likely for the same reasons. And I believe the same reasoning is why we do not know the precise date of Jesus’ birth. God wanted Messiah’s arrival recognized, nothing more.

Garish displays in every culture proclaim Jesus’ birth according to each culture, and they do it on a day which was chosen by men, not by God. And the result is what God wanted to avoid: a party atmosphere instead of holiness.

If you are celebrating Jesus’ birth, His humble beginnings should set the atmosphere for family and friends. He Himself directed us to remember His sacrifice, rather than His birth. He knows us so well!

Praise Him for His mighty works, and not for whom He chose to bring them about.

Key passages to consider for this day:

Genesis 3:15

Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 9:6,7

1 John 5:5-8

John 1:1-14

John 4:20-26

Matthew 16:16

Mark 8:29

John 6:69; 11:27

There are hundreds more references in scripture.  You can find them in the subject index of a good study bible. 

Today's Audio Message:
Matthew 1:18-25 - "Christmas + 1 Day"

In the story of Jesus’ birth, we have learned about many of the fascinating people that God chose, that God used, and those who tried to thwart the plan of God.

In the gospel accounts, we learned about the prophetic ancestral lines concerning the coming Messiah. We learned about the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth. We learned about the miracle birth of the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, and his parents, Elizabeth (the cousin of Mary) and Zacharias, a priest. We learned about the Messenger of God, Gabriel, and his announcements not only to this couple, but to Mary, chosen to give birth to the Son of God. We learned about the Magi from the East, the miraculous Star. We learned about the wicked ruler Herod and his plot to kill Jesus, who is the true King of Israel. We learned about the Shepherds keeping flock at night. And we have learned about the virgin Mary, the annunciation to Mary, the name of the coming Messiah, the Holy Spirit coming upon her, and her visit to Elizabeth. We learned about Mary’s Magnificat in response to Elizabeth which gives praise to God for the great things He has done. The Magnificat proclaims God’s intervention in authentic human existence. It is a proclamation of the divine fulfillment of God’s Word.

But what about Joseph? He doesn’t get much of the spotlight in the Christmas story. What is often overlooked is Joseph’s part in Jesus’ birth. His faith and actions play a vital role in this story, and the ultimate plan of God.

Not much is said about Joseph in the Bible, but Matthew wrote about him, shedding light on what would have been a huge trial in the lives of a young couple about to marry.

Joseph was the son of Jacob. He was from Bethlehem in Judea but lived in Nazareth in Galilee. He is from the royal line of David according to Matthew chapter 1. He was a carpenter by trade. He was a poor man. He was a devout keeper of the Law. Though we don’t know how old Joseph was, most writers agree that he was a young man, probably a teenager, which makes his role in Jesus’ birth quite remarkable. He was betrothed to Mary, an arranged marriage in ancient Jewish custom, pledged to each other by a signed contract. Their betrothal would last a year before being formally married in a public wedding ceremony. Joseph would become the stepfather of Jesus.

We have this young couple who were as good as married, and Mary turns up pregnant, but Jospeh is not the father. We can only imagine what that conversation was like, how he felt, or what was going through his mind. What a predicament! What a trial! What will people say? What will he do?

The greatness of Jospeh is this, that he loved God, he loved Mary, and his love covered what appeared to be her shame. He was an observant Jew who kept the law, and He was a righteous man, meaning he wanted to do what was right in the eyes of God. While he did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he thought about putting her away privately – a divorce, the breaking off of their agreement by legal means.

Enter the angel of the Lord. An angel of the Lord appears to Jospeh in a dream. He is told not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

While this might seem strange to most, it was not strange to Joseph. In the Bible, God spoke to people through dreams, Joseph knew this. To Jospeh, this was the assurance he needed. God meets Joseph in this trial, at the point of his deepest need, and precisely at the right time.

As the Lord does with all of His own, fear is replaced with confidence. Joseph doubts replaced with faith and trust in His God.

The angel tells Joseph that Mary will give birth to a son, and that he is to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

When Jospeh woke up, he did exactly as the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He married her quickly and protected her reputation. He kept her a virgin until Jesus was born, protecting the miracle of Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit, and the fulfillment of prophecy. He names the baby Jesus at His birth and raises Him as his own.

As believers we are faced with many trials in our lives. What we need to understand is that God is working in our lives, just as He did in the lives of Mary and Joseph. God has a plan for our lives as well. We may not have been chosen to bear the Son of God, but whatever He has chosen us to do, He equips us for, and enables us to do by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives.

The purpose of trials in our lives are to teach us to trust God more, that we may grow in faith. We need to know God more, and we need to know Him better, and we do this by experiencing more of His love and compassion in our lives. More of His grace and mercy. More of His forgiveness and more of His instruction, by His Word.

Those things that we learn, we are to show to others. We need to be encouragers and we need to build up the body of Christ. How can we do that unless we ourselves are first open to what He wants to do in our lives. Too many people are busy running around making their own plans for their lives. Have you considered what God wants to do in and through you? What His plans are for you?

Thankfully Joseph was a righteous man, who yielded himself to God. He loved God. He listened to God’s messenger and did precisely as he was shown. Because of this, he was blessed, Mary was blessed, as was all of mankind.

God knows what He is doing. His plans are from the beginning. He has given us His Word and every detail of every word will be fulfilled

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