Friday, December 9, 2016

Merry Christmas to Mary and Joseph

“Jesus is the sweetest Name I know,” says the hymnist, and it is true.  What is the most precious name of Advent?  Jesus!  Mary and Joseph had no problem naming Him.  Many couples spend months agonizing over just the right name.  They want a name not too odd or too familiar, but just unique enough for their dear little one.  Some choose family names to honor or recognize a relative or parent.  Others choose names of great men of their day.  Jesus was named after no relative or great person of His day.  He was named for who He was.  The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” 
This name echoes clearly from the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve had been promised a Deliverer.  It rings from the days of Abraham who had been promised that his Seed would bless the whole world.  It sings down the halls of time from David whose true Son would be the King of Israel and the whole world.  It resounds from the time of the prophets who foretold that the Deliverer and King would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem.  He is Emanuel, God with us, the Deliverer and Savior. 
Jesus birth was not a surprise. It had been promised and anticipated for millennia.  His name reflected all the promises that had been made concerning Him.  Elizabeth told Mary in Luke 1, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."  She recognized the promises made and now being fulfilled by God.  In Mary’s response, the Magnifcat, she declared, “He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud.”  She declared the deliverance to be brought about through her Son.  Then Zacharias stated, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.”  He declared the salvation of the Lord which would soon come at the birth of Jesus. 

Each Advent season we remember the joyous news that the Savior has come.  We celebrate the hope and salvation that comes through Him who bore the name Jesus.   Jean Perry wrote “That Beautiful Name”.  Sing it joyfully this Advent season.  “I know of a name, a beautiful name, that angels brought down to earth. They whispered it low, one night long ago, to a maiden of lowly birth.  That beautiful name, that beautiful name, from sin has power to free us!  That beautiful name, that wonderful name, that matchless name is Jesus!”  


The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
 


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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Merry Christmas to David and Nathan

In a world where others get a lot of attention, do you ever feel obscure?  Do you have siblings who have gained the limelight and you sit in the shadow?  Does your boss seem to know everyone well but you?  Then you will love the name for today.  His name is Nathan, son of David. 
Did you know that King David had a son named Nathan?  He is listed twice in the Old Testament, both in the book of I Chronicles, in those first nine chapters that many people skip because they are mostly just a list of names.  People actually are saved by reading those chapters, so don’t discount the power of the whole word of God.  Anyway, Nathan is listed there.  His more famous brother Solomon got a lot of press.  His famous half brothers Adonijah and Absalom got a lot of press.  But Nathan got mentioned only in a list of names.  That is all the press he received in the New Testament as well.  But it is an important mention. 
Jesus was his direct physical descendant.  Jesus did not descend physically from Solomon.  Luke 3 tells us that the genealogy went from David to Nathan.  The Gospel of Matthew records the kingly line which was cut off because of the sin of Jeconiah (Matt. 1:11). That means that Solomon was not the ancestor of Jesus, but Solomon’s mother Bathsheba was.  She was also the mother of Nathan.  Obscure Nathan, the son of David about whom we know nothing, is the ancestor of the Christ. 
Jesus talked much on this topic.  His disciples were always pressing Him on who would be the greatest.  He put a little child in front of them and said, “Here he is.”  Jesus said that He came to serve and not be served.  Paul said that we should live in “lowliness of mind” and “esteeming others better than ourselves”.  The message is simple.  No matter how obscure our name is on earth, what matters is that our name is written down in glory.  That we are part of the family of Jesus Christ is all that truly matters for now or eternity. 

Christ is worldwide King and we are His. There is full joy and no obscurity in this truth.  Martin Luther records this in his Christmas hymn “Dear Christian People, All Rejoice”.   “The Son came, saying: ‘Cling to Me, thy sorrows now are ending; freely I give Myself to thee, thy life with Mine defending; for I am thine and thou art Mine, and where I am there thou shalt shine, the foe shall never reach us’.”


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Merry Christmas to Rahab and Ruth

Grace, grace, the sound is sweet; through grace we see the mercy seat
Grace, grace, God’s gift so free, inviting all at Calv’ry’s tree
Grace, grace, no outcast there; God’s table now for all to share
In the list of names given in Matthew we find a few surprises.  They are declarations of God’s grace.  Two of those names are people who were not Jews.  How did they get in there?  Grace is how.  God had chosen Abraham and given him great promises.  The greatest was that his seed would bless the whole world.  Salvation was from the Jews, but salvation was not only for the Jews.  All the families of earth would be blessed by that Seed. The extension of God’s grace to all mankind through the Jews is found repeatedly in the Old Testament and seen clearly in the genealogy of Christ.
For their overwhelming wickedness and lack of repentance at the preaching of the patriarchs, God had consigned the Canaanite civilization to destruction.  Their perversity was not to corrupt God’s people and they had to go.  The time for their repentance was past and their judgment day had come.  The same thing will be true for the entire unrepentant and unbelieving world at the second advent of Christ.  But there was one of these doomed Canaanites who did believe.  Her name was Rahab.  Here is her simple testimony, “For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath.”  With that statement of faith she was saved from Canaan’s destruction.  She married an Israelite man who was in the ancestry of Christ and became the great-great-etc grandmother of Jesus. 
Matthew then records another outsider in Jesus’ ancestry.  Her name was Ruth.  She was of the people of Moab.  They were cousins to the Jews, but not close cousins.  They were idolaters and had treated the Israelites very badly during the Exodus.  There were frequent wars between the nations.  Moabites were banned from temple worship for ten generations.  But there was Ruth.  Ruth had faith.  She said, “Your God will be my God.” She was received into Bethlehem, the future birthplace of Christ, and married a faithful Israelite, Boaz, who is a picture of Christ the kinsman Redeemer.  She became David’s great grandmother.  God in grace both gave her a witness and accepted her faith.  That is the great message of Advent.  God sent His Son into the world to save the lost. 
Grace, grace, beautiful gift, sent by the Father above

Grace, grace, wonderful gift, sent by the Father of Love  


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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Merry Christmas to Abraham

From Adam onwards men knew of the promised Savior, but fewer and fewer believed the promise.  A devastating worldwide flood and the subsequent dispersion of man over the face of the earth did little to deter man’s desire to be god.  The promise was again pushed to the back burner of men’s desire and idolatry, with many false saviors, became the norm.  Then God spoke to one man, Abram.  God said to Abram, “Follow Me,” and Abram did.  God also gave Abram a renewal of the promised Savior, but this time He made it more specific.  The promised Savior was to come from Abram’s seed. 
Matthew begins his account of the genealogy with this specific promise in mind.  “Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob.”  Matthew began with Abraham and traced the promises God made to his son Isaac and grandson Jacob as well.  Jesus had a heritage of promise.  It had to come through the bloodline of specific people.  Matthew chronicles those precious names.  From Jacob’s twelve sons the promised ruler was to come through Judah.  Thus salvation was to come from the line of Judah or the Jews.  This is what Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4,  “Salvation is of the Jews”.  
This continuity of promise gives us all the assurance that God is true.  He is able to see the end from the beginning.  He is able to bring life from the dead, as He did with the birth of Isaac from Sarah’s dead womb.  He is able to bring victory from ashes, as He did in restoring Judah to the land after their Babylonian captivity.  He is able to control kings as He did with Caesar who commanded the world to be taxed so that Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem where God said the Savior would be born.   That God is able is the clear message we find in the precious names of Advent.  Over a period of 2000 years against all the forces that Satan and sin could throw against His promise, He was able to complete all that He had said in every detail He had promised.  This is Advent hope.
The faithful children of Israel were still looking and longing for the promise to come and the joy that would attend it.  We, too, should be looking for the completion of the promise of His second advent and the joy that will attend that.  This song by Charles Wesley can be an expression of the hope of both Advents of Christ. 

 “Come, Thou long expected Jesus born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”


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Monday, December 5, 2016

Merry Christmas to Adam and Eve

The Christmas season is a time of dreaming and hoping.  As the poet said of the children, “visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.”  It is not only children who hope and dream.  How many engagements take place around Christmas time?  I officially placed the ring on my beloved’s finger on December 20 the day before she was leaving for Christmas break and I had to stay and work.  Ours wasn’t a vision of sugar plums for a day but a life of joy together.  Hopes and dreams can be based on promises like, “I will take you and love you forever.” 
This view Christmas is not new.  It began with the hopes and dreams of man and the promises of God relating to the Advent of His Son.  In the books of Matthew and Luke we find genealogies for Jesus.  This isn’t just a list of people to be passed over in our reading of the Bible.  These were people with hopes and dreams and promises of the Advent of our Savior.  Matthew begins the list in verse 2 with Abraham.  Luke concludes the list in Luke 3 with Adam and God. 
Luke 3 shatters the “Santa Myth”.  That myth states that Santa only rewards the good.  Adam doesn’t exactly fit that mold.  He had direct access to God.  He had a perfect environment.  He had no needs unfulfilled.  He only had one simple rule to obey.  What could possibly go wrong in that scenario?  He sinned anyway.  There goes his merry Christmas, right?  Wrong!  It was in his sin that God gave the great promise of the advent of the Savior.  Instead of giving Adam and Eve coal, He gave them hope.  Instead of saying “Better luck next year”, He gave them precious promises. 

That makes Adam’s name pretty precious on the Advent list.  If God can forgive someone for messing up as badly as Adam did, then the Advent of His Son offers hope to all.  As Jesus said in John 3, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that world through Him might be saved.”  Thank God for the story of Adam for it gives true hope to us all.  Johannes Falk wrote the wonderful Christmas hymn, “O Thou Joyful!  O Thou Wonderful!”  Its first verse reveals the hope of man and the promise of God fulfilled.  “O thou joyful, O thou wonderful, grace revealing Christmastide!  Jesus came to win us from all sin within us: glorify the holy Child.” 


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Advent Adoration

Near the time of Jesus’ birth God had placed a sign in the sky so that the wise men of the East could find the newborn King of the Jews.  They did not initiate that search.  God did.  It was a simple proclamation that His Son was not only the King of the Jews but would be the King of all the earth.  God sent an invitation and the wise men responded.  With the light that God had given them they sought out the Christ.
It was not to be an easy search.  He had been born in a distant land in a time when travel was difficult.  They didn’t care.  He had been born a foreign king.  They didn’t care.  He had been born in a region where the governing power was at an uneasy peace with all the nations from which the wise men probably came.  They didn’t care.  When they got where they thought they were going they still weren’t there.  When they got stonewalled by the locals, they didn’t care.  Finally an answer was given and they finished their search.  In a house in Bethlehem they found the infant Jesus, He who had been born King of the Jews.
What did they do when they found Him?  The answer to that is the profound truth that all men everywhere, saved and lost, must both understand and emulate.  The wise men worshipped Him.  They knelt down at His feet and gave Him due adoration for who He is.  It is hard to picture them going into that house and raising one hand high and saying, “Yo, man, what’s up?”  Today the Church has become quite casual about worshipping Him.  It is as if He has lost His luster as the Divine.  He became a man, but He was still God and so they worshipped Him.  Paul told us in Philippians 2 that someday every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.  They will all fall at His feet and worship Him.  Whether they are Christians or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus or atheists, they will all bow at His feet and worship Him and declare that He is the eternal Son of God. 
This Advent season let us make sure that we have on our “to do list” to worship Him every day.  Let us bring our gifts of praise and thanksgiving and fall down at His feet and adore the Wonderful counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace whose name is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  “O Come, Let Us Adore Him.
“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of angels; O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” 

Words by John F. Wade


  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen
 


For quality inspirational, educational, and fictional Christian books visit www.davidccraig.net

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent Peace

I was in college during the great “peace” demonstrations of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Many of those demonstrations were not very peaceful.  Two significant moments in the age of that movement came first at the Chicago Democratic National Convention and then two years later at Kent State University.  Those events ended up changing American politics and then the American perception of the war.  The tragic violence brought change, but it did not bring peace.
The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel had head to head confrontations with the false prophets of their day who were proclaiming, “Peace, peace”.  They told the people that those false prophets had not been sent by God.  Anyone coming along and proclaiming that they can bring peace is not telling the truth.  This world is a place of sin and the deeds of the sinful flesh include, “hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambition envy and murders.”  That is just the short list that God made of our nature. We act out what is in the inside of us, and that isn’t a pretty concoction. 
But there is hope!  When the angels came to the shepherds they sang, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to men.”  The angels could proclaim peace because the Prince of Peace had been born.  In Zacharias’ prophecy in Luke 1 he says that the way of peace was coming.  Jesus promised His disciples, both them and us, that He would give us peace.  Paul declared in Romans 5 that we now have peace with God and in Philippians 4 that we can have peace that passes understanding.  Someday the heavens will open and Christ will descend and bring true peace on earth. 
All this is wrapped up in the joy of the Advent.  What men wanted and could not produce would be wrought by God.  It is His joy to bring us peace on earth.  Right now that peace comes one person at a time as they accept God’s Advent gift of His Son.  We can rejoice in that present peace and be confident that He will fulfill the entire promise of peace when He sends His Son again.
Wonderful, wonderful promise of peace in the Advent God has declared
Wonderful peace through the gift of His Son in a new life now He’s prepared
Wonderful song that the angels have sung, a song of true joy and true peace

Wonderful promise the Father has wrought, the peace, peace that never will cease  


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