Tag Archives: Advent

why shepherds?

Another night had come. The little town was crowded by travelers passing through on their way to register for the nation-wide census. A young couple came into town looking for a place to stay, but they were later than most. There was no room in the inn, they were directed to the nearby stable to find lodging.

As they were seeking rest in the stable, the time came for the baby to be born, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:7). The routine of their travels was interrupted by the joyous birth of a baby.

Meanwhile, a short distance outside of town, shepherds had their sheep bedded down for the night. A small fire was providing warmth and light. The activities of the night were routine. The shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks as always until the routine of their night was interrupted by an angel.

“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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’

Suddenly a great company of the Heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest Heaven, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:9-14). This was the birth announcement of Jesus Christ, and it was delivered in a powerful way to – of all people – shepherds.

Shepherds were not thought of highly; they were considered to be social outcasts. The occupation required a nomadic, isolated lifestyle. As their sheep grazed, shepherds had to continually move to stay in green pastures. They had to live with their vulnerable flocks, so they could remain aware of needs and threats.

Shepherds were even accused of blurring the lines of right and wrong. Perhaps they helped themselves to a lamb or two as flocks multiplied on the pastures. Accusations allowed as this was a socially unaccepted group. Yet, they were the first to hear good news that would cause great joy for all people.

The world is the Lord’s palate; he could have chosen any method to announce the birth of Jesus Christ. He could have made an audible announcement from the Heavens. He could have appeared to a king, emperor, or pharaoh. He could have revealed it to the religious leaders of the day, but he chose a different way to make the announcement. He instructed an angel to appear to a group of socially outcast shepherds staying approximately 2 miles outside of Bethlehem.

“Why shepherds,” one might ask. From the very moment of his appearance, grace permeated from Christ Jesus. This announcement only begins to illustrate how this good news will be for all people. The Lord’s message is not just for a select few, but everyone. And, you and I can learn much from the shepherds and their response.

The Unaccepted Were Welcomed

As social outcasts, society may have shunned the shepherds, but the Lord welcomed them with open arms. Perhaps you can relate to the shepherds. You do not feel welcome by various people and groups. If so, remember, the Lord welcomes you with open arms. The Messiah’s birth was announced first to a group considered to be outcasts.

As Christians, you and I should possess the same welcoming spirit. We should welcome others with open arms. Their lives may be messy and we know the Lord can cause change, but first, they have to find the safety of God’s grace.

A mother recently posted on Facebook her young daughter had made friends with the neighbor boy. The mother was uncomfortable because the boy’s family was nothing like her own. Their living conditions were less than ideal, and the boy would use inappropriate language without knowing it. After all, he heard those words frequently.

One Saturday, the mother was cooking lunch while the kids played. She was okay with it because her husband was in the yard with the kids. When lunch was ready, she called her crew, and the boy asked if he could come too.

Her instinct was to send him home until after lunch, but something compelled her to welcome the young boy and give him a seat at the table. The boy was a little dirty. His clothes were torn and his shoes were worn. His fingernails in need of a trim. As they ate lunch, they tried to have a conversation.

School was about to begin for the year, so the mother asked the boy if he was excited to start the first grade. “No,” the boy replied. “School can be a scary place for a guy like me.”

The mother’s heart sank as a thought pressed on her mind like a ton of bricks. “If school was not a safe place, and home was probably not a safe place, where was this child’s safe place?”

They finished eating and everyone went outside except the mother. She stayed in to cleanup and cry. She told the boy he was welcome in their home any time. There are many people seeking a safe place, and as the hands and feet of Christ, we should have the same welcoming spirit the shepherds experienced on Christmas night.

Please share this post, and a big thank you to Light magazine for using this in a recent edition.

journey

Their journey took them to new places and introduced them to new people. The Magi saw a new star in the sky, and their anticipation and desire to seek the new born king spurred a journey to find him. They did not know where the journey was going to lead, but they were willing to go. Perhaps it was unnerving and disrupting, but the Magi followed the star.

The Lord may be pointing us on a journey right now. It may be accepting his grace, talking with a friend about his grace, making a sacrificial move, or maybe something even more difficult. He may be calling us to extend forgiveness. We’ve been hurt badly, but someone has to lay the first piece to build the bridge of reconciliation. It may be disrupting. It may be unnerving, but the Lord is calling.

Going on this journey may be scary, but we are not alone. Scripture records many who were called on a journey. They found themselves in some new places. Abraham was called into a new territory. Noah was called to begin a new project. Daniel was called into a new leadership role. The first disciples were called into a career change. The Lord called Paul into a public life change. We are not alone.

What journey is the Lord asking you to take? Ask the Lord for the courage to begin the journey and to help you remember he is leading as you walk into new places.

Please share this post.

anticipating

Looking up at the sky was a nightly occurrence. The stars were beautiful and worthy of study. One night something different caught the eyes of the wise men. The new star captured their attention, so they took note of it.

More than that, the star prompted memories of Christ being prophesied in Scripture. The star brought Christ to the Magi’s attention. Through events, God reached out to the Magi, and since they were anticipating the Messiah’s coming, they responded.

What about us? Are we anticipating the Lord’s work in our lives? Like the Magi, we have the Bible to study. We may not understand all of it, but we know enough to at least understand the story. Even the most scholarly student of Scripture must have a faith of anticipation.

God has promised he will work in our lives, and he has promised he will be with us. There are many stories which can only be explained by the Lord’s involvement. Christ’s birth is just one of those times. We should anticipate the Lord’s work in our lives.

Scripture suggests we should keep watch. Keep anticipating.

  • Because we do not know “on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
  • “Because you do not know the day or the hours” (Matthew 25:13).

This anticipation is what drives our seeking. In faith, do we have an attitude of anticipation today? Perhaps the answer to our prayer will come today. Maybe today will be the day we gain a better understanding of how to fulfill our purpose. Perhaps today will give us an opportunity to take a step toward realizing our dreams. Today could be a big day. Are we anticipating the Lord’s work?

Please share this post.

seeking

A father was relaxing in his office on a December Saturday morning. His wife was running errands, and one of his daughters came in to request his presence in the family room. He went with her to find his other daughter wrapped in a blanket pretending it was a robe. She was standing at the end of the couch, and beside her was a flashlight wrapped in a towel. The flashlight was in a shoe box. Pretending he wasn’t dragging the handle behind him; the man’s son came in with a mop on his head. The two announced, “We are Mary and Joseph.”

The neighbor boy came through the room, carrying a stuffed sheep and announcing, “I am a shepherd.”

Finally, the daughter who requested the man’s presence came in. She made a lap around the room with a pillow stuck between her legs. She approached the shoe box, bowed, and declared, “I am all three wise men. I bring you gifts of gold, circumstance, and dirt.”

The wise men, or Magi, were from the East. They held prominent positions in their country, and they were the religious leaders of their society. As highly educated individuals, they were responsible for deciding who was king. Their studies included the Old Testament, so they were familiar with the prophecies concerning the Messiah. The Magi do not ignore Jesus’ birth. They respond by seeking him.

They seek him. They search for him. They look for him. Matthew 2:2 says, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews. We saw his star as it rose and we have come to worship him.” These wise men went from their home country to Jerusalem then on to Bethlehem seeking Jesus.

As we think of this, we must acknowledge the timeline of Jesus’ life. The Magi would have visited him as a toddler. They commented they saw his star rise. They saw the star and had to take the time to follow it. They had to take the time to seek after Jesus.

Seeking after the newborn king took time. The Magi did not find what they were hoping for without searching. Scripture tells us we are to seek after Jesus.

  • Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom, and all these other things will be given to you.”
  • Hebrews 11:6 encourages, “God rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
  • David says in Psalm 63, “You, God, are my God. Earnestly I seek you. I thirst for you. My whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land, where there is no water.”

Scripture implores us to seek the Lord.

The Magi put much time into their search. We know the wise men traveled from the East. That is, modern-day Iraq to Bethlehem. This is a distance of approximately 900 miles. These individuals traveled a great distance to find the Christ child. They knew there was something special about Jesus, and it was worth the travel. Seeking after him brought the Magi face-to-face with Jesus.

There is something special about Jesus, and seeking after him is worth it. He brings peace and forgiveness. If you are desiring peace and forgiveness, seek after him today.

Please share this post.

a faithful response

She was a common girl. She wasn’t extravagantly rich or excessively poor. She just belonged to the group of common folks. Life seemed to be going well. She was engaged and her wedding was coming up. Mary had no idea of the direction her life was about to go.

Gabriel’s Visit

Luke records the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to reveal her part in God’s grand plan. Luke 2:28 says, “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

After reassuring Mary his visit was to bring good news, Gabriel explained how she would be the mother of Jesus, and reminded Mary God can do anything. Mary was an ordinary girl, but she was given an extraordinary part to play in God’s plan. We know she inquired about the virgin birth, but we can only imagine what else went through Mary’s mind’ as she listened to the angel’s words.

She would have to explain this to Joseph. A pregnancy can’t be easily hidden, and people would speculate about her as they would not understand what the Lord was doing. This would have been a lot for Mary to process, and she may have not fully grasped it.

Mary’s Response

In spite of these thoughts, Mary listened intently to God’s plan, and note her response in Luke 2:38. “I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered, ‘may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Because of her faith, Mary was willing to offer herself as a servant. She realized fulfilling her purpose would have rough parts, but she trusted the Lord to be with her during those times. There were rough parts, and the Lord was with her during those times.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us Joseph had in mind to quietly divorce Mary when he found out about the pregnancy. It was only because the Lord stopped Joseph in a dream that he did not continue with his idea of divorce. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, Mary’s family had to flee to Egypt to save the young child. It was the prompting of the Lord which caused the family to go; it was the work of the Lord which kept Mary’s family safe. Being Jesus’ mom certainly had its rough parts, but the Lord stayed with Mary.

Our Purpose

Our purpose may not be in the spotlight like Mary’s, but our lives do have a purpose in God’s plan. Like Mary, we may encounter rough parts to fulfilling our purpose, but the Lord will help us. His grace has given us favor. The Lord is with us. Are we with him?

Ask God to help you discover your purpose and to give you the courage and strength to pursue it. Try responding like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May his word be fulfilled.”

Please share this post.

god can do anything

We are all better prepared to do some things. Some things are better handled by a doctor. Brain surgery should never be performed by an auto mechanic. One parent is usually better at soothing a hurting child than another. Some tasks should be left for those individuals who are best prepared to accomplish them.

When it comes to “impossible” dreams or events, it is best to leave those things for God. God’s ability to do anything was once again on display during the first Christmas.

Power on Display

“How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she, who was said to be unable to conceive, is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail,” records Luke 1:34-37.

Mary’s faith helped her to see the events foretold by Gabriel would happen. She just isn’t sure how they will unfold. After all, a virgin does not have a baby. That is, unless God is involved. Gabriel explains how Mary will conceive, then to boost her faith, he points to Elizabeth. “No one thought Elizabeth would have a baby, but she’s pregnant. In fact, she is already in her sixth month. Nothing is impossible with God.”

Nothing is Impossible

It has been said Luke 1:37 is the most reassuring verse in Scripture. When God is involved, nothing is impossible. There is no challenge too great for God. The events leading up to Jesus’ birth help us see this point. Preparing the world for Christ’s arrival, Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and Mary conceiving as a virgin are all illustrations of God doing the impossible. God can do anything.

What are your goals? What are your biggest dreams? Nothing is impossible for God. Ask God what he desires for you to do and for the abilities to get it done. God can do anything.

Please share this post.

How close will god come?

Imagine for a moment you are on your way home from work. You work the evening shift, so it is close to midnight as you’re cruising down the interstate about 30 minutes from home. Traffic is light, so you are enjoying the drive and thinking about how good crawling under the covers is going to feel. Suddenly, your car makes a weird noise, you see white smoke coming out of the exhaust, and your engine stops running. It’s 12:15 a.m. Who are you going to call?

Would you call someone close to you? I would. It seems when we are in need, we rely on those who are the closest to us. We know when they hear we are broken down along the interstate, their response will be “I’m on my way.” This person comes not out of duty, but out of friendship. We may call our spouse or family member, but the person comes because of our friendship.

True friends are the ones who come in the middle of the night. They are the people who respond in times of need. True friends are the ones who will come no matter the situation.

Scripture says we are friends with God, so how close will he come?

He Came Close

It was a calm and peaceful day. Some 65 miles from Jerusalem, in the region of Galilee, a young lady was excited about her engagement and upcoming wedding. As she went about her day, she was visited by the angel Gabriel.

“The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be, but the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Mary, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end,” records Luke 1:28-34.

He came close to Mary. “The virgin birth is more, much more, than a Christmas story. It is a picture of how close Christ will come to you. The first stop on his itinerary was a womb. Where will God go to touch the world? Look deep within Mary for an answer,” writes Max Lucado.

He Comes Close

“Better still,” Lucado continues, “look deep within yourself. What he did with Mary, he offers to us.” He offers an invitation to come close. He offers an invitation to move into our lives.

Jesus is that friend who comes when we are broken down on life’s interstate. He doesn’t mind if we are in a rough part of life or there’s a mess to clean up. You see, Jesus offers an invitation to call him anytime. Don’t be afraid to call. Jesus is that friend who responds, “I’m on my way.” He comes close.

Please share this post.

waiting on christmas

A couple of years ago I was doing some Christmas shopping at Kohl’s. Items in hand, I headed to the front of the store to pay, but the checkout line started there, wove its way through the store, and stopped at the back of the store. I found a nice associate holding a sign which read, “Line Starts Here,” so I got in line. A few minutes later the line had moved, but it seemed to be very little. Some more time passed, and I was in the middle of the line. Line in front. Line behind, and the nice guy holding the sign was out of sight. All I could do was wait. Wait until it was my turn to pay.

While most of us do not like it, waiting is a part of life. We wait to pay. We wait at the doctor’s office. Elevate our stress and anxiety, and it seems like we wait even longer. We can’t get around the dreaded wait.

The Bible tells us Simeon and Anna waited a long time for the first Christmas. In chapter 2, Luke introduces us to these two faithful believers, and tells us they were eagerly anticipating Christ’s arrival. Simeon’s exact age is not revealed. He is only referred to as an elderly man, so we can assume he had been waiting for Jesus for many years. Anna is 84-years-old, and Luke says she has been coming to the temple daily for 60 years awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. That’s 60 years of watching, hoping, and waiting.

Simeon and Anna were masters at waiting. Doing the same thing daily for 60 years. There may have been moments of discouragement, but they kept waiting because of their faith.

I waited in the Kohl’s line until it led me to the front of the store where I discovered a beehive of activity. There were 4 cashiers and 4 associates putting items in bags. Other associates were running from place to place to replace damaged items and make sure shoppers had exactly what they wanted. One person was breaking the line into 4 parts to ensure a smooth transition to the checkout. Much activity was happening that I missed when I was standing in the back and middle of the store in line waiting my turn.

In the same way, Simeon and Anna waited. They had no idea of the Lord’s activity to prepare for Jesus’ birth. Enemy nations were being conquered. Long seasons of peace were being established. Roads were being constructed for easier travel and people were being prepared. All to fulfill Scripture. Mankind couldn’t see God at work in the moment, but looking back, history teaches us the Lord was hard at work in the days leading up to Christmas.

Simeon and Anna didn’t realize or even understand the Lord was hard at work. They only waited hopefully and faithfully. Could it be the same for us? Could the Lord be hard at work to bring about what we are waiting on? Could it be he just needs us to wait hopefully and faithfully a little longer? When the timing is right and everything is ready, our prayer will be answered, the needed change will succeed, and the other things for which we are waiting will happen.  

Simeon and Anna spent a lifetime waiting, and they were blessed to see Jesus as a baby. Their blessing was worth the wait. It will be worth the wait for us as well. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Please share this post.