Tag Archives: Christmas

life-long pursuit

The star appeared, and the journey started. It was not a quick trip to find Jesus. The 900 miles of terrain which separated the Magi from Jesus took some time to cross. In spite of this, the wise men continued. They didn’t give up or turn around until they found Jesus. They knew finding him was worth the pursuit.

Our Pursuit

No one needs to remind us we are not perfect. We already know, but each day we seek the Lord, we become a little more like him. Each day takes us a little closer to the prize, and each day means we can forget the things Christ has already forgiven from yesterday.

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection, but I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:  forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the Heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus is calling us.”

Seeking Christ is a life-long pursuit. We are always in need of the Lord’s grace. We’re always in need of his leading. There is never a point in life when we stop needing Christ. It has been said life is like a cycle. The rough times lead to an easy season only to be disrupted by the rough times again. The Lord is with us every step of the way, and the prize at the end of the race is Heaven.

Philippians 3:20-21 encourage, “But we are citizens of Heaven where the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak, mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”

Are you on a life-long pursuit of the Lord? Don’t give up seeking him. He doesn’t give up on seeking us. “Come to me,” Jesus invites. “Seek me,” he encourages, “bring the burdens of life and the worries of today, and exchange them for the rest I offer.” Follow the example of the Magi. Make seeking the Lord a life-long pursuit.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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baby brings forgiveness

Anna speaks of forgiveness.

It was an exciting day. Eight-day-old Jesus has been brought to the temple for his circumcision to fulfill the law, and much has occurred. Simeon and Anna have been waiting for this day, and Simeon has spoken about the comfort and peace Jesus brings. Now, it is Anna’s turn.

As Mary and Joseph are still pondering Simeon’s words, Anna comes along. Luke 2:38 says, “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” While Simeon sees comfort and peace in Jesus, Anna sees forgiveness.

The idea of redemption for Anna pointed to the captivity of the Old Testament. Especially to the Egyptian bondage and Israel’s redemption through the Passover. Ultimately, Passover points ahead to Christ redeeming Christians from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus she gave thanks to God, and spoke to anyone who would listen about his redemption. Here, at last, was the one who would save his people from their sins. Here, through Jesus, was forgiveness.

Perhaps 2020 has been the year of mistakes. You beat yourself up daily because past mistakes constantly fly up in your face. Jesus offers forgiveness and freedom from those mistakes. Forgiveness came on the first Christmas. “Today in the town of David,” the angel reported to the shepherds, “a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Take time today to allow and reflect on the forgiveness offered through Christ.

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baby brings comfort and peace

New parents learn of the impact their child will have on the world.

Just a week ago, these parents found rest in a stable as there was no room in the inn. Today, their son turned eight-days-old, so it was time for his circumcision. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to fulfill the law, and while there, Simeon came up and scooped the baby from Mary’s arms. He took the child in his arms and praised God.

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon grabs Jesus from Mary’s arms and begins praising God for good reason. From their perspective, things were not exactly going well for Israel. They hadn’t heard from God for about 400 years and were living under Roman rule. They had lost their political independence and were living under the rule of the capable, crafty, crazy, and cruel king Herod. Many were waiting and wondering if the Messiah would ever come.

Moved by the spirit that day, Simeon went to the temple to see the Messiah. Simeon understood this baby in his arms was the Comforter. The need to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with emptiness, loneliness, insecurity, and desperation. It seems depression spikes this time of year, but here’s the comforter. This young baby in Simeon’s arms. Simeon sees the one who has come to make it alright. The one who has come to bring comfort to the world.

Simeon sees the one who has come to bring peace. Life is always in an uproar. Circumstances are always arising in an attempt to steal our peace, yet this baby brings peace. Paul asserts this peace transcends all understanding. Christ, Christmas, brings peace.

Can you relate to Simeon? Are you hurting and uneasy? 2020 has been filled with much hurt and great anxiety, but Christ can provide comfort and peace. Take a moment to find and reflect on the comfort and peace you have in Jesus Christ.

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don’t miss christmas

A father and son enjoyed collecting art. They enjoyed attending art auctions together, and the two had amassed a stunning collection. Paintings by famous artists lined the walls of their living room, and the two spent much time pursuing their hobby.

One day the son received word he had been drafted, and he was to report to basic training before heading overseas. A few months later, early December to be exact, the father received news his son had been killed.

Still absorbing the shock, the father decided to spend Christmas day alone, but as he was sitting in his easy chair, there was a knock at the door.

The man opened the door to find a tall, young man standing there with a package under his arm. “Good morning sir,” the young man said, “may I come in?”

The father invited the young man into the house, and the young man began to explain, “I knew your son. I’m actually the one he was saving when he was shot. I know you like art as I do, so I wanted to give this to you.”

He unwrapped the package to reveal a portrait of the father’s son. “It is not the fanciest painting. I did it myself, and I thought you would enjoy having it.”

The father quickly jumped up to rearrange his collection giving the portrait of his son a prominent place. He placed it above his fireplace directly across from his easy chair. The father could gaze upon his son every time he sat in the chair. The father and soldier spent Christmas day together talking and laughing before parting ways.

Years later, the father passed away, and he left instructions in his will to have his art collection auctioned on Christmas day. Many collectors from around the country arrived to bid on the collection.

The crowd was upset when they realized the first painting on the block was the portrait of the father’s son. The auctioneer tried to move the painting for several minutes before a neighbor finally bid $10.

“I knew the boy, so I’d like to have the painting,” the woman said.

“Going once. Going twice. Sold,” came the auctioneer’s voice as the crowd cheered wildly.

“Now we can get on with the good stuff,” they snorted, but they were shocked when the auctioneer slammed his gavel declaring the auction over.

“How is it over,” the crowd demanded. “We didn’t even have a chance to bid on the good paintings.”

The auctioneer explained the father’s instructions were to give the whole collection to the person who bought the portrait of his son.

God’s Christmas Gift

Romans 8:32 says, “Since he did not spare even his own son, but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” Don’t miss the true gift of Christmas.

People search for peace and hope in many places. Shiny packages of all kinds contain promises of peace and hope, but they are empty or fall short. True peace and hope are found in God’s Christmas gift. “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you,” the angel told the shepherds. He is Jesus.

As you hustle and bustle this year, take a moment to find and reflect on the true gift of Christmas. Whoever gets the son, according to God, gets everything else.

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