Sometimes we feel insignificant as if we don’t even matter. In the vastness of the world, we are merely a face in the crowd or a number in the system, so we begin to wonder if we matter. Does anyone realize I’m here? Does anyone really care about my concerns and needs? Do I matter? Does God care about me?
The Bible teaches the answer is a resounding YES!
Jesus says in Luke 12:6-7:
6 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins[b]? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. 7 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
Think of Jesus’ words this way. Not one bird, though worth only a fraction of a penny, falls from the sky without the Lord knowing and caring, and our value is much higher. We do not have to fear the Lord does not care for us. He does! The Lord cares about us enough that he knows everything about us.
I don’t know how many hairs I have on my head, but the Lord does.
The Lord cares about us so much that he gave us the gift of grace. As you experience the vastness of the world today, remember, the Lord knows you and cares for you.
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Jesus’ birth is a miracle, and leading up to his coming, the Lord performed another miracle through Zachariah and Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel tells us they were older, so no one expected them to have a child. The Lord had another plan though. As the Lord promised to Zachariah in the temple, Elizabeth gave birth to a son. As everyone was celebrating the birth, Zachariah helps us see his son, John, was going to be a forerunner for someone awesome!
Zachariah says in Luke 1:68-70, “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” Many were waiting, and now it was time for the Lord’s visit and redemption.
The Bible teaches Jesus is the one who has come from God full of mercy and truth. John 1:14-17 says, “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness, and we have seen his glory – the glory of the Father’s One and Only son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, ‘This is the one I was talking about when I said someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am. For he existed long before me.’ From his abundance we have received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ!”
Charles Stanley writes, “Jesus is far more than just a great teacher or a mighty prophet. In fact, he is God with us. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature because he is God himself. Whatever Jesus does, he does with grace. Whatever he says, he says in truth. If you want to understand what God is like, look to Jesus.”
John 1:18 teaches, “No one has ever seen God, but the unique one who is himself God is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.” He has revealed God’s grace and truth, and he has come to be with us. He has come to redeem us.
Zachariah said the Lord sent a mighty Savior. Another way to say it is the Lord has risen a horn of salvation for us. Jesus has come with all power and might to be on our side. If God is for us, who can be against us? No one! The Lord is more powerful than anyone or anything. He has come to save us. The work is already done, and the gift of redemption is under God’s Christmas tree. We just have to receive it.
As you open all your gifts this year, consider opening the gift of God’s grace.
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“When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them, but Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told” (Luke 2:15-20).
The shepherds were truly changed by their encounter with the Lord. Luke says they returned to their flocks praising God. This is not the only time we see a life changed due to an encounter with the Lord. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and Saul became Paul after coming across the Lord. Perhaps your life has been changed by the Lord’s grace also. It is impossible to find the Lord and walk away the same way you came.
Make sharing your joy and faith a part of your holiday celebrations this year. God did not make a mistake sending the angel to the shepherds. The birth of the Messiah was an event causing great joy for all people. The shepherds started spreading the joy they experienced, and you and I should continue spreading that joy.
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The sheep were asleep. The shepherds were gathered around a small fire talking as some of them dozed off. The stillness of the night was suddenly interrupted by an angelic visit. The angel brought news that a Savior had been born. The shepherds listened intently as the angel spoke, and when the angel had left them, they hurried to investigate this news.
The shepherds’ response to the angel’s news is worthy of modeling. As their initial terror subsided, the shepherds responded with much faith and overflowing joy.
“When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:15-16).
The shepherds responded to the angel with much faith. Believing the angel, the shepherds acted upon their belief. The writer of Hebrews says the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him. How are you and I responding to the Lord in faith? Are we taking him at his word and allowing our curiosity to spur us on to see his promises fulfilled?
Along with their faith, the shepherds experienced overflowing joy. “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-19).
The shepherds were so filled with joy they could not keep it to themselves. They had seen the Lord, and they wanted to share their joy with everyone. As you and I find the joy of the Lord, we should attempt to share it.
We can share our joy in an appealing way. We can share our joy by starting a Pay-It-Forward chain at our favorite coffee shop. We can help purchase Christmas gifts for a family who otherwise would not have gifts. We could prepare a shoe box gift for Operation Christmas Child. We can call to check on a neighbor who may experience loneliness this time of year. There are many ways we can share our joy, and this is the perfect season to share it.
Many have commented they will be glad when 2020 enters the history books. It has been a sad and difficult year for lots of folks. It seems they may be hungry for joy and hope more this year than before, and the joy of the Lord can be prevalent in our lives. We can be like the shepherds and spread joy.
Please share this post, and thanks to Light for including this in a recent edition.
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.
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.
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.
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 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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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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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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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.”
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