But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
The Nativity Story
Luke 1:14 - You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
Matthew 1:18-25 - This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Isaiah 11:1 - Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
Matthew 2: 1-23 - Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2: 1-20 - At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Psalm 98:4 - Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!
Luke 2:10 - but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
John 3:16 - For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Isaiah 9:6 - For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
1 John 4: 7-14 - Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. NLT
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. (Isaiah 11:1)
I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me. One of the most immense gifts that Jesus gave us that first Christmas was freedom from the guilt of sin. As he lived in Mary, I too can have him live in me. When He moves in, guilt and shame moves out! His Spirit shows me how to do life the way Jesus did, with joy and freedom.
“There is, then, now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus did set me free from the law of the sin and of the death;”
Look for Christ and you will find Him.
And with Him, everything else.
“C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity”
You will find hope, peace, joy, family, eternal life, forgiveness, freedom. You will find love and life for what it was meant to be.
God's love for us is intense. So much so, that he took the effort to speak very directly with people so we could not mistake the miracle and gift of Jesus' birth. He lavished his love, attention, and affection on us when we weren't even looking for it.
What is it to lavish? Lavish is an old word with rich meaning, as in, sumptuously rich, luxurious, and elaborate. What does this have to do with Jesus Christ's birth?
On one hand, Jesus left rich & luxurious surroundings to be born into poverty. But on the other hand, God dealt elaborately in matters relating to the people who were directly involved with Jesus' birth, benefiting not only them but us, today, as well. Here are a few scenarios recorded for us:
Invited? By God?
My head knows the facts. My heart knows this is truth. My humanity remains in wonder that the God of this universe would engage so personally with me.
Jesus came at Christmas to offer us partnership.
He came to call us in to his rich, blessed community.
He partnered with us by becoming a baby.
He offers us the opportunity to partner with him by becoming his child.
Amazing! Do you believe?
Christmas! What a profound opportunity to
highlight the love of God and the sheer grit of Jesus.
God gave us Jesus out of his vast supply of love.
And he still gives forever.
Jesus said 'yes' to his father's plan out of his immense love for us. He showed us what true humility and strength look like.
And he still says 'yes' forever.
May our hearts swell and beat fast for this God. May we be drawn deeper into his extravagant love... forever.
May we give the gift that is forever.
“Will you not take what your god Chemosh gives you?
This is an interesting story in the continuing saga that Israel journeyed through during the time in history where judges ruled the nation. Jephthah was in that role for this account and was standing his ground, defending Israel's rights of ownership to a land that the king of the Ammonites was claiming for his own. It was when I was reading this story (read it here) that the 24th verse jumped out at me. I felt God challenging me...
War was imminent. The Ammonite king was challenging Israel on the ownership of the land in question, saying that Israel had stolen it. Jephthah went through details of the Israelite's journey from the time they left Egypt, declaring that they had legally fought for the land and God had given them victory - God had given them ownership of it. Because of that, Israel would stand their ground - they would not give up the inheritance given them by their God. He challenged the foreign king saying that he would've done the same thing if this was a dispute of something that their god (Chemosh) had given them. (interesting dialogue from a judge of Israel ...) Then, Jephthah said; "Likewise, whatever the LORD our God has given us, we will possess."
What does it mean to possess? (see Blue Letter Bible)
What has God given me?
As soon as I asked these questions, I was reminded of verses like these:
I asked myself; do I really possess what God has given me?
And God reminded me of something He allowed in my life several years ago...
I was experiencing intense back spasms, and this went on for about 6 months. The pain was terrible and most of my days ended up in bed. I had been diagnosed medically with scoliosis many years prior to this incident and, for the most part, had functioned normally despite the curvature in my spine. But this season was different.
We were leading a small congregation at the time and the Lord was taking us (and the church) through significant change. It was a revival of sorts in our church community. We were growing, and God's presence was significant among us. We moved to a larger facility and then this pain hit me. I remember feeling like it was a spiritual attack of some sort but didn't know how to verbalize that to people without them thinking I was a bit weird. So, I did what I knew that I could. I got physical attention... went to the doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor, took the med's prescribed, etc. But still did not find relief. I got spiritual attention... asked for prayer for healing, declared promises of healing over myself regularly, confessed anything that I thought might be a cause to this happening to me, submitted myself to deliverance processes (I was desperate to be free from months of chronic pain!), etc. Some of this season is embarrassing for me to think about now, but I do not regret going through it! God taught me a lot (although it was kind of a hard way).
After exhausting all the avenues that I was aware of at the time, I had to wait it out before God. I fell asleep many times (and with much medication) listening to a lot of great teaching (like Joyce Meyer) and worship music. My spirit was fed by those who spoke and sang hope. I made a practice to, as much as possible, speak life over my body. I would declare the promises of God over and over. My back still didn't change.
I don't recall the date or circumstance when the pain stopped, but I suddenly realized that it had. There were a number of people who had been praying for me in this season and I knew instinctively that God had answered mine and their cries for His intervention.
And here's the part that resonated with me as I was reading the story from Judges. Something landed in my spirit the day God took the pain away and caused the spasms to stop. As I read, He reminded me of it. It was an understanding, a confidence that the pain would not happen to me in that way ever again... if I stood my ground, not unlike what Jephthah told the Ammonite king, or what is described in Luke 10:19. I became aware of the gift, the inheritance that God had given when He healed my back and innately understood that it was mine to keep. I felt an authority that I had not felt before. Any time I felt spasms starting up in my back again, I simply (and tenaciously) would say 'NO' and they would stop! The interesting thing to me was that I had done that many times prior to this moment of God releasing healing to me, but nothing changed. I had told the pain to go in Jesus' name and nothing had changed. Somehow this was different.
I was well for several months and then the headaches hit! They would travel up the right side of my neck and knock me off my feet for a few hours. I was getting 2 or 3 of these daily. The doctor said they were like migraines but not textbook as they were just as intense but much shorter. I went through all of the same process of what I described above and then, after about six months, God lifted it. How did I know it was God? I cannot explain that to you but I knew and, like the back spasms, I then had an authority over that kind of headache that I didn't seem to have before. Any time I felt the pain traveling up my neck in the same manner, I would say 'NO' and it would retreat. In fact, even as I was writing this article it happened... I said 'NO'!
I don't understand all of this other than I must stand my ground and walk in what God has given to me. Galatians 5:1 says; "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." That is my definition of this verse; I will gratefully possess and occupy the land of my inheritance. I will testify and allow fruit to grow from what He has given me.
What has the Lord given me? Oh my, how can I write that all here? He has given so much - life, salvation, healing, hope, grace, mercy, forgiveness, family, possessions, creative abilities, health, peace, purpose, heaven, His presence...
How great and how vast He is!!! I never lack adventure in Him. He is better than, holier than, greater than I can even imagine. He is always more. He is not a better love, He is love. He is not a brighter light, He is light. He is goodness, kindness, gentleness, and humility. He heals, delivers, and rescues. He is God - the one true God. I can rest in Him. I can trust His ways. He has given all this and more to me in Himself, in Jesus. I will praise Him forever!
"Whatever the Lord has given me, I will possess."
God's word still talks! He is alive and active. The best part is that he speaks personally to those who will listen for him, with just as much life & effectiveness as when he spoke the world into being. He is a light in dark places. Here's an excerpt from my journal of some quick thoughts that came to me while I pondered this...
"Speak Lord. I am listening.
Because of that, I am living!"
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 ESV
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5