Advent Readings Day 30

Reading: Luke 2:8 – 21

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 2:20

If you had good news to deliver, who would you choose to deliver it to?  Call all of your friends?  Send a press release to the news?  Call in the media?  Post it on Facebook?  There would be people whom you couldn’t wait to get the news to, because after all it is good news.

Who does God choose to send the Good News to of His plan of redemption reaching its climax in the birth of a baby?  Wouldn’t it make sense to send the news out to the governments of the world, the political powers and the religious establishment?  When there is good news, doesn’t it make sense to get that news into the hands of the power brokers who then can use their outlets to get the news to a broad audience?  Or, wouldn’t it make sense that God would call in a group of His most dedicated followers who could start a reform movement among the religious establishment?  Isn’t this the most exciting day in the history of the world after all?

Instead, God in His infinite wisdom chooses a group of shepherds out in the field, camped out watching their flocks.  He sends a group of angels in all of their majesty to them to announce that The King has come.   The angels come delivering a message to the shepherds that is not only to be good news for them, but rather Good News for all people.  What was so special about a group of shepherds?

There was nothing special about a group of shepherds.  They were Losers. Capital “L”.  Shepherds within the culture were outcast people.  They provided a very important job for the community in the provision of sheep, however they were seen as outcast .  James Montgomery Boice writes this about their role, “Shepherds were a despised class in first-century Palestine. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law, which meant a lot to religious people. Shepherds were also considered unreliable and were not even allowed to give testimony in the law courts.” (How Should We Celebrate Christmas by Dr. James Montgomery Boice).

What was God thinking?  He chose to send the message of His Plan of Redemption hitting full speed, to them?  Yet, this is the group that He picked to not only hear the message, but then to be the ones to “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.”  Incredible.  Unreal.  Unbelievable.

But, if we look at God’s concern for the marginalized throughout the Old Testament and then see Jesus’ concern during the New Testament, maybe it isn’t so shocking after all.  Is it really that surprising that the One who would choose to spend his time hanging out with the sinners, the tax collectors and the prostitutes would choose a group of despised shepherds to be the first to hear the good news and then make them the ones to relay the message to their friends?  These were not the power brokers, rather these were the ones with friends in low places.  And, the Good News spread.

As we sit here, the day after Christmas 2012, may we remain mindful of two things.  The first is that the core Gospel message was not spread through super stars then, nor is it now.  Jesus has chosen you and I, no matter our background nor our status to spread the news about Him.  You qualify. Even if you are a loser.  Maybe, especially if you are a loser.  The second is for us to remember that The Good News of Jesus needs to continue to go out to the lonely, the despised, the outcast and the rejected.  He chose the unreliable, despised, non-religious, impoverished outcast to be the first recipients of The Good News of His birth over 2000 years ago, and I believe His heart is that it still reach their ears today.

How will you and I make it happen today?

Advent Readings Day 29

Reading: Luke 2:1 – 7

“While they were there, 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: 6 – 7

I never get tired of reading the story of Jesus’ birth.  The sights, sounds, smells – it all draws me in to consider the humility of Our King’s birth.  It leads me deep into contemplation as I consider why He chose to do it this way and it leads me into reflection as I wonder about the various implications for us to have a Suffering Servant as our Master and King who leads us to follow His example.

This morning we will rise and engage in our family rituals. There won’t be gifts under the tree, because we reserve that gift giving for birthdays.   We’ll have a simple Christmas morning complete with a Baked Oatmeal cake with a candle to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and a reading of this passage from Luke 2.  Simple. Quiet.  Peaceful.  Somewhat ordinary, yet fully extraordinary.

Let’s face it, any time we read this passage, we are caught up into the most extraordinary of events.  Total humility of a feed trough yet shepherds who hear the news and come running.  No room for the new king yet the angels declare His arrival.   King of Kings and Suffering Servant.  Lord of Lords and Humble One.  Philosopher kings willing to travel thousands of miles to bow in worship before a young child.

Today as you spend time together, take some time to read The Christmas Story.  Don’t read it like it is the 500th time you’ve read it, but rather be caught up in the ordinariness and the extraordinariness of it all.  And as you reflect, may Jesus meet you and challenge you to live for Him afresh and anew.

Merry Christmas!

Advent Readings Day 28


Reading: Matthew 1:18 – 25 

“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’  When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.”  Matthew 1:22 – 25

As a father, one of my favorite tasks was getting to name our children.  Christy and I prayed for each of our children and sought God for what it was that He desired the meaning of the names of our children to be.  We felt in naming them, we were somehow trying to get His heart for our children as well as His plans.   My favorite naming was for our daughter Caia.  We felt that she was to have a name that meant Joy, but without naming her Joy.  We poured over the books and the websites, but nothing was fitting – then finally we dug into languages and came out with Caia – to rejoice.  Today, she is full of joy and brings that joy to others.

Here Joseph is getting instruction on naming Jesus, because of what He is going to become.  If we look closely we’ll see that there are two names that Jesus is to be called by – Jesus and Emmanuel.  Both have incredible meanings for us to ponder this day before Christmas.  Both of these names will forever transform the landscape of the world.  His character found in these 2 names changes everything for us.

First, take the name Jesus that the angel speaks to Joseph.  “You are to name Him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  A foretelling of what Jesus is going to do.  The Savior.  The one who saves us from our sins.   The one who comes into a world filled with brokenness, sinfulness, injustice and darkness.   He was born into this world – and He saves you and I from our sins.  He calls us to life, wholeness and holiness.  What has He saved you from?

Chances are that tonight you are going to have a full time of celebration.  Maybe you will attend a Christmas Eve service.  Maybe you will have a time of feasting with family.   Chances are there is a celebration you are going to find yourself in.  While there, take just a few moments to consider why you are celebrating.  Take some time to let the reality of the One who was named Savior, Jesus, came to save you.   He has redeemed you.  Can it get any better?

I think it can.  Take the other name mentioned here for Jesus, Emmanuel, God with Us.  What does this word really mean?  It turns us toward Jesus becoming like us and making His home among us as He walked the earth.  But, it also turns us toward the fact that He is still present to us.  As you spend time in celebration tonight, consider the idea that He is Present to you.  He is there celebrating with you. He was there before you arrived and He will linger after you leave.  He is with you – making His Presence known to you.  You don’t have to wait until someday in the future to see the benefit of salvation. No, He is right there with you and He loves to make His Presence known.

Jesus. Emmanuel.  There’s something amazing about those names.