Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Bundle of Joy

Scriptural Reading: Luke 2:1-17
Devotional Reading: Galatians 4:1-7

There is a Christmas song with lyrics in part, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane…Hang your stockings and say a prayer ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight…He’s got a bag that’s filled with toys for boys and girls again. Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle. What a beautiful sight…He doesn’t care if you’re a rich or poor boy. He loves you just the same. Santa knows that we’re God’s children. That makes everything right…He’ll come around when the chimes ring out. It’s Christmas morn again. Peace on earth will come to all. If we just follow the light. Let’s give thanks to the Lord above ‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.” Sometimes we are so caught up in the joy of the moment that we really do not listen to the words of songs. The words of this song really caught me off guard. It teaches nothing about the real meaning of Christmas. I can see why parents teach their children that Santa is good for them and the child must be good in order to receive. I am not against Santa per se. I am against substituting him for Jesus. Santa does not have the real bag full of goodies. Jesus does. Gal 4:6-7 identifies what we are able to receive from Jesus Christ stating, “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (NKJV) The angels sang about this glorious gift in the Christmas carol with lyrics in part, “Hark the herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled.” Jesus is the light of our salvation. He was the gift of God to give sinners the opportunity to be reconciled and have eternal life. That’s a greater blessing than any toy.

This quarter of study is entitled “Jesus and the Just Reign of God”. We are in Unit I – “God Sends Jesus” of the three units of the quarter. This is the fourth lesson of a five-lesson study. We shall study the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus as recorded in the book of Luke.

Luke ch 2 begins with a statement of the political oppression taking place during the time that the fullness of time came for the birth of Jesus. However, being loyal and good persons, Joseph and Mary were obedient to the Roman law and traveled to the city of Bethlehem. It is recorded at Luke 2:1-7, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (NKJV) The place where Jesus was born, Bethlehem, had been foretold (Micah 5:2). It was very important for Him to be born in the place where His ancestor David was born and worked as a shepherd boy. He could have been born in Jerusalem or Zion where King David ruled, but Jesus wanted to be humbled. The name of the city Bethlehem is significant also. It means house of bread. Jesus is the bread of life, the bread from heaven. When He was born He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger for there was no room in the inn. Mary and Joseph were poor financially but rich spiritually. This picture in Luke shows that God identifies with the poor and oppressed. The Baby was laid with signs of humility and poverty because His own received Him not. God’s reign of love, justice, and human flourishing was just born. He would be victorious over death and a world of fear, oppression, and injustice.

As humans we might not have accepted the glory surrounding the birth of Christ because it was so humble. Yet God sent the message by a choir of angels and no one is excluded from His purpose regardless of economic status. The gospel of Luke includes the experience of ordinary field shepherds. They were working, alert and not sleep when they received the news from the first angel. Their experience is recorded at Luke 2:8-14, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the LORD stood before them, and the glory of the LORD shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the LORD. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (NKJV) The hope and faith of these shepherds came alive after their fears were calmed by the angel and they heard the message of the birth of the promised Messiah. It had to be true. They had been serenaded by a divine choir of angels. They had been given a location to find him in Bethlehem. He would not be in a palace or the best house, dressed up in robes, and with a great number of attendants. Instead He would be found wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. That should be simple enough to locate Him. He would be located among the common people.

On a typical night of watching over their sheep, the shepherds’ field task was disrupted with the angels visit. Now they had to decide whether to visit the manger scene. But they had been chosen by God to receive a divine announcement of the birth of His Son. They must visit and tell the world. Their experience is further recorded at Luke 2:15-17, “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the LORD has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” (NKJV) They had witnessed the angelic hosts introducing the Messiah into the world. Now they had seen the Messiah in His humble surroundings. The Williams Brothers sing a song with lyrics in part, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody, about somebody, who can save anybody.” The shepherds published their experience near and far, in accordance with the will of God.

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

Written by Deborah C Davis

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