Monday, December 19, 2011
When my boys were small, they each wanted a sheep for Christmas. How happy they were when they received their pregnant ewes which soon after birthed the cutest, cuddliest lambs you can imagine. Who can resist such a gift? Who can resist the best gift of all—Jesus, the Lamb of God and the Great Shepherd?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
Christmas and the Cross
Long before Christ was born in a manger, Isaiah prophesied His birth. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His Name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) You may have heard those words sung in Handel’s Messiah. Because of Isaiah’s prophecy-come-true, we can celebrate Christmas with joy and thanksgiving.
For centuries, God’s people looked for the coming of the Savior. When watchful shepherds heard angels herald the good news of Jesus’ coming, they were so jubilant they left their post to follow God’s star to the stable where He was born. Most residents of Judea looked for someone who would release them from captivity of the enemy—the harsh rulers of the land. Perhaps that hasn’t changed. Perhaps some of us also look to Jesus, our Savior, as the One who will “make things better for us.”
There’s more to Christmas than the birth of Jesus, however. For there can be no birth without death. The newly-budded flower, the salmon roe, the embryo in a woman’s womb all live for a God-given purpose and then die.
We can’t celebrate Jesus’ unique birth without celebrating the reason for which He came to earth—to die for our sins. Isaiah 53:4-5 states: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
The good news is that although Christmas eventually brought Good Friday, it didn’t end there. The crux of the Christian faith is not in Jesus’ death, but in His bodily resurrection. Without the resurrection, we would have no Christmas to celebrate, no way to be reconciled with God. “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
We can celebrate His wonderful and miraculous birth with great joy! We can happily exchange gifts with those we love. We can be inspired by the words in Scripture that tell of the Good News of Jesus’ birth, His death, and His resurrection.
Lord, as we celebrate Your birth, help us remember that Your death and resurrection fulfilled Your purpose for our lives. Help us to share the Good News of salvation this Christmas. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, December 12, 2011
This black bear that visited our backyard one summer looked pretty content once he pulled down two bird feeders and then sprawled out to partake of the goodies. How he must have sang thanks for such bounty!
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
A Song in the Air
At Jesus’ birth, angels visited shepherds, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!” (Luke 2: 14) Their music must have been a balm to the weary souls of those shepherds, knowing God was sending His promised deliverer to the world.
Music was a balm to Paul and Silas too while imprisoned and in shacked. Their songs of praise to God surely were like salve to their physical and emotional wounds and to the other prisoners. Music is soothing to our souls, also, when we are troubled.
God provides us with many kinds of music and joyful noise. Did you know that animals sing? Whales make inaudible, ultra-sensitive “music” while moving through the water. Bears and other mammals “sing” to their young and to their mates. Even rocks cry out! Jesus told the Pharisees after they told Him to rebuke His followers who shouted hosannas to Him, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40) Imagine! If we don’t “sing” hosannas to Christ, the very rocks in the fields will. Even a donkey “talked.” Check out Numbers 22. And the book of Job tells of how God spoke to him about “the morning stars singing together.”
We can also hear God’s praises in the form of rustling leaves on a breezy day, in the hissing and crackling songs of the aurora borealis, and through the kind words of a friend or loved one. It even comes through God’s still, small voice as He speaks to our hurting hearts—and through the songs of Christmas.
Who doesn’t feel happy hearing the hymn, “Joy to the World, the Lord is come”? Heaven and nature surely do sing at such Good News. What heart cannot help but leap at the sound of Handel’s oratorio, The Messiah, as it tells of the prophecies and their fulfillment of Christ’s birth?
Yet, earthly music is drowned out by the sounds of “tens thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands (of angels) saying with a loud voice: worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:9)
Lord, we celebrate Your birth with joyful music in anticipation of hearing the sounds of Your heavenly choirs. May we not forget to share the Good News of Jesus’ salvation, as the shepherds shared on that first Christmas night. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Monday, December 5, 2011
We can buy what we think is the perfect gift for that special someone in our lives, but it won’t compare to the priceless gift of our Savior Jesus Christ. The magi brought extremely valuable gifts to the Baby Jesus. They sensed that here lay Someone worth far more than what they gave. What can we bring our Savior, the priceless, perfect One, except our love and obedience, our heartfelt thanks and praise, and our compelling desire to share the Good News of His birth, death, and resurrection?
ETERNAL PERSPECTIVES by Sally Bair
They’re endless. Write and send the annual Christmas letter. Shop for the perfect gifts. Wrap the gifts. Find the perfect tree. Trim the tree. Hang the stockings. Practice for the pageant. Prepare the special meal. Open the gifts. Dress for the pageant. Perform without stumbling. Entertain family and friends. Collapse.
The details vary from family to family. For some, it’s the matter of preparing for a trip. For others, it’s finding ways to survive the pain of loss. For most, it’s going through the steps listed above. Regardless, we can get lost in the Christmas details.
The good news is that God is in the details. His details have eternal meaning. His details for Christmas began in the Garden of Eden where He prophesied the coming of Christ the Savior. Throughout the Old Testament, we find thousands of details God reveals about Christmas. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Chapter 9 of Isaiah also tells us about Jesus, the holy Child—the names He will be called, the purpose of His coming to earth.
Other books of prophecy add to God’s details. And they all culminate in those given in the Gospels about the birth of Jesus. Every detail had significance: Mary’s virgin birth, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth who was about to give birth to John the Baptist, and the glorious experience of the shepherds who heard angels praising God and telling them to go to the stable to worship Jesus. They tell about the brilliant star that led three wise men to the same stable, the dreams God gave Joseph about the baby and about leaving Bethlehem to seek safety in Egypt, and the subsequent dream about returning to Nazareth where Jesus grew up.
Yes, God is in the details. Our man-made details, however, are mere add-ons of little consequence. We gain a clearer perspective of Christmas when we focus on God’s details rather than our own. Christmas is about giving—giving of ourselves to God for His glory first before we give to our family and friends. It’s about relaxing in His presence instead of hurrying to fulfill all the details we add—many unnecessarily—to make Christmas “real.” Rather than being lost in the Christmas details of our making, we can find Christ in God’s details.
Lord, give us a clear perspective of the true meaning of Christmas. Help us focus on Your details about Jesus’ birth rather than on our own. In Jesus’ name, amen.