Thinking About Christmas

There are so many passages in the Word of God that tell us that He is motivated towards us by love, that Jesus came and lived among us out of the motivation of love (Philippians 2.4-8, John 3.16-17 to use two examples).

Charles Ryrie said of love that it is seeking God’s will for the person/people that you love. From this we can say that Jesus came, lived, died, rose, and ascended all out of love for you, and that He was seeking to action God’s will for you by allowing you to be reconciled to God in right relationship through faith in Him. 

Christmas, then, is when we pause and celebrate and commemorate the fact that He did come, that God expressed His love for you in such a powerful and real way as to send His image to live and walk among us…and that started with Christmas, didn’t it.

Because of this what is our duty as believers at Christmas, what should we be mindful of at Christmas?

Speech – what are you talking about at Christmas? Is is the trappings of the season, or is it the reason for the season? Are you talking yourself up, or are you building others up? (1 Corinthians 14.3).

Spending – what are you spending money on and time with at Christmas? Is it worldly and selfish pleasure and gain, or is it on and with Him? (1 John 3.16).

Selves – if someone dropped by your house on Christmas Day, would there be any explicit evidence that this is a household celebrating the coming of Jesus?

We who have heard the Good News and experienced freedom through Christ are responsible to proclaim it to others still enslaved by sin.

Christmas is the perfect time to do that, with our speech, our spending, and our selvesThis is the message of Christmas, isnt it, God’s expression of His love for you. This is the message that we need to share. It is so important that we share it with our speech, our spending, and our selves.

Are we doing all we can to make sure that people get the message?

Humble Beginnings // O Come Let Us Adore

Charles Spurgeon wrote this about the wonderful event that we are preparing to celebrate.

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

Isaiah 7.14

Let us to-day go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see Him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in Him, and can sing, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance His miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, “The seed of the woman,” not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to His human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that He may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note His humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as “a virgin,” not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!

Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.

It doesn’t matter where we are from, it doesn’t matter our earthly circumstances, Immanuel will meet us there as He did with Mary, and will work in us the same magnitude of wondrous deeds should you let Him. 

Today then, as Spurgeon wrote, let us go down to Bethlehem in our minds and let us spend time simply seeing and revering the child born to take away our sins, and not only ours but the sins of the entire world.

Let us notice His humble beginnings, and let us notice that from this unassuming starting point the wondrous power of God shone forth from His life.

A Prophetic Christmas

What are you planning to give people this Christmas?

Did you buy them the latest or greatest — ?

Maybe you’re a person that thinks of gift ideas so easily that this time of year is no problem for you.

Maybe you have no idea what you can give people, and so Christmas is a time where you worry about over/under gifting.

How about a word of prophecy?

Perhaps you hear this word and think of the Old Testament guys and gals who predicted (accurately and without fail) future events concerning God’s people and God’s coming Messiah (Micah 4.8, 5.2, Isaiah9.2-7 for example). Let’s be clear: that is not what we are talking about. That ministry is no more.

However, we do read in 1 Corinthians 14.3 that those who speak a word of prophecy speak to someone for their upbuilding, their encouragement, or they consolation.

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

In contrast (on the other hand) to the gift of tongues which is personal and private (1 Corinthians 14.2, 5b, 6, 9, 19), prophecy is for others, prophecy is using your words in accordance with God’s Word to build people up, encourage people, and to console people.

So, this Christmas season, many people are so concerned with many things. Be a person who gives a word of prophecy, a word of upbuilding, a word of encouragement, a word of consolation. Second only to the unmatchable gift of God’s expressed love to you in the person of Jesus, I’m not sure there is anything more we can give people than love, upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation. 

Simeon and Salvation

Lets set the scene – so here is young Jesus, baby Jesus, and He is taken to temple (Luke2.22-23). This is before the wise men arrived, and His earthly parents offer the required sacrifice as part of the dedication ceremony for families that could not afford a lamb (v.24)., and in Luke 2.25-35 we read 

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;

 for my eyes have seen your salvation

 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.””

So here is Simeon, waiting for the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Consolation of Israel, and he takes up Jesus in his arms. He blesses God, he loves this baby despite only just having met him, so to speak, because he knows who He is, and what He is bringing…salvation.

Simeon knew that this was salvation for all, notice with me what he said…

…my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

All people, not just Israel, not just Jews, but Gentiles too, salvation is here for everyone through this person.

Though Mary and Joseph had been told that their Son was the Messiah (Matthew 1.21), perhaps they had not properly understood the global scale of what this child would accomplish.

Jesus was then, and is now, and always will be, God’s salvation.

Simeon saw, and Simeon knew. Simon knew that he saw the Lord’s salvationa light for revelation, and the glory of God. I wonder if you have ever seen Jesus like that, as your own personal salvation, as a revelation of who God is, as the glory of God walking and talking in human flesh.

If you have, then this Christmas do everything you can in your own words and ways to manifest that to others, to show others what you believe.

If you haven’t, all it takes is faith; believe Him, believe in Him, put your trust in Him, and the gift you will receive this Christmas will be the best gift ever, the gift you need the most, forgiveness and life eternal. 

Christmas Gifts

As a kid I was always excited to see what gifts would be waiting for me on Christmas morning, waiting to see what cool new stuff I could play with, or, at least, pretend to be excited about until I found something I really really wanted…encyclopaedia and shower gel, awesome…where’s the toys, the ball!

Then, when we saw my grandparents the next day, the whole thing would repeat; soap, wow, thanks Grandma, socks, awesome, thanks Grandad, super practical, but where is the new computer game?

But, little did I know, that those gifts which might have looked a little dull to me as a young boy were probably the most practical and useful gifts that were coming my way that particular Christmas. I didn’t know why I’d need a new set of compasses and rulers for school, or a pair of summer shorts when it was 2 degrees outside (that’s celsius, too) but someone did, didn’t they, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought them for me.

Think of the gifts that Jesus received from the wise men (Matthew 2.1-12); Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These gifts might have seen a little odd, but, they had a very practical purpose. 

Last time I checked, one ounce of gold cost around BD556, and in Jesus’ time, it would have been even more valuable.  

The spices (frankincense and myrrh) were also very valuable, and at this time, may have even been as costly as gold in terms of weight. So, very practical gifts. The family could have sold them and lived off the money. But, there is also a great deal of spiritual symbolism in the gifts offered.

What did these gifts represent symbolically,

prophetically, for the future?

Gold is associated with royalty and deity in the Bible, regular folks like you and me don’t have much gold hanging around at home (I don’t anyway) and it was a gift given to kings around the time of Christ’s birth. The wise men’s first gift of gold symbolised Jesus’ role as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, God of gods. Not only did the gold represent Christ’s deity, it also represented his Kingship. Gold is often associated with kingship and ruling authority in the scriptures.

Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be, fully God. 

After the resurrection Thomas  declared,

“My Lord and My God”

John 20:28

Frankincense was a type of incense burned as a sacrifice and used by priests during services of worship around the time of Christ’s birth. 

Frankincense is a strong smelling resin that you get from the bark on a certain species of tree. The most popular use of frankincense in the Bible was the burning of incense by the priests, so, the wise men’s gift of frankincense symbolised Jesus’ priesthood

In Exodus 30.34-36, God gave specific instructions for a special blend of incense to be burned exclusively by the priest.

34 The Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), 35 and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. 36 You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you.

The frankincense that the wise men gave to Christ symbolized His priesthood. The Bible plainly teaches that Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4.14-16). 

Myrrh is a gum-like resin, similar to frankincense, and it comes from a bushy tree.

Myrrh smells good, and it had many uses in Biblical times. Myrrh is most frequently associated, however, with suffering and death. It was often used as an embalming fluid since the strong smell would help mask the stench of a decaying body. At the death of Jesus we read this,

Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

John 19.39

The wise men’s gift of myrrh prophetically signified that Jesus was born to suffer and die. The gift of myrrh symbolised the ultimate purpose that Jesus would fulfil, His ministry, His mission here on Earth.

So, these were not random gifts; the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh carried prophetic meanings, they meant something very practical now, but, they were really gifts for the future, symbolising Jesus’ roles as a king, priest and sacrificial saviour

The wise men travelled far to give Jesus gifts.

  • They gave Him a gift of gold that symbolized his kingship and deity. 
  • They gave Him some frankincense that symbolised His priesthood, 
  • They gave Him some myrrh that symbolised His suffering and death, for us. 

Even before they set off, before they prophetically picked out His gifts, before they put them in a nice gift bag with a tag, ‘To Jesus love Magi’, there was an even better gift given. In the ultimate expression of His love for you, God gave His creation the gift of Jesus incarnate.

He is the gift of a clean slate before God, He is the gift of reconciliation, He is the gift of eternal life, He is the gift of the opportunity to have a right relationship with God. He is the gift of forgiveness from our sins.

As with my socks and shower gel, He knew that we needed that gift, even before we did.

All we have to do is take the gift. 

Will you take it? Have you taken it?

Will you take the free gift of salvation that Christ wants to give you right now? 

I pray you do, now, tomorrow, and every day.

What Is Coming?

10 days and Christmas is here. If you are a believer in Jesus, you should be able to pull back the heavy curtain of the secular Christmas and see what it is really about, and maybe (hopefully) you have even heard your Pastor talk about the fact that Jesus is the greater and greatest gift ever given. But…have you ever stopped to think why? What is really coming at Christmas? What do we celebrate and commemorate?

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called 
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9.2-7

We read that He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. This child, the son, took on humanity to become our kinsman redeemer (Ruth 3.9) and our perfect High Priest. 

This greater and greatest gift is the gift of counsel, the only person fit to guide and direct our lives. 

This greater and greatest gift is the gift of God, the only person to have seen and to be able to show us the Father.

This greater and greatest gift is the gift of life everlasting, the only person to have walked the earth that is truly eternal, having no beginning nor end of days, and the only person able to restore us to right relationship with God.

This greater and greatest gift is the gift of peace, not as the world thinks of peace, but true, lasting, inner peace with God. 

Jesus brings a great light (v.2), complete and total victory over the power of sin and its consequences in our lives (v.4), and a great peace (v.5). The best thing is, He invites us to be a part of all of this! He is the gift of a fresh start, a chance to live the life you were made to live, a chance to have sins past, present, and future forgiven. 

That is what is coming, and that is why He is the greatest gift.

Have you taken it, will you take it?

Joy To The World

Do you remember when you were a kid and Christmas Day rolled around? You tore into something lovingly wrapped and discovered that thing you had been wanting for so long…oh the joy you felt! You could not, at that moment, have felt any happier. The joy you felt was indescribable; that someone loved you enough to give you exactly what you wanted, exactly what you needed, and they willingly paid the price for you to have it.

Joy to the World describes, essentially, this feeling.

Joy to the world
Joy to the world
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And Heaven and nature sing

The whole Old Testament in your Bible points forward to the coming of the Lord (if you don’t have a Bible read it here for free!). The New Testament documents the life and legacy of the Lord Jesus, and one thing constantly associated with Him is joy.

The song is filled with Scripture (Isaiah 9.6, Isaiah 11.10, John 12.15,  Revelation 17.14, Revelation 19.11-16, and Psalm 98.5-9 to name some!).

As we made room in our lives for that gift we ripped open on Christmas Day, possibly discarding old things to make way for it, this year let every heart prepare Him room, discarding old things and receiving our King