31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 31 – a Kingdom with no end

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He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the oppressed, a friend to sinners, the light of the world, conquered death and was resurrected, he was loved, he was hated, he is the image of the invisible God.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy. He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:5-6

 

Baby Jesus grew up. But his story does not end after the Christmas season is over. It is only beginning, and his Kingdom has no end.

The Gospel of John was written by John, a fisherman and personal friend and disciple of Jesus. John was part of Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James and John. He witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ, was there during the Crucifixion, and Jesus asked him to take care of his mother Mary when Jesus was being crucified. John was the first disciple to recognize Jesus after His Resurrection, and he went on to live a zealous life and death for the sake of Christ. He was put into boiling oil and tortured, but when that couldn’t kill him, he was exiled to the Greek island of Pathmos. John had a deep personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and it shows in his writings:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things were created through Him,
and apart from Him not one thing was created
that has been created.
Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:1-5

The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
Indeed, we have all received grace after grace
from His fullness
for the law was given through Moses,

grace and truth came through Jesus Christ – John 1:14, 17

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.”
– Jesus, John 14:1-4

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” 
– Jesus, John 14:6

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
– Jesus, John 10:10

From Genesis 3:15 when God first promised us a Savior, to the most famous verse of the Bible found in John 3:16, God has been telling us about the promised Savior!

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

A New Year – a New Hope. It is easy sometimes to dwell on our past and look back on our mistakes, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God immediately wipes away our past and welcomes us with the righteousness of His Son Jesus. God hates the evil that tries to destroy this world and keep us away from Him, but God loves us even more and is willing to forgive us for any wrongdoing if only we ask and turn our heart towards him. Jesus’ life on earth shows us that His grace is not determined by how good or knowledgeable we are, who we are or where we happened to be born, but it is all because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Through our faith, we can have assurance that we will someday be in heaven with Jesus and His kingdom that has no end.

 May you have a blessed new year getting to know Jesus as your Savior and personal friend.
God’s mercies are new every morning!
(Lamentations 3:23)

* Happy New Year! *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 30 – Three prophecies complete the birth story of the Messiah

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The Wise Men finished worshiping the child Jesus and departed for home, being warned in a dream not to return by way of King Herod. Joseph was also told by an angel of the Lord to take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt by night, because Herod wanted to destroy the child Jesus.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet (Hosea), saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matthew 2:15

When Herod found out that he had been deceived by the Wise Men, he was very angry and put to death all male children in Bethlehem under the age of two, trying to kill the one who was Jesus.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.”
Matthew 2:17-18

When Herod was dead, the angel appeared again to Joseph and told him to take the Child and his mother to the land of Israel. And also being warned by God not to return to Judea where Herod’s son was reigning, Joseph and his family went to the region of Galilee, to the city of Nazareth.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:23

Nazareth was considered a lowly area with not much of a reputation. While there are no written prophecies about Jesus becoming a Nazarene, it was most likely meant as a description for someone who would be despised. The prophecies in Psalms and Isaiah describe this:

A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
Psalm 22:6-8

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Isaiah 53:3

 Jesus understands. He has been there as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He can help you overcome anything.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 29 – Wise Men worship Jesus

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And there it was – the star they had seen in the east! It led the Wise Men until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by another route.
Matthew 2:9-12

Let us worship Jesus the way the Wise Men did. They gave Him their treasures which they had brought with them on their trip, fully expecting to see the Messiah. They believed, they sought Him, they recognized who He was, they humbled themselves, and they obeyed God rather than man. They were truly wise, and we can be also.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 28 – Wise Men arrive

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The Wise Men had arrived in Bethlehem. Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived about two years in Bethlehem and were out of the stable and living in a house by the time the Wise Men arrived. But who were these Wise Men? They were definitely from the East, probably Persia (modern-day Iran), and would have traveled about 800-900 miles by the stars to get to Bethlehem. The prophet Daniel had been chief of the court seers at an earlier time in Persia during the Jewish exile, so these men would have been familiar with Daniel’s prophecy regarding the timing of the Messiah.

They were learned men and confident of their knowledge too. They would not have traveled such a far distance on just a hunch. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they asked King Herod where the King of the Jews had been born. They already knew he had been born. And they already knew who He was.

They must have been important men too, in order to have the attention of King Herod. But Herod had not been expecting them – they came unannounced. That seems a little unusual, but perhaps the Wise Men knew of King Herod’s reputation as a ruthless King and thought it better to not cause trouble ahead of time. King Herod was also an Edomite, who came from the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother from their father Isaac. Esau had given up his birthright and blessing to Jacob, who later became the nation of Israel. Throughout the history of the Old Testament, the Edomites had always been at conflict with Israel, and now it continued with King Herod.

The Wise Men were not Kings themselves but Magi (magicians) or Astronomers. But they believed. They had studied the history of the Jews and their prophecies. Perhaps it is symbolic that Jesus was already having victory over darkness through these Magi. And King Herod and the rest of Jerusalem was not happy about it.

The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, tells us the story of the Wise Men’s visit:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

“In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.

Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men and asked them the exact time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find Him, report back to me so that I too can go and worship Him.”

Of course Herod did not want to worship the child but to kill him. And how sad it is that all the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem – those who knew the law and knew about the prophecy of Bethlehem – did not even want to go to see it for themselves. Had their hearts become that hardened and selfish that they did not want to see the truth?

May you open your heart to the wonderful possibilities that can come from knowing Jesus.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 27 – Simeon and Anna in the temple

Rembrandt painting of Simeon at the Temple, painted in 1631

The first revelation that the Messiah had been born was told to the shepherds. Next, before the Wise Men arrived, the Messiah baby was recognized by Simeon and Anna in the temple. Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem, about six miles north of Bethlehem, to present the baby Jesus to the Lord. Luke tells us their story.

When the days of their purification (40 days) according to the law of Moses were finished, Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons) – for a poor family.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your servant in peace,
as You promised.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to Your people Israel.

His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about Him. Then Simeon blessed them and told His mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul (testifying that Mary would suffer at seeing her son’s crucifixion)—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (those of the Pharisees, Sadducees and others).

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for 84 years. She did not leave the temple complex, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about Him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

– from Luke chapter 2

May you get to know this Jesus, the One that was sent as the Messiah to all the world.

* Merry Christmas *