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 26 – The shepherds tell their story

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Christmas Day may be over but the Christmas story is just beginning. From the start of Genesis when sin was first introduced into the world, God has been telling us about the Savior. Not a day has gone by where there was not hope of a Messiah to come. It started with the Abrahamic covenant where God promised Abraham that all of the world would be blessed through his offspring. Then the Davidic covenant is where God promised that the Messiah would come from the line of David. Next, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Micah prophesied about the coming of the Messiah 700 years before it happened. And now we have the shepherds testimony.

And the shepherds 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 (from the angels) concerning this Child.  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Luke 2:16-20

May you believe in this season of miracles, from the virgin birth to the angels visiting the shepherds, and ponder them in your heart just like Mary. For with God, the Creator of our world, nothing is impossible – then or now.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 24 – The birth of Jesus

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On a quiet unsuspecting night, the Savior came into the world. And the world has never been the same.

While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place. – Luke 2:6-7

As the Christmas rush begins to quieten down, the stores are closing, the gifts are bought, and the world prepares to stop for a day, remember what this simple but profound birth means to our world.

No matter what you may be dealing with this Christmas season, and so many of us are, I pray that you will stop for a few minutes on this Christmas Eve and ask Jesus to surround you with His love and peace and hope. For Jesus truly is the reason for the holiday.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 23 – Celebrations

Christmas Tree and Forest --- Image by © Jim Craigmyle/CORBIS

“I am Yahweh who sets you apart, the One who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh.” – Leviticus 22:32-33

God is to be revered and holy, but God also wants us to have joyful celebrations so that we may remember His good deeds and provisions, and to pass those traditions down to our families. God gave the Israelites many festivals and holy days in the Old Testament to set them apart as a people and to proclaim the glory of God to all. There were festivals for Passover, the Festival of Trumpets, the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Day of Atonement, Purim, and the Festival of Firstfruits just to name a few. Jesus also continued many of those traditions, and much of our tradition and culture today have those same roots.

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated as a holiday on December 25th was in 336 AD, during the time of the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine.

The 16th century German preacher Martin Luther was thought to be the first one to bring a Christmas tree into the house for decoration. He said that seeing a star on the tree reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.

The first Christmas card was started in the United Kingdom in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who was interested in how the new public post office could be used by everyone.

The poinsettia flower and leaves are thought of as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

St. Nicholas was a Bishop in 4th century AD in Asia Minor, now called Turkey. His parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it. What a legacy!

The custom of giving and receiving presents reminds us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men – gold, frankincense and myrrh. And of course, the biggest present of all is Jesus! God loved the world so much, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life. John 3:16

May you remember the origins and traditions of the Christmas holiday as a way to celebrate the joy and life that comes from God.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 21 – Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

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Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. – Luke 2:4-5

Mary and Joseph are both descendants of King David. Joseph is from the line of David’s son, King Solomon, and a legal heir to the throne. Mary is from the line of Nathan, David’s other son, and therefore her biological children are blood-line heirs to the throne of David.

Both Mary and Joseph are from Nazareth in Galilee but they travel to Bethlehem in Judea to be registered, as decreed by Caesar Augustus. This is why Jesus is often referred to as the Nazarene from Galilee though he was born in the small town of Bethlehem.

All of this fulfills the prophecies as written 700 years earlier.

May you believe this Christmas, in the God who came down to earth to dwell among his creation, and to teach us how to love, to forgive, and to show us the way to eternal salvation.

* Merry Christmas *