31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 4 – God chooses a family

harpist

From the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nation of Israel had increased to over a million people. Their large numbers were seen as a threat and they were held captive in Egypt for 400 years until God calls Moses to lead the people out of bondage to a place called Mt. Sinai (modern day Saudi Arabia). There, God gives them instructions for building a tabernacle for worship, and they soon become an organized people with a system of laws and government. Joshua becomes the next leader and he leads the people into the Promised Land in Canaan, the land God had promised to Abraham.

The nation of Israel is ruled by judges for several years after this until a prophet by the name of Samuel is born. Samuel is the last judge of Israel before the people decide they want to have a king like the other nations. They choose Saul to be their first king, though he later goes mad. God then tells the prophet Samuel to anoint a young man named David from the tribe of Judah to be their next king.

King David is a popular and successful king. But even more importantly, he is chosen by God. The prophet Nathan has a vision for King David, and this becomes the Davidic Covenant. It is an unconditional covenant, which means it cannot be undone by our own actions. It states that an everlasting kingdom will come from the house of David. This becomes the fourth prophecy about the coming Messiah and Savior.

2 Samuel 7:16
“Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever,
and your throne will be established forever.’”

All three of these things (house, kingdom, and throne) are fulfilled in Jesus, as told by the angel Gabriel to the virgin Mary, who was from the house of David.

Luke 1:32-33
“He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.”

May you experience the joy and good news that was announced by the angel Gabriel on that night long ago,
when God came down to earth to fulfill His promise of a Savior and a Kingdom that will never end.

 * Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 13 – An angel visits Zechariah

isaiah-scroll_lFour hundred years of silence from God spans the time between the Old Testament writings and the New Testament. No more prophets, no more prophecy, and no more discipline. Were the people awaiting the Messiah or had they given up? Did they feel forgotten?

Even though there is no further word from God during this period, prophecy is being fulfilled and a lot of activity is happening. Daniel’s prophecy for three of the four major kingdoms is fulfilled with amazing accuracy: Medo-Persia in 539 BC, Greece in 331 BC, and Rome in 63 BC. The area of Jerusalem is now called Judea, the Romans replaced the Persians, and Latin and Greek are the new major languages. The one temple of the Old Testament is now transformed into a new form of Jewish government, by way of synagogues and the positions of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Sanhedrin.

The Jews produce many writings during this period. One is known as the Qumran scrolls, or Dead Sea scrolls. The Qumran society lived around the Dead Sea area when the scrolls were written. They believed in a “new covenant” or messianic theology that looked for the Messiah and followed the prophetic promises. Ironically, these scrolls were discovered by shepherds in a cave in 1947. This happens one year before Israel becomes a nation again, almost 2600 years after they were first exiled.

Now we enter into the New Testament period of the Christmas story, where we have the writings from a Gentile doctor named Luke. Luke is my favorite gospel book to read. I like his style, and much of the Christmas story we hear today comes from Luke. It is a more modern style of writing than what we previously read in the Old Testament. Luke explains things in a very factual and methodical way. Here is his account of what becomes the beginning of the fulfillment of the Messiah, the birth of the forerunner to Christ.

Luke 1:1-24
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

When Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, it happened that he was chosen by
lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
And he will go before Him
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children,
and the disobedient
to the understanding of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

May God bring you comfort and reassurance in these messages of angels and prophets, proclaiming the good news of this Holy season of Christ’s birth.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 14 – Gabriel visits Mary

annunciation2Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14 

Here we continue with the story of events told by Luke.

Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month (of Elizabeth’s pregnancy), the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.  Then the angel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?

The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.

And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”

“I am the servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

May you believe this Christmas, that the God who created the world, and created you, can do anything.

* Merry Christmas

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 15 – Mary visits Elizabeth

mary-elizabeth

“For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

The angel visited both Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth will become the mother of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. Her cousin Mary will be the mother of Jesus. Luke, the storyteller doctor, continues the story here.

Luke 1:39-56
In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry:

“You are the most blessed of women,
and your child will be blessed!

How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me!  She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

And Mary said:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior,
because He has looked with favor
on the humble condition of His servant.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed,
because the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and His name is holy.
His mercy is from generation to generation
on those who fear Him.
He has done a mighty deed with His arm;
He has scattered the proud
because of the thoughts of their hearts;
He has toppled the mighty from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
He has satisfied the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
mindful of His mercy,
just as He spoke to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his descendants forever.

And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.

The one who believes is blessed. May you believe this Christmas season, and experience the blessings of God.

* Merry Christmas