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 11 – Place of birth is named

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Micah was another Hebrew prophet that was a contemporary of Isaiah. He was considered to be a great communicator and was known as a prophet to the common people. If Isaiah had been the only prophet to prophesy about the coming Messiah then it might have been less believable, but when there are multiple witnesses and sources, it becomes even more credible.

Micah’s writings were read and studied by kings several hundred years after his death, and they also appear in the United States Government today. In this next prophecy from the book of Micah, he actually names the place of birth for the Messiah – Bethlehem!

Micah 5:2
Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity.

These are the words the wise men read that led them to the Star of Bethlehem. They had studied Micah’s writings, where it was prophesied 700 years earlier that the coming Messiah would be from the small town of Bethlehem, from the tribe of Judah, and with an origin from the beginning of time lasting for eternity. What incredible faith they must have had to travel such a long distance to a foreign land with nothing more than these ancient prophecies. God clearly rewarded their faith.

And today, if you look in the Library of Congress next to the U.S. Capitol building, you will see these other words from the Prophet Micah inscribed above one of the reading alcoves.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Judeo/Christian principles are found everywhere in the beginning of the U.S. Government.
~ In God We Trust is imprinted on the U.S. currency.
~ A painting of the Baptism of Pocohontas at Jamestown in 1618 hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
~ The Liberty Bell is inscribed with Leviticus 25:10 (proclaim liberty throughout all the land).
~ A large bronze statue of Moses with the 10 Commandments is located in the Library of Congress, along with over a thousand rare Bibles including an original Gutenberg Bible.
~ All 50 State Constitutions reference God.
And there are many other historical references. God rewards our faithfulness.

This Christmas season, may you have the faith of the Wise Men, the prophets Micah and Isaiah, the founding fathers of America, and countless numbers of others who have gone before us. May God bless you for your faithfulness during this special season of celebration – from a little town of Bethlehem long ago.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 7 – A child is prophesied

isaiah-and-jesus

One-third of the Bible is prophecy, and it has not been wrong yet.

300 prophecies point to the Messiah’s first coming and 400 point to his second coming.

In 1947, a scroll of the book of Isaiah, which had been copied 2000 years ago, was found near the Dead Sea. Many of the prophecies about the baby to be born come from Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah has 66 chapters, just like the Bible has 66 books.
The first 39 chapters, which are the same number of books as the Old Testament, tell of a need for a Savior.
The second 27 chapters, the same number of books as the New Testament, tell of a Savior to come.
There are 66 references to Isaiah in the New Testament.

(referenced from The Amazing Collection: The Major Prophets, by Big Dream Ministries)

Isaiah was one of the most famous prophets, and lived from 760-690 BC. This is what he said:

Isaiah 9:6-7
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.

Approximately 700 years later, it came true.

Luke 2:8-11
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

May you celebrate the joy and peace of the Christmas season, knowing that it comes from Jesus Christ the Lord who was sent to us over 2000 years ago.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 6 – Daniel’s prophecy

the-book-of-daniel

Daniel is still a well-known figure today, almost 2600 years after he lived. He was a contemporary of Confucius’ day. Though we mostly only know Daniel by his first name, we associate him with such incredible life stories as Daniel in the Lion’s Den (when he was 83 years old!), Daniel in the Fiery Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, and his interpretation of dreams. He predicted the coming of the Messiah and the exact date of Jesus’ death – 600 years before it happened!

Daniel was a Jewish prophet and known to be a good man. Even his enemies regarded him as a man of integrity and faith. Though he was in captivity in Babylonia, King Nebuchadnezzar elevated him to a high rank in his kingdom. Nothing negative has ever been written about Daniel. Jesus quoted him in Matthew 24:15 when talking about current and end times prophecies. Daniel has proven to be one we can trust. And when you add up the math of his predictions about Jesus, it cannot be easily dismissed.

When reading Daniel’s prophecy below, a “week” represents a 7-year period instead of 7 days, so it is to be multiplied by 7 to get the number of years. I have added the explanations in parenthesis.

Daniel 9:20-27
While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God— while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, came to me in my extreme weariness, about the time of the evening offering.  He gave me this explanation:

Seventy weeks are decreed (70 x 7=490 years)
about your people and your holy city—
to bring the rebellion to an end,  
to put a stop to sin,

to wipe away iniquity,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to seal up vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the most holy place.
Know and understand this:

From the issuing of the decree
to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (rebuild the temple)
until Messiah the Prince

will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. (7 x 7=49 years, 62 x 7=434 years)
It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat,
but in difficult times.
(the temple was rebuilt from 445-396 BC in 49 years)
(434 years later, Jesus has the triumphal entry into Jerusalem before His death)

After those 62 weeks
the Messiah will be cut off (put to death)

and will have nothing.
The people of the coming prince (anti-Christ)
will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end will come with a flood,
and until the end there will be war;
desolations are decreed.
He will make a firm covenant
with many for one week, (1 x 7=7 years of tribulation in the future)
but in the middle of the week
he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. (anti-Christ will turn on the people)
And the abomination of desolation
will be on a wing of the temple
until the decreed destruction
is poured out on the desolator.

The entire decree is 70 weeks or 490 years. It begins with 49 years to rebuild the temple after the exile, then 434 years until the Messiah is killed, and the remaining 7 years is to happen in the future end times with the anti-Christ. Daniel predicted the rebuilding of the temple, the coming Messiah, and the end-times with the anti-Christ. But Daniel isn’t the only one to talk of these things. The validity of the Bible is found in many sources, over many years. Jesus talked about it and often referred to the Old Testament. Paul mentioned it in the book of 2 Thessalonians and John in the book of Revelation.

I pray that you will not be fearful of the times still to come, but rejoice in the assurance we can have now in knowing the Messiah who has already come! Jesus came not to judge the world but to save it. It is a free gift of salvation available to everyone, but it is up to each of us to accept it and believe.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas story from Genesis to John: Day 3 – God chooses a tribe

the-lion-of-the-tribe-of-judahblog

Abraham is chosen by God and becomes the patriarch of the nation of Israel. His son Isaac marries Rebekah and they have twin sons Jacob and Esau. It becomes a family feud between the two brothers which lasts for centuries, and even has a connection to King Herod who attempts to kill the baby Jesus 1700 years later. The two brothers follow different paths. Jacob is given the birthright, takes the name Israel and has 12 sons who become the 12 tribes of Israel. The other brother Esau becomes angry at God, never repents, and his descendants (the Edomites) become a violent nation that is in perpetual conflict with Israel.

Of Jacob’s 12 sons, Judah’s tribe will become the line of King David. And in this third prophecy, it foretells of Judah’s tribe being the line of the coming Messiah – the One whose scepter will not depart and whose right it is to come. 

Genesis 49:1, 8-10
Then Jacob (on his deathbed) called his sons and said,
“Gather around, and I will tell you what will happen to you in the days to come.

Judah, your brothers will praise you.
Your hand will be on the necks of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
Judah is a young lion—
my son, you return from the kill.
He crouches; he lies down like a lion
or a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah
or the staff from between his feet
until He whose right it is comes
and the obedience of the peoples belongs to Him.”

A dying Jacob saw the day of Christ. He lived by faith in the promise of a Messiah to come. We can now live by faith in a Messiah that has already come! We can know Him. The prophecy of Jesus Christ is here.

May you know the peace that only Jesus Christ can bring –
an everlasting peace full of true joy that can never be taken away.

 * Merry Christmas *