What Child Is This? (a Christmas devotion)

Why lies he in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading

Nails, spears shall pierce him through
The cross be borne for me, for you
Hail, hail, the Word made flesh
The Babe, the Son of Mary

William Dix’s classic carol What Child Is This? beautifully captures the Gospel.

The first line asks the question about the identity of baby Jesus. Mary and Joseph, of course, knew because God has sent angels to tell them. After Jesus was born, shepherds in nearby fields knew, as God sent a whole choir of angels to tell them. The close of the first stanza captures this story from Luke’s Gospel, answering: “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.”

But it is, perhaps, the second stanza (quoted above) that gets to the heart of why Jesus came to earth.

Yes, at that moment, the eternal King was a humble child sleeping in a hay loft and surrounded by barn animals, but one day that child would grow. Then, about three decades later, the man that baby became would die for the sins of his people.

When Mary and Joseph presented the 8-day old Jesus at the temple, a man named Simeon approached and told 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–that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35, Christian Standard Bible).

At that time, Simeon’s words may have been mysterious to Mary or perhaps even difficult for her to hear, but they hinted at the great reality captured in Dix’s hymn: The day would come where Jesus would be pierced through to bear the cross. Yet, this would not be his defeat but his, and ours through faith, victory.

The baby, Jesus, was born to grow and die so that all others babies who would grow to trust in him could have the goodness of life eternal.

What Child is this? the song asks.

This is Christ, the King, the one who saves.

art blurred blurry bokeh
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Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (a Christmas devotion)

Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s linage coming
As men of old have sung.

It came, a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.

Lo’ How a Rose is a Fifteenth Century German hymn based upon the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 that a branch would grow up from the stump of Jesse and bear fruit. That verse was a reminder to God’s people that even if they seemed defeated and the spiritual night seemed long, there would be victory. God had not left his people and never would.

The song captures this promise well.

Think of the lines: “It came, a flower bright, amid the cold of winter when half-gone was the night.” The winter in mind was not so much the winter months as the winter brought on by our sin.

Spring and summer are the seasons of life and growth. Winter is when things appear dead and cold. Winter is when the days grow shorter and darkness longer. Winter is when many people struggle with seasonal depression. Winter, then, is an illustration of the darkness of our sin.

Our rebellion against God makes the world seem cold and the darkness long. Sometimes, we wonder if the light and warmth will return. We long for the hope of life. It is in this setting, spiritually speaking, that Jesus came as a rose. The stem burst up through the snow and into the darkness and a flower opened.

The winter cold would not win. Life would be victorious.

Though Jesus has already come and has promised to come again, the world still often seems locked in a spiritual winter. No wonder, Jesus warned in Matthew 24, that the love of many would grow cold. Yet, that rose is there. The solstice has passed and the light is growing brighter.

Jesus is in the world today through his Spirit and his church to bring his light against the darkness. Thus, the third stanza of the song: “The Flow’r whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.”

The darkness will soon forever pass and spring and summer will be eternal. We have this hope and assurance because 2000 years ago in the cold of night, a “rose” bloomed and blooms forever.

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Sunday 12.23.18 (the simple faith of Christmas)

This Sunday we’ll continue our journey through Luke and take a look at the simple, uncluttered faith that Mary and Elizabeth expressed in response to Gabriel’s announcement that Mary would become miraculously pregnant with Jesus. Then on Monday night, we will celebrate Christmas with our annual Christmas Eve service at 6pm. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
Monday 12/24 @6pm Christmas Eve Service followed by cookies, snacks, and hot chocolate

Sermon Notes
The Simple Faith of Christmas ~ Luke 1:26-52

The sermon in one sentence: Trust in and praise God with a simple faith like Mary and Elizabeth

  • Strive for a simple, uncluttered faith (1:26-45)
    • “Simple” faith is not immature or basic
    • Rather, it takes God at his word, asks sincere questions for clarity, sees God as the God of infinite possibilities, and takes joy in the promises of God
  • With a simple faith, trust in Jesus as the Great, One-and-Only King (1:31-35)
  • With a simple faith, praise God for who he is and what he has done (1:46-56)

Songs for Worship
Angels We Have Heard on high
Carols Sing
Trusting Jesus
In Christ Alone

Luke

Image used and modified with permission from: https://pixabay.com/en/milky-way-night-landscape-1669986/

Good Reads 12.14.17 (on: parenting, angels, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On parenting and Christmas: A Christmas Prayer for My Children by Tim Counts

As I picked up my 2-year-old son out of his crib this morning, hearing him chatter in toddler-talk about the mini Christmas tree in his room, it struck me that Your Son not only came as a little baby but also grew up as a boy. The Word who became flesh learned how to form words with his mouth. How incredible. How humble. How like us and yet unlike us you are, Jesus.

As we approach Christmas Day, my prayer is that my children would not miss Jesus for Christmas. I know this starts with me, Father. Would you strip away idols of materialism and picture-perfect white Christmases from my heart and help me to shine the spotlight on Jesus brightly this Christmas? (click here to read more)

On hope, trust, and God’s word: Seeing God’s Hand by Adam Kareus

On the approach back to our driveway, we have to go down a little hill. My son doesn’t like the hill and is convinced the hill doesn’t like him, either. He doesn’t trust the hill and is convinced the hill is up to no good. So, it never fails: when we approach this hill, he cries out for me to grab hold of his bike and control his speed. He is completely able to stop himself with the brakes, but still wants me to be there and hold his bike. If I take my hands off, he cries. It doesn’t matter that he can see me right there, ready to help. He has to see my hand grasping hold of his bike. Him seeing my hand holding on makes him feel safe.

We are the same way with God. We have to know that He is holding on. Without that knowledge, there is not a sense of security or safety. And this is not just head knowledge that God is in control; it is a deep seated trust that God is there and He is holding us in His hands. In fact, when we read our Bibles, it is amazing to see how often the writers wrote about this very thing. (click here to read more)

On angels: Angels in the Bible: What Do We Actually Know About Them? by Wayne Grudem

For centuries, artists have portrayed angels as beautiful humans with wings and glowing light, complete with halos, harps, and flowing white gowns (or perfectly sculpted bodies). But is that really what angels look like? Angels have inspired all sorts of imaginative stories and depictions, but what’s left when we separate fact from fiction? In order to know the truth, we have to ask, what does the Bible say about angels? (click here to read more)

On seeing God’s promises in the midst of pain: When You Cannot Yet See the Great Light by Lore Wilbert

A quiet, pulsing comfort when I’m reminded, in no uncertain terms, that we don’t always get what we want, is we haven’t been promised most of whatever it is we want. Marriage? More money? Bigger house? Health? More kids? Kids at all? None of them are promised. The years go by with no prospective spouse, the bank account always seems to be dry, every month a painful reminder that no seed has taken root in our womb. The reminders are everywhere, we don’t even have to look far. Name anything you want and haven’t yet got and there it is, your reminder.

Today, though, I woke on this fifth day of Advent and the second day of a miscarriage, remembering the child who was promised to me. God promised a child would be born to us, a son, given to us (Isaiah 9). He was not the child I wanted last night as silent tears tracked down my face, but he was given to us the same.  (click here to read more)

Out of Egypt (an advent devotion)

So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called my Son. ~ Matthew 2:14-15 (CSB), quoting Hosea 11:1

The book of Exodus details how God rescued his people, Israel, from their slavery and started them on the journey to the Promised Land. God had told Abraham that he would give a strip of land in the Middle East to his descendants, but first they would spend 400 years in a foreign country because God wasn’t yet ready to bring judgment against sin on the other peoples of the land (Genesis 15).

Israel’s time in Egypt started well, with Joseph (Israel/Jacob’s second youngest son) ascending to prominence and rescuing his family from famine. But Exodus begins by telling us that with the passing of time a new Pharaoh over Egypt arose who didn’t remember Joseph and enslaved and imposed harsh conditions upon the Israelites to keep them from becoming too large a people to control.

In response, once the 400 years were passed, God raised up Moses to deliver Israel and show judgment against Egypt. Through an array of miraculous displays of power, God crushed the Egyptian armies and safely led the people away.

Reflecting back on this, the prophet Hosea recorded God’s words, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

Several hundred years later, Matthew would apply these words not simply to his fellow Jews, but specifically to one Israelite—the child born to Mary to save the world. Jesus came to lead a new Exodus. Instead of calling a nation out of physical enslavement, he would call and enable his people to come out of their spiritual enslavement. He would defeat sin and death to pave the way. And he would lay the path for us to enter into the Promised Land of eternal joy—the new heavens and new earth to come at Jesus’ return.

Jesus could do this as the new and better Moses and the new and better Israel. Where both the leader and the people failed in various ways in the Old Testament and strayed from God, Jesus would never fail. And though he was a child, his life story took him into Egypt only to then come forth and deliver his people. Out of Egypt I have called my Son.

The Exodus, then, also serves as a reminder of the advent of Jesus and the hope that we have through him.

The Serpent Crusher (an advent devotion)

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “…I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” ~ Genesis 3:14-15 (CSB)

As we enter into the Christmas season, we will take a look at a few of the Old Testament prophecies about the advent, or coming of Christ. At many times and in many ways, the Old Testament foretold the birth of Jesus into the world to rescue his people from our sins and show us how to live lives of love. These began in Genesis 3.

After Satan had successfully tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying God and eating from the one tree out of many that God had said to avoid, God pronounced words of judgment upon the participants. In his words denouncing Satan, who appeared as a serpent, we also see a flash of hope for humanity. The woman, Eve, would have a child. The serpent would injure the child, striking at his heel, but the child would crush the serpent, striking at his head.

As with many prophecies in the Bible, this looked beyond the immediate time frame. It would not be Able or Cain or Seth or any of the other sons born directly to Eve who would deal the fatal blow to Satan. Instead, it would be a child born thousands of years later to a young woman who, on the surface, appeared insignificant. It would be a young woman named Mary from a tiny community who would give birth to the world’s Savior-King.

Then, as Jesus grew, Satan would strike at him in many ways from temptations to sufferings on the cross. Yet, by being the perfect man who could take his people’s sins as the perfect sacrifice, and then by kicking down the door of the grave that would not hold him, Jesus struck back at Satan.

In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we see Jesus return again to forever condemn Satan to the fires of hell, and he does so with the power of his words. The heel was struck, but the head is crushed. Now we celebrate the salvation that came through our Lord.

Christmas Eve / Christmas Day 2016

You have opportunities to join with us in worship of Jesus, our Savior, tonight at our Christmas Eve service and tomorrow at our Christmas day worship gathering. Check out the details below, and we hope to see you there!

Christmas Eve ~ 12/24 @6:30pm
We will remember the anticipation of the birth of Jesus and celebrate his birth at our annual candle lighting service. The service will be held in the auditorium with snacks and hot chocolate to follow in the gym.

Christmas Eve Music Selection
Special Music by Rick Thompson
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O Holy Night
Joy Has Dawned (special by Raelynn Kershner)
How Great Our Joy
Go Tell It on the Mountain
Candle light closing: Silent Night

Christmas Eve Devotional
“The Coming King” ~ Luke 1:26-33

  • Jesus is the God-Man King (1:31-32)
  • Jesus is the Savior-King (1:31)
  • Jesus is the Forever King (1:32-33)
  • Therefore, this Christmas season:
    • Know Jesus–trust him and follow him
    • Rest in Jesus’ grace, power, and love
    • Celebrate Jesus tonight, tomorrow, through this year, and through your life

Christmas Morning Worship Gathering ~ 12/25 @1045am
We will remember the birth of Jesus and ponder what it means now that Jesus, our King, has arrived.

Christmas Morning Music Selection
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (special by Jeremy Bridges)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
The First Noel
Emmanuel
Joy has Dawned
O Come All Ye Faithful

Christmas Morning Sermon Notes
“The King Has Arrived” ~ Luke 2:1-21

  • King Jesus is our end to fear (2:9-10)
  • King Jesus is our great joy (2:10)
  • King Jesus is our peace (2:13-14)
  • King Jesus is our Savior-King (2:11)
    • Our faith must be in him
    • Our righteousness comes from him
    • Our lives belong to him