Advent Aftermath -Wise Men and their pursuit of the Star

Matthew 2:1 clearly states that the encounter of the Wise men with King Herod happened after the birth of Jesus. So our story continues….

Matthew 2:1-8 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”

When was the last time you went in search of something? Maybe you were looking for your keys, a particular piece of clothing, a special ingredient, an appliance or even a certain type of car? Did you make a plan for your search or have to drive from place to place? Maybe you called ahead or researched it on the Internet. In any case, it took time to search and you were looking forward to finding it. The Wise Men were looking forward to finding the babe, king of the Jews, so they could worship Him. Here are some thoughts about them and their journey. The Wise Men were from the east so that would be in the direction of Persia, Babylon or the Orient. They has been students of astrology if they were studying the stars enough to find the star phenomena that occurred at this time in history. Scholars believe it was a conjunction of planets that came together and then moved in retrograde probably Saturn and Jupiter. We had a similar occurrence just this last week that is very rare as the last time it occurred was in 1220. They were seeking the one born ‘king of the Jews’. This would indicate that they were gentiles. If they had been Jewish, they would have said our king and named him as Messiah. They were also seekers of truth as they had seen the star, been motivated to follow it and traveled hundreds of miles by caravan in pursuit of this ‘king’. These Magi or Kings themselves must have been men of means to be able to take the time and have all the necessary provisions-camels, men, money for this lengthy trip.

What would you do if you were the ruler of a country and someone came and asked where the new king was? We learn several things, not very good either, about King Herod from his words and actions with Wise Men. He was curious about the Wise Men, visiting dignitaries, and their journey. Visitors from the east were probably not an every day occurrence and created a bit of a stir. When Herod heard about their quest to find the ‘new born king’ scripture describes him as disturbed, troubled and all Jerusalem too. Herod was a very powerful tyrannical ruler who was a supreme builder. He shows himself here to be crafty and cunning. Herod told the Wise Men privately what his scholars had said about where the Messiah would be born and suggested they continue their search for this child. I’m sure he did not want it publicly known that there was a ‘new born king’ somewhere that might be the long awaited Messiah, hence the private audience. He asked them to come back and tell him when they found the child so he could worship him too. We learn later this was a crafty lie as he had no intention of sharing his throne with anyone.

What does this teach us about God? For one, all the universe awaited the birth of the Messiah and God used the heavens to declare his arrival. The prophecy in Numbers 24:17 speaks of a star in relation to a new king, “I see him, but not here and now.  I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob;
    a scepter will emerge from Israel. It will crush the heads of Moab’s people, cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth.”
Since the king here was one that would be powerful and crush others, I’m sure this is yet another reason Herod feared a new king and wanted him gone. Another thought is that God can and does use all kinds of people to do His work. Lowly Mary and Joseph, elderly Zachariah and Elizabeth, Anna and Simeon were just ordinary people God used in mighty ways. Here God shows us He can and does use unbelievers to accomplish His plans. Their involvement in the coming of the Savior reminds us that Jesus came to save all people.

Blessings as you ponder anew the arrival of the Wise Men and their seeking hearts.

Linda

I would recommend the video The Star of Bethlehem produced by Stephen McEveely. You can look it up on their website at http://www.bethlehemstar.net It is fascinating and really faith confirming about how all the universe proclaims the arrival of God’s Son.

Advent Brings Gifts to You from God

Merry Christmas! I found this Christmas Blessing while blogging this year and really loved the sentiments it contained. May you know the blessings of Peace that Jesus brings, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” May you see your Hope in Him, 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” May you feel the Sprit of His Love, 1 John 3:23 “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” May you have the Comfort of Faith in Jesus, 2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

All of these gifts complete the circle of our Advent Wreath as we light the Christ candle on Christmas Eve or morning proclaiming His birth. May you find His Love, Comfort, Hope and Peace in Jesus. May you rejoice in the arrival of Jesus and claim the JOY God has for you.

Linda

Advent: a Journey, a Delivery, a Joy Realized

My journey though the Christmas scriptures has brought me to Christmas Eve with a humble and open heart. I know I did not get to the Wise men yet, but they truly did not arrive until about 2 years after Jesus’ birth and provided monies for Joseph and Mary when they fled to Egypt. I’ll continue with their part in the story next week. However, the journey thus far has given me renewed hope in the Sovereignty of God. He was then and is now in control of all things. God has a plan which is to bring as many people to himself as are willing to come. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” All the details before, during and after the birth of Jesus shout of His sovereign power to bring about the impossible.

This Christmas Eve, meditate on the delivery of all mankind from the power of sin and the freedom revealed in Jesus’ birth. Power over sin- Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.Freedom- 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Lastly, take time to rejoice in the Savior. He is worthy of all our praises and brings joy for you and me. Romans 5:11 “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Have a blessed day remembering how God led us in the journey, delivered His promises and provided unending joy for all mankind through the birth of His Son.

Linda

Advent Reveals How Persistent Faith Brings Results

Another confirmation from God came from elderly Anna. She was a widow of many years and was undoubtedly allowed to live in one of the rooms at the temple used for various things. She spent her days worshiping, fasting and praying. Anna was called a prophetess which was not as common as her male counterpart, prophet, of which there were many in the Old Testament, like Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah…. However, she was not alone as Miriam, Moses’ sister was called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20, Deborah the mighty leader in Judges 4:4, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14 and Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9.

Here is her encounter with the baby Jesus from Luke 2:36-38. “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”

What does this encounter with baby Jesus show us? God requires us to be diligent and patient, persisting in our faith. Anna took every opportunity to worship and pray. She was open to hear from God about the future. Her message to Mary, Joseph and all of us about this child is one of Hope. She saw in Him one who would rescue her people. We may not be prophets or eloquent preachers but we too have a message of Hope from Jesus to tell others. God’s indwelling Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we belong to Him and have the Words of light, hope and salvation to give in Jesus’ name. Light John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Hope1 Peter 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you Salvation- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Will you persist in faith even when things get hard? Will you lean upon Jesus as your source of eternal light, hope and salvation just as He would want? Patient Anna was rewarded with seeing Jesus and knowing the truth of God revealed to the world. Take encouragement from her today and persist in your faith with diligent prayer and worship. You too will be rewarded by God just as He promises in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Linda

Advent Shows Light and Salvation for All!

Just like after John’s birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph had a naming and circumcision ceremony on the eighth day. They named him Jesus as that was the name the angel gave them even before His birth. Luke 1:31 and Matthew 1:21 Then the Jewish law required the couple to wait 40 days before presenting their child in the temple for dedication to the Lord. On Jesus’ dedication day God prepared yet another confirmation for Mary and Joseph that their child was from God. Here is their encounter with Simeon and his words about Jesus.

Luke 2:25-35 “ At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Wow! What confirmation from this godly man that Jesus was going to provide salvation for all people and bring light into the world. Bringing salvationTitus 2:11 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” and Hebrews 5:9 “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Bringing lightJohn 8:12 “Jesus said to them, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” and 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” Simeon also blessed them and spoke words for them to treasure in preparation for the future that God has planned for their child. Saving the world and giving light to all was not going to be an easy pathway as He would face opposition and many hearts would be effected, even theirs.

What encouragement do you find in this story of Jesus’ dedication? It confirms to me that God is Sovereign and Omniscient. He knows all that will happen and had a plan to redeem mankind. It shows God is Merciful, Gracious and Compassionate as He sent His Son to bring light into a dark world and provide salvation for all. God is loving and keeps His promises just as He kept his word to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Savior. He also prepared Mary and Joseph for the coming life their son would lead, one that would to be filled with godly purpose. God knows each of us as He did Simeon, Joseph and Mary. He knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Reflect today on how God’s timing has been perfect in your life. How has God fulfilled his promise in Romans 8:28 to you? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I can attest to God’s hand in my life even in the darkest times. Even those tough times produced growth and experiences that God has used many times over to help others, to build my faith and produce results I had never envisioned or dreamed possible. God is indeed Sovereign and can and will use all things for my good and His glory as I walk with Him.

Linda

Advent Shows Seekers Find Peace and Hope in Jesus!

The appearance of Gabriel and the heavenly host spurred the shepherds into action. They were curious to see this child of peace that would bring the favor of God upon all who believed in Him. Our story continues in Luke 2:15-20 “ When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.”

Their encounter with the Christ child led them to tell others what the angel had said, “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12 They also told others what they had seen, “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,  and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Their experience of seeing the majesty of God in His heavenly beings and the manifestation of His glory in the baby Jesus would have been life changing. It is no wonder at all that they left the stable and went back to work praising and glorifying God.

What do you do with your encounters with God? Do you discount them in unbelief or do you relish them in faith and turn them into praise? God desires that we seek Him like the shepherds did that evening in Bethlehem. Scripture tells us seeking God will bring results. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 4:29 “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” David wrote in Psalm 119:2 “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,” Solomon wrote in Lamentations 3:25 “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” Jesus said in John 4:23 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” An unknown author wrote in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Throughout scripture we are encouraged to seek God wholeheartedly.

Are you a seeker? Do you love to spend time in prayer and studying the Word of God? Do you love fellowship with other believers? Do you pursue God with your whole heart? I pray that this Advent you will be open to the Savior and come seeking Him with a newness of heart. He is waiting to bless you, draw you closer to Him and reward you with peace and hope. Paul put it this way in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. May you receive His blessings of peace and hope today!

Linda

Advent’s Third Sunday Brings Hope, Peace and A Time for Praise!

The third Sunday of Advent we light the candle of peace in our wreath. The story of the angelic beings appearing to the shepherds proclaims the birth of the Christ child and peace to the world. The angel of the Lord, identified as Gabriel in Luke 1:11, announced the Savior’s coming birth to Mary, Joseph and Zechariah. Now he comes with a host of angelic beings, shining gloriously before a group of shepherds and speaks words of hope and peace about the Savior who has just arrived. Luke 2:8-14 “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. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest,  and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

How has God interrupted your life this year? Are you hearing a message of peace and hope? Do you feel His presence when you are afraid? The shepherds were going about their daily lives and then God intervened. I like to call this A GOD moment. In the midst of their ordinary day’s activities, God showed Himself real and powerfully in their midst. The shepherds were given directions to go and seek out this child. They were told where they would find Him, lying in a manger, and what He would look like, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angel wanted there to be no mistake so they would know for sure they had found the Christ child, the Savior. Their response was obedience as they quickly went to find the child.

What is your response to the God moments in your life? Do you take advantage of them and pack them away for future encouragement? Do you share them with others to encourage their faith? As you ponder the shepherds and this revelation to them from God, recall your own God moments. Let the memories remind you of the joy and hope you have in Jesus and of His tender loving care. Let the shepherd’s encounter and your memories lead you to worship. God is worthy of all our praise!

Area today around Bethlehem where Shepherds would have been tending their flocks.

Linda

Advent Shouts of Humility, Protection and Provision, Are you listening?

During my trip to Israel in 2014, I was privileged to visit Bethlehem and the place thought to be the birthplace of Jesus. The stable was actually in a cave and provided protection from the elements for both man and beast. Whether or not it is the actual place is irrelevant as once there you can visualize the actual happenings that night for Mary, Joseph and the new born baby. The events are recorded in Luke 2:6-7. Let the humbleness of the setting and arrival speak to you as you read the scripture. “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Here are a few things that jumped out at me: God’s timing is perfect. Mary did not go into labor on the journey to Bethlehem. God protected them as they were not outside with no protection. God provided for them as they had a place to lay Jesus down- in a manger and clothes in which to swaddle the baby. God gave them exactly what they needed at the right time. This speaks to me of God’s providential care. A verse I claim often is Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, ” God took care of Mary, Joseph and Jesus that night and in the days ahead. God will do the same for each of us.

Take some time today and thank God for His perfect timing, His protection and His provision in your life. Trust in Him as He is good and cares for you. God can be your refuge especially in hard times, cling to Him.

Cave setting of Christ’s birth as we sang Silent Night.

Linda

Advent Shows God’s Perfect Place at the Perfect Time

Nothing shows us the Sovereignty of God like the birth of Christ. God being Sovereign means that all things, circumstances, people and governments are under God’s control. He sees all things and knows how they fit together to complete His plan. Luke records the events that led Mary and Joseph and their unborn child to be present in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. The prophecy of where the Messiah was to be born is found in Micah 5:2. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old,  from ancient days.” The promised Messiah would also be from the line of David, as God had promised David’s kingdom would be eternal.(2 Chronicles 7:18) God had also promised Abraham, David’s ancestor, in Genesis 12:3b “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” All of these promises came together miraculously at the birth of Christ because of the love of our Sovereign God.

Luke 2:1-5 “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

God in His Sovereignty knew the timing was perfect for the arrival of His Son. Both Mary and Joseph were of the line of David and would have been required to register in the census decreed by the Roman emperor. All those over the age of 12 were made register and pay a poll tax to Caesar. Mary being 9 months pregnant was not excuse to not travel to Bethlehem for this census. It was 3 days journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and I can imagine it was an uncomfortable and tiring trip for both Mary and Joseph.

What does this teach us about God? Truly, God is sovereign as He orchestrated all the events to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of His Son. He chose the people- Mary and Joseph both godly people of the family of David in the tribe of Judah. The chose the time, Rome just happened to want a census and demanded all comply. He chose the event- the birth of His Son. That covers the who, when, where and what of Christ’s birth. The why? God told Mary and Joseph through the angel He was sending His only Son to ‘save their people from their sins’ and that ‘all the world through Him would be saved.’ Jesus would be ‘God with us, Immanuel.’

Today as you meditate on the arrival of this young couple in Bethlehem, ponder anew the sovereignty of God. Have you seen God work things out in amazing ways in your own life? Have you seen things happen in perfect order you would never have orchestrated? Have you been in the right place at the right time and wondered how that happened? In life are no accidents, there are no coincidences in God’s kingdom, only the providence or divine care and direction of Almighty, Sovereign God. As we walk with Him, we learn that God can use all things that happen in our lives for our good and His glory.

Linda

Advent Reveals Messages of Power and Hope

Joseph was such an important person in Jesus’ life, I wanted to take another day with the scripture of God’s intervention on Joseph and Mary’s behalf. Matthew 1: 18-25 NLT

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,  for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!     She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

The angel’s message to Joseph, in addition to the words he spoke to Mary gave them confirmation that the child she carried and that they would raise was from God. The angel told him his name was to be Jesus and his purpose in coming was to save his people from their sins. The angel did not want any confusion concerning his name, since like Zechariah the friends and family would expect the baby to be named Joseph after his father. The confirmation of the child’s purpose was something only God could do-saving from sin. The reference to the Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 is one Joseph and Mary would have known and would have been further confirmation that the messages were from God.

The information this new husband and wife had is amazing about their unborn child: He was to be called Jesus, meaning God with us. He was coming as Savior to redeem people from sin. He was be called Son of the Most High and Son of God (Luke 1:32,35). He would reign on the throne of David (Luke 1:32). His kingdom would be eternal (Luke 1:33) and He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). I’m sure Mary and Joseph discussed this miracle and the future effect on their lives. As the story continues to unfold, they would have to draw on their strength of faith and fully trust in the power of God.

Is God asking you to step out in faith and walk with Him in some area of your life today? What evidence can you draw from to gain perspective and hope so you can continue walking in faith? Mary and Joseph had the angel’s messages, confirmation in scripture and the Holy Spirit abiding within Mary to guide them. Where can you look for guidance? We have the whole Bible and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Dive into scripture, pray and ask God to reveal His answers to you. I am confident Mary and Joseph clung to their faith and decided to walk with God in faith even though they did not know all the ins and outs of what lay ahead. God has confirmation, hope and assurance for you just as He provided for Mary and Joseph. Choose faith and walk with Him.

Linda