Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ


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The Story: Week Fifteen – Day One
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We’re taking a break from The Story during the Christmas Season (which doesn’t actually start until Christmas Day). The Season of Advent has been a time of preparation and anticipation of the single most significant birth in the history of man. We are in the last days of that time of preparation. The time of anticipation is almost over. We are almost there.

When I was younger, that anticipation was always focused on gifts – those already under the tree (which were always a constant source of frustration because you couldn’t open them – you got stern looks if you even touched them or picked them up to shake them) and those that would appear on Christmas Day. I’m sure that we all made our parents crazy during those days.

But now, while the focus is still on a gift, it’s a different kind of gift. It’s the greatest gift ever given, but it is also often left unopened or on the shelf. It’s a bit amazing that we can get so excited about material things and take for granted or ignore the incredible gift of God’s salvation.

Think about it. God – the Creator of the universe – the supreme authority over all that exists – the holy God who demands perfection – steps into His creation. He is born into this world. He becomes a man.

Why does He do that? He does that because we aren’t perfect. As sinful human beings, we can’t be perfect. We are condemned to die. We don’t measure up. We are not worthy. But neither are we worthless.

We are dearly loved by that same Creator God who demands perfection. And because of His love for us, He came into this fallen and broken world to save us from the death that we deserve – that sin demands. He was born into this world so that He could fulfill all of the requirements of His Law and die the death that we deserve.

What a gift that is! What an incredible gift that is – undeserved and, for many, unlooked for (I’ll explore that more tomorrow). May God help us in this Season to keep our focus on His gift to us – on His birth for us and in us – on that gift of life that never grows old or loses its power.

The Story: Week Fifteen – Day Two
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The idea of a gift is becoming a foreign concept for we Americans. With all of the advertising that goes on to get us to buy those special gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, for Valentine’s Day, for Christmas, for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we have moved from gift to expectation. Because of those expectations (promoted by businesses whose livelihood depends on the giving of those “gifts”) it has become very difficult to give gifts and even more difficult to receive them.

What happens when there are no gifts on those “special” days? There is great disappointment – sorrow – maybe even a little anger. Why? It’s because we expect those gifts. We’re looking forward to them. We may even think that we deserve them.

The birth of Jesus was a gift unlooked for. And that’s not because the people weren’t expecting the coming of the Messiah. There was a great deal of expectation and anticipation. They were indeed looking for that gift.

But it wasn’t the gift they were looking for. We would say that it wasn’t the right size. It was the wrong color. It wasn’t my style. And even though we received the gift, we’re still disappointed because it wasn’t what I wanted.

But the birth of the Son of God into the world was still a gift – the greatest gift ever given – even if a lot of folks wanted to return it. It is a gift unlooked for precisely because we don’t deserve it. If we got what we deserved, then this season would definitely not be a season of joy. It would be a season of despair.

But the gift comes – even in the midst of that despair – especially in the midst of that despair. Jesus comes and speaks these most unexpected words. “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” He comes and invites us to come to Him, just as we are, so that He can give us rest – so that He can give us what we don’t deserve. He comes to give us life

And that’s a reason for joy.

The Story: Week Fifteen – Day Three
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the only ones that record the circumstances of the birth of the Son of God into the world. Luke records the angel coming to Mary announcing that she will be the mother of God – that Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive and give birth to a son. She is to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sin.

Here is a side note. Jesus did not exist with God from the beginning. The Son of God did, but Jesus (the man) doesn’t exist until He is conceived in Mary’s womb. Once joined to human flesh, the Son of God will now forever exist as God and man together in the person of Jesus the Christ.

What is obvious in Luke (Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit not by man) is not obvious in Matthew. However, it is there. Matthew uses the genealogy of Jesus to indicate that there is something different about the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Abraham begat Isaac who begat Jacob who begat Judah and so on and so on until you get to Joseph who is described as the husband of Mary by whom was born Jesus. Joseph did not begat. He was not involved in the conception.

The important part of all of this is: If sin entered through the one man Adam and, as descendants of Adam, we are all born sinful as a result, then Jesus is different. Because His Father was God and not a descendant of Adam, Jesus does not inherit Adam’s sin. He is born without sin. His work as Savior begins at His conception and will be brought to completion through His perfect life, His sacrificial death and His victorious resurrection.
The Story: Week Fifteen – Day Four

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem in order to be counted in the census. They are returning to their ancestral home – both being descendents of David. This connects with the covenant that God made with David. It’s a continuation and ultimately a fulfillment of God’s promise to David that a descendent of his will sit on the throne of Israel forever. Jesus, the Son of God in the flesh, is that King.

There are other parts of this account that get blurred by traditions. The first is that Mary is being forced to travel in the last weeks of her pregnancy. If that were the case, she might have never gotten to Bethlehem before giving birth. Riding on a donkey from Galilee to Judea could have been enough to induce labor on the way.

Another tradition is that, once arriving in Bethlehem, they were forced to reside in a stable – in a cave – because there was no room for them in the inn. That’s certainly possible since Bethlehem would have been overcrowded with David’s descendents returning from all parts of the Middle East to be counted in the census.

But it’s just as likely that what is meant by the inn are the living quarters in the typical Palestinian home. The family lived in a portion of the home separate from the part where the animals were housed. While Mary and Joseph had to stay in the stable because there was no room for them in the family living quarters, they were still in the house. They were not alone and forgotten.

And that brings us to one more conclusion that has more basis in tradition than in actual fact. We always talk about Jesus’ birth as an event that came silently – without any fanfare – unnoticed. We don’t know the actual numbers, but there were the shepherds. There would have been all the other folks who resided in the home – in the family quarters. There would have probably been a midwife (and assistants). News would have spread quickly to the immediate relatives that Mary had given birth to a son.

Would every body believe the reports of the shepherds? Probably not. Would the shepherds continue to tell their story – an angel with an incredible announcement – the heavenly host – the sign fulfilled? You can count on it.

Jesus didn’t come in silence – in isolation. He came and was seen by many relatives and friends and strangers (as in the case of the shepherds). He was born in the midst of the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.

And we, like Mary, should continue to ponder these things and treasure them in our hearts.

The Story: Week Fifteen – Day Five
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the second day of Christmas. The celebration isn’t done. It continues. There are twelve days of Christmas – twelve days to celebrate the amazing news that God became man; that He took on human flesh so that He could take our place under the Law.

He did that to fulfill perfectly the demands that the Law makes on us – demands that are impossible for us to fulfill. We fall short no matter how sincere our intentions. No matter how dedicated we, as sinful human beings are, we can’t live the perfect life that God’s Law demands.

The Son of God took on human flesh so that He could pass that test for us. He took our place in the classroom of God’s Law and got the perfect score. He then gave that score to us. It was credited to us.

He was able to do that because He also suffered the curse of that Law – the curse that says the wages of sin is death. He took our place under that curse and died the death that our sin deserves. He became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him.

He was born for us to rescue us from the prison of sin so that we could live as His children – so that the barrier that sin placed between us and God could be removed opening the door for us to be adopted into His family and live in His house forever.


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