A world-changing story.
You would never guess this looking a mild nativity scene (though I never understood why Mary is always kneeling – she’d just had a baby!). It would have been so easy for this story to have never happened. If Mary had refused to have Jesus. If Joseph had divorced Mary. If either had rationalized away their angelic visits. If…if…if…
But it did. The shepherds came from near. The kings came from far. And Jesus came from heaven to earth as Child. He was a poor Boy, born in barn, and destined, as a part of the human race, to die. Until this point, the human race had successfully cut itself off from God by rebelling against Him.
But God had purposed to reach down and rescue men from their sin, shame and suffering through this Baby Jesus Christ. Jesus was not just a man – He was God. Fully God – He was perfect. Fully Man – He was able to take every man’s place in the eyes of God. He lived the perfect life on our behalf and in His death on a cross 33 years later accepted God’s wrath in our place. God’s justice was satisfied and His perfect grace made available.
That whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.
Now that’s a world changer.
A real story.
Looking at a manger scene it is easy to forget: This actually happened.
Mary was a very young woman, who was very pregnant a long way from home. And she went into labor alone. No friends. No mother and no midwife. I wonder if between the pains she ever looked up to heaven and asked God, “Are you going to keep Your word?”
She was scared and Joseph was worried. He was in a town of strangers, with little money (and no cell phone), just trying to just get a roof over their heads. It was dark. Maybe cold. Maybe windy. And, I have to think, that barn looked amazing. Though they must have pondered, “Could this really be God’s plan for His Son?”
A pitch-black outbuilding filled with animals, no doubt the stable was dirty and stank. But, by God’s design, there weren’t many options. Maybe Joseph even delivered Jesus himself. And as Jesus cried His first night here, his parents probably did too with joy and relief. Looking into those misty new eyes, at least one must have shuddered in their heart: “Don’t I need more information or training or something?”
Enter: the shepherds. Their divine invitation and their obedience must have spoken volumes to Mary and Joseph. God had kept His word and He was going to continue to keep His word. Yes, this was all in His plan and His hand. And yes, rest assured you have everything you need to play your part in God’s plans.
God says those same things to His children today.
“Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” – Matthew 6:30
A crazy story. I was putting up our nativity and realized only One Author would compose such an outlandish origin story for His Superhero.
Mary was a poor girl pregnant out of wedlock in a culture where this was a capital offense. Joseph was no doubt automatically assumed to be the cause of her situation after he still took her as his wife. To make it worse they were both spouting ludicrous stories about angels and this being God’s child.
So, since their explanation was “obviously” a lie, for the practical person, the options are very limited, either Mary or Joseph are the “bad guy” or they both were at fault.
But, since God had already foretold the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), for those who trust God, the options are even more limited, either they are the earthly parents of the Messiah or they are not. If they are not, Christmas is humbug -- a farce. If they are, their Son is God’s Christ. He is the One all of history has been anticipating. He is the One born to set His people free.
Most people throughout history, with their voices and lives, have said, “No, they weren’t and He isn’t.” But a minority has used their words and actions to declare, “This is Jesus, God with us, Hope of the world.” And each Christmas we join with them in declaring the glory of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
I Am Not Picking on Stan Lee
Confession time…especially after last week’s post…I like superhero movies. They are such a powerful visual demonstration of truths about mankind. First, we all long for a Savior. Second, humans have an ingrained instinct to worship, a desire to be “wowed”.
I was (admittedly, wasting my life) watching a superhero movie last night all the way through the crazy credits and my eyes happened to glance on Stan Lee’s name.
Not many men in all of human history have done what he has done.
He created a new art form and has crafted a dynasty from his genius.
His sphere of influence is worldwide and his financial empire is willing supported by “taxes” on throngs of adoring fans.
Success is not a big enough word to describe his life accomplishments.
Build up his accolades up as high as you want….then, consider a single question that can any worldly kingdom to its knees. What is it worth in heaven? Nothing. It is worth nothing.
Now, consider the greatest thing you can imagine accomplishing in your life? Dream as big as you can. Nothing is impossible here – all the money, all the power, all the fame and all the influence…you’ve got it all. In heaven it will be worth exactly what Stan Lee’s will be worth.
Now are you willing to trade your nothing for God’s everything? He can imagine more, dream even bigger and always has the means to achieve what He desires for your life. God’s dynasty is eternal. His empire never ends. In fact, only eternity will truly reveal the stunning value of a life lived following His plan.
What do you have to lose? Nothing.
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.