" 1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register. 4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David." (Luke 2:1-4)
In Nazareth of Galilee, Mary and Joseph awaited the birth of their son. For eight months they pondered the words of the angel, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means, ‘God with us’.” Matt. 1:23
Both were devout Jews, knowing well the meaning of the prophecy that the Messiah would be of the lineage of David. Who would believe them if Jesus were born in Galilee instead of Judea, the land of King David? It was approaching the ninth month of her pregnancy and Mary and Joseph became resigned that their baby would be born in Nazareth, an event that would forever place the Lordship of Jesus in question. But Jehovah had a plan.
They would never have made that trip to Bethlehem of Judea without a very compelling reason. At the last possible moment, God used the bickering of two tyrannical politicians, Augustus and Herod, to make the way clear for Joseph and Mary to embark upon their incredible journey (72 miles) from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They had no choice! Augustus, in his anger with Herod, insisted that a tax be levied against the people, thus a census must be ordered. Every person was required to return to the town from which they were reputed to belong in order to be counted in the census.
So it was that Mary, in her ninth month of pregnancy, set out with Joseph across rugged terrain toward the place where Jesus would be born. Normally, it was a four day journey, but in Mary’s condition it would have taken a week, maybe more. If they made it at all, there would at least be no question about the lineage of their son. He would be officially recognized upon the order of the Roman government that Jesus Christ was of the house of David.
But the little town of Bethlehem was not prepared for all those people who were compelled to return for the census. Mary and Joseph arrived later than other travelers and found no place to stay. They were exhausted from their journey.
Every town in that day had a caravanserai, special quarters where travelers could stay for free. It was a building with four walls and an open courtyard. Surrounding the inside courtyard were little stalls where families could find protection from the weather. It was the custom, too, that a place be provided for the guests to feed and water their animals. There it was, in the stable, that the Christ-child was born, “because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Incredible! A King is born but He has nowhere to lay His head. In meager surroundings his birthplace announces an eternal link with commonality, poverty and humility. Instead of royal robes, there were swaddling clothes. C. H. Spurgeon said, “He is to wear through life a peasant’s garb; He is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be His disciples; the cold mountains are often to be His only bed…”
It is with divine purpose that our first glimpse of Jesus be offered in a setting like this, where He is absolutely approachable by EVERYONE from ALL WALKS OF LIFE, be it rich or poor, politician or slave. Beloved, my King needs no crown or purple robe to announce His royalty! Whether He is born in a mansion or a manger, the angels on high pronounce His coming, not the Wall Street Journal or the Congressional Record! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Hallelujah!
Read that verse one more time. “There was no room for THEM in the inn.”
When I think about this Bethlehem scene, I’ve grown comfortable with the idea that the world pushed Jesus aside without providing a place for Him. He can handle it, because He is GOD… and His Father will take care of Him. Oh, I may grumble a little about how they treated baby - Jesus, but in the end, it is every man for himself.
But that isn’t what the verse says. It says that everyone who was associated with Jesus in Bethlehem was pushed aside, left to their own devices, forced to go it alone, ostracized, shoved into the corner. Mary, Joseph and Jesus… they were all left out in the cold. Why is it that my relationship with Jesus costs me nothing in creature comforts? Either the world has grown soft on Christians today, or there just isn’t much difference between us and the world anymore.
Are you ready for the real message of the Christ-child this Christmas? What if it really did cost us our comforts to follow Jesus today? Suppose for a moment, that in order to truly follow Him we would be forced to give up our homes and sleep with the animals? “The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes…” is OK for Jesus, but what if we REALLY had to be there by His side in that smelly barn in order to be like Him?
Take another look at Christmas this year. Jesus did not come so that we could be prosperous in the physical sense, but He came so that we could become rich in spiritual things. If we ever discover the wealth of that truth we will find out that life, whether it is taking us through the valleys of despair or pushing us over the mountaintops, is one incredible journey with Jesus.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, all I want for Christmas is… NOTHING! Because I have You in my life, I have it all! Amen and amen.
Hundreds of anxious volunteers reverently awaited the arrival of a huge 18-wheeler, filled with fresh Christmas wreaths adorned with bright red bows. Oblivious to the morning chill and blanket of snow, they made their way through the sacred field of bleached white headstones, carefully laying a wreath at the foot of each one.
One man’s effort and initiative has inspired so many.
Fifteen years ago, with a handful of people by comparison, Merrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, decided to decorate 5,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery - a small and meaningful gesture to those who fought and died for us. One man’s commitment to honor those who sacrificed for us is an awesome sight. Those green wreaths and red bows against the stark white marble headstones provide quite a contrast. To learn more about this project, copy this link into your browser:
I am reminded that one person can make a difference!
As we wait expectantly for the arrival of the Christ-child, God’s gift will make a tremendous difference in our lives if we only believe. He is quietly amongst us and lives in each of us.
As we approach Christmas and the New Year, instead of the usual gifts and resolutions, let us consider finding a way to make a real and tangible difference in someone else’s life.
Perhaps Gandhi said it best, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
When all the gifts have been opened and put away, When the magic of the moment is gone… Let us be reminded every day That giving of ourselves lives on… Let us create or seek those opportunities to give, So that with You in us, we may truly live!
Small gestures can make a big difference!
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Free To Be Me
"If you hold to my teaching,
you are truly my disciples.Then you will
know the truth and the truth will set you free."
Our opponents, just like the enemies of Jesus, are annoyed by our freedom claims.Most of the world sees a shackled Christian, burdened with rigid demands and negative restraints.Jesus proclaimed that discipleship brings four freedoms.
It brings us freedom from fear!We never walk alone because we are always in the company of Jesus.Some children are burdened with unspeakable fears about all sorts of things.I was one of those kids, very sensitive, and needed an extraordinary amount of reassurance about almost everything.When there was a death in the family, all I could think about for over a year was the fear of dying.I had no one (I thought then) that I could talk to about it and would quietly cry myself to sleep in the night, wondering if I would wake the next day.Maturity in the faith will take away all fears!PTL.
It brings us freedom from self!Many have struggled with who they are.In Jesus' care, He is able to recreate us until we are brand new.We don’t have to behave the way others think we should.Sometimes it is worth the risk to break out and live the way WE think Jesus would have us live!Living on the edge with our Lord is quite an adventure.
It brings us freedom from other people!A disciple no longer cares what others think because he only seeks to please Jesus.(Can I say “AMEN” to that?)Several years ago I experienced a painful situation with someone I still hold very dear to my heart.This person is disappointed in some of my choices (not sinful choices) and has held those things against me for 6 years.Although I cherish the love of this one about whom I speak, there is nothing I can do to recover that relationship while they hold onto that root of bitterness.As long as I am in the center of God’s will, forgiven by the Grace of God, I am covered by His love and that is enough!
It brings us freedom from sin!We all know our own sins which overpower us and bring us personal shame.Only in Jesus are we able to break free from that captivity.What a magnificent truth that is!(I John 1:9) Jesus alone has the power over the shackles of our past.And He is the One to whom we place our trust every day.Hallelujah!I no longer enable the world to dictate how I am supposed to feel today, and I do not have to be affected by their judgment of my life.I will take my chances with the judgment of God who knows my heart better than anyone.
GospeLines Prayer:Righteous Father, I am grateful that you have not allowed others to judge me, for if they could they would cancel the freedom You have given and hold me accountable for the sins I have confessed to You.I stand before You as a sinner, imperfect, sometimes faulty in my behavior, too often careless in my attitude, but corrected by your righteousness.To You ONLY do I confess my unworthiness, and ask forgiveness for all my sins.Restore me to your Holy presence.Hallelujah for Your love and grace to all of us!Amen and amen.
I recently heard someone say, "If I hear of one more person losing their job, I’m going to scream!"
The economy isn't looking very good.Things that used to be guaranteed are no longer assured.Many experts predict that times may get much worse before they begin to get better - if they ever get better.
We hear of wars and rumors of wars; we see how the mighty have fallen.Yes, it the Christmas Season; but, how can we be at peace when the world around us seems to be falling apart?
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble.But take heart!I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Jesus has returned to the Father; but, He didn’t leave us alone - He gave us another Counselor - the Holy Spirit - to be with us forever.The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.But we know Him, because this Counselor (Jesus in Spirit) lives in us. (John 14:16-17)
The Counselor will teach us all things and will remind us of everything Jesus said (John 14:26) including these words recorded in John 14:12-14:
"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it."
Remember, Jesus said we would have trouble in this world but to take heart because He has overcome the world.He then said that because the Holy Spirit is here to help us, we can do what He did.In other words, with the help of the Spirit of Jesus living within us, we can also overcome the world!
That's why Jesus could also say, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives.Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
Lay-offs, economic woes, wars and rumors of wars may come; but, the child of God can be at peace because like the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus says to us, "…your faith has healed you.Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." (Mark 5:34)During this Season, He might also add “Go and enjoy My birthday and the celebration of a New Year!”
GospeLines Prayer:Holy Father, we stand righteous before you because of the blood of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus; and, we give You thanks and praise for the peace Your grace and mercy bestows on the hearts of Your children.We thank You Father for sending the Holy Spirit, our Counselor and Comforter to remind us of the words and teaching of our Lord Jesus.We praise you for freeing our hearts from the trouble and suffering of this world and replacing it with Your joy and peace.Grant us continued strength in our spirit, increased faith in our souls and comfort in our minds and bodies as we continue to worship and trust You.Celebrate with us this day of remembrance of Your Son’s birth and help us to hold on the that memory every day of the coming year.
May all of God's people say, "Amen!"
“…we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.”