walking through the advent together: day 22

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“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:8-11)

Friends, we are here — it is the fourth Advent Sunday now.

These wise men finally find their way to Jesus, who is a young Child now, definitely not the little babe we knew from before. But friend, let us stop here and let this scene sink in: this young Child less than 2 years old, is mentioned before His mother. These wise men, they notice Jesus first — something that is completely against the custom of the day and yet, fitting for situation, for they knew they had now seen their Messiah. In that first moment, nothing else mattered for they were finally here, for they had finally arrived and seen the Son of God.

Yet, so fitting for the fourth Advent Sunday and for the Christmas so close now — are the gifts that the Magi bring.

Before the wise men give their gifts, they bring their hearts to Jesus.

Beloved, may we do just the same this Christmas — knowing that gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh will not matter if our hearts are not bowed first. If our knees are not bended first. Because gift giving always comes from the outflow of grace, a heart that rejoices at the sight of her Savior amidst the darkness and brokenness of the world.

When our hearts are bowed down before our Lord and King, we experience the most amazing miracle of all — that the gifts we bring to Him, now have eternal significance and purpose.

Beloved, let us do this together today, just like the Magi: let us bring our hearts to our Lord, bowing down low and worship Him with our hands raised high.

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walking through the advent together: day 21

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When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:3-6)

This Herod the king was Herod the Great, a king most of us have heard horrible stories about. He was a surely a great man and a great ruler in some ways; but we hear of him murdering many of his family members. So it is no wonder that when Herod was troubled, so was all Jerusalem with him. Yet, this tells us of the greatness of our Almighty God come down. Spurgeon writes, “Jesus of Nazareth is so potent a factor in the world of mind that, no sooner is he there in his utmost weakness, a now-born King, than he begins to reign. Before he mounts the throne, friends bring him presents, and his enemies compass his death.”

Here, we also see the chief priests and scribes’ first encounter with Jesus, and it is such a sad thing to see, that these people knew Christ would be born in Bethlehem of Judea, that He would be the Ruler of the people of Israel — and yet, they did nothing about this information. They did not go seeking for the Messiah. They did not try to find out more about Jesus, though they knew He was to be born right there in Bethlehem, a town right next to Jerusalem.

Unto us a Child is born, the King of kings and Lord of lords. So today, let us set our eyes on Him, our hearts willing to seek Him in everything.

walking through the advent together: day 20

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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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

These wise men, the Magi, they did not come to Jerusalem right after Jesus was born. They traveled from a far away country and this journey surely took them months, if not years. But they were convinced that a Child had been born, the King of the Jews. So they put themselves on the road for months to follow a star, to come and honor a baby. And I cannot help but feel that twinge in my heart, the one that wonders just on how many months, days, even hours I leave behind everything I have — just so that I can see a glimpse of Him, that I can worship Him?

Friends, the answer is not nearly enough many times. Not even close.

But here is the thing: God met these wise men, these astronomers — by a star, right there in their own area of expertise. Will He not do the same for us, beloved? He will meet us right there where we can see Him; be it by a star, by a peace that calms the raging storms in our soul, by love the fills our cups to the brim. He can touch gentle the broken, wounded souls. He can heal the cracked, fragile hearts. He can soften the hardened, angry person. He can shine light to the darkest, messiest situation.

May we be like the wise men, traveling relentlessly for months just to see with our own eyes Christ our Lord. May we bend our knees and confess our lack of searching, of looking for Him in the midst of our life.

Friend, it only takes one star for God to lead people to Him — and hope is not lost this Christmas or any Christmas coming, for that matter.

Whether it is our family members, our friends, or complete strangers. It took only one star to lead these wise men to Jerusalem, and it will take only one small act to lead our people to Him. But us who are His, who keep inquiring and wondering whether the impossible can be made possible? We need to believe. Just that, beloved — believe. Believe that miracles will happen this Christmas. Believe that Jesus is the God of the impossible circumstances and impossible people. Believe that His scarred hands, can touch and bring life to any situation.

The amazing thing here, though? Is that you can be that star of His, that God uses to lead people to Him. And He is not expecting any grand acts or amazing skills here — He just needs you to be there, to be present. It may be a smile, a gentle touch on the shoulder of someone lonely or grieving, it may be that moment completely dedicated to that person, especially that child in front of you.

And when that happens, that we see His star, His touch? Let us praise Him, sing of His glory and worship our Almighty God.

 

walking through the advent together: day 19

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So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (Luke 2:15-18)

This here, my friend. The portrait of something so deeply beautiful happening, and it touches my soul deep. These shepherds, who are probably by now used to being considered as someone untrustworthy, unworthy, unimportant. They hear of the King of Glory come down as a babe, the get a first-hand announcement straight from a whole group of angels — and they respond without a hint of doubt, of hesitating.

Imagine this. A group of shepherds, who take care of the temple lambs meant for the sacrifice. They are the first to see the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world, once for all.

Yet, even more so this here touches my heart: that all those who heard the good news marveled at those things. Here is this group of these faithful shepherds, ready and eager to share what has been shown to them, this more precious than anything. But these shepherds were the social outcasts of the day. I imagine people did not want to recognize them, to notice them when they walked by.

When the shepherds had seen the Lord, they made sure tell the Gospel to anyone close by.

Hear me out, beloved. It does not matter who it is that shares the good news with others. Whether we are like these shepherds, social outcasts. Whether we are like Moses, and barely get a word out the right way. Whether we are like Peter, and speak before we think.

It does not matter whether we have the skills we think we need to share the good news with others. What matters is that the good news get shared.

So today, beloved. Let us marvel at the beauty of this story: that our Hope is not bound or limited by human standards, by the socially accepted norms. Our hope is woven deep through this Redemption’s story, there from the stable up to the cross of Calvary. This hope does not give up, does not change along with circumstances or people. This hope shines translucent through that one word: Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus, our Savior, giving His life so that we might live ours. Emmanuel — He is with us, He is in us. He does not give up.

walking through the advent together: day 18

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 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
a
nd on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14)

Yesterday, we looked at the shepherds, socially outcast and out in the fields by themselves. Deep darkness surrounding them, there appeared an angel to share the most joyful news ever announced. But then, suddenly, there was a heavenly host praising God — not just one angel but a whole group of angels, all coming together to praise God. Spurgeon writes, “And, verily, it was good news to them [the angels], for the heart of sympathy makes good news to others, good news to itself.” Beloved, should not we be like the angels, eager to sing the good news to others — for these are good news for us, too.

These days I wonder ofter, do I remember to lift praise whenever I feel His touch in the circumstances of my life? Because I cannot help but see the beautiful image of this heavenly host joining together to praise our Lord, the joy and reverent love pouring through each and every note sung.

Even more so, I love the message that this heavenly host sang — they sang of the holy Babe, laid in a manger because the whole of humanity had no room for Him, our Savior who would bring salvation for us messy and broken people. They sang of the Glory of Heaven that stooped down from His throne to be born in a stable. Yet, this small Babe was the God in the highest, the Most High God in flesh — and so worth all the praise and worship.

Friend, to be honest, these days it seems difficult to face those next words, “on earth peace” — because we look at photos of the refugees every day, we read the news of terrorist attacks on a daily basis. We hear friends lose their parents to cancer; we hear our people face yet another miscarriage; we watch our close ones walk away from the Lord; we lose our loved ones.

But here is the Prince of Peace, our Savior who walked the broken road to Calvary just so we might know that peace now exists, in us.

So we pray, “Let a river of peace flood my soul, O Lord” — trusting that He will do just that, our God and our Refuge, our Prince of Peace. The darkness goes deep and we are weary, worn from fighting the battle day in and day out. Yet, on earth, peace — and our hearts can now join the heavenly host, singing of the glory of God that touches our souls and heals our brokenness. Because this road has been walked already before us, by the One who bore the weight of this world on the cross and gave us life.

So let your heart sing, beloved. Let your soul join the heavenly host in singing of the goodness He has done.