Dear Fellow Children of God,
I enjoy watching Christmas movies during the holiday season. Usually I prefer the older movies to the newer ones. One of the Movies I watched this past week was “Miracle on 34th Street.” Perhaps you know that the plot of this movie revolves around the struggle of a young girl and her mother to believe in Santa.
The saving actions of God call us to believe. But Christmas is a call to believe in God’s actions in real, historic events. The birth of Jesus is not a made up story. Jesus is a man who lived in history. Scripture is not the only source that attests to the historic life of Jesus, but He is also spoken of by many outside the Bible, even by those outside the Christian church.
The events of Christmas call us to believe, not so much that Jesus was born and lived on this earth, but rather they call us to believe that this baby born in Bethlehem was indeed the Son of God Himself, the Savior of the world. To accept this wonderful, world-changing truth takes more than just historic knowledge. Such faith means accepting and trusting that God created and loves the world, and that God is working even now in Jesus to love us and to save us. Faith and belief that God is working is more difficult than just knowing the facts of history.
But, the fact that our holy and righteous God broke into our sinful world and into our troubled lives is such great good news that God gives help to people who might struggle to believe. You see, the people in Jesus’ time also struggled with believing in what God was doing. Thankfully, God’s help to people at the time of Jesus’ birth still opens our eyes in wonder and sparks faith in our hearts.
Consider the wonders of that first Christmas, the special actions of God that help doubting hearts and minds to realize that, “Yes, God is really acting to bring His comforting and saving love into our painful world.”
First, in order to share this good news God sends angels, lot of angels to lots of different people! Angels appear to Zechariah and to Mary in Luke 1, and to Joseph in Matthew 1 and in Matthew 2. Then a whole army of angels appears to common working class shepherds pulling the night shift in Luke 2. The Greek word “angel” means “messenger.” The message of God from all these angels is that God has good news! This baby, born in Bethlehem, is God’s Son and the Savior of the world.
If the angels weren’t special enough, God comes to us in a once in history manner, with Jesus being delivered in birth by a virgin, a young woman who had never had a sexual relationship with a man! That is impossible in any other situation. But, as the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “nothing is impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37) And this seemingly impossible birth not only allows Jesus to be our Savior because he was born without the sinful nature with which we all struggle, but this virgin birth also calls us in wonder to gaze at the marvels of God before us.
Then the child Jesus is visited by foreign dignitaries. Magi, or wise men, come from a part of the world east of Israel following a star whose properties are unique. This special Christmas star points the wise men and us to the Lord’s loving acts of salvation. This star and these special visitors also shout out that God is doing something really special.
But this is not all, when Jesus is 40 days old and presented in the temple according to Jewish law, the elderly believer, Simeon, and the aged prophetess, Anna, sing the praises of God because of His wondrous, merciful, acts of salvation in the birth of Jesus.
All of these people had questions. But all of them, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, Anna, and Simeon, not only came to trust God’s world saving acts of love in Jesus, but these people all spoke and sang His praises as well.
So, this Christmas God calls us to faith as we again hear and consider all the signs of God that He is acting mightily to give His love in Jesus. God doesn’t just want us to know Jesus was a man who lived 2000 years ago. He wants us to believe and to trust that this baby is the promised Messiah, the son of God Himself, become a man. God wants us to know that Jesus brings God’s love and joy, His forgiveness and peace, His salvation and eternal life to us.
Believing all this can be difficult at times. But, think about it for a minute. If your heart is warmed and your eyes grow misty at a fictional story of Christmas magic on the TV screen, should not the special signs and messengers of God in history move our hearts to faith and to thankfulness and to praise?
Christmas blessings to all of you from me and from my family.
A Child of God, Finding Joy and Faith in God’s Special Signs and Messages Surrounding Jesus’ Birth,
P.P.S. I have no fish pictures this week. This past Monday I was in the hospital with Kathy for surgery on her back. The surgery was postponed and later performed on Friday morning. I am thankful for all prayers for full and quick recovery.
P.P.P.S. If you got my devotion late last week, I was again struggling with my e-mail server because of the number of e-mails I send. The devotion was written, but would not send. However, I think I have that figured out again.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you don’t want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.