Tag Archives: Jesus’ birth

What Just Happened?

‘America’s Got Talent’ has given birth to not only many careers, but to some catch phrases as well. Perhaps one of the most familiar is exclaimed by Mel B. (1) when she’s overwhelmed by a brilliant, exciting unexpected performance: “What just happened?” I think we can ask the same questions during this week following Christmas. We celebrated a brilliant, exciting, mysterious unexpected event – Almighty God sent His Son to earth to be born in human flesh. But can we fully grasp and understand it? Or do we need to ask, “What just happened?” Why would God ask His Son to give up all the glories and power of Heaven to take on human flesh? “What just happened?”

Perhaps the simplest answer is “God demonstrated His love.” May the following serve to clarify and heighten the impact.

Three days before Christmas a mother was busy getting ready for the big day and she asked her little son to shine her good shoes for her. A little later, with a smile that only a 7-year old could flash, he presented the shoes for inspection. The mother was pleased with the result and rewarded him with a quarter. On Christmas day, as she was putting on her shoes to go to church, she noticed a lump in one shoe. Taking off the shoe, she found the quarter wrapped in paper. Written on the paper in a child’s scrawl were these words: “I done it for love.” When Jesus came to save us He “done it for love!”

Roy Lessin has written poignantly, “God knew we could never buy our way to Him – the cost was too great; we could never earn our way to Him – the task was too great; we could never will our way to Him – the commitment was too great. God knew we could never come to Him…so He came to us!”

Describing it all the Bible simply says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” (John 3:16) He ‘done it all for love’ – expecting nothing in return.

May you experience His deep, broad and overpowering love – His abundance of grace upon grace – in amazing ways this Christmas and throughout 2019.

(1) https://www.breakingnews.ie/showbiz/mel-b-grateful-for-christmas-after-going-through-hell-and-back-in-dark-year-892513.html

Manger: nativity-walter-chavez-300070-unsplash

Exquisite Timing

When was the last time you said to someone, “Your timing was exquisite?” Or “Wow – what perfect timing?” It’s always amazing when someone shows up or does something – or something happens – at just the right time.

As we prepare for Christmas over the next weeks, I’ll be focusing on one of my favorite biblical passages which gets to the heart of Christmas and also to the heart of some exquisite timing. The passage is Galatians 4:1-7. This week focus on just the opening words of verse 4: “But when the time was right, God sent his Son…”

“But when the time was right…” Why does Paul say the timing was right? History gives us the answer. Because of the conquests of Alexander the Great Rome had reached a pinnacle of power unknown before. And Alexander was determined to spread the Greek culture throughout the world, so everything he did, including instituting a common language, set the stage for culture, for communication, for religion to have an impact. It was also a time of great, prolonged peace – 200 years with no major conflict. Never before, or since, has there been peace for so long a period. Therefore, with no pre-occupation with war, people had time to listen, discuss, and debate. Then, too, Caesar built a marvelous and extensive system of military roads so, if needed, the armies could travel quickly and efficiently. Therefore the roads were in place for Christ’s legions to travel with the message of the resurrection. And as for Israel’s history, she had been conquered and disbursed many times. Therefore, wherever Jesus or His disciples would go, there would be some Jews already there. Religiously, old religions were dying; the old philosophies were empty and powerless to change people’s lives. Strange new mystery religions were everywhere. In so many ways, the time was right.

So when the time was right, when the clock was ready to toll, Jesus was born. In Paul’s words, “God sent his Son…” The word ‘sent’ means sending with a commission to do something, with the person being sent having the right credentials. Jesus, the Son of God, was sent to save us. The purpose, the aim of His coming was our salvation, our health, our wholeness, our peace. It is my firm belief that God still sends His Son, still comes down to us, when the time is right. Though we sometimes feel  He’s not concerned or not going to help or come to our aid or answer our prayers, He always comes. And He never comes too early and never too late. In Gal. 3:11-12 Paul put it, “The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him.” (The Message)

The wonderful poet Helen Steiner Rice wrote beautifully about God’s timing:

God’s love endureth forever –
what a wonderful thing to know
When the tides of life run against you
And your spirit is downcast and low…

God’s kindness is ever around you,
Always ready to freely impart
Strength to your faltering spirit,
Cheer to your lonely heart…

God’s presence is ever beside you,
As near as the reach of your hand,
You have but to tell Him your troubles,
There is nothing He won’t understand…

And knowing God’s love is unfailing,
And His mercy unending and great,
You have but to trust in His promise –
“God comes not too soon  or too late.”

So wait with a heart that is patient
For the goodness of God to prevail –
For never do prayers go unanswered,
And His mercy and love never fail.”

So we can stop trying to make all the arrangements for our lives; stop trying to fit all the stitches together. We can stop panicking and lessen our worry and doubt. We can wait with anticipation for God to come. After all,  “… those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31 New Revised Standard Version)

The Great Yearly Adventure

In my faith tradition we call this time of the year Advent. It began in France during the fourth century and is a season of four Sundays, beginning on the Sunday closest to what is known as St. Andrews Day, November 30. The word “advent” consists of two Latin words and means, “to come to.” In other words this is the time of year to focus on the incredible news that God – our divine, holy God – came to earth, came to us. I’m convinced it is difficult for us to fully grasp the impact of this claim.

Consider that at the time of Jesus’ birth people believed in a variety of gods, and all of those gods were separated from humanity. To think that a god or goddess would lower themselves and mingle with humans was tantamount to blasphemy. After all, a holy god could not rub shoulders with the unholy. Yet that’s precisely what the Almighty God did. He had, in fact, come down before, but never to stay. The Psalmist, for example, knew that God paid visits. (Psalm 18: 9, 16, 35) “He parted the heavens and came down…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters…you stoop down to make me great.” But in his gospel, the Apostle John declared (John 1:14NLT): “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” God, in Jesus, prostituted himself by coming down and living among the muck, mud and mire of humanity – and He came to stay.

He came to be and stay with me. He came to be and stay with you. It’s why I cherish the Advent season – it points us back to this great ADVENTure. God made the journey to earth so He could be with us and we could be with Him. Advent celebrates the reality that God did come – in the flesh, in Jesus (a past experience), God still comes to us through the Holy Spirit (a present experience), and that God will come again through the return of Jesus (a future experience). In Jesus, God has come into the world as the King of Kings. So the color of the season is purple, as a reminder of a king’s robe (or it can be blue as the symbol of hope.)

Our emphasis, therefore, is to see this season as a great ADVENTure – to use it as a time of preparation, and an opportunity to get ready for His coming. The theme of repentance, prayer, and patient waiting are keys to our observance. It is, in fact, interesting to note that in ancient times Christians were required to attend church services and to fast daily.

I invite you to join this great ADVENTure because it is rich with meaning and promise. And it makes a difference. It can change your life. I encourage you to look back and see how God has fulfilled His promises, and contemplate how He continues to do so. Then look ahead, and renew your hope. And prepare for God to come into your life now in new, fresh ways. Give God a chance to reveal His purposes for your life. Spend some extra time reading and reflecting upon God’s Word, praying, worshiping, and giving yourself to others. It’s a small price to pay. After all, “… God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That ADVENTure makes a difference that’s worth taking time to celebrate!