Archives for category: Christmas

epiphany-blog

The day of Christmas, as the world celebrates, has come and gone.  Trees have been stripped and tossed out.  Music has been returned to it’s holding location on the playlists, until next year.  The gifts that were given to one another have been used up, washed, exchanged, or returned.  Some have even bought themselves the gifts they wanted and didn’t get.  You know, like the advertising slogan “you deserve to give yourself the gift.”  People have used words like “I’m over Christmas, now let’s move on to Spring.”  Sadly, this cynicism overshadows the entire Season of Christmas and the joy of Jesus’ birth has been missed by way too many.  Have we really stopped to look at Jesus in the Manger?  Have we really listened, and heard the Words of love and grace spoken by God the Father, because Jesus came to earth?  Have we stopped to look at why Jesus had to come?  Have we really heard the full message or have we overlooked the Unexchangable, Unchangeable, Irreplaceable Gift of Christ?

It’s not just the world that get’s all crazy busy and cynical about Christmas.  Many a Christian gets caught up with all the business and busyness of the world’s version of Christmas, you know that one day a year on December 25.  Needing to have the exact gift, the best dinner, the most events to attend, that “needed” trip, and in the end all the real Hope and Joy of Christmas gets lost.  The ancient church didn’t start out just celebrating on the 25th but did the Twelve Days of Christmas, which ended with Epiphany.

The season of Christmas, was designed to examine one’s self and look to the Christ Child – the Hope of All Nations and the Joy of our salvation.  The early church took time to Stop, Look, and Listen to the Savior.  It wasn’t business as usual, to hurry up and get on to the next thing on the calendar.  It was a time to truly reflect that Jesus had to come to save all people from the wages of sin and death. It was looking to the Father and thanking Him for loving His people so much that He would send His only Son to live and die for us, His enemies. Time revisiting the Scriptures to grasp that without the Holy Spirit working in Mary and Joseph, their would be no Christ.  It was a time to earnestly seek the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   You see, Jesus came to bring us many gifts so let’s stop, look, and listen, so we don’t miss these four big gifts:  Forgiveness, Hope, Salvation, and Eternal Life.

In Isaiah 62, we see part of these gifts being foretold.  We see that we are to be watchmen and not rest until the day of salvation comes. God’s people are called to not be silent until the day God shows His righteousness.  For the ancient church they could easily see a time when they had been without God’s gift of Jesus Christ, so they had no trouble sharing the gift once they saw Jesus had come and fulfilled the Father’s plan.  They found real Hope and Joy in times of disaster and persecution because they had seen the Salvation of the Lord.  God’s chosen people, Israel, waited thousands of years for this Hope to be fulfilled.  Let us not forget that each of us has had a time, because we are all born sinful, that we have been without Jesus.  Let us not forget the marvelous gift as we await Christ’s second return. No matter what may come, how people fail you, how dark the night, with Jesus comes lasting Hope. This is a gift beyond compare.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, (Isaiah 62:1–6, NIV).

The gifts we gain from Christ, Forgiveness, Hope, Salvation, and Eternal Life, are gifts we cannot purchase, cannot earn, and definitely don’t deserve.  Out of God’s infinite mercy, grace, and love, He gives them to us in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4–7, NIV84)

On Epiphany, we non Jews, celebrate with gusto because this is when the gift of Jesus Christ was presented to all of mankind.  It was no longer a promise for just a chosen, select group, but for simple, common, ordinary, gentiles.  So the next time cynicism, darkness, despair, betrayal, busyness, business, and whatever else try to invade not only the Season of Christmas but in your life, STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and DON’T MISS the gifts that Christ brought that first Christmas and continues to bring until the day He returns to take His children home for all of eternity.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:1-14 NIV

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During Christmas 2012, we celebrated the birth of a baby, but not just any baby. The birth of the baby that changed everything. We celebrate the things he has changed, the things he is changing, and the things he will change.

What is it about this one baby that changes so many things? At the creation of all things, God declared that everything in creation was good. Adam and Eve chose to pull away from God, they chose to follow Satan, and the goodness God had built into everything was lost. Paradise was traded for hard work and thorns. Life was traded for death.

The world lost its relationship with God and there was no human way to restore that relationship. But God would not tolerate separation from his creation. So, God sent a Savior. Jesus came to live the perfect life we could not live. He died the sinner’s death we deserve. And he rose from the dead to defeat death, our final enemy. Jesus restored our relationship with God.

Christmas is about a manger in Bethlehem. However, it’s also about a cross on Calvary, and an empty tomb on Easter morning. With faith in Jesus, our sinfulness is changed into righteousness. With faith in Jesus, our weakness is changed into strength, our poverty is changed into riches, our status is changed from the least to the greatest. With faith in Jesus, our eternal death is changed into eternal life.

Are you worried about the present or the future? Are you troubled about your job, your health, your marriage, your children, your city or state or this nation? Whatever is weighing heavy on your heart, I invite you to bring it to the baby who changes everything. Bring it to the manger throne and leave it there at the feet of the Lord. Because, this baby truly changes everything.

Read or listen to other sermons by Pastor Straub.

Advent comes from the Latin ad venire – to come. Advent is a time for us to focus on the coming of Jesus. We consider the coming of Jesus in three ways.

  • Jesus’ first coming was to Bethlehem.
  • Jesus’ second coming will be at the end of time.
  • There is also a present coming of Jesus. Jesus is here with us; now – this very moment and every moment of every day.

So, let’s ask the practical question: How does he come today? In what ways is God with us? Read the rest of this entry »

 

 

nativity_2352cIt’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas –  Christmas Eve Monday, December 24

 

  Luke2:7-20 KJV

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The long awaited time is here. People have been running around and getting ready for the big day. We have heard countless songs sung in church, stores, malls, and on our radios and music devices. As the old Christmas song says “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” or is it?

Have you, like the shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night, been visited in the quiet by the Lord and His holy message through our Advent devotions, worship and through the Holy Word? If you don’t feel like you have been visited, then I encourage you to stop all that you are doing. Throw aside all that has crowded Christ out, so you cannot only look like Christmas but truly SEE CHRISTmas.

Sit at the feet of the Holy Child of Bethlehem, born to a virgin, Mary, and her betrothed carpenter husband, Joseph, found in a manger. Follow the Star in the sky and then sit in the stillness of this night and soak up the gift of Christ, our Savior. Let Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, saturate your soul. Close your eyes and peer into the depths of God’s heart and see it beating, in love, for you and all mankind. Gaze into the glorious grace and mercy that have been poured out to save us from sin and into newness of life with Christ our Savior. Savor the gift of the Savior on this Holy Night and offer thanks to Lord. Now, it’s beginning to look like CHRISTmas!

Lord, God help us, especially this day, to savor the gift of the Savior. Don’t let us be like the world and pass by unaware that You provided all that we need in Jesus Christ. Enable us to be like the shepherds on that most Holy Night so long ago, to go out into the world this night and share that Jesus Christ is born. Keep us mindful that the gospel message is ours to deliver to all that we gather with this Christmas Eve and for the rest of our earthly days. Thank You for provided the only gift we need, Jesus. We pray this all things You desire us to pray, in Christ the Newborn King’s name. Amen.

©Journey to Advent written by Rev. John & Suzanne R. Straub

 

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Today we will look at Jesus as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

In order to understand this title, we must look at the words separately. In Isaiah’s day, the title of prince belonged to more than just the heir to the throne. A prince of Isaiah’s time was someone who was the exclusive owner of something. The commander of an army was the prince of the army. The head of a family was the prince of the family.

So, when Isaiah calls Jesus the Prince of Peace, he’s saying that Jesus is the exclusive owner of peace. That means the only way we can have peace is if it comes from the one who owns all peace. Consequently, we might have to change the way we think about peace. We need to understand that: Read the rest of this entry »

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Psalm 46:10-11 NIV84

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

At Christmas time, it can be exceptionally difficult to do what the Lord told us to do in today’s Psalm. We get so busy “Doing Christmas” that we don’t stop to “Be Christmas” or to truly “see CHRISTmas.” We are going from party, to baker, to shopper, to this service and to that musical. We are just plainly overly busy.

 “Be still” is literally translated as being relaxed, withdrawn, emptied, unoccupied. Those are difficult words to take in and absorb. God is telling us to empty ourselves, relax, withdraw, completely rid ourselves of all the junk of the world and to focus on Him as He will be exalted among the nations – over all the earth and that He is with us.

This Christmas season, stop! Truly empty yourself of you. Become unoccupied with what the world calls Christmas. Be completely void so that you experience Christmas on a whole new level. Come to worship twice a week where you will be filled up with the joy and exaltation of the Lord. Come to bask in the richness of the Lord.

Christ came to earth in human form so all mankind would know He has rescued us from ourselves and our sin. He still invites us to come away with Him and “be still.” Come on the journey to the see the Baby Messiah in the Manger. Come away and experience the truth about CHRISTmas!

©Journey to Advent written by Rev. John Straubb & Suzanne R. Straub