“The people who walk in the darkness will see a great light; . . .” Isaiah 9:2-7
Were you ever afraid of the dark? Isn’t it funny to think about the lengths we’d goto as kids to avoid darkness? If I’m honest, I can still get a little spooked at times.
Jesus brought light into our darkness.
I don’t know what your darkness is. I know a lot of folks with varying forms of darkness. Loneliness, unemployment, divorce, the loss of a loved one, betrayal by a friend, a totally unforeseen tragedy that plunged you into complete darkness.
Darkness can feel really dark. Perhaps it’s the future that casts a long shadow over your life. Maybe the darkness is created by the voices around you; the financial prophets of doom; or the prognosticators with a plethora of bad news. There certainly is no shortage of darkness in our world today. In the darkness, we fear our troubles will never end.
I know this is kind of heavy, but I want you to know: You are not alone in the dark.
There are others who have gone before you, ones who have, at times, groped their way along, not knowing where they were going or what was to happen next. They looked earthward for relief but found nothing. You are among good company of those who waited. Like Abraham, who looked ahead and believed that God would finish what He began. Like David, who knew God would one day keep His promise there would come a decisive breakthrough. Like all the prophets, he looked ahead and waited, for one who possessed hope and a vision of good news.
It’s Jesus who is the light, He burns brightly and everything else fades. Flaky friends, opinions of others, materialistic gain and all else that live in a dark land, all collapses in the heat of His light. Christ’s first advent brought joy. Those who wait with hope and expectancy, find freedom from fear and the courage to live in the passionate love of God. It’s Christ who is the hope of glory. His amazing grace is at work right now.
I pray that the eyes of my heart may be illuminated; that I may realize the vast resources of Your power are open to me. Please cause your light to shine into my dark places.
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Love with the Light
Instead of having angels, shepherds, or wise men prepare us for Christmas, the Gospel of Mark gives us a weather-beaten prophet wearing camel-hair clothes and a leather belt. This desert prophet, known as John the Baptist, is the first person Mark wants us to meet as he gets ready to tell us the good news. Mark spends no time at all on the stories of the first Christmas. There is simply this announcement: “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (v. 1).
The rugged baptizing preacher is the messenger, and his message is about Jesus, the embodiment of this good news. Jesus is the Son of God, and the story that unfolds is his story.
Mark does not get to Jesus right away because he wants us to pay attention to John’s preaching. Standing knee deep in the turbid waters of the Jordan River, John calls out to the crowds gathered along its banks, “Get ready! ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ [v. 3].”
John’s message is a call to make our relationship with God our first priority. We are to do this by confessing our sin and turning in repentance toward God so that we are ready when the Messiah shows up. We need to be listening.
This call reminds us that We need to be preparing our lives to receive Jesus and love Jesus far more than shopping in malls and decorating our homes.
With no baby Jesus, no stable, no star in the sky, Mark launches his good news with these few sentences about the baptizing John and his message about the One who is coming. The message of good news wants us to pay attention to this straightforward statement about getting things right with God. John wants us prepared to meet Jesus, who brings God’s peace and goodwill to the world-peace that comes when we are at peace with God and with each other.
Here is why people from all over Judea went out to listen to John, why they traveled far from the centers of power and set aside their daily tasks. They were spiritually hungry.
John’s message is a great Christmas message after all–the God people have been seeking is about to come looking for them. Because he is coming, they need to be ready.
John knows that what he is doing is not about himself. His is the voice in the wilderness of our busy and chaotic lives, calling us to get ready for the great coming of God-to prepare our hearts to receive the One who is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
The scriptures that shine light on the mysteries of Christmas urge us to find this place of confession and repentance. As we stand there in the desert, on the riverbank with the crowd, we are anxiously looking around for the One about whom John is talking. Christmas warns us that he is not only coming again but is indeed already among us.
Let your prayers be focused on Jesus: “Lord Jesus, thank you for sending us the Christmas message and keep reminding us of the Christmas message of good news and great joy. We love you, Jesus. Amen”
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PEACE AND LIGHT
Like a movie, there are many scenes surrounding the story of Jesus’ birth, but the spotlight shines most brilliantly on a humble, whitewashed stucco home in Nazareth. Inside, a young lady named Mary busies herself at a loom. She is weaving fabrics for the new home she and her husband, Joseph, the village carpenter, will share after their marriage.
Suddenly she is aware of a presence and, glancing up, notices a stranger standing before her. Since visitors do not knock in first-century Palestine, but simply step inside and call the name of the person they wish to see, finding someone has entered the home would not be a surprise. But in this case, here is someone dressed in white, with clothes that seem to light up, whose first words astound her: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you” (v. 28).
Mary is startled, she displays remarkable calm, mixed with an understandable amount of fear. Gabriel continues, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). Then he says, “And now, you will have a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (vv. 31-33).
Mary, understanding the importance of Gabriel’s message, responds, “How can this be?” (v. 34). She does not doubt what the angel is saying; she just wants more information.
Because Mary believes Gabriel, the angel immediately gives her a beautiful and mysterious answer: “the power of the Most high will overshadow you” (v. 35).
Maybe Mary takes a minute to think what Gabriel is telling her. How does Mary answer? “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38). Identifying herself with the lowest level of society, Mary responds as an obedient servant.
Mary is alone at this moment. nobody else knows what she knows, not even Joseph, who has yet to hear from Gabriel. At some point Mary must have felt very lonely and isolated. How would she explain all of this to others-especially Joseph? Yet in Mary’s loneliness, Immanuel-”God with us”-will make his home. The entire Christmas story is about strengthening the weak, freeing the oppressed, befriending the lonely. God loves and raises these lowly ones up to do his work in the world.
The Christmas message is a call to embrace a God who identifies with the weak and oppressed, the empty and lonely, the outcast and vulnerable. We confess with Mary-in faith, hope, and love- that “the Mighty One has done great things for me” (v. 49).
God does much of his work with powerless people whose lives the world considers impossible. Yet the message is not mainly about justice, equality, or social status. Rather, it is a word about God bringing salvation to all those who have come to a dead end in life and recognize their helplessness. God has not forgotten his promise to show them his mercy. Behold, Love has appeared, curled up quietly in the manger behind the Inn that had no room.
Make sure that there is room in your heart for Jesus this Christmas.
Let your prayer be: “Jesus, I want to make room for you in my life. I don’t want to just make room for you, I want you to take total control of my life. In the powerful name of Jesus, AMEN.”
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“. . . the world was made through Him, . . .” John 1:10
AN AMAZING ADVENT
Isn’t it amazing that everything we see, touch, and feel was made THROUGH Jesus? Have you ever made something you were really proud of? We usually pay special attention to it and are ready for others to notice. We like it when other’s brag about it.
Don’t forget to notice what Jesus has created!
I’ve seen a few things in my life that have filled my heart with awe and wonder. This verse is John’s way of saying to us, “Look around you! Everything you see is God’s. The heavens above and beyond. The earth and everything on it. He is in love with you; that’s why you are here.” Pretty amazing stuff.
The mystery, the wonder, and the awe of Advent is that the whole universe belongs to God and he has chosen you to be His own. God has set his heart on you. He loves you.
Ask Your Kids: What is something you’ve made that you were proud of? What are ways we can show love to others the way that Jesus has showed it to us?
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The BIG DAY is almost here! And there’s no time to look backwards and every reason to look forward to the celebration of Christmas and a blessed New Year!
There’s a reason that we have rear and side view mirrors on our car. And there is plenty of reason to have a windshield.
When we backup we need to look behind us and when we need to slide to the side, there are side view mirrors. But to look forward, we need a windshield.
God gives us a beautiful view of our future when we can live out our part of His promise. Look at Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.”
WE ALL HAVE MOMENTS OF TRUSTING AND CLINGING
If we could walk through life in reverse order, so many times of doubt and questions would be erased from our path. But sadly, we would have missed those desperate moments of trusting in the Lord and clinging to him for guidance.
We learn from our mistakes and failures in our past. We recognize God working in our lives in our daily lives and we look forward with great faith to what He has for us in His glorious future.
This Christmas, don’t miss the promise of God. Learn from your past and trust your Heavenly Father for your future.
Christmas came with the promise that tomorrow would be better as we trust Jesus with all we are and all we have.
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“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” John 1:9
THE DATA OF THE DIVINE
Have you seen the YouTube videos where kids answer the question, “What is God like?” They are a lot of fun. I think everybody has ideas about God and what He’s like. Many of the ideas I’ve heard seem to be pulled out of thin air. The good news is that we don’t have to wonder.
When God became a man, we see who God is and how He works. God became man and dwelt among us and they called Him Jesus. In Jesus, we don’t have a fuzzy picture of God. We have a concrete, real person. We see the data of the divine. We see what He is actually like.
God has done something wonderful on our behalf. He has broken through all our barriers, excuses, and obstacles. He broke through and took our place. He demonstrated compassion and sympathy, even to those that have been on the run from Him.
God sent Jesus who committed no sin, never caused hurt, or brought injury, nor did evil to others. The One who is all good, perfectly innocent, took on our sin-filled condition as though it were His own. He lived as one of us, He himself bore our sickness, all the bitter and hardest things in life, all the loneliness in death. In His own experience, He combined all the agonies of sinning and suffering, all the sorrows, and sadness.
All this He did because His nature compelled Him to do it. He is a God of love and could not bear His creation being separated from Him. God is not estranged from us; He is compassionate and was absorbed in us in a way we could never fathom. He forgives our misapprehension, our coldness, and carelessness, He loves you more than you can imagine.
Ask Your Kids: What does it mean that Jesus is a light in the darkness? (It means, similar to a flashlight, He lights the path and shows us the true way.)
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