Joy. It’s a popular word this time of year.
It’s printed on pillows, formed into stocking hangers, and a common refrain in Christmas music.
We want joy. Yet many of us lament we don’t feel joyful during December.
It’s hard for me to imagine the Messiah coming in any other fashion than Jesus’ bodily form.
I think that’s because it’s the only way I’ve ever heard, or known, the story. A baby. In a manger. But when I stop to consider that God put on human flesh, I really can’t imagine that either.
Seriously. God. In bodily form. The One Who caused “the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear” (Genesis 1:9) walked upon its very soil. He Who designed our bodies to need nourishment ate meals with family, friends, “sinners” and disciples. Our God — limitless in power — temporarily limited Himself to live in our circumstances and culture. Jesus was willing to release the equality He shared with God (Philippians 2:6) to serve us.
I’m not sure I’d apply for the job.
The Levitical preisthood, descended from Aaron among the tribe of Levi, had a job I’m not convinced I’d want. When I reflect on their duties, I have a mixed reaction. One part of me esteems their role highly: what a privilege to be chosen among the thousands for such important duties. They taught and blessed the people. They led them toward God and interceded on their behalves. They entered the Holy Place in the tabernacle (and temple) and burned fragrant incense.
Another part of me experiences revulsion at what their daily duties entailed: the bloody sacrifices of animals for guilt offerings. (Do you think the teenage Levites from Aaron’s line dreaded adulthood and having to go into the family business?)
As a kid, December moved at a glacial pace. Christmas just took forever to arrive.
(Cue the dramatic sensibilities of a nine-year-old girl.) Of course, as an adult, this month almost gives me whiplash, it goes by so quickly.
This week I revisited the promises made to Abraham about the Messiah. God told him that all the nations would be blessed by him in Genesis 12:3. The very first Messianic prophecy was spoken to the patriarch of the Jewish faith.
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The wise men of the nativity story have much to teach us…
…despite their fairly brief appearance on the pages of scripture. Not the least of which is the reason for the name of our Bible study. (Pop over to Facebook for a video explanation on that.) A short reading of of Matthew 2 reveals much about these men, even though it leaves a good bit unsaid. Three things for us to learn:
Know the Word.
These men — and we don’t actually know how many there were, we know only the number of gifts — obviously knew the Old Testament prophecies well enough to set out on a long journey in response to them. Perhaps their knowledge was as a result of Daniel’s or Esther’s influence in Persia from long before? They arrived in Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews (a logical, but errant, assumption to find Him in the Jewish capital). Matthew 2:2 reveals their knowledge. The chief priests, then, in 2:5, quote Micah’s prophecy directly (Micah 5:2). The Magi knew enough to respond; the priests knew the very words of the prophet. We, too, must know the Bible well enough that we can readily recognize truth, and act upon it.