Category Archives: Christmas

What did the Wise Men know?

It wasn’t until later in life that I learned all the misnomers about the Wise Men. I was a bit crushed when I found out that they didn’t visit the stable but probably came later. I didn’t believe it.  How could that be? I mean, every manger scene that I had ever seen included the Magi—three to be exact!

Perhaps the most important truth I have ever learned is this:

When a fact or source differs from the Bible, believe the Bible!

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

Well, that’s pretty clear! But why did God include them in the amazing true story of His Son’s birth and early life? Have you ever thought about how startling it must have been to have these foreign dignitaries ride through the obscure little town of Bethlehem, park their camels in front of Mary and Joseph’s house, and go inside? Interesting that Matthew does not mention Joseph. He was probably working at the time. Perhaps an errand boy was sent to fetch Joseph.

A crowd is now gathered outside his door as he enters. There is Mary, holding Jesus while three men (maybe more) kneel before their son, God’s Son, and worship Him! Amazing! The wonder and awe that surrounded this baby’s birth continue with their visit.

But why Wise Men from the East? We live in a time when eastern religions are becoming more and more popular. Their philosophies are attractive to the learned thinkers of our day because they are deep and appeal to the mind.

The Wise Men were thinkers. They were educated beyond the common man. It’s probable that they had studied Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato and other great philosophers of their time. ( Fascinating, that those three great philosophers were all born in or near the silent years between the Old and New Testaments.  God was “silent” and men spoke their wisdom!)

Every aspect of the Christmas account holds a message.

  • The shepherds—God’s Son came to the lowliest of mankind.
  •  Bethlehem—an insignificant village and tribe, yet the only place where Messiah could be born because Micah prophesied His birth location hundreds of years earlier (Micah 5:2).
  • And the Wise Men?

The coming of the Wise Men proclaims that all religions do not lead to God. These men knew the religions of the world and yet they made an amazing journey to worship the Christ child. They had researched the ancient writings and presented Him with gold: proclaiming Jesus to be the King of kings, frankincense: declaring Him to be the High Priest who alone could atone for our sin, and myrrh: signifying His astonishing sacrifice of death.  

So, the statement “Wise men still seek Him” has a resounding ring of truth. The first Wise Men had all the wisdom of the ages and yet what set them apart from all the other magi and sent them on their incredible journey? It was the condition of their hearts. They yearned to see “God in flesh” and put everything aside to do so. 

This Christmas, will you look for Him as well? Emmanuel—God with us! Oh, may that truth never get old!

 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23

The Rest of the Story

And the angel said unto them,

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.

Luke 2:10-12

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?

this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven,

shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

 Acts 1:11

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Angels spoke directly to the shepherds and to Jesus’ disciples. These were ordinary people, not religious or political leaders. In the case of the shepherds, they were just out doing their job. You could say that they were in the right place at the right time! And the disciples were just ordinary people too; however, there is one difference between the two groups and their heavenly messengers: The disciples had come through an extraordinary event—the resurrection of Jesus Christ! AND they were watching their beloved Savior ascend into the heavens when the angels came to speak to them.

Both messages are full of reassurance. The Christmas angel comforts them with phrases like ‘fear not,’ ‘good tidings,’ and ‘great joy.’ This angel heralded the great news of a coming Savior to his astonished audience. The Acts angels question the disciples, asking them why they’re just standing there looking up. And then, they also give a wonderful message of reassurance: Jesus is coming back just like you watched him depart!

Just ordinary people with extraordinary messengers proclaiming the good news. The shepherds went to see; the disciples would soon go and tell. I encourage you to go and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes. Take the time to read it several times, and then you will be ready to go and tell because we have the rest of the story! Allow the Good News of the coming Savior to reassure you that your Savior is truly living within you. You ask me how I know He lives—He lives within my heart!

‘Tis the Season

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There are many Old Testament verses about Jesus’ first and second coming but ten deal specifically with his birth. If there is anything that solidifies my trust and confidence in the Bible it is fulfilled prophecies. Here’s a short list of the above passages which foretold something about Jesus’ birth:

  1. Genesis 49:10—Christ would come through the line of Judah.
  2. Micah 5:2—Bethlehem would be His birthplace (Even though Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth).
  3. Isaiah 11:1—Christ would come through the line of Jesse.
  4. Jeremiah 23:5—Christ would be a son of David.
  5. 2 Samuel 7:16—His throne would last forever (really a double prophecy, but for us who are living in the church age, it is a great promise, especially as the days get darker).
  6. Isaiah 9:6—This is that wonderful verse which Handel used in his oratorio, Messiah. He would come as a child, and government would rest on His shoulders. (Although it may not be the direct meaning of the phrase, I can’t help thinking about the Mayflower Compact and our Constitution which is so firmly grounded upon biblical principles.) He would be wonderful, a Counselor, and don’t forget that His was, is and will always be the mighty God, the everlasting Father! AND, praise God, our Prince of Peace!
  7. Isaiah 7:14—born of a virgin.
  8. Numbers 24: 17*—Christ would come out of Jacob.
  9. Jeremiah 31: 1—One of the saddest prophecies in the Bible: the death of the children of Bethlehem by Herod.
  10. Hosea 11:1—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ flight to Egypt.

Can the prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming relate to His first coming? The following verse is one of my favorites. Jesus is standing before Caiaphas and the assembly of “all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes” (Mark 14:53). Jesus has kept silent to their questioning but now answers:

And Jesus said,

I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,

and coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).

 

I suppose some may say that speaking of yourself in a future event would negate its genuineness, but for me it only adds credence because of Who is speaking. Jesus himself is telling us of his second coming.  We will see him sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is coming in the clouds.  His second coming is just as certain as his first, but here is a difference: in his incarnate state He did not speak of his first coming. But we can.

Will you tell someone about Jesus today? The Christmas season is a wonderful time to witness for our Lord. There are church programs to invite people to, special tracts to give out, and even Christmas carols playing in stores, giving us an opportunity for “a word in season.” What better season to witness of God’s great goodness than the season with a Reason!

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 2 Timothy 4:2

 

*Very interesting that today’s Jewish leaders look to 2022, the year that a “new star or nova [which] is the product of the collision of two other astral bodies will appear in the sky due to the collision of two other astral bodies. Rabbi Yosef Berger, a rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, has proposed that the star is a fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy from the book of Numbers, in which a star precedes the arrival of an important military leader: ‘a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab, and the territory of all the Sethites” (NRSV Num 24:17)’”

Excerpt from https://www.thedailybeast.com/is-the-new-star-really-a-sign-of-a-messiah-for-israel

Christmas Lights and Jonah’s Gourd

 

 “So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.” Jonah 4:6

24852525_10215477430155882_3326722355540250083_nChristmas lights—a source of great delight and fierce frustration! I’m sure you’ve all experienced the irritation of placing LIT lights on your tree or around the highest point of your house, only to descend the ladder, look up, and see a section that is not working!  So was the case at the MacAvoy household this year.  After pitching three half-lit strands of lights, I finally got the tree completely illuminated; however, the following week while serenely sipping coffee and reading my Bible beside the tree (what ambiance!), I noticed a flicker of light in my peripheral vision. When I looked over at the tree, I saw the lights go on and off once again in a section of the tree!

They stayed unlit for a few days until I had a chance to check it out. When I did, I felt like someone working for their salvation.  Surely, if I pull out each darkened bulb and replaced it, checking to make sure that all the wires were intact, God would reward my efforts.  As in Naaman’s situation, God waited until that last bulb before intervening, but when I pulled out that bulb the rest of the lights came to life! I looked at the empty socket, and then at the bulb in my hand! A miracle!

The following morning I was talking to God, praising Him and thanking Him for the blessing of the previous day, when I remembered the lights. With “exceeding gladness,” I thanked Him for lighting my tree!

Isn’t that just like Jonah? He was so glad that God took pity on him and make a vine to shield him from the hot rays of the sun. He did not thank Him for having pity on the eternal souls of men, including himself, but rather was overwhelmed with joy because of physical comfort.

The Lord’s challenge for me this Christmas season is this:

 Can I look past the pressing things, the daily trials, and the difficult circumstances, and focus on the blessings and needs of those around me?

To do so takes extra time which is already limited at this time of year, but so many of our friends and families desperately need to see Jesus in a tangible way! So, do the extraordinary for Christmas. Think out of the box.  After all, Jesus left the dazzling perfection of heaven to be entombed in Mary’s womb, to undergo the pangs of labor, and to surround His deity with the scent of barn animals and smelly shepherds. Can’t I do something extraordinary for Him for His birthday?

And, by the way… “Doest thou well to be angry [with the Christmas lights] (Jonah 4:9)?”  🙂

12 Days to Celebrate

Every year, I ask the Lord for something insightful–something I may not have seen before about this special time of the year. This year, He gave me several blessings!

I came across these words for “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” I’m not certain of their origin, but some claim that, as was so often the case, the words were cryptic and used to teach biblical truths during a time of persecution. If true, how special and meaningfully crafted were these words!

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A partridge is a small bird, quite defenseless; however, like many small birds, they will fight to the death against much larger foul to protect their young.  I’m so glad that I have no foe bigger or more powerful than our God! The pear tree brings forth fruit.  Think of all the “fruit” our Lord has produced because of His great sacrifice on the tree!

Two turtle doves, perfectly matched, work together not only to build their nest but to care for their young. How beautifully the Old Testament and New Testament complement each other, giving us security and nourishment!

Hens produce one of the most valued ingredients in baking: eggs! While most bread recipes, a staple food, do not take eggs, cookie or dessert recipes are limited without these oval gems! Faith, hope, and love are some of the main ingredients in our lives, and because of them, we are able to have a sweet walk with the Lord and others.

The “calling” birds were originally the Colly bird, which is a black, nondescript songbird. And is there any better symbol of what the Gospels do? They tell the story of our dear Savior, and, in the process, the Gospel goes forth calling out the Good News that Jesus saves. Often, the most effective messenger for our Lord is the quiet, still, small voice which goes forth without much pomp or glamour!

The Pentateuch: five books which contain our history from the Creation account to the completion of Israel’s wilderness wandering. They are foundational, and like five golden rings, they link together to tell us about our rich heritage as well as our promised future!

Geese a-laying–once again we see the beginning of life. What better image for creation?

Swimming swans–From Isaiah 11;1,2 “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;”and piety (derived from the following verses), the gifts of a Spirit-filled life are portrayed by the power and graceful swan. And is there a more beautiful image than a swan gracefully swimming through water? As born-again believers, we go forward, showing forth a beautiful testimony when we “put on” these gifts from the Holy Spirit which become available to us at our spiritual birth.

Maids a-milking conjure up images of hardworking women.  The idea of a fruitful life–one which is truly blessed when we practice each of the beatitudes–is portrayed as working maidens. Ladies, if we parallel the Trinity with the home, the only Person left to represent Mother is the Holy Spirit. Just like that daily milking that would begin the day of a milkmaid, we must drink from the Word every day if we wish to grow these nine fruits!

Leaping lords! Walking lords? Running lords? No, leaping! This image shouts of joy, and truly the commandments of God bring joy to our lives. I often quote Proverbs 13:15b, “… the way of transgressors is hard.” But these lords are leaping because of the first half of the verse: “Good understanding giveth favor.” Although life can be hard, living “by the Book” not only gives us strength for the day by puts a hop in our step!

Ladies dancing–Another picture of grace. When ladies dance together, as in a ballet or 18th-century minuet, the effect is beautiful. As one, they move, not drawing attention to the individual but to the collective motion. Think of nine ladies–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, all working together to bring praise and glory to God. And where is this dance being performed? In your heart, dear friend!

Drummer–the percussion section of any band or orchestra gives a pulse to the music. Pulse means life. What is our life–our true, spiritual life? Is it not our beliefs? Here they are summed up for us in the Apostles’ Creed:

  1. I believe in God the Father almighty;
  2. and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
  3. Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
  4. Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
  5. on the third day rose again from the dead,
  6. ascended into heaven,
    sits at the right hand of the Father,
  7. whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
  8. and in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy Church, the communion of saints
  10. the remission of sins,
  11. the resurrection of the flesh,
  12. and life everlasting.

Who is the One who gives us all these gifts? Our True Love! So… Whether a tool to teach children their catechisms or a reminder of the blessings of our great Christian heritage, I hope when you hear this tune, it will be a blessing! Merry, meaningful Christmas!