Day 113 – Why Doesn’t God Just Fix Things?
“Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
Don’t you just get tired of it – the many, many injustices, falsehoods, troubles, violence, etc. in our world? Don’t you want to move past the inadequacies and conflicts in yourself? What about those promises of God found in the Bible – to rescue the poor and oppressed, to tear down evil?
Job asked in Job 3, 20 “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul,21 who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures,22 who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave?
The prophet Habakkuk asked (1:2), “ O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?”
David asked in Psalm 6:3, “My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long?” and in 10:1,“Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
These are age-old questions. Why doesn’t God just fix things? We find such questions in the Bible – and – we also find some answers there. Here are five answers.
- Acts 1:7 “He [Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
The disciples had asked if that moment was the time to establish the Kingdom. In other words, ‘When will things get better?’ His answer, in essence, was that there is coming a time when God will do something about the oppression of today. But, only the Father in Heaven knows that time. We can be assured that such a longed-for time will come. (See the previous devotional where Peter deals with the same issue – ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’)
- Galatians 6:7, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
The problems in the world usually arise from bad choices. In Numbers 13:1-33, Moses sends the twelve spies into Canaan to spy out the promised land. All bring back a report of a land flowing in milk and honey – but, ten of them add, it is a land of fearsome inhabitants whom Israel won’t be able to defeat. The people listened to these ten and wanted to return to Egypt. God brought immediate judgment on the 10 spies and forty years of desert wandering upon the nation as a whole. They made the wrong choice. Many of our troubles are of our (or society’s) own making and can affect us individually as well as nations collectively. By allowing us to make poor choices, God also allows the disturbing consequences as a form of discipline – to get our attention and teach us lessons we need to learn. “He_(God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share hisholiness. 11 For_the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later ityields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10b-11).
- John 9:3
Jesus_answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
In John 9, the disciples ask Jesus if the blindness of a man they saw was punishment for some sin he or his parents committed. Jesus answered that it was not. Rather it was so that God’s mighty work could be seen in him. Then, Jesus healed the man! Sometimes, we go through difficulties so that God can work through us in a special way and others can see that the work is of God, not any human.
- Exodus 3:7-9
7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their task masters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of_Israel has come to me, and I have_also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
The people of Israel were suffering under the hands of an oppressive regime in Egypt. God would deliver them but there was a process He had in mind. It involved the intervention of Moses, several miracles, the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai, wilderness wanderings, and a campaign of conquest led by Joshua. God may have a process for you in His plan of deliverance. We see this stated by Jesus in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Again, in John 13:7, the Lord says to_Peter,_ “What I am doing you donot understand now, but afterward you will understand.” God is doing something even when we don’t see it or don’t understand it. Ultimately, God is working for the wondrous future of those who have trusted Him: 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing_for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the_things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”, II Corinthians 4:17-18.
- Joshua 5:13-14 13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes_and looked, and behold, a man was standing before_him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our_adversaries?”14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.”
Just before entering the promised land, Joshua met a stranger and asked a question. It was the wrong question. Joshua should have asked, “Who are you”, because that is the question this man answered. The man in question was the Lord Himself, as we see in verse 15 when Joshua bows in worship. Always, we are asking the wrong question when we say, ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ As we have seen in this discussion, He is doing something. We need to recognize Him as the God of compassion and power who is there working on our behalf.
- Read John 14:18-21.
- In facing some of your anxieties right now, which of the above answers do you think is most apropos to your situation and concern? Meditate on this.
- Based on the points above, wait on God – trust Him for the unexplainable and the hard to accept (Psalm 27:14). Fix what you can (Micah 6:8, e.g., with an apology, a better plan, working harder, etc.) And reflect upon what you know about God (Psalm 77:11-12).
- Certainly, some of this topic has to do with the sovereignty of God. With so many problems of long standing in the world, do you still recognize that God is in control?
- Consider the longing expressed so often by the Psalmist who cried out to God to come. Consider also the final cry of the New Testament, as found in Revelation 22:10, “20 He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
Day 114 – The Return of Christ
“Where is the promise of His coming?” – II Peter 3:4
Most Christian faiths include in their declaration of what they believe a statement affirming the return of Christ. Some of these statements are brief –“The kingdom or reign of God is both a present reality and future hope.” (from United Methodist, “Our Christian Beliefs,” https://www.umc.org/en/content/our-christian-beliefs ) Others are more detailed. Here are two examples:
The Roman Catholic Church Catechism states, “681. On Judgement Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history. 682. When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace. https://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P1X.HTM .
Associated Gospel Churches of Canada (the denomination with which I served as a pastor): At a time known only to God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ will return bodily and in glory, receive His own, and establish His earthly thousand-year reign. God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world. The unsaved will be cast into the lake of fire to suffer eternal conscious punishment. The saved of all ages will be forever with the Lord. God will rule over His Kingdom in the new heaven and the new earth for all eternity. https://agcofcanada.com/faith
While Christians may say that they believe Jesus Christ will return, do we really believe it? Do we live with that expectation in mind? According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2010, 27% of those identifying as Christian said Jesus would return in the next 40 years, 20% that He would probably do so, 28% that he probably would not return in that time span, 10% that He definitely would not do so, and 14% did not know. Muslims also accept the return of Jesus and another Pew poll (2012)found that more than half of Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand believe in the “imminent return” of Jesus. ( https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/january-february/who-awaits-messiah-most-muslims-isis-dabiq-eschatology.html )
What does the Bible say about the return of Christ? Answer: a great deal! Let’s consider the writings of Peter as found in his second letter.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Peter had witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, when He appeared in His glory alongside Moses and Abraham (Luke 19:28-29). His belief system was built on his in-person experience with Jesus. He later also witnessed the resurrected Jesus, plus the ascension of Jesus into the heavens (Acts 1: ). Peter is saying that these events are not cleverly devised fables. He goes on to point out that there have always been false prophets and teachers who dispute the truth of the promised return of Jesus. These scoffers, as he calls them, will be around until Jesus returns. In II Peter 3:4, Peter asserts, “They will say, ‘Where is the promiseof His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’ ”
Peter then answers that question. First, he reminds us that in the past, God created the world and then flooded it. In Noah’s day people doubted that a flood would come – that a day of judgment would come. But it did (II Peter 3:5-7). Secondly, he says that our concept of time is not God’s. One day with God is like a thousand years with us. To think that Jesus will not come because it has been a “long time” in our perception, is to reflect human thinking not godly thinking II Peter 3:8). Thirdly, God is patient. He wants all to repent and grants people time to do so (II Peter 3:9). Fourthly, he re-asserts that God will bring judgment upon the world that has refused His Son (II Peter 3:10).
After answering the doubters, Peter says, in light of the certainty of the Lord’s coming, we ought to live holy and godly lives, anticipating not only the destruction of all that is evil, but also happily expecting the new heaven and earth He will create (II Peter 3:11-13).
Why should we firmly expect Jesus to return? The Old Testament prophets spoke of His first coming and He came. We should similarly anticipate His second coming. Also, Jesus spoke often of His return (examples are found in Matthew 17, 24-25; Mark13, Luke 12, 17, 21; Revelation 22). Various New Testament writers spoke of His return. We have considered some of Peter’s writing in his second epistle. In I Peter he also used several words and expressions to direct us to the Lord’s return: “living hope, imperishable inheritance”, “heaven”, “the last time”, “the revelation of Jesus Christ”, “the subsequent glories”, “the day of visitation”, Christ in heaven with the angels, “the end of all things”, “dominion forever and ever”, “when His glory is revealed”, “His eternal glory in Christ” – see I Peter:1:3-13; 2:12, 3:22, 4:7, 11, 13; 5:10.
Not only do Christian groups include belief statements about the return of Christ, but also hymn writers have reinforced this belief in many, many hymns and worship songs. One web site, www.hymntime.com , lists 626 songs and hymns on Christ’s return. A long-time favourite hymnal in many churches, Worship & Service Hymnal, lists many such hymns under index headings such as second coming, immortality, second advent, ascension and reign, etc.
- Read II Peter 3.
- Are you a scoffer? – it’s been a long time so I don’t think Jesus is coming – or a believer? – there is no doubt in my mind.
- What is your response to Peter’s challenge to live holy lives now in expectation of the Lord’s eventual and sudden return?
- What hymns and worship music on the coming of Christ do you find especially helpful?
Day 115 – What Jesus Says About Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,where moth and rust destroy and where thieves_break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust+destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20
There are many books written about heaven – everything from theological studies to fantasy. The words “heaven” or “heavenly” are frequently used in conversations, as in, “This cake is heavenly” or “This is so good I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.” Many hymns have been written about heaven. While walking my dog on recent mornings I find myself humming, or whistling some of them. These include “Heaven Came Down”, “I Can only Imagine”, “Mansion on a Hilltop”, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”, “When We All Get to Heaven”, “What A Day That Will Be”, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, “Soon and Very Soon”, and a lot more!
The scripture has much to say about heaven. I’ve been thinking about what Jesus Christ Himself said about heaven. So, with that in mind, I read through the four gospels, using a “Red Letter Edition” Bible (where all of Jesus’ words are printed in red) to discover what the Lord Himself had to say on this subject and on His return.
Beginning with Matthew, I found an emphasis on heaven as a place – a place for people of all times who love God. In Matthew’s Gospel we read about heaven as
- the place (i.e., home) of God the Father (see Matthew 5:16, 45; 6:19, 14; 7:11; 10:32; 12:50; 18:14, 19)
- the home of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matt. 8:11)
- the home of angels (Matthew 18:10; 22:30)
- the place where Jesus and the twelve apostles will reign on thrones (Matt. 19:20)
- the place of the elect (Matt. 24:31)
It is a place of reward. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for_righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:10
“… lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” Matthew 6:20
The greatest reward is to be in the presence of God. Thus, the emphasis on heaven as God’s home and as the home of those who have come to know Him, is particularly wonderful. In heaven, we get to enjoy God more than we can imagine. That is the greatest treasure. If on earth we seek material possessions, we will ultimately be disappointed, and we will neglect the seeking after God. If we seek God now, we “lay up” for ourselves the treasure of being in His presence forever. This is an amazing reward.
So, heaven is a place – the place God calls home. It can be our home, too.
- Read Matthew 6:5-15, 19-24.
- Jesus said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He was telling us to prepare for a future time. We can get ready for the move from earth to heaven by seeking Him and the things He calls righteous, now. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) How can you “seek” the kingdom today?
- What is your favourite hymn about heaven?
- Many of us have moved away from the area our parents raised us, leaving some loved ones behind. When we travel to see them at Thanksgiving or Christmas, we may say, “I’m going home.” Why do we call it “home”? Why do we call heaven “home”?
Day 116 – A Spectacular Return
24 “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun_will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the_powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they_will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great_power and glory. Mark 13:24-26
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of heaven as a home. In Mark’s Gospel, He talks about His return being spectacular.
On my desk I keep a framed photo of my wife taken on our wedding day. Every man should recall that moment in the wedding ceremony when his bride entered the room and walked toward him. She was resplendent, probably dressed in a beautiful white gown. She was coming to him and to this precious time when the two of them would pledge their love and allegiance to each other. He was the most fortunate man in the universe. She appeared and he can only use words like “amazing”, “beautiful”, “awesome”.
In our culture the word “awesome” has been over-used to describe something pretty nice. But, properly used, it suits that scene I’ve tried to describe on one’s wedding day. And, in the Gospel of Mark, the Lord tells us that His return even more so fits the word “awesome”. When He returns to this earth, He’ll outshine the sun and moon, there will be falling stars, the universe will shake, and He will appear in great power and great glory. Wow! It will be spectacular!
That is what Jesus says about His return. He will come “in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34; see also 14:62)
Mark adds some more of what Jesus said about His return. He says it will be a time of reward for those who have shown His love for the needy (Mark 9:41). Anyone can enter the kingdom now if he or she simply believes – as a child (Mark 10:23-25). One can be assured of eternal life by yielding one’s all to Him now (10:30). There will be places of honour in the future kingdom, places which the Father will determine (10:35-40). Jesus says His followers will be resurrected to a new life, and be as alive as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob already are (12:26-27). The exact time of His return is known only by the Father (13:32). His coming will be sudden (13:33-37).
In summary, Mark reports that Jesus described His return as glorious, spectacular, rewarding, sudden, and eternal.
- Read Mark 13:24-37.
- Part of Christ’s message with reference to His coming again, is that we should be ready. How do you get ready for Jesus return? (See Mark 10:13-31; 45; 12:28-34.)
- At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until He did so anew in His Father’s kingdom (Mark 14:25). When you next participate in Communion, reflect on that wonderful future day when His atonement is celebrated.
Day 117 – An Opportunity Not to be Missed
23 And someone_said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door.For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able…29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:23-24, 29-30
Can you think of opportunities that you passed up? Some were opportunities unworthy of acceptance, and those we don’t regret saying ‘No’ to. But others were good ones, and hopefully, we said ‘Yes’ to those. I recall an opportunity to become the publisher of a Christian newspaper, but I just did not think it was the right move for me or our family. A couple of other career opportunities would have been exciting in some ways but would have required a move across the country at a time when that was not a good choice for us. Another was flattering, in that it was an opportunity presented to me by an academic headhunter organization – but again it was not the right move to consider, in my opinion. And, of course, there were the opportunities I accepted – becoming the pastor of a couple of churches and becoming a faculty member at the university where I stayed for 16 years – good and worthwhile experiences in these cases!
Opportunities chosen impact our lives and the lives of family, friends, colleagues, and others in a direct way. In Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus our Lord speaks about His return or about heaven, He presents His hearers with an opportunity that should definitely not be turned down.
In Luke 14:15-24 the writer reports the Lord’s words, given in response to the exclamation of one of His followers who said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Jesus explains that, yes, that is true, but sadly not everyone who is invited into the kingdom accepts. He tells a parable of some folk who refused an invitation to a banquet. The master of the house sent his servants out to invite others, and even to stress the urgency of a positive reply. “For I tell you,” says the master, “none of those men who were invited shall taste of my banquet.” Some of Jesus’ teaching on His return and on heaven speaks to this real possibility of missing out and its terrible consequences.
- The towns which rejected His Gospel will be worse off than Sodom, which God destroyed (Luke 10:12-16).
- The blood of the prophets will be charged to His generation that rejects Him (11:50).
- There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed (12:2-3, 48)
- When the Son of Man returns, one will be taken and the other left (12:20-37).
But for those who accept and rely on Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin and the gift of a new life, the consequences of that decision are wonderful.
- “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8)
- “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to_give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the_needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old,with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief_approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (12:32-34)
- “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (12:37)
- “You_are those who have stayed with me in my trials,and I_assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you_may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones_judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Jesus’ words to His disciples in Luke 22:28-30)
- Jesus said to one of the dying thieves on a cross beside Him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (13:43)
- The Lord said, “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (15:7)
- He spoke of “eternal dwellings” (16:9).
- He also spoke of rewards in heaven much greater than the pain we suffered on earth. (18:29).
The invitation in Christ’s day was to accept and trust Him. A lot was at stake in the choice people made – to decline the invitation or to accept it. There was also an urgency to the decision. As with any opportunity, the door is open only for a limited time. The son of Man will come suddenly, at a time we do not expect (12:40). His teaching on heaven and His return as found in Luke’s Gospel offers a contrast. He uses these terms for those who are His: be part of glory, reward, blessedness, joy, comfort, and paradise. Compare those words to these about being found outside of Him at His return: be part of judgment, not able to enter [heaven], the door is shut, “I do not know where you come from”, “Depart from Me”, weeping & gnashing of teeth, one will be left, cast out. Thus, the emphasis in the Lord’s teaching on His return and on heaven is be ready – you have an opportunity that you must not pass up – and that opportunity is now.
- 1. Read Luke 13:22-35.
- Think of the opportunities have you had in your life – some you are glad you took, others you are glad you declined, and ones you regret turning down.
- Some of those opportunities had deadlines attached – you had to decide on the spur of the moment, or within a few days or a week. How did you make your decision?
- Often, when opportunities knock, we consult with a loved one or a trusted counsellor. With regard to Jesus’ invitation to join Him, is there someone you can trust to answer your questions and provide helpful guidance?
- How seriously do you take Jesus’ words about the suddenness of His return?
Day 118 – Going to the Father: What Jesus Said About His Return in the Gospel of John
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of_him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he_has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:38-40
In all my travels I have known where I came from, but I have not always known where I was going. Sometimes, for example, on a road trip, I didn’t always know where I would stop for the night. And, another thing, I may have known my ultimate destination, but have not always known how to get there. Maps and digital assistants sometimes get it wrong, as do people who give you directions. The ideal is to (a) know where you came from, (b) know where you are going, and (c) know how to get there.
In the Gospel of John, when Jesus Christ speaks about heaven and of His return, He shows that He knew a, b, and c. And, He also knew how to take us with him to His destination.
First, He knew from where He had come. He spoke of having descended from heaven (John 3:13; 6:32, 38; 8:14:16.5, 28).
Second, He knew where He was going. Jesus said He was going back to the Father who had sent Him (6:33; 8:14; 14:2, 12, 28; 16:5, 28; 20:17).
Third, He knew how we could join Him on the journey. In doing so, He spoke about how to gain eternal life. Surely, this is a major theme of the entire book. Consider these verses:
3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”
4:14, “…The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
6:27, “…eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you…”
6:33, “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
6:40, “…everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day.”
6:47-51, “Truly, truly, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life…If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever…”
11:23, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
What do we learn about eternal life from these verses? We learn that it is a gift of God; it is entirely centred on the person of Jesus Christ and His death on a cross (where He was “lifted up”) and His resurrection; Jesus’ work on our behalf demands a response, namely belief in Him.
When the Lord speaks of the future, He visualizes for us an eternal future with Him and the Father in heaven. In Matthew’s Gospel, His message is that heaven is a place awaiting His followers. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus describes His return and heaven as spectacular, rewarding, and eternal. In Luke’s Gospel Christ Jesus says that the offer to trust Him for the future is an opportunity we must not decline. And, in John’s Gospel His emphasis on belief in Himself that brings about assurance of going to the Father in heaven.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-6).
- Read 3:1-18.
- Having read chapter 3:1-18, now look at verses 19-21. Do you prefer darkness to light? Have you come to the light who is Jesus? John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.”
- In 2015 the Angus Reid Institute and the University of Lethbridge polled 1500 Canadians and asked, “Is there life after death?” and “What happens after we die?” [http://angusreid.org/life-after-death/]. 42% answered that life continues, 35% said they are not sure, and 23% said there is no life after death. In response to the second question, 36% said they don’t know, 24% thought they simply stopped existing, 25% said people go to heaven or some other good place, 9% said they go somewhere else, and 7% suggested reincarnation. Jesus spoke a lot about the future – what happens after this life on earth is over. Do you accept His teaching on this issue or not?
Day 119 – Christmas Contrasts
“Where is he_who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”… Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. Matthew 2:2,13
To worship. To destroy. The intent of the wise men and the intent of King Herod were extreme opposites. This set of opposites is but one of many we find in the nativity story.
Luke’s account begins with the announcements to Elizabeth and Mary – to Elizabeth, who has been married to Zechariah for many years and is past the child-bearing years; and to Mary who is a young woman about to be married to Joseph. Both had miracle babies, but Elizabeth’s pregnancy was natural and Mary’s was supernatural (by the Holy Spirit).
Zechariah was a humble priest as was Simeon. Anna the prophetess was of the same stature. Contrast that with the Chief Priests and scribes, priestly royalty, who advised Herod on the place the Messiah would be born.
The political rulers mentioned in the Matthew and Luke accounts include Emperor Caesar Augustus, Governor Quirinius, King Herod, and his successor, King Archelaus. However exalted their titles were, they are nothing in comparison to the ones given Jesus: Son of the most High, Christ the Lord, and Saviour.
The royals mentioned are also contrasted with the humble couple form Nazareth and others of humble position like the shepherds, the neighbours of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the priest Zechariah taking his turn in the Temple.
That same Zechariah is also seen as mute and as an orator giving praise to God upon the birth of his son.
The worshippers include wealthy foreigners with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh on the one hand and local shepherds. Contrasted, too, are those gifts of the wise men and the offerings of a poor couple (turtledoves and pigeons, not sheep).
Then, we have the eight-day old baby Jesus and the senior citizen priest and prophetess, Simeon and Anna.
These are some of the contrasts of Christmas. Today, we have Christmas observances in ornate cathedrals and simple chapels, and by massed choirs in auditoriums and a few friends singing to the accompaniment of a guitar. We also have seen Christmas concerts in our public schools altered (to avoid causing offence) to secular winter concerts. But the greatest contrasts go back to where we began: the desire to worship Jesus or to kill (or at least, eliminate) Him. The contrasts of Christmas are worth thinking about.
- Read Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2.
- How do you deal with the coming of Jesus into this world? Is He welcomed and embraced in your life or ignored and neglected?