Christmas Week – The Cast: JESUS

He was

and is

and is to come

 

Always God,

never began

 

Infinitely wise

 

He,

Father

Son

Holy Spirit

 

– One together –

chose us

 

before the beginning of the world

 

And He knew of the sacrifice

before He even made us

 

The selfless

and the painful

sacrifice

 

for we would need rescuing

before all was said and done

 

And, God,

in relationship with Himself

 

gave us His Son

and told us He would be called Jesus

 

for He would be the Salvation

everyone would need

 

He would save us all

from our sins

 

And we would not hold Him

in high esteem

 

nor love Him like we should

 

He would be introduced into this world

in the humblest way

 

for that is His nature,

humble of spirit

 

And the angels who have always known Him

marveled that He would

 

do this thing

for those such as us

 

The angels would praise

and glorify

and announce the King who was a child!

 

And prepare those closest

to this infant

 

so they would know the gravity

of the appearance of God

 

But non could have fathomed

the greatness

and boundless love

 

of this One and only God

made flesh

 

Before time, His was the earth

as His footstool

 

His was heaven beautiful

and pure

 

His was the universe

and everything in it

 

and yet…

 

He became nothing,

poured out for all

 

And so,

He is Jesus

 

The greatest of The Cast

in this true story

 

Tiny baby human

completely Divine

 

But, hear this!

 

The next cast member

is you!

 

for you are part of this story as well

the story of humanity in time

 

seen by an infinite God

 

What will you do with this Savior

of all mankind?

 

There is no neutral,

for He came for all

 

You must choose to accept

or your choice is already made

 

Choose Jesus’ love,

dear friend

 

Choose the One

who came for you

 

 

– Susie Stewart

 

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 their 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 guest room available for them.

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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, 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 heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

– Luke 2:1-21 (NIV)

 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

– Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a Son is given,
    and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

– Isaiah 9:6,7 (NIV)

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

– John 3:16 (NIV)

 

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    He humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place
    and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:6-11 (NIV)

 

 

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.

– Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

 

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.

– Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Week – The Cast: Magi

I am considered wise

and knowledgeable

 

My life has been spent learning,

and handing out advice

 

I am one of many wise men

who traveled from the east

 

to see the One born

King of the Jews

 

We were compelled to see Him,

to worship Him

 

for a star rose in the sky

and we knew we must follow it

 

We traveled far,

the weightiness of our mission spurring us on

 

In time, we were intercepted

by a jealous king

 

Herod and his people

were afraid and disturbed because of the unkown

 

We, on the other hand, were filled with joy

and discovery curiosity

 

King Herod brought together

Jewish priests and teachers

 

and asked them where

this Messiah was to be born

 

Bethlehem of course

for that is prophecy’s place

 

for Messiah’s birth

 

Summoned then, by this jealous king,

we were asked when the star appeared in the sky

 

and he sent us on our way

to find this one-of-a-kind child

 

We did not believe Herod when he said

he wanted to also worship this Messiah

 

for we could see it in his eyes

that he did not believe in the child’s purpose

 

My joy grew as I saw the star once again in the sky

and we all knew to follow it

 

each step anticipating

Immanuel

 

And there He was in His home

with His mother Mary

 

I, and the other magi, lay prostrate

before the King of Kings so small

 

We worshiped Him

 

And we laid our treasures

at His feet

 

Gold

Frankincense

Myrrh

 

Earthly riches

Heavenly child

 

And we returned to our homes in the east

filled and satisfied

with having witnessed

 

the Son of God

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find Him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

– Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Week – The Cast: A Shepherd

Why would the starry heavens open

to reveal glory

 

to someone

such as me?

 

I tell you,

I know not why

 

But that is what happened

one unforgettable night

 

just outside of Bethlehem

 

It was a beautiful, clear night

as we watched our flocks closely

 

We live out in the wilderness

away from the town and the people

 

It was just us

and it was just the sheep

 

But God

noticed

us

 

Believe me when I tell you,

He sent angels

 

lit with His glory and light!

 

They were as prisms

radiating pure white color

 

We were overwhelmed

and terrified

and humbled

and awestruck

 

One of them spoke,

“Do not be afraid!”

 

This angel of the Lord

spoke to us!

 

He was bringing us great news

and he said it would bring great joy

 

for ALL PEOPLE!

 

Humble shepherds

told this important news

 

for all the world…

it was more than we could take in

 

But then I thought…

 

about how the Scriptures said

that the Lord is the good Shepherd

 

…The LORD

is the good Shepherd….

 

and I thought that just maybe

He truly cared about lowly shepherds

 

and small sheep….

 

The angel then revealed news

that we could hardly believe

 

He told us that in David’s home town

of Bethlehem

 

the Messiah had actually been born!

The Lord!

 

And he told us how to find Him

 

Imagine,

the Messiah Lord

being born…

 

and he was wrapped in swaddling,

just as a baby should be

 

or a person ready for burial…

 

But just as we wanted to jump up

and find this small King…

 

the entire sky lit up

with the glory of many angels!!

 

So many

we couldn’t count!

 

We shielded our eyes

but we couldn’t look away

 

The most beautiful sight

we had ever seen!

 

They were praising God,

of course they were!

 

And we bowed low

as we struggled to take it all in

 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”

 

The most inspiring, true words

I had ever heard

 

When they left we took a breath,

stunned to our very core

 

and we got up and ran into David’s town

to see what the Lord had told us

 

There we found Him,

the infant King just born

 

and the God of promise

solidified His oath

 

to bring us the One to save us,

the people of frail earth

 

And we had to tell all,

for everyone needed to know

 

about love Divine

Messiah small

 

Hope for all the world

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

– Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

 

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    He leads me beside peaceful streams.
  He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to His name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

– Psalm 23:1-6 (NLT)

 

 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

– John 20:11 (NIV)

 

I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

– John 10:14 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Week – The Cast: Gabriel

I stand

in the very presence of God

 

and my appearance

is light,

overwhelming light

 

I know heaven

and I know earth

 

I fight battles unseen

and I bring messages of truth

 

All tremble at my appearing

for I stand

in the presence of God

 

Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary

all recorded as God followers who heard my voice

 

I came with good news

and I came with challenging words

 

messages from the Maker of heaven and earth!

 

who I revere

who I adore

who I obey

in whose presence I stand

 

I am Gabriel

and God is my strength

 

I do only what He directs

and I am given authority in the spiritual realm

 

by His gracious hand

 

I am Gabriel

and I spoke tenderly with the mother of my Lord

 

I told her of the conception immaculate

and the beautiful name to be given her son

 

Jesus

 

He is great and is called the Son of the most High!

His reign and kingdom will have no end!

 

My eyes

which have seen God

look deep into her

 

and she who is highly favored

bows to God’s words

 

She is to be the mother of the Messiah

 

I am otherworldly and intimidating

but God’s mother listens intently

 

and she does not doubt

 

I, Gabriel, stand in the presence of God

and I go to earth to speak His words

 

to those who also

will stand in His presence

 

because of Messiah

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Then the angel said [to Zechariah], “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He who sent me to bring you this good news! 

– Luke 1:19 (NLT)

 

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. 33 And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

– Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

 

As I, Daniel, was trying to understand the meaning of this vision, someone who looked like a man stood in front of me. And I heard a human voice calling out from the Ulai River, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of his vision.”

As Gabriel approached the place where I was standing, I became so terrified that I fell with my face to the ground. “Son of man,” he said, “you must understand that the events you have seen in your vision relate to the time of the end.”

While he was speaking, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground. But Gabriel roused me with a touch and helped me to my feet.

Then he said, “I am here to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath. What you have seen pertains to the very end of time.

– Daniel 8:15-19 (NLT)

 

The biblical meaning of Gabriel is “God is my strength”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post by Nicole Rowell

For Unto us a Child is Born

Not wanting to show any disrespect to Thanksgiving, our family waited until Friday morning to “joyfully” carry dusty, overstuffed bins of questionable greenery and a formerly pre-lit Christmas tree (about which no one is bitter) from the basement to the family room. It wasn’t quite the same as Pa chopping down an evergreen and hoisting it over his shoulder for a snowy walk back to the little cabin in the woods, but by day’s end, Christmas merriment had exploded in our home.

In early evening, after the plastic bins were dragged back downstairs, I finally cozied up on the couch, my face aglow from the warm haze of my laptop. Not about to brave the Black Friday crowds in person, click by click my Christmas shopping was basically done. (Insert heartfelt poem about the glory of Amazon Prime).

“Christmas Vacation” silently played on the TV and I scrolled through a few Christmas-y Spotify playlists to brighten the air while dinner took shape. The duo nominated to hang the outdoor Christmas lights (requiring the 40-foot ladder) weren’t overly thrilled about their very special holiday task, so I tried to lessen the pain with food. Clark and Russ responded with glee.

By day’s end, even the dog proudly displayed her plaid Christmas collar.

Honestly, I went to bed ecstatic over the day’s accomplishments. The Checklist to Celebrating Christmas was more or less complete.

And yet, over the next few days, something unsettling nagged at my heart. My favorite morning ritual is to sit with God’s Word while it’s still dark and offer my heart and steps to Jesus for the day. This peaceful time is beautified every December by trees full of lights and memories, beautifully joining me in the stillness. A gentle, inaudible voice whispered to me as I gripped my coffee cup. “What about me?

Where do I come in your preparation? Do you even remember what all this is about?”

Now listen, I wanted to protest, I KNOW Jesus is the reason for the season. I’m not confused about why we’re doing all this decorating and shopping. I’m simply being efficient.

But in that moment, I realized I hadn’t given more than passing thought to Jesus himself.

The preparation of my home overshadowed the preparation of my heart.

Every year during advent, I ask God what glimpse of His character or aspect of this familiar Bible story He wants me to hold close. Having skipped that step in the rush to get ‘er done, I took a moment to ask and consider what God might have for me this season.

Immediately, my heart was drawn to images of Almighty God descending to earth wearing soft skin and a gummy smile.

A few days later, I found myself snuggling a friend’s infant baby boy. After his bottle, he slept peacefully in my arms and his details captivated my attention. I examined every feature: the tiny curled eyelashes, perfectly shaped miniature lips, fuzzy hair unsure of it’s color and cheeks destined for kissing. (He was also wearing a bowtie, as a teeny baby does.)

The fragility and helplessness that Jesus intentionally, humbly chose sank deep in my soul. The Savior that would later suffer and die a gruesome death entered the world exactly like this tiny boy in my arms. Jesus, with delicate eyelashes and tiny hands. Jesus, unable to feed himself or speak.

Overwhelmed with awe, my heart couldn’t make sense of such a collision of heaven and earth. It still can’t. But holding this sweet baby reminded me that this is not just a Bible story. Jesus, as a newborn, sent to miraculously bring hope and freedom to the world, was incredibly, touchably, real. He was held and cried and loved.

My heart re-oriented itself to preparation, to spending time this December in awe of Jesus. My eyes are fixed on noticing and gratefully responding to the Rescuer God sent packaged as a newborn.

Let every heart prepare Him room.
What will your heart preparation look like?

Have you intentionally made space to wonder with God what He might show you this Christmas season?

The angels said it best:
“I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11-12 (The Message)

 

~ Nicole Rowell