Heaven’s Light Invading Our World’s Darkness
At this holiday season of the year, many people are asking, “What is there to be so merry about anyway?” With the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, crime, abusive injustice, violence against women, celebrity and leadership scandal take-downs, political instability, racism, hatred of police, national discord—all of these at an all-time high, marriages breaking up, online suicides, a sense of continued ragged emotional & spiritual fragmentation, drug & alcohol abuse —no wonder many people question whether we should say, “Merry Christmas!”
Yet it was at such a time that our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world some 2,000 years ago. And it will be at such a time that Jesus Christ comes back to this earth.
The angel on that first Christmas night said, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). If we believe this, then it makes all the difference in the world for us. Life takes on a new dimension.
There is one particular passage of Scripture in the Old Testament to which I often turn, not only at this time of the year but also at many times other than the Christmas season: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a Light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2).
When these words were uttered by the Prophet Isaiah, prophetic thunders were heard and the lightning of divine vengeance was seen as the clouds of judgment were gathering. With a trumpet-like voice this great statesman-prophet had declared with certainty the calamity which was soon to fall upon Judah as a judgment from God. Judah’s alliance with evil and her departure from God called forth predictions of dreadful disaster. Isaiah had proclaimed with accuracy the Assyrian invasion. All around him were clouds of wrath and desolating darkness.
But Isaiah saw far away at the horizon a rift in the clouds and a clear light shining from heaven. He saw that while the people were walking in darkness, a light also shined upon them. He looked through the next 800 years of time and then he declared, “Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6).
“Unto us a Child is born” (Isaiah 9:6). He was not born according to the laws and the processes of natural generations. The nature of His birth was supernatural. The “Child born” was born to a virgin: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
But “Unto us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). Because He is the God-man, He was able to bear our sins on the cross. And God raised Him from the dead as an indication that He had accepted Christ’s atoning work on the cross. He was the only One in the entire universe qualified to bear our sins, and He did it voluntarily.
Therefore, at this Christmas season, with our trust and faith in Christ, we hear the angel saying, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10). The psalmist said, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).
This is the Christmas message to you and I today. You, too, can appropriate the words to believers, words that are used all the way through the Scriptures: “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:5). “Peace on earth, good will to man” is promised by God and spoken first by the Christmas angels that very night His Son Jesus Christ was born! But, where is all that “promised peace” today?
First, it begins in our hearts, secondly, it will be completed when He returns and that could be soon! Until then, friends you and I are called to work for peace, to be “peacemakers” at our workplace, in our communities, in our families, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” said the Prince of Peace our Lord Jesus Christ.
A Child was born and a Son was given for our salvation. We have complete assurance that Jesus Christ is not only the Son of Man but also that He is the Son of God. And God has accepted what Jesus did on the cross and in the resurrection for our salvation. We trust in Him–and Him alone–for our forgiveness and for eternal life. Trust Him with your all this Christmas and resolve to live for Him with all your heart throughout the coming New Year. Christmas means that God has “stepped into our very human shoes” taking on broken, sinful humanity personally Himself. He knows all about our ongoing struggles, our present challenges, our deep pains, our inward scars from the past, our unfulfilled hopes, our wistful dreams, our nagging fears and everything there ever is to know about our past, present and future—He knows us better than we know ourselves and He loves us dearly. Now would be a good time to turn to Him in prayer and give Him the heavy burdens you are carrying around that He came to bear for you. Jesus is the “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). We are the people who have “walked in darkness, but seen a Great Light.” (Isaiah 9:2)
A Blessed Christmas to You All!
Mary: Portrait of a Woman Used by God
From Nancy Leigh DeMoss
One of my favorite biblical role models is Mary of Nazareth. In her life I have found a wealth of wisdom for my own walk with God. Her story illustrates many of the characteristics of the kind of woman God uses to fulfill His redemptive purposes in our world.
An Ordinary Woman
There was nothing particularly unusual about Mary. She was not from a wealthy or illustrious family. When the angel appeared to this young teenage girl, she was engaged to be married and was undoubtedly doing what engaged girls do—dreaming of being married to Joseph, of the home they would live in, of the family they would have. I don’t believe she was expecting her life to be used in any extraordinary way.
The significance of Mary’s life was not based on any of the things our world values so highly—background, physical beauty, intelligence, education, natural gifts, and abilities. It was Mary’s relationship to Jesus that gave her life significance. “The Lord is with you,” the angel told her (Luke 1:28, NIV). That is what made all the difference in this young woman’s life. And it is what makes all the difference in our lives.
An Undeserving Woman
God did not choose this young woman because she was worthy of the honor of being the mother of the Savior. The angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (v. 28, emphasis added). That phrase could be translated, “You who are graciously accepted.” If any of us is to be accepted by God, it will be because of grace—not because of anything we have done.
It’s all because of grace. Over and over again in Scripture, we see that God chooses people who are undeserving. God didn’t look down from heaven and say, “I see a woman who has something to offer Me; I think I’ll use her.” Mary did not deserve to be used by God; to the contrary, she marveled at God’s grace in choosing her.
The moment we cease to see ourselves as undeserving instruments, chances are we will cease to be useful in the hand of God.
A Spirit-filled Woman
We, too, must be filled with the Spirit if we are to fulfill the purpose for which God has chosen us. When the angel said to Mary, “You’re going to have a child,” Mary responded, “How can this be? I’ve never been intimate with a man!” God had chosen her for a task that was humanly impossible.
The task for which God has chosen you and me is no less impossible. We can share the Gospel of Christ with our lost friends, but we cannot give them repentance and faith. You can provide a climate that is conducive to the spiritual growth of your children, but you can’t make them have a heart for God. We are totally dependent on Him to produce any fruit of eternal value.
In response to Mary’s expression of weakness and inadequacy, the angel promised her God’s strength and adequacy: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35).
Don’t ever forget that you cannot do what God has called you to do. You cannot parent that child, love that husband, care for that elderly parent, submit to that boss, teach that Sunday school class, or lead that small-group Bible study.
God specializes in the impossible so that when the victory is won and the task is complete, we cannot take any credit. Others know we didn’t do it, and we know we didn’t do it. We must always remember that we can only live the Christian life and serve God through the power of His Holy Spirit. As soon as we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to Him. We have to be willing to get out of the way, let God take over, and let Him overshadow us.
An Available Woman
Equipped with the promises of God, Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant…. May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). In other words, “Lord, I’m available. You are my master; I am Your servant. I’m willing to be used however You choose. My body is Yours; my womb is Yours; my life is Yours.”
In that act of surrender, Mary offered herself to God as a living sacrifice. She was willing to be used by God for His purposes—willing to endure the loss of reputation that was certain to follow when people realized she was with child, willing to endure the ridicule and even the possible stoning permitted by the Mosaic law, willing to go through nine months of increasing discomfort and sleeplessness, willing to endure the labor pains of giving birth to the Child. Mary was willing to give up her own plans and agenda so that she might link arms with God in fulfilling His agenda.
A Praising Woman
When God puts challenging circumstances in our lives, we either worship or we whine. I’m ashamed to say I’ve done more than my share of whining—even about ministry. “Oh, Lord, I’m tired of traveling. Do I have to go there? This is so hard! Why do I have to deal with that person?” I am reminded of the children of Israel in the wilderness who murmured incessantly. “If only God had just let us die in the wilderness,” they whined. One day God finally said, in essence, “You want to die in the wilderness? Okay, you’ll die in the wilderness!” (see Num. 14:2, 28–30). Be careful what you say when you murmur—God may take you up on it.
But when Mary’s world was turned topsy-turvy, when she was faced with a drastic change in plans, she responded in worship and praise. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (vv. 46–47). So begins her Magnificat—one of the greatest hymns of praise ever lifted up to heaven. She worshiped God for His wonderful acts, for His mercy, and for choosing her to be a part of His great redemptive plan.
A Woman of the Word
Her prayer in Luke 1:46–55 includes at least a dozen quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures. In those days women did not have a formal education; Mary was probably illiterate. But she had listened to the reading of the Word and had hidden it in her heart. Her life and her prayers were filled with Scripture.
One of our greatest needs as women is to become women of the Word so that our prayers, our responses, and our words are saturated with God’s way of thinking. The world does not need to hear our opinions. When friends approach us for advice about dealing with their children, their boss, their finances, their fears, their depression, or other issues, they don’t need to hear what we think. We should be able to take them to the Word and say, “I don’t have the answers you need, but I know Someone who does. Here’s what God’s Word has to say about this situation.”
A Wounded Woman
Eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took the infant to the temple (Luke 2:21–35). Simeon, who had been waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, took the Christ-Child in his arms and blessed Him. Simeon spoke of how the Child would be a sign that would be spoken against—foreshadowing the cross and the suffering He would undergo. Then Simeon looked at Mary and spoke words that she would not fully understand until she stood beneath the cross of her Son 33 years later. On that day she surely remembered Simeon’s words, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (v. 35).
There at Calvary I believe that sword pierced Mary’s soul in more than one sense. First, as a mother she was losing her Son. She was giving up His life. Even as He laid down His life, she gave up her Son for the salvation and the redemption of the world.
Mothers, have you laid down your children for the sake of Christ and His kingdom? How sad it is on occasion to see Christian parents stand in the way of their children laying down their lives for the sake of Christ. And what a joy to see parents who gladly release their children to the will of God.
Another wound pierced Mary’s heart—this one even more deeply than the first. You see, she understood that her Son was dying not only for the sins of the world, but for her sins. Even before He was born, she had recognized Him as “God my Savior” (Luke 1:47, emphasis added). As good as she was, Mary was not good enough to get to heaven on her own. As is true with each of us, she had to place her faith in the crucified Son of God, who died in her place. As she stood beneath that cross, perhaps she recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced for [my] transgressions, he was crushed for [my] iniquities… and by his wounds [I am] healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5–6).
Mary was a wounded woman–wounded not only by her suffering, but by her sin. As she gazed upon her crucified Son, she realized that He was taking her wounds upon Himself. And as she believed, she was healed—cleansed of her sin. Three days later when she learned that He had conquered death and was alive, knowing she had been made whole by His death, she joined the other disciples in taking the Good News of His atonement to a wounded, sinful world, that they, too, might know His healing salvation.
For more than 2,000 years her life has provided a portrait of godliness for women who, like Mary, long to be used of God. This Christmas, will you allow God to use your life as a portrait of faith, hope, love and dedication to the reason for our season, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ? We pray you will. God bless you!
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
We’ve arrived at the best time of the year – the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. I just love being with family and friends… enjoying great food, great fellowship, and great football (Go Crimson Tide of Alabama!)
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we tend to focus on our blessings and giving thanks for God’s goodness. While that is certainly a good thing, it is not the best thing. The best thing is to turn Thanksgiving into Thanks-living. Regardless of the day or the situation, God wants us to be thankful. Why is that?
1. Thanks-living lets God know you have confidence in Him, no matter how deep the problems or how dire the circumstances. Thanks is faith turned inside out.
2. Thanks-living changes your countenance and disposition. Instead of being down and discouraged, spreading gloom and despair everywhere you go, you begin to radiate the joy of the Lord. The best witnesses for Christ are those who are facing life’s trials with a song of thanksgiving on their lips.
3. Thanks-living opens the door for God to work. God hates it when we grumble and gripe, but He loves it when we praise and give thanks. As we begin to live a life of thankfulness to God, He begins to work, even through the toughest trials and tests of faith. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison… and they sang a hymn of praise to the Lord. And when they finished singing, the Lord sent a jailhouse rock, and the prison doors were opened. You mark it down: God does miracles on our behalf when we choose to thank Him and praise Him, even in the deepest, darkest pit.
Let me challenge you as I challenge myself. Discipline yourself to give thanks in everything. Thank Him for the mountains … and thank Him for the valleys. He is worthy of all your thanks and praise.
A Prayer You May Need to Pray
Father God, I hate to say it, but I have been guilty of grumbling and griping about all my problems and trials. I have failed to be as thankful as I really should be and to remember that You are at work in my life, even through all the troubles. Please forgive me, God. I want to be a person who keeps my eyes on You and praises You, no matter what may come my way. So, thank You God for these blessings (name them) and these challenges (name them). I know You are in control of all things. I know You love me and work all things together for my good. I choose to trust You, Lord. Teach me to be a “praiser” who always finds the good… and not a complainer who always finds the bad. In Jesus’ name, Amen.