Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Christ Meets Us in the Mundane (Micah 5:2)

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God could operate from a position of power, but often He does not. He frequently finds a way to accomplish His goals by using the most insignificant, unlikely, unimpressive people and circumstances.

When the ancient Israelites requested a king, God initially chose Saul, a “nobody” from the most insignificant tribe in Israel.

When Saul disobeyed God, He replaced him with David—a ruddy “pretty-boy” shepherd from a small town in Judah. Once again, God chose a nobody to accomplish His goals.

When God became man, He could have chosen to be an earthly king. He had already promised to bless the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham. So, instead of being born as an earthly emperor in Rome, God came to Judea—an insignificant nation within the Roman empire.

God did not even choose to be born to a prominent Jewish family. Sure, He was born into royal blood—as a descendant of David—but his family was a lesser branch of the royal family tree. Instead of noble power-brokers who rubbed shoulders with the elite in Jerusalem, Jesus’ mother and stepfather were poor folks who struggled to survive.

Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch at RXR Plaza, Uniondale, NY, December 17, 2016.

Perhaps this tells us something about what Jesus valued. He could have chosen to cling to any of His divine qualities. He could have decided to live a life of earthly power and authority that reflected His divine sovereignty. He could have chosen the life of a scribe or Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, flaunting earthly wisdom and education as a shadow of His divine omniscience (all-knowing).

Instead, if there was any divine attribute He chose to reflect for His earthly life, it was His role as Creator. He spent His first 30 earthly years as a carpenter: designing, building, and creating things.

At any rate, He did not choose the world’s ways to save humanity. He did not seek earthly power, prestige, or riches. He did not seek a comfortable life. He came to a tiny town, to an insignificant family, doing a job that gained neither wealth nor a chapter in the history books. While it was not the worldly way to influence people and change the world, though, it was His Father’s way to change the world.

On Christmas, we celebrate a King who was born in a stable, slept in a manger, spent almost His entire life in a country the size of New Jersey, and was brutally tortured and executed. This is not the way people would choose to change the world. We might try to use strength and power to change the world. Jesus chose love, humility, and obedience to His Father’s will.

He met us in the most mundane moments of life. This truth is lost in our Christmas celebration, with the flashing lights, shiny decorations, and feel-good television specials. We seek to find Him in the exciting moments, but He comes to meet us, and calls us to follow Him, in the ordinary moments of life. May this Christmas draw our hearts beyond the celebration and pageantry to the power of an ordinary life saturated with Christ’s presence.

May God bless you and those you love both during your Christmas celebration and throughout the coming year. May the love of God and presence of Jesus in your life bring joy and peace throughout the coming year.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Christ’s birth and Christmas by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Divine Name That Says a Lot (Isaiah 9:6-7)

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

We wait expectantly. With Christmas less than a week away, children await the coming of Santa Claus. Older children and adults await the holiday celebrations, the presents, and the family gatherings. Some are just waiting for the intense activity to end. We are all looking forward to something.

The ancient Jews also waited expectantly. More than 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of a Messiah who would save Israel. After centuries of exile, followed by domination by the global empires of Greece and Rome, the Jewish people were eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises and their hopes and dreams.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus fulfilled two prophetic names in chapters 7 and 9 of Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14 foretold the birth of a child known as “Immanuel,” meaning “God-with-us”:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Matthew 1:22-23 tells us that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when He was born to His virgin mother, Mary. When Jesus was conceived in her womb, God joined us; Jesus was fully human, yet fully divine. God was with humanity in the flesh and, He lived His life as one of us.

Isaiah 9:6 gives another name for the coming Messianic king from the line of David: “Pele-joez-el-gibbor-abi-ad-sar-shalom,” translated as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” in the NASB. This long name says a lot. [“Abi-ad” can be translated either as “Eternal Father” or “my Father is (the) eternal (one).” This verse does not contradict the historic Christian belief that God the Father and God the Son are distinct Persons within the Trinity.]

This name describes the God we worship. This is the essence of Who Jesus is and what He means to us. Although no New Testament passage explicitly says that Isaiah 9:6-7 is about Jesus, chapters 1 and 2 of Luke mention several of these attributes when reporting His birth.

He is a Wonderful (marvelous, miraculous) Counselor or guide. We can come to Him with our doubts, fears, uncertainty, worries, etc. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. He will lead and guide us.

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.

He is the Mighty God of infinite strength and power. He created all things. No problem or circumstance is beyond His control. Martin Luther translated this phrase as “Held,” or in English “hero.” Pick your favorite superhero: Superman, Captain Marvel, Spider-man, etc. Their superpowers are no match for the power of our Mighty God, Jesus Christ.

Our God is the Eternal Father. He has always been, and He will always be. He will always love and preserve us. Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He will not leave; He will not quit; He will not cease to exist. He is alive forever, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Finally, Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Biblical peace—shalom in Hebrew—is not the absence of war or hardship. It is the presence of God amid hard times. No matter what comes, God is with us. Jesus brings His peace into our hearts and minds as we put our trust in Him.

God’s answer to the turmoil of ancient Israel and the oppression of first-century Jews was the birth of a child. The answer to all of mankind’s hopes and the Savior of humanity came as a child, died as a man, but lives as both God and man, as God with us always. He brings us His wonderful counsel, infinite power and might, everlasting Fatherly love, and His peace that surpasses all comprehension. I pray that you may experience His presence not just around Christmas but throughout the year.

Which prophetic name of Christ is most meaningful to you? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. V: The Birth and Life of Christ

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell securely;
And this is His name by which He will be called,
‘The LORD our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 23:5–6; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from needpix.com, published under a Creative Commons license.

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the justice and righteousness of God. They were key elements of the Jewish people’s Messianic hopes and essential to Jesus’ reasons for coming into the world. (Take some time to read Mary’s song of praise, traditionally known as The Magnificat, in Luke 1:46–55, and you will see her hope of God’s judgment and mercy.)

The Jewish people suffered oppression throughout their history. The nation of Israel had grown as slaves in Egypt before Moses led them forth. By the time Jeremiah prophesied, the northern tribes of Israel had been overthrown by Assyria and taken into exile, and the southern kingdom of Judah was beginning to experience the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah proclaimed God’s promise that, someday, the Jews would receive deliverance. They would return to their homeland. Eventually, God would send a great King, a descendant of David that would reign in God’s righteousness. Anticipation of this coming King, the Messiah, comforted and inspired the Jews throughout the centuries that followed.

Even after returning from Babylonian exile, the Jewish people would experience more oppression: the Medo-Persian empire, then the Greeks, and later the Romans. When Jesus was born, Judea was a province of the Roman Empire, ruled by Roman governors or puppet kings.

Jesus’ birth brought the promised “Lord our righteousness” to Earth. The fullness of God dwelled within Him (Colossians 2:9). Jeremiah, recalling Isaiah 11:1, called Jesus “a righteous Branch” of David; the name of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, is derived from the Hebrews word netzer, which means “branch.” The Branch of David, the Messiah, grew up in the town of the branch.

When He came that time, Jesus brought spiritual salvation, not only to the Jewish people, but to all humanity. The Bible repeatedly tells us that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). The fullness of God’s righteousness will appear when Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end,” as the Nicene Creed says.

Christmas reminds us that God sent His Son to be our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). He has brought God’s righteousness to us. We can and should trust in no savior except Jesus Christ, who is The Lord our Righteousness. No religious or political leader can bring God’s righteousness and justice to us. Nobody else is worthy of our praise.

Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, Holidays | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas: God’s Light in the Darkness

“The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them” (Isaiah 9:2, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

2020: A year most of us will never forget; a year that will live in infamy. Many of us have encountered death. We have lost loved ones and/or mourned with friends who lost loved ones. We have faced the fear of catching a potentially fatal disease. One year ago, if we washed our hands 20 times per day, it would be considered a sign of a psychological disorder; now, it is an official public health policy. The insanity goes beyond the coronavirus, though: protests against police brutality and racial inequality exploded into violent riots and feeble attempts to create anarchist utopias; the year is ending with a disputed, controversial presidential election; and somehow, we all forgot about the murder hornets. Many of us have prayed that God would intervene (without the hornets).

Image via pixy.org

As we approached the end of the year, it seemed as if God was sending us a sign. During the last week of Advent, Jupiter and Saturn came so near to each other in the night sky that it reminded many people of the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to find Jesus (Matthew 2:1–12). Since many scholars believe the Star of Bethlehem was actually such an astronomical conjunction, the timing seemed almost prophetic.

When Jesus came into the world, people were looking for hope. Violence, death, and political corruption were rampant. A dictatorial regime ruled the known world and oppressed the Jews. People needed hope.

The names have changed, technology has exploded, but the human condition remains much the same. Perhaps “Star of Bethlehem 2020” was a sign from God. People have been reminded to look to God amid the darkness.

Christmas lights and snow outside my apartment building. Photo copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch.

Even when there are no dramatic astronomical events to grab our attention, God’s light shines. Jesus is the light of the world, and we can look to Him for light, life, healing, redemption, and hope. Christmas reminds us that God became one of us, enduring everyday human hardships, surrounding Himself with suffering, so that He could redeem us and give us eternal life.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Hebrews 2:9–10).

God has been with us throughout the pandemic and every other crisis of 2020, and He is not leaving us. Let us keep looking to His light to guide us through the darkness.

How have you seen God’s light in 2020? Share your thoughts by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Current events, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas: The Love of God Revealed To and Through Us

Image provided by YouVersion.com.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and followers of Darkened Glass Reflections! There is a popular seasonal song that proclaims “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” I usually find myself thinking it is the most busy and stressful time of the year. It is easy to lose sight of the birth of Jesus when your attention is drawn to the commercialized elements of the holiday.

As I write this post, my wife and I are preparing for friends and family to arrive, so this will be a brief post. In my devotions today, I came across this passage worth reflecting upon:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12, ESV, emphasis added).

The entire life of Christ—from conception, to birth, His earthly life and ministry, to His death, resurrection, and ascension—revealed the love of God. It was an invitation to unite the life of God with the lives of mankind. It is easy to view passages like this one as simply “Jesus came and died so we would not go to hell.” But, it is more than that. In Christ, God has revealed Himself to us and shown us what a true man or woman of God is like. This passage goes on to speak about how God sent us His Spirit (v. 13). The Spirit-filled life of a Christian is one filled with the life of Christ and the love of God in our hearts.

What does this love look like?

  • It is active. When mankind fell into sin, God did not merely throw up His hands in frustration and mumble, “Well, you guys screwed up; you’re on your own now.” Instead, He launched a plan to redeem us from the wages of sin. That plan demanded that Jesus take action to live and die as one of us.
  • It is sacrificial. It cost Jesus everything to come to earth (Philippians 2:5-11). He thought our souls and eternal lives were worth the price. He stepped down from his comfortable exalted throne to be born in a manger and die on a cross.
  • It is merciful and gracious. We did not deserve God’s love, but He loves us anyway. He does not hold back His love because we do not deserve it; instead, His love compels Him to raise us up above our sins and shortcomings.

Let the love of Jesus guide us as we celebrate His birth and life. Let our love be active, seeking opportunities to bless those around us. Let our love be sacrificial, seeking to bless others even if it costs us time, money, or comfort. Let our love be merciful and gracious; let us love others, even when we think they do not deserve it. Instead of letting the commercialism of Christmas interfere with the spiritual part of the holiday, let the active, sacrificial, merciful, and gracious love of Jesus motivate our gift-giving and gatherings.

Most of all, let us keep the message of Christmas in our hearts year-round. May the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace rule and dwell in our hearts through His love every day.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Nature and Personality, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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