"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Let us today go down to Bethlehem, and in company with wondering shepherds and adoring Magi, let us see him who was born King of the Jews, for we by faith can claim an interest in him, and can sing, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Jesus is Jehovah incarnate, our Lord and our God, and yet our brother and friend; let us adore and admire. Let us notice at the very first glance his miraculous conception. It was a thing unheard of before, and unparalleled since, that a virgin should conceive and bear a Son. The first promise ran thus, "The seed of the woman," not the offspring of the man. Since venturous woman led the way in the sin which brought forth Paradise lost, she, and she alone, ushers in the Regainer of Paradise. Our Saviour, although truly man, was as to his human nature the Holy One of God. Let us reverently bow before the holy Child whose innocence restores to manhood its ancient glory; and let us pray that he may be formed in us, the hope of glory. Fail not to note his humble parentage. His mother has been described simply as "a virgin," not a princess, or prophetess, nor a matron of large estate. True the blood of kings ran in her veins; nor was her mind a weak and untaught one, for she could sing most sweetly a song of praise; but yet how humble her position, how poor the man to whom she stood affianced, and how miserable the accommodation afforded to the new-born King!
Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendour.
"And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually."
What the patriarch did early in the morning, after the family festivities, it will be well for the believer to do for himself ere he rests tonight. Amid the cheerfulness of household gatherings it is easy to slide into sinful levities, and to forget our avowed character as Christians. It ought not to be so, but so it is, that our days of feasting are very seldom days of sanctified enjoyment, but too frequently degenerate into unhallowed mirth. There is a way of joy as pure and sanctifying as though one bathed in the rivers of Eden: holy gratitude should be quite as purifying an element as grief. Alas! for our poor hearts, that facts prove that the house of mourning is better than the house of feasting. Come, believer, in what have you sinned today? Have you been forgetful of your high calling? Have you been even as others in idle words and loose speeches? Then confess the sin, and fly to the sacrifice. The sacrifice sanctifies. The precious blood of the Lamb slain removes the guilt, and purges away the defilement of our sins of ignorance and carelessness. This is the best ending of a Christmas-day--to wash anew in the cleansing fountain. Believer, come to this sacrifice continually; if it be so good tonight, it is good every night. To live at the altar is the privilege of the royal priesthood; to them sin, great as it is, is nevertheless no cause for despair, since they draw near yet again to the sin-atoning victim, and their conscience is purged from dead works.
Gladly I close this festive day,
Grasping the altar's hallow'd horn;
My slips and faults are washed away,
The Lamb has all my trespass borne.
Today's reading: Zephaniah 1-3, Revelation 16 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Zephaniah 1-3
1 The word of the LORD that came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, during the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah:
Judgment on the Whole Earth in the Day of the LORD
2 “I will sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the LORD.
3 “I will sweep away both man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea—
and the idols that cause the wicked to stumble.”
“When I destroy all mankind
on the face of the earth,” declares the LORD,
4 “I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all who live in Jerusalem.
I will destroy every remnant of Baal worship in this place,
the very names of the idolatrous priests—
5 those who bow down on the roofs
to worship the starry host,
those who bow down and swear by the LORD
and who also swear by Molek,
6 those who turn back from following the LORD
and neither seek the LORD nor inquire of him....”
Today's New Testament reading: Revelation 16
The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath
1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.”
2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.
3 The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.
4 The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5 Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:
“You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
you who are and who were;
6 for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve....”
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. -Luke 2:20
At the birth of Jesus, amidst the dirt and straw of a stable, millennia of promises, prophecies, and hopes were fulfilled. In the birth of a child, something that happens every single day all over the world, something happened that would change the world. Everything the faithful were anticipating took shape. It was the alignment of all that was meant to be. But the birth of Jesus has that power and significance only if he really is who he said he was.
The shepherds heard, they saw, and it was all just as they had been told. In a perfect conjunction of heaven and earth, God came to earth, connecting the two for his eternal purposes. Years later, Jesus would tell us in so many different ways, "I have come into the world as a light" (John 12:46); "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10); "For this reason I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth," (John 18:37).
When we are sensing the dirtiness of life in this world, we can focus on the purity of Christ.
When we feel weak, we can lean on the power of Christ.
When we are ill, we can remember that he is the great physician.
When we are confused, we can turn to his words to get our bearings.
When we are damaged, we can remember that he said that he would not break a bruised reed nor snuff out a smoldering wick.
When we know we have sinned, we can know his forgiveness.
When we are wayward, we can remember he called himself "the way."
When we have been lied to, we can remember he called himself "the truth."
When we feel like our energy and our enthusiasm is waning, we can remember that he called himself "the life."
And so, we can pray:
Thank you Lord Christ for humbling yourself and taking the form of man. Thank you for pushing back the darkness of this world and of my life. Thank you for fully living before us so that we can see just how much life we can have. Let me live for the next 52 weeks in the light of your ongoing presence and power in this world. And then let me celebrate Christmas again-with joy.
This is the final email in the devotional series “Christmas Joy”. For additional devotional material from Mel Lawrenz, please visit The Brook Network. Or, An e-book version of this devotional is also available, compatible with your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle.