Archive for Christmas

Three Christmas Miracles

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

The word, “miracle” is used in television commercials for the cleaning properties of a particular soap. “It’s a miracle!” that I got a pay raise from that miserly company. Miracle has come to mean anything unexpected that brings pleasant results. The expression, “It’s a miracle” has now become trite and meaningless in our culture.

Conversely in theology, a miracle is an extraordinary event revealing God’s intervention in the everyday affairs of men and women. Martin Luther comments on the three miracles of Christmas day: the incarnation, the virgin birth of Christ, and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience. Luther marvels that the greater of the three miracles is Mary’s faith: her willingness to obey God even though it meant hardship, misunderstanding, and loss of reputation.

Saint Bernard [of Clairvaux] declared there are here three miracles: that God and man should be joined in this Child; that a mother should remain a virgin; that Mary should have such faith as to believe that this mystery would be accomplished in her. The last is not the least of these three. The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, had been chosen to be mother of God.

Had she not believed, she could not have conceived. She held fast to the word of the angel because she had become a new creature. Even so must we be transformed and renewed in heart from day-to-day. Otherwise, Christ is born in vain.

Martin Luther, “The Maiden Mary” in Nancy Guthrie, ed., Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 26.

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“The Manger and the Cross are Not Far Removed”

Cross and Manger


And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt 1:20-21 NLT

The manger and the cross are not far removed. We tend to picture the Nativity as a pastorally-pleasing, sweet scene with admiring parents and grateful shepherds. We tend to view Golgotha as a horrid, ugly hill surrounded by hate-filled rejectors of the glorious majesty of God. Of course, truth exists in both these images, but often we fail to recognize that the Cross was planted in Bethlehem.

A Savior was born that day to die for our sins–the shadow of the Cross falls over the baby Jesus as he rests in the manger. Our kinsman redeemer, our sin-bearer, our ransom, our sacrificial Lamb was born that day in Bethlehem. The Cross and the manger meet in Bethlehem-Jesus is born to die for your sins and mine.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

Leo the Great cited in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 31.

In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man’s pride, violence, and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity.

Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Francis’ Role in Christmas,” Dec. 23, 2009.

The whole life of Christ was a continuall Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continuall act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

John Donne, “Christmas Sermon,” Dec 25, 1626


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An Extraordinary Child for an Ordinary People

An Extraordinary Child for an Ordinary People

Sermon Outline

Rev. Canon Glenn E. Davis

Christmas Day

December 25, 2011

Introduction: God did not stay aloft in heaven, look down on our pain, and say, “All the best to all of you. Work life out the best way you can.” No, the Lord sent his Son, who took upon himself our weaknesses, temptations, battles, and pain. Jesus did something about our suffering world and our embattled lives, he entered our world. Jesus became fully human to God’s glory and for our salvation.

Illustration: “Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers.

Thought: God placed in the heart of an ordinary priest, the extraordinary desire to become one with pain-ridden, disheartened, ostracized ordinary people.

Text: Luke 2:1-20.

Premise: Ordinary people living ordinary lives doing ordinary things while living in an ordinary age. Judea is poverty-stricken, backwater country, full of poor peasants barely living above subsistence.

Verse One to Three) The child was born during an ordinary time–census time–ordained by an extraordinary God. The purpose of the census was to register everyone for paying taxes–nothing more ordinary than paying taxes. The Lord orchestrates a census to get Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem that prophecy might be fulfilled.

Grace of God defined (Titus 2:11-14):

“No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace.  The God of the Bible is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet. 5:10).  Grace is love, but love of a special sort.  It is love which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.  Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.”

[John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Revised  (London: Scripture Union, 1984), 127.]

Verse Five) The child was born to a woman with an extraordinary heart. Mary’s heart was word-saturated, heart surrendered, purposefully yielded, and trustfully mindful of God’s faithfulness. Mary’s heart was revealed when the angel Gabriel announced God’s intention of a virgin birth, “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38 KJV).

Verse Six to Seven) The child was born in an ordinary cave/barn/one room house under strange conditions, but conceived by an extraordinary Spirit.

Virgin Birth- Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit without a human father. Matt 1:18-20, 24-25; Luke 1:35.

Verse Eight) The child was born and an extraordinary announcement was made to ordinary workers (i.e., shepherds).

Note: Shepherds are the unclean, low-income, non-influential, and ignored part of society. We are like the shepherds: no state funeral, no palaces, no political power, and no money. The world does not notice them or us.

Verse Ten) Extraordinary announcement for ordinary people: “good news of great joy.” The Savior, Messiah, Lord, is wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a feeding trough. The extraordinary has come in the ordinary to save the everyday man and woman.

Verse Eleven) Extraordinary child born in ordinary town with extraordinary titles to save ordinary people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). “Savior,” means divine deliverance of God’s people. “Christ,” is Greek for promised Messiah, the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. “Lord,” indicates that the child is divine and omnipotent.

“The Shepherds were welcomed at the manger. The unclean were judged to be clean. The outcasts became honored guests. The song of angels was sung to the simplest of all.”

[Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 37.]

Verse Thirteen) The child was born as ordinary workers experienced extraordinary worship.

“Heavenly hosts” are not angels in choir robes, but angelic armies. They are spiritual armies with swords drawn, ready, and prepared to return earth back to its rightful owner-God.

Verse Sixteen) The child amazed the ordinary workers; they saw that an extraordinary God had sent an extraordinary child for ordinary people.

Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. My selfishness has brought my ruin as well as hurting God and others. The amazing truth is that the offended God sent his Son by his grace and mercy for the purpose of freeing me (Matt 1:21).

Sin is selfishness and rebellion caused by our choices and by being a descendant of Adam. Sin turns the world upside down: it says that everyone and everything should revolve around our desires, needs, and wants, yet God in his grace has reached out to us in grace.

“Christmas is about God the Father (the offended party) taking the initiative to send his only for many sins.”

[William H. Smith, “Christmas is Disturbing.”]

How do we know that Jesus was extraordinary for the ordinary?

Verse Eleven) He is extraordinary by being the Savior: Divine Deliver, Messiah: Anointed one from God, Lord: Allmighty who is Lord over everything.

Verse Twelve) He is ordinary by being fully human: a baby wrapped in cloths (Ezek. 16:4) and lying in a animal feeding trough.

Definition: The Person of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person and will be so forever.

Conclusion: An extraordinary God sent an extraordinary son to ordinary people in order that they might have an extraordinary, grace-filled relationship with him.


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“We Lepers . . .”


For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:15 ESV

God did not stay aloft in heaven, look down on our pain, and say, “All the best to all of you. Work life out the best way you can.” No, the Lord sent his Son, who took upon himself our weaknesses, temptations, battles, and pain. Jesus did something about our suffering world and our embattled lives; he entered our world. Jesus became fully human to God’s glory and for our salvation.

Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers.

He moved to Kalawao – a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony.

For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity.

Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.

Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: “We lepers….”

Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

One day God came to Earth and began his message: “We lepers….” Now he wasn’t just helping us. Now he was one of us. Now he was in our skin. Now we were in it together.

John Ortberg, God Is Closer Than You Think

HT: Darryl Dash

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The Great Act of God

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 ESV

Incarnation means enfleshment: Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. The great act of God: the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took upon himself our human nature. Incarnation means that God is with us, near us, transforming us. The incarnation means that God cared and came among us to deliver us from ourselves.

Jesus Christ is God-Man. God in Essence cannot come anywhere near us. Almighty God does not matter to me, He is in the clouds. To be of any use to me, He must come down to the domain in which I live; and I do not live in the clouds but on the earth. The doctrine of the Incarnation is that God did come down into our domain.

The Wisdom of God, the Word of God, the exact expression of God, was manifest in the flesh. That is the great doctrine of the New Testament—dust and Deity made one. The pure gold of Deity is of no use to us unless it is amalgamated in the right alloy, viz. the pure Divine working on the basis of the pure human: God and humanity one, as in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Oswald Chambers, Shade of His Hand: Talks on the Book of Ecclesiastes (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1936).

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Paradoxes of Christmas


And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.

Luke 1:35

A theological paradox is a Biblical statement that seems contradictory, or opposed to rational thought, and yet is eternally true. For many, the doctrine of the incarnation is a paradox: how can God become man and live in one person? The Christmas season is full of paradoxes, Puritan pastor and theologian, Thomas Watson reveals the paradoxes of Christmas:

He was poor, that he might make us rich.

He was born of a virgin that we might be born of God.

He took our flesh, that he might give us His Spirit.

He lay in the manger, that we may lie in paradise.

He came down from heaven, that he might bring us to heaven….

That the ancient of Days should be born.

that he who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle….

that he who rules the stars should suck the breast;

that a virgin should conceive;

that Christ should be made of a woman, and of that woman which himself made,

that the branch should bear the vine,

that the mother should be younger than the child she bare,

and the child in the womb bigger than the mother;

that the human nature should not be God, yet one with God

Christ taking flesh is a mystery we shall never fully understand till we come to heaven.

If our hearts be not rocks, this love of Christ should affect us . Behold love that passeth knowledge! (Eph 3:19).

Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (Banner of Truth)196, 198.

HT: reformation21

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Wriggle and Make Noises

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt 1:20-21

The doctrine of the incarnation means that Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, is God in human flesh. The great act of God: the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took upon himself our nature (Phil. 2:6-7). The incarnation is the miraculous bringing together of humanity and divinity in a single person, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Wayne Grudem stated so succinctly, “Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man in one person, and will be so forever” (Systematic Theology, 529). Meditate on these thoughts: God in all his glory, came down from heaven and took on the all vulnerabilities and weaknesses of a newborn child: crying, wetting, hungry, and pooping.

The divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needed to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child . . . The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.

J. I. Packer


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Mary, Anna, and the Prophetic Word

And there was a prophetess, Anna . . . . She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38

Anna, a female prophet, lived her life in the Temple courts: she was dedicated to worship, fasting, and praying. Anna represents wholehearted devotion to God and commitment to enjoying his presence (Luke 2:37).

Like Simeon, her fellow prophet (Luke 2:25-35) spending time in God’s presence means knowing God’s heart, and to know God’s heart is to hear his voice, and to hear God’s voice is know his ways (Isa. 55:8-9). Immediately after Simeon’s word, Anna confirms that this child will bring about the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:38). To be the redeemer of Israel is to be the Messiah, the chosen one, who would free Israel from her bondage. Anna’s word further confirms to Mary and Joseph that the God of Israel has major plans for their son, bigger plans than they can imagine.

Luke does not record the Blessed Virgin Mary’s response to these two prophetic words, but we know that in another situation, she chose the “ponder these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19 KJV). Pondering is not passivity. Pondering says to God, “I trust your prophetic word, I may not understand it, therefore I will not talk about God’s instruction until he reveals its meaning to me.” Pondering is faith, pondering is waiting on God, pondering is giving God opportunity and time.

The season of Advent is a unique time for hearing and obeying God’s prophetic word. Like Simeon and Anna, we are called to Spirit-waiting, Spirit-listening, Spirit-anticipation, and Spirit-obedience. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are called to Father-directed submission, Spirit-led action, and Christ-follower trust.

We may not identify with Anna’s call to prophecy or her living situation, yet her commitment to the Spiritual Disciplines of prayer, fasting, and worship–a life focused in mind, body, and activity on engaging God–is a commitment we all can pursue.

“Anna,” The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Deuterocanonical Books, eds., Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene H. Peterson (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 1889.

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Mary, Simeon, and the Prophetic Word


And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’

Luke 2:34-35

On this blog, we have discussed the word of prophecy (1 Cor. 12: 10), its importance during the season of Advent, and how to respond when given a confirmed prophetic word. Today’s post focuses on the Blessed Virgin Mary as a model for receiving and acting on prophetic words. Luke 2:25-40 describes two prophetic ministers, Anna and Simeon, reaching out to Mary when the baby Jesus is being presented at the Temple for circumcision.

Simeon was united in Christ in righteousness, “righteous and devout” (v. 25a), yielded to Christ trusting his delay, “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (v. 25b), and remained in Christ enjoying his manifested presence, “Holy Spirit was upon him” (v. 25c). Simeon was intimate with God for Simeon knew his voice, “you would not die” until he sees Messiah (v. 26), and Simeon was led by the Spirit for he was directed by the Spirit “into the Temple courts” (v. 27).

Simeon’s prophetic word consisted of two parts: public in Temple (v. 29-32) and private to Mary (v. 34-35).The public pronouncement focuses on Jesus–God’s salvation found in the baby. This salvation is for the Gentiles and the Jews bringing about the healing of the nations.

Simeon’s personal word to Mary is strangely negative: the proud, self-absorbed, self-assured, and hard-hearted will be revealed (v34-35). Israel will resist Jesus’ ministry, and as result, their worldly, unbelieving hearts will be exposed.  In turn, Israel’s rejection of Mary’s son, the Son of God, will break her heart as well. [Stephen D. Swihart, ed., Logos International Bible Commentary(Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1981), 439.

Some may ask why Simeon’s word of prophecy is negative in tone, “Are not all prophecies to be ‘strengthening, encouraging, and comforting'” (1 Cor. 14:3)? “Are not all prophecies to be positive and uplifting”? A prophecy can contain a rebuke, correction, or warning and still be comforting and healing. When Jesus corrects or rebukes, he also gives the grace, the Holy Spirit’s enabling power, to obey his word of command. Jesus gives prophetic words to the seven churches of Asia: five of the seven are rebuked or corrected for their lack of holiness, obedience, or perseverance. Yet, all five are encouraged, graced, and offered a reward for choosing obedience (Rev. 2 & 3).

Simeon’s warning to Mary is the Holy Spirit’s way of helping Mary avoid the pain and shock of unexpected suffering and rejection. It is good that Mary knows now that her precious child’s future death will break her heart in the most painful of ways–the Cross.

Simeon and Anna are the senior citizens of Luke’s version of Jesus’ birth, and they know and understand more than anyone else. Of all the people that Jerusalem’s streets were teeming with the day that Jesus was named–the rich, the powerful, the young, the holy,–only Simeon and Anna are given insight into who is being carried into the Temple courts in his parent’s arms. In fact, they know more than Mary or Joseph, who are astonished at what Simeon says about Jesus. It is clear that God has placed great value on Anna and Simeon and that he does not think he is wasting the Holy Spirit on two seniors who have passed the prime of life.

Murray Andrew Pura, “Luke,” in The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, New Revised Standard Version with Deuterocanonical Books, eds., Richard J. Foster, Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene H. Peterson (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1989), 1887.

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Why God Came Into the World

A Savior Born

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt. 1:21 NLT

Why did God come into the world? Why did the Son of God take on human flesh and walk among us?

Did Jesus Christ come to educate us? No, better professors is not what we needed. More knowledge and better technology will not change hearts and establish justice.

Did Jesus come to bring “peace on earth”? Yes, peace to those who receive him as Lord and Savior, but not to those who reject his claims upon their hearts. Jesus declared, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34 NLT). Loyalty to Jesus will bring strife and division as people receive or reject Jesus’ calling on their lives.

Did Jesus come to militarily overthrow oppressive governments that subjugate their peoples? At the second coming, Jesus will return in power and great glory to judge the nations. However in the first century, Jesus’ arrival exposes humankind’s greatest problem: selfish and corrupt hearts.

Why did God come into this world? Only the scriptural answer will suffice: the second person of the Trinity has been born because he loves the world. But why did he come this way, as a little baby? Why did he choose to lie in a manger and be cared for by a human mother, with the sweetness but the utter weakness of a newborn babe? He came this way because he came to meet the central need of men.

He did not come to overthrow the Romans, though a lot of the Jews would have loved that. If he had, he would have come riding on a great conquering steed.

The central reason he came was not to raise the living standards of the world. Surely if modern man were going to vote on the way he would like a messiah to appear, he would want him loaded down with moneybags from heaven.

He did not come primarily to teach and relieve ignorance—perhaps then he would have come laden with books.

An angel had revealed to Joseph the primary task for which he came: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). He is here to cut the nerve of man’s real dilemma, to solve the problem from which all other problems flow. Man is a sinner who needs an overwhelming love. Jesus has come to save his people from their sins.

Francis Schaeffer, “Seeing Jesus With the Shepherds,” Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, ed., Nancy Guthrie (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 105.

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