Crashing through Barriers

Why do you think did Matthew started his Gospel with a boring list of so-and-so begat so-and-so? Consider just the women mentioned in this genealogy. There are four of them before you get to Mary. Matthew introduces their glorious Messiah.. as descending from two harlots, one born out of incest and an adulterous. And they are the only four ladies mentioned in the genealogy other than Mary.  

He came crashing through the barriers that said “You have to be born spiritual out of the ‘right kind’ of people.” 

And today, he comes crashing through barriers you’ve erected too. The barriers that place God in a nice comfortable corner where you can keep and eye on him. He breaks down those excuses that say “God, you can’t use me. You can’t love me. I’m a sinner.”

God built a monument to grace on that genealogy. That’s why you shouldn’t shy away from admitting your past for what it was. It can be a monument to God’s grace in our lives. That’s when God can use us the most- when we realize who we are were we come from and how much are lives are dependent on God grace. On receiving it and giving it to others. 

Don’t hide from the past and pretend it didn’t happen. By admitting who we are, acknowledging how God completely changes us, he is able to bring us further than he could otherwise and use us more.. just like those people in the genealogy.  

You stack up a row of harlots and liars and murderers and cheaters and what do you have?  You have Jesus. That’s the way God works.  

Stephen Goforth 

She Wrapped Him in Swaddling Clothes

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 (Luke 2:7 NIV)

“She wrapped him in cloths.” Literally, he was wrapped in strips of cloth to kept him warm. The old King James translation uses the memorable phrase “swaddling clothes.” It’s still practiced in some countries today.

Did he cry? Do you think he cried? When you think of the manger and the child, do you imagine him crying?  

Mary put diapers on God.

The mention of a manger is where we get the idea he was born in a stable. Often, stables were caves, with feeding troughs for animals.. mangers. It was probably dark and dirty. This is not the way the messiah was expected to appear. How often our expectations and God’s reality are not in sync. How often he appears in unexpected places.

Stephen Goforth

Missing the Miracle

He looked like anything but a king. His face is prudish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter. This baby had overlooked the universe. The rags keep him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned n favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants were unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God in to the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay int he arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. There were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed dit because they simply weren't looking. Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

From God Came Near by Max Lucado

The Son of David and Abraham

"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham."

The first verse of the New Testament tells us the baby born in the manger is the son of David who's the son of Abraham.

Now, who exactly was David? From the Old Testament we know that David was an adulterer, murderer, a polygamist, bad father, his hands were so bloody that God wouldn’t let him build the temple. His son Solomon did that. Solomon was a polygamist, a man full of futility and focused on pleasure.

He’s the son of Abraham. From the Old Testament we know that Abraham was a liar who disbelieved God and committed adultery. His son was Issac - a liar and idolater.

David and Abraham. Two sinners who’s seed was the son of God. One fathered the nation of the Messiah. One fathered the royal line.

Amazing what can happen when people who've done terrible wrong allow themselves to be used by God and take part is His greater plan.

A Christmas Quiz

1. What did the angels sing to the shepherds?

2. In what direction did the Wise Men see the star in the sky?

3. Where did the wise men go to see the baby?

4. How many wise men were there?

5. In which season of the year was Jesus born?

6. What did Mary ride on to Bethlehem?

7. What did the wise men ride on?

8. In what country did the Christmas tree originate?

9. In what century did Christmas celebrations begin?

10. Was there ever an original, real Santa Claus?

11. What Christmas tradition commemorating the birth of Jesus did St. Francis of Assisi begin?

12. What is frankincense?

    a. a precious metal

    b. a precious fabric

    c. a precious perfume

    d. an Eastern monster story

13. What is Myrrh?

    a. an easily shaped metal

    b. a spice used for burying people

    c. a drink

    d. aftershave lotion

14. Did Jesus tell us to remember his birth?

15. What did Jesus tell us to remember?

The Answers

 

Answers to Christmas Quiz

1. What did the angels sing to the shepherds?

Nothing. Luke 2:13,14 tells us, "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God and SAYING, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests." No where in the Bible does it say that angels sing. Of course, Scripture never says they don't either.

2. In what direction did the Wise Men look to see the star in the sky?

The West. Matthew 2:1,2 reads, "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." The Wise Men were in the East and they saw the star in the Western sky. Had they been traveling toward a star in the East, they would have started from somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea.

3. Where did the wise men go to see the baby?

The house--not the stable. Matthew 2:9-11 says, "After (the Wise Men) had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the HOUSE, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him…" By the time the Wise Men would have arrived, Mary and Joseph would have left the stable. It would have taken a while for the Wise Men to arrive. Perhaps a couple of years, since Herod killed children in Bethlehem under the age of two.

4. How many wise men were there?

We don't know. Three is the traditional number, but Scripture only tells us of three gifts.

5. In which season of the year was Jesus born?

Probably Spring. Luke 2:8 tells us, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night." It is unlikely they would have been living in the fields during Winter. Spring is the most likely time.

6. What did Mary ride on to Bethlehem?

We don't know. Christmas cards may favor a donkey, but Scripture doesn't tell us.

7. What did the wise men ride on?

We don't know. Christmas cards may favor a camels, but Scripture doesn't tell us.

8. In what country did the Christmas tree originate?

Germany

9. In what century did Christmas celebrations begin?

The 4th century. Christmas carols began in the 14th and 15th centuries. Christmas cards were first sent in the early 19th century.

10. Was there ever an original, real Santa Claus?

Yes. In the 4th Century AD, Nicholas showed acts of kindness and charity early in his life. He served as bishop of Myra (now in Turkey) and was considered a saint since the 6th century.

11. What Christmas tradition commemorating the birth of Jesus did St. Francis of Assisi begin?

The nativity scene.

12. What is frankincense?

    a. a precious metal

    b. a precious fabric

    c. a precious perfume

    d. an Eastern monster story

Answer:  c. a precious perfume

 13. What is Myrrh?

    a. an easily shaped metal

    b. a spice used for burying people

    c. a drink

    d. aftershave lotion

Answer:  b. a spice used for burying people

14. Did Jesus tell us to remember his birth?

 No.

15. What did Jesus tell us to remember?

He told us to remember his death.  "…Do this in remembrance of me" Luke 22:19.

Note: All verses from the New International Version

God had come near

He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused, and dirty. No silk. No ivory, No hype. No party. No hoopla. Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception. And were it not for a group of star-gazers, there would have no gifts.

For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He was afraid of failure. He was susceptible to wooing women. He got colds, burped, and had body odor. His feeling got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.

To think of Jesus in such a light is - well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it? It's not something we like to do; it's uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.

He's easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine that keeps him distant, packaged, predictable. But don't do it. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world.

Max Lucado, God Came Near

The most unusual Christmas picture she has ever seen!

A little girl came home from Sunday school triumphantly waving a paper. "Mommy!" she said. "My teacher says I drew the most unusual Christmas picture she has ever seen!" 

The Mother studies the picture for a moment and concluded it was indeed a very peculiar Christmas picture. "This is wonderfully drawn, but why have you made all these people riding on the back of an airplane?" The mother gently asked. 

"It's the flight into Egypt," the little girl said, with a hint of disappointment that the picture's meaning was not immediately obvious. 

"Oh," the mother said cautiously. "Well, who is this mean-looking man at the front?" "That's Pontius, the Pilot," the girl said, now visibly impatient. 

"I see. And here you have Mary and Joseph and the baby," the mother volunteered. Studying the picture silently for a moment, she summoned the courage to ask, "But who is this fat man sitting behind Mary?" 

The little girl sighed. "Can't you tell? That's Round John Virgin!" 

We laugh, but the sad truth is that little girl’s mixed-up perspective of Christmas is not really much more muddled than the notions the average person carries around. Christmas has become an elaborate fabrication, and our celebrations reflect that. The cast of characters we bring out at Christmas is no less bizarre than the ensemble that the little girl put on her airplane. Our Christmases are the product of an odd mixture of pagan ideas, superstitions, fanciful legends, and plain ignorance. The real message of Christmas is all but lost in the chaos. 

Let’s try to sort it out. 

John MacArthur, God With Us