things if we stop long enough to really consider what they represent.
We will start with the star because its job was to point the way to the manger.
Matthew 2: 2 “…We have seen His star, and are come to worship Him.”
Matthew 2:10 “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
We all know the story of the Wise Men and most have read it every Christmas, but let’s take a closer look. The star is the main character in this story and the guide that has brought these ‘kings’ to Bethlehem looking for Jesus. [Perhaps you might want to read it again before going on.]
These are kings bringing gifts appropriate for a greater king. They have come with an attitude of worship and honor to a baby who they recognize as greater than they. They arrived at the logical place for a king, the palace of Herod. But the One they seek is not there, and the local king isn’t even aware of His birth.
This is a picture of our world today. There are those who recognize that Jesus has come and will come again one day. They celebrate His coming at Christmas. But most of the religious world is busy with the business of being religious and isn’t even aware of His presence among us. Like Herod and the religious leaders of that day, they are afraid that Jesus will steal their popularity, power and authority.
The wise men were not even side tracked by the court, but remained focused on worshiping Jesus, although they didn’t even know His name. They leave Herod’s court with their new information and set out to resume their quest, but lo and behold the star appears once more and leads them to the home where Joseph, Mary and Jesus are staying.
The star led them across the vast desert, into an unknown land and left them until they gained the knowledge they needed to resume their journey. The star led them to the house, not the stable, where Jesus was. They didn’t see the babe in the manger, but the infant now staying in a home. [Note both the shepherds and the wise men met the baby Jesus, but each at the appointed time and place God had planned. —So it is with us.]
I think the star represents both the Word of God and the guiding light of the Holy Spirit. They are both intertwined. The Bible is the written word of God and the Spirit is the living Presence of God. Both of them point to the life and ministry of Jesus. They speak to us of His purpose for coming and the continuation of His work among us. They lead us one step at a time and stop until we are ready to resume our journey to become more like the character of Christ.
The wise men’s attitude was paramount to the quality of their meeting Jesus. Scripture says when they saw the star they were filled with exceeding great joy and celebration. This same attitude not only dictates what kind of a Christmas we enjoy but whether we will see the Christ of Christmas or are sidetracked by the commercialism. It will season what the rest of our new year will produce. Christians should be filled with joy and celebration all year round because Christ is among us daily. We should enjoy the season of Christmas more than anyone because we are living proof that the Saviour has indeed come and given to mankind the greatest gift of all, Himself.
As we begin this Advent time, I would challenge you to consider your attitudes. Are you so focused on being where Jesus is that the world cannot sidetrack you from His presence and plan for your life? Do you seek the leading of the Holy Spirit with the same enthusiasm that the wise men sought the leading of the star? Are you exceedingly joyful so that others are drawn to the Savior’s side? As you hang the star high on the top of your tree remember that Jesus is above all and He declared, ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.’ So lift of the Star of Christmas this year and watch what He does to transform both your Christmas and the lives of those whose path you cross this season.
Everywhere angels appear at Christmas time. Now days they are seen almost daily. We seem to have an infatuation about them. But what is their real calling and how does that calling speak to us at Advent.
Matthew 1:20 “…Behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him saying…Fear not…”
The angel was the messenger. The one who visited Mary with the news of Jesus being her child. The angel spoke to Joseph and reassured him that Mary was following God’s plan. The angel was the one who told the shepherds that Jesus had arrived and sang of His purpose. The angel warned the Wise Men of Herod’s deceit.
Angels appear throughout the Scriptures with messages from the Lord and each time they preface their words with, Fear not. Perhaps their shinning presences was frightening, or perhaps they are so large and authoritative that people are intimidated by them, but whatever the reason for the anxiety, their first words are reassurance.
Angels are sent to guide, warn, prophesy or instruct in some way. They do not speak in their own authority or with their own words, but convey whatever God has told them to say. They are heavenly beings on heavenly business.
We are called to be God’s messengers in today’s world. We too are part of heaven’s citizenship if we are Christians, and we too have a heavenly message to bring.
Our words should be only what He directs us to say, and we should be reassuring others that God loves and cares for everyone equally.
The world is full of fear, especially when it comes the message of the cross and Jesus, because it exposes their deepest needs. God’s Word relays the same messages as the angels did long ago. They are words of guidance, warning, prophecy, and instruction. They are words that offer forgiveness, redemption and life to all who will receive them, and WE are the messengers.
What if the angels didn’t go when sent, or didn’t speak God’s message in truth, what would the outcome have been? That brings us to the thought for this week of Advent, what messages do we bring? Are we bearers of the truth? Do we speak in love or strike fear in the hearts of others? Do we go at the bidding of the Holy Spirit or make some excuse or just plain refuse?
Christmas brings openness to mankind that isn’t present any other time of year. That’s why charities use this season to raise funds. What a wonderful opportunity for us to share the Good News of the Saviour, His coming, His death, His resurrection, and His gift of salvation. Tuck it in your Christmas cards, include it in your annual Christmas letters, and wrap your gifts in paper that tells the story; wear it on your lapel. There are so many ways to share the true story of Christmas and open a door for the Holy Spirit to woo the lost to Christ. What better Christmas gift could you give someone than eternal life through Jesus Christ? Be an angel, and deliver HIS message.
Next let’s take a look at the gift of that first Christmas and the ones we give today.
1Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain, faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
That first Christmas saw a babe in a manger and most likely there had been no baby shower or gifts brought at His birth. We speak of the Wise Men with their gold frankincense and myrrh, but they camelater. The first gift of Christmas was Christ Himself.
Stop here and think about that last sentence, the first gift of Christmas was Christ Himself. Love personified, delivered in human flesh for the express purpose of redeeming mankind and restoring fellowship with God Almighty. The gift was offered with no strings attached or record keeping of how much we offered in exchange for this gift. We didn’t even ask for it. But God gave it just the same and Christ delivered it Himself. LOVE pure and eternal and free.
We give gifts this time of year and are often motivated by obligation and looking good in the eyes of others. We judge the gifts we receive as to their monetary value and whether they are as good as the ones we gave the giver. We keep records of who sent cards and who gave gifts and we include them if they included us. But is that really giving? Would we send cards and give gifts even if we did not receive a single one?
How do we honor Christ in our giving? Do we consider what He would like us to give this year? I’m not saying we should give all our money to charity and the ‘bell ringers’ that appear everywhere. But I am saying do we include Him in our shopping and list making and gift buying. Are all these activities permeated with His love? Do we even give love at Christmas?
Personally, I am overwhelmed when I stop and consider the truly first Christmas gift. I am ashamed to say that I don’t always give out of love. I sometimes give out of obligation. I am expected to give to certain people, and the gifts I give are ones that I know they will accept as ‘good enough’. But perhaps we should dispense with gifts this year and really focus on loving everyone…really loving.
Perhaps He would be most pleased if we copied His example and gave without thought of whether our gift will be received, or reciprocated or even understood. Those are the reactions He has received and yet He continues to give.
How would it be if we tried to distribute love pure and free to everyone we meet, especially family? Isn’t that what the motive and essence of gift giving is suppose to be? Love with no strings attached. No hidden agenda, or scorecard as to the response we receive. It is what Jesus said was to be evident if we are His disciples. “My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you.” [John 15:12] NIV That was the first and best gift of Christmas. It should be the most prominent gift found under our tree.
This week try to really stop and consider what God gave us on that first Christmas and then ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can give others the gift of His kind of love.
Finally there are the lights, those on the tree, around the yard and house frame. The candles that grace the table and perhaps the fireplace mantle, they too are the lights of Christmas.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light so since before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”
Big lights, small lights, colored lights, clear ones all different sizes and shapes but all part of Christmas decorations and celebration. Lights are a way of dispelling the darkness. In fact, candles, bonfires and Yule logs were lit to dispel spiritual darkness in times gone by. Jewish tradition has the menorah lights of Hanukah. Lights representing the presence of God in the Temple, lights that burned miraculously when there wasn’t enough oil to sustain them.
Christ called us the ‘lights of the world’. Lights meant to shine and touch all those who come within our sphere of influence. Lights meant to illuminate and dispels the darkness that surrounds our world. We are to be lights for Him. But even as the lights of Christmas come in different sizes, shapes and colors so too we are each unique and our light it custom fitted to His plan for us.
I have often read this passage and we quote the end of it often, but I didn’t really notice the different contrasting lights in it. They are; lights of the world, city on a hill, lamp on a lamp stand, all illuminators, but each different. We are to influence the world. That may mean our local sphere of influence, or it could truly mean worldwide. We are to be as conspicuous as a city on a hill. That doesn’t mean we are to be obnoxious, but it means that we should exude the light of Christ in our daily life that would make us eye-catching to the world. They would see that something was different about us and we would be in a position to share with them the Light of Scripture.
We are not to hide our light thinking it is too small or plain. As I said already, Christ made each of us unique and our light is just as special. Whether we are a tiny twinkle or a sky-searing beacon, our lights are of equal importance to God and for His purposes. He expects us to let them shine.
Finally did you notice that the lamp lit everyone that was in the house? That means where you live each day. Those that know you best and worst are included in that ‘house’. What shines about you in the everyday? Is it the qualities of Christ or the brassiness of sinful humanity? True we are all human, but we do not have to be slaves to the sinfulness that Christ came to remove from us. If you were the only light that shone in your world, would others see the light of Christ shinning in and through you or would they be left in the dark?
It is so easy to be light when around strangers and for short periods of time, like when we are in church or public. But what happens when we get behind closed doors? Do we continue to be lights as He would have us be, or do we let our light go out? Most of us know how to act the part of a Christian, but in our heart of hearts is our light genuine or just for show?
Christmas will be here in a few days and then we will all look forward to New Years. This is a good time to consider all the things we have talked about these past weeks? Have we renewed our focus in seeing Christ every day and everywhere, whether or not others do?
Are we excited to be His? Are we giving out the true message that Christ has come and will come again? Is His Love evident in our lives each and every day? And are we Lights in a world that is lost in darkness, especially to our family and closest friends? These are the thoughts I hope you will think about and incorporate into your lives as you celebrate Christmas and enter into the New Year. If you do, you will indeed enjoy one of your best Christmastimes yet, and the New Year will be filled with His presence and blessings on your life and those whom you touch.