4” In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.” John 1:4,5
This year, our Advent Devotionals will center on the “light of all mankind”- Jesus. But because He is God, Jesus is not only our light, He is also our protection. For the 2018-2019 school year, God gave me a vision for HOPE- a lighthouse. A lighthouse is a strong tower able to withstand nature’s fury while still lighting the seas with the hope of a safe harbor; thus Proverbs 18:10 became HOPE’s Scripture for the school year.
Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) "The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."
As Christ came to earth as our Savior, He also came as the light of the world to guide us out of our dark, sinful existence and into eternal life with our Father, God in heaven. The praise song “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective verbally paints a picture of God’s great mercy and love towards us as He stands as our strong tower- the Light of the world.
In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won't walk out
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
You are the peace in my troubled sea
In the silence, You won't let go
In the questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
You are the peace in my troubled sea
I won't fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I'll rise and sing
My God's love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
You are the peace in my troubled sea,
My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You.
My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
I will trust the promise,
You will carry me safe to shore.
Safe to shore
Safe to shore
Safe to shore
Please join us this Advent season as we explore God, our Light.
16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. 19 And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea.[a] Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
The Plague of Darkness
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.”
Have you ever tried to bargain with God?Like Pharaoh of old you plead to God for relief, and relief arrives just when you need it.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John testifies concerning Him. He cries out, saying, ‘This was He of Whom I sad, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’’ From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, Who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John 1:1-18
“In the beginning….” Three little words hold so much meaning. In the beginning, God created; in the beginning, the world was perfect. In the beginning, the Son came to earth as an infant. John could have started off his statement of who Jesus is by stating any of the above, but, instead, he chose to introduce Jesus in this way, “In the beginning was the Word.” Why would John say that Jesus was the Word? Simply put, Jesus was, is, always will be the Word. When Jesus spoke, all creation obeyed. With a single word, Jesus healed; with a word, He brought demons to their knees. Jesus spoke with power, authority, and, yes, with majesty. Jesus spoke the cosmos into existence; He spoke the wind and the waves into submission. With a single word, Jesus restored bodies to life; He healed the broken and the hurting. When Jesus speaks, He gives peace; He silences fear. Deceit is broken; truth reigns. Love triumphs, and hate fails. With a word, Jesus breathes new life into His creation, and He restores all that has been lost.
Life is full of beginnings: a birth, first steps, first day of school, graduation, first job, weddings, and the list goes on. However, only One can say that He was there- truly there- at the beginning. In fact, only Jesus can claim to have spoken all beginnings into being, for only Jesus has the power to be the Word.
This Advent season, take the time to ponder this: The One who came to earth as a baby two thousand years ago was the same One who spoke everything into existence. The One who slept in a manger was the same One who healed the sick and resurrected the dead. The same One who cried out for His mother in the stillness of the night was the same One who stretched out His arms at Calvary. The One about whom the angels sang was the same One who rose on the third day. Finally, the One whom the Wise Men worshipped is the same One who is coming again in power and glory. He is the One who loved us so much that He chose to give up heaven to save us all. The Word became flesh- for you, for me, for everyone who has ever lived or ever will live. “In the beginning was the Word,” and because He is the Word, we can live with Him forever.
Proverbs 18:10 (NIV)
10 The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
the righteous run to it and are safe.
I vividly remember the day that this Scripture became real to me. It was September 11, 2001; for me, it had been a day like no other. It was a day that changed my perception of safety. The day began full of promise. A beautiful, cerulean sky framed a bright yellow sun. It was cool with just a hint of the fall temperatures that were destined for our part of the United States. As my Seventh and Eighth Graders were about to begin their day with prayer, I received a call to the office. My daughter’s husband, who had arrived in New York for a meeting at the World Trade Center, had called her. A plane had flown into one of New York’s twin towers. “Pray, Mama, pray,” was all she said. At that moment, the world turned upside down. My students waited for my return to begin praying. As we prayed, I asked God to give me wisdom. Throughout the day, as my students came and went, we prayed for the people involved in the tragedy. Each class asked me the same question, “Why?” Since I did not know why, I pointed them to the One who does know, Jehovah El Elohim, for He is our strong and mighty tower. He is our Protector- the Lord, the Mighty One. As the man-made towers fell by man-made hatred, we found comfort in knowing that there will always be the Lord, our fortified tower who is providing us with a place of safety.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt- darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” Exodus 10:21-23
Have you ever felt like the darkness was so oppressive it was as if a weight was pressing down on you? In times when the darkness closes in around us, we can sometimes feel like the Egyptians. Can you see them in the pitch blackness? Stumbling around as if they were in one of those touch tunnels at science museums, their breath quickened; the panic rose. Fear took over as they wanted to turn and run, but running might mean that they could get severely hurt or even die. What is one to do? Where is the escape?
I find the situation that the Egyptians found themselves in completely fascinating, but I will be the first to admit that I immensely dislike going through the spiritual darkness with which I am sometimes faced. Why fascinating? Consider the following facts for a moment. The Egyptians and the Hebrews lived in Egypt together. True, the Egyptians lived in a better area, but they still occupied the same country. The sun and moon that shone in the sky for the Egyptians would be the same sun and moon that shone on the Hebrews. Therefore, logic dictates that if the Egyptians were shrouded in blackness, then the Hebrews also were shrouded in blackness. However, that is not the case here. While the Egyptians could not see a hand waved in front of their faces, the Hebrews had light. The Hebrews could see; they were not left blind. How comforting that light must have been!
Now, let us look in at the Hebrews. First, they could see, but they could hear the cries of the Egyptians. They could not work on Pharaoh’s projects, for everything was covered with blackness- a darkness-imposed vacation for everyone! The Hebrews must have wondered what was going on. After all, light travels. Why did the Israelites’ light not penetrate the darkness for the Egyptians? The darkness was God at work. While the Egyptians stumbled, wailed, and generally cursed the inky blackness, the Hebrews were able to rest, prepare their meals, play, work, and ponder the omnipotence of their great God.
Why do I immensely dislike spiritual darkness? Like the Egyptians, the darkness isolates me; it becomes so pervasive that it is almost impossible to breathe. Blackness presses in on every side with no escape, and, if I let it, the panic becomes overwhelming, drowning out any shred of hope. However, God is still there; He is my light in the darkness. When I call on His Name, the darkness has no choice, but to subside. The more I call on the name of Jesus, the brighter that light burns. Where there is light, there is no darkness. God might allow me to pass through the darkness, but He is always with me every step of the way. He lights my way, and because of Him, my steps are sure. Jesus is the Light of the World, and we radiate His light to others. This Christmas season remember to let His light shine forth by allowing the light of Christ to pierce the darkness.
60 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Today, the cable system was my abyss. I could not communicate with anyone. The phone would not work, and the internet was down. I am sure you have experienced that numbing feeling when you realize you are all alone- there is no one who can help you. I was in darkness. I had to wait for the system to straighten itself out- there was nothing I could do but wait.
Life has its ups and downs. Some days are filled with sunshine while others are filled with dark and stormy clouds. How we respond to those dark days makes all the difference in how we feel. From my own experiences, I know that we each can have very dark and sad days. I also know that if I choose God’s way, my attitude changes, and how I look at the situation changes too. I see things in a more positive light. I can see hope because God’s light leads me in the path I am to follow.
Early in the 2000’s when I was traveling a very dark path, I cried out to God for help- I did not know it, but I was crying out for hope. God answered my plea. He led me to read a short piece by Max Lucado which through time and effort changed my perspective and my response to the darkness. I hope this excerpt from Mr. Lucado’s book, When God Whispers Your Name, will help you during your dark days too.
“It’s quiet. It’s early. For the next 12 hours I’ll be exposed to the day’s demands. It’s now that I must make a choice. And so I choose—love. I will love God and what God loves.
I choose joy.
I choose peace. I will live forgiven.
I choose patience—Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I’ll thank God for a moment to pray.
I choose kindness—for that’s how God has treated me.
I choose goodness.
I choose faithfulness. Today I’ll keep my promises. My wife will not question my love.
I choose gentleness. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control. I will be impassioned only by my faith and influenced only by God.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When this day is done, I’ll place my head on my pillow and rest.”
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Genesis 1:3
When God created the universe, He first created light. Light dispels the darkness, and God is the God of Light. His glory radiates for all to see; His love radiates in a broken world. Therefore, it makes sense that the very first thing created was light. The creation is a reflection of its Creator: as such, His handiwork is evident in all aspects of creation. Light is no different, for it reflects our great God and His glorious splendor.
When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we become God’s ambassadors here on earth; in essence, we become the Light of Christ for the world to see. A single flame snuffs out the darkness. We are God’s light in a fallen world, for we radiate God’s love to a world in need. How will you be that light this Christmas? Will you give your time and energy to a worthy cause? Will you be a friend to the friendless? Will you take time out of your day to help someone in need? What will you do? How will you be the Light of Christ not just at Christmas but always? As the late President George H. W. Bush once stated: “I have spoken of a Thousand Points of Light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good.” How will you or I be that light for all the world to see? Listen for God’s voice; move as the Spirit leads you, and be the light shining in the darkness for the world to see. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). May the Light of Christmas be evident in all our lives both this Christmas season and always.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When I think of a lighthouse, I think of ships lost at sea. In my mind’s eye, I see a nighttime sky with clouds obliterating the stars- utter blackness. There are no lights on board ship and no stars in the night sky to help steer the ship to a safe port. Then I think of the sailors searching the horizon for a glimpse of light- the bright beacon that welcomes lost sailors “home from the sea.” In my mind, as I search the blackness, I see the strong tower which houses the light buffeted by the slashing rains which are carried on gale force winds, yet the light-strong and steady- powerfully sends its message across the empty expanse to those lost souls, “Come this way. It is safe to rest here.”
When I read Psalm 27:1, I visualize God as my strong tower. He sends His message of love to me all day, every day. Through the storms and calm seas of my life, I know that I am not alone, for God is with me- holding me close. Because I know God is with me, I am not afraid.
“He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
And to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
“God is good- all the time; all the time- God is good!” Growing up, my pastor began our church services with a huge smile on his face, arms open wide, and the aforementioned sentence. The statement begs the question: Why is God good? God is good because of His forgiveness, grace, mercy, justice, and love. Our heavenly Father embodies each of these attributes, but He especially embodies love. His love for us caused Him to send His Son Jesus Christ to earth to die on the cross for us. God’s justice demanded that the penalty be paid; His love demanded God’s unwavering forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Therefore, the Father did the only thing that would satisfy both: He sacrificed Jesus on the cross to pay for our sins and raised Him to life again so that we would never be separated from Him again.
What does God ask of us? He asks us to pursue justice, to love mercy, and to walk with Him every step of the way. If we strive for a balance among these three by ourselves, we will always go from one extreme to the other. One person might demand justice for every little infraction of the law. Can you imagine a police officer handing a woman in labor a ticket because she was speeding? Neither can I. Mercy is needed and given. However, if we constantly give mercy, then justice would no longer exist. Picture a judge. He listens to the case set before him and looks at the hardened criminal who stares back defiantly. If the judge renders a judgment of innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence, would that criminal learn not to break the law? I highly doubt it. Justice for the innocent is necessary.
Where, then, does that leave us? Walking closely beside our Heavenly Father. Only God can keep us from tilting the balance too far in either direction, for He knows exactly how much mercy to give and how much justice to administer. After all, He sent His only Son to satisfy both. This Christmas, take a moment to contemplate how much you are loved; think of the sacrifice that Christ made for you. Remember that you have been bought at a great price. When you hear those bells chime on Christmas morning, thank God for His amazing gift to all of mankind. Then, give God the greatest gift of all time: “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Proverbs 4:18-19 (NIV)
18” The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.”
Because it is early December, the sun is just beginning to top the eastern hills when I get out of bed. By the time I am dressed, I expect the sun to be bright and shining, lighting my way for the rest of the day. Sometimes my view of the sun is blocked not by hills, but by the heavy rain or snow clouds. On those days, the sun might peek from behind the clouds, but, for the most part, the light around me is dull and the day dark.
I am much like the world around me. Some days, I permit the light of Christ to brightly shine within me, but, on other days, it is hard to tell that Christ’s light is within me. Because I love God, because I know Christ is my Lord and Savior, I know that I am called to live a righteous life- a right-living life. How can I tell what is right living? My Bible points me in the direction of how God wants me to live. In Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly[a] with your God.” and Philippians 4:8, “ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” More importantly, Jesus spoke to all people when He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27) When I follow God’s teachings, I can be the beacon God wants me to be. When I show His love to others, my light shines brightly, but when I want what I want to the exclusion of love and kindness, my light barely shows. Each day I make a choice to be a light or not to be a light in an ever-darkening world. I pray that I may be the light that brightens someone’s day today.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people 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.” Matthew 5:14-15
Do you believe that you are the light of the world? As Christians, we are called to be the light of the world- the light of Christ for all of the world to see. When people look at you and your life, what would they see? What would people see if they look at me and my life? I pray that they will see Christ lived out in my everyday life; however, I am honest enough to admit that too often, the light of Christ flickers weakly. My actions, attitudes, words, and thoughts do not live up to the commands given in the above verses. Thank the Lord for grace! I may not be perfect, but by the grace of God, I take a step closer to being like Jesus with each passing day.
Today was the state funeral for President George H.W. Bush, and, as the minister spoke, he referenced St. Francis of Assisi’s words: “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.” I listened as he spoke of multiple instances where President Bush let his light shine before men; likewise, President George W. Bush gave a moving eulogy to his beloved father. Earlier this morning, I watched Jenna Bush Hager, President H.W. Bush’s granddaughter, narrate a loving tribute to her “Gampy.” What was the common link among these tributes to our late President? “You are the light of the world.” I firmly believe that President George H.W. Bush took those words to heart, and, though he also was not perfect, he lived his life in such a way as to be that light for others.
I would like to take a minute to share with you a song that speaks to Jesus’ words. “Light Your World” by NewSong expresses so clearly what Jesus was asking us to do in our world today. Light your world each day, and may we all live in such a way that at the end of our lives the world cannot deny that light. Below is the link to this beautiful song. Enjoy!
John 8:12 (NIV)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
While my children were small, there was always a nightlight plugged into our bedroom wall in case of a nighttime emergency. Today, if I need to get up in the middle of the night, I have a flashlight lying on my bedside table. In order to deal with any situation that might arise, I need to be able to see my surroundings, and darkness does not permit me to see adequately. So to in my daily interactions, I need to be able to see. However, life’s situations darken my perception of my surroundings, and I sometimes feel lost- adrift. The loss of a loved one, a mistake at work, difficulty with a friend are all situations that can shroud me in darkness. Though I know God’s guidance, His light, is always with me- it is during these difficult situations that I know God is with me. It is His guidance and support that lights my way as I navigate through all trials and tribulations. Though the situation may seem impossible, I know that with God I will be in His care- safe and secure. My circumstances may not change, but my trust in God will affect my attitude in dealing with the people and obstacles that I come across.
“So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” Matthew 10:26-27
Have you ever been afraid of the dark? The shadows close in around you, and things that looked friendly in the daytime take on a menacing appearance in the inky blackness. Soon, your imagination begins to run away with you as it imagines all sorts of horrors lurking in the shadows.
Growing up, my older brother had a book/cassette combo of the story Scared of the Dark by Liza Alexander. When we traveled, it was not uncommon for us to listen to listen to these stories, for we could picture every nuance of the story. It was not hard; Ernie and Bert were friends. In this story, the best friends see a scary movie; while Bert is excited, Ernie is scared. Back at home, the two friends get ready for bed, but Ernie is still ill at ease. Soon, Bert’s snores can be heard, but Ernie is restless. Without fail, Ernie imagines all sorts of ghosts lurking in the shadows. At one point, he screams, “Here come the ghosties!!!” so loudly that he knocks Bert straight out of bed. I must admit that we all laughed. Now, of course, Bert makes Ernie feel better, helping him to imagine happy things instead of scary ones, and all is right with the world.
What does this have to do with the above Scripture? Jesus was preparing His disciples for His inevitable crucifixion. He knew that they would be afraid, cowering at every dark alley, jumping at every shadow. Unlike His disciples, Jesus also knew that the death was not the end of the story. Rather, His resurrection was the new beginning. Jesus’ words that were whispered on Good Friday were shouted from the rooftops on Pentecost. The disciples hid themselves away, until the Holy Spirit came in power, enabling them to boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. What great hope!
Likewise, we are promised this same hope. When our worlds seem so dark, God gives us the Light of the World. Now is the time to go boldly forth proclaiming that light to the world! Let us illuminate the world’s darkness with God’s light this Christmas!
1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)
5 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all [a] sin.”
What is light? The simple answer is the absence of dark, but light means so much more to me. It means transparency, rightness, openness, goodness, kindness, peace, faith, truth, hope, and love. To me, light means God’s presence. As I sit at my desk writing this devotional, the sun is brightly shining through the windows in my classroom. Because there is nothing but glass between the sun and my classroom, the room is warm, and there are no shadows today. I want to be like the glass permitting God’s warmth and light to flow through me to others. I want no shadows in my life to hinder someone from seeing God’s light or feeling God’s warmth. In order for me to share God’s light, I must walk in it. How can I do this? I get to know Him by reading His word, the Holy Bible. Reading the Bible is similar to reading letters that were sent to me by a dear friend. I can talk to Him; I can pray. Just as I want to hear from my children, God wants to hear from me. God wants me to talk to Him; He wants me to listen to Him, and God wants to comfort me. In return, I can comfort others. I can listen to them, and I am able pray with them. Therefore, I can share the light of God’s love through my actions as well as my words.
“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
We live in a broken world. Everywhere you look, there are hurting people, broken homes, fear, and pain. Yet, we are called to let our light shine for the world to see. How can this be? It is almost as if our efforts are futile, yet to the one touched by the light, our efforts are not in vain. It makes a difference to every single person whose own light is kindled by our flame. Each of us needs to know that we are not alone, that we have value. We all need support and help, sometimes more than we can express. Ultimately, we all need to know that God loves us so much that He chose to redeem us. Here is the amazing part: when we give ourselves for others, not only do we help to kindle another’s flame, but we also cause our own lights to burn brighter still.
This Christmas season, be that light of Christ. Go out into the world; help those in need. If you hear the Salvation Army bell, put a few dollars in the pot. Smile and be kind to sales associates. Patiently wait in lines, and give a word of encouragement to a fellow shopper. Make a meal for someone enduring a health crisis; drive an elderly neighbor to his appointments for the day. Pray for someone. Purchase presents for those less fortunate than you. Give of yourself and light a candle for a world in need. What will you do?
John 1:5 (NIV)
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
At our house, Christmas means light- a lot of light.Outdoors my husband will tell you that he has decorated with 8,000 lights.Indoors, I am sure the number of lights rises exponentially.Typically, we are watt watchers, but at Christmastime we let our lights shine brightly.Our lights shine because we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, “the Light of the world”.The world is a dark place.Many people are hurting.The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death exert their influence around the world.But even as the blanket of darkness spreads throughout the world, there is Hope - there is Light. Jesus came into the world to dispel the darkness. He is the Light. Where there is worry or anxiety, Jesus has the answer for you in Scripture.For example Psalm 23:4 says, Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”Read Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:24-34, these passages speak to our deepest concerns - Where will my next meal come from, and Will I have something to wear? Yet Jesus speaks with quiet and calm conviction, “Trust God.” Paul and apostle of Jesus spoke from experience when he tells us to trust God.Beaten, starved, and imprisoned, Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-8 (NIV) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”In Psalm 55, King David poured out his troubles to God in a song, but near the end of the psalm in verse 22, David is resolved.He says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”But you are hurting now, you are in darkness.Like David and Paul, I speak from experience when I say trust God.Search the Scriptures for encouragement.Seek Him, and you will find Him, the Light of the world, who will walk with you through your struggles.
Dispute over Jesus’ Testimony
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the lightof the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV)
Jesus is the best person to go to for advice or help. Another way we see Jesus’ light is day. His light (the sun) is beating down on earth, and, whenever I feel out of hope, I look up into the sky and say, “ Thank you, Lord, for giving me, You the Light of the World.” Now I am not saying to go and worship the sun because, then you would be committing a very evil act called idolatry like the Egyptians and that would not be good at ALL. All I am saying is next time you are down and out with the blues, turn to God. He knows what is happening, and He is always there with you no matter what situation you are in.
Now let us offer up a word of prayer, “Dear Lord, Please help me to recognize that You are the Light of the World and always there for us no matter what. And let Your advice and help shine through us like a beam of sun. In Jesus’ name, Amen, and Praise You, God!”
“‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
You now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
A light for revelation to the Gentiles
And for glory to Your people Israel.’” Luke 2:29-32
God’s promises are true, and they will come to pass.Do you believe this?Most Christians say that they do, but in practice, they do not really believe it.“Those promises are just for the Bible; they are not for people today,” people may say.Yet, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.The promises He made in the Bible hold true for us today.Sometimes, it is difficult to grasp.Even though God promised to be with you at all times, He sometimes feels so very far away, especially when you are hurting.However, God is always there, right beside you every step of the journey.
Maybe God made a promise to you.You heard God speak as plain as day.You know that you know that you know that what God said, yet, as time passes, that promise is unfulfilled.You prayed, but God keeps saying, “Trust Me.”Years pass, and still the promise is unfulfilled.Would you give up on that promise?Simeon was faced with just that situation: God promised Simeon that he would see the Messiah with his own eyes.However, Simeon was an old man and still no Messiah.No Messiah that is, until one fateful day, when a young couple came to the temple with a tiny infant.Then, Simeon zeroed right in on them; he knew without any shadow of a doubt that that baby was indeed the Messiah.With his eyes, he beheld the Savior of the world; his hands held the Son of God.With his heart full, Simeon rejoiced, praising God for the fulfillment of His promise.
God may have made a promise to you, and you might still be waiting for an old promise to come to pass.Hold on.God is faithful; your promise is on the way.Rejoice, for though you might not see it yet, your promise is as good as fulfilled.God made the promise, and He will deliver, just as He did for Simeon two thousand years ago.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the Angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.The virgin’s name was Mary.The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Luke 1: 26-34
This verse is the pinnacle of history; it shows everything from human nature to our future Savior.That is just awesome; it tells about John the Baptist, Mary’s future, and even a little bit of today with man questioning God.One of the most crucial parts about this verse is Elizabeth and her pregnancy.If Elizabeth had not given birth to John the Baptist, then the world would not have been prepared for Jesus’ glory.This obviously shows God’s plan and will.Another thing that is a common misunderstanding about Mary is she and Joseph were forced into their relationship (or at least that’s what I thought).Yet, in reality, they were already engaged when Jesus was conceived.One main component is when Mary was questioning God about how she could get pregnant as a virgin.One thing I have learned this year is NEVER question the possibilities of mankind!Because in November of 2018, I was diagnosed with shingles, and I am only thirteen.Now, most people think I am probably joking, but I am not.I have the receipts via a scar and terrifying pictures.The thing I learned was that, first of all, I should never test God’s limits and that anything that happens is in His will, and it will be done.And just remember next time you are down and out with it to trust God and reach for help like Mary later reached for help through Joseph.
Luke 1:34-38 (NIV)
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Bad news, good news, great news- depending on the person receiving “the news,” good news is bad news, and great news is bad news.Mary was a young girl in Judea.There were rules and regulations by which she had to abide.For Mary, the angel’s news was great news, but, at the same time, it was the worst possible news that Mary could hear.Mary was an engaged young lady.Unlike today where many engaged couples cohabitate, Mary and Joseph were not permitted to know each other in an intimate way.For Mary, the angel’s news put Mary on the wrong end of a very painful death sentence. Though Mary understood the all the difficulties involved in the angel’s message, she trusted God with her future.Mary’s only question was “How will this be since I am a virgin?”As the angel explained God’s way, Mary’s resolve to follow His plan solidified.
Unlike Mary, God has never called me to make a life or death choice, but He has called me to make unpopular decisions.The choices I make may affect others around me, but if I take my dilemma to God in prayer and read His Word, I know that my decision will be the right one.I know that if I have an underlying peace, my choice is ultimately correct.Others may not understand or approve of my choices, but God is the only one that I must please.And so I say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant.May your word to me be fulfilled.”
“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give Immanuel— which means, ‘God with us.’
When Joseph work up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.And he gave Him the name Jesus.” Matthew 1:19-25
Can you imagine the scene? A young, respectable, cautious, kind, loving carpenter returned home from spending time with his fiancé agitated and anxious.His young fiancé revealed to him that she was expecting a child; the carpenter smiled wryly.Her story of the angel was preposterous; then he frowned: why couldn’t she have told him the truth.Sighing, the thoughts swirled in his head, and a decision solidified in his mind.He knew what to do: divorce her quietly, making quite certain that she was safe from harm; his heart ached within him, but he saw no other course of action.
The young carpenter lay down, fell into a troubled sleep, and dreamed a dream that turned his entire life inside out.The angel convinced the young man that his fiancé told the truth about the pregnancy.Who was he to argue with Almighty God?If the angel said that he should marry his sweet Mary, then that is what he would do.Surely, God would make a way for them!
Time passed, and our young carpenter did exactly as the angel told him.By doing so, he became the step-father to the Son of God.What an incredible honor for our young friend, Joseph!I wonder if any of us would have the courage to step out in faith as Joseph did.He did not have to take Mary as his wife; he could have walked away.No one would have blamed him….Ah! But, here is the rub: God knew Joseph’s quality.The Heavenly Father chose the perfect man for His Son’s step-father- a faithful, kind, honest, loving, hard-working man who dared to step forth in faith and say, “Here I am, Lord; use me.”May the same be said of us today.
Luke 2:1-5 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while [a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Joseph was a law-abiding man. Therefore, when Caesar Augustus proclaimed a census, Joseph was more than willing to comply with the new edict. In Augustus’s world, the census was not a problem. It was simply done. However, in Joseph’s world, nothing was simple. For the Jewish population, it meant a major population shift based on the twelve tribes of Israel and the ancestral lands. Joseph was a descendant of King David, of the family of Judah, which meant that Joseph had to return to David’s city, Bethlehem. Then, Rome was not satisfied with a single-family representative. No, when Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, he had to bring his pregnant fiancé - everyone had to be counted. The world that Joseph and Mary inhabited, and everyone in it, was turned upside down because God had a plan to save all of mankind. It was a massive migration in the area of Judea.
God has a plan for you, and a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Can you imagine how God is working behind the scenes of your life? You might think your life is upside down. You might think that nothing good can come from the disaster you call your life, but you would be wrong. God’s plan for your life is an orchestra of people and events which, when taken individually, appears to be discordant- out of harmony. However, once the individual parts come together- like the instruments in the orchestra under the direction of a wonderful conductor, God- the music is incredibly sweet. What appears to be a disaster is actually only part of a wonderful life.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.She wrapped him in cloths and placed him a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7
Mary was a teenage girl from Nazareth, engaged to and protected by Joseph.Yet, at the time of Jesus’ birth, she was miles away from home in a barn.Unlike today’s barns, this barn was little more than a cave, but what choice did they have?The inns were filled; at least, if Mary cried out, she would not be heard.Animals surrounded her; feeble light danced along the cave walls.With her heightened senses, the smell of the animals could have been overwhelming, but Mary came from a relatively poor household.She was used to unsavory smells.Out in Bethlehem, Mary only knew Joseph; they were strangers in town, poor ones at that.
Mary’s pregnancy was froth with problems right from the get go.She was pregnant out of wedlock, and society was not kind to those who broke social convention.Thank goodness Joseph stood by her!To be in the third trimester of her pregnancy was difficult enough; to travel to a strange city while in the third trimester quadrupled the difficulties.To add insult to injury, once settled into the cave, Mary’s water broke, and the contractions began.Jesus was putting in an appearance whether Mary and Joseph wanted Him to arrive or not.
We are not told much about the birth of Jesus, but we are told that Jesus was born in a barn and placed in a manger- a feeding trough.An inconspicuous beginning for the Son of God.Can you picture Mary’s awe and wonder as she first held Jesus in her arms?Do you see her as she counted fingers and toes?Fear mixed with trust as she looked at Joseph.After all what did they know about raising a baby, not to mention the Son of God?In spite of the problems, inconveniences, and difficulties, God came to earth- Emmanuel, God with Us- what joy and wonder eclipsed anything else!As we leave this scene, let us also remember the wonder and joy that Mary and Joseph surely felt two thousand years ago.
Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Anticipation and expectation are both synonyms for hope- the Israelites lived on hope. Through their traditions and prophets, Israelites were long expecting their Messiah. God’s intent was to provide a permanent reconciliation spiritually, but the Israelites were looking for a king to save them physically. The prophets Micah and Isaiah spoke of a Savior, a King who would come to save His people. Isaiah 9:6-7 speaks of a Child who would lead the people.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
But expectation and reality are often quite different. The people expected a warrior king, but God spoke of a child and a servant. When God’s Son was born, He did not come to the rich and powerful. He came to the poor and needy- the shepherds. Tough and rough, the shepherds had no expectations. They were working men and boys. They knew that they needed a Savior. Where a heart is open to God, He will enter. With no preconceived notions, they listened to the angel’s message and song of praise.
In my life, I have expectations, and I always have hope. I have preconceived notions. I expect the Advent and Christmas season to be peaceful and calm when, in reality, it is neither. Push, shove, deadline, and repeat- the cycle is never-ending. I need to buy presents. I need to clean. I need to cook and bake. I need to accomplish everything at work before the Christmas vacation begins. Yet, I do not need all those things. The one thing I really need to do is often pushed aside. What I need to do is to be still and listen to the angels for the Baby in a manger came to be my King too.
“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.’” Luke 2:13-14
Can you imagine a host of angels?How about a great company of angels?Neither can I.If we are quite honest, one angel would be awe-inspiring in and of itself, but, as per Luke’s account, the shepherds were visited by “a great company of the heavenly host”.The sheer number, the breathtaking display of power and glory, and the music that swelled across the heavens stun the imagination!
The shepherds were highly favored by God, for He sent His angels to inform the shepherds of Jesus’ birth.The angels glorified God in the shepherds’ presence, and peace was one of the gifts that God bestowed on mankind- all because Jesus was born.I imagine that the shepherds often talked about that night the angels came.I am quite certain that it was emblazoned in their memories for the rest of their lives.
Who were the shepherds?They were the “men on whom His favor rests.”The same goes for us.Expect the unexpected with God.You never know when you might come face to face with an angel.Maybe God will work in miracles; maybe He will work through people.However, keep a weather eye out, for you never know when God will roll back the heavens and allow His glory to be revealed.The thought is beyond comprehension- how awesome it will be!
Luke 2:15-18 (KJV)
15” And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”
The shepherds were blessed.They were privileged to see heavenly beings praising God.I cannot imagine the beauty of heavenly music.The shepherds fear turned to awe.Humbled, the shepherds reacted to the heavenly message with trust and responded with action- “And they came with haste, and found Mary, Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:18) They came with haste.They did not have a huge debate- should we go to find the Baby, or should we stay and take care of the sheep?No, they heard the call, and they answered by following the directions they were given.
I wish that I would respond to God’s call as quickly, and as positively, as the shepherds did on that very wonderful night.Sometimes I feel a quickening in my spirit to do God’s will.“Tell that person how much I love them.” “Give that person money.”“Show that person how much I care for them- write them a letter or give them a call.”“Open a school for My glory.”These are just a few of the examples of how God speaks to me.Rather than responding with haste, I debate with myself.What will that person think if I give them a hug or tell them how much they are appreciated?What will my husband or children think?Often, I put how others will respond to my call above God’s call for action. When I bypass the opportunity to help others, disappointment floods my soul.I know that God still loves me.I know that He understands, but I also know that if I do not follow His leading those opportunities to serve others will become fewer.It is at those times that I follow the angel’s example. I lift my head in praise to my Savior.Then, my resolve to follow God’s promptings as once the shepherds followed the angel’s promptings returns, and, again, I am fit for service.
He was born in an obscure village, the son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter's shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he became a wandering preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of those things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through a mockery of a trial. He was executed by the state. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind's progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
I love to teach. Whether I am teaching my children or another family’s child, I love the process. In the beginning of many a lesson, when the child does not understand a concept, some children give me the blank and panicked stare. I can tell that the students are “walking in darkness.” Those are the times when I encourage the children. I tell them, “Right now you don’t understand, but with time and practice you will”. Eventually, I can tell by their demeanors that something has changed. The eyes are brighter, and the tension leaves their bodies. Finally, smiles appear on the faces, and an “I get it!” pops out of the mouth, and we all laugh and celebrate.
Everyone has those excelsior moments when understanding matches or exceeds information and learning takes place. For example, I was asked by our minister to present the children’s lesson each week during our Sunday services. The lessons were not very long nor very heavy in content, but they were lessons given at a child’s level of understanding. One Sunday morning, I taught a lesson about going to heaven or hell. I could see the response in the children’s faces. Some were intent; others were dismissive, and others appeared to be daydreaming- a typical class. 😉 When I neared the end of the lesson, a small child about in First of Second Grade got up from his place at the altar steps, came over to me, and asked the highly charged question, “You mean the others are going to hell?” The light had dawned in his mind. He understood. Though God wants us all to be with Him in heaven, not all of us will accept His invitation. We have the choice to accept or reject His offer of salvation. For that little boy understanding met information, and we prayed together right in the middle of the church service. On that day, the Children’s Sermon was for that little boy. God has a message for each of us- Jesus, the Messiah died on the cross for our sins. The only way to meet Him in heaven is if we believe and accept Christ as our Savior. If today is the day that you understand and desire to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, I offer these words of advice:
Confess to God that you are a sinner. Repent or turn away from your sin.
Trust that Jesus is God's Son and that God sent Jesus to save people from their sins.
Give your life to Jesus. Ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.
Jesus into your heart
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Follow Jesus in Baptism
Romans 6:4, 11
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized
into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." "In the same way, count ourselves dead to sin but alive to god in Christ Jesus."
Find a local church body of believers to join with.
":Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the day approaching."
"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” John 12:35-36a
When I was in elementary school, my class took a field trip to the Liberty Science Center. While there, we all decided to go through a touch tunnel. Now, for those of you who have never heard of this, it is basically a tunnel through which you crawl; however, it is devoid of light. There is not a speck of light anywhere to be found. You rely on your sense of touch to help make your way through the tunnel. Truthfully, darkness did not bother me; I was not afraid of the dark. Yet, going through a blackness so thick that you could not see your hand in front of your own face is unnerving. I had no idea what was in front of me, and I prayed that I could feel the shoes of the person crawling in front of me. At one point, I can remember smacking my head into a wall, feeling as if I was free falling as the tunnel led down a slight incline, and feeling as if every second was a lifetime. True, I survived with a great appreciation of my sight, but how grateful I was to see the light of day! I still remember heaving a great sigh of relief!
When reading the above Scripture, that incident in the touch tunnel immediately came to mind. “The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” Just like those who embark through a touch tunnel, if we do not trust in our Light, we walk in the darkness. Who is our Light? Our Light is Jesus. God the Father may not tell us what our future holds, but He did give us Light for every step of our journey. If we trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, He is faithful to send us the Comforter- the Holy Spirit- to lead us along life’s journey. The path may not be easy, but we are not alone, nor are we left in darkness. Our Light stays with us lighting our path; we just need eyes to see it. This Christmas season, remember that the Light of the world has come so that we no longer have to walk in the darkness. Merry Christmas!
Isaiah 2:5 (NIV)
5 “Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
It is important to know where you come from. Knowing where we come from gives each of us a sense of stability- of belonging. People need to feel a connection to the past. “Who came before me? What were they like? Were they good people?” are just a few of the questions about our ancestors that clamor to have an answer. I understand this craving because I am one of those people who want to know more about my family. I am the youngest sibling of older parents, which means that I was not privileged to know most of my grandparents, great-grandparents, or their siblings. Sometimes, I feel adrift. I am like my father who researched our family history all the way back to an area in what is now Germany- pre-1700’s when the first Felix came to America. Unfortunately, I do not know much about my mother’s family line. I have a few pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents in Italy. I have a few stories, vague memories of my one grandma, and Ellis Island records from the early 1900’s. That is all. However, I have a connection to a greater family for I am a descendant of Jacob. I do not need to question because my family history is written down in the Holy Bible. I was not technically born into Jacob’s family, but I was spiritually born into it. For me, the light of the Lord led me to Jesus who is the Light of the world. This holiday season permit God’s light to shine on and in you. Then follow that light to the stable where, like the shepherds of long ago, you will find your Messiah too.
“Light is sweet,
And it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years a man may live,
Let him enjoy them all.” Ecclesiastes 11:7-8a
The sun. The great yellow orb in the sky. You wake up in the morning, and you expect to see the sun. A bright sunny day can do so much for a person’s mood; most people tend to be incredibly productive on sunny days. However, there are many days, when you wake up, and the rain falls from the sky. Sometimes, it seems as if those days will never end; the rain falls and falls. How we wish for the sun to appear. Physically, our bodies crave the sunlight, for it contains the Vitamin D that we so desperately need.
What about spiritually? Does your spirit crave the light? I know mine does. There are times when my whole life seems to implode all around me; darkness has shrouded my sight, and I find myself wondering what happened to my light. It is during these moments that I hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart saying, “Look up. I’m right here, just as I said I would be. The Light has never left you.” You see, God- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- is our Light. He provides us with the Light that we crave, for we crave filling the emptiness in our lives with Him. We were created for the Light, and the Light of this world is our Savior. Drink the Light in, for we have all of eternity to enjoy it.
Micah 7:7-8 (NIV)
7” But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.”
Waiting is not my favorite word. If I am being quite honest, there are times that I really detest waiting. Yet, God calls us to wait. Sometimes the wait is relatively short, as in Advent leading up to Christmas Day, and other times, the wait is much longer. It is during the times of waiting that God is renewing our strength and helping us to trust.
Over the years, I have waited for many things- my license, a college degree, acceptance into graduate school, my husband, HOPE’s growth, revival in America, and more. Some have come to pass, but I am still waiting for others. However, one thing remains constant- hope in the Lord. I wait on Him and His time, for His plans are perfect, and He is preparing things for me. All for which I hope is coming to pass, for God has heard the cries of my heart. In the meantime, I will wait patiently knowing that God’s time is best, knowing that He hears me when I call, and knowing with calm assurance that He will do as He promised.
“Woe to those who call evil good
And good evil,
Who put darkness for light
And light for darkness,
Who put bitter for sweet
And sweet for bitter.” Isaiah 5:20
Sometimes, the world is incredibly dark- evil pervasive. This year, I watched what is happening in our world, and I shook my head in disbelief, wondering, “How can this be acceptable?” People assaulted for their beliefs; false accusations led to a circus and mockery of a confirmation hearing; children and adults killed at their synagogue, victims of hatred, and the list goes on. On one side, the coarse, crude language and behavior are excused in the name of enlightenment, and, on the other side, normal behavior and actions are ridiculed, belittled, an bear the brunt of harassment. How is this right? How can people conscionably accept the death of innocent people as right and defend those who use innocent people as shields? How are those who protect painted as monstrous enemies and those who commit violent crimes heralded as heroes?
The answer is frighteningly simple: we live in a fallen world. People have a simple choice: they can follow Christ, or they can follow Satan. There is no middle ground. About three years ago, an episode of Girl Meets World entitled “Girl Meets Real World” spoke to this issue. In the episode, Riley was told to debate that the world is basically bad, while the rest of the class were to debate that the world was basically good. Over the course of the episode, Riley began to follow her sinful nature, and she enjoyed it. She did not understand why her friends were upset with her behavior, but her best friend Maya explained exactly what happened to her and consequently to our world:
“Because…because you see that door? When it’s shut, it’s shut. I can pull on it as hard as I can; it doesn’t open, but just the slightest crack throws the door wide open. You opened the door, Riles, and the first bad thing makes it easier to do the next bad thing.”
Unfortunately, our life, nay, our world is not a sitcom. All will not be right at the end of a half an hour. As Maya said, we opened the door to evil, and each evil committed makes it that much easier to do the next one. We have exchanged light for darkness. Now we have a choice: we can continue on our path trading good for evil, or we can accept the Light of Christ and allow Him to be our guide for the future. As Riley’s father, Cory said to his class, “There is good, and there is evil. I’ve found that if you choose good, the world is more than willing to help you out.” Light ignites light; darkness snuffs out light. I choose to follow the Light of Christ. Which will you choose?
*Jacobs, Joshua. Girl Meets World. “Girl Meets Real World.” August 19, 2016. Director: Ben Savage.
Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)
19 “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”
Sometimes, the pain is too deep to be expressed. Sometimes, there seems to be nowhere to turn, and no one to talk to who will listen- really listen. Sometimes the pain is so deep, so profound, that there is no way to express the loneliness-the pain.
At this time of year, we think of a young woman and a young man, who faced almost insurmountable pain; of shepherds, who left their flocks; of Wise Men, who left the comforts of home; and of the Baby born in the manger. We think of God who came down from heaven; we think of HOPE. In one moment of time, perfect love reached this imperfect world and decided to stay. Each day, God dwells in our hearts, so that we can touch that perfect love. Let God’s love flow through you; let His peace fill your heart; and reach out to those who need a reminder of the love and peace that only God can give to us. Share the hope with those who need to know God’s love and peace.
One of my favorite Scriptures is found in Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Through the difficult times and through the joyous times, God is our companion. He walks with us, and He talks with us, if we listen. He is as close as a prayer and as sure as His Word. Take the time to listen; take the time to talk with Him; take the time to read His Word; take the time to share. He is waiting for us to take the time.Then as you grow stronger, take the time to share God’s love with others.So many people with hurting hearts need the love that you found in Christ.He wants you to share that love with others.On their Christmas album, the music group Avalon have a wonderful song entitled “Don’t Save it All for Christmas Day.”The lyrics powerfully express the need to share God’s love to everyone with whom you come in contact.
Happy New Year
The Magi Visit the Messiah
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 starwhen it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2: 1-2 (NIV)
The thing that amazes me is that the Magi came and asked to WORSHIP Jesus. If you do not know what a magi is, it is basically a magician or enchantress.The reason why this is so incredible is because most people let alone magicians at King Herod’s time even believed in God. This is why it is so incredibly amazing that the Magi came and asked to worship Jesus.Whereas the Magi could have just asked to see Jesus, instead they decided that they wanted to worship Jesus. That is what Christians do when they ask Jesus into their hearts; instead of just wanting to see Jesus, they decide to worship Jesus. Once you have decided to worship Jesus, you do not see Him in the same way, and neither does He see you the same way.
Now, if you decide you want to be a Christian, just bow your head, close your eyes, and say the following: “Dear Jesus., even though the world might just see you, I want to worship You. Please forgive me of all my past sins and allow me to worship and love You just as the Magi did. I forever want to be with and live with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Matthew 2:3-6 (NIV)
3 “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[a]””
It is easy to get lost- one false move or incorrect turn can result in going away from your intended destination. In December, students, teachers, and family members met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a school trip to the Walnut Street Theater. Though the traffic was heavy, going into the city was fairly easy. We reached the theater before the appointed time which gave us time to explore the theater. After the play, we had reservations to eat at City Tavern, an old-town restaurant; my brother a long-time Philadelphia resident was our guide through the city maze. Again, we navigated the ins and outs of the city with ease. We were able to admire the architecture of the old city and take side excursions to see the sights on our walk. We had confidence that our guide knew the way to the restaurant. After lunch, we walked back to the theater where our cars were parked. From there on, we were on our own. The Garmin would not work properly because the buildings were too tall blocking the satellite reception. Our phones, usually a good back up to the Garmin, had the same problem, and our Philadelphia map is out of date. What to do? My husband and I fixed our sights on a natural boundary, the Delaware River. We knew that if we drove ever eastward, we would find the river. Once at the river, we would head north and then east into New Jersey and home.
Like the Wise Men of old, we had a place to be, but our directions were fuzzy- we needed help. Far from home, the kings chose to ask for directions. King Herod did not understand what those visitors from a distant land wanted, but he knew who to ask for help. He asked the keepers of God’s Word, “the chief priests and teachers of the Law”- they went to the Source.
When you are lost, do you ask for directions? Each day comes with its own set of unknowns. Some unknowns can be answered easily with basic knowledge as we did when we cam home from Philadelphia. However, other questions need a more complete answer for which you need a guide to point you in the right direction. At other times, we need to go to the Source of everything. When we permit God to be our Guide, we rest peacefully in the knowledge that God will lead us where we need to go in a timely fashion. How do you find that guidance? You talk to God- you pray. God answers our, “Help!” questions as swiftly as He answers our, “Thank you.” Like the chief priests who went to Scriptures for guidance, you can reach for God’s wisdom by reading His Word, the Holy Bible.
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child.As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
After they 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.” Matthew 2:7-9
What man intends for evil, God uses for good.This paraphrase of Genesis 50:20 has many applications, for the words of Joseph to his brothers spoke of a deeper truth.God does not cause evil, but He does use it for His purposes.Never is this more evident than in Matthew 2 and the story of the Magi.
Here, we have an incredibly evil king- a Roman appointee- ruling Judea.Just who was Herod?Well, Herod the Great was a scheming politician of the most ruthless order.He controlled Judea via tyrannical methods and fear; Herod wanted power and wanted to be remembered.His building projects were vast, expensive, and impressive.Most importantly, Herod was a butcher, known for murdering anyone who seemingly stood in his way- including innocent babies, several wives, two of his own sons, and his father-in-law.Nice fellow, would you not say?
Why then do the Magi visit Herod?What purpose could our friendly Magi have in visiting such a monster, for you can be certain that Herod’s reputation preceded him.In a word: information.The star that they had been following could not be seen.The Magi needed to know where to search for Jesus, an elusive baby King; so, they went to the man who would have all the information that they needed at his fingertips: Herod the Great.God knew Herod’s intentions and the decision that Herod would made, but God also knew that no one and nothing was going to harm Jesus.I find it interesting that the star appeared again after the Magi left Herod’s palace, and it led them directly to Jesus.The Magi traveled with gifts fit for a king, and they longed to worship Him- the King of Kings.Those who seek Him will find Him, and the Magi found Jesus, the One they longed to worship.
Are you searching for the One who can fill the God-shaped hole in your heart?Then, nothing will stop you for finding Him; God will lead you to Jesus.Look to the star that shone above the stable just as the Magi did; the way to Jesus may be filled with those who wish evil, but God will always lead you to His Son.Seek Him, and you will find Him.
Matthew 2:10-12 (NIV)
10” When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
God’s light comes in many forms.The light might be the light of a star lighting the way for the Magi.It could be the beacon of light shining brightly from a lighthouse which beckons sailors to a safe port.It could be the voice of a loving friend bringing comfort in a stressful situation.The light of God comes in many forms, but it always points in the one direction- towards God.In today’s Scripture, the star’s bright light led the kings to the place where “the Child was with His mother.”The light of God cannot be hidden.Herod’s counselors pointed the way to Bethlehem, but God’s light, the star, brought the Magi to the singular location where Christ was living.
As you travel your path, you might come to a crossroad where you are unsure of the correct path you are to travel.Stop as the Magi stopped and ask for directions- search God’s word and pray.Then look for God’s light-the light that will point you to your destination, for HE will guide you in all your ways if you will permit Him to do so.For the star shone for all to see, but it was only the Magi who followed the star to the Christ child.
“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:14-15
Herod the Great.At the time of the birth of Jesus, the name struck fear into the hearts of men- a cold-hearted, power-hungry, murdering king who ruled with the permission of Rome over Judea.Make no mistake- Herod was not above putting anyone to death, or, if it suited his purposes, using anyone to further his agenda.That is what he did with the Magi as he sent them on their way to Bethlehem with instructions to return to Herod.The only One that Herod failed to contend with was the very One Who was omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present.Herod failed to contend with God.God knew the murderous plans of Herod, and He sent His angels on their way to warn both the Magi and Joseph.
Because of an angel’s message, the Magi returned home by another route, but what of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus?They were just a poor family.What could they do?Lest we forget, God provided them with the means to travel: the Magi’s gifts.Upon waking from his dream, Joseph roused his family, and they silently fled to Egypt.Now, one might think, “Why not hire a bodyguard?Why run to another country?”Have you met Herod the Great?The man was ruthless, for when he discovered that the Magi duped him, his anger knew no bounds.Herod sent his soldiers to kill every male baby under the age of two living in or around Bethlehem.Any rumor, any hint of Jesus would have sent Herod into a murderous frenzy.Lives were saved because Joseph and his family fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod’s death.
Scripture was fulfilled, but God’s heart bled with the families who grieved the loss of their babies.Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were safe, but they too mourned the loss of friends’ children.Herod had a reputation; until he died, there was no guarantee that they would be safe.They only returned when the news of Herod’s passing reached Egypt- then, they returned.Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned not to Bethlehem, but to a sleepy village known as Nazareth.God’s provision saw them through the unrest and unease of this time; His comfort rested on those who lost loved ones.His peace settled over His Son’s family, and He will do the same for you.
Whatever your need, it is never too great for God to handle.Listen for His voice, follow His lead, and accept His help both in the expected and the unexpected ways, for you never know how God will work His will out in your life.This year expect the unexpected and trust that God will work all things together for your good.