Christmas

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There is a chill in the air even here in the Yucatan! As we we welcome the winter months, we welcome the opportunity they bring to update you on all that’s been going on in the last ministry quarter.

Click on the image, or click on the link and you’ll get in on all of the action with:

  • Kelly’s opportunity to join a medical team bringing hope to the hurting of Oaxaca.
  • A reflection on the light and life of Christmas,
  • And updates from our family as we move into the new season.

Remember, our newsletter in PDF format viewable in Adobe Reader. If you don’t have Adobe Reader installed, you can download it free here:

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.” Isaiah 9:2 NLT

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, it is important to understand what, in essence, occurred on the day of Christ’s birth. John 1 speaks of the event as the incarnation of the Word (1:14). To explain it, however, he uses two other ideas: life and light. Life, in that His was the active force of the creation that which brought into being all things and, as Colossians 1:15-17 states, that which sustains it. Light, referring to the revelation of this truth, the hope and direction that a belief in this creating and sustaining power and submission to it brings.

What strikes me about the nature of Christ’s birth, which is consistent with this concept of light and life, is its pervasiveness; it refused to be contained. From the announcement of the angels to the shepherds and their subsequent testimony of the event (Luke 2:8-20), to the star that led the wise men to announce and seek out the “king” who had been born (Matthew 2:1-12), the news spread far and wide. No one, not even those in the loftiest places of power and influence or the holiest places of worship were immune to its effect or exempt from a response to this revelation, this breaking in, this invasion.

John the Baptist, the witness to the light, illustrates its effect on the society of the day. His testimony of that light had created such a ruckus, making honest men out of tax collectors and moving Roman soldiers to repentance (Luke 3:7-14), that even the religious elite of the day were forced to deal with him (John 1:19-28).

It is that light of Christ and the example of his light bearers that we desire to emulate here in the Yucatan. As we continue with our efforts to see the Yucatan full of churches, our prayer is that that pervasive quality of the light of Christ would again be felt. Since September, we’ve held five major events calling on both leaders and laity to plant churches. It is our desire that the more than seventy individuals registered to start works in the coming months, the fruit of those events would be but the beginning trickle of the flood that will pour forth from the four walls of the church to proclaim the message of Immanuel, God with us, and that society again would be moved.

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Although the temperatures don’t seem to recognize it, as we turn to the last page on the calendar, we welcome the winter months here in the Yucatán! With the change in season comes the opportunity to inform you on all that’s been going on in this last ministry quarter.

Click on the image, or hit the link and you’ll get in on all of the action with:

  • A reflection on our last decade of Christmases.
  • A report of the fruit of our church planting program,
  • And updates from our family as we move into the new season.

Remember, our newsletter in PDF format viewable in Adobe Reader. If you don’t have Adobe Reader installed, you can download it free here:

http://get.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

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It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since we spent our first ‘winter’ in Mérida. Although we headed into the Christmas season without the typical blustery winds or early snows of home, we could still hear the carols and melodies both in the stores and on the streets as choruses would sing the message of Christ’s birth for all to hear. There was also the smell of pine, as families purchased live trees to decorate to transform their homes for family gatherings and Christmas celebrations.(Here’s a video clip from our own Christmas tree adventure!) We learned that piñatas were popular with both kids and adults alike during this season, not just for birthdays. Reenacting the Christmas story was also a tradition. One year, our daughter even got to perform as Mary (see picture above).
 
Our first Christmas here, we were invited to share in the festivities of our pastor’s family. There, we discovered that gift giving happens at midnight after the Christmas Eve service and a late family meal. Christmas Day, then, becomes a continuation of family time and eating those all important dinner leftovers.
 
Throughout the past 10 years, we’ve seen that, although the expression may be different, the hope and expectation of the Savior is what unites us regardless of our differences. Thank you for joining with us that we may continue to proclaim this message so that this universal Body of Christ might continue to expand. 

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Christmas is all about Christ, isn’t it? At least that was the core of the debate over the use of “Xmas,” a popular one in my childhood. Even now, with the plurality of holidays that seem to clutter the end of the year, the thoughts of many still turn to that event that split the calendar that we still use in two–the birth of Jesus.

Still, even though so many reflect on this day when God came near, it often seems so hard to enter into the spiritual interactions that we long for. With so many relatives, friends, and even strangers gathered together, the opportunities to turn the conversation to the spirit of the season, God’s activity in the here and now, seem to abound. Nevertheless, for many of us, it can be hard to move the conversation much deeper than the amount of snow that’s fallen outside.

What’s one to do? How can we interact with one another in a way that the season or any day truly deserves? How can we invite God into our conversations this Christmas?

I believe that the Bible, specifically the book of Acts, provides a template that we can use to direct our activities throughout the holidays and beyond, and it’s my prayer that this insight from Scripture will help you and your family put Christ back into Christmas, even it if be only in your circle of influence. First let’s look to the text:

Acts 8:26-401

26 As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was now returning. Seated in his carriage, he was reading aloud from the book of the prophet Isaiah.

29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the carriage.”

30 Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

31 The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.

32 The passage of Scripture he had been reading was this:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.
And as a lamb is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
33 He was humiliated and received no justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” 35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus.

36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” 38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away. The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Meanwhile, Philip found himself farther north at the town of Azotus. He preached the Good News there and in every town along the way until he came to Caesarea.

Now for those of you who are headed out the door to that office party or holiday potluck and are just interested in the steps to take to facilitate spiritual interaction here they are:

1. Pray for direction. (v.26, 29)
2. Obey the direction your receive. (v.27, 30)
3. Observe; hear the person’s story. (v.30)
4. Ask about their impressions, understanding, or need. (v.30)
5. Begin with the thoughts expressed. (v.35)
6. Explain God’s place in their story. (v.35)
7. Allow for the other to respond. (v.36)

For those of you with a bit more time, I offer some explanation:

The above passage is an excerpt of the account of Philip “the evangelist,” one of the seven deacons, “men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,” chosen in Acts chapter 6 to assist the apostles with equal food distribution among the church’s dependent widows. Prior to this passage, we see him, having fled the persecution of the church carried out by Saul of Tarsus, preaching in Samaria and carrying out a rather successful ministry. Under his work, the residents of this community received the message of Jesus, and many believed and were baptized after seeing the miraculous signs that accompanied his ministry.

Therefore, this encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch is a bit unexpected. At the center of a successful outreach, we would expect Philip to remain in order to consolidate the work, but, apparently, God had other plans. This leads us to the first step in building bridges toward spiritual interactions:

Pray for direction: Now while it is not overtly stated how Philip received his message in verse 26 to go to the desert road, we can assume that he was at least in an attitude that facilitated spiritual direction. In my mind, that points to an active devotional life, one which enables us to hear from God and recognize his voice.

This can be a big hurdle for many of us during the holiday season. With additional tasks on our list and events to attend, it can be tempting relegate to our daily time with God to the perfunctory prayers offered up at mealtimes or perhaps during the religious events that dot our calendar, but with Philip, we see just how essential his prayer life truly was. It was the catalyst that turned his attention to an encounter that would change the life of one man and perhaps opened an entire nation to the message of the gospel.2 Our prayers, as well, may be just what we need to prepare us to cooperate with God in the life of a loved one or sensitize us to a need lying just below the surface.

But how should we pray? A retired missionary, Lloyd Marsh, offers advice on this point. During his instruction on helping others to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, he would teach them to ask God, “What do you want to do?” God has a plan for the people that we meet, we should be asking Him how He would like us to cooperate with Him in fulfilling that plan.

Obey the direction you receive. Some would argue that this point is unnecessary, as one should obviously do what God tells us to do. Nevertheless, many of us could probably recall the myriad opportunities that we had allowed to slip by for fear of awkwardness or rejection. However, determining to act upon the message that we receive or the impression that we feel can help us tremendously when the event arises.

In the case of Philip, we see two occasions when he received specific direction (v.26 and v.30), and, in each case, action immediately followed. It was his obedience to the direction that he received that made the real difference in the situation.

Likewise, although we pray, unless we take action, no difference will be made. A little book, The Ten Second Rule has been helpful to both Kelly and myself as we try to overcome our natural reluctance to take the next step in obedience. The basic premise of the book revolves around this idea: “Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do,” and do it in ten seconds or less.

Perhaps it will be a direction to speak with that uncle you’ve always avoided or an impression to get to know that other family during the school presentation that will lead to an unexpected blessing. You never know. One thing, however, should be determined in advance: inaction isn’t an option.

Observe; hear the person’s story. This is perhaps the biggest gift that we can give this holiday season, especially when our conversations have tendency to turn into competitions instead of true giving and receiving, if this Brian Regan video is any indication. James 1:19 says it best, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

This is precisely what we see in Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian. Having obeyed the command to walk beside the carriage, he was able to hear that the eunuch was reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the prophecy of the “Suffering Servant,” one that Jesus fulfilled with his crucifixion and death. This observation supplied the explanation behind his unexpected direction and provided the opportunity that he needed to be able to intervene appropriately in the life of this high-ranking official.

As we spend time with others this holiday season, it could be a look or a sigh that, when noticed, might bring about an area of need where we could minister. On the other hand, a sermon or a reading from the Bible might generate an opportunity for sharing. The difference will be made when we intentionally choose to observe and develop our desire to bless others.

Ask about their impressions, understanding, or need. Sometimes, statements are made and are allowed to fall to the ground. Philip, having heard the scripture, could have walked away, satisfied that others, too, were reading the word of God. He didn’t. He asked a simple question which served to catapult the conversation into an explanation of the gospel: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (v.30)

We too can ask simple questions that may lead to deeper conversations. Questions like, “Why did you say that?” or “How did that make you feel?” may lead those around us to open up in a way that they normally wouldn’t. This is especially effective if they see that we’ve taken a genuine interest in the conversation that we’ve begun with them.

Begin with the thoughts expressed. When the opportunity does come for us to turn things to spiritual matters, a canned sermon, or a memorized script shouldn’t be our fall back. Instead, we should use Philip as our guide. He began with that same Scripture from Isaiah 53 to explain the gospel to the Ethiopian. It effectively answered the man’s question and stimulated his faith.

An admission of anxiety might allow us to share about God’s peace. An expression of loneliness might give us the opportunity to share about God sending us Immanuel “God with us” (further emphasized by our own presence with the person to whom we are ministering.) In each situation, we validate the person by hearing and responding to their situation.

Explain God’s place in their story. With Philip, the progression was natural. A scripture lead to an explanation of the ministry of the Messiah. For us, it may take a bit more thought, but the key lies in viewing our lives not as segmented compartments but as a unified whole. Once we allow God to encompass and invade every area of our own lives, connecting the current situation expressed with the activity of God in the person’s life will come more naturally.

Allow the other person to respond. Philip, after sharing his explanation, gave room for the eunuch to express his belief. His desire to be baptized signaled his acceptance of the explanation and his willingness to be initiated as a disciple of the one in whom he believed. Allowing room for others to express their reaction to our explanations may result in a request for prayer, an invite to talk further, or even, like in the case of Philip, a chance to lead someone to the Lord. The key is to make space in the conversation and to invite their response to your explanation.

Can move past superficiality this holiday season? I believe that the answer is yes, and the template that Philip models for us in Acts 8:26-40 shows us how we can. May the Lord help us to put this knowledge into action as we gather with others this Christmas and all throughout the coming year.

1 Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
2Irenaeus states that the Ethiopian eunuch was “sent into the regions of Ethiopia, to preach what he had himself believed.” CHURCH FATHERS: Against Heresies, III.12 (St. Irenaeus). Ed. Kevin Knight. New Advent. Web. 8 Dec. 2015. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103312.htm

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As you may know, I’ve been taking classes in the Mayan language. I’m currently in the second term. This past weekend, as we closed out our classes in 2013, we had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas, Yucatan style. Part of that celebration was a rendition of Silent Night in Maya. I was able to record a portion of it here:

What do you think? Were you able to sing along?

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Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. There is just something about this celebration of our Lord’s incarnation. First, there’s the anticipation of special events and family gatherings. Then, there’s with the expectation, both in the minds of the kids wondering what they’ll receive, and the adults wondering what their reaction will be. This translates into an excitement, even as the cooler temperatures bring a pleasant crispness to the air. At the same time, good cheer translates to warm greetings and quick smiles, whether among friends or even in the presence of perfect strangers. It’s a special time that I always hate to see come to an end.

Still, though the season may come to an end, our memories of Christmas 2012 can live on. One such memory I’d like to share, was our outreach to Yaxkukul, where we were able to participate with our home church, Centro Cristiano Gólgota here in Merida and Sparrow Fellowship in Waterford, PA, to make the Christmas holidays just a bit warmer for the kids of Yaxkukul.

If the name Yaxkukul sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been there before. That time it was to help coordinate efforts to put a new roof on a building that had previously been declared structurally unsound. Well, the roof is back on, and Pastor Rudy and his church are reaching out again to the community, but, in order to bless their kids, it was going to take a coordinated effort.

That’s where the efforts of Centro Cristiano Gólgota and Sparrow Fellowship come in. Earlier in the year, the kids at Sparrow gathered together their coins to bless kids in Mexico. Working together, they were able to collect over $80! Meanwhile, the kids at Gólgota answered pastor Rudy’s appeal for help. On the day of the outreach, Kelly, the kids and I, used the $80 to purchase blankets, and later joined with the Pastor Maria Jesús Salazar, the parents, and kids of the church to put together a Christmas party for the kids of Yaxkukul.

At the church in Yaxkukul, parents, kids, and church members joined together to sing, play, eat, and gift each child (23 in all) a new toy, blanket, and new clothes as well! It was a great time of togetherness, cooperation, and blessing, for those who gave as well as those who received. There were even fireworks, a decidedly Mexican touch, to cap off this special event brought about by a truly international effort.

Thanks to all who made this outreach possible. Be sure to check out the pictures here!

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wakeupOne of my favorite Christmas gifts was one I wasn’t even wishing for, a set of world-shaped coffee mugs. My mother-in-law had one of these in a cabinet for several years, and I always tried to get my hands on it when breakfast time rolled around. It just seemed appropriate, me being a world missionary and all. She picked up on the hint and bought me an entire set this year.

Of course, I’m not the only one waking up to world missions in this new year. Several students who attended the World Missions Summit have also woken up to their responsibility to be a part of the great commission. Over 4000 attended the conference with 845 commitments to “give a year and pray about a lifetime” made at the event, a number that is sure to rise over the coming days.

064We were blessed to link up with several of these students as we hosted four “Meal with a Missionary” events throughout the week. We had a chance to share our call, while we affirmed each participant in what the Lord was doing in their lives. We wish them well as they follow God’s direction.

How about you? How are you waking up this year to the Great Commission? Drop me a comment and let’s talk about it.

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The following is a sermon that I preached last Sunday. I felt that I wanted to share it as well with you.

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 in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
–Luke 2:6-7

The temperature has dipped and another page on the calendar has turned. The holiday sales have begun, and the bonuses are being paid (“El aguinaldo” or 13th month of pay is a right of the worker in many Latin countries.) It’s official, the holiday season has begun. In our house, the tree is trimmed and the manger scene has been set as our thoughts turn toward December 25th and the celebration that is Christmas.

Still, though, I’ve been wondering lately. Although it seems that this is a season that we anticipate from the start of the year, could it be that it has caught us unaware? Although we’ve made the preparations in our homes and our budgets, have we overlooked Christmas in our minds and hearts? Will Christ be relegated to the outer confines of our lives because there is no room for the what He desires to bring into our lives?

Two thousand years ago, Jesus left the glory of heaven to become flesh and live among us. God literally broke into history to take up residence here on earth. Luke allows no questions about this fact, dating the time, “in the days that Caesar Augustus issued a decree” and the place, “Bethlehem the town of David,” that Immanuel, God with us, was born into this world.

The God who fills the heavens had come down. He who in the Old Testament could not be approached but once a year, and only then according to a strict ritual, had decided to take up permanent residence among us. He who invoked fear in the hearts of His people who dared not come near to the Mountain of the Lord in the book of Exodus, now invited this world to reach out, to touch Him, to hold Him near to their hearts.

Still, we read that this God-child received a less than wholehearted reception. Instead of a royal palace and a team of mid-wives to ensure a successful delivery, his birthplace was a less than accommodating stable. Luke, the physician, mentions no attendants at the birth of the Savior, instead we see the image of a solitary woman wrapping her new-born in the cloths that she could find and placing him in a bed borrowed from the animals that dozed nearby. A misfortune wasn’t it, that Joseph couldn’t find a spare room on this night of nights, or was it? Was the holy family turned away because they lacked reservations or because the innkeeper simply didn’t want to receive the new-born king?

No room could mean a lack of space, but it could also mean discrimination. The Jews during the time of Jesus followed strict laws of ceremonial purity. Those who desired to worship had to follow a strict dietary code as well as avoid situations–sicknesses and certain household uncleanliness that would contaminate this purity. One of those situations that a faithful Jew needed to avoid in order to maintain their ceremonial purity was the birth of a child.

The woman who gave birth during this time would be unclean for at least seven days. For those seven days, she would have to withdraw herself from contact with others. Those who were unfortunate enough to have contact with her would be subjected to a bath and be unclean at least until the end of that day. So it would have been in the best interests of any self-respecting businessman or head of the household, if in fact the inn was nothing more than a guest room, to shut out the hassle and potential contamination that a first-century birth would bring. Therefore, it is a distinct possibility that the conditions that Mary and Joseph faced were brought about because the people who received them just didn’t want to be bothered.

The shepherd boy: Truth or Fiction?

The shepherd boy: Truth or Fiction?

This certainly seems to work together with the surrounding details. Directly following the account of Christ’s birth we read of the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. For this reason, our Nativity scenes usually include a rosy-cheeked boy with a lamb around his shoulders–a placid picture of what we consider a pleasant occupation, but reality presents a different situation. Shepherds in this day were the outcasts of society, a smelly dirty lot, so disdained that they were inadmissible as witnesses in a court of law. And therein lies the irony, who better to witness to the birth of an outcast king than this society of outcasts?

There we have the original Christmas scene. Jesus, God made man had come down, but instead of receiving Him, His own people shut him out. They looked on Him as a problem to be avoided, a situation to be deal with instead of a King to be worshiped.

Over two-thousand years have passed since that day, but still the question nags me. Have we truly received the Christ that we celebrate during this season, or have we continued to shut Jesus out in the cold? Of course, it’s possible that each of us place the nativity scene in a central location in the house, and we might proudly wear our buttons that read “Jesus is the reason for the Season,” but does He still exist on the fringes of our lives? Many of us adore the child of Christmas, but have we prepared ourselves to receive the Christ of Christmas?

A case of mistaken identity

One time, I was walking on the campus of Evangel University. I was working there while a group of Chi Alpha campus pastors were meeting. In this group were several that knew my twin brother, Mike, but had never met me. On this day, as several members of this group approached me, they began to greet me as if we had know each other for some time, but I was, in their eyes, oddly silent, unable to return their greeting. When I asked them if perhaps they had mistaken me for my brother, they thought that I was joking. Only when I produced my driver’s license did they understand their error.

How do we see the Christ of Christmas?

How do we see the Christ of Christmas?

Perhaps, as we get closer to Christmas, we’ve committed the same error. Perhaps we’ve mistaken Jesus for someone He isn’t–a baby and nothing more, or much worse just something to fit into our schedules that are overwhelmed with activities, gifts to buy, and family to visit.

Jesus is so much more than that, but in order to find out who this Christ of Christmas, we need to open our Bibles to the ninth chapter of the book of Isaiah and the sixth verse. There, we find the hope of a Messiah that the Jewish people had, and there we find the complete identity of the Savior whose birthday we celebrate.

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.

Wonderful Counselor (With recognition given to Dallas Willard for much of this content.)

The age in which we live is called the Information Age. CNN the 24 hour news network has as it’s tag line, “Because you need to know. Always.” (Translated tag line from CNN en español.) Those that know, win. Those that don’t, lose. Therefore, when we look for someone who can give us advice, we usually look for those who are the most up-to-date in our area of need.

But what happens to Jesus in this Information Age? If he remains as a baby in a manger, we push him aside. Statistics state that the majority of Christians don’t consider Jesus as someone who has reliable information about their lives. Not even one in a 1,000 people would describe him as well-informed, brilliant, or intelligent, but could we imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he wasn’t intelligent? Being divine, could he be dumb? I believe that our response has to be no.

Like Isaiah says, this child, our Savior Jesus Christ is the Wonderful Counselor. Paul the Apostle says that Jesus is the one in whom is hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Still, how do we accept Him in this way if we’ve lost our respect for Him as one who can inform our present situation? We can start by letting Him redefine our existence.

During the Christmas season, I believe more than the rest of the year, we experience the struggle between the world’s way of thinking and that of the Bible. The world tells us that the children that have the most gifts are the happiest, as are the parents that are able to buy them, but in this commercialization of Christmas, we can see the world’s philosophy–the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what man can do–creeping into our hearts and minds.

On the other hand, Jesus says to us that we are more than our bank account or the sum total of our possessions; we are eternal beings that need to know God more than the latest fashions. Therefore, if we really are eternal beings, we must understand that true happiness doesn’t come from what we can get at Wal-Mart on Black Friday but instead from our growing dependence on Christ’s counsel for our lives.

A stanza of the hymn “The Steps of the Master” reads:

I want to follow the steps of the Master.
I want follow my King and my Savior,
And allowing Him to mold my character
I sing with joy to my Redeemer.

When we reach the point of recognizing the Christ of Christmas, our Wonderful Counselor, we won’t only sing these words, we will live them.

Mighty God and Everlasting Father

This seems to be the paradox of all time. How I wish that I had been with Isaiah when he penned the those words. How can a child be God Almighty and a baby the Everlasting Father? Certainly the innkeeper couldn’t understand that the child that Mary carried was his Creator. If he had, he certainly would not have denied Him a room on that day.

Jesus’ neighbors couldn’t recognize this either. When He taught them, years later, in his hometown of Nazareth they marveled at His words and asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s boy?”

Even His disciples, those who had placed their faith in Him, failed to understand who He was. Philip, one of the twelve who had been with Jesus from the beginning asked, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough.” He couldn’t see that Jesus was, as the writer of Hebrews tells, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.

And we as we unwrap and hold that porcelain figure of the baby Jesus in our hand we are just as incredulous; how can it be that this baby so beautiful, so innocent, can hold together all things? We forget the fact that this child grew to become the One who fed the multitudes, the One who healed all those who came to Him. The One who defeated the powers of darkness, humiliating them by His death on the cross, and the One who triumphed over even the grave with his resurrection on the third day. We take Him for nothing more than a baby.

Maybe it is for this reason that He remains in the perimeter of our lives. We have problems with our health, our families, our faithfulness, but we have the tendency to hide it as if we were trying to hide candy out of the reach of a child. Have we forgotten that the child that was born on that night was God Himself? Have we forgotten that He still lives and is waiting to help us, to guide us along the path that we should take? Have we forgotten that this child is the One who knew us even before we were born?

Prince of Peace

Imagine the scene. Jesus had arrived, and what’s more, He arrived early. There was so much to do: dishes to wash, a table to set, food to prepare. And, instead of helping, it seemed as if everyone had sat to hear Him talk. This was the situation of poor Martha.

In the manner that Luke describes it in the tenth chapter of his gospel we can almost see her going in circles in her kitchen. “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” And the frustration grew with each circle until she exploded and said to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

But Jesus’ correction reveals the problem:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Christmas can be a season of stress much like the first two thousand years ago, but now, instead of a census that calls us to travel, the calls of relatives urge us to leave. Or maybe it’s our turn to host the family. We have to prepare the house, buy the gifts, and make the traditional meal, all in order to celebrate this special holiday. We’re upset, worried about lots of things. Maybe we’re lacking peace because we haven’t recognized this Prince of Peace. Like Martha we treat Him like any other guest when in our home is One who can calm us and speak to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!”

Thinking about my attitudes, I have to admit that I’ve failed to recognize the One that we celebrate each Christmas. There are times when I act like the innkeeper, worried more about completing my list of chores than about preparing a place for my King. It bothers me that Jesus might yet remain outside of His central place in my life, but tonight He makes us another invitation.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, wants to live with us this Christmas.

Maybe up until this moment we’ve failed to recognize His voice, but He continues to call. Maybe we’ve been worried about other things, but He waits for us. Why don’t we draw close to Him this Christmas? Why don’t we get to know Him as He is, the Master of our lives, the Author and Finisher of our faith and He who can give us the peace that passes all understanding. Why don’t we invite Him to to enter our lives this right here and right now?

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