Jesus Works in the Midst of Monotony

5 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. – Luke 2:5-20

Look at the shepherds.  They were just doing their jobs when the angels came.  They were normal people doing mundane things.   I’d like to say at that point their lives where changed forever.  And to some degree that is a true statement.  But, in reality, what happened?  They returned to their sheep.  They got back to work.  They returned praising God and rejoicing, but they still returned.  That is exactly what our task is today.  We are marvel at the story of redemption – be completely overtaken with Jesus.  But, we do this in the midst of monotony.  We glory in Christ, in a cubicle.  We are to rejoice in the Lord, while driving a delivery truck.  We are to be constantly overcome with great joy, while standing at the factory producing widgets.  We extoll the greatness of God while raising a family, doing yard work and washing the dishes.  This is Christ in everyday life.

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No Fear

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[c]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” – Luke 2:8-15

I suppose it was a night like any other.  Nothing special.  There was no special Christmas spirit filling the air, perhaps even no sense of anticipation.  It was night like any and every other.  These Shepherds were doing what they do every night and every day – watching their sheep.  It’s what they do.

And then, out of no-where, an angel appears – and with this angel we are told the very glory of God shone round about them.  This is the Shekinah glory that we read about in the Old Testament.  Back in 2 Chronicles 7 it was this awe-inspiring glory that filled the temple and prohibited even the priests from entering in.  These Shepherds were lowly men, sinful creatures who were seeing God’s glory in a way few men ever have.  Of course they were filled with great fear.  Place your feet in the shoes of Isaiah as he approached the throne room of God and immediately proclaimed woe upon himself and begged to be cleansed.  They had every reason to fear because these sinful creatures deserved punishment.

And with that, they were gone.  As quick as they came, the angels left.  Immediately these shepherds realize they must find this child wrapped in swaddling clothes laying in a manger.  I find it interesting that they never were flat out told by the angels to go and see the baby.  It was just so obvious.  How could you not after seeing what you just saw.

They found Mary and Joseph just as the angels said they would.  When they see Jesus they began to tell the proud parents all that the angels told them.  Apparently there were others there as well the Shepherds had to tell as well.

But I find something extremely interesting that’s not here at the manger scene.  You have Jesus, the parents, the shepherds, the animals, but there’s something that’s not here that you would kind of assume based on this previous set verses that would be here.  No, I’m not talking about the wise men.  There’s no fear.  When the shepherds found themselves in the presence of the glory of God, there was great fear.  When the shepherds were in the presence of the Son of God, there was great excitement and great joy.  I think this helps shed light on Hebrews 4 where we are told to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence.  Contrast this with Isaiah’s experience at throne of God where there is fear.  What makes the difference – the high priest who passed through the heavens, who sympathizes with our weaknesses and was tempted as we are tempted.  The incarnation of Christ is what bridges the divide between God and man.  Jesus changes everything!  The babe in the manger who was very God of very God was still just like us!   Just like we previously referenced in Ephesians 5, Christ is how we stand before the Father, robed in a righteousness that is not our own, but one gained through the perfect life of Christ.  Because of Jesus Romans tells us there is now therefore no condemnation!

John 3:16-17 –  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

No wonder there was no fear, there was Jesus!

God’s Plan is Bigger than Caeser’s Decree

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. – Luke 2:1-3

Here in this these familiar verses we see the birth of a King wrapped up and intermixed with the command of a lower king.  Every president and world leader longs to leave a lasting legacy.  Today marks the funeral of Nelson Mandela.  Much fanfare has been made of his great accomplishments bringing reconciliation and an end to apartheid in South Africa.  I’m sure history students will be studying his life for many years to come.  But I’m sure Caesar had no idea that his simple decree that all the known Roman world should be registered, a type of census that would happen more than once, would still be talked about for millennia to come.  I’m pretty sure he would have been upset to know  that God would use this decree not to speak of the greatness of a Roman emperor but to point to an even greater King whose power, glory and rule will overshadow every ruler in every kingdom in every time period, and whose reign will be acknowledged by all men both great small, whose kingdom will last forever and ever.

I’m also sure that through this decree Ceaser wished to show his authority as a king, but in all reality he was simply a tool God used to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy, that according to Micah 5, the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.    God in His sovereign power is moving heaven and earth to accomplish his will and will use even a pagan king to get the job done.

Application:

While Caesar sits on his throne, God sits on a much larger throne.  We began this story with a decree from Caeser Agustus.  Often times our secular leaders care nothing of their ultimate leader.  Their agenda is their own glory and self-exaltation.  As we read in Matthew 2, there are times when our political leaders are outright hostile to God’s redemptive plan.  But we have no reason to fear.  God is still sovereign and even wicked rulers are pawns in God’s will.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

 

Mary and Elizabeth

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah,40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, andblessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

Luke 1:39-56

A Prayer for Trusting God with the Impossible

     ”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. Luke 1:34-38

Dear heavenly Father, Mary had a calling no one else will ever share—to be the mother of God the Son—to nurse the One who created and sustains all things.

And yet all of us have much in common with her. When we consider the cosmos-renewing, history-defining, heart-transforming promises you’ve made in Christ, we too say and pray with incredulity, “How will this be?” And we hear you answer back in the gospel, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

Father, you’ve made promises you alone can keep, and you will. This includes making all things new through Jesus, and redeeming his pan-national Bride. But it also includes your plans for our lives. Just as surely as you placed the life of Jesus in Mary, you have done the same for us. Though in an entirely different way than Mary, we too are pregnant with glory (Rom. 8:18-27).

One Day we will be as lovely and as loving as Jesus (1 Jn. 3:1-3). We will only reason with the wisdom of heaven and will see all things with eyes of grace. Our favorite bread will be your will, and your glory our greatest delight.

One Day it will be impossible for us to sin—no more selfishness or pettiness. We’ll never get our feelings hurt, insist on being right, or demand more than you give or settle for less than you will. We’ll think of others more highly and more often than ourselves. We’ll be FREE, so very free and whole.

In response to this great hope we cry out, yet again, “How will this be, since we’re still so very much not like Jesus?” And you answer back so graciously, “I will complete the good I began in you.” Hallelujah, many times over! We praise you for your relentless, irrepressible grace. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ powerful and loving name.

– Scotty Ward Smith,
Heavenward

Psalm 19 – The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

19 The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5     which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Individuality

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. – Matthew 16:24-27

Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. We see it as the primary characteristic of a child, and rightly so. When we confuse individuality with the spiritual life, we remain isolated. This shell of individuality is God’s created natural covering designed to protect the spiritual life. But our individuality must be yielded to God so that our spiritual life may be brought forth into fellowship with Him. Individuality counterfeits spirituality, just as lust counterfeits love. God designed human nature for Himself, but individuality corrupts that human nature for its own purposes.

The characteristics of individuality are independence and self-will. We hinder our spiritual growth more than any other way by continually asserting our individuality. If you say, “I can’t believe,” it is because your individuality is blocking the way; individuality can never believe. But our spirit cannot help believing. Watch yourself closely when the Spirit of God is at work in you. He pushes you to the limits of your individuality where a choice must be made. The choice is either to say, “I will not surrender,” or to surrender, breaking the hard shell of individuality, which allows the spiritual life to emerge. The Holy Spirit narrows it down every time to one thing (see Matthew 5:23-24). It is your individuality that refuses to “be reconciled to your brother” (Matthew 5:24). God wants to bring you into union with Himself, but unless you are willing to give up your right to yourself, He cannot. “. . . let him deny himself . . .”— deny his independent right to himself. Then the real life-the spiritual life-is allowed the opportunity to grow.

– Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest