Being The Light On Christmas

(1 Timothy 1:15)  “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

The decorations are up, the tree is lit, and we have a 24 hour a day Christmas carol radio station that promises to keep us company.  During this time of year, we are continually exhorted by Christian leaders who tell us to “keep Christ in Christmas” and that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  But how do I avoid the crass commercialism of industry and maintain the simplicity of the message of Christ?  Do I buy Christmas cards with pictures of a star and three wisemen?  Do I refuse to write “X-mas” instead of “Christmas?”  Do I fight against people who want to get rid of manger scenes? What I thought was righteous indignation in my youth now appears to be a distraction and drain on my energy, taking away from the focus on something much more important.

The Lord Jesus Christ came with a mission.  He was God manifest in the flesh for the purpose of saving sinners – yes, you and me!  The whole world is focusing on a celebration that will culminate on December 25th.  We have a unique opportunity to share the beauty and simplicity of all that God the Father intended when He sent God the Son into this world.  The babe in the manger would become the man on the cross.  The silent night of His birth would become darkness as the Son of God died for our sins.  No room at the inn would become no room in the hearts of those who despised and rejected Him.  The proclamation of the angels to shepherds would become the proclamation of an angel to the women, “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said” at an empty tomb.  Yes, let’s keep Christ at the forefront this Christmas as we proclaim that He is the reason for our redemption!

Renewed Thought – Lord, help us shine Your light during this holiday season.

Why Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh?

(Matthew 2:11)  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

We are not told in Scripture how many wise men actually visited the Lord Jesus. We do know it was some time after the birth in Bethlehem, and not the night of His birth, because they visited Joseph and Mary in a “house.” The three gifts they presented may seem strange today because the only item most of us are familiar with is gold. But in the ancient world, these items were considered valuable and worthy to offer a king or deity. “…these same three items were apparently among the gifts, recorded in ancient inscriptions, that King Seleucus II Callinicus offered to the god Apollo at the temple in Miletus in 243 B.C.E.”1   God knew the coming horrific events would require the family to make an expensive journey to escape Herod’s attempt to kill the young Saviour. These gifts would allow them to pay for a way out as the angel of the Lord commanded Joseph. But there was also a spiritual significance behind these gifts that another proof that Jesus was in fact the Messiah.

Gold was considered a gift and symbol worthy of a king. In Daniel 2:38, as Daniel was interpreting king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the image he proclaims, “Thou art this head of gold.” Kings and their kingdoms are associated with gold throughout the Bible.

(2 Chronicles 9:20)  “And all the drinking vessels of king Solomon were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver; it was not any thing accounted of in the days of Solomon.”

Frankincense is an aromatic substance used in incense and perfumes. It is found 9 times in the Pentateuch. 7 of those times it is found in the book of Leviticus in relation to the priestly duties of worship.  

(Leviticus 2:2)  “And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests: and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD:”

Myrrh is another type of substance used in incense and perfumes but in the the New Testament had quite a different purpose than frankincense.  Myrrh was used in the burial of of the Lord.

(John 19:39)  “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.”

What is God trying to communicate to us by providing the details of these gifts? Dr. J. Vernon McGee tells us that, “Gold speaks of His birth. He is born a King. Frankincense speaks of the fragrance of His life. Myrrh speaks of His death. All of this is indicated in the gifts that were brought to Him at His first coming.” – Thru The Bible. Nelson Publishing. 1983. vol. IV, p. 16.

But we also see something more in these gifts that show us who Jesus really is:

  • He is called a King – In 1 Tim 6:15, He is named “King of Kings.” It is not hard to understand the meaning of the gold.
  • He is called a Priest – In Heb 4:14, He is called “a great high priest.” It is not hard to understand the meaning of the frankincense.
  • He is called a Prophet – In Jn 6:14, He is called “the Prophet” referring to the prophesied Prophet in the Old Testament that would come. But we also know the history of Israel was to kill her prophets. Christ Himself even testified of this on several occasions.

(Matthew 23:31)  “Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.”

The Lord Jesus would also be rejected and killed just as the prophets sent by God before Him.It is not hard to understand the meaning of the myrrh.

In God’s sovereignty and grace, even at His birth, we see that Jesus is the unique and exclusive Savior. Step back and appreciate all that God reveals to us. His ways are so much above our ways! His thoughts are so far above our thoughts! Jesus Christ really is Lord of Lords!

Renewed Thought – We often miss the wisdom of God on display in the little details of life.

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Our Joshua and Emmanuel Here – The Rest of the Story

(Matthew 1:21-23)  “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

The name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua” in the Old Testament. It means “Jehovah our Saviour.” After the death of Moses, it was Joshua who led God’s people out of the wilderness and led them to victory over enemies occupying the promised land where they established a home.

Just like Joshua led God’s people into their inheritance, Jesus came to lead Israel out of captivity to sin and to free them from religious bondage. This is the context and meaning of “he shall save his people from their sins.” But it wasn’t the full story…

In saving His people, Jesus was God manifest in the flesh who would fulfill the most basic promise and desire of God – that God Himself would dwell with His people here on earth. It was the long held promise of Emmanuel written over 700 years earlier in Isaiah 7:14. But even that is not the full story…

What no one knew then was the secret that God had in mind when He planned to bring salvation beyond Israel. There was a group of people on this earth who lived on the other side of an eternal chasm from God with no bridge that could possible provide a way across. While Matthew reveals to us the plan and purpose of God for His people Israel, we find the curtain drawn back in the revelation given to the Apostle Paul,

(Ephesians 3:6)  “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”

Yes, Jesus is the Joshua for both Jew and Gentile alike. He alone is the bridge that provides rescue across the chasm separating man from God – whether in religious bondage under the Law or chained by the idolatrous inventions of the Gentiles. Christ leads us into the freedom of promised eternal life. It is a salvation available to the entire world. But that is not the full story…

The Lord Jesus Christ indwells His people here on this earth. We see the reality of Emmanuel today as God is dwelling among His people here and now. His Church is the fulfillment of the miraculous manifestation of what was in God’s purpose and plan before the earth was ever formed. And as those who are partakers of His promise by the gospel, it is our privilege to be part of it…and that is the rest of the story…

Renewed Thought – 

“Veil’d in Flesh the Godhead see,

Hail th’ incarnate Deity!

Pleas’d as Man with Men t’appear,

Jesus our Emmanuel here.”

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, by Charles Wesley (1739)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing