The angel of the Lord to shepherds guarding their flocks nearby:
“Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 1:8-14 NIV
Soon after, the baby Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem by his parents, Mary and Joseph. They dedicated Jesus to the Lord, according to Jewish Law.
Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
The world may prefer to take Jesus out of Christmas, but Almighty God places Baby Jesus right smack-dab in the middle of his biblical account of Christmas. Without Jesus we would not have:
God With Us
Peace to all nations
Mercy toward mankind – God’s Pleasure
Light to all nations
It’s all there. God revealed in the flesh. No word of a holiday or festivity on earth. Just God doing his business on time as he promised. Just a little something to bring us GREAT JOY.
It seems that God’s mercy is for everyone. Our Father God’s secretive plan is now revealed to Paul. Clearly, God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, will be reinstated into spiritual fellowship with Himself via a circuitous route. Since Jesus has been rejected by many of the Jews, God extends His mercy to include the Gentiles. Oh my! Such a thing must have been unthinkable back then!
30Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against Him, God was merciful to you instead. ~ Romans 11:30
But don’t think proudly that Gentiles are greater than Hebrews; for the mystery Paul talks about in verses 25-26 is that the Israelites will again turn to their Almighty God for salvation in Jesus once the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.
31Now they (Hebrews) are the rebels, and God’s mercy has come to you (Gentiles) so that they, too, will share in God’s mercy. 32For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so He could have mercy on everyone. ~ Romans 11:31-32
Why was this kept a secret by God throughout the centuries? The answer could be as simple as God not allowing Satan in on the secret – loose lips and all that.
33Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways! 34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice? 35 And who has given Him so much that He needs to pay it back? ~Romans 11:33-35
Thank you, Lord, for including me in that number of fullness. I am convinced that it is the most merciful, sacred, and secret number. Even your prophets were never told.
May that number be so large that Heaven has to be enlarged to hold us.
Father, may it be as Your will dictates.
36For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen ~Romans 11:33-36
My college economics professor let it be known on the first day that there would be no excused absences in his class. He stated that being absent was an automatic course drop and therefore an incomplete grade – a horror in 1969.
Of course there are always the exceptions …
“I have heard every phony excuse there is for missing my class. Don’t do it! There are only two legitimate reasons for missing my class per semester:”
“You got married”
Naturally, about two weeks later I missed class. As I approached him timidly about it, he said, “WELL, I SEE YOU AREN’T DEAD, SO BRING ME YOUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE.”
I felt like saluting as I said, “YES SIR!” and hurriedly escaped to obey his command (Yes, I was just married).
Over the coming months all went well, even though it soon became painfully obvious that econ was not my forte. However, one fateful day I missed class again. I was terrified to approach his desk. Did I mention that I was diligently striving for at least a 3.5 GPA; and this problem was not supposed to be part of the picture?
As I opened my mouth to blurt my excuse he cut me off with, “I SEE YOU ARE NOT DEAD AND YOU ARE ONLY ALLOWED TO GET MARRIED ONCE PER SEMESTER. YOU ARE NOT EXCUSED!!!”
I instantly teared up and flushed beet red. I backed up and headed for the open doorway …
“ER … HOWEVER, I HAVE HEARD IT ALL, BUT TELL ME. IF I’VE NEVER HEARD YOURS, IT MAY EARN YOU AN EXCUSED ABSENCE.”
Did I hear him right? I could possibly get a reprieve? I blew my nose and tried to talk, but nothing came out. I cleared my throat and managed, “My clothes were stolen.”
“WHAT?” he roared. He was glaring, and then his eyes widened in disbelief.
“TELL ME ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW!”
Jesus, help me! I was about to collapse from fear or heat stroke on the linoleum floor. Remember the old kind with square linoleum tiles the janitors used to mop with chlorine bleach-water and then wax and buff with that big machine every night? Yes, that floor. I was hot and tired from an hour of gym class; running downhill to go home to change; and running back uphill in temperature of 100⁰+F.
He had kindled hope, so I rallied with the truth.
“I have gym class before econ and when I went back to my locker after showering my clothes were gone – stolen. I had to run home in my gym shorts; change; and by the time I got back, class was over. So here I am – dressed but missed class,” I stammered.
“I am so sorry,” I trailed off as I realized I was not that sorry. Had he heard this before? Locker thieves were evidently on the loose. Had this happened to anyone else yet? I was thirsty. I searched his face … no reaction. Nothing. His face was frozen in a peculiar questioning grimace. I hung my head.
All of a sudden he belly-laughed. He roared out, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! THAT’S A FIRST.”
“ABSENCE IS EXCUSED!”
I was about to faint from thirst and relief.
“DON’T DIE THIS SEMESTER!”
Seriously? So now you know why I couldn’t die that semester.
Over time I realize that our Heavenly Father doesn’t appreciate excuses for not showing up for class either. He has generously given life, clothing, and our beautiful earth to sustain us. We can repent from sin; marry Jesus once this semester; and escape the everlasting death part.
“So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” ~ Romans 14:12 NKJV
Enjoy the holidays and remember: DON’T DIE THIS SEMESTER!
How do we know what is acceptable to God? Shouldn’t we find out what His Word has to say?
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and reverence.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-2 NKJV (emphasis added)
The Apostle Paul wrote that he spoke the truth in Christ here, so I have to believe that to pray for all men is acceptable to Jesus, and will reap the reward of a blessed life.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written,
“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.