Monday, December 23, 2019

What the Angels Said About Jesus

Before John called Jesus the divine Word who "was with God and ... was God," before Paul called him "the image of the invisible God," even before Jesus ran around Judea and Galilee claiming divine prerogatives for himself, people were warned what to expect from this Jesus. The angel Gabriel did not just tell Mary, "You're going to have a son." The angelic visitations attending the birth of Jesus laid out the story for anyone who was ready to listen.

Luke 1:26-38
"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.

"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."

Matt 1:20-21
"...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."

Luke 2:11
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

"He will be called the Son of God." In the Old Testament, there are many "sons of God." There is whoever Gen 6:2 refers to, there are references to angels being sons of God, and kings and all Israel are called sons of God. So what makes this kid special? This son will be conceived when "the Holy Spirit will come upon" Mary. He will be no normal man. Many in the Bible were unable to conceive without God's help, but this time it will be without the involvement of a man. Furthermore "He will reign over Jacob's descendants forever." Forever. This is no mere mortal. He's not mortal at all.

He will be "holy." Holy, especially when talking about people, means to be set apart. Samson was set apart from birth. So was John the Baptist. You know about Samson's hair. Zechariah was told about John, "He is never to take wine or other fermented drink" (Luke 1:15). These restrictions highlighted that they were set apart for God's use. There are no special instructions for this child. He's not a Nazirite. He's not "set apart for a special work." He's intrinsically holy. Like God.

"He will save his people from their sins." Do you think Mary and Jospeh wondered how he would accomplish that? I doubt they could have imagined the form that would actually take, but besides that, how can a human being save anyone from their sins? A human being cannot. The blood of bulls and goats does not bring forgiveness of sins, and neither would the blood of any mere man.

"He is Christ the Lord." "Lord" in the New Testament means different things. It can mean as little as "sir." It can mean a servant's master or an exalted person. Or it can mean the king. Calling him "Christ the sir" makes no sense, so he's obviously exalted to some extent. To what extent? He's no mere mortal. He's the Son of David. He's the special Son of the Most High. He'll reign as king forever. He will not be a lord but the Lord.

The Savior that was born to them and to us was no mere man. To anyone who was listening, the angels spelled out that this baby was going to be God in the flesh, come down to save mankind and call the nations to himself. The shepherds "spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child" (Luke 2:17), and so should we. We worship him best by joining his mission to call all nations to be reconciled to God.

Of Sons and Promises
The Forever King

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


What's going to happen tomorrow?

There are lots of good reasons to spend less than we make: So we can give to charity; so we're not caught up in materialism and greed; so we can handle unforeseen expenses like car repairs; so we can handle foreseen expenses like retirement and college.

Here's another one: In the not too distant future, people you know may face the choice of giving up their careers to honor Christ.

In The Benedict Option, Rob Dreher argues the day is rapidly approaching when American Christians will have to pull together to help each other survive more than we have had to in centuries. We've already see bakers, florists, and photographers face the choice of giving up a huge chunk of their business or violate their consciences. The day may soon come when doctors, pharmacists, teachers, and other professionals may have to make the same choices, even to the point of going into a new career.

Could that happen to you? Would you be able to help a brother or sister in Christ who faced that situation? Would you be able to help your church make up the loss in giving? Would you be able to continue giving to your church if your contributions were no longer tax deductible?

How do we prepare for that rather likely eventuality? By learning to make do with less now. By learning to live simply. We can learn to ask whether we really need to buy that. We can ask how many streaming services we really need to subscribe to. We can re-evaluate our transportation choices.

We can decrease the pile of gifts under the Christmas tree. Christmas is the time of the year when we most clearly tell our children that piles of stuff is good. This year, cut back a little on what you spend on Christmas for you and yours. Instead, have your family do some buying for an angel tree. Or gather around the World Vision, Heifer International, or Samaritan's Purse Christmas catalog and together pick out some gifts to give people who can't give back to you. Start getting your family used to spending less on yourselves.

Fancy clothes, fancy cars, and fancy houses filled with latest electronic gadgets are just things that moth and rust destroy. Storing up treasures in heaven is a far better use of our money.

Let's learn to live simply and give lavishly before the world makes us.