For A Child Is Born To Us

Reading

John 8:12

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Isaiah 9:1-2 & 6

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

2 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.

6 For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

1 John 1:1-5

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.

5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 

Reflection

For A Child Is Born To Us

Jesus leaves no confusion as to who he is. From before the dawn of time the Word existed with the Father, ready to break upon a world of darkness and set the world free from the sin that leads to death. Throughout history the prophets told of the coming of a Messiah who would be a light to all the world, a divine judge, a bringer of freedom, restoration and life. In the story of the Nativity we see events gathering toward a climax that would ultimately end in the deliverance and redemption of all the world, the complete and absolute triumph of light over dark.

At Christmas we celebrate the divine plan of God outworked through the lives of ordinary men and women, like us — the collision of the natural and the supernatural, when the glory of heaven invades earth and changes the world forever.

There is no greater truth, no greater hope, no other Rock on which to build our lives. There is no accident or flaw in God’s great story. He holds all in his hand, and the ultimate convergence of these wondrous events is to reveal the truth of Jesus Christ as the salvation of all the world.

Jesus came to bring peace, to unite the nations of the world under one rule, to see an end to war and conflict and terror and darkness so that the whole world would be filled with His glory. His arrival on earth signified the beginning of the end for the darkness that had oppressed the earth for generations. Jesus is the light of the world. If we follow him we no longer walk in darkness, because he is the light that leads to life. The victory has been won. The darkness has been shattered. The Light of the world has come.

Prayer:

Let your heart be filled with the revelation of the Light of Jesus Christ so that it overflows in your life in perfect joy, that his glory might be revealed through your life to those around you and on throughout all the world.

Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord

Reading

Isaiah 2:1-5

This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house
    will be the highest of all—
    the most important place on earth.
It will be raised above the other hills,
    and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.
3 People from many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of Jacob’s God.
There he will teach us his ways,
    and we will walk in his paths.”
For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion;
    his word will go out from Jerusalem.
4 The Lord will mediate between nations
    and will settle international disputes.
They will hammer their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
    nor train for war anymore.

5 Come, descendants of Jacob,
    let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Reflection

Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord 

At Christmas we celebrate the only true hope of all the world. Through his life and sacrifice, Jesus became a perfect offering for our sins, completing the atonement required by law to bring us into communion with God himself, and establishing the church as his witness on earth to continue the work he began.

We are living in the days foretold by Isaiah, when the mountain of the Lord’s house will be exalted over all others. This is our great commission, as the church of Jesus Christ. We no longer live as Isaiah did, in a world of darkness awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Instead it is our astonishing joy to be alive in the days when the revelation of Jesus Christ as the salvation of the world has already been proclaimed. We are, right now, living out the ultimate plan of God to restore all humanity to himself by shining the light of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

It is our turn to align with the cause of all who have gone before us as heralds of the way—Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, John the Baptist, John the Beloved, Mark, Luke, and all the other disciples and apostles and believers who have shared in this journey. What an exhilarating call—to be part of God’s astonishing story of redemption that has been unfolding since before the world began. Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Prayer:

Thank God for the magnitude and scope of his plan, and for the incredible privilege of taking up the mantle of all who have gone before in proclaiming Jesus’ love to all the world. Commit your heart to the cause of Jesus Christ in building his church so it can truly be the mountain exalted over all others.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God

Reading

John 17:1-5

After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.”

1 John 3:23-24

And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

John 20:30-31

30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

Reflection

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God

The story of the gospels is that of the divine collision of heaven and earth told through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The narrative of Christmas comes full circle with the sacrifice of our perfect Saviour, the ultimate completion of the Law of Moses that dominated the Israelites through so many generations of failure and redemption. Isaiah’s prophecies were consumed with the heartbreak of estrangement between God’s people and their Creator, and he yearned for the day of the Messiah, when finally there would be a sacrifice perfect enough to atone for all the sins of humanity. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 articulates this key to eternal life in completion: that we can know the only true God, and the one he sent to earth, Jesus himself, completing the unification of Father and Son into the glory they shared “before the world began”. John explains this further in his letters, articulating our responsibility to not just believe in Jesus Christ but to love one another and remain in fellowship with God, the fellowship that Jesus won on the cross, delivered through the miracle of the Holy Spirit. And this is the final purpose of Christmas, the unfolding of the most incredible story of redemption — that we would have life by the power of the name of Jesus Christ.

Prayer:

Let your heart be opened up to the full revelation of the story of God’s divine deliverance, for your life and for all the world. Then worship him, the one true God, and his Son who has given you life by the power of his name.

Glory to God in Highest Heaven

Reading

Luke 2:8-20

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Reflection

Glory to God in Highest Heaven

The story of Christmas is the revelation of God’s great plan of redemption—of his miraculous power entering the realm of earthly man and transforming this world forever. On a quiet night in a dark field shepherds were going about their usual duties, working their job and fulfilling the simple call of their lives. Without warning an angel of God appears in startling radiance, surrounding them with God’s glory, and their lives are changed forever. These shepherds bore witness to one of the most incredible displays of God’s glory on earth–an entire host of angels worshipping his eternal name. Without hesitation they heeded the call of God, hurrying to Bethlehem to see the birth of their Saviour. Afterwards they didn’t keep this secret to themselves but told everyone what they’d witnessed, and went on glorifying and praising God even as they returned to their humble work.

God is ready at any moment to invade your seemingly mundane existence with a life-changing revelation of his glory. He is looking for humble and obedient hearts, ready to follow his call, to spread his word of salvation, and to go on praising his name long after his miracle has been revealed. Never doubt the possibility that at any moment, God is willing and able to step into your world and change your life forever.

Prayer:

Ask God to open your heart to the possibility of his divine intervention at any moment of your life, even while fulfilling duties that may seem insignificant or mundane. Then be ready to spread the miracle of Jesus to all around you.

We Have Come To Worship Him

Reading

Matthew 2:1 & 9-11

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

Isaiah 49:6

6 He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me.
    I will make you a light to the Gentiles,
    and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Reflection

We Have Come to Worship Him

The inclusion of the wise men in the story of Jesus’ birth is fascinating, and the message significant. The word ”magi” derives from the Persian term for astrologer-philosopher-priests. It is likely these men were sorcerers or occult practitioners, and the wealth of their gifts suggests they were noble and possessed great authority, which is why they are sometimes referred to as kings. Of all the religious leaders, prophets, and godly men and women in Israel at that time, why did God instead invite three sorcerers from distant lands to be present at the birth of the Jewish Saviour?

Here God is making a startling demonstration of the truth that was prophesied in Isaiah 49—that Jesus would be a “light to the Gentiles” and not just the people of Israel. God spoke to the hearts of these men and they responded, travelling huge distances in pursuit of the star, the light of Jesus, in order to worship the newborn King by humbling themselves in his presence and laying down gifts of precious value before him.

This is a profound reminder to us of the vastness of God’s plan—that there is no heart so removed from his truth that he cannot bring a revelation of his identity to them. And once God is revealed to man, there is no other response except to fall to our knees in worship.

Prayer:

Allow God to open your heart to the people in your life or in society that you have dismissed as beyond reach of the truth of Jesus. Remember that God loves all people, and his power is great enough to transcend our human boundaries and bring salvation to all.

Do Not Be Afraid

Reading

Matthew 1:18-24

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

Reflection

Do Not Be Afraid 

As the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies about God’s promised Messiah drew near, more and more people were drawn into the incredible unfolding of his divine plan. They each had their own role to play, and all were challenged to let go of their expectations and make way for the mysterious workings of God’s long-awaited deliverance.

Joseph was a wise and “righteous man”. Discovering that his soon-to-be wife was already pregnant would have been an unpleasant shock, and not exactly according to his own expectations. Instead of reacting negatively, Joseph made a logical plan of his own to break things off quietly. But God had other ideas.

God’s plan may not seem logical. It may not seem comfortable. It may not line up with other people’s convictions about what’s right and wrong. It may not unfold according to our own plans and expectations. But if we can take the time to listen and humble ourselves and respond with willing hearts, we will discover that his plan is always good, is always right, and will always exceed our wildest dreams.

 

Prayer

Be aware of God’s hand on your life and listen to him above all other voices, even your own. Bring your plans to him, and let him take the reins and guide you along the path he has set before you.

My Spirit Celebrates God, My Liberator!

Reading

Luke 1:46-55 (VOICE)

Mary: My soul lifts up the Lord!

47     My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!

48     For though I’m God’s humble servant,

       God has noticed me.

   Now and forever,

       I will be considered blessed by all generations.

49     For the Mighty One has done great things for me;

       holy is God’s name!

50     From generation to generation,

       God’s lovingkindness endures

       for those who revere Him.

51     God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.

       The proud in mind and heart,

       God has sent away in disarray.

52     The rulers from their high positions of power,

       God has brought down low.

   And those who were humble and lowly,

       God has elevated with dignity.

53     The hungry—God has filled with fine food.

       The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

54     To Israel, God’s servant,

       God has given help,

55     As promised to our ancestors,

       remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.

Reflection

My Spirit Celebrates God, My Liberator!

Mary calls herself a “humble servant”. She’s an ordinary girl living a simple life and yet she’s so in touch with God that she has no doubt when she hears from him. Because of the loyal purity of her heart, God chose her to take on an incredible journey that would see our Saviour born on earth.

Mary’s glorifying response to God challenges us to check our own heart. Are we living a life in tune with God and his plan for our life? None of us will have to face the magnitude of the task assigned to Mary, nor the difficulties that came with her calling, but we all will have struggles of our own and we’ll need God’s guidance and intervention to get us through.

The wonderful news is that God’s “loving kindness” endures even for me and you. He elevates those who are humble and lowly, and diminishes those with pride. He has our back, and we need not worry about what’s around the corner, because we are never alone.

This incredible song of humility and praise encourages us to check our own hearts. Are we humble servants, truly living for God? Or are there walls in our hearts, and things we need to let go? Are we scared of what’s around the corner?

Don’t let fear hold you back. God has given, and will continue to give us all the help we need, if we simply trust in him.

Prayer:

Examine your heart before God and identify any areas where you have erected walls against the challenges of life. Allow him to remove those walls and help you to let go of any past hurts or fears that are preventing you from completely submitting to his plan.

The Word of God Will Never Fail

Reading

Luke 1:26-37

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.”

Reflection

The Word of God will Never Fail

In the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus Christ is told through a series of visitations–encounters between the heavenly and the human. God’s divine plan is always outworked through people. Despite being the Creator of all the earth, he relies on the responsive and willing hearts of fallible, flawed humans to bring about his great works.
When God intervenes in your world, it may not always be convenient or comfortable. In fact, Mary is first “confused and disturbed” by the appearance of Gabriel, even though he encourages her by declaring that the Lord is with her and naming her as a favoured woman. Gabriel continues to explain her calling, bringing a message that would overwhelm even the most loyal of the Lord’s followers. Mary is still confused, however, because her earthly circumstances deem this Godly message impossible.

But nothing is impossible with God. No matter what your circumstances are telling you, the word of God over your life is absolute and perfect. When Mary asks how this impossible thing will occur, Gabriel gives her the only answer any of us need: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

You are not alone in your calling. God is with you. He overshadows you with his power. And he will never fail.

Prayer:

You may have found yourself shying away from the fullness of your calling, or believing that your circumstances somehow void the word of God. Allow him to remind you of the greatness of his plan, and let the Holy Spirit come upon you to release you into your call like never before.

Let Your Light Shine

Reading

Isaiah 60:1-3

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
2 Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
3 All nations will come to your light;
    mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

Reflection

Let Your Light Shine

This dramatic announcement is a call to action, a powerful reminder of our identity as the people of God. We are those who walk in and with the Light of the World, the One who is Immanuel – God with us.

We are not called to stumble in darkness through life. We are not called to crawl on our knees and draw back when the black night threatens and opposes. We are not called to hide our light under the covers and dilute the Christmas story to pander to modern opinion.

Just as the shining star led the magi to Jesus, the light that shines from within us will draw people to him today. Let the Spirit breathe upon these ancient words and awaken them in your heart. It is time to arise.

Prayer:

Stir your heart with faith before God and decide to be an overcomer not a victim of darkness. Choose to step into the great authority he has already given to you and proclaim the truth of his light over your life and to all the world.

The Time of the Lord’s Favour Has Come

Reading

Luke 4:14-20

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
3 To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Reflection

The Time of the Lord’s Favour Has Come

The revelation of Jesus’ identity unfolds gradually and completely through many remarkable moments in the gospels. One of the greatest declarations of his truth comes in this passage in Luke after Jesus has endured forty days of temptation in the desert. Having overcome the trial, Jesus goes to the temple where he reads out today’s passage from Isaiah. This is a moment of deep significance, a public declaration of his identity for all to hear, and it changed the world forever.

God is faithful to bring us through our trials, our deserts, but our victory is not just in the overcoming. Our true victory is in the full revelation of the reality and identity of Jesus Christ, which can only come through a journey of complete dependence on Him.

In this passage we see Jesus declared in all his fullness — the embodiment of God’s miraculous plan of redemption, initiated before the world began. He gives a crown of beauty for ashes and blessing instead of mourning. Anointed with the mighty Spirit of the Sovereign Lord, he is the bringer of good news, the comfort to the broken-hearted, the proclaimer of our freedom and the declarer of the Lord’s favour over our lives. Receive this declaration in all its wonder today! Let your heart be opened up to the deep and unshakable truths of His identity, and know that the heartbeat of Jesus is this: to deliver us from our bondage and set us free into his perfect Light.

 

Prayer:

This Christmas allow Jesus to reveal himself to you in new and startling glory, to remind you of his complete goodness and favour, and to respond to this revelation by joining him in proclaiming his good news to all.