Advent Day 15 – Everlasting Father

“He is able to save forever those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Genealogy is big business these days.  And entire industry has been created to help people track down their ancestral roots and national origin.  Spit in a vial and you can find out if your heritage is African, Asian, Scottish, German and so on.  We want to know where we come from. Still this is not a new fascination – the Middle Eastern tradition has long held to family lineage.  The Old Testament frequently pauses to review family history.  This was an important aspect of Jewish history.  Genealogy assured rights to land and position.  Two of the Gospels present the earthly genealogical record of Jesus as proof of His royal roots (Matthew 1:1-17) and His humanity (Luke 3:23-37).

As we dive further into the proclamation of Isaiah 9:6 we find the designation of this Child as “Everlasting Father.”  This title corresponds to our discussion of ancestry because the prophet is focusing on the Messiah as the timeless originator of our eternal salvation.

Let’s clarify one point that always seems to hang us up here: Isaiah is not trying to say that the Messiah is the Heavenly Father.  Anytime we study Scripture we need to remember to look at the original terminology as the speaker or author would have used it – context is vital.  In the original Hebrew, the phrase “Everlasting Father” is speaking to eternity from before the world began and of Messiah as the forefather and founder of our eternal security going forward.  John the Revelator expresses this powerfully in calling Jesus “The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  Jesus’ death on the cross was not a knee-jerk reaction by God to the unexpected sin of mankind.  It was planned and completed before God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

Jesus is rightly our Everlasting Father because He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the Originator of eternal salvation and everlasting life.  He is Everlasting as from of old and he is Everlasting for ever and ever and ever.  He is “the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).

Nothing and no one can take away what Jesus has done for you as your Everlasting Father.  He secured eternal life for you long before you ever entered the world, long before you fell into sin, long before you ever knew you needed a Savior.  He established the future from days of old for all the days yet to come.  Because He is our Everlasting Father.

Read Hebrews 7:21-28

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Advent Day 13 – Blue Christmas

“And He will be called Wonderful Counselor . . .” (Isaiah 9:6)

It is well known that Christmas, the most joyful season of the year, is also the most prone to bring on bouts of depression.  When your family Christmas doesn’t measure up to the Norman Rockwell standard or the Hallmark ideal . . .  When the truck repairs take all your Christmas money . . . When your company skips the Christmas bonus and gives you the boot instead . . .  When crazy relatives show their worst side . . . When you are just tired of the cultural “Happy Holidays!” . . .  Well I think you get the picture.  Depression seems worse this time of year because you know you’re supposed to be full of joy, joy, joy but the reality is you’re having a “blue Christmas.”

My friend, you need a counselor – but not just any counselor – you need the Wonderful Counselor.  You need the Counselor who knows you inside and out, who knows your past, your present, and your future.  You need the Counselor who has perfect insight into your state of mind and heart and knows exactly what will bring you peace and joy.  You need Jesus.

He is the Wonderful Counselor because He has perfect wisdom.  His Word is full of righteousness with not even a hint of error.  His counsel is perfect – He will never steer you in the wrong way.  His ways and words are true as He leads you through the darkness and into his marvelous light.  His counsel is without cost – in fact – He Himself has already paid the full price for you with His own life.

Beloved, if your heart is not ringing with joy this Christmas, may I suggest you get into counseling with Jesus?  His office never closes and He is never too busy to meet with you.  Your Wonderful Counselor is only a whispered prayer away.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7

Advent Day 12 – The Story of Christmas

“God is love” (1 John 4:16).

It is a scene from one of the most beloved Christmas programs ever made.  A bewildered Charlie Brown cries out, “Isn’t there someone who knows what Christmas is all about?”  I always get goosebumps when Linus walks to center stage, says “Lights please,” drops his blanket, and recites the account of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2.

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men” (vs. 8-14).

It is a holy moment in the middle of a simple animated television show.   For fifty years the world has heard the Christmas story through a blanket-carrying theologian.  Perhaps for many, it is the only time they hear the true meaning of Christmas.

As much as I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and Linus’ message, I’ve always thought there is an even better verse that he could have chosen to explain what Christmas is all about.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christmas is all about the love of God that send His Son to earth as a baby who would grow up to die on a Roman cross for the sins of the world.  Linus recounted the events around the Christmas story, but the heart of Christmas is a loving Heavenly Father who gave the very best He had to redeem a lost world.

The blessed Christmas story is about a manger and a star and shepherds and angels.  It is about a young mother and father with their newborn son in a stable.  But the story isn’t complete until the baby in the manger is the Savior on the cross.  Because the story of Christmas is a story of love.

Read 1 John 4:16-21

Advent Day 11 – The Heart of Peace

Photo from fanpop.com

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Peace is a very popular topic today.  Politicians and world leaders meet in an attempt to bring peace to conflicting nations.  The radio plays songs about peace, and great orators give inspiring messages calling for peace.  Yet there is so little peace.  The world is full of war, pitting nation against nation.  Neighbors battle one another, and even brothers and sisters, parents and children are at odds.

Can there really be true peace in this world? There can, and the One who can bring peace is the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ.  He came to bring true peace; not the man-made peace the world seeks, but the peace we desperately need, peace with God.

While the world points to men and nations as the cause of strife in the world, the true peace-breaker is our sin.  Sin brings hostility within our family, our church, our community, and the world.  That is because at its truest essence sin causes us to be God’s enemy.  That is a harsh thought, but according to the Bible, it is the reality we inherited from Adam and Eve.  Sin in the hearts of human beings creates enmity between man and his Creator.  But Jesus Christ came to bring peace between God and man.  Listen to Romans 5:8 – “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s love for us is so great that He paved the path to peace with the life of His Son, Jesus. Only when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior, will we know true peace.  “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

This peace starts in one man’s heart, and as it multiplies in other hearts, true peace begins to take hold.  This world is looking for peace, longing for peace, even – strangely – fighting for peace, but we will not find peace at a conference or in songs or speeches. And we surely won’t find it on the battlefield.  Peace can only be found in a manger, wrapped in rough cloths and adored by ragged shepherds and all the angels of heaven.

Read Romans 5:6-11

Advent Day 10 – The Coming King

“We wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  Titus 2:13

Advent is traditionally the time that we prepare our hearts for Christmas – the coming of the Christ Child, the Infant Messiah, the Son of God who became the son of Mary.   Now, on this side of the manger and the cross, we are still preparing for the coming of Christ – but not as a helpless baby.  Today we have the awesome hope of the Lord’s return when Jesus Christ will come in the fullness of His deity, “as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” (Rev. 19:16).

In Jesus’ day, the Jewish people watched and waited in hope for the promised Messiah, who would break the power of their enemy and set God’s people free.  This Anointed One came, not as a great warrior or ruler as they expected, but as a wee baby, every bit as helpless, it appeared, to overcome the enemy as the people He came to save.  He came in humility “taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). The star shone in the sky and the angels sang their praises when God entered this world.  But the vast majority of Jews missed the humble coming of their Messiah.  Certainly the religious leaders who should have recognized Him failed to see Him for who He was.  He lived and grew up and ministered in their midst, but their eyes were blinded to His true identity.

In the world we live in today, people still fail to believe that Jesus Christ is the Hope for all mankind.  Or perhaps they refuse to believe.  Like the Jewish people, our world is oblivious to the light of Christ and the praises that are proclaimed by those who know Him.

But there is coming a day – a great and glorious day – when Jesus Christ will come again.  At His ascension, the angels told His disciples, “Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).  And this time, when He comes, no one will miss it or be able to deny Him.  Jesus told His disciples, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27).   He will not come to a quiet and humble stable – He will come “with power and great glory”!  1 John 3:2 proclaims “when He appears…we shall see Him as He is.”  Paul adds to this picture: “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).  When Jesus comes again, the whole world will see Him for who He is. Paul says that every knee will bow and every tongue confess – even those who had refused to bow in worship and confess His name.  The world will be overwhelmed by His presence and overcome with awe at His glory and majesty.

Oh my friend, what a day – what a grand and glorious day that will be for all who believe, for those who have made a practice of bowing their knee and have savored the sweet taste of His name on their lips.  Our hearts will be filled with joy and adoration for our Savior.  If you belong to Christ, you have the great hope that Jesus will return as He promised, and He will bring you, His beloved child home.

As we prepare for the Christmas season, let us make ready our hearts – both for the coming of the Christ Child and the coming of our great and victorious Savior and King!

Read Philippians 2:5-11

 

Advent Day 9 – Christmas Joy

“Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

There is no better combination than children and Christmas.  Their sweet smiles, joyous laughter and excitement are contagious.  A child’s heart is wide open, and his wonder and delight will warm even the coldest Scrooge’s heart.  Children have an enormous capacity for joy, a trait that we tend to lose as we “mature” into adults.  When my son was small, and he would get excited, he would do what I called his “seal clap of joy,” clapping his little hands together in fast repetitions.  It always made me laugh, not just his clapping, but the excitement and delight that bubbled out of him.

Unlike our “dignified” western persona, in the middle-eastern world, emotions were deeply felt and fully expressed.  Grief was given full breadth as grown men and women wailed loudly, beat their breasts and mourned publicly.  Likewise joy was celebrated with loud songs and shouts of delight – even dancing in the streets as neighbors joined in the merriment.  The Bible gives many accounts of great emotional impact – Job in his mourning, David celebrating the return of the Ark to Jerusalem.  In fact, there is still great emotional expression in those cultures today.

So when the angels announced the “good news of great joy” we can envision the shepherds dancing by the fire, singing and laughing with delight, then rushing off to see this Baby “wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger” (v. 12).  This was cause for celebration – the Lord had fulfilled His promise to Israel!

You and I have reason to rejoice and celebrate too, because more than just His promise to one nation, the Lord had fulfilled His promise to all mankind.  Way back in the book of Genesis, after the first humans had fallen to Satan’s ploy, God promised to send a Rescuer who would crush the head of our enemy (Genesis 3:15) and redeem men from captivity to sin and death.  This child in the manger was the fulfillment of that promise.  He is the reason we sing “Joy to the World.”  He is the reason we celebrate – not because of trees and lights and presents – but because of the joy we have in Jesus Christ.

Let this Christmas bring a childlike joy to your heart – a joy that shows on your face and spreads out all around.  Dance, sing, jump, rejoice – let it fill you to the brim and overflow onto everyone around you. There will always be people who don’t appreciate your enthusiasm – there will always be Scrooges and Grinches who will “bah humbug” over your delight.  Be joyful anyway – maybe it will bring a smile to their face as well.

Share some Christmas joy this season, it’s a gift you can give to others that always gives back to you.

Read 2 Samuel 6:12-15

Advent Day 8 – Tiny Fingers and Tiny Toes

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6).

We have a new baby in our family – my son’s fiancé gave birth to a sweet baby boy a few weeks ago and he won my heart right away.  We are snuggle buddies and I plan to spoil him thoroughly (Sorry Mom and Dad).  While he is snoozing on my chest, I love to study his little fingers and toes and pray that those hands will be lifted in praise to God and those feet will walk in the way of Jesus.  I am committed to remind him every day that God loves him and created him for a very special purpose.

I imagine Mary also marveled at the tiny fingers and tiny toes of her baby as she kissed that downy head.  I am sure she gazed at His face as He slept and her heart was awash with Mother-love.  But when she pondered where those feet would go and what those hands would do, surely the words of the angel echoed in her heart: “You will give birth to a son . . . 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 the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33).  Her son was destined for greatness – but she could never imagine the path He would take to get there.  Rejection, persecution, suffering and death would mark Jesus’ earthly life.  He would wear a crown of thorns rather than a crown of gold and His hands and feet would be nailed to a cross rather than kissed in adoration.

But there, in the smelly stable – little more than a cold, dark cave – she kissed that sweet face and caressed those tiny fingers, knowing in her heart that her life would never be the same.  He would one day “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), but this little one needed her now.  The helpless future King was depending on His mother to feed and nurture Him until He fulfilled God’s purpose.

Babies bring out the tenderness in a mother’s heart and no doubt Mary felt the sweetness of her newborn son even as she wondered about the angelic announcement.  His life held the greatest purpose imaginable.  He was destined to be a King, but not tonight – tonight He was her baby boy with tiny fingers and tiny toes.

Read Luke 2:1-7

Advent Day 7 – JOY to the World!

“And the angel said unto the, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 KJV

This time of year, we greet one another with a joyful “Merry Christmas!”  We sing the Christmas hymn, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  We delight to see joy on our children’s faces as they take in the sights and sounds all around them.  There are joyous shouts as gifts are unwrapped around the tree.  Christmas is truly a time for joy.

But is our joy merely in the lights and gifts and festive activities at this time of year?  Do we truly understand the reason for the joy of the Christmas season?

The angels brought the good news of the birth of Jesus with a proclamation of joy.  This baby was the fulfillment of a promise from God that the Jews had clung to for centuries.  The LORD had said He would send them a King – the Messiah – who would rule in righteousness and justice, who would save His people and restore all that God had given to them.  And they were right about the coming Messiah – yet they were also wrong.  The Jews lived for hundreds of years under the oppression of enemy nations; the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the Romans.  Their beloved Jerusalem had been taken hostage by this sometimes cruel and evil nations, Rome being the worst.  The Jews expected a Messiah who would break the Roman rule and restore Jerusalem back to its former glory in the days of David and Solomon.

But the true enemy of the Jews was the same enemy you and I have today.  Our own sinfulness.  Sin is what kept the Jews in bondage, and it is what keeps you and me in bondage today.   The Messiah of God came, not to break the back of an enemy nation, but to break the bonds of sin that keep mankind imprisoned.  Jesus came as an infant, not to give us a reason for a party, but to bring freedom from the curse of sin.  And that is the true JOY of Christmas.  The baby Jesus in the manger is the Savior Jesus on the Cross, and the Risen Jesus who has “proclaimed freedom for the prisoners, release for the oppressed” and the JOY of “the Lord’s favor.”

Don’t let your Christmas JOY stop at the tree.  Look beyond the tinsel and wrappings and see the Messiah in the manger, the Savior on the Cross and the Risen Christ who has come to set you free.  JOY to the world, indeed!

Read: Psalm 72

Advent Day 6 – The Perfect Christmas Gift

“The wise men opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

I believe the best gifts come from those who know us well.  My favorite Christmas present came from my sweet husband early in our marriage.  I was an avid cross-stitcher (back when my eyesight was better) and my beloved went to the local craft store and bought every color of embroidery floss that DMC® made, along with storage boxes to keep them in.  I LOVED it!  I appreciated the gift itself, but what I loved  most was the fact that he paid attention to what I enjoyed doing and took the time to learn about my hobby and what it involved. The gift was great, but the love that went into the gift was even greater.

Without a doubt, our Heavenly Father is the greatest Gift-giver of all.  He who created you knows you intimately.  He knows your dreams and your joys and sorrows. He knows what delights you and what frightens you. He knows your favorite color and your least-favorite relative.  He knows what makes your eyes light up and what keeps you awake at night.  He knows your every thought, your hopes and wishes and your deepest, truest love.  And because He knows you so well, He knew the perfect gift for you—Jesus.

James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  Could there be a more perfect gift than His precious Son?  Is any gift as good as the “gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17)?  This gift is given with overflowing grace (Romans 5:15).  It is a gift that never wears out, never fades, and never goes out of style – it is the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).  It is not something you have to earn – in fact you can’t earn it – you can only receive it by faith (Ephesians 2:8).    It is a gift of immense love given by the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

Have you received God’s priceless, perfect gift?

Read Matthew 2:1-12