December 19: Anna

Read Luke 2:21-38

She’d been waiting. More than sixty years, I will venture to say, Anna had given her life to the worship of God and to fasting.

So she was there in that temple when Jesus stepped in and Simeon proclaimed the peace of God come to earth, for all of mankind.

She spent her days fasting and praying, spent her nights doing more of the same.

And when Jesus stepped in, Anna could only do one thing.

(S)he began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Lk 2:38)

Anna had been talking to God for years upon years. So when Jesus stepped in, she could only do more of the same. And tell everyone else what she already knew. The redemption of Jerusalem was upon them. Right here in the temple courts. Smack dab inside their very lives.

Indeed, when Jesus stepped in, hope came to fruition. And nothing would ever be the same.

She was ready and waiting for Jesus Christ. Ready and waiting for Him to step onto earth and into her life.

How about you? Have you been found ready and waiting as well? Are you ready to give Him all your praise and thanks for the promises fulfilled? Are you trusting Him for hope come to life?

brw

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December 18: Simeon

Read Luke 2:21-35

He was “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Also. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon.

He apparently lived in Jerusalem and went to the temple eight days after Jesus was born, the day His parents presented Him in the temple, to fulfill the Law. The Spirit had led Simeon there to the temple (he walked in the Spirit, every step led by Him).

Then Jesus stepped in.

That’s when Simeon took the One Who’d given his whole life purpose. He took Him in his arms and blessed Him. He praised the God he held in his arms.

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. (Lk 2:29-32)

Simeon knew he wouldn’t die before getting to meet the Savior of the World in person.

Here’s what we know about Simeon before Jesus stepped in: the Holy Spirit of God was upon him.

And when Jesus stepped in to the temple that day, Simeon’s life’s purpose was fulfilled. Matthew Henry wrote, “The same Spirit that provided for the support of Simeon’s hope, provided for his joy.”

When Jesus stepped in to Simeon’s life, his hope was made real. God’s promise became truth the moment Jesus showed up in that temple court.

Like Simeon, we live with the hope of Jesus Christ’s return. We know one day He will return for us who follow Him and trust Him to be the Lord of our lives. But the hope is actually reality for us, too.

Because Jesus stepped in to life here on earth. He gave substance to the promise that He would provide a way for mankind to know Him and live, free from sin and away from darkness.

You and I can find the promise of Jesus Christ fulfilled just like Simeon did.

And all because Jesus stepped in.

brw

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December 17: Wise Men

Read Matthew 2:1-12

They’d been looking, searching, studying, waiting. The wise men from the east, the ones Herod tried to fool, had been keeping such tight tabs on creation that they didn’t dare miss the sign from its Creator.

For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (Mt 2:2)

Their desire to find Him led them to surrender their very best in order to worship at His cradle the One God of All.

The wise men searched for the One the star pointed to. They rejoiced to find the way.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Mt 2:10)

That’s a whole lot of joy for a long-awaited sign. And that was only for the star, not even the King Himself.

Then the joy and rejoicing turned to full-fledged worship, the kind that made them fall down, open their treasure box and offer Jesus Christ everything they had. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. Even their foreign relations with the King of Judea was given up by the wise men when Jesus stepped in.

Before they met Jesus, the men from the east who were wise searched and waited for the king of the Jews. God used a star as His laser-pointer.

They were from Persia. Maybe a tribe of Medes, it’s been speculated. Or maybe these men were wizards, a priestly caste of Gentiles whom God gave a way to freedom. The One Who came for the peace of all men. We only have twelve measly verses in all of Scripture to tell us about these men.

But, really, what more do we need to know? They were wise. They searched for Jesus. God showed them the way. And when they found Him, they fell down in worship.

I wonder what Scripture might say of you and me if we were in this story. Would it tell of our search for the One Who brings life? Would it end with our worship of the One True King?

What can be said of us after Jesus stepped in to our lives? Have you let Him step in? Have you offered Him your worship? Have you searched and let God lead you to the One Who put the star there in the first place? Can you be counted as a wise person who will search until you find Him then offer Him your all when He steps in?

brw

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December 16: Shepherds

Read Luke 2:8-19

They were the first ones on the scene. At least the first ones we know about. The stinky, dirty, third-shift shepherds couldn’t wait to check out what the angel told them.

(G)reat joy . . . for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Lk 2:10-12)

I have to wonder what they were most excited about. Was it the fact that they’d just witnessed an angels’ hymn-sing or that a Savior, a King, was just born in their teeny little town? Or maybe, it was the sign that had them most curious. A baby King who sleeps in a food trough.

Whatever it was that had them most excited, the shepherds responded post haste to the message that God had sent a Savior. A Messiah King for even them.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. (Lk 2:14)

Then Jesus stepped in to the shepherds’ lives even as they stepped in to that smelly stable on Bethlehem Road. They found the Savior of the world, red-faced newborn, Almighty King Who offers peace and delights even in shepherds who work all night.

And when Jesus stepped in, they couldn’t not share the news.

See, that’s how it works. When people hear the truth that Almighty God cares for even them, He changes things. When people like those shepherds experience the living God, they have to make Him known.

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Lk 2:17-18)

I wonder if you’ve experienced Jesus like that. Have you let His presence step in to your life? Have you let Him change you in such a way that you can’t keep it in? This amazing Savior’s peace. His pleasure with even you?

That is why He came, you know. Peace on earth is more than just a nice Christmas card thing to say. It’s the message of God for all people. Shepherds. Kings. Teenage girls. Engaged men. You. And me.

brw

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December 15: Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25 and 2:13-23

All that we know about Joseph might be summed up in one sentence: He was a good guy.

That’s why he had no intention of shaming his wife for what looked like unfaithfulness, adultery, shameful acts of lust. He planned to quietly annul their promised marriage, let her go quietly before picking up the pieces of his shattered heart and moving on with his life.

Then the angel showed up and blew away his fear with the message of real hope and truth. The message of God with skin on. Immanuel.

Joseph was ready to leave his fiance and her fatherless son when God interrupted his noble plans, rescued his heart from the pain that had wrecked him and told him,

Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife . . . (Mt 1:20)

He was afraid, and rightly so, of following through with the marriage he’d promised to the love of his life because she was pregnant. And it was not his child.

Matthew tells us that when Joseph woke up, he followed God’s plan and took Mary home to be his wife. Then Caesar Augustus ordered a census that took them to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born. And Jesus stepped in to His parents’ marriage, into mankind itself. Joseph would never be the same.

That fear he had known about Mary and her pregnancy? It was replaced with a passion to protect this Son, the very Son of God Himself, with all of Joseph’s being. He moved all over the known world to fill the role God had given him as Jesus’ earthly father.

It’s amazing what hope and freedom from fear can lead to when Jesus steps in. Incredible how fear of hurt and pain and emotional wreckage can turn to passion and commitment and absolute love. Because when Jesus steps in, He brings hope and healing.

brw

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December 14: Mary

Read Luke 1:26-51; Matthew 12:46-50

It’s sometimes hard to imagine that Mary the mother of Jesus needed Jesus’ saving. But the truth is she needed the amazing grace of Almighty God just as much as you and I do.

I sometimes forget that God’s freely given favor was His doing alone, nothing more than His unmerited gift of grace that not even Mary could earn.

But why did God choose her? we might ask. We could ask the same of ourselves. Why has He chosen any of us to follow Him? To bear His Name? 

Yes, Mary was a sinner who needed the saving grace God would provide through the Son she herself would bear. So when Gabriel told Mary what he had been sent to say, it caught her off guard. Because Mary knew better than anyone just how much she needed that unmerited favor.

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The LORD is with you. (Lk 1:28)

God’s choice in Mary, His pleased favor to birth His Son through her came not because of anything she did or because of who she was. God pursued her with His grace because that is what He does. God Himself declared her highly favored.

His presence went with Mary. He graced her with it. Indeed, Almighty God pursued Mary the mother of Jesus Christ with His grace. And, well, it frightened her.

But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. (Lk 1:29)

Then Jesus stepped in, and Mary was never the same. For when the shepherds showed up having been given the message that the King of kings had arrived in a stable in that tiny town at the bottom of the hill, when Simeon prophesied in the temple courts eight days later, Mary wondered in a different way.

Amazed at what Simeon told her, she and her new husband were amazed. Even when twelve-year-old Jesus ran off without letting his parents know where He was, even after she didn’t understand why He’d worried them so, even then she kept all these things in her heart. (Lk 2:50)

Jesus gave her mind something to treasure. He gave her heart something to keep. For God had arrived in the flesh and she got to be part of it.

Indeed, God with Us, Immanuel changed Mary’s life forever. He changed life forever for you and me too. Have we let His presence, take our deeply troubled thoughts and turn them to treasures?

brw

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December 13: Nazareth

Read Matthew 2:19-23 and Luke 4:16-30

It was a small town in the middle of a beautiful, richly cultivated valley but despised in general by the Jews of Jesus’ day for its many Gentile inhabitants. As part of the district of Galilee, Nazareth’s border fell along non-Jewish countries.

A residence of approximately 400 people, Jesus grew up in a tiny town that was about as big as my high school’s graduating class. It’s where Mary and Joseph lived before He was born. In fact, His mother grew up there.

The town called Nazareth wasn’t around in Old Testament times, so when Matthew referred to its having been prophesied about in the Old Testament Scriptures, he was likely referring to his own stereotype of that tiny town in Galilee.  The Jews knew it to be infiltrated by Gentiles, thus despised, rejected.

He was despised and rejected by men . . . (Is 53:3)

By the time Joseph and Mary moved Jesus to Nazareth, He had lived in three different places. But they stayed and Nazareth became Jesus’ hometown.

When Jesus stepped into Nazareth, He found an earthly home where He would learn to walk with human legs, make His first earthly friends, grow His first manly whiskers.

Jesus eventually grew up and left the Nazareth nest to start His public ministry. And when He came home, He found life to be much the same as it was before He stepped in.

His custom was to step into the synagogue on Sabbath. So when He arrived one day, Jesus stood up and read the prophecy by Isaiah about His purpose and the freedom and life He’d come to give. But the people of Jesus’ hometown Nazareth would not hear it.

They knew Him to be the son of Joseph the carpenter when in fact Jesus Christ was (is still) the Son of God the Almighty. The people of Nazareth couldn’t get over what they were used to seeing. Their unwilling, unrepentant hearts left them stuck in their own blindness and captivity to life as they knew it.

Because when Jesus steps in, He looks for willing hearts ready to receive the truth about Who He is, what He came to do. He wants humble repentance. And that’s not what He found in Nazareth.

I wonder what He has found in your hometown? What has He found in your home? Is it repenting and believing hearts who welcome Him and let Him step in?

brw

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