God bless America.
This past week, during one of my times of volunteering at the USO-NC Center in Jacksonville, I had the honor and privilege of sharing some gifts from the USO to a Gold-Star Family. This was especially poignant to me because of the circumstances. Apparently three different families lost loved ones this year, all from the same neighborhood so one lady came to pick up the presents for all three. Seeing the three little ones with the mom brought into sharp focus the pain that can be a real part of this time of year.
We are a nation at war; within and without are forces that seek to destroy our nation. In every town and city we have those who stand watch over us; shielding our nation from anarchy and lawlessness. Paramedics, nurses and doctors work throughout this time as well as many other municipal workers, often unsung and unnoticed until needed. But it is, for the most part, the police and military whose lives are offered up in the carrying out of their duties; again, sadly, unnoticed but for those directly affected.
I only ask that those who read this missive share it in the hopes that we will come to recognize as a people the debt that is owed to these men and women. Pray for their families and for those who have physically survived the horrors of war (whether overseas or on the mean streets of our own nation), but struggle with the memories that just will not go away.
God bless America.
This time of year we celebrate the birth of a single baby; many would have him remain such as a baby is not at all threatening to the world and its’ ways. The fact that he did become an adult, minister in and around Israel and Judah for about three years, performing feats that even extra-biblical sources extolled was the hinge on which history turned. From that point on, mankind would have real hope that had been given away long before in a garden; not because of his life, but because of who he was, how he lived and died and his physical resurrection from the dead. But that is not the focus of my thoughts here; instead, it is how God did invade his creation, not in might and power, but in weakness and humility.
Think of it, had the Son come to earth as the mightiest, most majestic ruler of all time; taking the physical form to walk among men, even then that would have been a humbling beyond our imaginations. God in the flesh; try to wrap your mind around that! From eternity past, the Father, Son, and Spirit had reveled in the relationship they had as God and from their great love overflowed creation. But also from eternity past, he knew of man’s fall and had a plan (not a Plan B as some suggest) to restore the broken relationship even before creation, before it happened; amazing grace indeed!
This plan was something that would never have occurred to any human as it seems the reverse of what was needed. As with the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6), this plan appears insanity itself and any who would believe it right equally crazy. As with God commanding Joshua to have Israel march around the city in silence until the last day, then just shouting? Ridiculous any sane military mind would say. But it worked!
Paul, once the up and coming Pharisee Saul, put it like this;
“ 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 ESV
Scholars have wrestled with what it meant when Paul wrote, emptied himself. One source within Bible Gateway Plus seeks to explain it in the following manner;
2:7 made himself nothing. Or “emptied himself.” He did this, not by giving up deity, but by laying aside his glory (see Jn 17:5) and submitting to the humiliation of becoming a man (see 2Co 8:9 and note). Jesus is truly God and truly man. Another view is that he emptied himself, not of deity itself, but of its prerogatives—the high position and glory of deity. nature of a servant. Emphasizes the full reality of his servant identity (see Mk 10:45 and note). As a servant, he was always submissive to the will of the Father (see Lk 22:42; Jn 4:34 and note).
NIV Study Bible Notes
NIV Study Bible, Copyright © 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011 by Zondervan.
God in diapers! In this weak form, this helpless form, Christ came to his creation, growing into adulthood while remaining a carpenter’s son until the time for his ministry came. John the baptizer introduced him at the river Jordan, and he began to gather disciples even then. Walking in the middle of the Jewish people, unrecognized by most as he just did not fit their preconceived ideas of who Messiah would be. Finally betrayed and denied by those closest to him, he was executed by the Roman government at the behest of the religious rulers; but there the story does not end, it was only beginning.
His-story (history) continues today; an inexorable march to an end he predicted through prophets long ago. This God in diapers is helpless no longer, but mighty to save for any who seek him. Sadly, for many, the day is coming when they will be forced to kneel to this King of kings; those who refuse him now are in that majority condemned forever. Until then it may seem the world is out of control, but the story (His-story) is not yet concluded.
How can I understand all that has happened? At times I feel like a plaything, a toy boat tossed about on a pond by the dirt clods some boy is throwing at it. Can I be sure that it is God who is talking to me? Does it not seem presumptuous on my part that the Lord would communicate with this son of Eli? The dream or vision, could it not have been that spicy meal I had eaten or maybe some sour wine I’d drunk? I am no priest or scribe, how can I expect God to speak to me?
Lord, those who laugh at me openly don’t hurt so much, but I grieve at the sneers and whispers about my beloved Mary. Others shake their heads at me when they think I don’t see; am I a fool to believe all that I think you have told me? When she told me that she was with child, my heart stopped, Lord. She of whom I have loved and longed for had been with another! After all, that is what is needful for such to happen isn’t it, Lord? How could I marry her now, but if I publicly confront her, she’d be stoned! Lord, how can I let such happen to my Mary? I still love her, Lord, and I am trying to understand all that is happening. How can I, a simple carpenter who has become a plaything of God?
She looked so beautiful at the betrothal; my breath left me whenever our eyes met, so much promise in a look! How I worked to prepare a home for us, then the whispers began. Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth already showing her condition- and the story she told me! How can such things occur in our simple village? We are not related to the priests in Jerusalem, Lord. We are simple people!
Have I erred in keeping Mary as my wife? The dream I had, what the angel said about her – and the child within her! I would have to be mad to believe it! But when I talked with Mary, the tears in her eyes… Lord, I love her so!
Now, here outside this ….CAVE! Dear God, I would expect such a child to be born in a palace with many attending to Mary. But this filthy place! How can I but wonder at where this child came from when we are forced to a hovel such as this to bring a child into the world? God of Israel, help me to understand! Help me to see your hand in all this. How can Messiah be born in such a place!
There! I said it! The Messiah! After all these years of waiting is this the time we’ve yearned for, or am I the victim of a hoax? Help me, Adonai to see you in all this. Calm my heart that I may comfort Mary and protect her son. Her son! Is it pride, God, that has me so worked up? Am I jealous of the father of this child? But who is he? What the angel said. How is that possible? Am I, like our father Jacob, wrestling against God? Help me to know what is true, Lord. Calm my heart.
If this child is indeed Messiah, how can I teach him? How does a carpenter raise God’s Son, the King of kings? Lord, every time I accept this, more questions come. What do I do, Lord, to provide for all that will be needed? My shop and my customers are all in Nazareth. How can I hope to begin all over again here when I can’t even find a clean home – such a provider to birth a baby in a cave?
A baby, your Son? Incredible! The Son of God coming to visit us by being born to my Mary? Here? In a stable? Insanity! Dare I believe this?
Dare I not?