700 Years Before Christmas

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For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

–Isaiah 9 ESV

Following 739 B.C., Isaiah exposes the hearts of the unrepentant children of God beginning in Chapter One, which leads up to this verdict:

…they have no dawn. 21 They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry…. And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”–Isaiah 8.

The fall of Israel and, then, Judah lies just ahead. Slaughter and captivity await them. But hope is given to the faithful remnant. God will have the ultimate victory.

Isaiah 9 brings light to the gloom.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

For unto us a child is born…

In his magnum opus, Prof. John N. Oswalt writes:

Medieval Jewish commentators, combatting the prevailing messianic claims of Christians, argued that all this was simply in recognition of the birth of the crown prince, Hezekiah, and was only a simple royal birth hymn. However, this view flies in the face of the chronology of Hezekiah’s birth, and even more seriously, it is evident from the language that no merely human king is being spoken of. This is clearly an eschatalogical figure, the Messiah.*

The titles [9:6] underscore the ultimate deity of this child-deliverer. Although some commentators have expended a great deal of energy attempting to make these titles appear normal, they are not. . . .this is not a coronation hymn but a birth announcement. . . .the point remains that such extraordinary titling was not normal for Israelite kings. . . .All of this points to a remarkable congruence with the Immanuel prophecy.

(Isaiah, NICOT)

God with us.

*”The Targ. explicitly identifies the person as the Messiah.”

https://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/immanuel-god-with-us/ Immanuel–wonderful video, words of Charles Spurgeon

Timeline B.C.

739 following–Isaiah’s Prophecies

721 Samaria Falls; the end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel

701 Sennacherib Invades Judah, deporting 200,000 to Assyria. ‘I shut up Hezekiah in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage.’

597 Jerusalem captured by Babylon. Deportations begin.

586 Temple Destroyed

c.538 Edict of Cyrus. First return of captives

515 Second Temple Completed

4 B.C. Death of Herod which followed the Birth of Jesus

Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

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The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 2 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.–Luke 2 ESV

The Shepherds and the Shepherd King

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “you…will bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He…will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David….”–David, the shepherd Psalmist, who was chosen by God as king of Israel.

In Genesis, God himself is called “the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel”(49:24).

The Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—were all shepherds. Moses, the shepherd, shepherded God’s people for over forty years.

The shepherd David’s most famous Psalm begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.”

The shepherd Amos ended his prophecy of terrible judgments with the promise that, “In that day I will restore the fallen house of David….”

How wondrous, then, that an angel declared this to Shepherds of Bethlehem, “…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.”

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Still, today, in struggling with the existential conundrum of God vis a vis the Jewish people, a rabbi denotes ‘shepherd’ as “a root metaphor” standing behind the “community’s beliefs, values and behavior.”*

Modern attempts to dismiss the story of the shepherds as legendary propose motives such as this: “God’s grace is revealed to a group of people held in low regard (e.g. as thieves) by the Jews. But the evidence for this [low regard] is late…” (Luke, I. Howard Marshall).

Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel notes: “In a Midrash to the Book of Psalms, the third century [A.D.] Rabbi Yosi bar Hanina noted that there is no occupation more degrading than that of a shepherd who walks around like a beggar holding a staff and bag in hand.”*

Taking this later situation which followed the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of Israel and applying it to the time of Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10), creates an anachronism.

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Making Christ Known

May we be mindful that we are called to respond to the Angel’s message just as the Shepherds did. For all who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb….the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of the waters of life”(Rev. 7:17).

*Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel, A Shepherd’s Song: Psalm 23 and the Shepherd Metaphor in Jewish Thought (New York: Kodesh Press, 2014).

Christmas Isn’t Over; Epiphany

epiphany-canadaMatthew 2

. . . Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

. . . the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. . . .

We are NOW in the 12 Days of Christmas. These are the days from Christmas Day until Epiphany.

Nativity scenes depict the whole of the account of the birth of Christ. Many know that the arrival of the Magi, the Wise Men, occurred after the “manger.” As the text says, “after Jesus was born” the Magi came and entered “the house.” It was probably months after the birth as Herod had all babies, up to the age of two, killed (Matt. 2:16).

In the West, Epiphany (6 January) is celebrated as “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).”

In the East, on 6 January, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Theophany,  Epiphany , as the manifestation of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), at the Baptism of Christ.

Matthew 3: 16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Epiphany

A Meditation for Christmastide and Epiphany: God With Us –A WONDERFUL Video <4 min.(youtube)

Advent, The Shepherds’ Candle

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“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

rembrandt-adoration-of-the-shepherds

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.–The Gospel of Luke

It will be wonderful to be glorifying and praising God in our gatherings during Christmas week. In this very familiar passage of Scripture, there is one line that seems unfamiliar, at least if we judge by our actions.

“…They made known what had been told them about this child…”

How many have heard us during this Holy Season?(link)

 

We have many wonderful works of art depicting the Angels and the Shepherds, and of the Shepherds at The Manger Scene. But how hard it is to find just one that depicts the shepherds sharing the Good News of  our Saviour’s birth.

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Can we Christians be found in that picture?

On Earth Peace . . .

PeacedoveGlory to God

in the highest,

and on earth peace

to men on whom

his favor rests.

Luke 2:14 (NIV)

We may pause amid this season’s bustle and reflect on familiar words–yet a bit unfamiliar in recent versions which bring out the Christmas message.  Peace is rooted in God’s favor, in his grace.  Peace comes through God’s act of sending the Christ for the purpose of bringing salvation to many.  Peace dwells in the household of faith.  For all this we with the angels may truly utter praise, “Glory to God . . .”

The clear note of the gospel is muffled by the phrase “‘men of goodwill’ [which] ought to disappear entirely from Bible translations and Christmas meditations!” (NIDNT).  And we ought not to muffle the message.  For multitudes, there is no peace, only dread.  Many long to hear tidings of comfort and joy, and to partake of that peace that passes understanding, singing with the redeemed, “peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”

The Faithful (O Come, All Ye . . .) will declare these tidings to their neighbor. God’s gift of peace is intimately joined with obedience to all that our Lord Jesus Christ commands (Isaiah 48:18), including his call to us to be his witnesses.  At Christmas, opportunities abound for sharing with those in darkness tidings of the Prince of Peace.

For those in darkness, George Fox was clear about the first step to peace:

I directed them to the Divine Light of Christ . . . by which Light they might see their sin and also their Saviour Christ Jesus to save them from their sins.  This I told them was their first step to peace . . .

We, too, must be clear about this.  Where “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), and where peddlers abound selling panaceas for peace, we must declare:

Peace is not bought but brought;

not gotten but given;

not  “hyped” but hidden.

And for them that have faith,

faith in the only Son begotten of

the Father,

the promise is fulfilled–

Salvation comes.

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2), and through you this Christmas.

–First published in Quaker Life, December, 1985.  Here is one way to share the Christmas story with others.

nativity_lightened

Devotion for Advent: The Word Became Flesh

word became flesh“. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1

An excellent devotion for Advent, is Athanasius On The Incarnation.

C. S. Lewis wrote the Preface for this edition, advising us to not read another new book until we have read an old one. And if we have not time for both, to read the old.

Immanuel, God With Us

epiphany-canada Counting Down the Twelve Days of Christmas until Epiphany

Share the Light with Others. “You shall be my witnesses.”

A great video of Charles Spurgeon’s words on God With Us

[I should have noted that it is only 3+ minutes long.]

LINK FIXED

Immanuel-God with us – Charles Spurgeon

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