Happy Christmas!

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nativityFor unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Thank you so much for following along with me on this journey into the main characters and themes of the Christmas story.

I am rejoicing today that it is a story that is not only wonderful in its content, but is also something that we can truly have confidence in. I am rejoicing for its basis in historical fact and the revelation it contains of God’s master plan; a plan to send to us a Saviour who was, and still is, Christ the Lord.

We have seen how it is a story in which God uses all kinds of people from many walks of life; the young and the old, the rich and the poor, both foreigners and people in their native land. We have seen how God uses many miraculous signs and methods to communicate to them, from ancient prophecy to message-bearing angels, from stars in the sky to dreams while people sleep. We have seen some glimpses of what God considers important; the places where we are born and live and the names that people are called. And we have seen how God can use the ordinary details of human existence for His purposes, whether as intimate as the birth of a child or as public and powerful as huge political empires.

It is a story that confirms over and over to us, in its many intricate details, that this child born to us is divine God in human flesh. It compels us to respond with praise and wonder.

May you have a very blessed Christmas and a wonderful year as you continue to walk with the awesome God whose story it is.

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December 1st: The Narrators

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St LukeIt seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. Luke 1:3-4

The vast majority of school nativity plays have a narrator- usually the kid who is pretty good at reading aloud in a clear voice who can keep the story moving along in the right order.  Often we may not even notice them much, as they are not involved themselves as characters in the story but instead direct all our attention to the action that is happening on stage. It is easy too, as we read the Christmas story in the gospels of Matthew and Luke to forget the fact that they in fact are our narrators- it may be God’s script, but Matthew and Luke each bring their own unique perspective to the retelling. As we go through various people and themes over the next month, we will get a flavor for the things that they think are important in the story and even an idea of where they got their information from.

For Matthew, a former tax collector, very possibly now a teacher, his account is presented intentionally in a way that is suitable for teaching in the life of the church. As a Jew, he is particularly interested in the way that Jesus is the fulfilment of all that is important to him in his Jewish heritage, not just the Old Testament prophecies, but also how Jesus is the answer to his very way of Jewish life. In contrast Luke, a doctor by trade, was primarily interested in the theme of salvation for the lost. He is more poetic and dramatic in his style of narration, and yet he still was concerned that the early church should have a foundation in historical fact, as today’s verse indicates. Taken together, Matthew and Luke’s accounts corroborate and enhance one another.

Oh, and one more thing you may be interested in. Matthew’s narrative tends to focus more on Joseph’s perspective in the Christmas story, while Luke highlights things from Mary’s point of view. According to scholars, this may indicate where they drew their main sources from. Interesting, huh?

Lord God, thank you for your Scriptures and the people that you used to communicate them that we, centuries after the birth of Jesus, might have certainty of the truths contained within the pages. As we share time this Christmas season with others please help us to communicate, as Matthew and Luke did, that which is of greatest importance to us in this time of celebration, and how your story connects with our own. Amen.

My December devotionals project…

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Copley Square Christmas Tree

Let me just start by saying, I love Christmas. I love Christmas trees, and Christmas carols, and Christmas cookies, and Christmas movies, and pretty much everything about the whole experience. I become visibly excited when December finally arrives and I have a legitimate excuse to indulge in all the treats! But what I love most of all is the Christmas story- for a start, we wouldn’t have Christmas without it, and second, I love the invitation to immerse myself every year in a truly incredible but very real story of how God Himself entered our world. How he became one of us that he might walk among us, talk with us, share life with us. How he came so humbly to meet us where we are, just as we are, and to save us from the very worst of ourselves, the ugly parts that we would rather nobody knew about.

For many of us as adults, myself included, we are so familiar with the story of Christ’s birth that we can listen to it without really hearing it, sitting with glazed eyes as it’s read to us. It has also become so intertwined with dramatized versions, from school nativity plays to full scale movies, and with the images we see in art galleries and on Christmas cards, that we are no longer really clear what is actually contained in the Bible text, compared to what has been imagined or added for the purposes of artistic license over the centuries.

So I have set myself a project this December. I am going to attempt to explore the Christmas story with a fresh pair of eyes. I am going to revisit the key people and themes that we find in the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke and ask God to reveal something new to me that I have never noticed before. What I hope will emerge is a series of advent devotionals like the advent calendars I enjoyed opening as a child; daily glimpses or ‘windows’ into the Christmas story.

I invite you to join me and take the opportunity that this wonderful time of year brings to immerse yourself in the magic, and in doing so, draw a little closer to the heart of the God whose story it is.