merry christmas

Advent Deeper: Prince of Peace

“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

Prince of Peace.
It’s what the Israelites expected to find in their Messiah.

They were looking for someone who would bring an end to their oppression.
One who would overthrow their countless captors and rule their nation.
Someone who would restore prosperity, hope, and wealth into their hands.
One who could put an end to the centuries of turmoil, persecution, and degradation, and place them back as the apple of God’s eye.

The Israelites wanted rest from their struggles. 
And they were looking for a Messiah who would bring it to them.

And then Jesus enters the scene.
Coming in as a baby.
Born on the floor of a barn.
To an unwed, teenage mother.
In the lowliest of towns.

He taught a message of loving one’s enemies. Blessing those who persecute you. Obeying the masters above you. He embraced sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, while judging the religious elite. He seemed more bent on correcting the Israelites than freeing them from their captors.

He died before he overthrew their oppressors.
Spent too much time healing the sick to establish a throne.
He never got around to building an army and giving them their own country again.

Their Messiah didn’t bring them peace.
Not in the way they expected.

They were looking for earthly peace. 
An end to turmoil and suffering.

Christ gave them something more.

The word we translate as peace in the above verse is the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם (shalom), and means completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, safety, health, prosperity, quiet, tranquility, contentment, and friendship.

Christ didn’t bring an end to their struggles. He didn’t come to make them wealthy and overthrow their oppressors. He didn’t establish an earthly kingdom and drive their enemies away so they could live in euphoria.

Christ came to make us complete.
Restored to a place of friendship and contentment in God.

It’s what makes Him the true Prince of Peace.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we enter the final week of Advent, may you be reminded of the peace Christ brings into your life. May you see that true peace isn’t an absence of trouble, but the wholeness that comes from the presence of God. And may you, as you journey towards a greater level of peace in your life, come face to face with the God who is the true author of peace.

Where is God bringing true peace into your life?

Advent Deeper: Picked Out

“When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.”
Luke 1:57-58

Joy. It’s found throughout the Christmas story.

Angels proclaimed good news of great joy.
Mary experienced joy at the pronouncement of her conception.
Anna and Simeon encountered joy as they held the long-awaited Messiah.
Shepherds and Magi and the faithful few of Israel received joy upon knowing their Savior was born.

But none was as powerful as the joy experienced by Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Scripture tells us Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright in the eyes of the Lord, obeyed every commandment, every regulation blamelessly. They were descendants of Aaron, meaning Zechariah was a priest and Elizabeth in the bloodline of the priesthood. They were holy, set apart to do the work of the Lord.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were as faithful as they come. They did everything God asked, sought His face regularly, and pointed others to the truth of the God of Israel. But there was one problem:

They were barren.
And well along in years.

Zechariah and Elizabeth would have watched as those less faithful, those less obedient, those who gave no mind to the things of God received what they wanted: a child.

They would have fasted.
Cried out.
Sought counsel.
And wondered why what came easy for others, wouldn’t even happen for them through prayer, tears, and obedience.

It would have been easy for them to feel picked-on by God.

They did everything right. Made the appropriate sacrifices. Gave the correct tithe. Put Him as top priority in their lives.

And yet, nothing.
For decades.

God was distant, ignoring their prayers, and picking on them.

Then, after they had given up hope to ever have a child, an angel appears.
Elizabeth gets pregnant.
Zechariah is mute out of unbelief.

And John the Baptist is born.

Just because God doesn’t give us what we want when we want it, just because it seems difficult for us to receive what others (even those who don’t love God) receive with ease, doesn’t mean God is picking on us.

It means He has picked us out for something greater.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were picked out.
They were chosen.
They had the privilege and honor of parenting the one who would precede the Messiah.

It just took a little while for him to be born.

Zechariah and Elizabeth may not have experience joy during the wait, but when John was born, their joy eclipsed the pain of the wait.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we journey ever closer to celebrating the birth of Christ, may you be reminded that God’s delay doesn’t mean he’s picking on you. May you know that He is setting you up for something bigger. And may you, as you finally walk into the greater things, experience a joy that eclipses the pain of the wait.

What area in your life does it seem as if God is holding something back from you? How might he be setting you up for something greater?

Advent Deeper: Loving the Misfit

“Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”
Matthew 1:16

Love. It’s the core of the Christmas story.

Mary’s love for God, enduring the sneers and comments of being an unwed, teenage mother.
Joseph’s love for Mary, choosing to stay with her when he had every right to publicly shame her.
God’s love for His creation in sending His own son to earth.

You can’t read the Christmas story without coming face to face with the truth of love.

But there’s another aspect of love in the Christmas story we tend to overlook.
The genealogy of Christ.

In this long list of people we don’t know and names we can’t pronounce, we get a glimpse into just how deep God’s love is for us.

When Christ striped himself of his divinity and chose to be born as a man, He could have picked any family line he wanted.

He could have come through the bloodline of impeccable royalty.
He could have stepped into the genealogy of the wealthy.
He could have chosen a family line that didn’t have huge secrets, embarrassing failures, and countless screw-ups.

Christ could have come through the best of the Israelites.
It’s what they had expected.

They wanted their Messiah to come through royalty.
They were expecting fanfare fit for a King.
They were convinced their Savior would be born into influence.

Instead, His bloodline was riddled with failures.

Abraham prostituted out his wife.
Isaac did the same.
Jacob lied, deceived, and stole from his brother.
Judah slept with a prostitute who ended up being his daughter-in-law Tamar.
Rahab was the prostitute who helped the Israelites in Jericho.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed.

The list goes on and on.

The lowly of the low.

This is the genealogy God chose to be born into.
Not wealth.
Not prestige.
Not the holy of the holy.

God chose the outcasts, the failures, the embarrassments of the Israelite clan as his human bloodline to show his love isn’t reserved for those who have it all together.

He loves the misfits, the murderers, the prostitutes, the liars, the failures, those who turned their back on him for one fleeting moment of satisfaction.

And He loves you.

No matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been, or how badly you’ve messed up.
That is the crux of the Christmas story.

So, my brothers and sisters, as we journey towards the manger this year, may you be reminded of how much God truly loves you. May you fully understand your past doesn’t diminish His love for you. And may you, as you grasp the fullness of His love for you, respond in kind, and pour our your love for Him.

How has God poured out His love on you in your weaknesses?