HAVE THE SAME LOVE AS CHRIST . . . Focused on God and God’s mission in the world

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2 from Philippians 2:1-11)

It is Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve most things focus the evening hours, leading up to midnight when the hours of darkness slowly turn to the hours of dawn. And the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

But two thousand plus years ago, the story of Jesus’ birth tell us, the focus was the daytime hours and Mary & Joseph journeying into Bethlehem and the busy-ness and noise there. If you have ever played a part in birthing a baby, you will know the hours leading up to the birth can be fraught with pain and desperation. So this passage is quite conducive to the minutes and hours leading up to Christmas day.

Encouragement? I am sure Mary needed lots of encouragement. “I’ll find some place for us to stay tonight” Joseph must have said. “It’s only a little further” Mary must have told her self. “I’ll find something soft for you to lay down on” Joseph probably told Mary. “Lots of women have had babies and lived to tell about it” Mary probably told herself.

Consolation from love? Joseph loved Mary – he took her for his wife, braving the scandal. Mary loved Joseph – he believed she was special amongst all women, and not just because she was his wife. They both loved God and believed that God was with them and blessed them.

Sharing of the Spirit? Oh, the Spirit was there gentle reader. Make no doubt of that. No other baby had its birth announcement done by a heavenly choir.

Compassion and sympathy? While a stable might have been one of the worse places to give birth, it is a birth story that has moved countless millions and has engendered Mary and Joseph as celebrated of parents.

As for joy? The world have been moved by joy yearly.

Paul may not have intended for this snippet of his letter to the Philippians to be applied to the Christmas story, but I do not think he would be displeased. So would say to you also, gentle reader. Be of the same mind; trust in God as Joseph did. Allow yourself to be used for God’s plan as Mary did. And go out into the world declaring joy and peace as Christ did. Be of one mind with them all! Selah! And shalom for your day.

God’s Plan brings Salvation

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.” (Psalm 37:39 )

T’was the night before Christmas . . . . Oh, wait a minute, wrong direction!

Consider gentle reader how God arranged salvation for the Lord’s people, putting into motion a plan that we still stand in awe of today. An angel had come to Mary about 9 months before Christmas Eve (relative to when we celebrate it), and told Mary news that shook her to her core. But trusting in the Lord she said [to paraphrase], “If this comes from the Lord, I will accept it.” Joseph also had a visit from an angel, and he too accept the message he received and did as was the Lord’s will.

But the Lord was not done arranging things. Joseph and his wife Mary were forced to return to Bethlehem to be included in the census that Herod was carrying out. This was in fulfillment of a prophecy many years before about a savior coming from Bethlehem. And still another prophecy about God calling his son out of Egypt. And yet another prophecy about Rachel weeping for her children. Years and years ago the ground was being laid for what would become God’s great salvation plan. Because it was crowded at all the inns, the baby Jesus was born to Mary while she was in a stable. Because Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the wise men went searching in that direction to find him. Because the wise men alerted King Herod to a new “king” being born, Herod was determined to find the baby Jesus, which set in motion the angel in a dream warning Joseph. And Herod’s attempts to kill all baby boys, caused the women of Judah to mourn their baby boys.

The bringing of salvation was a plan that was in the Divine Mind of God far in advance of these events. One might venture to say that it was part of God’s plan back when creation was new. Or maybe before that when creation was still a swirling chaos. Or before that when chaos had not swirled. Or before that . . . .

Clement Clarke Moore is credited with writing “T”was the Night Before Christmas”, a tale of events that come before Christmas Day. But we as Christians know the story that will become “Christ’s Mass” had it’s beginnings far earlier than the evening before. And that it is not just “visions of sugar plums” or well filled stockings, but a plan for humanity to be reconciled finally and permanently with its Creator. The poetry and “Fa-La-La” are fine and give the atmosphere of joy and merriment that this “Good News” deserves. But Christ’s coming will be our “stronghold in time of trouble” and will see us through all circumstances. That is the way God had always planned it.

May you gentle awaken tomorrow to the renewing of God’s plan of salvation, and experience the peace and joy that God had intended. Merry Christmas! Selah!

Christ, the Coming of Divine Light

“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. “  (Isaiah 49: 6 b )

This verse, as originally written in Isaiah, does not seem to apply to the Messiah. The best clue is verse 4; “I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” It may describe a man who might have tried to live as God would have liked him to live. But, at least according to my theology, it was not Christ the Messiah. (There is more that could be said concerning that verse, but my salient point lies further ahead.)

Although . . . . Christ was a light to the nations. And God’s salvation did reach to the ends of the earth, and beyond, because of Christ. But we also seekers can be lights, and God can work through us as God will.

On the eve before Christ’s birthday let us remember the star that heralded Jesus’ birth, and the star that the shepherds saw, and the star that brought the wise men. We too can herald new things and new beginnings.

As this year of looking at mission draws to a close, let us reflect on what our mission has been, and look forward to the mission of God we may be called to. May you be a light to the nations you know and do not know, and through you may God’s salvation reach to the entire earth. Selah!