Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.

Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Dec 23, 2019

If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.

His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.

This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.

Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.

The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)

John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.

To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.

Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.

Christmas paintings by Henry O. Tanner

‘The Annunciation’

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.

Christmas Painting The Annunciation

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.

‘The Visitation’

As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christmas painting The Visitation

Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.

This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.

This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.

P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia

I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

Henry O. Tanner house

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/23/behold-two-paintings-that-show-a-miraculous-christmas-meeting/

Obedience Is Better Than Sacrifice

 by ZAMA-ZOE GRACE

For just as through the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man, many will be set right forever.Now the Torah came in so that transgression might increase. But where sin increased, grace overflowed even more—so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness, to eternal life through Messiah Yeshua our Lord. Romans 5:19-21. TLV.

Monday Motivation: Greetings, Dear Friends! I hope you are perfect and continuing to pursue holiness, for God is holy and perfect and requires us to be holy and perfect because He has made us holy and righteous through the gift of His beloved Son Jesus, who is now our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 This month of December is proving to be a challenge since I have been traveling a lot lately. We have managed, though, to settle down with our family in Pretoria. We have not been in contact with most of our family members because of the lockdown, and I heard someone saying COVID19 is such an inconvenience, and I think they are right; there have been many adjustments we had to make since the arrival of this virus. I hope you are all safe in your respective countries. In my country, we have lost so many lives, and it’s heartbreaking. So, let us protect one another and keep safe during this festive season. 

Today I want to talk about the importance of obedience as we walk with God; because it is the foundation, we can build on if we desire to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. The enemy is formidable at work in deviating destinies and many desires to serve God with fear and trembling, not realizing that it’s all hidden in obedience.

Some are quite involved in various activities that have nothing to do with God’s purpose for their lives. They feel overwhelmed, drained, lacking motivation, and the drive to continue with the pursuit of fulfilling God’s mandate over their lives. They keep taking the detour and off ramping from the path God has laid before them.

God’s purpose for your life is never about only you, but about advancing the kingdom of God and impacting lives eternally. Just as through one man’s disobedience, sin entered the entire human, and through one man’s obedience, many received a right to be the children of God and obtain eternal life. Ro.5:19-21. It is still applicable to our walk with Christ. Many will benefit from your submission to God, and likewise, through disobedience, many will pay the price together with you. It could be your family, your organizations, etc.; the fact is obedience and disobedience affect not only you but also everyone who connects to your destiny. 

Learning obedience is vital in successful walking with God. There are so many stories in the bible that teaches about the importance of obeying God. We also understand that even our Lord Jesus had to learn obedience, meaning that it does not come naturally at times. You have to be conscious of the need to obey and working on perfecting obedience in your life until it comes naturally and leads you to your destination where you can fulfill God’s plan for your life, as mentioned in the scripture below.

In the days of His life on earth,Yeshua offered up both prayers and pleas, with loud crying and tears, to the One able to save Him from death; and He was heard because of His reverence. Though He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. And once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him— called by God Kohen Gadol “according to the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:7-10. TLV.

Obedience comes with different sets of tests, which will require you to stand firm in your faith. However, the enemy will also try harder to keep you from obeying God by subjecting you to tremendous pressure, which will force you to make a decision that will compromise your walk of obedience with God. That also happened with Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3, the serpent puts Eve under pressure and cause her to doubt God and drove her husband to disobey God, and he also did the same with King Saul in 1 Samuel 15: 15- 23, as we read below.

And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak on.” So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not heard of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? 18 Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”

And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:15-23. NKJV.

This man’s one act of disobedience cost him the entire kingdom, meaning even his heir lost the potential of becoming the king. The same way Christ had to come here on earth to restore the mess Adam created, God also in this story appointed David to be the king of Israel and Judah. He tried to justify his actions as all of us do at times, but it did not change the fact that he did not do what God told him to do. The prophet Samuel had to remind him that “to obey is better than Sacrifice.”

This day, my question will be, what are you busy sacrificing instead of doing what God has told you to do. God will give you chances, but there will come a time when He hands the assignment to somebody else if you persist in disobedience.” what has God called you to do? Are you following the crowd’s voice or God’s voice? Have you taken detours from the original path place by God for your life? 

The ultimate goal of the enemy is to make to disobey God so you can forfeit your destiny. May I encourage you this day to be alert and vigilant and guard the things God has committed to your life! Knowing that obedience is better than sacrifice. Never take any form of decision under pressure. When facing making a decision and realizing that it comes with tremendous force, know it’s not from God, but from the enemy. 

May I encourage you to guard yourself against the fear of people, so you can make decisions that please God and align you with the purpose of God. May you take the time to verify the activities that keep you engage, which take most of your time. Some can be good, but if they do not align with God’s assignment in your life, take a pause and review the cause of your life and choose the right path; knowing every decision you make will not only affect you, but it has the potential to impact future generations. 

May you learn from the Lord Jesus; He left His heavenly glory, just for you and me so we could have a perfect loving relationship with the Father. When the time came for Him to die for all humanity, He chose obedience, doing His Father’s will. It was not easy, it cost Him everything, but He did not quit. The enemy did everything it could to cause to take a detour or off-ramp from the path, but He chose obedience and ran with endurance the race set before Him and conquered the grave. 

There is a victory that comes with obedience; while learning obedience may make you feel like a failure, in the end, there is a great reward. May you endure till the end. May you think of the future generations, the advancement of the kingdom of God. As we are wrapping up this year, may the act of obedience be among your new year’s resolutions and one of the core values that govern your Christian walk. 

I hope you found encouragement in this post. Thank you so much for stopping by. Happy Holidays and may all your festivities point others to Christ as we celebrate His birth this week. God loves you; He is with you and for you.

A Special Invitation for You

by Skip Heitzig | December 22, 2020

Christmas is celebrated in a multitude of ways around the world. In Mexico, for instance, homes are decorated with lilies, evergreens, and farolitos, little paper bags lit with candles—an inviting tradition we’ve continued where I live in New Mexico.

In fact, Christmas is all about an invitation. The beauty of the first Christmas gift, given so long ago in tiny Bethlehem, is that the invitation is for everyone, everywhere—or as the angel told the shepherds that historic night, “Good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The angel’s birth announcement was an invitation to all humankind to receive the Savior.

It’s noteworthy that Jesus was born not in a large city but in a backwater of the Roman Empire, far from the center of power and influence in Rome and a good walk from the religious epicenter of Jerusalem. He was born in Bethlehem not just because his father had to return to his family home to participate in a Roman census, but because God decreed it in Micah 5:2 and used Roman roads and Roman peace to fulfill it.

But Romans weren’t the first to hear of this monumental birth. That honor was given to a group of shepherds. Think about it: the news of the greatest gift ever given came first to the most overlooked group in the empire. No one cared about shepherds. They were considered the lowest of the low, ceremonially unclean in the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders. They were the humblest and poorest of society.

This set the tone for the life Jesus lived. He regularly hung out with society’s lowest classes. No one was beneath His notice—not shepherds, not lepers, and not the masses of overlooked women and children. When it came to His death, He wasn’t crucified between two candles on an altar but between two thieves. And even in His agony, He forgave the thief who acknowledged Jesus’ innocence and coming glory.

The message? Anyone can come to Christ at any point, even up to the point of death. The accessibility of Jesus is perhaps the most overlooked and unopened gift we have at Christmastime. Remember, He is Immanuel—”God with us” (Matthew 1:23). And the invitation the angel announced at His birth still stands today. Will you receive those “good tidings of great joy”? They’re for everyone, everywhere—including you.

http://www.connectwithskip.com/devomail/read/daily-devotional/2020/12/22/a-special-invitation-for-you

The People Who Missed Christmas: Rome and Nazareth

The People Who Missed Christmas: Rome and Nazareth

by John MacArthur Wednesday, December 23, 2020

This post was first published December 19, 2012. -ed.

An entire nation missed Christmas. All of Rome could have shared in the Savior’s birth, but they missed it. That first Christmas was set in a Roman scene. Herod, for example, was the ruler appointed by Rome. And it was a decree by Caesar Augustus that set everything in motion (Luke 2:1).

Who was Caesar Augustus? He’s mentioned only once in Scripture, but he occupies an important place in the history of the Roman Empire. He was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar. His name was Octavian; “Augustus” was a title meaning “venerable.” He ruled Rome from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14.

Octavian was for the most part a benevolent ruler. He was responsible for the Pax Romana, the era of peace between all the different parts of the Roman Empire. He instituted numerous reforms designed to do away with the worst forms of corruption and keep peace throughout the empire. But Octavian took the title of Pontifex Maximus, which means “highest priest.” He also deified both Julius Caesar and himself, and had temples built for Caesar worship.

Octavian had come to power when Julius Caesar was assassinated. In his will, Julius Caesar left all his possessions, including the throne, to his grand-nephew. In the middle of his reign, Octavian ordered a worldwide census. That was the decree spoken of in Luke 2:1.

And so Jesus was born in the heyday of the Roman Empire. Yet nearly all of Rome missed Christmas. Roman soldiers must have been everywhere in Bethlehem and the surrounding area, overseeing the census, registering people, and keeping order. Yet they missed Jesus’ birth. Why? Idolatry. They had their own gods—they were even willing to let their emperor pretend to be God. Christ did not fit into their pantheon. No mythological god could coexist with Him. So the Romans totally ignored His birth. This newborn baby became just one more number in their census.

Paganism has a strong a grip on our world today, and millions miss Christmas because of it. I’m not talking only about the dark paganism of distant lands, where Christ is unknown and unheard of, and where Christmas is unheard of. Obviously, those people miss Christmas. But there is another, subtler form of idolatry even in our society. And millions miss Christmas because of it. Most people in North America don’t worship carved idols or follow demonic superstition like the Romans did, but they nevertheless worship false gods. Some people worship money. Others worship sex. I know people who worship cars, boats, houses, power, prestige, popularity, and fame. Those things represent the pagan gods of the 21st century: selfishness and materialism. If that is what you worship, you’ll miss Christmas.

Finally, and perhaps saddest of all, Nazareth missed Christmas. Nazareth was a crude, uncultured town, quite a distance from Bethlehem. The people of that region had a reputation for violence. Nathanael expressed the prevailing opinion of that little town: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

Yet Nazareth was the home of Mary and Joseph, and the boyhood home of Jesus. Although he was born in Bethlehem, He grew up in Nazareth and lived His perfect life before all the people there. Yet they completely overlooked Him. Luke 4 describes the most important Sabbath day Nazareth ever had:

And He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

After years of living among those people, Jesus was revealing to the Nazarenes who He was. For the first time ever, He was telling them publicly that He was the Messiah. And what was their reaction?

And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” And He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. (Luke 4:22-30)

The people who knew Jesus best—those with whom He had grown up and among whom He had lived—tried to kill Him! That’s what I call missing Christmas. “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him,” John 1:11 says. The people of Nazareth, who knew Him better than anyone, had no idea who He really was. Mark 6:6 says even Jesus wondered at their unbelief.

What was their problem? Familiarity. They knew Him too well. They knew Him so well they couldn’t believe He was anyone special. Familiarity mixed with unbelief is a deadly thing. Whenever people tell me they grew up in Christianity but have rejected it, I cringe. Familiarity strangles conviction. Perhaps the most tragic sin of all is the unbelief of a person who has heard all the sermons, sat through all the Bible lessons, knows all the Christmas stories, but rejects Christ. There is no gospel, no good news, for such a person, because he already knows and rejects the only truth that can set him free. What a sad way to miss Christmas!

No one has to miss Christmas. Ignorant preoccupation, jealous fear, prideful indifference, religious ritual, false gods, and even contemptuous familiarity are only expressions of the one real reason people miss Christmas: unbelief.

If you truly love the Lord, you cannot allow those expressions of unbelief to take root in your heart. Don’t waste another year letting worldly materialism and selfish pursuits steal your affection. Discipline your heart and train your focus on the sacrifice Christ made on your behalf. Don’t lose sight of what and Whom you’re celebrating in the days ahead.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve been missing Christmas altogether. You may get presents and eat a big dinner and decorate a tree, but you know in your heart that you are no different from the innkeeper, Herod, the religious leaders, the people of Jerusalem, the Romans, or the citizens of Nazareth. You are missing the reality of Christmas.

You don’t have to miss another one. Turn from your sin and unbelief and receive Christ as Lord and God. He will forgive your sin, change your life, and give you the greatest Christmas gift anyone can receive: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:11-12).

Don’t miss Christmas this year!

(Adapted from The Miracle of Christmas.)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B121219

The Story of a Gift More Than a Birth

by Greg Laurie on Dec 25, 2020

If you’ve gone through life with a name that you didn’t necessarily appreciate, then you know how important a name can be.

Parents put a lot of thought into what they should name their children. They might even agonize over a name. As psychologist and name expert named Cleveland Evans put it, “Names tell you more about the parents than about the kids.”

In Scripture parents sometimes gave names to their children that described what happened at the birth. For example, when the twins Jacob and Esau were born, Jacob was born holding on to his brother’s heel, so they named him Jacob, which means “heel catcher.”

Then there was the woman who was about to give birth when she heard the news that her husband and father-in-law were dead and the Ark of the Covenant had been captured. So she named her child Ichabod, meaning “Where is the glory?” and said, “Israel’s glory is gone” (1 Samuel 4:21 NLT).

And in the first chapter of Matthew we read that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (verses 20–21 NKJV).

The name Jesus, from the Hebrew word Yeshua, means “Jehovah is salvation.” It’s the name that divides human time. It’s also the name that everyone will bow before one day, because the Bible says, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and . . . every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10–11 NKJV).

There is so much in the name of Jesus for us to discover. Writing some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah gave us a glimpse into the attributes of Jesus. In this prophetic passage, which is often cited during the Christmas season, he said, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).

The story of Jesus Christ coming into this world isn’t so much the story of a birth as it is the story of a gift. For us, it was the entrance of Jesus to Planet Earth. But for God the Father, it was the departure of His Son from Heaven.

The first Christmas was not a gift to a child; it was the gift of a child. Jesus said, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NLT).

We sometimes think that when Jesus was born into the human race in Bethlehem, He essentially made His entrance into the universe. But we need to understand that the birth of Jesus wasn’t His beginning; rather, it was His entrance to this world as the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world.

Jesus, being God, always was. He was without beginning and without end. Another messianic Scripture often quoted at Christmas is Micah 5:2, which says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (NKJV).

We could translate the word everlasting as “from the vanishing point.” Micah was revealing by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah, God in human form, would be born in Bethlehem. The great miracle of Christmas was when God became a man.

It’s also interesting to note that each description Isaiah gave of Jesus deals with an important area of our lives. Wonderful takes care of the dullness of life. We no longer have to look to this world for cheap substitutes like excitement and fulfillment. Jesus Christ makes life wonderful.

Counselor takes care of the decisions of life. We no longer have to be baffled by the problems of life, wondering what step to take next. With Jesus Christ as our counselor, we have the wisdom we need to make the decisions of life.

Mighty God takes care of the demands of life. And life is demanding, isn’t it? Sometimes we can be overwhelmed with all that it dishes out. But the Bible tells us that we “can do everything through Christ, who gives [us] strength” (Philippians 4:13 NLT).

Everlasting Father takes care of our future lives. Knowing that we will spend all eternity with Him, we as Christians don’t have to be afraid of death.

Prince of Peace takes care of the disturbances of life. And certainly there is a lot to disturb us in the times in which we’re living. But with Christ in our hearts, we know that He will give us peace.

The Bible teaches there is coming a day when Christ Himself will return to this earth and establish His kingdom. There will be no more corruption in government. There will be no more global terrorism. He will reign righteously as King of kings and Lord of lords.

And here’s the good news. You don’t have to wait for his return to experience His rule in your life. You can experience it today, because Jesus, Mighty God, wants to be your Everlasting Father. He wants to show you how wonderful He is as He counsels you and floods your life with His peace, “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).

So what’s in a name? That all depends on whose name it is. If it’s the name of Jesus Christ, there’s a lot in that name. It’s the name above every name.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

The People Who Missed Christmas: Herod

The People Who Missed Christmas: Herod

by John MacArthur Wednesday, December 16, 2020

This post was first published December 11, 2012. -ed.

Meet another man who missed the first Christmas: Herod. Matthew 2 tells his story. He was very different from the innkeeper. He wasn’t ignorant; he was very well informed:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler, who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-8)

Herod pretended he wanted to worship Jesus Christ, but he was fearful of this One who was called the King of the Jews. He didn’t want any competition for his throne. The phrase “he was troubled” (Matthew 2:3) uses a word that means “agitated, stirred up, shaken up.” It conveys the idea of panic. His supremacy was in jeopardy. He had no use for any other king of the Jews.

If the innkeeper’s problem was preoccupation, Herod’s was fear. Herod was an Idumean; he wasn’t even a Jew. His father, Antipater, had done some favors to Rome. As payment, the Herod family was given the right to rule Judea, which was under Roman occupation. Herod was a consummate politician; he continued to do everything he could to gain favor with Rome. In return, the Roman senate gave him an army. Herod was able to extend his empire from Judea to Jordan to Syria to Lebanon. He even called himself “King of the Jews,” and he was known by that title until his death.

It’s no wonder he panicked when he heard someone else had been born who was being called King of the Jews. He was immediately threatened—even though Jesus was a baby and he was an old man.

Herod was ruthless. His chief appeal to Rome was the merciless efficiency with which he was able to extract taxes from the people. He had murdered all the Hasmoneans, the sons of the Maccabeans, who had led a revolution against Greece’s rule. He wanted to make sure they didn’t do it again, so he simply slaughtered them all. He had ten wives and twelve children. One of his wives, Mariamne, had a brother, Aristobulus, who was the high priest. Herod was afraid of Aristobulus so he murdered him. Then he killed her too.

His paranoia was legendary. He was afraid one of his two sons might take his throne, so he murdered both of them. His entire life was one of plotting and execution. Five days before his death he executed all his descendants who might have laid claim to the throne. In one of the final acts of his evil life, he had all the distinguished citizens of Jerusalem put in prison and commanded that they be slaughtered the moment he died. “These people will not weep when I die,” he said, “and I want them weeping, even if they weep over someone else.” So even at his death there was a great slaughter.

Herod was such a brutal, merciless man that it is not difficult to imagine how he would choose to vent his rage when he learned a child had been born who, according to prophecy, was the true King of the Jews. He was furious when he realized the magi were not going to report back to him.

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-2:18)

In his mad effort to wipe out one child, Herod had scores of children slaughtered. God had already warned Joseph and Mary, and they had fled to Egypt with Jesus. So Herod failed. Not only did he miss the first Christmas, but his rebellion also propagated a great tragedy. All this was because of fear—jealous fear.

There are Herod types even in our society. Herod’s fear was that someone else would take his throne. Lots of people are like him. They won’t allow anything to interfere with their career, their position, their power, their ambition, their plans, or their lifestyle. They are not about to let someone else be king of their lives. They see Jesus as a threat, and so they miss Christmas.

People don’t mind taking time off work to commemorate Jesus’ birth. They will even embrace Him as a resource when they get in trouble. They might gladly accept Him as a spiritual benefactor. They are even willing to add Him to their lives and call themselves Christians, but not if He insists on being King. That might be a threat to their lifestyle or career, or whatever else they are hanging on to. They are as fearful and as jealous of losing their own self‑determination as Herod was of losing his throne. They will guard at all costs their own priorities, their own values, their own morals. They won’t come to Christ if He threatens to cramp their style. They will not accept His right to rule over them. They want to run the show.

The world is full of people who cry out, “We do not want this man to reign over us” (cf. Luke 19:14). People want to determine their own careers, make their own decisions, master their own fates, chart their own destinies. And so we have a world of kings who are not about to bow to Jesus Christ. Such people are governed by the same kind of jealous fear that drove Herod. Like him they miss Christmas.

(Adapted from The Miracle of Christmas.)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B121211

A full cradle and an empty grave: Christmas is the opposite of abortion

By Jonathon Van Maren

Decemer 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Each year, abortion groups celebrate the season by requesting donations and wishing everyone happy holidays. It is always ironic to see the spiritual descendants of Herod twist themselves into knots to acknowledge Christmas without being too religious, but I suppose it is also understandable. Nobody likes being left out, even those who spend the rest of the year dispatching God’s tiny gifts to the next world with scalpels and suction aspirators. This year, one abortion worker attempted to get particularly festive by topping a Christmas tree not with an angel or a star, but with a set of serrated forceps used to clamp on baby limbs and destroy baby bodies.

But there are other reasons abortion groups have such a complicated relationship with Christmas. Mary’s welcoming of an unexpected Child as a gift (indeed, to the whole world) is not the sort of story abortion activists wish to tell. Indeed, every year around this time some of the angrier feticide fans post memes fantasizing about the Virgin Mary having an abortion, revealing that abortion advocacy and hatred of Christianity are nearly always inextricably intertwined. Abortion ideology is predicated on the idea that we must not sacrifice for others, and the Christmas story is the ultimate rebuke to that idea

There is also the fact that when the Word became flesh, God Himself became a pre-born child. God became a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, and a baby. It is unfathomable to our puny minds to understand how the Creator of the universe could have entered the world as a tiny, helpless Child in the womb, but it is nonetheless true. When Elizabeth, carrying John the Baptist below her heart, met Mary the Mother of God, her child—then a fetus—leapt in the womb to greet his Saviour, also a child in the womb. What are abortion activists to do with this story?

Even the language abortion activists use reflects the fact that their worldview is antithetical to the Christmas message. This is my body, broken for you, said the Savior. My body, my choice—and we will sacrifice any who interfere with our lives, say the abortion activists. The abortion worldview is merely a perverse inversion of the Gospel message, the triumph of selfishness and bloodshed over innocence and beauty. They will deny it. They try to dress up their message in the language of rights. But the truth is incontrovertible. The result of an abortion is a dead baby. That is the point of abortion. That is why people get them.

When abortion activists, who traffic in death, misery, and regret, wish everyone a happy holidays, I suspect they know that it rings hollow. The abortion industry is responsible for millions of empty places at millions of tables. Their forceps and needles have stopped hearts and broken hearts, and the holiday season often reminds those who made this awful choice of those who are not with them. Planned Parenthood and their abortion allies have it all wrong. Success, to an abortion activist, is an empty cradle and a full grave. The essence of the Christmas story is a full cradle and an empty grave.

https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/a-full-cradle-and-an-empty-grave-abortion-is-the-opposite-of-christmas

Rev. Franklin Graham: ‘Pray God’ Spares the Nation ‘from the Evil Before Us’

Franklin Graham

Dr. Susan Perry

On Christmas Eve evangelical leader Rev. Franklin Graham asked Christians to pray that America will be spared “from the evil that is before us.”

A supporter of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, Graham asked his Twitter followers to pray for the president, that God will grant him “wisdom in the coming days.”

On Saturday he posted to Facebook that Trump “has been maligned, falsely accused, and attacked on every front since before the election in 2016.”

“When President Trump says that this election has been rigged or stolen, I tend to believe him,” he wrote. “He has a track record of being right.”

The president of international aid charity Samaritan’s Purse, Graham also acknowledged the effects of the coronavirus lockdowns in an op-ed at Fox News.

“This is a Christmas unlike any other,” he wrote, one that finds many Americans filled with “fear and anxiety.”

“Large family gatherings and office parties have been replaced with grim lockdowns, quarantines and isolation,” he observed. “What used to be the warmest and most welcoming time of the year can now feel sterile and cold.”

The Christian leader also noted that while there is hope in new vaccines to combat the infection caused by the coronavirus, still “there isn’t a vaccine on Earth that can protect us from worry, depression, or fear.”

The only way to heal a “sick spirit,” Graham said, is “to find healing for deep, spiritual needs, and that’s in Jesus Christ – the hope of Christmas.”

Jesus, he continued, is “the only cure for a disease of the heart that has infected all mankind – sin.”

God’s “rescue mission to save us from our sins,” Graham said, happened on that first Christmas morning.

“When Christ was born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning, true hope was born for you and me,” he explained, adding:

While everything else may lock down, isn’t it reassuring to know there is a God who never shuts down? He will never isolate or leave those who trust in him alone.

“This is the good news of Christmas,” Graham wrote. “Jesus Christ changed the world on that first Christmas day and he has the power to change your life today and for all eternity.”

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/12/25/rev-franklin-graham-pray-god-spares-the-nation-from-the-evil-before-u

VIDEO A Merry Christmas to you!!!

 

Changes!

On Dec. 22 we took our teammates to the airport to return to the States.  This came as a shock to us at the end of November when they came to us saying that the Lord was confirming to them that they needed to return to the States.  We did our best to help them leave well, but it has been difficult as leaders to see this happen.  Satan would have us to be discouraged, question our leadership and wallow in pain and disappointment, but Jesus is telling us to press on in His strength and to hold fast to His Truth.
 

In addition to these things, this was our first Christmas without seeing our children for the holidays.  We are asking the Lord to fill this natural void as Empty Nest parents and fill us with more of His Holy Spirit! The Lord has given us a Rallying Cry for this year, Freedom Phase.  Freedom in His Holy Spirit to walk in Him more closely, Freedom from the entanglements of the world, Freedom to share  the gospel widely, Freedom to pray in the Spirit and mostly for our Freedom to be His in this place that He has called us.

Resolutions!

As we are adjusting to the changes mentioned above, we are resolved to press on, and here are some resolutions and goals we are setting for the work here.
 
1) Workers for the harvest:  We believe every new believer is a newly appointed worker for the harvest to raise up other disciples.  We are praying for Kosovo believes to be co-workers in Christ!
2) Commitment to prayer: We have come to understand the more we are in prayer the more opportunities we have to share!  As a couple we are committed to spend hours in prayer everyday.  Please join us! (See more below)
3) Sharing: We want to spread the seed of the gospel widely and are committed to boldly sharing everyday!
4) Fasting: We will participate in a 3 week fast from the 5th to the 25th (not fasting all food) of January,  In order to beseech the Lord and engage Him on His mission for this place.  We are seeking His face.

Will You Join Us?

on All or some of the things we resolved to do this New Year?

10,000!

In order to see a movement of the spirit here and disciples making disciples. We have a goal to raise-up a prayer team who are specifically praying for a movement here in Kosovo.  We would like to have >10,000 people committed to praying specifically for this.  If you would like to be a part of this, please enroll here.  We are also asking churches to gather prayer meetings, small groups, etc to commit to prayer. Click on button to respond.
We had a Christmas gathering for youth that completed the English Leadership Course.  We had a great time hanging out, eating and sharing.
Sign-up for Kosovo Prayer Movement

Thank You so Much for your Prayers and Support!!!

Contact Info: Email: Ken.Bishop@GPonline.org or Dawn.Bishop@GPonline.org

Copyright © 2019 Ken & Dawn Bishop, All rights reserved.

VIDEO 16 Bible Verses about Christmas – Make The Season Bright on Broadway

Edie Melson

Christmas Celebrates a Present Given to Us by God Himself

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NASB)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NIV)

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NLT)

Christmas Is a Celebration of Jesus’ Birth

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! Luke 2:11 (NLT)

Christmas Was Predicted Thousands of Years Ago

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV)

Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. Isaiah 11:1 (NLT)

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

Jesus Is God’s Son and Has Always Existed with Him

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 (NLT)

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, Colossians 1:15 (NLT)

Jesus Was Born to Intercede for Us

So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT)

Christmas Is a Celebration of Freedom for All God’s People

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. Galatians 4:4-5 (NLT)

Copyright © 2016 Edie Melson. Used by permission.

https://www1.cbn.com/spiritual-life/bible-verses-about-christmas


Make The Season Bright: Christmas on Broadway with David Jeremiah (2019)

Join us for the 2019 edition of our special Christmas celebration with Jordan Smith, Michael Sanchez, the Voices of Lee, and Dr. David Jeremiah in New York City.