Friday, December 23, 2016

Faithfully Watching

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.         Luke 2:1-16 NKJV

I’m sure most of us are familiar with the Christmas story and have either read or heard it preached on for many years.  Being raised in a Christian home my earliest memories of Christmas are filled with images of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem, finding no room at the inn, and Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.  Of course, like most of us, as I grew older I began to study and learn about the “stories within the story” and of those, the one that has always fascinated me concerned the wise men who followed the star, and exactly how they knew to do so.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.       Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV

The answer as to why the Magi came in search of Jesus is contained in the single phrase, “ Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east”.  Obviously, the Magi had been told that a future King of the Jews would be born one day and a star in the east would not only herald His birth, but lead them to Him.  The Magi were priests and advisors to the rulers of Parthia, a kingdom whose roots go back to the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar.  Their knowledge of the prophecy of a coming King came from the teaching of Daniel, and his revelation of the message he received from the angel Gabriel spoken of in Daniel 9:24-27.  The result was that these Magi had been “faithfully watching” for over 600 years for the sign they had been told to watch for.

Believers too, have been given the task of faithfully watching for the return of this King, Jesus, for His bride.  We have been given signs to watch for and they are all around us today.  The most important question is, though, are you prepared to go home with Him when He calls?

My prayer is that all of you have a joyful holiday season remembering that Christmas is all about the most precious gift of all, the gift of God's Son to die for our sin so we may spend eternity with Him. I hope you have received that free gift by praying to our Father and accepting the salvation He has offered.  As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, I hope we remember that He was born to die, so that we can live. While we celebrate His birth by giving gifts to one another, may we never forget that it was His gift to us, the ultimate sacrifice, which allows us to make the choice to accept Him as our Savior and become one of His own.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to allow Jesus Christ to come into your heart, and accept the free gift of eternal life He has offered you, I urge you to do so right now. You can do that by simply praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered all of us by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life to you. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.