“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good…his mercy endures forever.”
We are at the end of another year.
“Can you believe it?”
“Each year goes by faster than the next.”
“What will next year hold?”
“Are you going to make New Year’s resolutions?”
“I can’t wait to start the new year. This one was horrible.”
Perhaps these are some of the thoughts you have as you end one year and begin the next.
Your perspective of the year drawing to a close forms your enthusiasm or lack of it for the year ahead.
Let me invite us to end the year with a reflection on all the blessings that God has given. Perhaps those blessings have come in different ways. Here’s a few Scriptures and questions to reflect on:
- What blessings have come in the day to day routine of life? The Lord love and mercy are new every day!
Lamentations 3: 22-24 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
- What blessings have come from the challenges and hardships of this year?
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- What celebrations did you have this year that remind you of the Lord’s faithfulness?
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
- How has God grown and developed your faith in him this year?
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
- How has the Lord shown his presence and strengthened you this year?
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- List what you would consider the top 10 blessings from the Lord this year. (Remember blessings come in things we consider good or bad!)
Numbers 6:24-26 “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’
Our family had many celebrations this year…confirmation, graduation, work anniversaries, significant birthdays. Each was and is a reminder of the goodness of the Lord and his constant presence and blessings. As you reflect on 2022, may the Lord bring to mind his many mercies and his many blessings. Know with confidence, that as he has been with you in 2022, he will go with you into 2023!
Happy New Year to all!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for going with us and providing your presence and blessings in 2022. In your mercy, go with us to strengthen, guide and bless us in the year ahead! AMEN.
The detail of Luke’s account continues…
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke’s purpose for his whole Gospel is a detailed account to bring to his reader accurate information and detail so they may “know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Something that brings certainty is when someone says something and then what happens matches what was said. At the end of these verses is the phrase, “which were just as they had been told.” I’ve wondered at times if part of Luke’s investigation put him in touch with one of the shepherds that was there that night of Jesus’ birth. With the detail Luke provides, it leads me to wonder.
The shepherds went to find Jesus based on the words of the angel. If they couldn’t find Jesus, I would guess this account would never have made it in the pages of the Bible. But they did! Just as they had been told…not just in general, but in all the detail.
They were given the sign, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
They went to “…see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They found “the baby, who was lying in the manger.”
They spread the word “concerning what had been TOLD them about this child.”
They returned “glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been TOLD.”
When God speaks, we can trust his Word. Christmas and Luke’s account are just one small example of the power, precision, and promise of God’s Word and the blessing, joy, and certainty it brings to our life of faith as we hear it, believe it, and live it!
Apply: What promises has God given to you that when you have acted on them you have experienced the very blessing God promised?
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the certainty of your Word. Let this Christmas account of Luke help us to be like the shepherds to hear your word, believe your word, and live your word. AMEN.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…”
I would guess at some point we have heard the opening line to Luke’s Christmas account in Luke 2.
But before we get to the details of Luke 2, consider the opening words of Luke’s Gospel:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4)
I love these opening words of Luke because it seems like Luke was a bit of skeptic. He was a missionary who traveled with the Apostle Paul and no doubt an avid follower of Jesus. Here’s the interesting thing about the opening line. There were MANY who tried or did write an account of Jesus’ life based on the information that was handed down from the Apostles. But Luke did his own investigation. Perhaps his background in detail as a doctor is why God chose him to take previous accounts, investigate their authenticity, and then write an orderly account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“So that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
Luke wants to affirm and reaffirm the truth of Jesus, the events of his life, the content of his teaching, and the saving mission he was on.
Luke is written to all the skeptics who wish they could investigate everything for themselves. Luke does and God’s Spirit provides it to us for our certainty as well.
So what does that say of Luke’s record of the birth of Jesus? Accurate, detailed, and written so we may have certainty in our faith as well.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
Luke sets the birth of Jesus in the context of the Roman empire. Perhaps we wish there was a little more detail like “Jesus was born on December 25” (Which he most likely wasn’t.) But the names Luke mentioned are verifiable people of history. Their mention sets the birth of Jesus in a historical context. It is real. It happened. It is not a fantasy story fabricated by Luke.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:1-5)
Joseph was a faithful follower of the Lord. Certainly the dream which clarified who the child was Mary would be giving birth to helped. However, to take your pregnant fiancée on a 90 mile journey over rugged terrain to some might seem like an act of craziness, but to us we see a heart of faith that God was working…even through a government mandate which made them leave Nazareth for Bethlehem…and maybe not return for more than a year. Remember they had to flee to Egypt after his birth due to the evil heart of King Herod.
Luke’s detail give certainty that this baby born in Bethlehem was the one God spoke of. He was to be a descendent of David…just like Mary and Joseph were.
Details are important. Imagine if all we had was, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John’s Gospel…for Friday!) While we trust this is the Word of God, it is a bit vague and a lacks concreteness. In all his detail, Luke gives the historical setting, the specific actions and the reasons why Joseph and Mary did what they did.
Everything a curious mind would want to know…God provides through the inspired pen of Luke!
Apply: What details stand out to you about Luke’s account? (Read Luke 2:1-20 for tomorrow’s devotion.)
Prayer: Lord, thank you for using Luke’s inquiring and detailed mind to record accurately the birth of your Son. Through his detail we too can have certainty that Jesus was born to be OUR Savior too! AMEN.
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)
You would expect Mark to go on with some account of the birth of Jesus…but he doesn’t. There are no details of the census. No insight to the “Word becoming flesh.” No relating of the dreams that calmed Joseph’s fears or any mention of shepherds.
The next verse gets into the work of John the Baptist, then Jesus’ baptism and temptation and Mark’s moving forward with the narrative, teaching and miracles of Jesus’ public ministry.
So why doesn’t Mark begin the “gospel about Jesus” with his birth? Really why doesn’t Peter begin with the birth of Jesus? (Strong evidence points to the source of Mark’s gospel as the account of the Apostle Peter.)
Perhaps the best explanation is he was focused on the life and ministry of Jesus. As one blog post wrote in defense of its absence (read it in its entirety here: https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/why-doesnt-mark-say-anything-about-jesus-birth/):
- Silence doesn’t mean denial
- Brevity doesn’t mean ignorance
- Absence doesn’t mean it’s not assumed
These are all good points, but what about this opening verse assumes the reality of his birth as Matthew and Luke relate it?
- The message of Mark is the gospel…the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.
Mark uses the same word the angels did in Luke 2:10-11 “10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
What the angels announced the shepherds was fully going to play out in the Gospel of Mark. He wanted his readers to know that over everything he was going to recount and share about the life of Jesus had one purpose: Share the Good News about Jesus!
- The person about whom Mark is writing is JESUS CHRIST
Names stick. Mark doesn’t start another account about another person, but identifies the focus of his message as Jesus Christ. This was the very name given to the baby born in the manger by Joseph:
Matthew 1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” …
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Christ was the “anointed one.” The whole of the Old Testament narrative and prophecy was to bring “the Christ” into the world. God hadn’t forgotten. Mark recognizes God’s faithfulness in the title for Jesus, “the Christ.” Mary knew that God was using her to fulfill his promises to his people as she sang, “
Luke 1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”
- Mark identifies Jesus as the SON OF GOD.
The angel said to Joseph:
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
The angel speaking to Mary said:
Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
While Mark adds no new details to the birth of Jesus, he affirms all that was revealed at the birth of Jesus in his opening words. He assumes the reality, affirms the truth, and then advances the GOOD NEWS God’s Spirit gave to him regarding the events and teaching of Jesus, the one whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.
Mark doesn’t say much, but he packs a ton of truth about Christmas in his opening verse!
Apply: What insight of Mark’s opening verse stands out to you in light of the truth of Christmas?
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for the continuity between all the authors of the Bible. While some you gave details and others you allowed authors to omit, through them all you communicated clearly your plan of love to save all of us from the consequence of our sins!
(Reprinted from December 2021)
Good morning devotion reader…
With Christmas Day in our rear view mirror, I’d like to journey with you through the accounts found (or not found) in the four Gospels that relate different details and perspective on the birth of Jesus. While the image of the baby in a manger is familiar, I invite you to consider the details that are communicated and the importance of them (Also notice what details we assume about the Christmas event that are not found in the Gospels.)
We begin with Matthew.
Matthew is writing to an audience of Jewish people and has as a purpose throughout his Gospel to draw the connection between Jesus and the Old Testament prophesies. Perhaps ironic as Matthew was a tax-collector called to follow Jesus, and yet many of his Jewish people thought him to be a traitor. Yet God’s Spirit inspired him to reach the very Jews that called him a “sinner” with the saving message of the Messiah.
Lineage was important for the Messiah. I invite you to look at chapter 1:1-17 as Matthew begins the book with tracing the lineage of Jesus back to Abraham. The Messiah must be a descendent of Abraham to be authentic. Matthew does the research and checks that box for the reader right at the beginning.
With the lineage of Jesus established, Matthew jumps into the first prophecy: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”) (Isaiah 7:14).
But for this prophecy to be fulfilled, it created questions, confusion, and finally confidence in Joseph. Who wouldn’t wonder what happened if the lady you are engaged to is found to be with child. Assumption is that another man is involved.
So God intervenes to explain to Joseph what was taking place. Mary was not unfaithful. Mary was the human vessel for the Son of God to take on human flesh. The miracle of Isaiah’s prophecy was playing out in real time in Joseph’s life.
Joseph does as the angel of the Lord commanded. He dismissed the idea of divorce and courageously embraced the role of being the earthly father of Jesus.
“And gave him the name Jesus.” We don’t hear a lot about Joseph’s role in Jesus’ life, but following the word of the Lord through the angel he gave Jesus his human name: Jesus. Why? Because Joseph believed he truly would “save his people from their sins.”
Enjoy reflecting on the faithfulness of the Lord spurring the faithfulness of Joseph to be a faithful father to Jesus and husband to Mary:
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Apply: What detail or insight from Matthew’s account enhances your appreciation of the miracle and significance of Jesus’ birth?
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for sending Jesus into the world through the miracle of a virgin birth and under the watchful and faithful care of his earthly father Joseph. AMEN