Monday, December 19, 2016

Gifts of Christmas JOY

How do traditions get started?

Cut end off the ham to cook.

Typically we enjoyed an event or an experience and want to duplicate it. We were inspired or had an awe-moment and found something significant about it. We wanted to commemorate it and recapture the moment. Thus creating a tradition.

Sometimes, when it comes to things we  believe, often much is tied to traditions—Why? Because when the Bible is silent people tend to make up stuff. Then that made up stuff becomes traditions that take on a life of their own.

Even many of the things we believe about the Christmas story are based on tradition.
Why do we have Christmas trees in our houses?
            Why do we hang lights?                      
            Why do we exchange gifts?
            Why do we drink wassail?

The nativity scene is a blending of history and tradition. We have the characters in the story but all of them being there at the same time isn’t quite Biblical since the Magi came about two years later.

Also the design of the stable.

We know Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but no one, at the time of His birth, made note of the place or the day. Why would they? It was just another little Jewish boy being born. But tradition needed something to commemorate. A place was designated 150 years later and a date was chosen some 200 years after that.

But there is a much more realistic and Biblical story that gives better understanding.

What if…
·         Bethlehem was overcrowded since all the world was going to their hometowns to be taxed?
·         On the way into town someone told Joseph there were no rooms available?
·         Mary said: Joseph the baby is coming?
·         And along the road was a building called the tower of the flock where shepherds stood watch from the upper level and the lower level was a birthing stable for sacrificial lambs?
·         Within that lower level, specially designated shepherds gave specific care to the new lambs to keep them unblemished by wrapping them in swaddling cloths and laying them in a manger?
·         It was the job of those shepherds to certify lambs acceptable for Temple sacrifice?
·         Mary and Joseph went into that lower birthing area and had baby Jesus in a stall then wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger?
·         When the angels told the shepherds what to look for they knew exactly where to go to find Him?
·         Jesus, as the lamb of God, was to be born in a stable where other sacrificial lambs were born and certified by the same shepherds who certified they were acceptable for Temple sacrifice?

Migdal Eder— the “tower of the flock”—was first mentioned in Genesis 35. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. (vv. 19–21).

About a thousand years after Rachel’s death the prophet Micah told us where the Messiah would be born. (Mic. 5:2), But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity."

But Micah also told us where God would establish the return of His kingdom. And as for you, tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you it will come—even the former dominion will come, the kingdom of the child of Jerusalem. (Mic. 4:8).

The tower of the flock was an agricultural fort where the shepherds would watch over their flock from the second story and where the newborn lambs were birthed in the lower portion.

In a collection of Jewish teachings known as the Mishnah, the flocks kept at Migdal Eder were destined for temple sacrifice. Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem. The shepherds keeping watch over these sheep knew the purpose for the lambs under their care. And their job was to keep the animals unblemished and uninjured, to make sure they were a perfect sacrifice for God.

Now set our story in right here: Luke 2:1-20

These weren’t ordinary, everyday, run of the mill shepherds. They were designated shepherds, made special by their selection by the High Priest to certify lambs acceptable for sacrifice.

The same wrappings that protected the lambs from injury were now used to wrap the Lamb of God. The same shepherds that designated a lamb certified for sacrifice declared Jesus was the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.

It is another glimpse God gave of why Jesus came. He came to die. And by God’s timing, He would die during Passover as the perfect sacrifice for all mankind.

What if Mary called Jesus her little lamb from God?

John the Baptizer said: Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. (Jn 1:29)

Peter said our salvation was brought about by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (1 Pet 1:19)

Paul said, Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Cor 5:7)

Where does joy come in?

And Jahaziel said, "Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face this enemy, for the LORD is with you…Every man of Judah and Jerusalem returned with Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. (2 Chron 20:15, 17, 27)

Where does joy come from? From realizing God has shown up.
·         Joy to announce
·         Joy to hear
·         Joy to see
·         Joy to know
·         Joy to believe

And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Pet 1:8)

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (Jn 15:11)

Yet some still sit around like this:

1.       Joy is an abiding confidence that God has shown up.
2.      When we acknowledge He is here, we rediscover the joy.
3.      If you lack joy, you lack that sense of His presence.

4.      Believe and you will know He is there.

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