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Stars of Christmas- Part Four

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Merry Christmas week! I know there’s lots of you excited and busy for Christmas prep for the weekend but there are some of you barely getting through the days. Whatever is happening, wherever you are, the Messiah came for you. Whatever else might happen as part of your celebrations this week, the best thing you can do is spend quality time with God. This devotional is part of a greater 25 day series but you can jump in today and still encounter God through his Word in special ways this week using these meditations. Draw near to your Messiah. Let him give you comfort and joy. Here’s a sampling of this weeks intro and December 20’s meditation. The entire document is available on the website under “Bible Studies and Devotionals.”

Stars of Christmas Part Four

Introduction to December 20-25

This week, our meditations shift from prophecies about Messiah’s birth to six that are fulfilled during his ministry years. Consider again, the culture and status of Israel during Jesus’ earthly years. God chose the Hebrews, out of all other peoples, to be special, to be a dominant force of goodness in the world. Their kingdom should have continued as it was in the glory days of kings David and Solomon.

In those days, Israel’s enemies feared and respected them. The nation overall, experienced wealth and peace. Most of you are familiar with what happens next, disobedience, turning to false gods and treating God lightly, not with reverential awe. The result was conquest and captivity for Israel.  To this day, they have not returned to their position of influence, wealth, and power as in David and Solomon’s day.

During Jesus’ lifetime, Israel languished inside the Roman empire. The brutality of the ancient Romans is legendary in world history. Jewish kings and religious leaders were given just enough authority to keep the Israelites under control and subservient to the empire.  They functioned as figureheads, puppets.

Israel waited for their Messiah to come and restore them to their former glory, breaking the yoke of their latest conqueror. Rome taxed the Jews heavily and ruled them according to Roman law with harsh consequences like floggings, crucifixions, and such for those deemed as lawbreakers. After so many centuries with no Messiah appearing, I believe a national weariness settled on God’s chosen nation.

For those who recognized and believed in Messiah, his ministry years were filled with wonder and joy. He did not deliver his followers from an oppressive government, but he taught them how to live with power and joy within it. Those who rejected him missed it all. Their Deliverer offered them something better than an earthly kingdom, but they chose unbelief instead and false religion instead.

God still lives among his people, in the form of Holy Spirit. He is always at work in our lives on behalf of the Father. Like the Israelites, God does not deliver us from every trial but gives us tools and weapons to live victorious and joy-filled in our fallen world.

This week’s prophecies will encourage you to consider some of the key features of Christ’s ministry that made him so unique from all the other Jewish religious leaders and caused so many to choose to follow him.

This last week before Christmas can be filled with wonder and joy for you too, or you can choose cynicism and sadness, generated from your difficult circumstances.  You might be facing some truly awful challenges right now, and I don’t minimize that. Neither does Jesus.  He sees and he cares. His heart is filled with compassion for you just as it was for his people as he looked out over Jerusalem and considered their plight.

Messiah is with you in your circumstances, whatever they may be. He comes with life, light, hope and healing. Don’t miss what he might be trying to do in your life this season because it isn’t what you imagined. He wants to do beyond what you can imagine.

December 20 Devotional

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows] and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faceshe was despised, and we esteemed him not,” Isaiah 53:3.

Prophecy: Messiah would be rejected by his own people

Fulfillment: John 1:11, John 7:5

There are few people who know us better than the people we grew up around, usually family. My brothers could give you the dish about me, but they won’t. They are men of honor. If not, they’d tell you that in Junior High, I rolled my skirts up on the school bus every day, as soon as I was out of my parents view or that I turned my hair orange using bleach, not a new shampoo like the story I told mom.

They might share their memories of family meals I ruined, arguing with my parents about curfews and pierced ears or when I pretended to take notes in church but instead, swapped news with friends. They could tell you this and much worse, like the times my youngest brother locked himself in the bathroom because he feared my temper. They won’t because they are men of honor.

Jesus was a perfect older brother leading a sinless life from beginning to end. That means he didn’t lie to or argue with his parents. He never punched his siblings out of rage, nor did he fob his household chores onto them. Scripture tells us he was tempted in all things, but he never fell into sin. So, what was it like for his brothers and sisters to grow up with a flawless older brother?

We can only imagine life in the Joseph household during the early years. What we do know, is that when Jesus began his ministry, he faced tremendous rejection from his own people, the Jews. Worse yet, his own siblings turned on him and said he was crazy. (Mark 3:21) The irony is that his family didn’t even have any juicy gossip about Jesus’ childhood and teen years to dish out. They simply refused to accept his identity. They dishonored their own brother, but worse than that, they dishonored their Messiah.

Do you think your Messiah understands rejection you endure in this life? I think so. Some of you know the pain of being rebuffed by family members. Sometimes unsaved or backslidden relatives can create friction during Christmas get togethers and events. Their mocking attitudes and dysfunctional lifestyles can be hard to bear.

Perhaps you are the only Christian in your workplace and the environment is rife with foul language and crude jokes, deliberately aimed at you.  Is it your neighbors who think you’re weird because you won’t gossip or drink with them? Wherever you’ve faced rejection, particularly because of your faith, this melancholy star reminds us that Jesus understands intimately. His sorrows cut him deeply, and his grief load would crush any normal human.

Our Messiah was despised. Despised. A strong word that means “to feel contempt or deep repugnance.” Instead of supporting him and shielding him from the death threats of the Pharisees, the Jews offered Jesus up to Pilate for crucifixion. There is no rejection that can ever happen in your life that our Jesus does not understand.

Messiah came knowing he would face hatred and rejection so fierce, it placed him on a cross. Just as God used the cross as a transformational tool in human history, so too he can use your moments of rejection and defeat to start something entirely new, in your family, your workplace or your neighborhood. He is acquainted with your sorrows and grief. He can change ashes into beauty.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for taking on all the rejection of this life, for my sake. Thank you for drawing near when others turn away.

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