Mar 18, 2011
This was made for a church and was upload.
Mar 18, 2011
This was made for a church and was upload.
Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. —Hebrews 9:11
The conductor stood on the podium, his eyes scanning the choir and orchestra. The singers arranged the music in their folders, found a comfortable position for standing, and held the folder where they could see the conductor just over the top. Orchestra members positioned their music on the stand, found a comfortable position in their seats, and then sat still. The conductor waited and watched until everyone was ready. Then, with a downbeat of his baton, the sounds of Handel’s “Overture to Messiah” filled the cathedral.
With the sound swirling around me, I felt I was immersed in Christmas—when God, at just the right moment, signaled the downbeat and set in motion an overture that started with the birth of the Messiah, the “High Priest of the good things to come” (Heb. 9:11).
Every Christmas, as we celebrate Christ’s first coming with glorious music, I’m reminded that God’s people, like choir and orchestra members, are getting ready for the next downbeat of the conductor when Christ will come again. On that day, we will participate with Him in the final movement of God’s symphony of redemption—making all things new (Rev. 21:5). In anticipation, we need to keep our eyes on the conductor and make sure we are ready. By Julie Ackerman Link
Sound the soul-inspiring anthem,
Angel hosts, your harps attune;
Earth’s long night is almost over,
Christ is coming—coming soon! —Macomber
The advent of Christ celebrates His birth and anticipates His return.
A family’s love for the child in the manger spurs a spiritual journey
The Chicago Tribune newsroom was eerily quiet on the day before Christmas. As I sat at my desk, my mind kept wandering back to a family I had encountered a month earlier while I was working on a series of articles about Chicago’s poorest people.
The Delgados – sixty-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny – had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement and were now living in a tiny two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn’t believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls – only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. They were virtually devoid of possessions.
In fact, eleven-year-old Lydia and thirteen-year-old Jenny owned only one short-sleeved dress each, plus one thin sweater between them. When they walked the half-mile to school through the biting cold, Lydia would wear the sweater for part of the distance and then hand it to her shivering sister, who would wear it the rest of the way.
But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced he had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace. Although I was an atheist at the time, she had my complete attention.
I wrote an article about the Delgados, and then I quickly moved on to other assignments. But as I sat at my desk on Christmas Eve, I continued to wrestle with this irony: here was a family that had nothing but faith and yet seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially but lacked faith – and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment.
I walked over to the city desk to sign out a car. I decided to drive over to West Homer Street and see how the Delgados were doing.
What Jesus Would Do
When Jenny opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tribune readers had responded to my article by showering the Delgados with a treasure trove of gifts – roomfuls of furniture, appliances, and rugs; a lavish Christmas tree with piles of wrapped presents underneath; carton upon bulging carton of food; and a dazzling selection of clothing, including dozens of warm winter coats, scarves, and gloves. On top of that, they donated thousands of dollars in cash.
But as surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: “Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.”
That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me.
“This is wonderful; this is very good,” she said, gesturing toward the largess. “We did nothing to deserve this – it’s a gift from God. But,” she added, “it is not his greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.”
To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything – more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus – because, in a sense, I saw him in Perfecta and her granddaughters.
They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material – and something made me long for what they had. Or, more accurately, for the One they knew.
I was pondering this as I drove back toward Tribune Tower. Suddenly, though, my thoughts were interrupted by the crackle of the car’s two-way radio. It was my boss, sending me out on another assignment. Jarred back to reality, I let the emotions I felt in the Delgado apartment dissipate. And that, I figured at the time, was probably a good thing.
As I would caution myself whenever the Delgados would come to mind from time to time over the ensuing years, I’m not the sort of person who’s driven by feelings. As a journalist, I was far more interested in facts, evidence, data and concrete reality. Virgins don’t get pregnant; there is no God who became a baby; and Christmas is little more than an annual orgy of consumption driven by the greed of corporate America. Or so I thought.
Embarking on an Investigation
As a youngster, I listened with rapt fascination to the annual Bible story about Christmas. But as I matured, skepticism set in. I concluded that not only is Santa Claus merely a feel-good fable, but that the entire Christmas tale was itself built on a flimsy foundation of wishful thinking.
Sure, believing in Jesus could provide solace to sincere but simple folks like the Delgados; yes, it could spark feelings of hope and faith for people who prefer fantasy over reality. But as a law-trained newspaperman, I dealt in the currency of facts – and I was convinced they supported my atheism rather than Christianity.
All of that changed several years later, however, when I took a cue from one of the most famous Bible passages about Christmas. The story describes how an angel announced to a ragtag group of sheepherders that “a Savior who is Messiah and Master” had been born in David’s town. Was this a hoax? A hallucination? Or could it actually be the pivotal event of human history – the incarnation of the Living God?
The sheepherders were determined to get to the bottom of the matter. Like first-century investigative reporters being dispatched to the scene of an earth-shattering story, they declared: “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can, and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, to personally check out the evidence for themselves. (See Luke 2:8-18)
Essentially, that’s what I did for a living as a Tribune reporter: investigate claims to see if they’re true, separate rumors from reality, and determine facts from fiction. So prompted by my agnostic wife’s conversion to Christianity, and still intrigued by memories of the Delgados, I decided to get to the bottom of what I now consider to be the most crucial issue of history: who was in the manger on that first Christmas morning?
Can we really trust the biographies of Jesus to tell us the true story of his birth, life, teachings, miracles, death, and ultimate resurrection from the dead? Did the Christmas child ultimately embody the attributes of God? And did the baby in Bethlehem miraculously match the prophetic “fingerprint” of the long-awaited Messiah?
I ended up spending nearly two years investigating the identity of the Christmas child; you can read what I discovered in my book The Case for Christmas. At the conclusion, I found the evidence to be clear and compelling.
Yes, Christmas is a holiday overlaid with all sorts of fanciful beliefs, from flying reindeer to Santa Claus sliding down chimneys. But I became convinced that if you drill to its core, Christmas is based on a historical reality – the Incarnation: God becoming man, spirit taking on flesh, the infinite entering the finite, the eternal becoming time-bound. It’s a mystery backed up by facts that I now believed were simply too strong to ignore.
I had come to the point where I was ready for the Christmas gift that Perfecta Delgado had told me about years earlier: the Christ child, whose love and grace is offered freely to everyone who receives him in repentance and faith. Even someone like me.
So I talked with God in a heartfelt and unedited prayer, admitting and turning from my wrongdoing, and receiving his offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus. I told him that with his help I wanted to follow him and his ways from here on out.
There was no choir of heavenly angels or lightning bolts. I know that some people feel a rush of emotion at such a moment; as for me, there was something else that was equally exhilarating: there was the rush of reason.
Over time, however, there has been so much more. As I have endeavored to follow Jesus’ teachings and open myself to his transforming power, my priorities, values, character, worldview, attitudes, and relationships have been changing – for the better. It has been a humbling affirmation of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
And now, what about you? Perhaps, like the first-century sheepherders, your next step should be to further investigate the evidence for yourself. If any of my books can be helpful, great. But I hope you’ll promise yourself at the outset that when the facts are in, you’ll reach your own verdict in the case for Christmas.
Or maybe you’re more like the magi. Through a series of circumstances, you’ve maneuvered your way through the hoopla, glitter, and distractions of the holiday season, and now you’ve finally come into the presence of the baby who was born to change your life and rewrite your eternal destination.
Go ahead, talk to him. Offer your worship and your life. And let him give you what Perfecta Delgado called the greatest gift of all – Himself.
by Lee Strobel
“Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.” (Zechariah 6:11-12)
The instructions to Zechariah focus on setting up model leaders for Judah. Joshua is crowned High Priest, and crowns of authority are issued to others who had returned with Ezra and Zerubbabel (Zechariah 6:14). These were all to be a memorial toward the future coming of the BRANCH who would come and complete the work of God (Zechariah 6:12-15).
The role of the BRANCH is told to Zechariah earlier in the fourth vision among the myrtle trees. He would be the servant who would do the Lord’s will as the Branch of righteousness who was the “stone” with “seven eyes” (Zechariah 3:8-9).
The promise of ultimate rule is clear in Scripture (Isaiah 9:7 and Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16). The impact of this prophecy in Zechariah extends to the Millennium and even into eternity. “And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you” (Zechariah 6:15).
The little band of remnants needed assurance from their Lord. They, like us, need to shift their eyes beyond the moment to the end-game. “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). HMM III
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.—John 14:6.
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.— John 20:29.
THE Way, the Truth, the Life Thou art,
This, this I know, to this I cleave,
The sweet new language of my heart,
“Lord, I believe.”
I have no doubts to bring to Thee,
My doubt has fled, my faith is free.
HARRIET MCEWEN KIMBALL.
WE have been placed upon the Way. We have been taught the Truth. We have been made partakers of the Life. The Way must be traversed; the Truth must be pursued; the Life must be realized. Then cometh the end. Our pilgrimage, long as it may be or short, if we have walked in Christ, will leave us by the throne of God; our partial knowledge, if we have looked upon all things in Christ, will be lost in open sight; our little lives, perfected, purified, harmonized in Him whom we have trusted, will become, in due order, parts of the One Divine Life, when God is all in all. BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT.
Love is the life of faith, obedience, the life of love. Yea, rather, Christ Himself is the life of the soul. EDWARD B. PUSEY.
Master, carest thou not that we perish? Mark 4:38
The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. — While the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease.
The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. — God heard the voice of the lad: and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, what shall we drink? for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. — Trust … in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.
Psalm 145:9. Genesis 9:3. Genesis 8:22. Nahum 1:7. Genesis 21:17,19. Matthew 6:31,32. 1 Timothy 6:17.
The days of thy mourning shall be ended. Isaiah 60:20
In the world ye shall have tribulation. — The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. — We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.
John 16:33. Romans 8:22,23. 2 Corinthians 5:4. Revelation 7:14-17.