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. Luke 2:8-9
Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright, Round yon virgin mother and child! Holy Infant so tender and mild, Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.
Think of the difference between Christmas Eve in 5-6 B.C. and Christmas Eve today. Then, there were no horns honking, no sirens wailing, no neon lights glaring, no videos streaming, no music blaring … it was a silent, holy night. It might have been noisier in Jerusalem, just eight miles from Bethlehem, but in Bethlehem, all was calm—and all became bright as the radiance of God’s incarnation was made known to a young couple. The quietness and peace of that birth reflects the peace that God offers to those who trust in Him: We pray and His peace guards our heart and mind in Christ (Philippians 4:6-7).
Don’t let the “loudness” of the Christmas season overwhelm your quiet times with God. Live and sleep during this season in “heavenly peace.”
Luke 2:8-20, The Shepherd’s Watch
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
In my state in the US, the winters can be brutal, with sub-zero temperatures and never-ending snow. One bitterly cold day, as I shoveled snow for what seemed like the thousandth time, our postman paused in his rounds to ask how I was doing. I told him that I disliked winter and was weary of all the heavy snow. I then commented that his job must be pretty rough during these extreme weather conditions. He responded, “Yeah, but at least I have a job. A lot of people don’t. I’m thankful to be working.”
I have to admit that I felt quite convicted by his attitude of gratitude. How easily we can lose sight of everything we have to be thankful for when the circumstances of life become unpleasant.
Paul told the followers of Christ at Colossae, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). He wrote to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Even in our times of genuine struggle and pain, we can know God’s peace and permit it to rule our hearts. And in that peace, we’ll find reminders of all that we’ve been given in Christ. In that, we can truly be thankful.
Reflect & Pray
What do you need to stop complaining about? What do you have to thank God for today?
God, how often I complain about things that are mere inconveniences. Help me never to lose sight of Your goodness. Give me a heart full of gratitude.
Serving God is not optional. People come up with all manner of excuses: too old, too young, too busy, too tired, too sick—and the list goes on. Yet every reason is rendered void by the facts of Scripture, which says that believers are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
Service isn’t dependent upon health, age, or experience. I know bedridden men and women who dedicate their day to intercessory prayer. And I’ve met saints who have never attended seminary and yet make a point of discipling new believers. The difference between these folks and those who make excuses is attitude. If we see ourselves as servants, we will be God-focused and dependent upon the Holy Spirit. But if we’re busy worrying over how, when, and at what cost we are working for the Lord, then we are self-centered and, frankly, of little use to Him.
Someday we will stand before God, and He will require an accounting of how we used the talents and spiritual gifts we were given. What can we say to Him that will justify ignoring the opportunities He gave us to use those gifts? No excuse will hold up. Complete surrender to God’s will is the key to pleasing Him.
The Lord gives us talents and abilities for a purpose, and He will equip us for greater service to His kingdom. When we serve Him wholeheartedly, we can look forward to hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21 NIV).
“Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:12)
Exactly how can we “hasten unto the coming of the day of God”? The answer is by bringing its coming closer. In fact, the phrase can just as well be understood as “hastening the coming.”
Although the Scriptures give us many signs to know when Christ’s return is near, Jesus said that no one could determine the exact time—not even He Himself! “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). In His self-limited human nature, He did not know because, apparently, it depended in some way on what His disciples would do to “hasten his coming” after He went back to heaven.
When He left them, He said: “Ye shall be witnesses unto me . . . unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This was a command, but it was also a prophecy: “Ye shall be witnesses” to the very last tribe on earth. In His Olivet discourse, He had said: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). Sometime, somehow, every tribe will be reached, because John, in his vision, saw a great multitude “of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” in heaven (Revelation 7:9).
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise” to return, but He does desire “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and we should “account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:15). No one but the Father knows just when the last convert from the last tribe will be won, but if we “love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8), we can “hasten his coming” by doing all we can to get the gospel to the ends of the earth. HMM
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
The labor of self-love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set yourself up as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who will delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will become intolerable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.
Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort. POG105-106
Lord, give me this peace, this rest, this meek and humble spirit. Deliver me from concern for the esteem of this world. Give me victory over every trace of self-love. Amen.
Lord, Thou wilt ordain peace for us: for Thou hast also wrought all our works for us.—Isaiah 26:12 (R. V.).
With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell the manna down.
John G. Whittier.
Pray to be calm and quiet and hushed, and that He will vouchsafe you the sense of His blessed Presence; that you may do all things beneath His eye, to sit with Mary calmly at His feet and hear His voice, and then calmly rise and minister to Him.
Edward B. Pusey.
Try so to live in the light of God’s love that it becomes a second nature to you, tolerate nothing adverse to it, be continually striving to please Him in all things, take all that He sends patiently; resolve firmly never to commit the smallest deliberate fault, and if, unhappily you are overtaken by any sin, humble yourself, and rise up speedily. You will not be always thinking of God consciously, but all your thoughts will be ruled by Him, His Presence will check useless or evil thoughts, and your heart will be perpetually fixed on Him, ready to do His holy will.
Jean Nicolas Grou.
“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.” John 12:26
The highest service is imitation. If I would be Christ’s servant I must be His follower. To do as Jesus did is the surest way of bringing honor to His name. Let me mind this every day.
If I imitate Jesus I shall have His company: if I am like Him I shall be with Him. In due time He will take me up to dwell with Him above, if, meanwhile, I have striven to follow Him here below. After His suffering our Lord came to His throne, and even so, after we have suffered a while with Him here below, we also shall arrive in glory. The issue of our Lord’s life shall be the issue of ours: if we are with Him in His humiliation we shall be with Him in His glory. Come, my soul, pluck up courage, and put down thy feet in the blood-marked footprints which thy Lord has left thee.
Let me not fail to note that the Father will honor those who follow His Son. If He sees me true to Jesus He will put marks of favor and honor upon me for His Son’s sake. No honor can be like this. Princes and emperors bestow the mere shadows of honor; the substance of glory comes from the Father. Wherefore, my soul, cling thou to thy Lord Jesus more closely than ever.