Dear Friends,

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: ‘This Child
is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign
to be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.
And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’” (Luke 2:34-35) When
little baby Jesus was only eight days old Simeon reminded Mary and us today
the full meaning of Christ’s birth. We surely can’t imagine the
range of emotions Mary must have experienced in bearing the promised Messiah
“a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel”
(Luke 2:32), yet the One whom Isaiah had prophesied to be “stricken by
God, pierced through for our transgressions.’ (Isaiah 53:4-5) Maybe the
full meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy some seven hundred years earlier was
being revealed to Mary as she held her new born baby. “Therefore the Lord
Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth
to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) “He grew up
before Him like a tender shoot. He was despised and forsaken by men, a man of
sorrows and acquainted with grief. Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was
pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities. But
the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render
Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring (spiritual descendants,
you and me). As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant will justify many.” (See
selected verses in Isaiah 53:1-11)

Born to be crucified yet God Himself in the flesh. “Although He was a
Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews
5:8) Before His public ministry, Jesus lived thirty years as a poor carpenter’s
son and, as tradition has it, Joseph, His earthly father, died when Jesus was
a young man or teenager and He had to be the bread-winner for His mother and
siblings. For these thirty “hidden years” Jesus, the Son of God
suffered all the things and more that you and I do by living in a sin-sick world,
a God-rejecting world of people pushing and shoving to get our “rights”,
blaming everyone (including God) but ourselves for our problems. Yet He never
reacted in kind and remained sinless and as God’s lamb “unblemished
and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19) was able to be the pure and perfect sacrifice
that God required. (Exodus 12:3, 5, 21) “Behold the Lamb of God that takes
away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Born to be crucified. Jesus was born in humiliation in a smelly stable, lived
a life of humiliation as a poor carpenter in Nazareth and died a humiliating
death, hanging naked on a bloody cross, mocked and spit upon by man, the very
creatures He created. (John 1:1-5) Even in His public ministry for three brief
years He was constantly criticized and threatened by the religious and political
leaders and forsaken by the crowds and even His best friends, the disciples.
He gave His life all for the glory of God and the eternal redemption of mankind,
for you and me and for all who will put their trust in Jesus, The Lamb of God.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

It seems we have missed the full meaning of Christmas. We certainly need to
celebrate the coming of our Lord gratefully singing “Joy to the world
the Lord has come” for His first coming and giving up everything for us.
But He came not just to save us from hell but to set us free from self, and
the devil and the world system, which ignores His claim as Lord of their life.
He came to indwell us by the Holy Spirit and to live His self-giving life through
us. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew
4:17) Repent from trusting in our own goodness to earn His salvation and repent
from putting our hopes in this world, grabbing for all the gusto we can. He
calls us to take up our unique cross of sacrificial service to others exchanging
our natural life for His supernatural life as we eagerly anticipate His second
coming and the eternal blessings for obedience. “If anyone would come
after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever
wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will
find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits
his soul? (Note: God ascribes absolutely no value to temporal gain. He calls
it wood, hay and straw – 1 Corinthians 3:12). Or what can a man give in
exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s
glory with His angels (His second coming) and then He will reward each
person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:24-27)

Born to be crucified for you, for me. How can we not lay down our lives for
Him in return? He asks us to, no, actually, He commands us to do that. “My
command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one
than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15: 12-13)

Let’s give the Lord Jesus a gift this Christmas. Let’s give Him
our life for keeps. Let’s obey His commands to love and serve and lay
down our life. Let’s live a sacrificial life for Him by serving those
around us to the glory of His Name. James, the Lord’s half- brother and
church leader, models the humility of His Lord in the introduction of his epistle
placing all his identity in his role as a servant. “James, a servant of
God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 1:1) Lord Jesus, help us to
say and be the same, servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone
round about them, and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ
the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling
clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising
God and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men
–Luke 2:8-14

Wishing you and all your loved ones, a blessed Christmas.

For the glory of Jesus,

Len and Kristen

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