Mary Melodies (Three Wise Women)

Did you know that the three wise men associated with the birth of Christ are portrayed in some of the southern United States as firemen?

It’s because when the Bible describes their journey it says, “they came from a far.”

It’s not the worst misrepresentation about the wise men.  Most of what we think we know about them comes from tradition and not from the Bible.

We are pursuing a three week study that suggests three wise women had more to do with the first Christmas than the famous three wise men.  They are Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.

Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias.  Barren into her old age, God granted her a child.  She would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.  In the sixth month of her pregnancy, Mary the mother of Jesus visited Elizabeth and was greatly encouraged by her relative in her own virgin pregnancy.

Mary, of course, is the woman at the heart of the story.  It would be more accurate to say she was the young girl – probably no more than fifteen or sixteen years of age.

The third woman is Anna.  A widow who had dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the Temple at Jerusalem,she gave witness to the baby Jesus when He was presented for circumcision eight days after His birth.

These three wise women can teach us many things.

Last week, Elizabeth taught us that it is wise to wait.

Next week, Anna will teach us that it is wise to witness.

Today, Mary will teach us that it is wise to worship.

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth was downright Pentecostal:

Elizabeth is described as “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

She supernaturally received information from God about Mary’s pregnancy.

She then uttered what amounts to a prophecy about Mary’s baby.

Elizabeth’s own baby, himself filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, gets to leaping around inside of his mom.

Mary broke out into a spontaneous spiritual song of worship filled with future prophecy.

The meeting of these two moms is a unique moment in Christian history.  There had never been anything quite like it, nor would there ever be again.  One was carrying the forerunner, John the Baptist, who would introduce the other, Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.

It can also be seen as a meeting of two simple, ordinary believers – two sisters in the Lord – who wished to encourage one another in their worship of God.

On that level we can enter into the meeting ourselves and find application to our own lives.

What can we learn about worship from observing Mary’s worship?  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 The Spirit Of God Orchestrates Your Worship, and #2 The Word Of God Anchors Your Worship.

#1    The Spirit Of God
    Orchestrates Your Worship
    (v39-45)

God the Holy Spirit plays the leading role in these verses.  It serves as a reminder to us that we should follow His leading if we want to think we are worshipping God.

Luke 1:39  Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,

The angel Gabriel had told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, had conceived in her old age.  The angel evidently meant it to encourage Mary to visit Elizabeth.

She did so “with haste.”  We would say she was in a hurry to get there.  It is a mark of any good servant that they be in a hurry to set out on their assignment.  There must be a zeal, an eagerness, in serving the Lord.

I want to re-emphasize Mary’s young age.  There are quite a few kids and teenagers in the Bible that distinguished themselves:

Daniel and his three friends were teenagers when taken captive into Babylon; yet they served the Lord faithfully.
Jeremiah was quite young when God called him to be His prophet (Jeremiah 1:13).
Samuel, Israel’s first prophet, was a very young boy when his ministry began.

We should expect more – spiritually speaking – from our kids.  God can use them; He is speaking to them; they can take their stand with God against sin and selfishness, and against the surrounding culture.  Too often we sell kids short in terms of their spirituality.

Luke 1:40  [Mary] entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
Luke 1:41  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Leaped” is a word used to describe the jumping of certain animals.  It was a pretty intense movement.  John the Baptist was unborn, about three months from delivery… But he was praising God in his mother’s womb.

Leaping was all that John could do in the closed environment of his mother’s womb to express praise for God.  You may find yourself in a closed or compact environment where there seems little you can do to express praise for God; trapped, as it were.

For example: Some employers discourage you from sharing your faith.  Or maybe you are married to an unbeliever who is against your faith.  Or maybe you are a young person, the only believer in your household.

Let God show you how you can leap within your confined space.

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”  She did not leap; she spoke Spirit-anointed words.

Luke 1:42  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
Luke 1:43  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Luke 1:44  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

The first thing to realize is that Elizabeth had no idea Mary was even pregnant; but as soon as Mary arrived, the Holy Spirit must have told Elizabeth that her cousin was with child, and that the child was the promised Messiah.

The Bible calls this a Word of Knowledge.  It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described later in the New Testament.  It is knowledge of a person or situation that is not learned but is given to you directly by God.

Notice how the Word of Knowledge operates.  It is given to Elizabeth and we call it her gift; but it is really for the benefit of Mary.

Young Mary, still trying to put into perspective the trial of her pregnancy and what it would mean for her socially, would have been greatly encouraged that God had supernaturally told Elizabeth of her situation.

I’m frequently asked, “How can I discover my spiritual gift?”  Well, of course, it would be good to become familiar with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are definitely listed out for us in the Bible.  You’ll find lists in First Corinthians chapter twelve, Romans chapter twelve, and Ephesians chapter four.

More importantly, be around others – especially other believers.  Be open to being used by the Holy Spirit to minister to others.  Follow through with what He puts on your heart.  Don’t concentrate on exercising a gift so much as just showing love – the love of God – as you are prompted.  Believe God the Holy Spirit can lead you and then follow His leading.

I don’t mean it to sound mystical, but it is, after all, relational.  Spiritual gifts can’t be figured-out on paper.  They happen as you interact with others.

Elizabeth was also very obviously pregnant, in her sixth month.  She spoke of the baby in her womb.  All of this further confirmed everything Gabriel had told Mary.  All of this would have greatly encouraged the young virgin.

Then Elizabeth said,

Luke 1:45  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

This is a prophecy for Mary – a prophetic promise that everything God had told her would come to fulfillment.

Elizabeth has now twice used the word “blessed.”  As a result, many refer to Mary as “the blessed virgin.”  That’s OK, depending upon what you mean by it.

Jesus, you’ll remember, called all believers “blessed” when in the Sermon on the Mount He spoke the beatitudes.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, “blessed are the meek,” etc., etc.

Mary is no more and no less “blessed” than any other believer in Jesus Christ.

A baby leapt in his mother’s womb.  A woman was filled with the Spirit to utter a prophecy and she subsequently received a Word of Knowledge.  In a moment we will see Mary sing a spontaneous song filled with future prophecy.

The Holy Spirit orchestrated all of it.  The meeting between these two sisters in Christ went according to His plan and the result was worship.

Our second point will emphasize the absolute priority of God’s Word.  It’s not worship – no matter how we might feel or what might occur – if it is in any way contrary to God’s Word.

Having said that, worship is, and is meant to be, an experience with God.  There’s nothing wrong with feelings, with experiences, that are within the guidelines and boundaries set by the Word.

Quite frankly, we need more of the kinds of meetings that Elizabeth and Mary enjoyed – orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.  Whether they be one-on-one or congregational, we need more times when the Holy Spirit is working among us to encourage us.

#2    The Word Of God
    Anchors Your Worship
(v46-56)

As the story turns to Mary, take a quick glance back at verse thirty-nine.  Mary’s journey to the “hill country,” to “a city of Judah,” was about an eighty mile, four-day trip.  I want to suggest to you that as she traveled, she spoke to herself.

Look at verse forty-six:

Luke 1:46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,

When Mary said “my soul,” she used a phrase from the psalms.  Often a psalmist would describe meditating upon God’s Word as if he was speaking to his own soul – speaking to himself.  Let me give you just two of many possible instances:

Psalm 42:5  Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

Psalm 146:1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!

The psalmist spoke to his own soul, telling himself to hope in God and to praise Him.  He discovered truths about God in the Word and then he spoke about them to himself.

Mary used the phrase, “my soul,” in this same way.  While traveling, she spoke to herself.  She spoke to herself meditating upon God’s Word.

Do you talk to yourself?  The psalmists did!

I know God’s Word was prominent on her four-day journey because, in her song, she made at least fifteen references to Old Testament passages.

You understand that she did not possess a copy of the Old Testament.  She didn’t have God’s Word for Virgins in her purse.  These fifteen-plus references came to her because she had memorized Scripture.

Scholars point out that her lyrics seem especially reminiscent of Hannah’s song of praise found in First Samuel chapter two.  Hannah was a barren woman who promised God she would dedicate a child to the Lord.  God granted her request; she gave birth to Samuel and brought him to serve in the Temple where he grew to be Israel’s first prophet.

It seems as if Mary was drawn to Hannah’s song as an area of Scripture that could minister to her in what she was going through.

I believe God wants to direct our hearts to passages so that we are ministered to by His Word in our circumstances.  It’s OK to seek out a passage; but be sensitive to The Lord bringing one to you as well through other means.  That way you have a greater assurance you’re not simply finding the answer you want to find.

Either way, it is tremendously comforting to have a word from the Word to anchor you.  Once you do, you can be set free from worry to worship.

Mary’s song of worship is grounded upon the Word of God.  It is filled with phrases from the Word.  It is reminiscent of a previous song in Scripture.  It flowed forth from Mary after she had been meditating on the Word.

That’s what I mean when I say the Word anchors your worship.  You can be Spirit-filled AND anchored by God’s Word at the same time.  In fact, you must be if you are to think what you are experiencing really is worship.

Mary’s song is called ‘The Magnificat,’ which is the Latin word translated “magnify” in verse forty-six.

You’ll notice that some of the things she sang about had not yet occurred, but she sang about them in the past tense as if they had already occurred.  Scholars call this the ‘prophetic past-tense,’ meaning it hasn’t happened but it most certainly will because God has prophesied it.

The first few verses are more personal; the rest are prophetic.

Luke 1:46  And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord,
Luke 1:47  And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

The “soul” usually refers to one’s mind and emotions.  The “spirit” speaks of one’s essence – that which will live forever.  The soul relates primarily to people; the spirit relates to God.

Thus, Mary says, “My soul – my mind and emotions – magnify the Lord because my spirit – the deepest part of me – has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Worship is always possible because it depends upon what God has already done rather than what is happening.  We must allow the spirit to control the soul and, thus in turn, the body.

“Magnify” means to enlarge.  You need to enlarge your thinking about God in terms of what He has ultimately promised you; then look upon your life from that vantage point.

For example the apostle Paul thinks of us as seated in heavenly places with Jesus Christ.  If we see all of life from that spiritual vantage point, nothing on earth can overcome our worship.

Luke 1:48  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
Luke 1:49  For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
Luke 1:50  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.

Mary’s service was unique in the history of the world.  Still, she is not to be reverenced, adored, or worshipped.  All of her words show she regarded herself an ordinary sinner saved by grace.

Any thoughts of Mary being the mother of God; or of herself being immaculately conceived such that she was without sin; or of being worshipped; are unscriptural idolatries.  None would be more horrified at the veneration given to her by millions than Mary herself.

Mary needed to be saved; she offered herself as God’s servant; she served by God’s “mighty” power; her empowered service impacted future generations.

All of these same things can be true of your unique service to God:

You need to be saved.

You can offer yourself as God’s servant.

God can give you His “mighty” power – whatever is sufficient to accomplish your specific task.

Your service impacts future generations of Christians – whether in your personal family, or your Church family.

The remaining verses of Mary’s song are prophetic:

Luke 1:51  He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Luke 1:52  He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly.
Luke 1:53  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.
Luke 1:54  He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy,
Luke 1:55  As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”

These things speak of the future as if it were already accomplished.  Whatever God has promised is sure and certain to happen.

These are prophecies of God’s future dealings upon the earth.  They look past the first coming of Jesus to His Second Coming.

Jesus will return to establish the kingdom that is promised all over the pages of the Old Testament.  In that kingdom of Heaven on earth things will be switched-up:

There will be a moral reversal when the “proud” are overthrown.  Instead of morality being determined by the “imagination of their [wicked] hearts,” Jesus will rule with purity.

There will be a social reversal when those unbelievers who are now considered “mighty” are removed in favor of the “lowly” believers.

There will be a material reversal when those who are “rich” with this world’s goods will be “empty,” while those who are now poor and “hungry” will be satisfied.

Verses fifty-four and fifty-five remind you that God will most definitely keep all His promises to the physical descendants of Abraham – to the Jews.  Much of world history, and much in current history, revolves around the Jews and Jerusalem.

Mary finished singing and we read,

Luke 1:56  And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.

God had supplied Mary with His Word; in her case, it was especially the passage in First Samuel about Hannah’s special pregnancy.  She meditated upon the story and then spoke to her soul about it; she encouraged herself from God’s Word.  In her case, she wrote a song.

God has supplied you His Word.  Read it; meditate upon it; let it fill your heart.  As you do you will be speaking to yourself and God will make your heart a place of melody – regardless your outward circumstances.

This Christmas, it is wise to worship Jesus.  May your spirit “rejoice in God [your] Savior.”

The Waiting Gain (Elizabeth)

Do you know what would have happened if it had been Three Wise Women who visited Jesus instead of Three Wise Men?

They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.

The three wise men are fixed in our minds as a Christmas tradition.  They are on our Christmas cards; there have been poems and stories written about them; we sing a song based upon them.  Every manger scene features them prominently, bearing their gifts from afar.

The three wise men are often portrayed as representatives of the three races of man as descended from Noah’s sons – Semitic, Indo-European and African.

In the sixth century a Latin document recorded their names as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, although the source is unknown. Their relics are said to be enshrined at Cologne Cathedral.

As far as the wise men are concerned:

The Bible no where says there were only three wise men.  We suppose there were three because there were three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  It seems somehow poetic to us that each wise man brought a single gift; but it’s all conjecture and not in the biblical text.
We most certainly do not know their names or their race or races, except that they were not Jews.
They weren’t kings; they were magi – pagan religious astrologers like the ones Daniel was among in the Old Testament.
Further, it is clear from reading the Gospels that, however many of them there were, they certainly did not arrive at the birth of Jesus.  They were led by the star to a house when Jesus was a young child anywhere from one to two years of age.

Sorry to be the one to destroy your traditions.

The truth be told, three wise women did have more to do with the first Christmas than the famous three wise men.  They are Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.

Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias.  Barren into her old age, God granted her a child.  She would give birth to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus.  In the sixth month of her pregnancy, Mary the mother of Jesus visited Elizabeth and was greatly encouraged by her relative in her own virgin pregnancy.
Mary, of course, is the woman at the heart of the story.  It would be more accurate to say she was the young girl – probably no more than fifteen or sixteen years of age.
The third woman is Anna.  A widow who had dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the Temple at Jerusalem, she gave witness to the baby Jesus when He was presented for circumcision eight days after His birth.

These three wise women can teach us many things.  I want to look at just three of the things they teach us, over the next three weeks:

Elizabeth will teach us that it is wise to wait.
Mary will teach us that it is wise to worship.
Anna will teach us that it is wise to witness.

Elizabeth waited:

She waited and waited to bear a child, but remained barren, and was well advanced in years and past the usual child-bearing age.
After she conceived, she waited another five months before showing herself pregnant with child.

Do you like to wait?  Probably not!  Not for trivial things; certainly not for more important things.  Still, you often do find yourself waiting.

God waited some five-thousand years before sending Jesus to be born.  He’s waited over two-thousand years since He was born.

Waiting is part of His program.

Waiting can have a positive spiritual impact upon our lives.  We can gain from it, spiritually speaking.

In her long barrenness, Elizabeth had learned to wait for the Lord.  In her pregnancy, she learned to wait with The Lord.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 You Gain From Waiting For The Lord, and #2 You Gain From Waiting With The Lord.

#1    You Gain From Waiting For The Lord

Luk 1:5    There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Luk 1:6    And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Luk 1:7    But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
Luk 1:8    So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division,
Luk 1:9    according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.

“Zacharias” served as a “priest.”  There were in those days about eighteen thousand priests.  They were divided into groups, called “divisions,” to serve on a rotating basis.

All the divisions, all the priests, were present at the Temple during Israel’s three great annual feasts.  Then each division served twice more during the calendar year for one week at a time.

“Elizabeth” was the daughter of a priest.  It was an honor for her husband – a priest married to the daughter of a priest.

To “burn incense [in] the Temple of the Lord” meant going into the holy place, out of sight of the people and just before the veil of the holy of holies behind which God’s presence dwelt among His people.

The priests on duty would draw lots to see who would have the honor of burning the incense.  It was not just a great honor; it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Many priests never drew the lot to burn incense; and, once they did, they could never do it again in their lifetime.

What a momentous opportunity this was for Zacharias!  Elizabeth would be so proud of him.

Think of what they both would have missed if they had let bitterness and self-pity at being childless overrule their serving God.

Be where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing, especially serving God.  You don’t know when a moment might come that could change your life, or someone else’s.
If a moment like that never seems to come, then think like the psalmist who proclaimed, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10).

Inside the holy place, Zacharias had an angel encounter.

Luk 1:10    And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.
Luk 1:11    Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
Luk 1:12    And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
Luk 1:13    But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
Luk 1:14    And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
Luk 1:15    For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
Luk 1:16    And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
Luk 1:17    He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS TO THE CHILDREN,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luk 1:18    And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
Luk 1:19    And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.
Luk 1:20    But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
Luk 1:21    And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple.
Luk 1:22    But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
Luk 1:23    So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

Here is a reminder you might want to write in the margin of your Bible: When angels tell you what is going to happen, don’t ask them any questions.

Gabriel got a little testy.  Zacharias was rendered “mute.”  The word and subsequent story indicate that he was deaf as well.

Before we concentrate on Elizabeth, look at Zacharias.  Zacharias finished-out his service.  He didn’t go out on a disability.  Sure he was mute; but it didn’t really hinder him from completing his duties, so he was faithful to finish them.

Would you say he was hard core?  It’s really just normal.  It’s normal behavior for someone who considers their life a living sacrifice.  They’re not looking for an out, but to stay in and be used by God.

So far we’ve seen that Zacharias and Elizabeth had married well; they had a good career; they were believers serving God faithfully… And they had a severe, lifelong trial.

It’s difficult, for sure, to be barren if you want children, but it’s hard for us to comprehend the reproach of being childless as a couple, and of being barren as a woman, in the Jewish culture of the first century.  It was seen as a judgment from God.

As a young couple, they waited… And waited… And waited to conceive; but never did.  They waited so long that they thought they weren’t waiting any longer – that it was too late in life to know the joy of children.

Suddenly, with the announcement Elizabeth would conceive and bring forth a child, they realized they were still waiting for God to act.

The average person will spend six months of their life waiting at stoplights.  In total, you will spend about five years of your life waiting in lines and for various other things.

Waiting always seems such a waste that we not only have a hard time waiting for God to act; we have a had time believing God is using our waiting to further His purposes.

Elizabeth’s wait was for God to act so that she would conceive at just the exact moment her pregnancy could encourage Mary in her own struggle to understand how she, a virgin, could conceive.

I submit that if Elizabeth had been ordinary, and would have had many babies like the other ladies, her testimony would not have been so remarkable and effective.

So we see that her waiting for God brought both her and Mary great spiritual gain.

What are you waiting for?  What has been withheld from you… Or taken away from you?

Whatever it is, you are waiting for God.  Has He not promised to redeem the things of your life, and make all of them work together for your good?

The fact you cannot see how He will be able to do this does not mean He can’t or won’t.  His promises cannot fail.

#2    You Gain From Waiting With The Lord

Elizabeth conceives:

Luk 1:24   Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months…

I realize, sometimes, gals who have had miscarriages will wait a while before letting others know they are pregnant.  But five months?  That’s unusual.

Why did she hide her pregnancy for five months?  In a verse or two Luke tells us that Gabriel will visit Mary in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy with the astonishing news she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  Gabriel tells Mary that previously barren Elizabeth is with child as a sign to the young virgin that God is indeed working in her life.

Elizabeth commented on her keeping the pregnancy a secret in verse twenty-five when she said,

Luke 1:25   “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
The Lord dealt with her.  We normally use that phrase in a negative way, saying things like, Your father will deal with you when he gets home!

Elizabeth used it in an endearing way.

She realized that all her long years, through the sorrow and in the pain, God had been dealing with her.  They had been days in which He had looked on her.  There was never a moment in which He averted His gaze, or weakened His care.  He had brought her to this one amazing moment that would forever take away her reproach among people, but more importantly, encourage Mary.

It was a Joseph moment.  Not Joseph the husband of Mary, but Joseph the Old Testament patriarch.  Sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph rose to become the second most powerful man in the world next to the Egyptian Pharaoh.  When he finally confronted his brothers he realized that though they meant it for evil, God had redeemed the situation for good.

Trusting that God was dealing with her, Elizabeth realized God had His own timing in her pregnancy and would wait with Him to tell her when to reveal it.

Here’s a thought.  What we see as waiting is really God’s timing.

The entire Christmas story involves God’s timing.  The apostle Paul wrote,

Galatians 4:4  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

“Fulness of the time” means in the perfect moment in human history; it means at the very time set by God the Father.  It means everything was unfolding by God’s providence.

What do I mean by “God’s providence?”  I’ll let Henry Thiessen define it:

“Providence” means that continuous activity of God whereby He makes all the events of the physical, mental, and moral realms work out His purpose, and this purpose is nothing short of the original design of God in creation. To be sure, evil has entered the universe, but it is not allowed to thwart God’s original, benevolent, wise, and holy purpose.

Does God’s providence cancel our freedom?  No, it doesn’t.  In His sovereignty God exercises a providence that is not determinism.

Thiessen went on to say,

God sometimes allows man to do as he pleases; that is, he puts no restraints in the way of man’s carrying out his wicked desires. God sometimes keeps a man from doing what, in his freedom, he would otherwise do.  He uses circumstance, the influence of friends, and inner restraints to accomplish this purpose.

Sometimes he controls sin by allowing it to go so far and no further.  Finally, God always overrules what man does in order to accomplish his own ends.  He makes even the wrath of man to praise him.

God asked Elizabeth to remain hidden for five months for Mary’s sake.  Elizabeth obeyed.  It may have gone against every womanly instinct in her to obey… It may have gone against every desire she had to exonerate their family’s reproach… But she waited with God, and thus revealed herself at the perfect time in the greater story.

When Mary finally came to visit, Elizabeth uttered the first prophetic words of the New Testament.  She realized that her own son, John, would play a vital role in the drama.  She knew that her pregnancy, and John’s birth, could not have come at any other moment.

It may not seem like it to you, but you are part of a greater story.  God wants to use you to minister to others and He has a perfect timing in doing so.

Your sphere of ministry may be somewhat small – only to a few people, like your own family and friends.  It may be a greater sphere – to dozens or hundreds or thousands or more.

Though we put the greater value on the greater numbers, and on outward results, God doesn’t.  The value is in our obedience; in our faithfulness.  God takes our obedience and our faithfulness and multiplies it as He sees fit in a grander scheme.

People wait for all kinds of things.  You see them camped-out for days to take advantage of Black Friday sales; or to be the first to see a blockbuster movie; or for a good seat at the Rose Parade.

We make fun of them, saying we’d never wait for something like that.  But I’d wager that, for most if not all of us, there is something we would wait an extremely long time for – because at the end it was worth the wait.

The ‘end’ God has for you is nothing less than to awake in eternity in the likeness of His Son and your Savior, Jesus Christ.  To reward you and say, “Well done, god and faithful servant.”  To show you around the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, and give you the keys to the home He’s been preparing for you there.

This Christmas, learn to wait for God and with God.

Wait for Him, believing He is working things together for the good.
Wait with Him, having access to His throne of grace and mercy, and to every spiritual resource in heavenly places.

God Would Like To Have The Word With You

Your smartphone probably has a translation app either already installed or freely available.  If not, Google can translate most anything for you.

Matthew was quoting a verse from the Hebrew Bible; Isaiah 7:14 to be exact.  There we are told “the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”  He ‘googles’ “Immanuel” for us so we Gentiles know what it means.

His original audience already knew what it meant.  They were Hebrew.  Why translate something already known?

You translate for people who do not know the language so they can understand.  This promise to Israel, about Immanuel, was not meant only for Israel.  It’s translation makes it available to all people everywhere for all time.  The baby born to the virgin is God with all of us – the entire human race.

God with us means God became a man.  Jesus was born of a woman, having no earthly father.  He wasn’t a man who became God, but God who became man.

Jesus was God dwelling in human flesh – God seeing through human eyes, God hearing through human ears, God speaking through human lips, God working through human hands, God walking through human feet, God living through a human heart.

God with us provided a Savior from sin.  That’s why Jesus was born of a virgin.  He was born without sin.  He lived our life, faced our temptations, and living without sin, He bore our sin, carried our sorrows and died our death.  He did it all that He might become our Savior from sin.

There is obviously a lot of doctrine that builds upon God with us.  Tonight, as a devotional prior to Christmas, I want to look at the practical implications of God with us.  What did it mean, and what does it mean, to have God with us?

God with us in the Gospel of Matthew meant lepers could be cleansed.

Matthew 8:2    And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”
Matthew 8:3    Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

God with us meant a centurion’s paralyzed servant could be made whole from a distance.

Matthew 8:5    Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him,
Matthew 8:6    saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
Matthew 8:7    And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
Matthew 8:8    The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.
Matthew 8:9    For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

God with us brought healing to Peter’s mother-in-law and then to many, many others.

Matthew 8:16    When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,

God with us meant that the wind and the waves were subject to Jesus.

Matthew 8:23    Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
Matthew 8:24    And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
Matthew 8:25    Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
Matthew 8:26    But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
Matthew 8:27    So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

God with us meant two excessively demon possessed men could be exorcised and healed.  And all these things occurred in just one chapter!!

The Gospel of John lets you know as it ends that “… there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).

God with us affected lives in other ways as well.  Ways we sometimes don’t think about.  Joseph was espoused to Mary who was found to be with child during the period of their engagement.  A good man, he meant to end their relationship quietly.  Instead he was called upon to marry her and raise the child.  He was called upon to bear the reproach and shame of what everyone would believe to be his betrothed’s adultery or his own before marriage.

It’s not an easy thing to bear shame when it is deserved, let alone when it is undeserved.

God with us powerfully affected the cousin of Jesus, John the Baptist.  His life became dedicated to announcing the arrival of Immanuel.  It forced him into the desert, into living an ascetic life existing on locusts and honey.  It brought him into confrontation with the most powerful men and women in his region – confrontation that would lead ultimately to his beheading.

Prior to his beheading John was imprisoned and had his doubts even about Jesus, sending to Him to ask if He really was the One they were expecting.

God with us forever changed the lives of twelve men whom Immanuel called to be His closest followers.  They literally gave up everything to follow Him – a man who had nothing in the way of this world’s goods.

One would betray Him but the other eleven remained true.  All but one of them died a martyrs death.  The one who did not, John, was exiled for following Jesus.

The Gospel of Matthew ends by promising God with us after Jesus left the earth.  Commissioning His followers, then and now, He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (28:20).

Does God with us still affect the world as it once did?  Are people healed?  Do winds and waves obey?  Are demons put to flight?

Before we can answer those questions it is best to see how we are being affected.

Joseph was called upon to bear shame for the sake of God with us.  So are we.

Hebrews 13:13    Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.

The imagery of going “outside the camp” comes from the Jewish Day of Atonement.  The sin offering would be taken outside the camp and burned completely.  Jesus, your sin offering, was taken outside of Jerusalem and crucified.

We wear crosses and they are considered beautiful pieces of jewelry.  Crucifixion, however, is not glorious.  It is shameful – and all the more considering Jesus was guiltless, sinless, God with us.

I cannot bear shame without the aid of the grace of God.  The question, though, is, Am I willing to bear shame at all?  Or do I shrink back from the Gospel, and from serving, because I do not want to be mistreated or misunderstood?
Paul the apostle could declare, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

I’m not suggesting we are ashamed of it.  But I do wonder why we keep it so much in the background of our discussions.
Christians try too much to engage nonbelievers in issues by arguments that have little or nothing to do with the Gospel and salvation.  We try to prove our position using research or history or some such thing.

We’re right because God says so.  That may sound ignorant but it’s profound.  If God has clearly spoken then what He said is accurate, correct, the truth – no matter any argument against it.

The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart and only God can discern between the soul and spirit to effect real change.  It’s the Gospel folks need – not a logical argument defending biblical values.  Affect the heart and you change the behavior.

John the Baptist was called to an unusual life of sacrifice and personal denial.  There is no command to celibacy in the New Testament.  We are not called upon to always sell all of our goods to meet the needs of others; or to live communally.  We’re not even commanded to tithe!

No, we’re not commanded because we are now governed by something far more potent than any command.  James called it the law of love.  Because Jesus loved and loves me so much, I return His love by loving others – friend and foe – on His behalf.

What does that look like?  Well, it might look like something beyond what the law required.  For example.  We are not commanded to tithe – to give a minimum of 10% of our pre-tax income to The Lord.  It’s up to us to give regularly, willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially.

But if the law required 10% and love takes me further – doesn’t it make sense I’d be giving more than required under the law?  At least 11%???

I’m not establishing a new law.  It’s a way of thinking about sacrifice that is more genuine but still without condemnation.  If I’m not going beyond the law, how much is it really inspired by love?

The eleven apostles were called upon to leave everything to follow Jesus.  They were needed to carry-on the work He had begun.  After Jesus ascended He sent them, and the other 109 believers gathered in the Upper Room, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Francis Chan has a quote that is worth contemplating.  He said, “I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit.  I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power.  I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through.”

It’s a good desire, is it not?  It’s certainly attainable since Immanuel is God with us until the end of the age.

One final thought.  Holidays can amplify feelings of sadness.  People can be so alone, so lonely, even in the midst of a crowd.  Usually it’s because of some loss – some real loss.  Many a death; maybe a desertion.  Whatever, it hits hard.

God with us ought to be the remedy since He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  If, however, we blame Him for the loss, we are not likely to be in a place to receive His comfort as God with us.

Theologian Gregory Boyd writes,

To finite beings like ourselves, the world is ambiguous in the best of conditions.  When the child we miraculously conceived dies in childbirth, when the cancer we thought had been cured returns, when terrorists kill thousands in a collapsed skyscraper, when we lose all our possessions in a fire, when we fall once again into our destructive addiction or even when we read about God destroying entire people-groups in the Old Testament, it’s easy to let our eyes wander off of Jesus Christ and to begin once again to concoct a god of our own imagining.  In the war zone we presently live in, a world that is still under the influence of Satan, “the god of this world,” things often appear as a raging sea of ambiguity.  We need something – Someone – we can anchor ourselves to.  The anchor God gives us is Jesus Christ.  This alone is what we can trust: God is decisively revealed in Jesus Christ.  If our picture of God is singularly focused on Christ, as it ought to be, we must see God as fighting evil, not willing it.

God is never to blame.  Instead He is with us in our suffering, in our affliction, working all things together for good.

Creche-ing Savior, Hidden Dragon (Revelation 12v1-17)

TITLE: CRECHE-ING SAVIOR, HIDDEN DRAGON
TEXT: REVELATION 12.1-17

Revelation 12:1  Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
Revelation 12:2  Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
Revelation 12:3  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
Revelation 12:4  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
Revelation 12:5  She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

The first Living Nativity was in 1223AD.  Francis of Assisi, Italy, instructed Giovanni Vellita to build, just outside Assisi in the cave at Greccio, a simple little stable.  He furnished it with life-sized Nativity figures.  As midnight approached that Christmas Eve a great procession wound its way out of Assisi and up the hill to Greccio.  The rich, the poor, the old, the young, men and women and children, came candles in hand and journeyed up the hill to this new ‘Bethlehem’ that had been built.  Surrounded by an ox and a donkey and by the people of Assisi playing the parts of the shepherds,  Francis presented the Christmas story.

According to the writings of Bonaventure the townsfolk attending the event fell prostrate with tears of wonderment before this representation of Jesus Christ’s birth.  It became an annual tradition.

The custom spread throughout Italy.  It crossed the Alps to neighboring Bavaria and Austria, and to America with the Moravians, a German-born religious communal society.  In Bethlehem and Lititz, Pennsylvania, these religious pilgrims built such elaborate Nativities that farm families traveled miles from home just to see these outdoor works of art.

Somewhere along the line miniature representations of the Nativity developed.  They go by the name of creche, the French word for crib.  Whether life-sized or miniature, they include the infant Jesus, Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, and miscellaneous barn animals.  Most living nativities or creches also depict the visit of the wise men from the east.

As wonderful and powerful as those figures are, there is another way to represent the Nativity.  In the verses I read from The Revelation of Jesus Christ we encountered a Nativity with some strange figures: a woman clothed with the sun, a fiery red dragon, and a Child with a rod of iron in His hand!

(Because there is a creche and a dragon, if I were giving this message a title it would be “Creche-ing Savior, Hidden Dragon”).

These are the symbols of the Nativity of Jesus Christ seen from the perspective of Heaven through history.  When Heaven looks down, the whole of human history can be understood in these few symbols.

We have just such a fiery red dragon hovering over our Nativity at home.  It was made for us by one of the young men in our church when he was just a child.  I love it!  I’d market it but I doubt it would catch on!

The symbols seem weird but they are not mysterious.  The Bible tells you exactly what they represent:

The “woman” is the nation of Israel, the physical people through whom Jesus Christ would be born into human history.
The “fiery red dragon” is the devil, Satan, in his violent opposition to the coming and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ into human history.
The “Child” is Jesus, in both His first coming as your Savior, and His Second Coming as your Sovereign.

These symbols summarize human history by telling you two things: #1 Jesus Came As Your Savior Despite Satan’s Continual Interference, and #2 Jesus Is Coming As Your Sovereign Despite Satan’s Continuing Interference.

#1    Jesus Came As Your Savior Despite
Satan’s Continual Interference
(v1-5)

The traditional Nativity scene that represents the birth of Jesus doesn’t go back far enough.  God was at work well before the arrival of Joseph and Mary at Bethlehem.  He was at work in eternity and in Eden:

In eternity past God already knew that mankind would need a Savior.  Before the foundation of the earth was laid, it had already been determined in Heaven that God would Himself enter the world as its Savior.
In Eden the reason for God’s plan to send a Savior became clear: Adam and Eve, representing the whole human race that would spring from them, sinned.  Since then, all human beings inherit a sin nature, and all human beings commit individual acts of sin.

God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior into the world to deal with sin.  The Savior would be God Incarnate, God in human flesh, fully God and fully human.  The Savior would be born of a woman.

Not just any woman.  As Bible history unfolds, God established a nation through Abraham to which the Savior would be born.  The nation was Israel.  The Savior of the world would be born to a Jewish woman.

The first two verses of Revelation Twelve describe the “woman” who would give birth to the Savior as,

Revelation 12:1 …a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
Revelation 12:2  Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

People often accuse the Bible, and the Revelation in particular, of being impossible to understand because of its weird symbols that are open to multitudes of interpretations.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

First of all, signs and symbols are intended to clarify, not to confuse.  Traffic signs are largely symbols.  Is it to confuse you?  No, it is to clarify and communicate.
Second of all, the Bible defines its own symbols. This “woman” in Revelation Twelve is defined for you all the way back in the book of Genesis.  In chapter thirty-seven Joseph had a dream.  In his dream the sun, moon, and stars symbolized the nation of Israel.

The “woman” of Revelation Twelve is the nation of Israel, with her twelve tribes, through whom God would send the Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world.

The nation of Israel is at the very heart of God’s dealings with human history.  It is miraculous that the Jews even exist as an identifiable people among the nations of the world.  The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have been scattered throughout the world since the time of Babylon – for over 2500 years.  For the past 1900 years they have had no temple to worship in; still their language, literature, and lifestyle has been preserved.

It defies any possible rational or natural explanation that the Jews would return to their own land at the end of centuries of global exile to be reestablished once again as a nation!  Nevertheless, in our own modern era, on May 14, 1948, Israel was again a nation in her promised land.

The only explanation that anyone can give for Israel’s existence throughout human history as a nation is a supernatural explanation.  God has a plan for Israel.

Our verses also indicate supernatural interference with God’s plan to bring a Savior into the world through the nation of Israel:

Revelation 12:3  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
Revelation 12:4  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

The identity of the fiery red dragon is not in dispute.  You are told later in this same chapter, in verse nine, that,
Revelation 12:9  “…that serpent of old, [is]  the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…”

Do you see that the Bible defines it’s own signs?  Either from the Old Testament or right in the text itself you can ascertain exactly what these symbols mean.

The grotesque imagery of the devil standing before the woman seeking to devour her Child is a symbolic summary of Satan’s continual interference with the birth of the promised Savior.  Satan knew that the Savior would be born of a woman, and so he has tried throughout history to thwart that birth.

His interference began with Cain killing Abel.  It’s possible that Adam and Eve thought Abel might be the promised Savior; Satan may have thought so, too.  At any rate you’re told that the Devil was involved in Abel’s death.  First John 3:12 says “Cain… was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.”  When Cain killed Abel, Satan was attempting to cut-off the line through which the Savior would be born.

Later, in the days of Noah, Satan tried to pollute the whole human race and its offspring.  In Genesis 6:4 you read,

Genesis 6:4 “…the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them…”

While scholars disagree about the exact details, this was an attempt by Satan to thwart God’s plan to bring your Savior into the world.

When God began to reveal His plan to establish a new nation through Abraham through whom your Savior would be born, Satan’s efforts became focused on destroying the Jews.  Biblical history is full with his efforts to destroy Israel:

At the birth of Moses, Pharaoh ordered the death of all male children born to Jewish women.
During the days of David, King Saul and others repeatedly attempted to kill David, from whose lineage the Savior would be born.
At one point, in Second Kings Eleven, only one little boy was left through whom Jesus could be born.
The Book of Esther records the attempts of a man named Haman to exterminate the Jewish race.
Around the time Jesus was born, King Herod issued a decree to slaughter the Jewish infants under two years of age.

Satan is not alone in his long war against God:

Revelation 12:4  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

“A third of the stars of heaven” refers to Satan leading one-third of the angels in a rebellion against God.  Satan, an angel himself, is the leader of the fallen angels that we call demons.  When the Bible says that Satan “threw them to the earth” it means that the earth is their place of service to the devil.

Despite all Satan’s diabolical designs to “devour” Jesus, your Savior was born through the nation of Israel:

Revelation 12:5  She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

The baby Jesus was born to eventually “rule all nations with a rod of iron.”  To that end, these verses summarize the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by speaking of His ascension into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God’s throne.

Jesus came the first time to save sinners. Who are the “sinners” Jesus was sent to save?  They are every descendant of Adam and Eve.  All human beings fall short of the righteousness of God.

Let me ask you a question: Are you less perfect than God?  If you honestly answer “Yes!,” then you are the sinner who Jesus came to save.

Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and He has.  He is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

#2    Jesus Is Coming As Your Sovereign Despite
Satan’s Continuing Interference
(v6-17)

Satan didn’t stop the first coming of Jesus; perhaps he can interfere with the Second Coming of Jesus.

Modern history is full of attempts to exterminate the Jews.  A careful study of Hitler and Himmler reveals occult, supernatural activity – satanic activity – that accounts for the incredible hostility of the Holocaust.

But the worst persecution against Jews is still in the future:

Revelation 12:6  Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Bible teachers and students of prophecy immediately understand the reference in verse six to “one thousand two hundred and sixty days.”  These days add up to three and one half years.  They are also sometimes referred to as “a time, times, and half a time.”  Those are all prophetic descriptions of a three and one half year period of time that immediately precedes the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth.  They are the last half of the seven year Great Tribulation spoken of in Scripture.

In the very near future the earth will be plunged into the Great Tribulation.  Sound fantastic? Sensational?  It is nevertheless true.  Let me point out just one thing that verifies our claim that we are near the end.

Two thousand years ago the Bible predicted that, in the Last Days before Jesus returned to earth, everyone would “…receive a mark on their right hand or in their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark…”  For centuries people ridiculed this as Bible fiction.  Yet you know that the technology now exists to unite the world into one economic system, and to put a microchip or an invisible electronic tattoo in or on your hand or forehead that could be scanned by the devices currently in use all over the world.

More and more we are opting for cashless commerce.  Efforts are underway in many nations to issue remotely-readable national id cards.  Security issues, whether national or personal, are overshadowing privacy concerns.

By itself this technology is not “the mark of the beast.”  But you can see how easy it would be to implement such a system.  We need to realize that all this is a very recent phenomena but one we knew would develop in the last days!

Verses seven through seventeen of Revelation twelve are a summary of Satan’s future efforts to interfere with the coming of Jesus to rule the world:

Revelation 12:7  And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
Revelation 12:8  but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Revelation 12:9  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Since he failed to keep Jesus from coming as Savior, Satan’s only strategy is to seek to prevent Jesus from coming again to be Sovereign.  He instigates a war in heaven.

“They did not prevail.”  This literally means, “they were not strong enough.”  God wins this heavenly war letting Michael and the other angels have the privilege of carrying out His will.  The devil and his demons are finally and utterly cast out of Heaven to the earth.

Revelation 12:10  Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.
Revelation 12:11  “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.
Revelation 12:12  “Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”
Revelation 12:13  Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.
Revelation 12:14  But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
Revelation 12:15  So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.
Revelation 12:16  But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.
Revelation 12:17  And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

These verses describe the future activity of Satan on earth in the final days of history before Jesus returns.  Chief among his efforts will be an attempt to exterminate all Jews.  You see, God has promised the Jews that they would survive to see the return of Jesus.  Satan reasons that if he can annihilate the Jews from the earth, then Jesus cannot return in His Second Coming.

God will supernaturally protect a remnant of His people, the Jews.  They will remain; Jesus will return.

Conclusion

Whether you do or don’t display a Nativity I sincerely hope that you will see that the true Nativity scene includes these symbols: a woman clothed with the sun, a fiery red dragon, and a Child with a rod of iron in His hand.  These symbols tell you that Jesus came as your Savior, and that He is coming as your Sovereign.

Salvation is a gift that must be received.  Christmas gifts illustrate this.  You’re given a gift.  You must take it, open it, receive it, in order for it to be of any value to you.  It’s yours even if you do not receive it, but it has no impact on you.  It does you know good to simply acknowledge there is a gift.  You’ve got to receive it.

Salvation is a free gift that comes to you when you receive Jesus Christ and believe on Him with all your heart.

Is Jesus your Savior?  If He is not, you are not ready for Him to be your Sovereign.

If He is your Savior, are you excited about God’s continuing gifts?

Jesus promised His followers the further gift of the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible promises each believer one or more supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told us that He’d be gone for a time occupying Himself with building our heavenly homes which He referred to as mansions.
The Lord said that at His coming for us He would bring a reward.

May this Christmas be one in which you rededicate yourself to experiencing all the gifts God has promised you – both now and in the future.

Keep yourself ready to see Him.  True, the Lord is coming a second time, at the end of the Great Tribulation.  But before that – at least seven years before that – He is coming to resurrect and rapture the Church.  It is presented as an imminent event; it could happen at any moment.

Be rapture ready.