Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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15 Christmas Prayers – Part 6

Matthew 2:13-15

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

angel warns Joseph to flee into Egypt

Christmas 2012 is officially over, the tree is still up but it looks a little bare under there. The dinner is over and all that’s left of the turkey is a bare skeleton. For many of you your visiting family members have left to go back home. The excitement of Christmas took weeks to build and then all of a sudden it’s over. Some let out a sigh of relief others suffer from the post-Christmas blues.  Have you ever thought about what it was like for Mary & Joseph? We often think about the events leading up to and including the birth of Jesus, yet we seldom think about what happened to them after Christmas. Christmas turned their lives upside down and nothing would ever be the same again, but the chaos didn’t end after Christmas. Some don’t consider Joseph to be a very important character in the Christmas story; the Bible doesn’t record anything that Joseph ever said. The emphasis is always on Jesus, Mary, the Shepherds, Wise Men. While Joseph is usually ignored in the Christmas story after Christmas he is the central character. It’s interesting that Luke simply sums up the next 12 years in 2 verses Luke 2:39-40 while Matthew gives us more of a detailed description.

The Wise Men visited Mary & Joseph and presented them with their 3 gifts. When they leave, they go to bed, and Joseph has a dream this isn’t the first dream that Joseph has. God always spoke to Joseph in dreams, 1:20, 2:19, 2:22, here the angel tells Joseph to flee to Egypt, because Herod is going to try to kill Jesus. For Joseph Christmas was about listening to God and obeying: he was told to take Mary as his wife, he was told to flee to Egypt, he was told to come back, and he was told to go to Nazareth. There are several things we learn from the prayers of Christmas:

  • Our OBEDIENCE

When Joseph heard from God he was obedient immediately, he didn’t waste any time.  He didn’t wait until morning, he got them packed that night and headed out to Egypt. Think about what this meant for Joseph. He and Mary had traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem expecting to stay for a short while and then return. They hadn’t planned on moving lock, stock, and barrel. Their FAMILY was back in Nazareth, they hadn’t even said “Good-by”.  Joseph probably had a carpenter business back in Nazareth what would happen to that? In the middle of the night, God said “Move!” Joseph didn’t argue with God. He didn’t ask God for “Plan B”, he didn’t wait to try to figure it all out, he just OBEYED. We pray but do we listen to God or better yet do we obey Him? Is my heart like Joseph’s, sensitive to God’s will?

  • His PROVISION

When God calls He provides. Sometimes God asks us to do things that surprise us but remember He is never caught off guard He has already made provisions for us. God didn’t tell Mary & Joseph to go to Egypt, and then say, “You’re on your own, Good luck!” They had needs like money to live on while in Egypt and God had already provided it for them through the Wise Men.

  • His PLAN

It had been God’s plan all along, Hosea 11:1, for Jesus to come out of Egypt, just like His children did 1500 years before under Moses. The Christmas story reminds us that God is in Charge. That’s not to say that bad things won’t happen. The first Christmas wasn’t exempt from suffering and trouble as we find Mary & Joseph fleeing for their life. They didn’t have their baby in Bethlehem, then “live happily ever after”. Their dreams of going back to Nazareth to live a quiet and peaceful life were postponed for a while. I’m sure their life was nothing like they had planned or expected.

Maybe you are experiencing the “Post-Christmas Blues”, maybe your Christmas wasn’t all that you expected. It wasn’t for Mary and Joseph but when we follow His plan we can be confident despite our circumstances. Every step of the way we see His hand in the Christmas story, the safest place to be is where God leads you. The Wise Men followed a star, and it led them to the Christ-child. They followed God’s instructions in a dream and it led them safely past Herod to their homes. Joseph followed the Angel’s instructions in a dream and escaped to Egypt. It is through prayer, listening to the voice of God, that we hear His will and the safest place you can be, is in the center of His will. Christmas may be over but His plan is not, it may be empty under the tree but your life doesn’t have to be. Jesus came to fill that empty place in your heart so you can live in Obedience following His Plan and experiencing His Provision.


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14 Christmas Prayers – Part 5

Luke 2:33-38

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 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 that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Simeon

Christmas is often associated with waiting and as I sit here and write on the eve of Christmas I can’t help but think of all the boys and girls that are waiting. So let me ask you, “What are you waiting for this Christmas? Are you longing for anything? What are you expecting to receive? Are you looking forward to anything special this Christmas?”

In the Gospel of Luke, we come across two characters who make their appearance in the final acts of the Christmas drama. One is a man named Simeon; the other is a woman named Anna. They don’t appear in any nativity scenes or in many Christmas cards yet they were significant players in the first Christmas story. What they have in common is that both of them were waiting for something or should I say someone. Luke uses a Greek word of anticipation because they were waiting with expectation for the coming Messiah.  Simeon was waiting and Anna was looking forward to, they were alert and ready to welcome Him. Both of them were waiting for Jesus but for different reasons.

Simeon was waiting for Comfort

Simeon was a righteous and devout man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. Things weren’t going well for the nation of Israel, they hadn’t heard from God for many years and were under Roman rule. They had lost their political independence and were living in fear of the capable, crafty, and cruel King Herod. Simeon’s expectation focused on the comfort that Christ would bring. The desire to be comforted is a universal human need. We all struggle with loneliness, emptiness, and insecurity, and the Christmas season is one of the major crisis times of the year for depression and suicide. The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple courts at just the right time on just the right day that Joseph and Mary were bringing Jesus to the Temple.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and offered a prayer of praised to God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

When Simeon looked at the baby Jesus he knew that God’s promise had been kept. Here was Immanuel, “God With Us,” who through His comforting presence would eliminate rejection, fear, and loneliness.

Anna was waiting for Forgiveness

Anna after her husband had died dedicated herself to fasting and praying in the temple. It says that she never left the temple, but worshipped day and night. Anna was looking for forgiveness. Verse 38 says “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” The word redemption is tied to the reality of captivity. The Old Testament Passover and the release of Israel from Egyptian slavery stood in Anna’s day as the ultimate redemption. It was the reminder of God’s power to release captives, but more importantly it pointed ahead to that day when God would provide deliverance from the slavery of sin. When Anna saw Jesus, she offered a prayer of thanks to God because here was the One who would save His people from their sins.

What are your prayers this Christmas, what are you waiting for? Some of us identify with Simeon we are hurting, lonely, empty, and afraid. We need a fresh sense of God’s presence, we need His comfort. Some of us identify more with Anna. May be you are plagued with guilt this Christmas because of the way you’ve been living, you feel trapped in a pattern of sin that you can’t break out of and you need His forgiveness. Whatever you are waiting for this Christmas become a:

  • Marveler

Verse 33 says that Joseph and Mary marveled at what was said about Jesus, to marvel is to be filled with wonder, astonishment, and surprise. Have you been a marveler this Christmas, or are you too caught up in the busyness and stress of the season? Does the Christmas story still astonish you?

  • Mover

Verse 27 says “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.” And verse 38 says “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God” Both Simeon and Anna were movers, when the Holy Spirit prompted them to move, they didn’t sit still. I wonder what would have happened if they had not responded to God? Every one of the Christmas characters responded to the Spirit’s leading except Herod

  • Messenger

Verse 38 “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” God wants each one of us to become messengers of the Christmas story. There are many who are caught up in preparations for Christmas and their anticipation and longings really represent an inner search for comfort and forgiveness. This Christmas will you offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, will you share the gift that only the Messiah can provide to those who desperately need comfort and forgiveness?