John 3:16 says God loves the world, but what does that look like? How does the heavenly sovereign demonstrate his unfailing, faithful love for his earthly realm?
We anticipate the arrival of God’s love as we celebrate the Advent season. But what is God’s love? Since God is love, to understand God’s love is to perceive God.
This podcast (20 minutes) looks at the back-story for the claim that God loves his world (John 3:16). God’s faithful, unfailing, committed covenant love has been there since the beginning, and arrived in the person of the Christ.
Santa hanging out of an inflatable caravan? Our neighbours in the next street had a sense of humour. At least, I hope they did, because the next morning Santa and his caravan were lying on the grass looking very deflated.
Maybe that happens to our childhood dreams too. My Dad would cut branches from the Athol trees and bring them inside for Christmas. Grandma’s house was filled with relatives, festive food, songs around the piano, presents under the tree. But it never feels quite the same when you grow up to find yourself making the preparations, cooking the food, and cleaning up the wrappings. Santa got lost in the transition from what you might get to what you might give.
Have you considered Christmas from the Giver’s perspective? What was it like for the Father of humanity? For unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6).
Mary was overwhelmed. A torrent of thoughts and emotions. A flood of fears and hopes. Her life would never be the same. What would this mean?
She was giving birth to someone greater than Caesar. She was trusted to raise the child who would conquer the world. Nobody’s life would ever be the same.
She was still processing it months later when she left Nazareth to stay with Auntie Elizabeth. She was still processing it years later when her son grew up and left home. Her roller-coaster of emotions finally took shape — in the life of her son.
Years later, she had another visit: not an angel, but a researcher interviewing eye-witnesses for a biography. Her friends assured her she could trust Doctor Luke. So, she did. Her deepest thoughts and feelings made it into his book:
Matthew says Jesus fulfilled many Scriptures (1:22; 2:15,17, 23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9). But please read these before you claim that this proves Jesus was the Messiah. Some of these seem odd to us. Matthew 2:15 might be the most problematic:
Matthew 2:14–15 (NIV) 14He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where 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.”
You’ve seen the Christmas cards. Three wise men. On camels. Following a star. Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior — three kings of orient according to western tradition. So we build nativity scenes with a manger and kings and camels and shepherds and sheep and the donkey that carried the very pregnant Mary. There probably weren’t three wise men: their caravan would have been larger for safety’s sake. The Bible doesn’t say they rode camels either. We made up the bit about the donkey too.
And they weren’t “wise men.” Magi were originally a class of Persian priests who practiced astrology and other magic arts. In Daniel 2 (LXX) they’re bundled with enchanters and sorcerers as advisors to the king of Babylon. In Acts 13:6-8, a Cypriot ruler had a magos advising him, and Paul despised him. The word usually has negative connotations in Jewish literature—a trickster/deceiver. Matthew hints at that when he says that Herod was “tricked” by the magi (2:16). Continue reading “How did the magi find Jesus? (Matthew 2:1-12)”
Mary, Joseph, wise men, shepherds, and perhaps angels. Ask people to name the key players in the Christmas story, and that’s probably what you’ll get. There’s someone else who doesn’t make our Christmas lists. That’s because we don’t read the Bible as a kingdom story. Continue reading “King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-10)”
We’re jumping to Matthew to prepare for a meaningful Christmas.
The whole narrative of Scripture is the story of God’s kingship, the kingdom of God. Earth belongs under heaven’s reign. That’s what the kingdom of God means. It’s the central theme of the Bible, and the central character is King Jesus—the ruler who restores the earth back under heaven’s reign.
In a few weeks, we’ll be celebrating the birth of the king. Okay, that’s not how Christmas is usually viewed in our culture, but it is how Matthew described it. So instead of continuing with the story of Joseph in Genesis, we’re skipping over to the New Testament. The kingdom perspective will reshape how you think about Christmas. Continue reading “Christmas: birth of earth’s king”