Wednesday, December 27, 2017

4th Advent Devotional ~ "For the Birth of Jesus Christ is the turning point in the world’s history."

Adoration of the Shepherds
Gerard van Honthorst-1622

So  it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2:15-16

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

                                                         JOHN F. WADE
O Come, All Ye Faithful

         The Gospel of St. Luke has been described by one of the greatest literary critics, though not a Christian, as ‘the most beautiful book in the world.’ And in that beautiful book there is no passage of greater beauty and tenderness than the simple story which is in all our hearts this Christmas Day…. We read again with a growing admiration and reverence the matchless phrases in which St. Luke tells of the song of the angels, the faith of the shepherds, the adoring love of the maiden mother who kept in her heart all that was said of her wondrous Son. The story is so simple, so human, and we know it so well, that we do not always recognize, as we read, of how great a thing it tells—how wonderful a thing, full of daily consequence to us all.
         For the Birth of Jesus Christ is the turning point in the world’s history. Whether you accept His claims and obey His words or—which God forbid—disbelieve the one and reject the other, this is certain—that He rules the life of men today. For the civilized nations of the world, the years are reckoned from His Advent. ‘In the year of our Lord.’ So all our years are named, and so they are in truth. For the greatness of Jesus Christ is not only the greatness of a Master of mankind who affects posterity by the memory of His wisdom and His example; it is the greatness of Him who is the First and the Last and the Living One, with whom a thousand years are but as one day, who is as truly present now for grace and blessing as He was in Bethlehem when the shepherds came in trembling faith to greet the long-looked-for Savior of their race.
         It is He who was from the beginning, the Eternal and Supreme, who is the Life and Light, not only of this world and of all that is on it, but of the millions of worlds that science reveals to us—it is He who became man for our sakes, and submitted, of His love, to the restraints and limitations of man’s nature. And it is because we forget this, because we forget who it was that was born on the first Christmas Day, that we pay so little heed to His words and to His will.
         'Let us now go even unto Bethlehem.' So said the shepherds one to another on that first Christmas Eve, when they had heard the message of the angels, and had seen the shining glory round about them. Shall we follow them? For Christmas has come again, and once more the thoughts of men everywhere are turning to that little village far away on the uplands of Judea.
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, that we may find Christ…. God’s ways are not even now as our ways. If we are to find Christ we must look for Him where we should not expect to see Him. We must lay aside our pride if we are indeed to welcome the Son who is given to us today. His first coming is the image of His comings still. He comes to us in the lowly places of the earth; He comes to us in the shape of the most helpless. He comes to us in the lonely outlying cottage, He comes to us in the crowded and neglected suburbs, He comes to us in the penitent, ant prisoner, the outcast. We have but to go a little way from our own homes to find some Bethlehem—some poor unnoticed spot—which Christ left heaven to glorify by His presence. We have but to open our eyes and we shall see Him very near to us, even as He once was, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, ready to receive, even from us whom He saves, the offerings of grateful love.
         To recognize the love of God in the infant of Bethlehem is now, as then, to acknowledge the Divine inheritance of all humanity.
         “And they came with haste, and found the babe lying in a manger.” That is all they found. Something so gentle and homely and sweet, this entry of our God. Just a flickering light in the night under the stars; just a light through a window in a dark yard, and a rough hill-village, low and dark amid the huddled stones of the ridge. And, within, cattle looming in the shadows, and one spot in the midst bright with torch or lamp; and a carpenter from Nazareth, bending tender and anxious, and a white, wearied, happy maiden-mother laid on the bed. In a manger on the soft hay a tiny Baby, with wondering eyes opening on a world that was strange to it. That was all.
         And yet the Prophets were right. The strength of the Lord of Hosts was lodged there in the baby body. The seed of Calvary lay there within that soft and tender flesh. Through those little hands, white and delicate as flowers, nails would be run, and the brow so fair would wear the thorn. The zeal and the fury of high passion for righteousness would bear Him out into the loneliness of conflict, into the terrors and the pains, in restlessness and groanings to work out the awful tragedy, with the sweat of agony, with the loud cry of a broken heart, forsaken and alone. Lifted up to the scorn and slight of savage foes, hung naked between heaven and earth—it would all come to pass in the order of the days…. All life, all history, led up, according to Jewish prophecy, to the final act of Divine justification. And when that moment is reached, it is He, this quiet, unassuming Man, who will be found seated on the Throne; and according to men’s relations with Him, and by no other test or standard, they will discover themselves to be judged. On that day there will be no other cry going out from the human lips but, ‘Lord! Lord!’
The Speaker’s Bible -Luke

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