Advent Gifts: The Prince of Peace

6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Just about every epic story from Braveheart to Star Wars centers around the same theme: Freedom and Peace for beloved people. Every human heart longs for peace. Even when we attempt to portray a sense of peace, it is often a façade or fleeting. In the words of Alistair Begg, “Tranquility on the outside can be a disguise to the raging torment on the inside.”

We long for calm in the midst of life’s storms.
We need reconciliation where relationships have fractured.
We hope for harmony among our quibbling kids or siblings.
We pray for quiet hearts when we’re anxious about test results.
If you are a Syrian refugee displaced from your home you wish for the end of war.

No matter who you are, or where you’re from, you long for peace. After all, you were created to be in harmony with God and Creation. But ever since the fall, peace has been fractured. The Hebrew word that describes our original condition and the condition we long for is Shalom. The Biblical understanding of peace involves so much more than just the absence of strife. The peace Isaiah refers to means completeness, tranquility and welfare.

Adam and Eve lived in a state of Shalom before ‘The Fall’ in Genesis 3. Adam didn’t patronize or “mansplain” to Eve. He delighted in doing the dishes and holding Eve’s hand for long walks in the Garden. Eve felt no shame about her body, or any no need to compare herself to anyone. She was co-ruler of a world that worked perfectly.

But it didn’t last. Sin took so much away from mankind, including peace and we’ve wanted it back ever since.

John Lennon and The Beatles artistically described our heart’s desire for peace in their 1965 classic, Help!

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
But now these days are gone and I’m not so self assured
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors

Help! I need somebody
Help! Not just anybody
Help! You know I need someone Help!

We all need help. No amount of education, charisma, success or money can acquire the shalom our hearts long for. This is why Christmas matters so much.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”

How does this child born to us bring us the peace our hearts need so desperately? Isaiah answers,  

5 But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
6 We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

The Baby born in a manger would one day bear the burden of our peace on His shoulders. He would embrace the war, strife and wrath our sin deserved.  He would take that war to the grave. The war would stay in the grave, but He would not. Peace with God would again be possible.

And one day, The Prince of Peace will come to wage one final war. When He has finished, a new shalom will spring forth. What is broken will be mended. What is lacking will be made whole. Strife will give way to tranquility. There will be Glory and Peace on Earth.         

Further Reading: Isaiah 11.

Reflection: Are you striving to acquire what you can only receive? Rest in God’s peace today. Stop trying to make something happen. What you need has already be done. If you have Jesus, you have everything!

Advent Gifts: Mighty God & Everlasting Father

6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

The Advent Gift, the Child given to us, is so magnificent our language cannot comprehensively describe Him. In this penultimate prophesy, Isaiah describes who Jesus would be. We’ve seen Jesus as the Wonderful Counselor. Let us see Him today as Mighty God and Everlasting Father.

Jesus Himself sheds light on the depth and beauty of the meaning of these names in the Sermon on the Mount. In teaching us to pray, Jesus instructs us to address God this way,

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…”
(Matthew 6:9)

In praying like this, we approach God both as Mighty and Everlasting Father. The implications of these names are incalculable. What does it mean to say that Jesus is “Mighty God,” or to pray “hallowed be your name?” What does it mean to say that Jesus is “Everlasting Father,” or to pray “Our Father in heaven?”

The refrain from a classic children’s prayer is helpful in answering these questions. Maybe as a child you were taught to pray something like this,

God is great. God is good…”

To pray to a Great or Mighty God is to pray to a God who is majestic, powerful, without weakness, and able to move on our behalf. Fundamentally, it is to pray to a God who is NOT like us. Because He is Mighty, He can do what we cannot do. Only a Mighty God has the power to create, rise from the dead, defeat Satan, and offer redemption to mankind. This is a God like no other. A truly Mighty and Hallowed God.

To pray to a Good or Everlasting Father is to pray to a God who is faithful, just, perfect, and without blemish. Fundamentally, it is to pray to a God who is NOT like us. Because He is a Good and Everlasting Father, we can trust Him. He is faithful to perform what He promises. He is compassionate toward us and is always working for our good. He is a perfect Dad.

As you reflect this season on the true gift of Advent, Jesus – remember that He is both Great and Good. He is both Able and Trustworthy. He is both Holy and Here with us.

Further Reading: Colossians 1:15-23; Ephesians 1:1-14.

Reflection: Close your eyes and spend the next 60 seconds thinking of all the ways God has been mighty (great) and all the ways He has been trustworthy (good) in your life.

Advent Gifts | A Wonderful Counselor

6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

As we continue to reflect on the Gift of Advent, Jesus – Emmanuel, God with us, let us examine the beauty and depth of this gift.

Jesus is anything but generic. Christmas and Christianity aren’t mere sentiments. The gift of who Jesus is to us is transformative. Consider the words of Isaiah as a starting point. The child given to us will be named Wonderful Counselor.

Isaiah promises a wonderful counselor to people walking in darkness (Isaiah 8:21-22). God’s people were experiencing dark days. They were the subjects of an infamously cruel ruler. Slavery, fear, poverty, and uncertainty were their daily reality. Isaiah goes on to say the people “would look to the Earth” for help. This was a metaphor for looking to the world’s systems such as the markets, human ingenuity, scholars, technology – you name it.  But the end result of looking within is always greater darkness. 

The reality of Ancient Israel isn’t too far off from our current reality. We live in the most prosperous nation in the most prosperous time in all of human history. Yet, America ranks 19th in the world in joy and happiness. We’ve seen dramatic upticks in depression and anxiety over the last 25 years, particularly in children. We have more money than ever.  We can seemingly innovate the improvement of our lives in unlimited ways. Yet, distress, hunger, anger, and fear abound.

For many of us the challenges we face are not enemies from “without,” but dragons from “within.” What we truly need is a Wonderful Counselor. A divine counselor who knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts and can provide transformative wisdom and healing. We need someone to help us slay the dragons within.

What makes someone a great counselor? The best counselors are the ones who have been where you’ve been, walked in your shoes, and lived to tell you about it.

This is precisely what makes Jesus a Wonderful Counselor. He has been where we have been. He has walked miles in your shoes. Loss? Jesus experienced it. Betrayal? Jesus’s closest companions abandoned Him. Poor? He “had no place to lay His head.” Lonely? He lived through the most agonizing isolation imaginable. Tempted? He stood face to face with the devil himself.

For this reason, the author of Hebrews could say to us, 15 We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Fighting difficult battles within this season? Fear not. Not only does Jesus care and want to help. He has been there Himself. He experienced your humanity, but overcame it. He will make you an overcomer too. Go to Him boldly and honestly. He knows what you’re facing. He will provide you the wisdom to walk through it and the strength to endure it.

Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor given to us.             

Further Reading: Romans 8:18-30.

Reflection: What struggles are facing alone? What battles are you trying to win in your own power? Let Jesus in this season. He heals broken hearts and gives wisdom for our journey.

The Gifts of Advent

6 For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

When we think of Christmas, we likely think of many things. Christmas trees, Christmas carols, Christmas parties, Christmas lights. But let’s be honest – we usually think of Christmas presents first! We, humans, love getting and giving gifts at Christmas time. According to some estimates, Americans will collectively spend north of 700 billion dollars on Christmas gifts this year. That is billion, with a ‘B’.

Before we go to railing against the evils of commercial consumerism at Christmas time, let us consider the reason we exchange gifts during this season. The notion of gifts at Christmas actually has very ancient roots. Historically, the tradition was born out of the Biblical narrative of Jesus. As Christianity grew exponentially and Christians began celebrating the Incarnation – the Birth of Jesus, on December 25th, they adopted the tradition of giving gifts because of the gifts the Magi presented Jesus.

The irony of the Magi presenting gifts to Jesus was that Jesus Himself was a gift to those kings. And not just to the Magi, but to all of humanity. He was a gift foretold centuries ahead of time by prophets such as Isaiah.

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Christmas is more about gifts than we might realize. As a father, giving gifts to my children is my favorite part of the Christmas celebration for a number of reasons. First, it gives me great joy to see the joy they receive when they get something they needed or wanted. Second, as a father, it gives me great joy to do for my children what they cannot do for themselves. Third, I love my kids. It really is that simple. I don’t love them for what they do for me or how smart they are. I love my children because they are my children. Because of this, it brings me great joy to give them good gifts.

Our Heavenly Father is a good Father and He enjoys giving good gifts to His kids. James, the New Testament Author, says it this way: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Your Heavenly Father is not temperamental or unreliable. He loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His greatest gift for you. We’ll explore that gift a little more closely over the next few days, but in the meantime, it’s okay to just sit and smile. Like a kid who has received a really great gift. The gift of love from your Father above.           

Further Reading: John 3:16-17

Reflection: What was your favorite gift you received as a child? What made it so special? Take 90 seconds to think about the gifts God has given you. What did you come up with?

A White Space Christmas

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

In almost every depiction of the Nativity, the Inn Keeper is portrayed as a burly, inhumane grump who denies poor little Mary and Joseph a place to lodge. In reality the Inn Keeper is probably undeserving of such a bad rap. The Christmas story begins with:

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Luke 2:1-2

Caesar Augustus, born Gaius Octavius, is the original Caesar. As leader of the Roman Empire, it was important for him to fortify the financial backings of his empirical conquests. There is no better way to accomplish this than to issue a new census so taxes can be properly administered and collected.

The lyrics of the famous Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, are very accurate in describing the small town. It was little. The population around Jesus’s birth would have likely numbered around 300. Can you imagine the impact of a mandated census? Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been alone in their journey to Bethlehem. There would have been hundreds, if not more than a thousand, additional visitors to the tiny rural town. Additionally, most of those making the 70-mile journey would not have been pregnant like Mary. When Joseph and Mary finally arrive there simply is no room for them. Everyone’s home is maxed out. The inn is booked up. The Inn Keeper was probably a nice guy who just didn’t have any space for Jesus.

You see, 2,000 years later, many of us are facing the same dilemma as the Inn Keeper. It’s not that we’re hostile to Jesus – we simply don’t have room for Him. We have no white space, or margin in our busy lives. Maxed out schedules, commitments, Netflix cues, and a thousand other things have filled up all the available space in our lives, and even our hearts.

During this Advent season, amid the hustle and bustle, make room for Jesus. Give Jesus some prime real estate and some prime time during this Holiday season. Not because you ought too, but because you want too.

What makes this detail in the Christmas story so significant is God knew the Inn would be full. This was no surprise at all to Heaven. The Messiah came, just as He was promised, without regard for the deserving and hospitable nature of mankind. He came knowing the world He entered would be so crowded, distracted and preoccupied that few would realize the King of Kings was in their presence. After all, these are exactly the people Jesus was coming for. He was coming to save them from themselves. He was coming to redeem and rescue people who needed Him. He came for us.           

Further Reading: Luke 10:38-42

Reflection: How crowded is your heart this season? Has there been ample space to worship and celebrate Jesus, Savior and King?

The Shepherd’s Worship

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:15-20

The result of The Shepherd’s Obedience is that they experienced exactly what the angels said they would. They found Mary and Joseph and the Savior of the word wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

After this extraordinary experience with the angels, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus – they returned glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. Just as it had been told to them.

This is quite a contrast to their earlier state of being “terrified”. Their first reaction to God is quite typical in the Bible. Anxiety, terror, and fear were the usual reactions to being in God’s presence. Everything had changed between God and man in Genesis 3 (The Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s Fall). We were created to have a perfect relationship with God, but when sin entered the world everything changed. Men and women feared rejection and judgment from God. So, when the Shepherd’s experienced the presence of angels – their fear was more than merely being startled. They were terrified of what might happen to them.

Yet, the angelic message was: Do not be afraid, and I’m going to tell you and show you why. The angels were there to bring good news. A baby was born in nearby Bethlehem who would make their relationship with God right again. He would save and restore them to their Heavenly Father. God was here to rescue them, not harm them.

What is an appropriate response to news that you have been rescued? Joy! Thankfulness! Exuberance! Worship! The Shepherds are not alone in this response.

It was Zechariah’s response: Luke 1:64
It was Simeon’s response: Luke 2:28
It was Anna’s response: Luke 2:38
It was the healed paralyzed man’s response: Luke 5:25-26
It was the widow’s response where her son was raised to life: Luke 7:16
It was the disabled woman response at her healing: Luke 13:13
It was the Samaritan leper’s response at his cleansing: Luke 17:15-18
It was the blind man’s response when he could see: Luke 18:43
It was the crowd’s repose at the Triumphant Entry: Luke 19:37-40
It was the Roman Centurion’s response following Jesus’s Crucifixion: Luke 23:47
It was the disciple’s response to a resurrected Jesus: Luke 24:52-53

An encounter with Jesus produces worship. Mary treasured what she experienced in her heart. The Shepherd’s glorified and praised God for what they had seen and heard. 

Further Reading: See above.

Reflection: Have you experienced who Jesus is? He is the divine rescue agent of your soul. Reflect on the wonderful lyrics of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Artwork By Gerard van Honthorst – Google Art Project, Public Domain

The Shepherd’s Obedience

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!

Luke 2:8-14

One morning outside of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds woke up to what they thought would be an ordinary day of sheep herding. They would feed their flock, lead them to water, and inspect them for any injury or distress. They would watch over them with great care.

But this day would not be like any other day of their lives. Someday, as old men, they would share the story of this day with friends and family with the same enthusiasm and wonder.

When the evening shift of their day had come, the night sky lit up with the Glory of Lord and a messenger from Heaven. They were shaken to their core at such a sight. After being calmed by the messenger, they were told news they had longed to hear: Today the Messiah has been born. Never in their wildest dreams would they have imagined themselves as the recipients of such divine news.

Now, with the divine message, came a divine mission implied by the angel’s declaration that they “will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) The shepherds have received this message so that they might go to see the Christ child for themselves.

What the shepherds did next is a lesson to all of us who seek to follow Jesus.

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

They obeyed immediately and they obeyed together. There were plenty of reasons they could have delayed or excused themselves for such a mission. The unusual nature of an angelic choir could have given them pause. “Did that really happen?” Their duty to watch over a flock of sheep could have given them pause. “We have a job to do…we can’t go off looking for a baby!”

But none of those excuses got in their way. Immediately and with a great sense of urgency, they pursued the mission God had given to them: Going to Jesus.

What has God called you to do? Are you with immediacy and urgency obeying His call? Be like the Shepherds. Go straight to that which the Lord has made known unto you!      

Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, John 14:15.

Reflection: “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” – Mark TwainGod’s will for our lives isn’t as complicated as we sometimes make it. What God has written for us to do, let us do it immediately and urgently. As a matter of fact, what can you do right now?

The Promise of Advent

So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28

The Christmas trick works just about every time. The commercials, the carols, the Christmas TV specials, and the gingerbread lattes all promise that this year will be different. This year will finally be perfect. Your family will finally get along. The kids will be so grateful for their Christmas presents – never tiring of playing with them. You won’t run out of Egg Nog at the party this year. You’ll finally find the perfect gift for that perfect person who will make Christmas ever so perfect.

Many of us fall for it every year – only to be disappointed. The post-holiday blues set in and we wonder, “Will things ever work out the way I hope and dream?”

Yes. Maybe not this Christmas, but yes.

The Advent season is not just about reflecting on the first coming of Jesus when he arrived as an infant boy in a stable. Advent is also about looking in hopeful anticipation to the second coming when Jesus will arrive on a white horse as King of Kings.

When Jesus comes the second time, it will be to make all things right and just. It will be to renew and restore that which is broken and marred. Evil will be judged and banished and the bride of Christ rescued and presented “without spot, wrinkle or blemish.” (Ephesians 5:27)

Take a moment and think on this with me: No spot. No wrinkle. No Blemish.

How can this possibly be? Our sins are prevalent. Christmas often reveals the truly wicked condition of our hearts. No ‘spot, wrinkle, or blemish’? What of our pride, faults, and failures? We would find it joyous if the scripture simply said Jesus would present me without a heinous scar or disfigurement. We would celebrate for all eternity if we were presented with our mess appropriately covered. How wonderful it would be, just to be presentable. Yet, that is not the promise of the Second Advent. Jesus will present us in perfect and complete righteousness – without spot, wrinkle, or blemish.

No spots from our shameful past.
No wrinkles from our disobedience.
No blemishes from our failures.

Soak it in. Savor the good news. Rejoice with a joy truly unspeakable. There is coming a day when all will be as it should be. Another Advent has been promised – one where our King will return and will find us altogether lovely.

Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Reflection: Consider the words of C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” Does this resonate with you? What would it mean for our day-to-day faith journey if we lived daily in light of the promise of the Second Advent?

Do Not Be Afraid

13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.

Luke 1:13

30 Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Luke 1:30

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:20

We live in a world plagued by fear. Fear is a commodity used like currency in our current social climate. Almost every political ad, consumer message, and newscast is saturated with fear, dread, and worry. In unprecedented numbers, children and teenagers are afflicted with anxiety.

History, as is often said, repeats itself. And 2,000 years ago, like now, fear of what would come next was on everyone’s mind. Israel experienced significant social unrest. Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and many others lived under the pressure of a tyrannical government, cultural darkness, financial pressure, and difficult living conditions.

Yet, when God sent word of the pending Incarnation to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph – each announcement was accompanied by the same encouragement: “Do not be afraid.”

Zechariah: He’s been chosen to go into the Holy of Holies, a solemn and weighty privilege that would only come once in a lifetime, if at all. He was shaken when he saw the angel of the Lord. In an instant, thoughts of terror must have raced through his mind. “What have I done?” he must have fretted. But the angel was there to tell him what his God had done. God had heard his prayer and was giving the aged Zechariah and Elizabeth the child they had longed for.

Mary: She was “troubled.” The word troubled in the original Greek text is diatarasso, meaning “confused or perplexed.” Of course she was. How could a virgin be with child? But the angel was there to proclaim that the impossible is possible with God.

Joesph: It’s hard not to be sympathetic to Joesph’s fear. He had learned his betrothed wife was pregnant but knew he wasn’t the father. The social ramifications for this were severe, especially for Mary. But Joseph didn’t need to be afraid. God was working His plan to introduce not only Joseph and Mary’s Savior, but the Savior for all people to the world.

“But…” – a grammatical conjunction used to signal a contrast is coming. Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph are afraid, but no longer need to be because God is at work. Each of the three was being given the same principle lesson: God is bringing about His purposes and can be completely trusted.

Two thousand years later, the message is the same for us. Do fear, dread and confusion run through your heart and mind? Do not be afraid. The faithful God of the ages is at work and will bring His purposes to fruition in you. Fear need not reign in your heart today because the Christ child was born as a King, a King who would triumph and rule over fear.

The season of Advent is a reminder that God came near to drive out fear. (1 John 4:18) When you face worry and fear, keep in mind that the antidote is the birth of Jesus Christ!

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:10-11

Further Reading: Psalm 23:1-4; Psalm 27:1-3; Psalm 56:3.

Reflection: What are you fearful or anxious about? Take some time to reflect on the Scripture promises above and trust God with what you are facing today.


1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

Luke 2:1-3

Every great Fairy Tale begins the same way: “Once upon a time…” Whether it’s a Disney movie or a nursery rhyme, the refrain Once upon a time sets the stage for a wonderful tale full of twists and turns, fascinating story plots, and heroes and villains. But, with every Once upon a time we are reminded that the story being told is a Fairy Tale. It may be powerfully written, but it’s mythical. It is fundamentally, fiction.

The story of Advent begins much differently. It begins with, “In those days…” Not just any days. Not just any time period. Specifically, when Caesar Augustus decreed an Empire-wide tax. To be exact Luke refers to the tax initiated when Quirinius was governing Syria. These specific words from the ancient historian Luke should not surprise us. The author who chronicled the beginning of a movement that would be known as Christianity began his account of Jesus’s life this way:

“1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. In the days of King Herod of Judea…” (Luke 1:1-5a)

Luke was crafting a reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus. If you’re the curious type, Quirinius was the Roman governor of Syria from 6-4 B.C.

As you celebrate Advent this season, keep in mind that you are not celebrating an idea, but a person. You are not singing the carols of a Fairy Tale, but the actual historical events of God coming near to us. Our faith is rooted in what is real. Jesus could be seen, touched and heard. This isn’t just a story. This is history.

Is faith required for Christianity? Absolutely. Blind faith? Not a chance. Jesus, son of a Nazareth carpenter walked this earth, proclaimed the Kingdom of God, was killed for our sins and rose from a grave to be seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses.

Remember this season, the story of Jesus begins, “In those days…”.

Further Reading: Luke 1-2.

Reflection: How you personally engage in the realness of Christmas this year? If you have children, how can you remind them that the Christmas story is anything but a Fairy Tale?