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Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Advent Meditations

Meditation No.

Meditation Title: Overview



Lk 1:3,4

The Certainty of the Truth


Lk 1:5

Truth based in history


Lk 1:6,7

Goodness doesn't mean freedom from pain


Lk 1:8-11

Think again about chance


Lk 1:11-13

God brings good


Lk 1:18-20

Long-Term Unhappiness locks in Unbelief


Lk 1:21-24

Bound by Time


Lk 1:26-28

Can God turn up?


Lk 1:29-31

Is God for me?


Lk 1:34-38

Can it be?


Lk 1:39-41

Heavenly Unity


Lk 1:42-45

Can God show me things?


Mt 1:18,19

The Challenge of one good guy


Mt 1:20,21

The Challenge of Revelation


Mt 1:22-25

Grounded in God's Declared Will


Lk 2:1-4

Trapped by Circumstances


Lk 2:5-7

Difficult Times in God's Will


Lk 2: 8,9

Why Shepherds?


Lk 2: 12-14

A Sign for You?


Lk 2:16-19

Ponder This


Lk 2:21,22

If that's what God says…


Lk 2:25,26

A Seeking Heart Gets Revelation


Lk 2:27-29

But How Do You Know?


Lk 2:33-35

Are You Rising or Falling


Mt 2:1,2

A Call to Worship


Mt 2:3-6

So what has God said?


Mt 2:9,10

Simple Seekers


Mt 2:11,12

Worshipping Providers


Mt 2:13

Dream on!


Mt 2:14,15

Out of Harm's Way


Mt 2:19,20

In God's Time


Mt 2:21-23

Into Waiting

33 Isa 9:6 A Son is Born







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Series Theme:   Advent Meditations

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Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: The Certainty of the Truth


Luke 1:3-4 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught


We live in a world of uncertainty which is strange because in so many ways we think we are in control. Science and technology have so pressed ahead in the past fifty years that one writer suggested we have been through greater changes than in all the millennia that man has lived on this earth. We have apparently made tremendous strides in nutrition and health and so we live longer. Yet still there is an uncertainty to life that we all struggle with. None of us can be absolutely certain that we will be here in a year's time.


When it comes to the Bible, unbelieving theologians from last century created so many doubts that many who should know better, doubt. When it comes to Christmas the same doubters suggest that Christmas is an add-on to a pagan winter feast. The truth is that it was a Roman Emperor in AD 272 who established the pagan festival, but in northern Africa , Christians were already celebrating the birth date of Jesus as December 25 in AD 243, 30 years beforehand. No, the pagan festival was the add-on. Then there is the uncertainty of the date of the 25 th December. One of the foremost scholars on ancient Jewish culture and sacred writings, states: “There is no adequate reason for questioning the historical accuracy of this date. The objections generally made rest on grounds which seem to me historically unfeasible”. But he's just a scholar, so what should he know!!!!


Post-modernism, the philosophical approach of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is all about doubting what has gone before. That's why, before we move into these meditations based upon the Christmas story, it's important that we face up these things. It is refreshing, in the light of the current doubt and cynicism that so often prevails, to find Luke writing about the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke was a doctor and even by the standards of those days, that made him an intellectual, and intellectuals pride themselves on investigating the truth and getting it right! Hence he says, I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, which is the language of such a person. If only critics of the Gospels would take the same care that Luke did, we'd have a lot less critics! So, when we come to think about theses amazing events as recorded in Luke's and Matthew's Gospels (Matthew has some equally good reasons for believing what he wrote), how about coming to the Christmas story with a new sense of openness that is willing to accept what a careful, intellectual scholar like Luke says.


Last century, a solicitor by the name of Morrison, decided to debunk the Gospels and carried out a serious investigation, which resulted in a book called, “Who Moved the Stone?” written by a man clearly converted to the truth of the Gospels. There are others we could cite (e.g. J.B.Phillips) who have had the same experience. Writer and evangelist, Michael Green, speaks of an atheist he met at a party, a clever man doing doctoral studies in physics. Green asked the man if he had ever read the Gospels with an open mind. The man replied, “I dare not.”


Dare we come and risk this same experience, of being confronted so powerfully by the truth, that we'll never be the same again? That's what open-mindedness does. It enables you to look the truth in the eye and realize that that is what it is – the truth! Risk it, read along open-minded this Advent.








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Meditation No. 2

Meditation Title: Truth based in History


Luke 1:5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.


There are some people who have some funny ideas about Christianity and there are some people who just have funny ideas. The ‘funny ideas about Christianity' people often think Christianity was just some fairytale set of ideas dreamt up my by some mystics some where along the way in history. The people who just have ‘funny ideas' often are people who are led by mystical ‘funny people' who have just dreamt up some strange ideas somewhere along the way in history.


Now the truth of Christianity is far from either of these two groups of weird and wonderful believers. Christianity is rooted in down to earth, time-space history. Things happened and those things were recorded. Yesterday we started these meditations by considering Doctor Luke who wrote what we call ‘Luke's Gospel'. He had gone to some trouble to make sure he had checked things out very carefully. Today's verse is steeped in history. It identifies the time as that in history when King Herod ruled in Judea . It speaks of Jewish culture and life at that time, of the practice of Jewish priests coming from the tribe of Levi and specifically from the descendants of the family of Aaron in that tribe.


This says that all that we are about to read follows in the flow of history, and much of the culture and background is because of what has gone before. We are never simply isolated figures in history; we come into history, into a world that has been shaped by all that has gone before.


Later on, Luke was to write about the coming of a forerunner to Jesus Christ and described it as follows : In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene - during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. (Lk 3:1,2). Those two verses are packed full of historical information defining the exact point in history when all this occurred. This is a writer who wants us to realize that this is all happening at a specific point of history in a specific geographical location, with a specific culture. You can't more down-to-earth than this!


In a day when political correctness or post modern rhetoric tends sometimes to spew out notions based upon emotion and little else, coming to the Bible and its concrete foundations may produce a sense of culture shock in some. There is nothing vague about the New Testament history; it is clear and concise, sometimes almost too much so. However, if we wish to use the Christmas story as recorded in the New Testament as a basis of our mediations, we would do well to face up to these things early on in the day.


What we are about to read is rooted in time-space history. Having read it verse by verse, word by word, for many years now, I am going to treat it as the accurate history that it is. If you have a problem with that, either stop reading these meditations now, or risk seeing how different they might be from the vagaries of unbelieving theologies. You might be pleasantly surprised! Risk it, stay with us!






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Meditation No. 3

Meditation Title: Goodness doesn't mean freedom from pain


Luke 1:6,7 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.


Much of a Christian leader's life is spent, not simply in teaching, but in correcting wrong ideas about Christianity. One idea, that is often around in people's minds, is that if you are good, godly and/or a Christian, life will always be good. Not entirely true!


There is a truth in the teaching that if you are a Christian you are in line for God's blessing, because that's what Jesus came to do. The only problem is that we live in a Fallen World where Sin is the name of the game and because of that, things don't always work out right. Sometimes we get it wrong, sometimes other people get it wrong, sometimes it's just that's how a Fallen World works.


Elizabeth and Zechariah, as recorded in Luke, chapter 1, are good examples of good people. Luke doesn't give us any grounds to think badly of them in his description. They were upright in the sight of God; in other words that was God's view of them, so that must be right! Moreover they observed all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. Now that says something. There aren't too many of us who could make that claim, so these are good people, but life isn't truly wonderful for them. Why? Because they had no children and, to make it worse, they were both well along in years , so they weren't likely to have children.


Anyone who has struggled to have children and been unable to, knows the anguish that this couple would have felt. Even more in their culture, for having children was a high priority. Solomon had written, Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psa 127:4,5). That was the thinking of the culture. It was bad news not to have children. So here is this elderly couple who have struggled through life without any children – but they are good!


Doesn't God reward goodness, someone might ask. Isn't there a link between being good and God blessing you? Well if you look at most world religions you might be led to believe that, because striving to be good is so often equated with encounters with God, in their claims. However, that's where Christianity veers away from the rest because it acknowledges ‘goodness' is something that evades us. Chief letter-writer in the New Testament, the apostle Paul, knew this to his detriment. He wrote, what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:19 )


No, even our best efforts at doing good are tainted with self-centredness or self-effort. As we come to this ‘Christmas Story' we need to realise from the outset that this is all about people, but none of them are perfect. This is all about God doing amazing things (including with Zechariah and Elizabeth) but not because they are good, but simply because He's chosen them and they're available. This is a story of God doing great things, not people doing them. Put aside your self-righteousness and you're ready for this story!







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Meditation No. 4

Meditation Title: Think again about Chance


Luke 1:8-11 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.


There are times in life when it seems that just being in the right place at the right time opens up a whole new set of circumstances, which leave us wondering about what theologians call ‘providence'. A basic dictionary defines providence as beneficent care of God , but theologians would expand that to talk about God's foresight and activity in bringing things about to fulfil His purposes.


There are probably three sets of people in the world when it comes to thinking about this subject. First of all there are those who simply believe that everything is pure chance. There is no meaning, no purpose, everything just happens. At the opposite extreme there are those superstitious people who believe there are ‘forces' or even ‘spirits' at work in the world that need appeasing, and such people usually live in fear, because how can you be sure you've got on their good side?


The third group are those who believe that there is an all-powerful single deity at work behind all things. This group are subdivided according to the nature of the deity. For some His presence is bad news! For Christians, the presence of God is good news; they understand that ‘God is good' or as the Bible says specifically, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). They also believe He gives them free will and so doesn't force them down any good path – except on rare occasions, as we'll see later in the story. So it is they believe God does intervene in the affairs of men and always to bring good.


So here we have this priest, Zechariah who has been chosen to go into the innermost part of the Temple to burn incense. He's chosen by lot (chance?) from a large number and, in fact, each man would only receive this honour once in his lifetime. It's pretty amazing, therefore, that he's got this job at all. After all, he's getting on in age now, and it's never happened before and will never happen again.


Now of course the Temple was originally to be the place where the people came to meet with God, but for a variety of reasons you can find in the Old Testament, God hadn't been turning up there for a very long time. In fact it was over four hundred years since Israel had really had any sign of the presence of God with them. So when childless Zechariah goes into the innermost part of the Temple , he is not expecting anything out of the ordinary, which makes the presence of an angel somewhat unnerving!


The problem with life and God, is that most of the time He doesn't warn you that He's going to turn up. There we were minding our own business and suddenly things start happening out of the ordinary. Could it be that God might start talking to you about your life as we go through these meditations this Advent? You thought you were just reading them to be spiritual, whereas God put them before you to speak specific stuff to you. Hmmm? How open are you to that? Chance, that you're here reading these things? Possibly not! And when other stuff starts happening in your life that starts you thinking, is it just chance? Perhaps not!







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Meditation No. 5

Meditation Title: God brings good!


Luke 1:11-13 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.


It seems that one of the byproducts of sin is fear of the Lord. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned they hid from God and then acknowledged that they were afraid of Him (Gen 3:8,10). Today so many people fear God because they think He is going to slap them! Yes, it is natural when we are guilty to flee from a holy God, but tragically that only shows even more the awfulness of this thing the Bible calls ‘Sin', because it also blinds us to the whole truth (2 Cor 4:4). The whole truth is that God promised blessing for His people (Deut 7:9-15) because He is love (1 Jn 4:8). The Bible shows Him constantly seeking to bless His people, those who will come to Him. In fact anyone can come to Him and receive His blessing, His goodness – but of course you must first see that that is something you really want, mustn't you.


So, here we have righteous but childless Zechariah in the innermost part of the Temple , minding his own business while lighting the incense, when he is confronted by a messenger from heaven, an angel – and he's frightened. For all of his righteousness, all of his goodness, he has not been able to come to a place of peace in the presence of God. Indeed for Him, God is not a loving heavenly Father, but an awesome far-off holy Being, one to be feared. Now yes, the Bible does say that the ‘fear of the Lord' is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), but note that it is the beginning. That simply means that recognizing our weakness and our failures and seeing God's perfection is a starting place for any relationship with Him. From that we find that He's there with open arms to whoever will come with an open and honest heart, acknowledging their need.


Of course Zechariah hasn't realized that yet because Jesus hasn't come yet and hasn't demonstrated God's staggering love by dying for us. No, Zechariah is still in the place of fear, because he hasn't yet realized that God is good and all God does in our direction is for our good, for our blessing. He's still in the “God will condemn me” mode. He hasn't yet got to the realization that “God loves me, God is for me, God wants to bless me” place that the children of God come to as they receive the wonderful work of Jesus in their lives.


The very first thing the angel does is try to put Zechariah at rest – don't be afraid . When he says that, he means it. You don't have to be afraid! There is no cause for that. God has come to bring blessing. What was the greatest burden in Zechariah's life? That he had no children. So what's God going to do? Enable him to have a child! Isn't that good? Those of us who still struggle with a “God's a hard man” mentality (see Lk 19:21 ) will grumble and say, “So why did he have to wait so long?” Hullo? He could have waited all his life! But God came at a time that was right because of lots of other circumstances, and enabled him to have the child he had so longed for. Isn't that wonderful? How you respond to this reveals where you're really at with God. Do you need perhaps, to pray, ‘Lord set me free from this fear and help me see you as you really are, full of love for me'?







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Meditation No. 6

Meditation Title: Long-Term Unhappiness locks in Unbelief


Luke 1:18-20   Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."


It's a strange thing, but you might think that people who have a tough time in life would be really grateful when God turns up to bless them, but you would often be mistaken. We've already referred to that tendency that we all have, that the Bible calls ‘Sin' and in such situations it frequently shows itself in ungratefulness or unbelief. If we can put it gently, perhaps we might say that it is quite natural, after you've been in a particular prison for any length of time, to be wary when you're told you're now free from it. This phenomenon is quite common, and it may be as you read yesterday's meditation, you struggled with the concept that God is good. If you did, it's most likely that it is simply because you've lived with circumstances that seem to fly in the face of that.


In the Old Testament, Gideon is a classic example of this. An angel comes and tells him that God is with him (Judges 6:12 ). His reply is, “If the Lord is with us… where are all the wonders that our fathers told us about?” In other words, how can you say God is good, how can you say He's with us, when I've been through what I've been through, and there's still no sign of change? Do you see how long-term unhappiness over the past can lock us into unbelief in the present?


Now the interesting thing, when Zechariah responds like this, is that he's not given an explanation why he didn't have children. We'd like to have explanations and then come to belief, but it doesn't work like that. The truth is that until our hearts can accept God's love is there for us, we're going to constantly criticize and grumble. Zechariah is still in grumbling mode when he basically says, this is stupid, this can't be, because I'm too old. When we start telling God what He can't do, we're in trouble! God can do anything; it's just our unbelief that thinks He can't, so we reject His words of goodness towards us.


The angel's response is basically this: OK, you don't think God can change your circumstances, you don't think God can make you become a father, you want a sign, I can see that. All right, I'll give you a sign that will remain with you every day until the child is born – you won't be able to speak until then. This is going to happen, you having a son, but you obviously need a bit of encouragement along the way.


You see God loves us so much that sometimes He does intervene in our lives and bring ‘unusual' circumstances, if He sees that is the only way we'll come to belief. (There are some people He sees that won't ever come to belief so He leaves them – but that doesn't include you, because you wouldn't be reading this if it did!). If a little crisis is the only thing that will bring us to our senses and bring us to a place of believing (and that without the explanations!) then that's what He'll bring to us – in love of course. Of course it's in love because that's what He's trying to bring us. It's much easier to believe without a crisis! Can we say, yes Lord, I believe what I'm reading in this Christmas story – teach me; I receive all the good you've got for me in this season? Dare to, go for it!






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Meditation No. 7

Meditation Title: Bound by Time


Luke 1:21-24     Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.


There are a whole variety of things that go to make life seem difficult sometimes, and time is one of them. If only we were able to control and change it, we think, if only I could stretch it out (so I could go on enjoying this experience that I don't want to end), or if only I could shorten it (so I could bring this difficult time to an end quickly). But no, we are stuck with it. In our modern world we have fast food, or quick-drying paint, things that speed up life for us, but have you noticed we haven't managed to speed up how long it takes for a woman to carry a child and bring it to birth; it's still nine months.


Nine months! Nine months of silence for Zechariah. He's got his sign; God CAN do things that actually affect him, that change his ability to speak. Oh yes, when God's on the scene He can enable us to do a whole lot of things we couldn't do on our own. That's one of the marvels of the Christian life – but then perhaps you haven't plugged into that truth yet. Christianity is all about God coming and changing us and enabling us to be people who do things today that we couldn't do in the past. Or perhaps it's to change us so that we don't do things we did in the past! You see He's God, and He knows best, and when we open our lives to Him, He blesses us in this way.


So here is Zechariah, coming out of the innermost part of the Temple with others waiting to congratulate him on having performed this once-in-a-lifetime service – and he can't speak! Something has obviously happened, but what? That's often the trouble with encounters with God; they're not always easy to describe! Especially when you can't speak! It's then down to an instant course in sign language.


But he's got the message! When he returns home, somehow he conveys something to Elizabeth his wife. Perhaps it's just that elderly couple do still continue to express love to one another physically, but whatever it is, probably to her total surprise, Elizabeth finds herself pregnant! Hang on, she's an old lady probably past child-bearing age, and all the years have proved she's not capable of conceiving. Well she is now! That's what we said, when God turns up, He enables us to do things we couldn't do previously.


So here are this elderly couple waiting out the nine months; Zechariah possibly wondering if he'll get his speech back; Elizabeth possibly wondering how she'll manage when it comes to the birth. Two people waiting and wondering and the time drags by, one day at a time, one hour at a time, just waiting. Oh yes, there are times when we wish we could speed up time, but God has designed things to work in certain ways and that often involves time. It takes nine months for the foetus to develop so they're going to have to just be patient and wait. Are there things you're feeling impatient about? Come on, the lesson here is you can't rush things. You can do stuff, pray more, or whatever, but some things just have to go their time – unless God speeds it up – now there's a thought!







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Meditation No. 8

Meditation Title: Can God turn up?


Luke 1:26-28   In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."


It's sometimes difficult to get behind the Christmas story. Many of us know it too well. Take the angel out of the story above and what have we got left? A young teenage girl (because that's what she would have been) who is engaged, we would say, to a man called Joseph. He's a good Jewish boy with a pedigree going right back to David, one of the earliest kings of Israel . She is a young girl and so, in the light of the strict culture of that day, would not have had any sexual relations with Joseph (as the later story will very clearly indicate). Yet she is going to conceive, the story is going to tell us, without the help of a man and have the baby Jesus.


Now to cope with this, you can take only one of two possible courses: either what we've written above is not true and she got pregnant by Joseph or some other man, or God turned up and we have a miracle of conception. You'll only take the former option if you've set you mind to believe that God can't turn up and enable Mary to conceive without a man. But if you're willing to even consider the thought that there is a God, why should you think that He couldn't do this? If there is a God, then He has to be the Ultimate Being that philosophers go on about and if He is this, as the Bible declares He is, then He IS all powerful and CAN make this sort of thing happen.


Yes, we are running ahead of our verses above, but we need to get this out into the open as early as possible, because it actually affects all of our thinking. Check it again: you either deny that Mary conceived Jesus supernaturally or you accept the story above. In the light of what we've just said about God, you either don't believe in the possibility of this Supreme Being (so why are you reading about Him?) or you do accept the possibility and therefore must accept the possibility of the virgin conception. If you accept that, you won't have any problems with the appearance of an angel. You may remember we encountered Gabriel two meditations back, but rather took him for granted. Well we're not taking him for granted now. We're thinking about the possibility of angels!


If you start out with acceptance of the possibility of a Supreme Being, who is described in the Bible, then talk of heavenly beings called angels is valid as well, even if we personally have never encountered one. Now we say all this because the talk of angels leaves some of us thinking about this story in the same way we think about fairy stories – that it's just a nice made up story for the children. No it's not; that's the point we're making. We're talking about down-to-earth space-time history. It happened just like the text says.


Now this a somewhat critical to our beliefs generally, and the key question is, could God turn up in this girl's life like this and transform it? The follow-up question must therefore be, can God turn up and bring changes to my life? This is what the Christmas story is all about. This is why it is so important in the Christian calendar. It is all about revealing the God who ‘turns up' and does things. If he could do it for them, he can surely come and bring changes to our lives today. This is the critical issue under consideration. So, can He turn up for you – today? It was via an angel for Mary, but it could be in a variety of ways for you! Well, can He?








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Meditation No. 9

Meditation Title: Is God for me?


Luke 1:28-31   The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.


If only God would stay in heaven, we'd be all right! I'm sure that's what some people think. The ‘Deists' of earlier centuries thought like that. They were happy to believe in a God who created the world, but they then envisaged Him sitting back and letting it get on without His interference. It's more comfortable like that isn't it! But this is God's world and He delights in interacting with the human race. He made us for that purpose.


Yesterday we laboured over the possibility of God actually coming. Now we consider the more personal details of this story. Here we have a young Jewish girl and an angel appears to her. If that wasn't bad enough – for when was the last time you encountered an angel? – the angel says she is highly favoured with God. In fact twice he says that. Now, as we've suggested in earlier meditations, we very often feel guilt about our lives and so the thought of God turning up doesn't thrill us! When a heavenly messenger, in angelic or human form, turns up and tells you that God is blessed by you, for many that is almost too much to cope with. Mary was greatly troubled by the angel's greeting; how would you have felt? Seriously, suppose you were sitting alone at home one day and suddenly without a door opening, a figure full of light was standing there saying (in modern language), “Hi, I'm from God. He wants you to know He's really pleased with you and He's here for you”, I wonder how you'd feel? Full of immediate joy? I think you'd be more likely to be full of questions: why me, why at this time, what have I done to get God's attention, what does He want?


I said yesterday that it's sometimes difficult to get behind the Christmas story because we may know it too well. If you think coping with an angel is easy stuff, you've never really thought about it in depth. The truth is, of course, that whenever God turns up and says things to us, it is unsettling. There we were quietly coping (or struggling) with life and even though it might have been hard going on a bad day, somehow we can cope with what is familiar. Then God arrives and suddenly everything is changed. The Lord of the Universe has come to us, God Almighty, all-knowing, all wise, the One who is so different from us. That is unnerving!


For the moment, all He says to Mary, through the angel, is that she will be having a baby who she is to name Jesus. That seems fairly straight forward so far, but even this is a life change. Mary has got a question about it as we'll see tomorrow, but for the moment, it's only something she would expect to happen anyway. I mean, she about to be married and married people have children but…. Have you seen the ‘but' yet? You're still seeing it all through too-familiar eyes if you haven't seen the ‘but'. But why does it need God to come and tell me the obvious. There must be more to this than meets the eye. There must be a catch in this. Yes, that's the trouble when God turns up; there's more to it that meets the eye. There's more to come. Are you ready for God to come and speak to you like that?









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Meditation No. 10

Meditation Title: Can it be?


Lk 1:34-38 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.


Mary has a question. It's like she senses that the angel doesn't mean in the future once she is married; he seems to mean now, and now has difficulties. Now she hasn't had any sexual relations with Joseph, now she's not married. There is a small problem about this: surely you need a man to be involved?


Some of us who have been Christians a long time, are really too spiritual for our own good! We know the theory of all this, we've heard the story so many times, but it stays at a distance when it comes to applying it to our own lives. It's so easy to read the verses above and think, “Oh, isn't that nice, isn't that wonderful!” The trouble is that it still stays in the realm of the impossible as far as our own lives are concerned. That would never happen to me, I'm never going to be called to accept something like this! Really?


You see Christianity is, as we've said previously, all about life change. Later on after Jesus had been born, after he had grown up and was now teaching people and performing miracles (and the two went together with him), he said to a leader called Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (Jn 3:7). Now as Nicodemus acknowledged that was a human impossibility, but when we come humbly to God, confessing our need of His love and forgiveness, He comes and transforms us by the power of His own Holy Spirit. What we couldn't do, He does! As the angel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God”. But this isn't just a life change when we are ‘born again', it is an ongoing life change, the New Testament teaches us. For some of us, these life changes are as dramatic as the life change being put before Mary. God's purpose for Mary was to bring His own Son into the world through her body. God's purpose for you and me is exactly the same! Yes it is. it's not to bring a baby out of your body, but it is to bring Jesus into the world through you. That is His ultimate purpose. We're told that in the New Testament: “we…are being transformed into his (Jesus') likeness” (2 Cor 3:18. See also Eph 3:16-19)


Yes, amazing isn't it. Mary was called to become a vessel to bring the Son of God into being on the earth. Today God calls us into relationship with Him, so that we may be called ‘children of God' (Jn 1:12,13), sons of God (Gal 3:26), being changed into Jesus' likeness (Rom 8:29, 1 Cor 15:49). That is God's wonderful ultimate goal for you – for you to enter into this life-long, life-changing process. Now look at Mary's response. She may not understand how this can be but she responds, "May it be to me as you have said."


There's a lot more to come in this Christmas story but here is the challenge from the Lord: will you respond to Him in the same way, willing to let Him bring this staggering life change we've been talking about? Can it be? May it be!







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Meditation No. 11

Meditation Title: Family Unity


Luke 1:39-41   At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.


We have been following two stories so far, one of a child that is to be born to an elderly couple, and one of a child who will be born to a young girl. The elderly couple have tried for a child throughout their lives, but with no success, until now when God has decreed it. The young girl hasn't even got a married partner yet but is suddenly aware that she is carrying a baby. Two mothers, who happen to be cousins, separated by years but joined by a common experience; they are both having a child despite impossible circumstances. Elizabeth has been hiding herself away in her home in the hill country of Judea in the south. Mary lives in Nazareth in Galilee , to the north.


Mary's first inclination is to go to her cousin who, she's been told, is six months into her pregnancy. She travels south to Elizabeth and Zechariah's home. Perhaps she simply wants to share in the joy of this couple as they wait out their time; perhaps she wants to share with Elizabeth all that has happened. It is a very natural scene, two expectant mothers getting together to share their experiences. Eventually Mary reaches their home and as she enters the building and sees Elizabeth , she calls out to her, and suddenly the baby in Elizabeth leaps and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit.


Now if you're not sure what being filled with the Holy Spirit means, the Bible shows us that it is an experience of the presence of the Lord seemingly filling that person so that they are either equipped and enabled to do something they previously were unable to do, or they were filled with great joy. We'll see tomorrow the effect on Elizabeth . For now all we want to do is register the fact that it happened.


Here are two women who have both been enabled by God to have children. The child of Elizabeth will become the man we know as John the Baptist. The child of Mary is Jesus. John's role was to prepare the people to be ready to meet and receive Jesus. That's how close and significant these two women are. At this stage they are both just marveling at what is happening to them, and although the angel has spoken words to both Zechariah and to Mary, it is probable that neither of them fully appreciated the full import of what is going on. That's how life with God often is.


The Holy Spirit enabled Mary to conceive Jesus, and the Holy Spirit now in Mary – even perhaps in John within her – stirs them mother and child as He acknowledges The Presence within Mary. Sometimes in the New Testament we find reference to what seem to be three persons who make up the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Here it is as if the Holy Spirit welcomes Jesus as he arrives in this home.


For much of the time these two women just go through the normal process of confinement. It is very ordinary in that respect; millions of women go through it every year. But in this case the presence of God is there behind the ordinary. That's just how it so often is in life: it goes on day by day, quite ordinarily, yet God is just there in the background, overseeing it all. Can you catch this? Can you catch it in your life at the present? No? You will! Carry on reading, carry on listening and perhaps, just perhaps, you will catch a sense of God there each day, just in the background of what you otherwise consider an ordinary life!









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Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Can God show me things?


Luke 1:42-45 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"


In the world at large there are a lot of weird, freaky things that go on. There are seers and people who claim to know the future from a wide range of backgrounds, frequently not godly. Why do we make that latter comment? Because if something like this does not have its origins in God, then it is highly questionable and history shows us many people who have been carried away by deception into the most weird and wonderful things that have only brought harm to them and to others.


Now we say all this by way of prelude to observing what is going on at this point of the Christmas story. Yesterday we observed that Elizabeth was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit' (that is the Spirit of God) and said that when that happens it is an experience of the presence of the Lord seemingly filling that person so that they are either equipped and enabled to do something they previously were unable to do, or they were filled with great joy. In Elizabeth 's case both of those things happened. She speaks forth what can only be described as ‘revelation' and she has a sense of great joy.


It is revelation because, without being told by Mary, she instantly knows that Mary is carrying a baby and that baby is someone very special – her Lord! She praises Mary for having believed what God had said to her. Yes, she's even aware that what has happened to Mary has happened because God spoke to her. This insight, this revelation, is what the Bible refers to as prophecy, the speaking out of the previously hidden will of God.


Now unlike, the weird and wonderful characters who have a freaky sense about them that we sometimes find in the world, there is absolutely nothing like this about Elizabeth . She is simply an aging mother-to-be, who exhibits only goodness. But that's what you get with God. Yes He may speak through someone like this, but it is all goodness.


There are those who suggest that some of us are naturally more aware than others of the spiritual dimension in life, of the spiritual world, and that may be, but the Bible shows again and again that God is a God of communication, and so we may expect God to speak to us. It may not be as dramatic as it was here through Elizabeth ; it may simply be that you are conscious of new thoughts coming, directing your eyes in God's direction, as you read the Bible, or even these meditations. God's way of speaking to us, can be that low-key!


The danger, when thinking about this aspect of God's activity, is that we see it simply as a means of finding out about the future – that's why people foolishly ‘read the stars' or use other similarly highly dubious practices to reassure themselves. No, when God speaks, He wants to bring us into a place of real relationship, or even deeper relationship, with Him, so that we can become recipients of His blessing, His goodness, for that's what love desires. Do you want to hear Him that you may come closer to Him? Then simply ask Him today for that to happen.










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Meditation No. 13

Meditation Title: The Challenge of one good guy


Matt 1:18 -19     This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.


In our world, in the West in particular, we have many problems in society, but one of the worst it seems, is that of husbands abandoning their wives and their children, to go and live with someone else. In one prophetic place in the Bible, a prophet speaks for God saying, “ I hate divorce ” (Mal 2:16 ). The context was a spiritual one but the explanation is clear: God hates covenant breaking, and a marriage is a covenant between two people to live together for life. Jesus reiterates the Law of Moses when he said that the only ground for divorce was marital unfaithfulness (Mt 19:9), and that only when couples were so stubborn they could not receive counsel and help (Mt 19:8).


Now we come to something strange: our verses above say that Joseph was a righteous man. Let's think about this. To have that description means he was a good man who sought to obey God's laws and to please God. So, here he is, engaged to Mary and she tells him she is pregnant and it's God's fault. He now has a serious problem! Everything he knows about God doesn't include God making young girls pregnant. This has got to be a lie! The girl he is about to marry is carrying someone else's baby – it's certainly not mine! – and to make it worse she's making up fairy tales to cover her infidelity.


For a righteous man, the only answer is to flee the sin. If she is unfaithful before the marriage, she is likely to be unfaithful afterwards, so there is no hope for this relationship, so the best thing is to end it quickly. Moses' Law permits that, so that's what I'll do. We'll break the engagement but I'll do it quietly; there's no need to expose her more than I have to. There is in this last part, a distinct air of compassion and care in this man. He is a good man – it's just that he hasn't got the whole picture – yet! (He will soon – you'll see that in tomorrow's meditation).


Consider what we've said so far: Joseph is a good man, a righteous man who desires to do what is right, and doing right means quietly breaking off the engagement – but he hasn't yet got the whole picture. When he does get it, he may think differently.


Here is one good guy, and he presents us with a challenge. Goodness isn't enough. Knowing the whole counsel of God is what is needed and that only comes from a close encounter with God. So many people say foolish things about God because they have never bothered to think through the issues or seek Him for answers. Are there things about God and your life that you don't understand? That's not a cause to walk away and ignore Him. Only you lose from that. The right response is to seek Him for answers. We can be sure that we're right in our assessment of life, but still be missing something – before we become a Christian and after we become a Christian. The danger is that our righteousness becomes ‘self-righteousness' and that is bad news! Becoming aware of my need of God to bring me understanding is the first stage to really moving into God's purpose for my life!









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Meditation No. 14

Meditation Title:  The Challenge of Revelation


Matt 1:20 -21   But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."


Ignorance of the Law, they say, is no excuse. What they mean is that everyone is expected to have a reasonable understanding of the laws of the country. It gets worse though, because if it can be shown that you definitely knew about a law and blatantly disregarded it, you are doubly guilty. Jesus said, “ From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked .” (Lk 12:48) I simply remind us of this, because an interesting challenge arises behind what was happening here.


The challenge is, if God has spoken to me, dare I disregard what He has said? You see, here is Joseph who, as we said yesterday, is a good man, a righteous man, who desires to do the right thing before God, and now he's being told to take Mary as his wife. Does he have to do this? No, there are choices before him, because he does have a free will. Will he disregard this dream when he wakes in the morning, putting it down to a guilty conscience over Mary, or even the cheese he ate last night? Or will he simply do what he was told in the dream by God.


Ah! Now there's another question that might arise in his mind. Was that really God speaking through that dream? Does God speak through dreams? Does God ask me to do things that I feel uncomfortable about? Does God speak? There' a whole issue here about the possibility of God speaking. Well the Old Testament gives hundreds of examples of God speaking to people, so the last question is answered. Does God speak through dreams? Well why shouldn't he?


The truth is that God speaks through a whole variety of ways. He can speak through dreams, He can speak through the circumstances of your life, He can speak through the words of the Bible as you read it, He can speak through other people to you, He can speak through your conscience, and He can speak by a quiet whisper in your mind. Nevertheless the question so often arises in us, was this really God speaking? One check is to ask, does it conform to what we learn of Him and His will in the Bible, but that does mean we need to know it quite well. We can also ask about the fruit or the effect of it: does it bring, love or peace to us, does it draw us closer to God? As we left with a sense of God's love for us and does it leave us in a closer walk with Him? Having answered all those questions positively, we're still left with a response of faith. We can't be one hundred per cent sure, and so we have to step out, trusting it was God. That is faith.


That's what confronts Joseph here. This is the challenge of revelation. Is this really God and will I trust Him and respond positively to it. For Joseph it was a major life turn around if he was going to do that. This wasn't just a quiet intellectual assent; this meant a total change in life, but then that's what God's after for us. When we step out like this we find we're plugged in to a completely new world, the world of God, the world of goodness, the world of blessing. That's what is at stake here!








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Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title:  Grounded in God's Declared Will


Matt 1:22 -25   All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.


There is a bizarre phenomenon in the West in the twenty first century. If is of people declaring their freedom from God, from religion, from ritual and from rules, and who yet are, increasingly, slaves to upsetting and destructive lifestyles from which they cannot escape. Psalm 2 is a psalm that speaks of people who think that they are in chains and fetters because of God's requirements and plot against God (Psa 2:1-3). It is pure folly, the psalm reveals, because God is all-powerful and He is Lord and He rules over the affairs of men. But there is another reason that it is folly, and that is because all God intends for mankind is good, and any restrictive laws are purely to protect man and maintain the good.


Joseph, in his dream is being confronted with a course of action that is in direct opposition to all that he had felt before he went to bed. He is confronted by an angel who tells him that what is happening to Mary is God's will. It is part of God's previously declared will and has now come about by the power of God. As we considered yesterday, the questions before Joseph now are, is this really God speaking and will I do what is being said? He clearly decides in the affirmative to both questions. He reverses his previous plans and instead proceeds with his betrothal, marries Mary and looks after her, even though he's had nothing to do with the baby! This is a major step of faith.


But let's consider further just what it is that he has done. He has basically said, I will trust this is God and therefore, even though I do not fully understand it, I will put myself fully into God's declared will and do that which has been asked of me. This means that he takes on some possible comments of the onlookers who will soon realize that Mary is pregnant and that conception came before the marriage and, even more, he's going to have to learn to live with the fact that he's going to be father to a child that is not his, and he's going to continually have to remind himself that this child is by an act of God, else he may have bad feelings about Mary. However many other children they may have in the future (and they had at least six more – Mk 6:3), the eldest one would always have a question mark over him. Yes, this was a major step for him to take.


We will see from later on in the story that God's choice of this man was well-founded because his ability to receive guidance from God made him a good protector of the baby. At the time we may not be able to see why God is instructing us to move in a particular way, but we need to realize that God's plans for our individual lives are part of His bigger plan and He will always provide all we need to comply with His wishes. It is only, in fact, when we put ourselves into God's declared will, that we find blessing and fulfillment. Only with the sense of walking in the path He has for us, do we find true satisfaction. We may not fully understand it, but we will receive peace and we will receive blessing. Are you aware of His calling? Can you let go your fears and step into that calling?









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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Trapped by Circumstances


Luke 2:1-4 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria .) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea , to Bethlehem the town of David , because he belonged to the house and line of David.


Throughout history there have been groups of people who have decided that life, the world, is like a great clockwork machine and that everything is interlinked and no one and nothing is free from it. It's like one great machine and you can't affect it. Some have even gone as far as to say everything we say or do is determined by what has been. We are locked into a great machine, slaves to yesterday!


Now why do we sometimes feel that? Because governments and authorities decide the rules, the media portrays life as being a series of incidents where so much of it goes wrong and we feel we have little or no say in the destiny of the world. Joseph and Mary could have felt like that. They are part of a small nation, Israel , which has been taken over and ruled by Rome . Rome is all-powerful and so, because the Roman emperor has decided he would like to know exactly who he is ruling over, everyone has to be counted, and they are to be counted at the place of their birth. So, all over the country, people were moving to go to their home town to make sure on census day they were there. There were no doubt severe penalties for those who didn't! In the case of a married couple, they were to go to the husband's home town.


So here they are, expecting a baby – which Joseph, no doubt, isn't feeling too sure about on a bad day – and now they have to travel from Nazareth in the south to Bethlehem in the north, because that's the town of his family. Cogs in a machine, being driven by forces beyond them! Why Bethlehem ? What's special about Bethlehem ? That will become clear later, but for the moment it seems there is little point in it, except the emperor requires it. Isn't that just how life is so much of the time? We seem carried along by the winds of circumstance and we don't know why. We wish we could win a million pounds, say, and break free from the daily drudgery and not have to work, perhaps, for work can seem such a part of the ‘machine' which holds us in place. In such a framework of thinking, it is so easy to feel depressed. What's the point? Why am I here? Why is this happening? If only I hadn't… If only I had…. Yes, there are days when it seems that that is all there is.


It's like what we were thinking about, in respect of Elizabeth and Zechariah, a little while back. She's pregnant and it's going to be nine months before anything is going to happen, so it's a waiting time. We've just got to get on with life and wait for the next significant thing to happen. For Mary and Joseph, it's having to be at Bethlehem . Get the census out of the way and we can get on with life again. Oh really? You don't know some of the things that are going to happen there, because one thing we've forgotten about here, is that God has a plan and God is on the move. That's so easy to forget in what seems the ordinary mundane day to day working out of life. Oh yes, it may seem that ‘big people' are moving us around like pawns on a chess board, but actually God is the One who is ruling over it all. Don't lose sight of that today, or tomorrow, or any other day! Look for Him in it. Remind yourself what He has said or done to get you to today. Get perspective! Get a God perspective, and that will change everything!







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Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: Difficult Times in God's Will


Luke 2:5-7   He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.


We thought yesterday about the feeling of being trapped in a machine, the machine of circumstances beyond our control. Mary and Joseph are in that machine and it requires them to leave the place where they were living and go to Bethlehem , for no reason apart from the whim of the emperor!


Now the only problem about all this, is that everybody else is doing this as well, and so Bethlehem , being the home town of King David , was the home town of lots of people descended from this family line. There are lots of people travelling back to Bethlehem ! And yes, you can guess it, it's always the same, the authorities hadn't thought about this, or hadn't cared about it, but where was everyone to stay? Go to the Inn . Right! But unfortunately several dozen other people got there before us and so there's no room.


Fortunately a kindly innkeeper, or more likely inn-keeper's wife, sees Mary's state and allows them to bed down in the stable round the back. It's pretty awful, but it's better than nothing. And then, Oh Joseph, there was a pain, and another, I'm having the baby. Just when you thought things couldn't get worse! A young girl and it's her first child. How would you have felt? A husband with a young wife who's having a baby that isn't yours; how would you have felt? This is not a good day!


Have you caught something of the picture? This is not a fun day! Looked on from a purely human standpoint, from the standpoint of Mary and Joseph, there have definitely been better days!!! We tend to forget all this when we see the children acting it out in the school nativity play. From a human standpoint, what has just happened? Another baby has just arrived in the world. Goodness knows how many other babies arrived in the world on that day or night. Ah, but that's the point; this isn't just another baby. What we have missed in the awfulness of these circumstances is that God has just appeared in the world in human form for the very first time over.


Now that is such a staggering statement that it leaves most of us spluttering over the impossibility of it, or over our incapability to grasp it, but that, the Bible very clearly tells us, is what happened! In a way that totally denies our intellect, somehow, this tiny defenceless baby lying wrapped up in a manger, in the straw, is God. Is he totally God? Well yes he is, but somehow not, because God is all-powerful, all knowing, all-everything and this tiny baby – for the moment at least – isn't, or certainly doesn't appear to be! That's what makes this a mystery, because this little baby that is God in human form, is going to grow up and show himself to be very different from us, is going to provide us with so much evidence that, for any open thinking person, there is no room for doubt – this is God! But he doesn't look like it at the moment. The lesson? When God leads you into apparently small and ordinary events, even seemingly bad-news-day events, be careful, they may have earth shattering consequences – you just don't know with God! What may seem a nightmare may turn out to be the most staggeringly wonderful day of your life!








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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: Why Shepherds?


Luke 2:8,9    And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.


Being of a limited mind, there are a variety of things I would like to ask the Lord when I see Him. For instance, why the Shepherds? Why did an angel come to a bunch of shepherds on a hillside outside of Bethlehem . I've got various ideas but the Bible doesn't actually tell us why shepherds. You've probably taken them for granted in the Christmas story, most of us have. But why do they get included?


Is it that God is just so happy that He'll send His angels to whoever happens to be around? Was it because they were the only ones awake at the time the baby was born? Was it that God saw this bunch of social outcasts – because that's what scholars tell us they probably were – and just take pity on them and so laid on an angelic visitation? I mean, those sort of things are typical of God. Rejoicing overflows from heaven, and the Lord is concerned for the poor.


Perhaps it is an object lesson for the world, as if the Lord is saying, see here, look, my Son is available to be seen by anyone. You don't have to be rich; you don't have to be religious. You can even be an outcast, and he's there for you. That would certainly be true of Him.


Perhaps it is a symbolic gesture, sending shepherds to go and check out the latest birth of a sheep, or rather of a lamb to be more precise, one who would later be referred to as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29) who was slain in the place of sinners.


So how do those suggestions resonate with you? Do you know the God who is so full of joy that it overflows to His world (see Prov 8:30,31) or is the God you think about a miserable, vindictive old man in the sky who you do well to avoid? If He's that latter, it's time you readjusted your thinking about God because He's far more like the former picture (see Isa 62:5, Lk 15:7,10). Oh yes, heaven is not a miserable place!


Do you still think you have to earn God's love by being good or by being religious? Oh no, these shepherds challenge that, if nothing else in Scriptures didn't - but it does! No you don't have to earn the right to come into the presence of the Son who is now seated at his Father's right hand in heaven reigning; you just have to acknowledge that you're on the same level of these shepherds.


Do you still think you have to try and appease God and make up for the wrong things you do? You've never taken in the truth about the Lamb of God then, who died in your place to take your punishment, so all you have to do is come to the Father with gratefulness. If this story tells us nothing else, it tells us that God is the One who takes the initiative in coming to men, and He's not put off by anyone – shepherds, you or me! God doesn't look for good people, just receptive people – and we'll soon see how receptive these men were!


But at the end of it, we still don't know exactly why the shepherds, but that's typical of God as well. He leaves some questions unanswered until we see Him face to face in eternity. Can you live with that? Have you that assurance. This is a very reassuring story, so if you're not completely sure of your place in eternity with God, go back and reread some of the things above. They are true. The way is open for you. Rejoice with the shepherds.