2020. Many ways to look at the year that’s past. The thought that comes to mind is: it was a year in which God once again showed his global power, despite many shaking their fists at Him.
So on this last day of 2020, as I become quiet before the Lord I see gold. Not just the colour gold but a real shining bar of gold. What are you saying Lord? “I am refining you like gold and silver – I’m refining you through my Word, which is more precious than gold or silver – I am refining you through suffering.” .As my mind immediately feels a dark cloud passing over at the mention of the word suffering, I sense God saying to me “stop focusing on the “what ifs” of the future – focus on to-day – what you are going to face to-day My grace will be sufficient for you to-day – for anything you may face to-day – let the future in my hands, my grace is always going to be sufficient for you – remember the song “it is well with my soul””.
So I pursue my search of God’s word for confirmation and I find:
Psalm 119:71,72: “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than a thousand pieces of gold or silver”
1 Peter 1:6,7; “In this I greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. these have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
My reading today is Luke 2:1-20. I wrote last time about this passage. It is possibly one of the best known passages in the bible. Who hasn’t seen a number of nativity plays? The danger lies in just that. Because we know it so well it no longer holds the full wonder for us that it was meant to. I close my eyes and see the scene in Palestine 2000 years ago. A small group of shepherds sitting around a fire chatting, dressed in the basic home-spun clothes of the poorest. Behind them in the starlight their sheep, grazing away quietly (sheep feed mostly at night). Suddenly the glory of the Lord shines around them. Their reaction? They are terrified. The Greek could not emphasize this more strongly it reads “megas phobeo, phobos”.
Just think back of the dedication of the temple in Solomon’s time when God visited it with His glory.: 2 Chronicles 7:1,2……Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifice, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house.”
And then the announcement: The announcement of the beginning of the greatest history-changing event of all time. That’s not all. The show is not over yet. A great company of the heavenly host appears with the angel praising God. This was no nativity play with paper props, this was a glimpse into heaven itself. A huge supernatural display of God’s power and joy.
And Luke is writing in the same style of his first chapter, using the huge contrasts to highlight the event, like a master painter. Here is Mary, a pregnant, peasant lass, with her husband Joseph, a carpenter (betrothed yet not consummated). far away from home in the simplest of accommodations. Among animals in a stable. Giving birth to a baby and without a cot he is laid in a manger, with the animal food just scraped out. Outside in the field a group of the simplest folk gathered. No rich and influential people around, kings or religious leaders, just the most simple scene. And God reveals His glory (not nearly all of it but enough to make a huge show).
Who is this baby? The reader must ask? He is, vs 11 none other than the Christ (the Messiah, everyone in Israel was waiting for). But not the King riding in on His white steed but a small, vulnerable child. God, yes I said it God Himself, coming to identify with His creation completely. Wrapped up in that little body was the Saviour of the world. Luke wants us to be gobsmacked, just like the shepherds were. He wants us to absorb this truth so that it will change our hearts, our very lives. And like the shepherds in vs 12 to go out and spread the word, so that everyone who hears it will be amazed vs 18
He is a unique King. A king described best by the term “now but not yet”. There will be a day when He will come in glory. Maybe sooner than we think. The question is: does this story strike such a familiar note that you – yawn, as you see all those little children, in your mind’s eye, bumbling through this year’s nativity play. Aren’t they so sweet? Or is it so mind-boggeling that you can’t wait to go and spread the word?
let’s stop and be honest with ourselves. Which news has dominated your thinking this year? Of which news are you the most concerned? I’m sure like me the whole Corona story is the one most prominent. Why don’t we decide that 2021 will be the year when we, with the Lord’s supernatural help, turn our thoughts and conversation to this coming and the possibility of His next coming and away from Corona and it’s sooty fingerprints on everything. God has created the environment, we need to make use of the opportunity!
And so let me end 2020 with words of the blessing in Numbers 6:24 as I call down God’s power and grace on you all for the coming year:
“the Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace”.