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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

When you have a really big announcement to make, you want to make it known to the largest, most influential audience. That’s one of the keys to marketing. Market to the most influential people, the largest number or people and in the best location.

But God never has followed the rules of the world. When he decided it was time to send us a Savior he broke every rule in the book.

  • He made the announcement to the lowest class citizens in the then-known world. No body paid any attention to Shepherds. They spent most of their time away from the mainstream of society, watching sheep and looking at stars. Yet that’s who God chose to make the first announcement to.
  • He made the announcement to a small group of people, in an obscure place, at a time of day when most people were asleep. The angels brought their message of joy to a small group of shepherds, of all people. Not only that, but often, when shepherds joined together for the night they took shifts. One or two watched while the others slept. So when the heavens exploded in light that night it startled the few who were awake and awakened those who slept!
  • He made the announcement in a place where most people never went due to safety, distance and remoteness. The hills of Judea were beautiful, but rugged. Few people chose to visit them just for the joy of it.
  • He made the announcement to a group of people who had little chance of being, or becoming influential in society.

 

Lonely.

Forgotten.

Scorned.

Fearful.

Little or no hope of advancing on the social ladder.

Those were the people God chose to give the news of the arrival of Messiah.

Why is that important? Because God is still in the business of reaching out to those who feel forgotten. From the very beginning God chose the weak to conquer the strong; the insignificant to be significant; the forgotten to be valued; the scorned to be restored.

In our world, even in the church, we often measure a person by his or her giftedness, talents, financial stature or ‘spirituality’. Our Heavenly Father does just the opposite. He looks for those who are least to make strong. He gives his greatest messages to those least likely to receive anything from him at all.

Feeling small this Christmas? Feeling like everyone else is moving forward while you are falling back? Just can’t get into the ‘Christmas Spirit?’

Maybe you lost a loved one this year and there will one less gift under the tree.

Perhaps you lost your job this year and for the first time in your entire life, you are being forced to rely on others’ help to make it financially.

Maybe you are going through, or have recently gone through divorce and feel your entire world crashing in around you.

Perhaps the doctor gave you a bad report on your check up.

I have news for you, and so does the Creator, Sustainer of the Universe. He came to give joy. Joy that pierces through everything that wants to pull you down. His message is just for you, just for this time, just because he loves you.

You can come to him-He’s waiting for you.

PRAYER: Father I thank you for revealing yourself to us in times, places and ways that go against the world’s wisdom. I pray for those who are going through tough times this season. Give them the message of your joy. Reveal to them the message of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:2(NLT)

There is nothing so stunning as the bride as she walks down the aisle. We all stand as she enters. All eyes are on her. Even those of us guys who maintain our stoic ‘masculine’ image will admit in our honest times, that we are taken back by the moment.

The groom watches her enter. His face mesmerized by her beauty. To him, there’ s no one else in the room. In fact, both the groom and the bride, when their eyes meet are taken out of this world for a moment. They are the only two in the whole world that matters. She is the most important thing in his life at that moment. He is the prince of her dreams.

The moment is filled with hope and passion. Those of us lucky enough to look on remember our own weddings or the dreams we have of one day, walking that aisle or watching the one we love come to us in radiance.

What a marvelous picture of hope, expectation and passion. How fitting that this is the picture the Word of God gives of us as the church meeting the object of our passion: Jesus of Nazareth. Regardless of how we or others view ourselves, He views us as the groom views the bride. We are spotless, pure, perfect in every way, the object of his passion. Forever.

Not one of us has ever walked that aisle or waited at the front of the room without believing that this was it, this was the happily ever after, this was the ‘til death do us part.’ Even those of us who have experienced the painful reality of divorce entered that relationship believing that this was the ‘one for us.’

The difference is, this relationship with Jesus…it never will end. We are his and his forever. Every day, when we get out of bed, no matter how bad we look in the mirror, he sees us as his radiant bride, the object of his passion.  He smiles whenever he looks at us. He pauses constantly to think of us. We are always on his mind. This marriage relationship will never grow old, never be taken for granted, never lose the passion of that wedding day.

What a glorious feast that will be! Now we struggle. We rebel. We endure the pain of broken relationships, financial hardship and political turmoil. In the midst of our struggle, even during those times we can’t see Jesus clearly, he sees us…and smiles.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I have a hard time imagining the fact of your passionate love for me. My love is so often shallow and built on performance. Relationships here on earth are marked by trouble and calamity. They grow cold and even die. Thank you that you always see me with the passion of a groom on his wedding day. In your name, Amen.


The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

Tragedy brings people together. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and the devastation of conflict or famine awaken a part of us that says, “I’ll help you”. Those motivate to help aren’t limited to social class, race or ethnic groups or religious orientation. In fact, sometimes those who are the most financially insecure are the ones who will give more (percentage-wise) than the wealthy.

All of that is good, but sometimes the biggest hurts people experience are the ones where they suffer alone. A broken heart doesn’t show itself in public. We’ve learned how to hide that behind a false smile, and various activities like drugs, new relationships, political and social action or even religion. Some people spend their entire lives doing ‘things’ to try to cure the pain of a broken heart.

Perhaps one of the hardest things to deal with in relation to a broken heart is that we often suffer alone. Oh, we have friends and neighbors who bring food and comfort during times of mourning and illness. There’s often community and government help to rebuild houses and businesses destroyed by natural disaster. But while that may help soothe the pain, it doesn’t cure the pain.

All the food and all the human comfort and all the financial support in the world won’t heal a broken heart. That’s where Jesus comes in. Well meaning friends and compassionate governments can restore physical property, but only Jesus can come alongside you and completely understand your pain. He may not remove the obstacles in your life, but he can give strength to endure in the battle.

It was Jesus who stood beside the mom who’d lost her daughter. It was Jesus who wept over the death of a dear friend. It was Jesus who stood by the desperate father of a demon-possessed, seizure stricken little boy. It was Jesus who brought hope to the woman at the well, a victim of broken relationships, who’d not only had five husbands, but after five divorces she could no longer take the chance of failing again.  It was Jesus who provided the food for over 5,000 hungry men, women and children. He calmed storms, gave hope to the crippled and restored those victimized by religious intolerance.

What is your struggle today? What pain are you hiding because no one else understands? Jesus Christ promises to come along side you. He understands your pain like no one else. He alone can bring peace in the midst of your storm.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. Although I’m smiling on the outside for the world to see, my soul aches today. No one understands how I feel. I’m afraid to share my true feelings with those around me for fear of being misunderstood. Thank you for understanding me. Comfort me in my distress. In your name I pray, Amen.


He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. Mark 14:33

Jesus knew pain. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth he was used to dealing with pain. Not his own as much as the pain of others. He identified with the pain of the parents whose son was demon possessed. He felt the pain of loneliness the lepers felt as social outcasts. He saw the embarrassed humiliation of the prostitute and the woman caught in adultery. He saw the hopelessness of the paralytic and the fear in the blank stare of the blind man.

They came from a variety of backgrounds and bore a huge amount of pain and despair. Jesus hurt right along side them and offered compassion in their darkest hour like no one else ever had. His hand of compassion and understanding lifted many a soul from the deepest darkest night so that they could see the light and hope of tomorrow.

All the pain Jesus dealt with, nothing could prepare him for that night in the garden. Son of God? Yes. Surrounded by angels ready to rescue him at any moment? Certainly. But none of that kept him from feeling extreme agony that night in the garden. He needed to be alone, but not without some companionship. He took his three very closest friends with him. He was in utter despair. Fear gripped him. This was Jesus in humanity. Alone. Scared. Full of anxiety.

When we come to those times we think no one cares. When the darkness of the night surrounds us. When we look for answers but find none, remember this time in Jesus life. He understands like none other what is ahead. He knows what it’s like to be so full of despair and anxiety that his very guts seem to be tied in knots. He knows what it’s like to seek comfort from God and not get it. He knows what it’s like to pray and feel unheard.

Jesus knows your pain. The next time the road ahead is hidden in a bank of fog, remember this night in the garden. The next time you feel completely abandoned by friends and even God, remember the agony of his loneliness when every one of his friends abandoned him. The next time you wonder if God even cares, remember the great drops of blood he sweat  as he looked into an uncertain future.

Jesus, like none other offers you the hope to carry on, the companionship I the midst of loneliness, the strength when the battle makes you to weary to want to go on. There is no night too dark, no fog too thick, no despair so deep that he can’t comfort you. He’s only a prayer away.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I can’t imagine the pain you endured that night in the garden. The loneliness, the anxiety, the feeling of separation from God and the ones you loved must have been excruciating. Thank you for doing that all for me. Empower me with the presence of your Holy Spirit to press on. Remind me daily of your love and understanding of my turmoil. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It wasn’t enough to watch from heaven. Your car died. Your kids have just told you that they don’t believe in God. You just lost your job. You can’t sing in church anymore. It’s not that the music is bad. In fact you like the music. You just can’t sing the words anymore. They’ve become hollow syllables, empty letters, and meaningless chatter.

You’ve tried to get the feeling back. You’ve prayed. You think about reading the Bible every day. It’s hard to know if it’s your own failure that has driven you to this point, or if it’s the pain that others have inflicted on you. You’ve been scolded one too many times. You’ve been reminded once too often that you’ve failed.

“Is it worth another try?” you ask yourself as you lay on your back staring at the ceiling and hoping that sleep will come soon to give your mind some rest. The same situations keep replaying themselves over and over in your head. What if you’d made a different choice? What if he didn’t hit you that last time? What if you’d told her she couldn’t go to the party? What if…?

The loneliness and despair surround you like the darkness of your night. You hope sleep comes but fear the dawn because you know the problems will still be there and you aren’t sure where you will get the courage and strength to go one more day.

Then a still small voice comes from the dark corners of your troubled mind. It’s a verse…no a phrase really. You don’t remember where it’s from. It was part of a Sunday School lesson years ago. “I’ll never leave you or forsake you.” That was it, right. He’ll never leave. He promised to be with me…always.

As sleep finally begins to creep in the words keep reminding you, consoling you, healing you. It wasn’t enough for him to watch from heaven. It wasn’t enough for him to ‘understand’ your plight. He knew that the best way he could help you was to come to live with you.

Jesus has felt the pain of every broken relationship. He’s cried with you each time you’ve been lied to. He’s worked through the feelings you have had of failure even though he himself never failed.

That’s what grace is about. It’s about the son of God coming to earth to feel your pain. To endure your failures. To feel your loneliness. He did all of this because he loves you and desperately yearns for a relationship with you. Jesus is passionate about you! It wasn’t enough to watch with sympathy from heaven. Jesus loves you so much he came to earth to experience the pain you feel in life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I don’t understand how you, as the Son of God, can feel all the feelings I feel. I don’t understand how you can love someone like me who seems to find new ways to fail every day. I don’t understand it. But I like it! Thank you for understanding me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for loving me so much that you came to earth to show me how to live in the midst of this struggle we call life. Amen.

 

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