Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Fear not.

The Word for today:
Psalm 37:1-20
Today, and for the last couple of days, we're trying to put Christmas in a whole-Bible context. Certainly, we did not attempt to jam every verse of scripture into your stocking, but by taking a seemingly un-Christmasy Psalm (#35), some scenes from Zechariah and Job, a Christmas carol ("God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen") and -- today -- a passage from Revelation 12, we've tried to re-connect Luke 2 and Matthew 2 to the rest of the Bible, and paint the Star of Bethlehem against a wider sky.
Just ahead -- a few days before Christmas, and on the Day itself -- Pastor Joe will complete the series by placing Christmas in the context of the cross.
Certainly Christmas is a light show: the wise men followed the star; the glory of the Lord shone 'round about the shepherds. But it is painted against the darkest background:
"Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."
In the Temple, on the eighth day of Jesus' life, the prophet Simeon solemnly declared the future:
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:34-35)
Indeed, darkness itself is very likely why Christmas eventually found its way to December 25th. While we can come very close to the year Jesus was born, no one knows the month (let alone the day). There is more evidence for April or September than December; but since we can't be sure, the days surrounding the winter solstice in late December -- the darkest days of the year -- are poetically true to the time of his birth, symbolically enhancing the arrival of the prophesied Star:
I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab, and destroy all the sons of tumult. (Numbers 24:17)
In Revelation chapter 12, the arrival of the Star out of Jacob is seen through this darker prism:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron…
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God."
In Scripture -- The Story of Jesus Christ -- Christmas is when the Light of the World pierced the darkness, and the tide of battle turned.  So rest ye merry, ladies and gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay:
From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came;
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same:
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name.
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
"Fear not then," said the Angel,
"Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Saviour
Of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him
From Satan's power and might."
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.


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