BRIGHT MORNING STAR

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS- “O HOLY NIGHT DIVINE WHEN THE STARS WERE BRIGHTLY SHINING”

“I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” Rev. 22:16

We’ve all felt it; the thick darkness of the night. When one was in their unrenewed state; they could look forever and feel the dark, disordered and the deluded. Night was a hopeless, lifeless, breathless blanket all meant to smother. But then the kindness of our savior appeared and dispelled the night! O night divine! For He is the morning star! The star that announces to the night that light is approaching! Christ comes to put to an end to our endless night! Our Aijeleth Shahar! (star of the morning in Ps.22) The morning star always shines brightest when the darkness is about to dissipate and the day is about to break. He comes as “the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings”. He comes as the herald of the Dawn. He becomes our Star and our Sun in the spiritual sky. “He comes to usher in the unclouded and eternal glories of the everlasting kingdom.”

(Clark) O how divine the night becomes when the day star appears! Star shine in the darkness when there is no other light to cheer us and they serve to regulate our seasons. Christ becomes our guide in the storms of night! “He is the revelator of great unseen realities being the harbinger of the day!” (Gill) This star charts our course early as well as late all the days of our lives. It is the light to see with when we are faced with blindness, our guide when the way is hindered. “He will be the eternal pledge and joy of a life that will be for ever young, of energies that will accumulate without end, of a service before the throne that will always deepen in its ardor and its triumph, of discoveries in the knowledge of the Eternal which will carry the experience of the blessed from glory to glory in a succession that cannot close.”( Moule)

And if that isn’t enough He becomes a flood of light upon us. In the Bible Illustrator it says; “His lustre cannot now be withdrawn, nor can men refuse to open their eyes to its presence. He is the Morning Star of all humanity, the brightest light that has ever dawned upon the world — that guides us onwards to the eternal day. He abides a steady, ever-shining light. All others are flickering torches, throwing a momentary and misleading glare, then waning and dying out.” O NIGHT DIVINE!

Enjoy the Advent Season when all around us is His light!

CHRISTMAS MYSTERY

1 Tim.3:16 – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:

God was manifested in the flesh,

There is something amazingly mysterious about the birth of God’s only begotten Son. As Augustine constantly preached, “He was born of a human mother without a human father, He was born of the heavenly Father in eternity without a mother”. The birth of God’s only Son, who has existed long before the virgin conception and birth, is the greatest of all mysteries. The eternal birth and generation of the Son of God is even harder to fathom than the virgin birth of the Son of Man. How could someone who has always existed be begotten? How could a woman without a human mate conceive and have a Child? Both are beyond human reason and are stumbling blocks to the unrenewed mind. Never the less, I believe God’s only begotten Son was carried in the womb of a virgin teen aged jewish girl, was born in an animal stable, lived a sinless life, and died an unjust death to redeem me from my sin. Great is the mystery of Christmas. Here are some thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on this Christmas mystery.

“Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable. Without the holy night, there is no theology. “God is revealed in flesh,” the God-human Jesus Christ — that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God’s mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ…. If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we—captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the son of God—must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.”

So this Christmas I am going to drink from the Christmas cup of theology. This is where my life begins, this is where I choose to stay.

THE TERROR OF THE MANGER

Matt.2:1-3 – Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

The weakness of God always defeats the power of the most powerful men and empires. Think about it, Herod and his soldiers fell before the power of the manger. Rome itself, ultimately fell before the manger and the cross. God has hidden His omnipotent power behind the weakness of the cross. His weakness destroys the power of this age. Today’s scripture says that all Jerusalem was troubled at the news of Christ’s birth. For those who have eyes to see, they tremble in godly fear before the manger, the lost lash out in fear trying in vain to stop the kingdom of God. Here is how Bonhoeffer describes the powerful in this world and their response to the cross and the manger.

“For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep down in their souls, from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ. No powerful person dares to approach the manger, and this even includes King Herod. For this is where thrones shake, the mighty fall, the prominent perish, because God is with the lowly. Here the rich come to nothing, because God is with the poor and hungry, but the rich and satisfied he sends away empty. Before Mary, the maid, before the manger of Christ, before God in lowliness, the powerful come to naught; they have no right, no hope; they are judged…”

In today’s world, not much has changed. The powerful and the self important ignore the cross and the manger as they go about their daily agenda. They may give lip service to some belief In God and may even attend a church but their hearts are far away from the cross. They may have some sort of Christmas celebration but the message of the manger is far away. Only the humble can bow before the manger and only the broken can yield to the cross. This Christmas season let’s take time to humble ourselves before the Lord and His revelation of Himself in the birth of His Son.

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

Lk.2:7 – And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Everything changes when your eyes are finally opened. The world is a different place. As the saying goes; the grass looks greener, the sky looks bluer, even the birds seem to be singing differently. Christmas itself takes on new meaning, finally you see Christ in the whole celebration. My first Christmas as a Christian found me rediscovering the old Christmas carols. I really never noticed the difference between Jingle Bells and Oh Holy Night until my eyes were opened to see Christ in Christmas. I was mesmerized and even overwhelmed as I saw the gospel story so clear in many of those beloved songs. Many of these Christmas songs that are played on radios, in the malls, and even the Christmas movies are loaded with solid Bible theology; who knew! Here are the words to one of those precious Christmas carols, take time and reflect on the power of these words.

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

1. What Child is this who, laid to rest

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

2. Why lies He in such mean estate,

Where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christians, fear, for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,

The cross be borne for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

3. So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,

Come peasant, king to own Him;

The King of kings salvation brings,

Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,

The Virgin sings her lullaby.

Joy, joy for Christ is born,

The Babe, the Son of Mary.

This song carries enough spiritual ammo to preach an entire conference on the mystery of God becoming a man. It speaks of the humility of His birth, surrounded by shepherds, oxen, and donkeys. It speaks of the fear of God, His still small voice, and His death and suffering for our sins. It also speaks of the glory of the Word becoming flesh, prophetic offerings, and the miracle of the virgin birth. How could I have missed this for all those years? I just want to be sure I don’t miss the power of the Christmas message this year.

HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Lk.2:13,14 – And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

The new birth makes everything new and special in our lives. I have been thinking this year about how much my new birth experience changed my view of everything related to Christmas. It changed my view of the Christmas traditions, especially the songs. I am still amazed at the beauty and the power of the historic Christmas carols that literally fill the air from Thanksgiving Day all the way until the New Year. Many of these songs are quite spiritual and carry the very spirit of revivals of long ago. One of those songs is HARK THE HERALD ANGELS SING. It was originally a poem written by Charles Wesley and was soon adapted and changed by George Whitefield. It carries the power and revelation of these two spiritual giants. No wonder we are still singing this song almost 300 years later. Pay close attention as you read the words to this great Christmas hymn.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!”

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.

Joyful, all ye nations, rise,

Join the triumph of the skies;

With th’ angelic host proclaim,

“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored:

Christ, the everlasting Lord;

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the favoured one.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;

Hail, th’incarnate Deity:

Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,

Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born

Prince of peace!

Hail! the Son 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 son of earth,

Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,

“Glory to the new-born King !”

Like many of the historic Christmas songs this one is filled with spiritual revelation. It speaks of reconciliation from sin, the joy of salvation, the messianic birth, the deity of Christ, the new birth, His healing power, and the mystery of God being born in human flesh. The song is absolutely breathtaking. So what shall I do? I am going to join with Charles, George, and the angels and sing the glory of Christ’s birth this Christmas.

CHRISTMAS WONDER

I remember the great tragedy of childhood when I finally realized that my mom and dad were really Santa Claus. I was about nine years old and I was devastated. How could Christmas ever be the same? The mystery and wonder were sucked out of my little world. From the time I was nine until I was twenty one Christmas was not quite the same. How could Christmas be Christmas without Santa? That was all about to change for me suddenly. It happened just after my conversion, Christmas of 1973, that the wonder of Christmas invaded my world again. This time it wasn’t make believe. I saw for myself the mystery of the birth of God’s only Son. I was reading Christmas cards and seeing the Bible verses regarding the birth of Jesus. Suddenly my eyes were opened to what Christmas was all about; God Himself I become a man. John the Apostle said it like this in Jn.1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. God had become a man! Unthinkable! A virgin had given birth to God’s only Son. Here is how Eugene Peterson describes this Christmas wonder.

“Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.”

So have you lost the wonder of Christmas? You will not find it in the shopping mall or under the Christmas tree, this wonder can only be found at the manger, worshipping God’s only Son.

OXEN AND DONKEYS

Isa.1:3 – An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.

What an amazing verse of scripture. According to Isaiah the ox and the donkey had more sense than God’s people. Isaiah said that the ox knew his owner. That is huge!! Many of us don’t realize that we are owned by God. We are His purchased possession, we are no longer our own. This basic revelation changes everything. It changes the purpose of our life and brings tremendous peace. After all, if we belong to God then nothing can touch us. Next, he said that the donkey knew his master’s manger. The donkey knew where his home was, he would never be foolish enough to wander off, he would stay at his master’s home, the place of protection and provision. Several years go I began to write a poem every Christmas. Here is my poem for Christmas 2018.

THE OX KNEW HIS MASTER

Isa.1:3 – An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.

The ox knew his master

The donkey knew his home

The sheep bowed in reverence

These beasts would never roam

The Creator born among them

Their feeding trough for His birth

Just a manger and a stable

To cloak heaven’s priceless worth

Nothing could be stranger

Who could ever ever understand

The drama was now unfolding

Creator God had become a man

The angels they were singing

Their voices piercing the sky

The heavens were announcing

This Infant King was born to die

Eternal drama was performing

Before an ox and a lamb

Eternal generation quite astounding

From a virgin comes a Man

Augustine had an interesting twist on today’s verse. He viewed it as prophetic. He saw in this a glimpse of the Lord being born in a stable among His creatures. Think about that, there was no room in the Inn because no one knew who He was. Life went on as normal, the world was clueless about the birth of the King. Is it possible that the creatures knew Who He was? Mark said that when Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for forty days He was with the wild beasts. Creation recognized the Master but His own people couldn’t, they were blinded by their sin. As the world passes by the stable and manger, caught up in the business of the season, I want to take my cue from an ox and a donkey. I want to honor my owner and bow at His manger.

PRESENT WITH GOD

Ps.31:15 – My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

There are two enemies of recognizing the Lord present in our life today; these enemies are the past and the present. Often, when someone’s relationship with the Lord cools off, they think of the good old days when “the Lord was really moving”. I have often run in to old friends who reminisce about what the Lord used to do in our church back “in the day”. I also am grateful for what the Lord has done over the years but I am also aware of His working right now. He is always working right under our very noses. That other enemy is our hope about future revival or other prophetic events. Remember when Martha told Jesus she knew Lazarus would be raised up at the last day? What was Jesus response ? “I am the resurrection right now.” Too often we put our expectation on some future event when the Lord is present and working today. Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this.

“The most profound matter will be revealed to us only when we consider that not only does the world have its time and its hours, but also that our own life has its time and its hour of God, and that behind these times of our lives traces of God become visible, that under our paths are the deepest shafts of eternity, and every step brings back a quiet echo from eternity. It is only a matter of understanding the deep, pure form of these times and representing them in our conduct of life, then in the middle of our time we will also encounter God’s holy present. “My times are in your hand”. Serve your times, God’s present in your life. God has sanctified your time. Every time, rightly understood, is immediate to God, and God wants us to be fully what we are…. Only those who stand with both feet on the earth, who are and remain totally children of earth, who undertake no hopeless attempts at flight to unreachable heights, who are content with what they have and hold on to it thankfully—only they have the full power of the humanity that serves the opportune time and thus eternity.”

So we love Christmas past, we have some precious memories stored up there. We also know His coming is going to be quite amazing. What I want to focus on this Christmas is this; He is present today. Our today is in His hands. He is doing above what any of us can even conceive. What is our response? Be still; watch, wait, and listen. My today is in His hands.

NEW DAY – NEW SONG

Ps.96:1,2 – Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king”. The words penned by Isaac Watts almost 300 years ago still resound throughout the earth. Joy has come to fill the hearts of all who have opened up to Jesus Christ our King. His second Advent will overwhelm the earth with unspeakable joy. No wonder every picture of the angels is a picture of singing. In His joyous presence there is nothing left to do, “Ps.96:1,2 – Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.” As we prepare for Christmas this year our hearts are also bursting with songs of joy. Christ has come, death has been defeated, our sin has been washed away, and we have received a new life. Here is how Spurgeon describes today’s text.

“O sing unto the Lord a new song. New joys are filling the hearts of men, for the glad tidings of blessing to all people are proclaimed, therefore let them sing a new song. Angels inaugurated the new dispensation with new songs, and shall not we take up the strain? The song is for Jehovah alone, the hymns which chanted the praises of Jupiter and Neptune, Vishnoo and Siva are hushed for ever; Bacchanalian shouts are silenced, lascivious sonnets are no more. Unto the one only God all music is to be dedicated. Mourning is over, and the time of singing of hearts has come. No dismal rites are celebrated, no bloody sacrifices of human beings are presented, no cutting with knives, and outcries of lamentation are presented by deluded votaries. Joy is in the ascendant, and singing has become the universal expression of love, the fitting voice of reverent adoration. Men are made new creatures, and their song is new also.”

If you are a new creature in Christ you understand what the joyful singing is all about. If you have not made peace with God, I beg you, don’t let another Christmas pass in your present condition. Go ahead and sing some of the joyful Christmas songs. As you sing the songs of the “Silent Night”, open your heart. Before long you too will be shouting songs of joy to the Lord.

SINGING EVERY DAY

Ps.96:1,2 – Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

David was singing his “new song” every day. He had experienced more of God and His presence than just about anyone in history. Like he said in Psalm 23, “you anoint my head with oil, my cup is running over”. In another Psalm we hear, “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer”. Obviously, David’s joy was bubbling over. He loved what he had experienced of the goodness of God and wanted others to taste it too. What was the source of this overflowing joy? It is the river of the Spirit that flows out of the revelation of Christ. David had glimpses of His coming. He saw His birth, His eternal nature, His life and ministry, and His heavenly priesthood. What else could he do but lift up his voice and sing his new song. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s passage.

“At the very mention of his name it is meet to say, “Let him be blessed for ever.” Shew forth his salvation from day to day. The gospel is the clearest revelation of himself, salvation, outshines creation and providence; therefore let our praises overflow in that direction. Let us proclaim the glad tidings, and do so continually, never ceasing the blissful testimony. It is ever new, ever suitable, ever sure, ever perfect; therefore let us show it forth continually until he come, both by words and deeds, by songs and sermons, by sacred Baptism and by the Holy Supper, by books and by speech, by Sabbath services and weekday worship. Each day brings us deeper experience of our saving God, each day shows us anew how deeply men need his salvation, each day reveals the power of the gospel, each day the Spirit strives with the sons of men; therefore, never pausing, be it ours to tell out the glorious message of free grace.”

Spurgeon obviously had drunk deeply of this revelation of God in Christ. He said every day, day by day, we are brought deeper into this experience of Christ. We meditate on His incarnation, His sinless life, His supernatural ministry, His unthinkable suffering and death, HIs power revealed in the resurrection, and His ascension to the place of glory at the Father’s right hand and we too will be singing this new song. “Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord all the earth.”