Wednesday, December 14, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--Tidings

Nativity Alphabet by Krista Hamrick

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art print, Nativity Alphabet, has so inspired me. Each of the 26 words in the Nativity Alphabet are so intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows. My heart has been drawn to write 26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet.

While pondering the word, “Tidings,” I was inspired by listening to MercyMe’s rendition of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen God rest ye merry gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay; Remember, Christ, our Savior was born on Christmas day, To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray, O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy, O tidings of comfort and joy. 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.

Pastor James Hastings writes: “Good Tidings of Great Joy…And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.—Luke 2:10-11. It is long since the shepherds near Bethlehem beheld in the clear eastern sky the glory of the Lord, and heard the voice of the heavenly messenger proclaiming, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Centuries have rolled by, but the luster of that night has not passed away. There were many great men and many wealthy men in Palestine. There were scholars of the most profound and various learning. There were lean ascetics who had left the joys of home, and gone away to pray and fast in deserts. But it was not to any of these that the angels came, and it was not in their ears that the music sounded; the greatest news that the world ever heard was given to a group of humble shepherds. Few sounds from the mighty world ever disturbed them. They were not vexed by any ambition to be famous. They passed their days amid the silence of nature; and to the Jew nature was the veil of God. They were men of a devout and reverent spirit, touched with a sense of the mystery of things, as shepherds are so often to this day. Is it not to such simple and reverent spirits that God still reveals Himself in amplest measure?"

How fitting it was, too, that shepherds should be chosen, when we remember how the Twenty-third Psalm begins, and when we reflect that the Babe born in Bethlehem was to be the Good Shepherd giving His life for the sheep. It is generally supposed that these anonymous shepherds were residents of Bethlehem; and tradition has fixed the exact spot where they were favored with this Advent Apocalypse—about a thousand paces from the modern village. It is a historic fact that there was a tower near that site, called Eder, or “the Tower of the Flock,” around which were pastured the flocks destined for the Temple sacrifice; but the topography of Luke 2:8 is purposely vague. The expression, “in that same country,” would describe any circle within the radius of a few miles from Bethlehem as its center, and the very vagueness of the expression seems to push back the scene of the Advent music to a farther distance than a thousand paces. And this view is confirmed by the language of the shepherds themselves, who, when the vision has faded, say one to another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass”; for they scarcely would have needed, or used, the adverbial “even” were they keeping their flocks so close up to the walls of the city. We may therefore infer, with some amount of probability, that, whether the shepherds were residents of Bethlehem or not, when they kept watch over their flocks, it was not on the traditional site, but farther away over the hills."

“Be not afraid.” This was the first bidding sent from heaven to men when Jesus Christ was born. It was no new message of reassurance; again and again in a like need a like encouragement had been expressed to Abraham, to Isaac, to Gideon, to Daniel, to Zacharias, the same tranquillizing, helpful words had come from the considerateness and gentleness that are on high. But to the shepherds of Bethlehem they came with a new power and significance. “And the angel said unto them, Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Within that glory was the love of God; and all that it might disclose must come from Him who so loved the world that He had sent His Son to be born, to suffer, and to die for men. There must, indeed, be awe in coming near to God, in realizing how near He comes to us: but it is like the awe with which even earthly goodness, greatness, wisdom at their highest touch us; it is not like our terror of that which is arbitrary and unaccountable. God dwells in depths of burning light, such as the eyes of sinful men can never bear: but the light itself, with all it holds, streams forth from love, and is instinct, informed, aglow with love."

These words which the angel spoke were but anticipations of the words with which Jesus Himself has made us familiar. They were His favorite words. He might have borrowed them from the angel, or more likely given them to the angel in advance. We hear from His own lips continually—“Fear not.” He meets us at every turn of life with that cheery invocation. He passed through His ministry day by day repeating it. It was the watchword of His journey and warfare. The disciples heard it every time they were troubled, cast down, and afraid. When they fell at His feet trembling, He lifted them up with the words “Fear not!” When their ship was sinking in the storm, they heard the cry “Fear not!” When they shivered at the thought of all the foes and dangers which awaited them, there came reassurance with the voice, “Fear not, little flock.” When He was leaving them, one of His last words was: “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The story tells us that Christ Himself was as poor and as unfamed as the shepherds—yet all Heaven was with Him. No trumpet-flourish told His coming, no posts rode swift from town to town to announce His Kingship. Earth and its glory took no notice of One who was laid in a manger. But far above in the world beyond, where earthly glory hath no praise, and earth no power, and rank no dignity, the Child who lived to love and die for men, was celebrated among the heavenly host. All the courts of Heaven began to praise God for the little Child for whom there was no shelter on earth but a cave in the rocks.”

Even though we were not there to hear the angels proclaim, “Good Tidings of Great Joy,” we read in Psalm 144:3-5 a prayer for the Lord to divinely intervene: “Bend down the heavens, Lord, and come down.” This cry for deliverance echoes throughout the Psalms. But the fact is, the Lord did bend down the heavens and come down when He became a baby born in Bethlehem. God gave his only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. As we celebrate the Christmas season, join your voice with the praise of believers throughout history and around the world who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and give Him thanks and worship for the sacrifice of His Son to heal and save us. Lift up your heart to the Lord who reached down, the One who cares for us and who loves us with an everlasting love.

Lord Jesus, as we celebrate Your birth during this Christmas season, we praise You for coming to earth so that we who believe in You might know Your forgiveness and experience Your love. You are Emmanuel, God with us! Although as mere humans we are like a breath of air, our days like a passing shadow, You reached down from on high and brought us out of darkness into Your marvelous light. Good Tidings of Great Joy, indeed! In Jesus’ name we pray, amen

Look Up—meditate on Psalm 144:3-5 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Psalm 144:3-5 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Psalm 144:3-5 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – 
Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

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