Friday, December 9, 2016

26 Devotions Focusing on Christ in the Nativity Alphabet--O Little Town

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 words, “O Little Town,” I was inspired by listening to this beautiful rendition of O Little Town of Bethlehem by Kari Jobe, O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie, Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by, Yet in thy dark streets shineth, The everlasting Light, The hopes and fears of all the years, Are met in thee tonight…O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray, Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today, We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel…

As our Israeli tour bus drove toward Bethlehem, I began to wonder, what would it have been like for Joseph and Mary as they approached Bethlehem 20 centuries ago? Was the five-mile stretch of road from Jerusalem as bustling as it is today? What did they see? What did they hear?

As we approach the town, we notice all the terraced olive groves, which march up the dry hills like steps leading to a temple. And then, suddenly, there it is: Bethlehem, the ancient "House of Bread"--clinging to a ridge as if clinging to history itself. O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!

Naturally, no one can be sure exactly where Jesus' birth occurred in Bethlehem, but you just know that, wherever the exact spot, it couldn't have been far away. That thought alone pierces through all the touristy glitz and fairly takes your breath away in anticipation.

Standing in the city of Bethlehem, looking out on the Shepherd's Fields I can just imagine the heavens opening up and the angels descending and shouting, Glory to God in the highest, unto to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord. When the shepherds in the field were surprised by the appearances of the angel and the heavenly host, their initial terror quickly turned to joy. Just as the angel had said, they found the baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. For these simple men with open hearts, it was a process of surprise, shock, fear, disbelief, hope, trust, confirmation, and finally indescribable joy! Joy at seeing the Christ child. Joy at having been singled out for the unique honor of being present at the very moment in history when God came near. Joy at having witnessed the one birth that gives meaning to all other births.

Bible Teacher Beth Moore writes: “When Mary heard those first cries of divine life wrapped in human flesh, any thought of disappointment must surely have turned into immeasurable peace and joy!  Even His name, Immanuel, "El" means "God," the rest of the word means "with us," the "with us God." He created us to be with us. He gave each of us a longing for Him by creating every single human being with a "with" need. While the world carried on unconcerned, the infant Emmanuel cooed and kicked and toddled His way to His feet. God, the Immortal Invisible, walked among His people, Israel, as they sojourned through the wilderness. But not until now did His invisible feet sink into the sand, shod with skin, making visible prints. And God was with us. Immanuel.”

What do we learn from the unlikely circumstances of Jesus' birth, but that our God is a God of surprises. How He delights in bringing us unexpected joy! How many times have we seen God most clearly in the middle of a crisis? How many times have we discovered the miraculous in the midst of the mundane? Just as they Psalmist says in Psalm 42:1-3, 11, As the deer pants for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and stand before him? Day and night, I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” . . . Why am I discouraged? Why so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! Where is God when we’re in the emergency room with a severely injured loved one? Where was God in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001? When trouble or tragedy strikes, we long for God, the living God. Who can tell us where God is? His Word tells us over and over: He is in the one who visits those in prison; He is in those who give food to the hungry; He is in the comfort of a loving arm extended around those who are hurting. He is in the prayers of a mother for her sick child. He is in the rescuers who work to save lives and in the missionaries who leave family and friends and personal comforts to share the gospel with those in darkness. He is demonstrated best, though, at the Cross, where He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, for our sakes that we might have hope for this life and for eternity.

Lord Jesus, I praise You that You came to this earth as an infant child, born in the little town of Bethlehem. You are Immanuel—God with us—in everything we experience as we walk through this broken, hurting world. Help me to be your hands and feet today, your words of comfort and encouragement to those who need to know “where you are” in their times of deep need. Open the eyes of our heart to see the miraculous in the midst of the mundane. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Look Up—meditate on Psalm 42:1-3, 11 … pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on Psalm 42:1-3, 11 … 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 42:1-3, 11 …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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