The tenderest communion that is possible between God and man is when the needy sinner humbles himself and calls on the Name of the Lord! At that Cross-Point of need, the tender mercy of God spills out upon all who are of a contrite heart and a broken spirit; all who are seeking God with all of their heart because they recognize that they are bound in chains of sin, helpless and hopeless in their guilt and frustration. And those who seek Him are found by Him and they are saved, and are brought into the sheepfold to be nourished and cherished.
This sweet communion is offered to all who are sinners, for our sin is the exclusive qualification that makes us the ready and fit object of salvation. Indeed, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God! (Rom. 3:10-19,23) But here is a personal question for you: Are you one of these needy sinners? My friend, I hope you are, because Jesus came exclusively for one purpose: to save sinners. For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47b).
Christmas memorializes the coming of Christ as the Infant Lowly. Jesus’ birth exudes tenderness in the sweetest, endearing terms. His humble appearance invites all of needy mankind to come and adore Him, Who shall save us from our sins. There is no greater heart-moving invitation than to discover that it is our sin and its consequences that qualify us to be invited into the Savior’s intimate fellowship! “Oh come let us adore Him!”
The following are human responses recorded at the Birth of Jesus. The humble responses were aided by heavenly Angel-Messaging. They were responses blessed with the sweet experience of communion with God. One proud response removed and scattered a man far from the opportunity of that redemption and sweet communion with God.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. (Luke 1:18 KJV)
Zacharias was righteous and had prayed for a child for many, many years. He was a priest in a position of elevated spiritual service. He was in the very temple of God, offering incense and prayers to God in the Holy Place. Was not the temple a significant place of communion with God? Should not Zacharias have been a little more visionary instead of mundane in conducting his liturgical activities? But he was not. His personal limitations could only calibrate old age and endless years of barrenness. These needs were too much to set aside even while leading worship in the temple of God! He never imagined an angelic visit; he couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears! He could not imagine that God had a plan which would be worked out in His time. Zacharias’ long years of heavy sorrow made him unhopeful in this present world.
I get that. I too find myself often answering, like Mary of Bethany regarding her brother Lazarus, “I know that my brother will rise again in the last day, at the resurrection of the dead!” But she could not imagine in the least that her brother could rise that very hour! Zacharias reminds us that years of fervor in theoretical faith can blunt the sharp expectations of faith in our present circumstances. Gabriel’s rebuke was strong, “Do you know who you are talking to? I am Gabriel who stands in the very presence of God! You are looking on one who looks directly upon God’s face!”
Faith must look past the limiting nature and circumstances of everyday life. Faith sees that nothing is impossible with God. After 9 months of quiet contemplation, Zacharias was ready to draw near and revel in the supernatural! His closing thoughts? And Zacharias said ... “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, ... To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; ... That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear…” (Luke 1:68, 72, 74)
And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, “Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men." (Luke 1:24-25)
Elizabeth concealed herself entirely; no one was able to look upon her for 5 months. Her nickname was “Barren.” It is painful when our identity is based upon the reproach of men as they look upon us in our weakness, need and sorrow. But now the Lord has looked upon her according to His purpose and His purposeful look takes away the reproach of men! After 5 months of happy contemplation, Elizabeth was ready to be seen in her joyful identity as an expectant mom, her reproach taken away.
But what happened in those secluded months? Certainly, she was healed. The greater purpose of God’s plan washed away the pain and reproach of her barrenness and left her with grace and honor. Cleansed of the human desire for honor and stature, Elizabeth was a vessel fit for use by God. And so she was! The angel Gabriel made Elizabeth Mary’s first human resource of spiritual encouragement and comfort. Emptied of herself, she was filled with the Spirit and spoke to Mary words of assurance and hope in the Lord. "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." (Luke 1:45)
Inward comfort equips one for outward care of those in delicate need. Every vessel fitted for God’s use must be first emptied of self. That process is painful, embarrassing and very distracting. However, it is absolutely necessary in order to be able to draw near to God, to trust Him, and to gather together with others of like faith who alone can understand and share in our joy that springs from such deep sorrows. You first must be troubled before you can be comforted. And you must first be comforted before you can comfort others with the same comfort that you yourself have been comforted. (2 Cor.1:3-6)
And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah; and entered the house of Zacharias and saluted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:38-40)
Believe God and you will make haste to join in the fellowship of those who share your faith! Actually, where else can you go? The natural view is subject to misunderstanding which results in disdain, judgment and reproach. The more remarkable that the faith-experience is, the more select is the group that can fully share in your joy. The 6-month pregnant woman who was barren for years and years was exclusively available to Mary for spiritual encouragement. And what a joy it was that they were cousins!
Walking the path of faith is often lonely, but part of that loneliness comes from the exclusivity of the work that God is doing in you. And when He has done it, how many can properly understand your joy? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. ... And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” (John 16:20, 22)
Mary gathered around these who could cherish the coming Christ Child. Mary nurtured her joy for 3 months in fellowship with Elizabeth. She did not rush to tell Joseph, her parents or her friends. The inward man must be fully fixed on the heavenly purpose in order to withstand the opinions of those who as of yet can only judge by outward appearance. Never look for human comfort to encourage your spiritual calling and gifts; this comfort can only come from God! This means you have to let go of human fear from those who could possibly say to you, “Why did you wait 3 months to tell me?” For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2Co 4:16-18)
"Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." (Matt. 1:20)
What was Joseph afraid of? You can be sure that Mary’s announcement to him had left him undone! After 3 months of confidence-building, comfort and assurance with Elizabeth, Mary most certainly was aglow with her wonderful story of the angelic visitation, her visit with Elizabeth and her now evident 3-month pregnancy! But no matter the joy and certainty of Mary, Joseph was afraid. Afraid because the fantastic tale went against every natural law of earth! How could there be a supernatural pregnancy? For a few hours, fear trumped faith.
But God understood and the angelic minister attended again by a special communication in a dream! Righteous men can doubt! “I believe Lord, help thou my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) One word from the Lord and Joseph’s fear turned into faith. He stepped up to the ministry that God had called him to fulfill, but not as he had imagined! By morning light, Joseph was also gathering himself fully around the precious coming of the Christ Child.
When you are comforted by the Word, your problems do not need to be solved, they just need to be cast fully upon the Lord! Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: "Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you." (1 Pet. 5:6-7)
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. ...Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:7, 16)
Herod was troubled at news that thrilled the acknowledged sinner! The imaginations of his heart drove Christ away. The Wise Men drew near and gathered around the Christ Child. It might have taken them 2 years of seeking to find the Babe, but in humility they searched with all of their hearts and He was found by them! But Herod was scattered far away from the child because of the imaginations of his proud heart.
Pride removes us from intimate relationship with Jesus. It scatters us far from the circle of Jesus’ love and forgiveness because we can imagine only what things pertain to ourselves. Our pride drives us from the Cross.
One can only draw near to the Savior when his sin is plain and weighty in his own sight. How inviting is God’s Plan! “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm;” How unwavering is His judgment! “He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” (Luke 1:50-51) How sad it is that the greatest invitation of all time has so few takers because pride is repulsed by the need to confess sin.
And so, the Christmas question to your family is this: Are you gathering around the saving power of Jesus or scattering far because of your proud imaginations? “O Come Let us Adore Him, Christ the Lord!”