Lessons From A Christmas Story

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, my thoughts went to someone in the Christmas story that gets very little attention. Scripture speaks about Jesus and Mary but we hear so little about Joseph…the earthly father of Jesus.

In much of the study that has been done about Joseph, most researchers agree on several points. Here they are:

Most believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his public ministry. There are several portions of scripture that would point to this. First, Joseph isn’t mentioned being present at the Wedding in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine. Yet Mary is mentioned.

Second, the story of the crucifixion provides some interesting details. Joseph is not present at the crucifixion while Mary is mentioned. At the crucifixion, Jesus instructed John to take care of Mary, which would be unusual if Joseph had still been alive. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus. This would ordinarily have been a task given to the father.

There is even another hint in scripture that would support the death of Joseph during the lifetime of Jesus. Luke 2:33-35 details a conversation Simeon had with Joseph and Mary. Even though both Joseph and Mary were present, Simeon simply addressed Mary. Simeon says this:

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but He will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose Him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.

Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce your very soul but makes no mention of Joseph. It seems Simeon knew that Joseph would not be alive to see all that would happen to Jesus.

We don’t know for certain that Joseph was dead before Jesus public ministry but the evidence points to that.

Here’s what we do know about Joseph. First, he was alive and a part of the life of Jesus until Jesus was twelve years of age. Luke 2:41-42 speaks about Joseph and Mary attending the Holy Days with Jesus when he was twelve. You may recall that this was the time Mary and Joseph mistakenly left Jesus at the temple. This is the last mention in scripture about Joseph being with Jesus.

So what can we learn from the few verses in scripture that mention Joseph? Here are four things to think about:

God picked Joseph to model for Jesus what earthly fatherhood looked like: We know Joseph had at least twelve years to teach Jesus about life. We know Joseph spent time with Jesus training him to be a carpenter and teaching him about the spiritual issues in life. It is reasonable to believe that Joseph taught a young Jesus how to be a godly man.

Joseph cared about others more than he cared about himself: When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he wasn’t the father, he certainly could have broken the engagement. In fact, in our world today there are many men who would do just that. Many of us would be upset by the news or just want to save face and end the relationship. We need to be realistic. If our fiancée came to us and said she was pregnant but the father was God that would be hard to believe.

Yet Joseph did believe Mary’s explanation and protected and cared for Mary and Jesus for the remainder of his life.

Joseph did remarkable work and received no recognition: Joseph spent years of his life serving as a faithful husband and father, scripture barely mentions him, and yet he faithfully served his family and the Son of God.

 Joseph believed what God told him and he obeyed: When the angel came to Joseph in the dream and told him it was fine to marry Mary he did it. Joseph obeyed when God told him to flee to Egypt to miss a confrontation with Herod. Joseph obeyed when God told him to return to Israel after the death of Herod.

We have many followers of Christ who either don’t listen when God speaks to them or they hear God but choose not to obey. Joseph listened and obeyed.

As you think about Christmas this year remember these four points. Also remember, that like Joseph, God has placed you where you are for a purpose. Don’t lose sight of God’s purpose for you. You have valuable work that only you can do…just like Joseph. If we could talk with Joseph I bet he wouldn’t regret a day of doing what God asked him to do.

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What Is The Gift of Christmas? It Might Be Different Than You Think.

It’s Christmas…my favorite time of year. Yes…I love the trees, the lights, the music, and especially the food. It’s a wonderful time of year for me.

But as I enjoy Christmas I realize what the birth of Christ has really been about for me. It’s been about hope. It’s about a birth 2,000 years ago that brings hope to a guy living in 2014.

You see although all those things I spoke about earlier are enjoyable for me, they are not what Christmas is about. Let me say it again. Christmas is about hope. Because of the birth of Christ I now have the hope found in Christ’s atonement for my sins. I have the hope of eternal life. I have the hope that God will wipe away all my tears and there will come a time when I will suffer no more. I have the hope that death has been swallowed up in victory. I have the hope of Christ’s healing. I have the hope that God will be with me wherever I go. I have hope in the unfailing love of Christ. I know the God of hope will fill me with joy and peace. The birth of Christ brought me hope.

I don’t mean hope based upon the definition that we use in our culture. I don’t mean hope like I hope my haircut looks good. I hope my new suit fits properly. I hope I find a parking space close to the door. I hope my cake turns out great. No, I mean hope with an eternal significance. Hope that transcends this lifetime into eternity. Hope that can only come from the birth of a baby named Jesus so many years ago. A hope found only in Christ.

So as you go about your activities this Christmas remember this remarkable gift of hope. If you are feeling depressed there is hope. If you don’t know what the new year will bring there is hope. If you are struggling with family issues there is hope. The birth of a baby named Jesus brought you the gift of hope.

All of us at Toccoa Falls College wish you a Merry Christmas and pray that you will experience the only true hope found in Jesus Christ.

Invest In Others This Christmas

This year WestJet, a Canadian airline, did something spectacular for Christmas.  As passengers checked in for a flight between two cities in Canada, Santa was at check in to ask each person what they wanted for Christmas.  Each passenger had something special they wanted.  One wanted a camera. A small child wanted a train. Another man wanted socks and underwear.  One family wanted a big television set.  After giving Santa their Christmas wish, the passengers boarded their flight thinking nothing more about their requests.

However, while the flight was in the air, WestJet staff members sent out teams to buy every item that had been requested when the passengers checked in for the flight.  The teams bought all the gifts, wrapped them, and were waiting with the surprises as the flight landed.

Instead of luggage coming from the baggage carousel, the passengers were greeted with wrapped gifts with their names on them.  Passengers received just what they had asked for at check in…including the family who wanted the large television set.  They received a fifty-inch flat screen TV.

Before we know it, Christmas will be over and we’ll return to old routines.  But the kindness for others, like that shown by WestJet, doesn’t need to stop.  We may not be able to buy a plane full of gifts for others but we can choose to help people every day.  All year long we see children in our community who need food.  All year long we encounter parents who don’t know how they will pay this month’s bills. All year long we meet folks who just need someone to listen to what they are going through and maybe offer a little advice.  All year long we run into people who just need a friend.  They don’t always need your money…they need your love.

This Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ who was given to us by a God who really loves us.  As Christmas comes to a conclusion, will you continue to live this New Year showing others this same love of Christ?

We’re reminded of this in I Corinthians which says, Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

Remember, some of the most important gifts you can give to others involve no money.  They simply involve you choosing to invest in the lives of others.  So, watch for opportunities to love others.  When you see an opportunity go ahead and take a risk. Investing and loving others really is a wise investment and will pay far greater dividends than any financial investment you will ever make.

You may read more of Dr. Myers’ writing at www.robertmmyers.com or view his work on Vimeo.

No Room At The Inn

https://vimeo.com/82470185

As Christmas quickly approaches everyone is busy.  It’s time for office Christmas parties, shopping, trips to visit relatives, and a variety of other things that give us little time to really think about the meaning of Christmas.

While thinking about all the appointments on my calendar, I was reminded of the story of the birth of Jesus found in the second chapter of Luke.  Specifically, I was drawn to verse seven that says this,

She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Here is what I find amazing.  We are never told anything in the scriptures about how many places Mary and Joseph attempted to find a room. We don’t know anything about the innkeepers where Mary and Joseph tried to stay. We don’t know anything about where they finally stopped other than they must have been sent to a barn since Jesus was placed in a manger. By definition a manger is a trough or an open box in which feed for livestock is placed. The Bible never mentions anything about the accommodations for Jesus’ birth other than the fact that there was no lodging available for them.  Wouldn’t you love to know everything Mary and Joseph went through as they tried to find a place for Mary to give birth?

Although we don’t know the entire story, here are some things we can wonder about.  First, were all the innkeepers simply too busy to know that they had someone very special right in front of them?  The wise men knew it, many in the community knew it. But the innkeepers didn’t seem to have a clue. Had the innkeepers become focused on their own needs and profit to such a degree that they missed the tremendous gift right in front of them?

Second, could the simple story of the innkeepers be a model for us today?  Innkeepers so busy that they had no room for Jesus and could only push him to a stable that was out of mind and out of sight?

Perhaps this is a reminder to each of us during this Christmas season that the birth of Christ is a wonderful gift that we can easily forget and simply push aside.  Instead of allowing Christ into our busy lives we push Him to our stable. We give Him a place to stay where we really don’t have to think about Him but don’t give Him the proper place to stay.  We keep Him in the stable of our lives but never the main room.

So as Christmas quickly approaches, let me encourage you to make room for Christ in your life.  Don’t be an innkeeper too busy to give Jesus a place of priority in your life.  Instead, invite Jesus to relocate from the stable of your life to the main room…a place He is longing to be.

From all of us at Toccoa Falls College, Merry Christmas!

Someone Told Me You Are Scared

We live in a world that is full of evil.  Events often unfold that leave us confused and often fearful.  But let me take you to an event that may help us all work through the variety of world issues that can leave us worried and fearful.  Let me take you to the Christmas story…specifically to the story of the shepherds.

As you recall from the book of Luke, a group of shepherds were watching their sheep in the field.  Suddenly, an angel appeared and according to the Bible, the shepherds were terrified.  You see it’s not just present day folks who are scared of unexpected events.  It is part of human nature to be frightened about things we don’t understand.  But what did the angel say to the shepherds?  It was a simple message.  Don’t be afraid…I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior has been born today in Bethlehem.

The issue of fear is one we all face; from the shepherds in the Christmas story to all of us who now get real-time media reports of the terrible events taking place throughout the world. Yet again, the Bible cautions us about this spirit of fear.  The book of Timothy tells us, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline.

With the birth of our Savior, we can triumph over fear.  Let me again repeat the same message delivered to the shepherds.  Don’t be afraid…the Savior has been born today in Bethlehem.  We serve a risen Savior, Jesus Christ who has dominion over fear.  Nothing that the world can produce surprises Christ.

So celebrate Christmas and the joy of knowing that our Savior has given us a spirit of power, not fear.  Rejoice in the birth of our Savior who has already defeated the power of fear and instead brought us power, love, and great joy.  Celebrate this Christmas like never before because we serve a remarkable King.

Merry Christmas!

What Would You Like For Christmas?

Christmas is quickly approaching and everywhere we turn we are bombarded with advertisements encouraging us to buy just the perfect gifts for our family and friends.  This is a big time of year for companies to encourage all of us to spend our money and buy things. But is it possible that as followers of Christ we already possess one of the best gifts that we can give to others?

Last week I was in the Atlanta airport checking in for a flight.  I started talking with the woman checking in my bag at the counter.  I always like to take a little time and ask people how they are doing.  Most people will immediately say they are doing fine, but I always like to probe a little deeper.  As I asked this woman how she was really doing she began to disclose a lot more.  She had a headache from high blood pressure.  She had forgotten to take her medication the day before.  She was tired and really looking forward to just getting home.  We had quite a conversation that day.

You see we have a wonderful gift that we can pass on to others.  We possess the gift of Christ’s love.  What do we read in Matthew 19?  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There are many people who just need to see the love of Christ in us…to just know that we care about them and therefore Christ cares about them.  We can easily pass the gift of love on to others.  God freely gave us this miraculous gift and commanded us to pass it on…free of charge…to our neighbors.

So in this busy holiday time as you are in the stores doing your shopping, don’t forget there are tired, worn out folks who just need to see the love of Christ in us.  Take a little time and spend it with someone you don’t even know.  Get to know them a bit.  Talk with them.  Listen to them. Laugh with them.  Show them the tremendous love of God.  It’s one of the best gifts you can give this year and it just might lighten the burden for someone who needs some relief so badly.  The love of God is a gift folks will gladly receive and never forget.