Sunday, 23 December 2018

Christmas 2018.

Christmas didn't begin in a stable.  It began in a garden, envisioned, planned for, anticipated from the foundation of the world.  

Jesus talks about this.  The story can be found in Mark 12:1~12 & Luke 20:9~19.

We have a tendency to break scripture up into different bits & pieces but really, it's not like that; it is one continuous story & it began in a garden.

Genesis says that God planted the garden [Gen., 2:8] & in that garden He placed the man He had formed out of the dust of the ground. The man was to watch & tend the garden.  The Hebrew word used is shomer.  It is the legal term used for a custodian or guardian who is entrusted with the care of someone else's possessions. 

The man blew it.  He gave away his authority to the snake aka, Lucifer or satan & created a problem that affected everything in all of creation: the plants, the animals, the very earth itself.  Everything came under a curse & is subject to decay. [Romans 8:20]

Now Adam & Eve's sin was not disobedience.  Disobedience was the result.  Their sin was pride.  They were tempted by the lie of satan: "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [Gen. 3:5]

Ever since every generation has struggled with the desire to be like God; Omniscient, powerful, all knowing, able to control people & events around them.  It manifests in different ways.  At the extreme we get the Hitlers, the Ho Chi Minhs, the Stalins but we also see it in our families, our schools &  all  religions.  We see it in fortune telling & tarot. 

Channelled correctly this tendency has given man the fortitude to emigrate to foreign lands, build cities, travel to the stars but it also creates an independence of thought & behaviour as expressed by William Ernest Henley in Invictus:

I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul. 

Man has always thought he can do it on his own without God's help.  All that was needed was better education, freedom from poverty, equality of the sexes...but none of these things have created the utopia man's heart & soul craves for because we were not created to be independent of God.  We've tried that.  We've tried it for thousands of years & it has always failed.  It will always fail.  We were created in the image of God, not to be God, but to reflect the exact likeness of Him, but that hasn't stopped us from trying to do it our way.  Our problem is not of action; it is of the heart.  We can do all the right things yet still be wrong in our hearts. When the heart is wrong everything else also becomes wrong.

And so when you come to the scriptures you see the slow revelation of God's plan @ work to bring the heart of man back into alignment with the heart of God because that is the only way we will ever fix everything that is wrong with this world.

God planted a garden. It had a hedge & a pit & a watchtower~ the safeguards that God gave Israel to help them know He was the Great I AM, their Helper, their Redeemer, their strong tower. Those safeguards were the Mosaic Law; the ordinances for worshipping God & their Priests to watch over them like shepherds watching their flocks.  It did not turn out well.  Read the story.  Again & again it went wrong.  The Law was used to grind people under.  Worship became ritual.  The shepherds fleeced the flock. 

God wasn't fazed.  As Jesus tells it He sent servants ~ the prophets, filled with the Holy Spirit & the Word of God ~ but instead of listening to them & correcting what was wrong the people beat them, killed them, persecuted them:  Isaiah was sawn in two; Jeremiah was stoned; Ezekiel, Micah & Amos were martyred; Zechariah was killed between the steps & the temple altar & his blood was sprinkled on the horns of the altar.

God wasn't in a hurry.  Again & again you see God separating, one man, one family, one people & giving them revelation that was then meant to go out across the world, narrowing the bloodline to an exact person, an exact place, an exact time in history because He had done everything else He could.  He gave Moses the moral code on Mt Sinai; The Israelites couldn't keep it.  He gave them an earthly priesthood through Aaron; it became corrupted.  He gave instructions for worship & saw it turned into religion. 

Then, as Jesus tells it, God sends His son because surely they will recognise & honour His son but He knew He couldn't send His son as a grown man.  He had to come in the ordinary way, subject to the same frailties, the same temptations, the same pressures as any other human being.   Everything had been prepared from the foundation of the world for this one moment in time when God entered the world as a human baby but  He still had to grow in wisdom & stature [Luke 2:52], just like anybody else.

What we need to remember each Christmas, what we MUST remember, is that Jesus didn't remain a baby.  He grew up to become the spotless lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [1 Peter 1:20] We must remember because anything else is only half the gospel.  This is not a pretty story.  It is not a myth or legend borrowed from other cultures. This is a legal matter dealing with events that occurred @ the beginning of time that have impacted every life ever since & as such is of vital importance for every human being. Every life has been corrupted by sin.  Every life needs redeeming.  Every life is valuable to God. Every life is sustained by Him but, not  every life will spend eternity with God. We were given free will.  We get to choose.

We know how the story ends.  Every Christian should bear in mind how the story ends. Jesus points out that the owner of the vineyard eventually returns & metes out justice. These are things we should know & bear in mind;

The earth is the LORD'S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. [Psalm 24:1]

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities ~ all things have been created through Him and for Him. [Colossians 1:16]

The earth is not ours.  We are only it's caretakers & @ present satan rules it but ~.  Everything belongs to Jesus.  One day soon He is returning to claim that which is His & when that day comes He will not come as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.  That time has come & gone.  He will come as a conquering King to rule & to reign.  Jesus is no longer that baby in a stable.  He has not been that baby for 2000 years.  Make no mistake.  He is a Prince.  He is a Ruler.  He is a King. He is not a baby to be ooohed & aahed over. He is a glorious King before whom the wise fall down & worship.

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