In recent weeks we have been taking a musical interlude to look at the four carols sung at the first Christmas. But before we look at the last two, I want to remind us of the story behind the songs. It helps us to hear the story of how a song-writer came to write a hymn or chorus to better understand the author’s emotions. The Gospels don’t give us a clear time-line for the sequence of all the events recorded by Luke and Matthew, but let me suggest the following:
As I did a quick review of the events leading up to the first Christmas, did you notice how many people and how many unique events God orchestrated to make it possible? Before I point us to the last two of the first Christmas carols, let me encourage you to pause and reflect on all that God has done to bring you to this once-in-a-lifetime Christmas of 2021. Too often, we take for granted God’s sovereign work throughout history and particularly in our own lives. At other times, we are oblivious to His handiwork as we forge our own path. Take time to review what God has done this year alone to guide and direct you along the path He designed for you at the foundation of the earth.
If you are a typical human being, you will have to admit that we all learn more about God when we are walking through the valleys of life than we do when we are enjoying the view from the mountain-tops. Review the list of events above and note how many of them were positive versus how many described difficult circumstances.
The Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:26-28)
What God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit and because of my acceptance by faith in the gift of God through Jesus Christ’s atoning death, did for Paul and has done for me is, or can be, true of your life as well. This Christmas season, take time to reflect upon all God has and is doing in your life, and then either receive or renew the peace that surpasses all understanding that is made available to you through the Gift that God sent to us that first Christmas.
Yours in Christ,
Mark R. Elliott, AMS
Retiring in April 2022, Mark R. Elliott served as a Director of Missions (Associational Mission Strategist) in Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska for almost three decades. He is a strong advocate for obedience and Biblically based disciple making. As such, he knows that making healthy disciples requires Christian leaders to be constantly pursuing spiritual maturity—be lifelong learners. Because of the time constraints of ministry, most pastors focus their reading list on resources that assist them in teaching and preaching the Word of God. As such, books focusing on church health, leadership development, and church growth tend to find their way to the bottom of the stack. With that reality in mind, Mark has written discussion summaries on several books that have helped him to personally grow in Christ and that tend to find themselves on the bottom of most pastor’s stack. Many pastors have found them helpful as they are able to more quickly process great insights from other pastors and authors.
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