Archive for December, 2012

What’s In A Name?

The Herald-News
December 19, 2012

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

We often say Christmas is for kids—and the adults who become childlike each December 25th. For me, children and Christmas are vivid and precious in special ways this year.

Hands down, my greatest Christmas present was in 1978, when our firstborn came into the world at 6:31 PM, Christmas night. Christmas has never been the same for Cheryl and me since. We named her Joy, and she has been an immeasurable, constant gift. This year, another great Christmas season present was born.

Last Wednesday, December 12, 2012, I received this text: “Josiah John Eliashib Williams was born at 1:04 PM. He was 8 lbs, 8 oz., and 20 ½ inches.” Josiah’s first of two middle names is mine, and he is named after me. When I was called and my permission sought some weeks ago, I tingled all over in a way I never had before.

Sadly, more thoughts of children came with the horrific news from Connecticut last Friday: twenty six persons were killed in a school shooting—twenty of them were children.

Probably every pastor in Rhea County said some of the things mine did last Sunday. He called us to not be controlled by fear (see Isaiah 41:10). He called us to prayer and to remember Jesus.

The glad tidings of Christmas bring a good news that is bad news first. The bad news: the world and each occupant are separated from God because of sin. It started in the Garden of Eden when the first man and woman intentionally ignored God and sinned, and it has been accumulating ever since. The Connecticut tragedy is a stunning reality check of mankind choosing to take God’s freedom to believe, and then to think and behave on their own. One pastor wrote this weekend, “The murders of Newtown are a warning to me—and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior.”

The bad news is not the end! The joyful, amazing rest of the story is the good news Immanuel has come—He was among us on earth; He died as our substitute so we can live forever with Him; He was raised from the grave; He will live in us forever.

When my pastor talked about the shootings, he bravely asked what many ask at such times. It’s the hard question: “Where was God—why didn’t He stop it?” His answer was simple and profound. “He already has…in Jesus.” Only the Christ of Christmas, embedded in once dark and desperate souls, can transform each one of us to have and live and walk in the light of His presence. Why do we look everywhere else?

This Christmas, childlike faith seems so, so pure, strong, and right.

High and Lifted Up

‎”The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing thant all the woes of the world piled one upon another. That mighty burden is his obligation to God. It includes an instant and lifelong duty to love God with every power of mind and soul, to obey Him perfectly, and to worship Him acceptably. And when the man’s laboring conscience tells him that he has done none of these things, but has from childhood been guilty of foul revolt against the Majesty in the inner pressure of self-accusation may become too heavy to bear.
The gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, give beauty for ashes, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. But unless the weight of the burden is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and liften up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” A. W. Tozer from The Knowledge of the Holy

What Child Is This?

Babies stir our emotions like nothing else.

I so enjoyed being present for the delivery of my girls, and for the privilege to see all our grandkids right after their earthly entrance. It started Christmas night 1978, when our first daughter was quickly swaddled and handed to me when only seconds new. Something unexplainable occurred, and I knew this was a holy moment saturated with indescribable joy. More grace visited with our second daughter, and I repeated the thrill and supernatural sense all over again. Now there are four grandkids so far, and with each the mystery and wonder of babies multiplies.

Once again, God has brought a pregnancy and ponderings about babies into my life. A dear couple is pregnant. I officiated at their wedding, and we talk almost daily about the process and future. I was thrilled at the clarity and detail of their first ultrasound! Will the baby’s name be Juan or Juanita…?

Can we qualify our delight in babies? Is it the elation and miracle of new life in our midst? Perhaps, it is anticipation and hope in the future. Maybe, it is the innocence or the remembrance of a simpler time or a new beginning. I can see these things in lots of parents—and me.

There are unexplainable things in life. Math and science unwrap some of the mysteries of God and creation and make our hearts leap in wonder. Reason and intellect matter and provide a platform to love God with our minds. These are gifts from the Father.

Followers of Christ view experience and reality through Christ and Scripture. Our lives are immersed in supernatural realities encased in truth. Mystery and wonder, such as what we sense with babies, are validated and most fully appreciated when seen through the lens of Scripture.

Children, for example, teach a great deal about faith. My daughter Robin posted this just last Sunday about our three year our granddaughter: “‎‘Faith like a child.’ This morning’s example: Shawna has a runny nose (and Hailie is congested). Hailie prayed that Shawna would feel better. And as soon as she was done praying for Shawna she wanted to know if Shawna felt better. What a great example!” To a child, God’s answer to prayer is without question.

Without comparison, the greatest baby story is Christmas—the incarnation. In the supreme act of love, God took on human flesh and deliberately provided His final invitation to everlasting life to the world. And, it started on earth that other Christmas night, with baby Jesus.

Now, the wonder and mystery in every baby is permeated with the good news: our salvation has come through a baby that became a man who gave Himself for our rescue from sin on a cross.

This Christmas, references to baby Jesus have taken on a fresh, new joy for me. How about you?

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