Perceptions of The Nativity

nativityI have thought much, this last few weeks during the run-up to Christmas, of some of our perceptions attaching to the place and circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

A lot of what we think seems to have come from the statement of Paul at Philippians 2:7 which says,   “…but he humbled Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”  From this we get ideas about Jesus, the circumstances of His life, and the details of His birth, that pervade the whole Christmas story.  We get the wrong impression that Jesus was born in undesirable, impoverished conditions.

Several years ago, I heard a very interesting viewpoint put forward by Pastor Robert H Shuller that while the innkeeper in Bethlehem has had bad press because he failed to find a lodging for Joseph and Mary, the stable they finally found to lodge in was probably a blessing in disguise.  Pastor Shuller pointed out that with a large number of people on the move to register in their own cities for the first Roman census, towns and inns would have been packed with all manner of people, making a crowded inn probably not the best place for the Son of God to be born.

That REALLY spoke to me.

So I would like to take the reasoning a step further.   When you look at the preparations for Jesus’ birth, His Heavenly Father went to great trouble to set the stage:

1)   The birth of Jesus’ forerunner and cousin, John the Baptist, was special in itself, because his parents were elderly and his mother barren.  God sent the angel Gabriel to announce the birth to the father (a priest of the temple).  God gave Zacharias a clear sign as proof, and also oversaw the naming of the boy.  (Luke 1)

2)   We also know that angels appeared to both Mary and Joseph concerning the birth of Jesus. Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would have the baby, and an unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to quiet his concerns about Mary’s pregnancy. (Luke 1, Matthew 1)

3)   The birth of Jesus was announced to the Magi, powerfully enough that they undertook a long journey from the east to bring Him gifts.  We are not told how they were told this, but it can only have been by some form of supernatural revelation. (Matthew 2:1-2)

4)   Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel and the heavenly host appearing to shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem.  And before we write the shepherds off totally, let us remember that for many people in Israel, their wealth lay in their herds and so protecting their livestock was a high priority.  Think of David.

In other words, Jesus’ birth was announced both to certain wise and wealthy men who were prepared to honor Him (as the wealthy of His own country were not), and to men from the lower classes whom He came to save – men from the very occupation that He was to use as an illustration of His ministry in calling Himself  ‘The Good Shepherd’.  (Luke 2:8-17)

Are we to assume then in the midst of all this preparation that God somehow made a mistake in designating the place where Jesus was to be born and ended up with an undesirable result? 

That doesn’t make sense.

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Let’s look at a few other places where God made supernatural provision for Jesus:

5)   Because Herod had become aware of Jesus’ birth from the Magi, and was plotting to kill him, God took the following steps:

  • The Magi were warned in a dream not to return via Herod (who had asked  for directions so he could find the child), so they went back another way. (Matthew 2:7-8, 12)
  • An angel warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was looking to kill the child, and instructed him to take Mary and Jesus and flee with them to Egypt.  This he did, and remained there until Herod died – at which time Joseph was advised by an angel in a dream that it was safe to return.  (Matthew 2:13-14, 19-21)

6)   Towards the end of his life, when Jesus came back to Jerusalem for the last time, His need for a mount to carry Him into the city was met by the supplying of a donkey.   Clearly, there must have been a divine forewarning given to the owner of the donkey, so he was prepared to let it be taken and used by people who just turned up on his doorstep.   (Matthew 21:1-7)

7)   Later, when Jesus needed a place to hold the Last Passover supper with His disciples, His need was met in a similar way.  (Matthew 26:1-7, Luke 22:8-13)    Obviously, there are other examples.

So what does all this add up to?  I believe first and foremost we must stop demeaning the place and surroundings of Jesus’ birth.  Yes, there is simplicity and a message in it, but not the message we have been taking.

I’ve already made Pastor Shuller’s point that a room at the inn was unsuitable.   By comparison, the stable was a place of peace where God’s holiness and glory could shine out around this most special of births.   What a moment that must have been for The Father!   The animals that surrounded Jesus in His first hours were God’s creation – creatures that He loves.  They were and still are the innocent ones, with more understanding than we give them credit for.  And did I read in a recent publication where a man of God called them ‘dirty’?  Hmmm….

Remember, it was an innocent animal that had to be killed to provide covering for Adam and Eve after they sinned, and through all the history of Israel up to the time of Jesus’ death, it was animals that had to die as sacrifices for the sins of the people.

Now Jesus, the Lamb of God, had come to take that burden upon Himself.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news/

You Will Be Free Indeed

free-iconIt was Jesus who made this statement – quoted in an earlier post – about Himself, actually:

“Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8: 31-36)

Jesus was referring to the freedom that comes from a life in Him, but I believe this statement applies equally well to the freedom that comes from living in a country that follows His values and His precepts.  Until this last election, America was slipping further and further away from the Godly principles of freedom for a nation.  Personal freedoms were being eroded, standards were being sabotaged.  Standards were being twisted and reshaped out of all recognition.  America had lost its standing as a world power.

If there had been another term under the same regime, many believe American democracy would have been gone for good.  This would impact not only the USA, but also the rest of the world.

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Many intercessors have prayed that the scales would drop from the eyes of those deceived by the Great Deception that has been taking place.  It is a blessing that Americans saw the issues, realized the urgency, and made the choice for Freedom.

Stand strong again now, do not be deceived by the enemy’s new displays and threats, and do not be drawn into more division and strife.  Above all, don’t believe that to carry on under the existing system would have caused things to improve – far from it.  That was the slippery slope.  Instead, pray for grace, for everyone.  God has said, “I am doing a new thing.”  So remember this:

“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  ( 1 John 4:4)

Satan is ‘he who is in the world’ – and you can absolutely count on the fact that Jesus is far, far greater.  He will bless America again.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”   (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Patricia

Awesome Testimony

job-38-iiconThis testimony by Paul Gauvin will warm your heart.  What a story – honest, genuine and moving.

Here is a guy who by his own admission has never made a video before, and he is uncomfortable in front of the camera.  That makes his testimony all the more credible.

Paul is a young musician who about eighteen months ago had a life-changing encounter with Jesus that was completely unexpected and totally overwhelming.

Take the time to watch this through.  If you have not yet asked the Lord into your life, it will give you something to think and act on.   If you already have the Lord, you will rejoice in this testimony of His wonderful power and presence.

Thank you, Paul, for making this – and thank you for just being yourself.

Blessings.
Patricia
http://damascusroad.news

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Free Indeed

free-iconThis post carries a friendly message to the American people : “Remember your Beginnings!  Remember your heritage and the values it was founded on!”

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  (John 8: 31-36)

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Acrylic painting collage.

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Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery. Or click on the images.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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I Am The Way

the-way-iconJesus spoke these words to His disciples at the Last Supper in answer to a question put by Thomas:

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.'”    (John 14: 5-7)

One can picture Jesus, knowing full well what was ahead of Him, trying to explain to His disciples so that after the event they would have some understanding and comfort, but not wishing to go into details “for the prince of this world is coming.”  (John 14:30)  He had to keep His focus on the Father for the events ahead.  Nevertheless, His  loving, servant nature shines forth in these last, sad hours, from the washing of His disciples’ feet to His final prayer of stewardship in the Garden of Gethsemene.

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Artwork and design by Patricia Howitt.  Click on the images or view artworks and products at my Damascus Road Gallery.

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Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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Blessed Are The Pure In Heart

pure-in-heart-icon“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8).

One of the most beautiful of the Beatitudes, spoken by Jesus in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, to His Disciples.

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.   News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.   Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. ” (Matthew 4:23-25)

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.

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Now more than ever we need to hold on to the Lord with all our strength. For He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and His promises endure forever…

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Acrylic on paper. – Artwork and Products available in my Damascus Road Gallery.  Or click on the images.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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The Plough

plouigh-icon“No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”.  Luke 9:62.

Pretty tough words, especially when you look at the context : two men who wanted to follow Jesus, but firstly wanted to go back home and say goodbye.  He will test us, and He has every right to do that – mostly it is for our own good.

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Jesus was also reminding us of the need to maintain our fitness for the race, and not lose it by slacking off.  We often let undesirable things into our lives because one way or another we open the door to the enemy, instead of focusing on Him and keeping right with God.  Paul put it this way:  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

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Acrylic painting on acrylic wash background. – Artwork and Products available in the Damascus Road Gallery.

Patricia

http://damascusroad.news

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