The Challenge of His Coming
"Teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born?" (Judges 13.8) There are three answers to this question with regard to Christ's birth. Herod's Answer: "Let Him be destroyed. We shall have no king but Caesar." The Bethlehem Inkeeper's Answer: My house is crowded, my hands are full, my mind is preoccupied. I'm not opposed, but I'm just too busy." And Simeon's Answer: "His is my salvation and my life, my companionship and my all. With Him I have what I need. I am at peace and life is fulfilled! Some voice the first answer, many express the second, but will you this holiday season and always exclaim the third: "Thou, O Christ, art all I want, all I need in Thee to find!" (Dennis Kastens, Former GSLC Pastor, December 1990)
Oh Christmas Tree
Oh, Christmas Tree! One of my favorite holiday traditions is the trimming of the Christmas tree. My dad and I would set out on a cold December morning and search for the perfect evergreen tree in the “forest” (Frank’s nursery), strap it to the roof of our car, and hopefully not make too much of a mess on the living room carpet as we positioned its trunk into the stand. It was an exciting time of year. First, we’d hang the lights. Then we’d decorate the branches with ornaments. A star would be placed on top. Finally, one of dad’s many crèches (nativity scenes) would be displayed under the branches. This was all very exciting for us three Hoft kids.
But what did it all mean? How did it all relate to the birth of our Savior on Christmas? This year’s Advent midweek series may help us answer that question. Under the theme “God’s Family Tree” we will follow the Advent tradition of the “Jesse Tree” which comes from the early centuries of the Christian Church. From ancient times Christians used the picture of the “stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) to learn and ponder the human origins of Jesus Christ and trace His genealogy. During the Middle Ages this pious practice grew into a mural in which Jesus’ ancestors and Old Testament prophecies were depicted on a “family tree.” This devotional tool of the Jesse Tree gives us the title for this series: “God’s Family Tree.” At each Wednesday service beginning on Dec. 1, including the Children’s Christmas Service on Dec.19, different symbols of Biblical events leading up the birth of Christ will be added to our Jesse Tree.
By tracing the “roots” of Jesus, we will see how God fulfills all of His promises in His incarnate Son. From the Tree of Life in the Garden to Eden to the Tree of the Cross at Calvary we will worship our living Lord whose continued mission is to restore His creation and to redeem us from sin. May He comfort, enrich, and strengthen us during this blessed Advent and Christmas season. (Pastor Peter Hoft, Former Associate Pastor at Good Shepherd, December 2004)
One of Us?
I’ve always been intrigued by this song released by Joan Osborne in 1995. The song asks some important questions like “If you were faced with him in all his glory / What would you ask if you had just one question?” Or, “If God had a face what would it look like / And would you want to see / If seeing meant you had to believe?” But the most important question is found in the refrain: “What if God was one of us / Just a slob like one of us / Just a stranger on a bus / Trying to make his way home?”
Okay, anyone can see that some of these lyrics don’t jive well with the Bible. Jesus wasn’t “Just a stranger on a bus / Trying to make his way home.” Jesus came for a very specific purpose: “To seek and to save the lost.” He wasn’t a “slob” either. No one in the Bible ever thought of Jesus in that way. Instead thousands walked for miles to hear Him speak.
But the basic question is still worth pondering: “What if God was one of us?” In a few weeks we will be celebrating the birth of Christ. If anyone is really serious about that question, they should look carefully at the Christmas account. What does it tell us? God did become one of us. The angel said His name will be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” By becoming one of us in Jesus, the Son of God, put Himself in our place with all our weaknesses and limitations. He experienced the pain and struggle of life. He experienced temptation and persecution. He saw first hand the terrible effects of sin in this world.
I think it is good for people to ask the question, “What if God was one of us?” But I would urge them not to sit back and speculate. Instead I would encourage them to hear the word of the Lord… Let’s tell the world the Christmas truth this year: God is one of us in Jesus Christ. I would hope they could see that Jesus wasn’t just a slob but rather a savior… their Savior from sin. (Pastor Walther, December 2009)