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Here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, we take turns giving the devotional every morning. Our Pastor passes out a calendar at the beginning of every month with everyone’s name on it, the day they are to share and what passage of the Bible they are to talk about. This month, naturally, all the passages were connected with the birth of Jesus. The passage I ended up with was Luke 2:13,14, where the great company of the heavenly host appeared and proclaimed to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

As I pondered this marvelous event, it struck me that a grand gathering of angels glorifying God on earth had never occurred before nor since. And what a sight it must have been to behold for those shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. As I looked at these verses in their context of Luke two, I began to realize that it was incredibly significant on many levels. And this is what I decided to share with the staff and children here at the home.

In verse 9, one angel appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of a Savior, the Messiah and the Lord. Wow! If anything deserves an angelic choir filling the night sky with glorious song, that does! Not just one divine gift to humanity, but three!

Think about it. First a Savior is born. I imagine the shepherds knew a little bit about the necessity of a Savior. They, like David, probably saved their sheep on more than one occasion from predators seeking a tasty meal. They had also been under the thumb of Roman Emperors for lo these many years. Emperors who imposed their taxes and their will on the Jewish people. They longed for a Savior to set them free from the foreigners oppressive grip as a sheep longs to be saved from the jaws of a wolf.

Second, the Messiah was born! The Messiah that God had promised Israel through the prophets in ages past. The Messiah that would lead his people to freedom, power and glory. A leader in the mold of King David and King Solomon, conquering neighboring enemy nations and bringing renown to Israel once again. It had been over 400 years since the last prophet spoke of the promised Messiah and many of the Jews had given up hope, but here he was at last, the Christ child, the Messiah, had been born in Bethlehem.

It would have been enough to just have a Savior. It was splendid that not only a Savior was born, but also the Messiah had come. And it was incredible, that not only was this newborn baby Savior and Messiah, but also the Lord as well.

When the shepherds heard the word Lord, they undoubtedly thought of God in all his dignity, glory and majesty as described by their holy scriptures. Perhaps they thought that the Lord of glory had forgotten about his people since it seemed such a long time ago that he had shown his glory and power to his chosen ones. And now, with the sky teeming with angelic hosts, the keepers of the sheep were assured that not only had God not forgotten about his people, but had come to live as one of them.

It was an amazing night for the shepherds, and for all the people of Israel, who desperately needed a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We are a lot like those shepherds. We too, desperately need a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We need to be saved from our sins. The angel Gabriel told Joseph to name the baby boy Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) All the pain and problems, shame and suffering, trials and tribulations that we encounter in this world come because of sin. Sometimes we suffer because of other peoples sin; most often because of our own sin. But we rejoice in Jesus the Savior who knew no sin, yet became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21).

We also need a Messiah, a leader, someone we can trust and follow. Someone who always tells the truth. Someone who cares about us and will take away our burdens, give us rest and lead us in the kingdom of God. Jesus is that leader, and all he asks of us is to give up everything and follow him. (Luke 14:33)

And finally, we really, really need God in our lives. A personal God who knows our struggles and dreams, our pain and our desires. Again, we find this God in Jesus, the babe in the manger. John writes in chapter one that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. .. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(vs 1,14) The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is God (chapter 1) and that he is able to empathize with our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way that we are tempted, but did not sin.” (4:15) He identifies with us, leads us and empowers us to overcome sin, and forgives us when we fail.

I concluded my devotional by inviting everyone this Christmas, to remember the angel’s message to the shepherds, and not focus so much on Jesus, the baby in the stable, but on Jesus the Savior, Messiah and Lord. Only by looking to him and living for him can we enjoy the peace and joy that the angels promised (Luke 2:10,14) and that God freely gives to all who trust him.

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Suppose, for a moment, that God tapped you on the shoulder and asked you to write a chapter for the Bible. Wow. What an incredible honor! What would you write? How would you even begin?

Perhaps with an exclamation of God’s incredible majesty and glory, or a proclamation of His great love, mercy and grace. Maybe you would begin with a meditation on creation, the stars and seas; the mountains, flowers and forests. All of those ideas seem a good way to start a chapter of the Bible.

But that is not what Agur did. Who is Agur, you may ask. Well, Agur is the son of Jakeh and his claim to fame is writing one chapter in the Bible – Proverbs 30. And that is all we know about him. And you won’t believe how he started his chapter.

He writes “I am weary and worn out. I am too stupid to be human and I lack common sense.” What a way to begin! Your one shot at immortality, and you tell the world that you are tired and stupid. In Holy Scripture no less. I love it!

I love it because it is so surprising. It catches one off guard. Especially in the book of Proverbs, which is wisdom literature. The first chapter starts off with these words, “The purpose of proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.” And the second to last chapter has some guy talking about how weary and stupid he is. Isn’t that great?

I think it’s great because that is the way I feel a lot of the time. Especially as I get older. The more I learn, the stupider I feel. Especially when I consider God.

I think Agur describes himself that way because he is thinking about God. In verses 4-5 he starts writing about God. God goes up to heaven and comes back down. God wraps up the oceans in his cloak. God created the whole wide world. Every word of God is true. God is a shield to all who come to him for protection. In short, God never gets tired and knows everything.

When we compare ourselves to God we all come away weary and stupid. We are like dumb cows compared to God. The Hebrew word that is used in verse two for “stupid” (NLT) is ba’ar, which literally can be translated “brutish cattle”.

We spend a lot of time trying to be smart, look smart and feel smart. We are all trying to gain knowledge in this “information age”, from the nightly news, to our favorite bloggers and youtube videos, to masters degrees and PhD’s from acclaimed universities. But in the end, when we compare ourselves to an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent God, we are all just a bunch of dumb, tired cows.

So perhaps, the next time we are feeling full of ourselves and consider ourselves superior to those around us, we should just turn our attention to God, humble ourselves, and say “moo”.

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As you may have heard, there is a somewhat important and rather contentious election coming up in a few days. A record number of people have already voted. A record number of people are anxious about the outcome. It seems everybody in the United States is pinning their hopes on one of the candidates for President to win and save America.

Worldwide, the corona virus pandemic is growing, infecting and killing more people than ever before. After a summer reprieve, infections are surging, breaking daily records. Germany, France, Spain and Italy, to name just a few countries, are announcing shutdowns to try and get the virus under control. The United States stills leads the world with 8.8 million reported corona virus cases and more than 227,000 people dead from the disease. Everyone is hoping that they or their friends or family members don’t get infected and that an effective vaccine will be available soon.

Financially speaking, the stock market lost about 900 points recently and the unemployment rate is 7.9 percent. Millions have lost their jobs and are struggling mightily to make ends meet, hoping to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

Hope. Everyone is hoping for something, or rather, a lot of somethings. From meeting daily necessities to finding a job, to ending climate change and desiring world peace. Usually though, what people hope for is a bit more mundane.

For example, I am on the school board of my daughters school here in Oaxaca, Mexico. Sometimes, especially in the age of corona virus, the zoom board meetings can drag on as long as four hours. Before our last meeting I was hoping it wouldn’t go on so long. I was hoping we could get it over with within a couple of hours. As I was considering this desire, some verses from Galatians, which I have been studying lately, came to mind.

Galatians chapter five has a surprising number of references to the Spirit. Most Christians are aware of the fruit of the Spirit, found in verses 22 and 23 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). But Paul also refers to the Spirit in verses 5, 16,17,18 and 25. He uses phrases like “through the Spirit”, “walk by the Spirit”, “led by the Spirit”, “live by the Spirit” and “keep in step with the Spirit”. In chapter six he mentions “pleasing the Spirit.”

Pondering this emphasis on the Spirit, I had to ask myself, “If you are walking by the Spirit, and led by the Spirit and living by the Spirit, what is the best you could be hoping for?”

This question caused me to take a step back and realize that most of the things I hope for are all about ME, and not so much about the SPIRIT.

Initially, considering the board meeting. I was hoping it would be shorter than normal because I don’t like board meetings at all, let alone long ones. And especially not long, zoom board meetings! I don’t enjoy them. There are a lot of activities I would rather be taking part in that make me happier than board meetings.

But looking at my attitude towards these meetings, with an eye towards pleasing the Spirit, I was struck by the thought that what I should truly be hoping for was a new attitude!

I have come to see that my hopes should be shaped and informed by the fruit of the Spirit and life in the Spirit. I should hope that our meetings will be full of love for one another and the families that we represent. That my goal, our goal, should be one of trying to bring joy to children and peace to parents who are struggling with zoom learning, home schooling and long distance education. My desire should be to have patience with those other board members with whom I disagree; to show self control in times of disagreement.

The more I thought about the Spirit, the fruit and my hopes, the more I became aware that I need to hope not so much about happenings and the outcome of events, but I to hope that I am walking by the Spirit and led by the Spirit in my inner being. I should hope that my attitude is pleasing to the Spirit regarding everything in life, including the election results, corona virus and my economic situation.

I don’t just want to do the right thing, but I want to think right thoughts, Spirit led thoughts, in every aspect of my life, from the mundane to the sublime. Paul writes in Galatians 5:5, “For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope.”

Righteousness is not just doing right, but thinking right. We all struggle with those two aspects of life everyday. We all want to think right thoughts which will lead to right behavior, which leads to happiness. And we all know that God loves us and wants us to be happy, which is why he gave us his Word and his Spirit.

By the grace of God, I will be full of the Word and Spirit and full of the joy of the Lord. I hope.

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