Three Wise Men?

Read: Matthew 2:1-12

Many of the nativity scenes you have witnessed over this past month most likely include three men and three camels.  Not always, but often these wise men or Magi that are mentioned in the second chapter of Matthew are included in the Christmas scene with baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the animals.

Many scholars believe that these wise men (Magi) from the East probably arrived sometime within the first year or two of Jesus’ birth.  In other words they may not have actually been there at the manger right after Jesus was born. And, there may not have only been three of them.

In verse 11 Matthew tells us that when the Magi did arrive they presented Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These three gifts are why we often see three camels and three Magi coming to see Jesus. However, there could have been more than just three, and there could have even been less than three.  Scripture does not give us an exact number other than the three gifts that were presented.

We do know from verses 13-18 that after the Magi left, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of King Herod who wanted Jesus killed.  Since verse 13 mentions a child instead of a baby, it could mean that the Magi’s visit occurred sometime later than Jesus’ birth.

These are interesting things to study and consider when thinking about the Christmas story.  Having the Magi at the scene of the manger in many ways represents a part of this wonderful story and not the exact timing of the events or numbers of people.
This is why I have never minded this portrayal of Jesus’ birth, even though the events could have actually been a bit different. The most important part is that we receive this story for what it means for us and the world.  A Savior has been born and he is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Make it Personal:  Along with the visit of the Magi there are many other interesting things that can be studied and learned about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  I encourage you to do some study yourself and learn more about this most wonderfully, Holy night, that happened over 2,000 years ago.

Happy New Year Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

O Holy Night

Read: Luke 1:26-38
One of the most powerful and favorite Christmas songs through the years has been “O Holy Night.”  Next to Silent Night it may be the most sung Christmas song of all time. “O Holy Night” was originally a poem titled “Midnight, Christians” written in 1843 by French poet Placide Cappeau.  Four years later in 1847 the words to that poem were put to music by minister John Sullivan Dwight. And the rest is history.
Or maybe we should say that history made this song what it is.  “O Holy Night” is a song that reflects on the greatest night in the history of the world, the night that God came to Earth to be with us in His Son Jesus.  It’s a song that reflects on the birth of Jesus in the Judean village of Bethlehem and on humanity’s redemption that follows. So often we sing these words but how often do we pay attention to what they say?  Perhaps this poem, or this song, can speak to you in a new way this Christmas. Here are the words.
“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.  Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born; O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land. The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. His power and glory evermore proclaim.”

As you celebrate Christmas this year remember to celebrate that holy night over 2,000 years ago that gives people around the world a reason to rejoice.  May our response to this great news be the same as Jesus’ mother Mary’s response was in Luke 1, “May your word be fulfilled!”

Make it Personal:  What is your favorite Christmas hymn?  Is it because of what the words proclaim or is it because of the beautiful music and memories it conveys?  Either way, rejoice in the truth of this season and celebrate that God is with us. God is with you through Jesus!
Merry Christmas Everyone,
Pastor Glen Rhodes

God With Us

Read: John 5:1-9

A favorite song of this Christmas season is “Emmanuel” by Bob McGee.  The words to that song say, “His name is called Emmanuel; God with us.”  In Matthew 1:23 an angel appears and confirms the prophet Isaiah’s words that God’s son would come to earth and would be Immanuel which means “God with us.”  God’s Son Jesus came to earth at Christmas time and was the perfect example of how God truly desires to be with us, be near us, and be in us.
Far too many people in our world are lonely and searching for love, care, and companionship.  Perhaps you too have felt that way at times?  Maybe you feel that way right now?  The wonderful news of Christmas is that God provided a way for us to cure our loneliness. He sent Jesus to us so that we would never have to be alone, fearful, or without a friend.  As the old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
In John 5 we find a perfect example of who Jesus was and how Jesus still works in our world.  In verses 1-9 he comes to a man who was sick, paralyzed, and lonely.  In verse 5 it says that this man had been sitting at this spot for 38 years.  Thousands upon thousands of people had passed him by until Jesus singles him out and chooses to befriend him.  Not only did Jesus come beside him and talk to him but he also healed him.  In verses 8 and 9 Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and walk.
During the Christmas season we celebrate that God is with us through his Son Jesus.  When loneliness sets in we can turn to Jesus and find a friend that will love us, care for us, and stand with us through whatever life brings.  Earthly relationships sometimes fail us and let us down, but Jesus promises to always be there for you.  That’s a great thing to celebrate this Christmas!
Make it Personal:  Along with the friendship Jesus provides for us he also brings us peace, love, joy, forgiveness, and hope.  This is why those things are talked about so much during this season.  Yes, Jesus is the reason for the season, but God truly desires all people to remember the reasons that he sent him to earth as well.  God is truly with you, if you will allow him into your life.
Have a wonderful Christmas, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Peeking at the Presents

Read: Luke 2:1-20

You might think it’s a little early for the Christmas story to be the meditation reading this week, and you are probably right.  We are still in the season of Advent.  But I ran across a story from John E. Sumwalt this week that reminds us why waiting is actually good for us.  It went like this…
There was once a little girl named Lucinda who couldn’t wait for Christmas to come. She was so excited about Christmas that she was about to burst! Lucinda loved everything about Christmas. She loved singing Christmas carols, she loved decorating the tree and sending Christmas cards, she loved shopping and wrapping the presents. But, most of all, she loved unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.
She couldn’t wait to see what she was going to get. And one year she didn’t wait! She sneaked into the closet where her mom and dad had hidden her presents and she peeked.   She unwrapped the presents just enough to see what she was going to get. At first she was very excited, because she liked the presents and she couldn’t wait to play with them. But later, she began to feel sad. All of the excitement of waiting was gone. Now she didn’t have anything to look forward to on Christmas morning.
That night, at the Christmas Eve service, the little girl listened as the Christmas story from Luke 2 was read from the Bible. She knew the story well, and she especially liked the part where the angel told the shepherds about the birth of the baby Jesus.   How excited they must have been as they made their way to Bethlehem. Their people had been waiting a long, long time for the Messiah to come.
Even though it had taken many years, they had never given up hope. And how special it must have been to see the baby Jesus in the manger, even though the angel told them exactly what they were going to see. “Maybe that’s how it will be for me when I open my presents,” the little girl thought, and she began to get excited about Christmas morning all over again.
And when Lucinda opened her presents the next morning, what do you suppose happened? She was surprised! She didn’t get any of the presents she had peeked at! Her sister got all of those. She had peeked at the wrong presents! What a relief it was, and what a valuable lesson she had learned. She would never, ever even try to peek at her presents again! She would wait patiently, and with great excitement, for Christmas to come. She would wait as long as it took.
Just another reminder for all us, Christmas will come. We wait with great anticipation!
Make it Personal:  Go ahead and peek at the Christmas story this week. If you are like me you can never read it enough.  Perhaps this Christmas we should try to memorize these verses so that they can stay with us all year long.  Perhaps some of you already have.
Advent blessings, Pastor Glen Rhodes