Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 1:18-25
December 15-21, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place this way.” (Matthew 1:18a).
My wife, Faye, and I moved to Arizona from the Mid-West. We have two granddaughters who live in Minneapolis—a fifteen hundred mile, three hour flight from us. We keep in contact by greeting cards and Skype. Skype is a modern miracle of technology, for which we are very thankful. Nothing compares, however, to having the girls come and visit us. To have them run and play around the house, to hear their giggles, feel their hugs, and see their smiles simply brings joy to our hearts. Nothing can equal being physically present with each other.
At the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the proclamation that God took on human form and became one of us. Jesus the Messiah was born. God had used prophets, scripture, visions and voices previously, but they didn’t compare to God dwelling with us. Through Jesus we were able to see what God was really like. Love was more than words and faith became more than an abstract concept.
God has not left us alone. God’s Spirit is with us. We say that we are “In Christ,” and that Christ is in us. Miles need never separate us.
Loving Lord, You loved us so much that you sent your son who lived with us. May we love so much that we are present in the lives of those who are in need. Amen.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
“Before they lived together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18b).
Mary’s virginity has been the topic of discussions and heated debates since she announced to her parents that she was pregnant. Some people believe that Mary’s virginity is the lynchpin on which the validity of Jesus’ divinity hangs. For others it is a creedal statement that they simply cannot accept. The truth is that Mary isn’t going to tell us and we will never know.
Our debate about Mary’s virginity and Jesus’ divinity misses the point. Certainly, the gospel writers wanted to make sure that Jesus was on the same level as the Caesars and holy men who claimed to be born of virgins. More importantly, the gospel writers wanted to highlight the truth that God was doing something new and different.
God continues to move in the world doing new and different things. God always seems to be able to break out of the boxes in which we attempt to keep him. A new day is being born. It is the product of the laws of the universe and the grace of God. It is a day in which God will move in new and different ways. Keep your eyes open and be ready to be surprised as you are on an adventure of life and faith.
Extraordinary God, forgive us when we become bored, comfortable and content. Excite us with your presence and inspire us with the surprises that you have in store for us. Amen.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
“Unwilling to expose her to public disgrace [Joseph] planned to dismiss her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
As disciples of Jesus Christ we always have a nagging belief that life should be a little easier for us than it is for other folks. After all, we are God’s people and we are about serving God, loving people and establishing his kingdom on earth. That isn’t how life works, though. Mary certainly found that out.
Mary was chosen to have the honor of being the mother of God’s son—the long awaited Messiah. Along with that honor came disgrace. Mary was always thought to be soiled goods—a loose woman. She was never able to convince more than a few people that the child she carried was of the Holy Spirit. The fact that Mary bore a child out of wedlock always stuck with her; it never went away.
Being God’s presence in the world is not an easy task. Few people will thank us for our ministry. The love, grace and blessings that we seek to share will be rejected by some and not appreciated by others. The trials and tribulations, though, can never over shadow the fact that we have been chosen, called and empowered to share God’s love and grace in words and actions.
Ever present God, forgive us when we complain that life is too hard. Transform our negative attitudes into attitudes of gratitude for what you are doing in and through us. Amen.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
“An Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (Matthew 1:20).
There are some things that are very difficult to accept. Surely, Joseph was deeply in love with Mary and wanted to believe what she told him—that she was still a virgin and that the child was from the Holy Spirit. Yet, he had his doubts. It took a message brought to him by an angel for him to believe in the miracle that was taking place before his eyes.
Wouldn’t it be nice if God would send angel’s to guide and instruct us? Burning bushes, a voice from heaven, heavenly visions would be acceptable also. Such events would certainly be faith boosters and it may even be easier to discern God’s will.
God may not speak to us in supernatural ways, but that doesn’t mean that God is silent and doesn’t want to lead us. We have God’s Spirit within us to guide us through our heart and conscience. The Bible is not only a source of inspiration but also a means to discern God’s will for us. And, of course we have our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God often uses to counsel us in our walk of faith. The important point is that God does want to lead us. God is waiting for us to seek God’s will.
Living Lord, speak to us that we may speak in living echoes of your love. Amen.
Friday, December 19, 2014
“You are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
Recent heavy rains had saturated the ground. Mudslide and flash flood warnings were being flashed on the television and radio stations. Julio and Ernesto were aware of the warnings but didn’t think that anything would happen during the ten minute drive from their work on their home. They were driving across a bridge over what usually was a small creek. The creek was swollen; overflowing its banks. While they were on the bridge, a wall of water washed over the bridge and swept their car into the stream. Seconds later and about one hundred yards downstream their car jammed against a large uprooted tree. Julio and Ernesto hung on to the car and waited for help to arrive.
A driver behind them had seen Julio and Ernesto washed into the creek and had called 911. Within minutes the fire department was on the scene. It took forty minutes for the crew to pull the two men to the safety of dry land. After a quick exam by the paramedic, Julio and Ernesto thanked their rescuers and were given a ride to their home. Over dinner that evening the men recounted their ordeal. In a somber mood, Julio reflected, “We were saved from the rushing water, but I wonder what we were saved for?”
We are never merely saved from something. We are also saved for something. Jesus came to save us from our sins, but that isn’t the entire story. Jesus also saved us so that we could be his disciples, have a fresh, new relationship with God and live to serve God and others rather than concentrating on our own wants and desires. We give thanks that Jesus has saved us from our sins, but we also continue our thanksgiving for the life Jesus has saved us for.
Beautiful Savior, thank you for saving us. Help us to be open to all for which that you have saved us. Amen.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken” (Matthew 1:22).
Jeremy wanted to build a tree house for his two children. A massive oak tree dominated the backyard of the family’s home that would be perfect for a tree house. Jeremy headed out early on Saturday morning and purchased some lumber and nails. In less than an hour, Jeremy was sawing wood and pounding nails. He had the love to begin the task and the enthusiasm to carry it out. The one things Jeremy lacked was a plan. By the end of the day, Jeremy had built a structure that was neither pleasing to the eye nor particularly safe.
Matthew wanted to let his readers know that God had a plan and that the birth of Jesus was part of the plan. The events that occurred those months before the first Christmas morning were not like a razzle-dazzle football play. It wasn’t a hastily drawn up “Plan ‘B’”. This was a plan that was reveled hundreds of years previously in the words of the prophets, and devised before the beginning of time.
We worship the creator of the universe. That creation follows specific laws—a plan, if you will. Each and every one of us is a part of that plan. Realizing this our primary question in life should not be, “What do I want to do?” but rather, “What does God want me to do?” and “How do I fit in to God’s plan?”
Creator God, you have created us for a purpose. Reveal this purpose to us, and empower us to accomplish the tasks you set before us. Amen.
Sunday, December 21, 2014
“He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).
Obedience is a prized quality in life. Parents long for it in their children. Employers expect it in their employees. The military demands it in its soldiers. Production in the country’s industries would be brought to a standstill if there was no obedience, and battles would not be won if soldiers didn’t obey the orders of their commanders.
Obedience is a prize quality of disciples of Jesus Christ, too. Joseph demonstrated that quality. When we awoke he didn’t question the validity of the dream or whether or not it was the right thing to do. Rather, Joseph simply did what the angel of the Lord commanded him.
Where is the Spirit of the Lord leading us? Undoubtedly it is out of our comfort zone and will tax our skills and challenge us to exceed the expectations that we have for ourselves. Jesus did not allow second thoughts to prevent him from issuing the invitation, “Follow me,” to the first disciples. They dropped everything and obediently followed Jesus. So do we, knowing that Jesus leads us and the Spirit empowers us.
Gracious Lord, walk before us to lead us, behind us to encourage us and beside us to comfort us as we obediently follow you. Amen.