Anticipating Advent: So None Can Boast

Micah 5:2 –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Stories about people who lived at the time of Jesus’ birth have always fascinated me. One of the reasons I loved Max Lucado’s book God Came Near is because it starts with wondering about what a Bethlehem innkeeper may have said or thought the morning after Jesus was born in the stable. It always surprises me that such a momentous event as the birth of the long-promise Messiah was just … missed – missed by so many people who were right there.

For some reason, as soon as I was approached about the Advent writings for this year, the town of Bethlehem and the above prophecy about it were the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it’s because I know the verse notes that Bethlehem was so small. Maybe it’s because I have been feeling “small” and hang onto the fact that God uses “small” to do His work.

Probably, it was because I needed to read John Piper’s comments about why Jesus was born in Bethlehem:

“God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, “He chose the comfort of my inn!” God chose a manger so that no wood worker could boast, “He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!” He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, “The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!” And he chose you and me, freely and unconditionally, to stop the mouth of all human boasting.”

It’s true that God honored Bethlehem by using it. It’s true that an insignificant town got to play a part in changing history. And it’s true that God chose that small, unimportant town not to make it “feel” important, but to show that His actions really were all about His MERCY. And it worked! Because of the way God worked this miracle, the people of Bethlehem not only didn’t claim fame, most of them missed the event altogether. None could boast.

And so it is with us. Any significance God chooses to work through us is His business for His glory. So that none can boast.

~Tricia Hitchcock

Forgotten Mercies

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Matthew 18:21-22

In answering Peter’s question about forgiveness, Jesus tells a story to illustrate the truth he wants the Disciple, and us, to understand in his brief response, “not 7 but 70 times.”

He tells of a servant, who owes his King an enormous debt, pleading with his Sovereign to give him time and he will repay the debt. Knowing that such is impossible the King in an act of great mercy forgives the debt.

Now one would think this was such an overwhelming and undeserved act of mercy by the King the servant in like manner would extend mercy to any and all who might in any way be indebted to him. Not! The first person he sees who owes him a few dollars he has him tossed into prison, even though he cries for mercy.

It was a case of forgotten mercies. He forgot, as one writer puts it, “our first task is not to forgive but to but to learn to be forgiven.” This is just what the servant in the story failed to do, and Peter was inadvertently speaking to this truth in his question to Jesus.  Jesus made Peter face this truth in his reply.   What Jesus tells Peter is, “There is no need to ask that question if you know the Father’s forgiveness, there is no number.” Peter lost sight of God’s forgiving  mercy and grace.

Every time you and I fail to be forgiving we have lost sight of the Cross, we have forgotten God’s great mercy and love in Christ Jesus, the sent Son, Savior and Lord. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a Kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever Amen.”

To be a Christian C.S. Lewis wrote, “means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in us.”  And how can we do that? Lewis gives us the answer in these words, “Only, I think, by remembering where we stand by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, ‘forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” clearly remembering, we sinners are not forgiven because we repent but because Christ made good for us.  Forget not his mercies.

~Pastor Jack Matheis

Sharing Abundantly

2 Corinthians 1:5–For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

To follow Jesus does not mean an end to suffering but it means we willingly and joyfully choose to share the overwhelming burden He has borne in payment for our sin.

God sending His Son to walk among us
did not end sin on earth
but showed mankind how
to choose mercy rather than tyranny,
to offer forgiveness rather than blame,
to express gratitude rather than resentment,
to share what little we have rather than covet all that we desire.

By seeking truth, by following Jesus,  the comfort found in Him will far outweigh our suffering.

He was born for this.  And so were we.

E. Gibson