Seeking the King

Have you set out your nativity scene (or scenes) yet? Which people from the story are on your mind this Christmas? Every year, God brings one segment of the scene into the spotlight for me, and I find myself thinking about him/her/them throughout the holiday season.

This year for me, it’s the wise men. I know why. I recently started working for a nonprofit that supports internationals and the wise men were the first non-Jews…the first border-crossers…to worship Jesus.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  –Matthew 2:1-2

The magi came to worship him.

What’s east of Jerusalem? When I was a kid, I thought these guys were from China and places close to China. After all, the song says, “We three kings of Orient are…” To me, the Orient was where Oriental people lived. (No offense. It was the late 1970s. “Political Correctness” wasn’t a thing yet.) Little did I know that the Orient includes Arabia and that the “near East” was just as exotic as the “far East.”

Also, I thought they were kings. (The song is so wrong!!) They were more like Daniel and the guys who served with him: astrologers, scientists, magicians.

wise men

Star-watchers from the near East. That’s Persia, southern Arabia, and Mesopotamia (NIV Study Bible notes for Matthew 2:1). These days, we know these areas as Iran, the Saudi Arabia/Yemen/Oman/U.A.E., and Syria.

They were internationals. And they worshiped Jesus as a king. Before anyone other than the shepherds of Judea realized it, these foreigners knew Jesus was something special.

I’ve written about all the characters in your nativity sets. Find the one the Holy Spirit has put on your mind this Christmas and dig into their story. You might learn something new. You might grow closer to “the one who has been born king of the Jews.”

Remember too, “King of the Jews” is what Pilate wrote on the placard above Jesus’ head when He hung on the cross (John 19:19).

The Cast of Christmas: Zechariah & Elizabeth

The Cast of Christmas: Mary

The Cast of Christmas: Joseph

The Cast of Christmas: Shepherds

The Cast of Christmas: Simeon

The Cast of Christmas: Wise Men

Wise men: the first internationals to worship Jesus, the first to recognize He was a king. My #NativitySet is #NotAboutMe via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Which “character” from the Christmas story is the Holy Spirit using in your life right now? Please tell us who and why in the comments in below. I would love to hear what’s on your mind!


He Will Be Called: Mighty God

My life feels out of control, especially as Christmas rolls toward us. The things I want to accomplish remain unfinished. I’m interrupted despite my best intentions. Things happen—like my computer losing my blog post last week. Sometimes I wish I could stomp my foot and make it all stop. Sometimes I wish I could conquer my own life.

As the people of Judah packed a few things to carry on their long walk to Babylon, I wonder if they felt the same way. (Except mine are first-world problems and their problems were far more like those of modern-day refugees.) I wonder if they began to question God’s potency. What happened to the Davidic line? And what of Jerusalem, about which God had said, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it” (Psalm 132:14)? It laid in ruins.

God’s promises remained.

Still, God’s promises remained. Continue reading

He Will Be Called: Wonderful Counselor

Have you made plans for Christmas yet? I haven’t. I like to plan, but often my plans don’t come to fruition. Not so with God. When God plans something, it doesn’t change. God’s plans are so certain that the Old Testament authors speak of them in the past tense, what scholars call “the prophetic perfect.”

When God spoke to His people about His plans, however, He used future tense. We call them promises, and the Old Testament prophets gave us many of them. What a comfort it must have been for the Israelites to carry these promises into captivity in a foreign land! Continue reading

Great! …with child

I opened my calendar and counted the months. Our baby would be born in early January, which meant I would be great with child at Christmas. “Great!” I sighed, wondering if with child was a good thing for Christmas time.

A long time ago, there was another expectant mother, one much younger and more fearful than me. Perhaps she pulled out her calendar when she heard about a census of the entire Roman Empire. Perhaps she counted the months, sighed, and wondered. Continue reading

Joseph: Nine Months before Christmas

It was one of those rock-and-a-hard-place moments. On the one hand, he longed to be faithful to the law. On the other hand, he wanted to be faithful—even gracious—to his future wife.

His wife… Would she still be his wife one day? Could he marry an unfaithful woman? Was the wedding off? It was his decision to make, and he felt like Moses, stuck between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. He couldn’t go forward, but there was no way he could go back. Continue reading

My Christmas List

I felt like I was drowning. It was a week before Christmas Eve—early Saturday morning. Our tree wasn’t up, our lights weren’t hung, and only a few gifts were wrapped. Some gifts still weren’t bought (not my usual pattern: I’m an early shopper). I had baked absolutely nothing. I hadn’t even decided what to bake. Because I felt so behind-schedule, I was short with the kids and impatient with their father. I couldn’t even enjoy a Christmas party the night before because I resented all the work it took to bring dishes for the potluck. (Brutal honesty here.)

As I sat down for my quiet time, I wrote, “Christmas is rushing toward us like a tidal wave.” A few minutes later, I opened my Bible to Matthew 11 and sought the next paragraph. (For more on how we do our quiet times, click here.) Do you know the last paragraph in Matthew 11? I literally laughed out loud when I read it.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  -Matthew 11:28-30

I warped peace and contemplation
into pressure and obligation.

I had warped this season, which is supposed to be about peace and contemplation, into a season of pressure and obligation. I needed the kind of rest that only comes from Jesus.

Three character qualities of Jesus stand out in these verses: gentleness, humility, and restfulness. Go back and read the verses again. Do you see it? Those who tie themselves to him (the yoke) learn from him because of his gentleness and humility, but I believe even those who just happened to come near Jesus when He was on earth experienced these things as well. Isn’t that why people were so attracted to Him?

So I can learn that peaceful kind of attitude?

I don’t have time for that! Didn’t you see how behind schedule I am right now?!?

Deep breath. Let’s go a step further here. As Christ-followers (because Christian means “little Christ”), we have Jesus in us already (John 15). That means His gentleness, humility, and restfulness (among other things) are already part of our spiritual composition, already existing in us even as they continue to mature (re: Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23).

If we are already little Christs…

If the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us (John 16:12-15)…

If our standard for living is Jesus’ example…

Then our lives should, like His, exude these character traits regardless of our circumstances. It should be that anyone around us experiences gentleness, humility, and restfulness just by being in our presence and especially by interaction with us.

I don’t use that word, “should” lightly. I really can’t stand it. But in this instance, I had an obligation to change my attitude. “Should” works.

So I made a list. I checked it twice. It had nothing to do with others being naughty or nice. Actually, I wrote it on my bathroom mirror, and I check it every time I stand in front of the sink. On my wish list and my gifting list, I have three things:

  • Gentleness
  • Humility
  • Restfulness

It’s a simple practice, but it’s working. It keeps me in prayer, keeps me taking a deep breath and resetting my attitude—especially about what’s decorating my house and what’s in my oven.

I want my Christmas
to be about gentleness,
humility, and restfulness.

I want my Christmas to be about gentleness, humility, and restfulness. Saturday morning before my tea got cold, I submitted my holidays to the Lord Jesus, and asked for these three things— not just for myself but as the gift of presence I will give everyone around me.

One small step to exchange pressure and obligation for peace and contemplation at #Christmas. (click to tweet)

What about you? How do you cope with the hectic pattern of the holidays? Share about that below, or share a verse that has helped you manage the season well. Thanks!