December 15: Decisive Joy!
December 15, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
<![CDATA[by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. To receive these Advent readings directly in your inbox, sign up here. Luke 2:33-35:
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”The astonishing words of Simeon (Luke 2:30-32), calling Jesus “salvation” and the “light” for the nations and the “glory” of Israel, understandably left Joseph and Mary blown away. What on earth was this godly old man talking about? How could he be describing their little infant in such grandiose, nearly sacrilegious, terms? What could it all mean? Godly to the end, Simeon responds not by trying to squeeze more theology down the throats of Joseph and Mary than they were at this stage able to swallow, but instead he responds by ministering to them. He “blessed” them, pronouncing that what he has said, far beyond their ability to understand in any sense at this point, would nonetheless be good. It came with a blessing, and Simeon underscored that for them by in some way formally blessing them when he observed they were disturbed by the scale of his predictions about the career of their baby Jesus. But then having blessed them, and assured them of the good intentions of God and the blessing that this child is to them, he does not let them mistake his meaning. Jesus is going to be a divisive figure. It is good if you are for him, bad if you are against him. He will cause the “falling and rising of many in Israel.” There will be a changing of the guard. Things are going to turn upside down, and Jesus, the ultimate change agent, is going to be at the tip of the spear of God’s movement. Given that this is what is going to happen, almost inevitably Jesus will have enemies. He will be a “sign that will be spoken against.” People will speak against him and campaign against him. And in so doing, in taking a stance against Jesus, their own hearts will be revealed. Nothing says that you are against God, really and truly, like coming out against God’s anointed. Those who had hidden behind comfortable expressions of traditional piety in the degenerate form of religiosity taking place at the time in Israel would find that they could not agree with the purifying fire of Christ, and when they opposed Christ, what would be shown is who they really are. If you say you are for God, but then God himself turns up and you are actually against God in the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God, then apparently you were never for God at all. Even today the same dynamic takes place. People are quite often vaguely in favor of “god” or “the divine” or “spirituality.” They may be in favor of a “god” of this religion or that. But when you speak of Jesus – well, then it shows what people really think about God, because Jesus is really God. Simeon is even compassionate, and pastorally wise enough, to tell Mary the real deal in terms of the impact on her own life. To be the mother of such a man, the God-Man Christ, a man who would have such an impact, and be so persecuted, and even crucified, would not be easy. In fact, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” One of the great risks, even dangers, of Christmas, you see, is that we domesticate it. Christ as a baby is so cute, so cuddly, so inoffensive, so easy to accept. But this baby will grow. And one day he will return. What you make of the man who threw the money changers out of the temple, who cast demons out of the demoniac, who rejected the hypocritical Pharisee, and ate with sinners and tax collectors, what you think of him will one day be finally revealed when he returns. Would you, then, this Christmas be one of those who “rise” because of Jesus? To do that, you need first bow before Jesus.
And our eyes at last shall see Him, Through His own redeeming love; For that Child so dear and gentle, Is our Lord in heaven above: And He leads His children on, To the place where He is gone.
“Once in Royal David’s City” by Cecil Frances Alexander, 1848]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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