December 22: Significant Joy!
December 22, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
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. Matthew 2:16-18:
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”Now we come to the saddest part of the story, at least at a human level. Herod is “furious.” Imagine him flying into a rage. Those Magi fooled him! Well, he is left (in his own sick mind) with one other option. As he cannot determine exactly which child is being acclaimed as king, threatening his own throne and his dynasty, then he must kill the lot of them. He has learnt from the Magi the rough birthday of the child, and so he sweeps with a broad brush and will gather up into the grave all boys in the area of Bethlehem under two years old – he will kill them. He does not particularly want to do it, perhaps, but he reasons to himself that he must protect the crown, and you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. In case we miss the immensity of the tragedy, Matthew quotes from Jeremiah. There is a voice heard in Ramah. Now not the voice of the announcement of good news, but the uncontrollable weeping of a mother for her child. There is no comfort that can be given, “refusing to be comforted.” “Weeping and great mourning.” Into such darkness, the light of Christmas shines. There is at Christmas hope for the hopeless, strength for the weary, comfort for the comfortless, joy for the downcast, and meaning for those suffering. That is the constant question of those in pain: why? There is a need to find an answer or at least a framework through which it can all be understood. You can put up with almost any how if you have a why. And Christ at Christmas provides for those “weeping in Ramah” by giving them an eternal meaning that is all focused on the brilliant light of the Christ child. In him, your life does have meaning. In him, no life is wasted. In him, there is a future and hope for all who trust in him. There is nothing that is wasted, our tears are stored in his bottle, our labor is not in vain, the Word of God that we speak does not return to us empty. It is this overcoming joy that is part of the miracle of Christmas. A person on the edge can come back from the edge and realize that each and every day was written before he lived it, and as painful as some of those days have been, they are not now without meaning or purpose or larger significance in the grand story of God and of his people.
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, With all our hearts we praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, His power and glory ever more proclaim! His power and glory ever more proclaim!
“O Holy Night” by Adolph Adam, 1847]]>
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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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