December 23: Real Joy!
December 23, 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 2:19-23:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.Once more the Messianic little family is on the move, again in response to dreams, the first one to announce the death of Herod (known as the “great”) and then again to warn Joseph about the nefarious activities of Herod’s son (known as Herod “Archelaus”). In all this we can discern the sovereign care of our God over Joseph and Mary and the baby boy. Our experiences of God’s sovereign care may not be so direct – there is more angelic activity at this time in history than ever before or since – but though it is less direct in normal instances, it is no less real. God cares for his people, those who are in Christ, and defends them and protects them. There is no promise of being removed from all the ills of this world; indeed, Christ will pray that we not be taken out of this world but remain in this world – in the world but not of the world – to be a witness to him in the midst of this life. But he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, and God gives his people strength, wisdom, courage, and constantly weaves together the plots of their adversaries for the great good of his people and his own great glory. We are not told of Joseph’s emotional state through all these changes of location. He was obedient, that is all we know, and it is enough. Joseph heads to Galilee, to the North, to live in Nazareth, and Matthew tells us that this fulfills what the prophets said about Jesus being “called a Nazarene.” What does Matthew mean by this? Probably Matthew has in mind that Jesus will experience derision in much the same way that others from Nazareth experienced derision. The prophets made it clear that the Messiah would not be accepted – a general theme in the Old Testament Scriptures – and would be mocked and beaten and even in the end crucified for our sins. This “Nazarene”-like derision and rejection was a prophesied aspect of the Messiah’s ministry and one that Jesus fulfilled. John’s Gospel preserves the same idea when he records one of Jesus’ early disciples, Nathanael, replying to the invitation to come and see Jesus by protesting, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46). Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 are a couple of places where this theme of what Matthew calls Jesus’ “Nazarene” rejection is predicted in the Old Testament. Once again, we find that the real Christmas story is, while indelibly “sweet,” one whose “light” shines against “darkness.” Sometimes people find Christmas to be so unreal that it cannot speak to them in their rejection. Jesus, from the beginning, carried our sorrows and bore our burdens, so that by following him we would experience that his burden is light and his joy unending. Would you entrust to this Christ-child your sorrows today so that in him you might find the true Christmas joy of life forevermore?
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found.
“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts, 1719]]>
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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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