December 24: Glorious Joy!
December 24, 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. Luke 2:40:
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.Having covered most of the traditional “birth narrative” already in our devotional series leading up to Christmas, it feels a little flat to hear about the “child growing and becoming strong.” One of our family traditions growing up was always eating “shepherd’s pie” on Christmas Eve because (we heard half-ironically) the shepherds were watching their flocks that evening! To read on December 24 about the child “growing and becoming strong,” you might think “where are the shepherds?”! But on this Christmas Eve, this brief description from Luke emphasizes what sometimes the nascent warm glow of the nativity can hide behind its sentimentality in our various pageant traditions. It emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. John, in his famous “Prologue,” emphasizes this humanity in his own way by talking boldly of the Word becoming “flesh” (John 1:14), real flesh and blood and bone. Similarly, in a different way, and later in the story, Luke tells us that the child grew and became strong. Jesus was subject to physical normal human development. The wonder of the incarnation, the humility of God, is perhaps never more extraordinary than in the fact that the Son of God had to learn how to walk and talk and run. However, even from this human perspective the observant neighbor would have noticed something incandescent about the Christ. He was “filled with wisdom.” It is not often that you hear of a “child” being called “wise.” That is normally a descriptor that is won through hard fought, often painful experience, appended to a life well-lived, and ending its final leg of the race. An old man may be wise; how often can that be said of a child? But it was true of Christ, and abundantly so: he was “filled with wisdom,” this Word Incarnate. What is more, the same observant neighbor would have noted the “grace of God was on him.” God favored him and loved him, and the favor of God was “on him” in some way that was apparent to those who knew him. Elsewhere from Luke, and from other the Gospel authors, we know that this Christ-child is far more than a human child, but he is never less than a human child, even so at this moment of his birth and in this development as he “grew and became strong.” The sheer humility of God in becoming incarnate is hard to fathom. Paul tried to describe it in Philippians 2:6-7, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” He was the very likeness of humanity, growing and becoming strong, and yet also the fullness of deity. Mystery all, that for us God himself would condescend to stoop so low to lift us so high.
“The heavenly Babe You there shall find To human view displayed And meanly wrapped In swathing bands And in a manger laid And in a manger laid. All glory be to God on high And to the earth be peace; Goodwill henceforth From heaven to men Begin and never cease Begin and never cease!”
“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night” by Nahum Tate, 1703]]>
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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