The First Coming of Jesus
LHC: Message Fifty-One (051204AM)

Week 51: The First Coming of Jesus
(Christmas Message—Luke 1 and Matthew 2)

As the end of days approaches, you can find hope as you ponder the First Coming of Jesus!
SUNDAY: God Uses Ordinary People “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.” —Luke 1:5, emphasis added For the past fifty weeks, the Second Coming of Jesus has been uppermost in our minds and hearts. For the remaining two weeks, since those who began reading this book on January 1st are now celebrating the First Coming of Jesus, we will reflect upon the glorious Christ of Christmas, the Promised One—the Savior who came to a manger one dark night to bear away the sin of the world. For without His loving sacrifice on Calvary, none of us could have living hope for the end of days! The characters that God chose to put into the Christmas story are what we would call ordinary, like the couple we are introduced to in Luke 1:5, Zacharias and Elizabeth. They were ordinary people, who lived with all the ordinary troubles, stresses, and pains of life. They even had an ordinary response to God—mixed belief and unbelief. Zacharias and Elizabeth also had an ordinary occupation in Jerusalem in the first century; we would call them religious professionals. They were a priest and his wife who lived and worked in the shadow of the temple of God. Being from the priestly family, they could trace their family tree back to Aaron and the tribal genealogy of Levi. From their earliest days, Zacharias and Elizabeth had known about the Lord. They had grown up much like many Americans of past generations—surrounded by the Truth, seeing and hearing it in many ways and places. So, in that sense, we all are ordinary people. We all share the same struggles, trials, and pains of life. But one thing about Zacharias and Elizabeth was extraordinary—they actually believed all that Truth about God. Because He was real to them, they loved and served Him as best they could. As with each of the other godly members of the Christmas story—Joseph and Mary, the shepherds and the Magi, Simeon and Anna—their lives are examples to us of how to see Christ clearly this Christmas. For how these ordinary persons lived stands in direct contrast to another similar group that we will study this week—the religious professionals who did not internalize the Truth.
Even to this day, it is amazing how the true story of Christmas can polarize a family, a church, a nation, and a world. All around us nearly everyone is comfortable with this “holiday season.” But press the issue of Christ, and Him being at the center of Christmas, then things change immediately. For example, try to display a representation of Christ’s birth on public land, or try to call a Christmas tree by that name, and the entire government goes into overdrive. Sadly, we live in a post-Christian era. However, that only makes the message of Christmas even more precious and distinct! In today’s devotional, we will examine the contrast between Zacharias and Elizabeth and the ungodly religious professionals identified in the Christmas story. The differences are so stark and distinct that I consider them to be like continental divides— junctures of monumental and eternal proportions. Here is an illustration of that point. On a family trip, as we glided along the interstate highways crossing the Appalachian Mountains, I noticed this sign:

Continental Divide:
A raindrop falling on this side will flow to the Gulf of Mexico; one falling on the other side will flow to the Atlantic. Afterward, that sign made me think of the Christmas story and the junctures and choices of monumental eternal proportions that God’s people made. Zacharias and Elizabeth’s little acts of obedience, choices, affirmations of consecration, and cries to their great God made completely divergent endings to their lives in contrast to that of the other religious professionals. They all did the same work in the same place; they even wore the same clothes and lived in the same houses. The main difference between the two groups was that Zacharias and Elizabeth were looking forward to the First Coming of Jesus; the other group was not looking for Him at all. That difference is what I liken to a continental divide. As I gave some more thought to continental divides, separators that determine destinations, a very sobering feeling settled over my heart and mind: two raindrops can fall just inches apart—yet arrive at two vastly different destinations. The Christmas story itself contains just such a picture of two “raindrops”: two sets of people—so close in every way—yet so far apart in destiny. That is what America has become. We have an entire nation of almost 300 million people listening to the same songs, seeing the same nativity scenes, and going to the same holiday events. But one group is blessed beyond words while the other group heads to a different destination. The lesson for us at Christmas is therefore this: beware of being acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him. Zacharias and Elizabeth were not only acquainted with Him, but also believed. Are you seeing Jesus this Christmas? Or are you missing out on all that God offers you? Everyone who was looking for Jesus to come welcomed His arrival. Who are you going to be like this Christmas—Zacharias and Elizabeth or the religious professionals?
My Prayer for You This Week: Father, we thank You for the lessons we can learn from the lives of Your faithful servants, Zacharias and Elizabeth. For these ordinary people had an extraordinary relationship with You! May we see You through their eyes, who by faith saw You. I praise you for Zacharias’ extraordinary song—his beautiful psalm of praise to You—because it reminds us of our precious salvation. Through his words, may we want to worship You, and affirm those little choices that make our “raindrop” flow a different direction. We pray that this week’s devotionals will be a “continental divide” in our lives so that we stop and reaffirm what is true about You. May we not let this Christmas season go by without being among those who see Your coming, and talk about Your coming, and experience the joy of “God with us”— redeeming us, cleansing us, forgiving us, and keeping us from all our fears. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
MONDAY: A Christmas Blessing for Ordinary People “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” —Luke 1:6, Emphasis added). The names of this righteous couple have special significance related to the First Coming of Christ. Zacharias means “God remembers” and Elizabeth means “His oath”; together their names mean “God remembers His oath.” What was that oath? In Psalm 89 God made a promise to David that one of his descendants would have an eternal reign. When God broke through human history after four hundred years of silence, Luke set the stage for us to see that Christ is that promised One. And in Luke 1, we see that God chose Zacharias to witness His speaking for the first time in centuries. God uses people who are busily doing what He has called them to do. He didn’t ask Zacharias and Elizabeth to alter their lives. God used them right where they were, and that is common in the Scriptures. When we are busy doing what He has called us to do, God will direct us into further and wider fields of ministry. Zacharias was just one of 24,000 priests serving at the temple two weeks per year. While placing fresh incense upon the altar (a once in a lifetime service) before the great curtain within the Holy of Holies, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias with a message from God. When he announced John’s coming birth, disbelief set in. Because Zacharias doubted, Gabriel told him he would be mute until the child was born. Now he, instead of God, was the one who would be silent for a season. God often uses struggling people: “But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). Zacharias and Elizabeth were good models of how to persevere in spite of what others might call extraordinary challenges. You see, their world measured God’s blessing and personal worth by whether or not you had a son. In the Jewish culture, the passing on of the name, the tradition, the heritage, and the family right was so very important. Thus, every woman who wasn’t able to have children bore a stigma, and this caused very deep pain. So Zacharias and Elizabeth spent their entire married life hoping for a child, a son in particular. But they didn’t let that cripple them. They just kept on faithfully doing what God called them to do, and that is the kind of people that He uses.
God loves to use ordinary people. Elizabeth may have been an ordinary woman by all outward signs, but inwardly she was anything but ordinary because she chose to respond to God with amazing obedience. Although Zacharias wrestled with doubt, Elizabeth believed the Lord. She was rewarded by His taking away her “reproach among people” (Luke 1:24–25). She became the first example of a New Testament woman of faith—one who endured her difficulties and enjoyed the blessing and favor of God. Either way, whether struggling or blessed, she was determined to serve the Lord. There is something else unique about Elizabeth: she was the first recorded New Testament person filled with the Spirit (1:41). I love that about her. Isn’t it amazing that God picked an ordinary woman for that honor? What a model of having a responsive heart to the Lord! Of course, John the Baptist (1:15) and Zacharias (1:67) were also filled with the Spirit. This family is actually what we would call the first Spirit-filled family of the New Testament. Elizabeth was the first recorded “Titus 2 woman” as she encouraged Mary (1:45). Think of what a ministry Elizabeth had to Mary, a young woman with so many challenges as an unwed mother in the Jewish culture. As an older woman who had herself borne reproach, Elizabeth had walked with God for many years. Thus, she could confidently assure Mary that God would bring to pass all that He had revealed to her. Elizabeth was ordinary by man’s standards, but extraordinary by God’s because she let Him do whatever He wanted to in her life. Elizabeth told God, “I want to do what You want me to do. If you want me to go through life barren, and looked down upon, then that is fine with me. I will trust your grace.” But when God later announced, “I want to make you the mother of My last great Old Testament prophet and the herald of the New Testament,” she quickly responded, “Then that is what I want to do.” In whatever God asked of her, Elizabeth humbly chose to serve the Lord! Perhaps you yourself feel ordinary, like you are “just a number” on a crowded planet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. By faith, the Lord can work wonders in your life. You were created for a purpose; there is no one quite like you. In that sense, you are a spiritual snowflake. God blended you together with a certain mix of His gifts and abilities. Thus, He has a calling for your life that no one else can accomplish but you!
TUESDAY: Christmas Put a Song in Our Hearts “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” —Luke 2:14, emphasis added Did you realize that at that first Christmas God introduced New Testament believers to the songs of heaven? Christ’s birth was surrounded by the songs of the saints. Since Luke continued with the record of the early church in Acts, and Paul told us that Spirit-filled saints sing, we can be sure that the early church sang much and often. Luke recorded a series of five Spirit-prompted songs: 1. Elizabeth broke into song at Mary’s arrival. This was the first song of the New Testament, which is known from the first words of the Latin Vulgate as the “Exclamavit” (1:42–45).
2. Mary followed with her marvelous “Magnificat” (1:46–55) in which she quotes over twenty different Scriptures! 3. Zacharias broke forth into his famous “Benedictus” (1:68–79), which means “good saying.” 4. Angels broke into the night sky over the shepherds’ fields of Bethlehem with “Gloria” (2:14). 5. While holding the infant Jesus in his arms, Simeon lifted his eyes to God and sang his “Nunc Dimittis” (2:29–32). And some day, when we at last enter into Christ’s presence, Revelation says that we will forever be singing that He alone is worthy! The song Zacharias sang summarized John’s ministry of pointing to Jesus. It introduced the Coming One, and explained why Jesus came. But it also reflected notes from Zacharias’ forty-plus weeks of Bible study as he waited in mute silence for his son’s birth. By the act of faith naming his son “John,” as Gabriel had instructed (Luke 1:63), God loosed Zacharias’ tongue and, filled with the Holy Spirit, he burst forth into this hymn: “ ‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited and redeemed His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of His servant David, As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, Who have been since the world began, That we should be saved from our enemies And from the hand of all who hate us, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers And to remember His holy covenant, The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. ‘And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.’ ” —Luke 1:68–79 If you examine Zacharias’ song closely, you will see beautiful pictures of what the First Coming of Jesus really means. Jesus came to open our prison door—our lives are redeemed (v. 68). The first thing Zacharias points out is that Jesus redeems: He buys us out of slavery. There is great power in the word “redeem,” which means “to set free by paying a price.” It referred to the ancient custom of releasing a prisoner, or liberating a slave, by purchasing them. Jesus Christ came to earth to bring “deliverance to the captives” (Luke 4:18). There is NO BONDAGE that Christ’s power cannot break. There is no secret or public sin from which Jesus cannot liberate us: no bondage too costly, no bondage too powerful, and no bondage too gripping. Simply say to Him, “Jesus, open the prison door
of my bondage—I want to be set free!” John 8:36 says, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” There is NO FEAR that Christ’s presence cannot banish. Jesus says to us, “My Presence is with you at all times!” (Matthew 28:20b). Are you chained to fear about the past, the present, or the future? Simply say to Him, “Jesus, redeem me from my fears!” There is NO STAIN that Christ’s precious blood cannot cleanse. There is no stain too deep for the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse (Revelation 1:5b). Simply say to Him: “Lord Jesus, cleanse me now” and hear Him say, “I am willing—be clean.” There is NO PAST that Christ’s Words cannot make new. When the woman caught in adultery stood alone before the Lord, Jesus said, “Is there no one left to condemn you?” And she replied, “ ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:11). You, too, can have a fresh start. Simply say to Him: “Jesus, let me start over again in You. Give me Your new beginning!” Christ’s power can set you free from any bondage; His presence can dispel any fear; His blood can cleanse any sin; and His forgiveness and compassion can give you a new beginning. All you have to do is ask. What a Savior!
WEDNESDAY: Christmas Means Victory in Jesus “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” —Matthew 1:21, emphasis added Let us now continue our look at the song of Zacharias, his “Benedictus”—a beautiful psalm of praise to God. Jesus came to defeat our enemies—our enemy was defeated (vv. 69– 75). In the Old Testament a horn symbolizes power and victory (1 Kings 22:11; Psalm 89:17, 24). As Zacharias studied the Scriptures, he reflected upon God as He is often pictured in the Old Testament—delivering the army of His people as they were about to be taken captive. When the Lord arises, the enemy is defeated. In the first word picture, we as captives are set free. In the second word picture our enemy is defeated so that he cannot capture us as prisoners any more. God offers total victory to us, His people. Warren Wiersbe writes: The word salvation (Luke 1:69, 71) carries the meaning of “health and soundness.” No matter what the condition of the captives, their Redeemer brings spiritual soundness. When you trust Jesus Christ as Savior, you are delivered from Satan’s power, moved into God’s kingdom, redeemed, and forgiven (Col. 1:12–14). Where did the Redeemer come from? He came from the house of David (Luke 1:69), who himself was a great conqueror. God had promised that the Savior would be a Jew (Gen. 12:1–3), from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), from the family of David (2 Sam. 7:12–16), born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Both Mary (Luke 1:27) and Joseph (Matt. 1:20) belonged to David’s line. The coming of the Redeemer was inherent in the covenants God made with His people (Luke 1:72), and it was promised by the prophets (Luke 1:70).
Note that the results of this victory are sanctity and service (Luke 1:74–75). He sets us free, not to do our own will, because that would be bondage, but to do His will and enjoy His freedom.1 No enemy can stand before Christ: not death, darkness, despair, defeat, or defilement. In John 8:31–36 Jesus promises to those who believe in Him: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus came to pay our debts—our debt was cancelled by His death (vv. 76–77). All of us are in debt to God because we have broken His law and failed to live up to His standards (Luke 7:40–50). Furthermore, all of us are spiritually bankrupt, unable to pay our debt. But Jesus came and paid the debt for us (Psalm 103:12; John 1:29). This is the glorious Truth of our great salvation through Christ.  When Jesus JUSTIFIED us, we as sinners stood before God as accused and were declared righteous by His imputed righteousness.  When Jesus REDEEMED us, we as sinners stood before God as slaves and were granted freedom by His ransom.  When Jesus FORGAVE us, we as sinners stood before God as debtors and our debt was cancelled by His payment.  When Jesus RECONCILED us, we as sinners stood before God as enemies and were made friends by His peace.  When Jesus ADOPTED us, we as sinners stood before God as strangers and were called sons and daughters by His choice. Jesus, the “Dayspring from on high,” came to bring the dawning of a new day that knows no night—our night was ended by His Light (Luke 1:78–79). “Dayspring” means “sunrise.” God’s Word sees lost people as those sitting in darkness, death, and distress. But Christ’s birth brought light, life, and peace. His birth was the dawn of a new day because of the tender mercies of God. Jesus is the only key to the day that knows no night. He came into a manger one dark night to bear away the sin of the world. And He will take your penalty, your debt, your stain, and your sin if you ask Him to. The story of Christmas is that the Sunrise has come—He is here. If you haven’t already done so, I pray that you will open your heart to Him!
THURSDAY: The Other Side of the Continental Divide “Choose . . . this day whom you will serve.” —Joshua 24:15a, emphasis added As we saw earlier this week, there are continental divides—separators that determine destinations. A raindrop falling on one side will flow to the Gulf of Mexico; one falling on the other side will flow to the Atlantic. Two raindrops can fall just inches apart, and yet arrive at two vastly different destinations.
Two people can live side-by-side, walk through life so similarly, yet in the end go to opposite destinations. One chooses eternal life in the new Paradise; the other chooses eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. Zacharias and Elizabeth made the right choice; the chief priests and scribes made the wrong one—they were close to God in every way but in their hearts. How close can you get to Jesus and still be too far away? That is what the religious leaders of Christ’s day demonstrate to us this Christmas. So close they were, and yet so far away they remained. It is possible to be as close as them, and yet miss all that Christ and Christmas have to offer. In Matthew 2:1–6, the chief priests and scribes were summoned by King Herod. When he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born, they instantly responded “in Bethlehem.” But the story stopped there for them. No delegation was chosen to go find the Christ child; there was no serious inquiry, no personal seeking, and no investigation by the Bible scholars. They knew the Truth, but didn’t believe it in their hearts. Oh, the danger of being so close to God in every way, except in our hearts! Who were these priests and scribes in Matthew 2:4? Most likely the priests were descendents of Aaron and Zadok, who were designated to watch over the temple sacrifices. The scribes were descendents of Ezra, the great Old Testament scholar. Because language had changed over the centuries, Ezra took the Scriptures from the Mosaic and Davidic times and copied and unified them into a Hebrew that the people could read. The lack of character in these men was in direct contrast to Ezra’s. In Ezra 7:10, we find that he prepared his heart, did as God directed, and then taught the Law. But by Christ’s time, Ezra’s descendents were only teaching the Law. They weren’t preparing their hearts or following God’s commands. Zacharias, however, was so moved by what the Lord told him that he entered into an even more intense study to prepare himself to know about the birth of John. While he was mute, he followed the tradition of Ezra and studied God’s Word. In Zacharias’ Benedictus (Luke 1:68–79), he used promises of Christ’s coming from Psalms 18, 23, 32, 34, 83, 106, and 132 in addition to quotations from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Malachi. Zacharias’ life modeled Ezra’s devotion to God’s Word, but this type of personal devotion in a religious professional was rare. Out of thousands, only four got to see Jesus Christ, and two of them were women who weren’t even in the count: Anna and Elizabeth. Today, with all the songs about Christmas, if you feel all alone in your worship of God when you hear the sacred music, it is understandable. That is how it has been from the beginning. The indifferent and Christ-neglecting religious leaders are a warning to us today. Think of all the opportunities these religious professionals had to get close to God. They daily lived in the presence of God. Old Testament worship centered around the tabernacle and then the temple—in the building where His presence dwelt in better days. When the Shekinah glory had been there, they did not even need light inside the Holy of Holies. For nearly 1,500 years, divinely designed liturgy was carried on in the way Moses was directed by God on Mount Sinai.
They daily saw the symbols and pictures of salvation. Exodus 25–40 describes the tabernacle the priests entered to go into the presence of God. They understood that the altar of incense typified the intercessory work of Christ; the table of showbread was a picture of the fellowship—the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ; and that the ever-lit lampstand represented the illumination of the Spirit of God. These men were surrounded by the symbols and got to work in the very presence of God! They daily held the holy revelation of God’s Word. Most people could not afford a personal copy of God’s Word, but these men were surrounded by mountains of scrolls. They were read, discussed, copied, and stored everywhere around them. The scribes even wore ink pots tied to their belts because it was a very revered thing to copy God’s Word. They daily sang from the Psalms. Each day the temple rituals included public readings, Levitical singing, and chanting of God’s Word. Most of these men would have read these regular portions so frequently that they would know long passages and even many chapters by memory. They wore clothing daily that reminded them in every way of God. As prescribed by Moses, to set them apart and help them realize that things were extraordinary when they came before God, upon arrival in the temple area, priests changed into white robes and special sashes. Those who were involved in the sacrifices would have had blood splashed upon them every day as an innocent and spotless animal was slain. The offerer would place his hands on its head, confess his sins and those of his family, and then the priest would kill the animal, catch its blood, pour it around the altar, and burn the sacrifice. This was a complete picture of the sinless Lamb of God, who spotlessly offered Himself on the cross of Calvary to shed His blood for the sin of the world. What was wrong with their performing this liturgy? The priests only held God’s Word in their hands, but not in their hearts. God was only near in their mouths, but not in their hearts. And that is exactly what is going on in so many churches around the world today. Countless people are close in every way to God: they go to church, hold the Holy Bible, recite the holy Words, sing the holy songs, view the holy ongoing events on the calendar, and see all the Bible stories captured in the stained-glass windows. They, too, are close in every way to God—except in their hearts.
FRIDAY: Head Knowledge vs. Heart Knowledge “ ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” —Matthew 15:8, emphasis added Jesus had a lot to say about religious professionals. In the verse above, Jesus is saying about them, “In vain they get dressed in their outfits; in vain they splash blood on themselves; in vain they put the incense in; in vain they stand there as the offering animal is brought; in vain they worship Me.” And then Jesus addresses the scribes whom He indicts for their “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
All that exposure to God ended up only in their heads, not in their hearts. The spiritual skin of their lives, overexposed to the Light of God’s Truth, had developed the deadliest cancer of all—spiritual indifference. It was only one small point that made the two raindrops fall so close and end up so distant—these religious professionals were indifferent to God’s Word. They were not looking for Jesus. The sad lesson of Christmas comes from those who were on the other side of the continental divide from Zacharias and Elizabeth. Again, think of the dangerous place these religious leaders were in when summoned before King Herod (Matthew 2:4–5). The immediate reaction of the theologians of Herod’s court who knew the Scriptures well was “in Bethlehem.” They knew about the texts and this event, but didn’t care enough to go five miles south of town and experience it. They pointed others to seek out the Savior, but never went to worship themselves. They knew the prophets, but did not believe the prophecies. They knew the Scriptures, but failed to take the words to heart. What a sobering warning that is for us this Christmas season. They missed the Word. They dealt with God’s Word, but God’s Word was never allowed to deal with them: “These people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They sang the songs at the festivals and feasts, and they quoted all the passages that they were supposed to quote, but yet they were more worried about what others thought of them than fearing God who could see their hearts. They missed the worship. The religious leaders were religious, but not worshipful. The religious leaders were acquainted with God, but they had never experienced Him. They had only learned to externally rend their clothes and go through the rituals: “So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). They were good at the outward emotions but lacked the inward worship. Although God actively seeks worship (John 4:24), He is very selective about who can worship Him—only those who have new hearts. They missed the walk. The religious leaders were hearers, not doers; they were talkers, not walkers: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Peter 2:19). They missed the witness. The religious leaders were self-righteous. They felt they were good enough for God. Consequently, they thought: God’s Word isn’t for me here and now. It is something out there in the future—or for someone else. They knew about the texts, but failed to notice the significance of Christ’s birth, so Jesus said to them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). They missed it all! These men possessed only head knowledge. They lacked the heart knowledge that led to saving faith, for saving faith always changes a person from the inside out.
The chief priests and scribes are a lesson to us this Christmas to be vigilant so that we don’t miss out on all God has for us!
SATURDAY: Is There Room in Your Heart for Jesus? “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” —Revelation 3:20, emphasis added Zacharias and Elizabeth were looking for the First Coming of Jesus, but the religious professionals weren’t looking for Him at all. Zacharias and Elizabeth were ordinary people who faced the ordinary troubles, stresses, and pains of life that we do, but they made room in their hearts for Jesus. They kept their focus on His First Coming. That same continental divide, separators that determine destinations, still exists today. There are still two groups: one looking for the Second Coming of Jesus and the other that could not care less about Him. The ultimate outcome for each has monumental and eternal proportions: one is headed for God’s new Paradise and the other for the Lake of Fire. So much superficial religious activity and externalism goes on at Christmas because people are close to God in every way but in their hearts, because that is a supernatural event associated with the new birth—being born again. For that reason, the whole world can have the Christmas symbols around them, and the songs and great doctrine in the hymns, but still not get it. God continues to seek those who will worship Him—those who are circumcised in their heart. That is the New Covenant: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; . . . and cause you to walk in My statutes” (Ezekiel 36:26–27). Only those to whom God gives a new heart can truly worship Him this Christmas season. Make a Choice to Live in Hope: Zacharias and Elizabeth embraced the Christ of Christmas, the Promised One, in their hearts. In faith, they believed that Jesus came to that manger one dark night to bear away the sin of the world—its penalty, debt, and stain. That sacrifice for sin is the only reason you and I can have enduring hope for the end of days. So choose to live in that hope this Christmas because the Sunrise has come—He is here! Open your heart wide to Him. Jesus is the only key to the day that knows no night. As a possessor of the Light of the World, you no longer walk in darkness; you no longer need to fear the dark because you have the Sunrise from on High. What a joy to have that confidence and comfort this Christmas season! This hymn is a prayer for making room for Christ in His special season. As you look at these precious words, I pray that you will hold Him close to your heart. Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne Thou didst leave Thy throne And Thy kingly crown When Thou camest to earth for me; But in Bethlehem’s home Was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. Heaven’s arches rang When the angels sang, Proclaiming Thy royal degree; But of lowly birth Didst Thou come to earth, And in greatest humility: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. The foxes found rest, And the birds their nest In the shade of the forest tree; But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God, In the deserts of Galilee: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. Thou camest, O Lord, With the living word That should set Thy people free; But with mocking scorn, And with crown of thorn, They bore Thee to Calvary: O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, There is room in my heart for Thee. When the heavens shall ring, And the angels sing, At Thy coming to victory, Let Thy voice call me home, Saying, “Yet there is room, There is room at My side for thee.” My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus, When Thou comest and callest for me. —Emily E. S. Elliott (1836–1897) 1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996), electronic edition, in loc.