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Christmas devotional reflections: It's much more than "Sweet little baby Jesus"

Psalms 22:1-5; 23; 24:7-10

22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish? 2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises. 4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

23 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3    he refreshes my soul
. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

24 7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   be lifted up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory?
   The Lord strong and mighty,
   the Lord mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
   lift them up, you ancient doors,
   that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory?
   The Lord Almighty --
   he is the King of glory.

Week 51 (December)

It was my turn as pastoral counselor in the Florence evangelical social services center.

The three-member staff had just opened the doors and I was making small talk with them when Elena walked in.

An 18-year-old who had been involved in prostitution, Elena was now trying to find a way to put her life back together. She had made contact with the center a month earlier through its remedial night school. Since then she had come by several times to talk and even to pitch in on secretarial work.

I told her I'd like to get to know her better. So we went into the little library room and sat down. She talked for a long time about her life story. Then I began to ask her if she ever thought much about spiritual matters. She told me she always said a couple of "Hail Marys" at night but that she never went to church.

Then her dark eyes brightened: "But I do think often of Pope John XXIII. He saved my life!" Then she went on to tell me about a dream she had had in which this deceased Pope had spoken to her.

Finally I asked her what she thought of Jesus Christ..

Well, she never really thought much at all about Him. "He's the one we call the Lord, isn't He?" she asked.

Elena had no idea that God, through the events of that first Christmas, now offers us a personal relationship with Himself. It's a relationship that does not depend on a third party such as a dead Pope or Jesus' mother.

Some of the rich significance of the Incarnation is depicted in a trilogy of Psalms: 22, 23, and 24. Here are unfolded the sufferings, the shepherd-love and the Lordship of the Messiah whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

The way we celebrate Christmas often places a heavy emphasis on the Baby Jesus. A good deal of Christian art, particularly that produced by Roman Catholic artists, focuses on the Christ child.

However, the real story of Christmas is not that a baby was born. As an Italian evangelical recently wrote: "The exaltation of the Baby Jesus is contrary to the gospel teachings. The real story of the New Testament is that of Jesus the adult. In fact, two of the Gospels do not even mention the Baby Jesus."

It is possible that this Italian writer was reflecting a hyper sensitivity of the tiny Italian Protestant minority that lives in the shadow of the politically, religiously and economically powerful Vatican. However we evaluate what he wrote, we would do well to remember that the biggest news out of Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago was not that a baby had been born. The news was that the promised Savior, Shepherd, and Sovereign had finally come.

That's good news for you and for me . . . and for a girl named Elena. As we prepare to celebrate another Christmas Day, let's use these three psalms (22, 23, 24) to remind us that God is really with us -- not just as a baby, but as a baby who came to become Deliverer, Shepherd, and Lord.

Would you also join me in a special prayer that soon Elena will come to know this Jesus as her Savior, Shepherd, and King, as she puts her broken life back together?

These devotional thoughts by Howard Culbertson appeared in Standard, a curriculum take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes published by what is now called The Foundry.

"Leaning on the everlasting arms"

NextWords of a classic gospel song inspire some devotional thoughts [ read more ]

Christmas resources:    Are you ready for Christmas?    "Merry Christmas" in many languages    Silent Night's story    Silent Night in Korean

Materials on Italy:   Alfredo Del Rosso, an Italian captivated by a vision   Building St. Peter's   Reflections: Christ and Mussolini   CIA plot?   Open doors   ebook Pasta, pizza and pinocchio   ebook: Rookie notebook: My first nine months as a missionary in Italy

More devotional articles:   Amateur Radio   Come Ye Apart 1   Come Ye Apart 2   Come Ye Apart 3   Standard -- a year of devotional articles   Short-term mission trip team devotionals: Waiting

Are the "heathen" lost? Answers to an oft-asked question   10/40 window map and explanation   "Lord, teach us to pray"   Missionaries needed   Seeking God's will?   An African's martyr's commitment   Mission trip fund-raising   Ten ways to ruin your mission trip   Nazarene Missions International resources

World missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions   Church Health and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions   World Religions
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149

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