Category Archives: Christmas

Where is your hope anchored this Christmas?

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Hope is something you must have to continue living. It has been said, “A person can live 40days without food, 3days without water, 5minutes without air, but not a second without hope.” There are two godly persons, full of hope, mentioned in the story of Jesus when he was presented to the Lord in Jerusalem. Simeon and Prophetess Anna. Read the whole story in Luke 2:21-38.

Simeon was a righteous and devout man in Jerusalem; and “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel” that is- looking forward to the fulfillment of the Messianic hope. This hope gave him purpose to live each day in expectation.

We are also told the Holy Spirit was upon him and it had been revealed to him that he would not die before he has seen the Christ (anointed one of God).

God reveals himself to those who earnestly seek him. He satisfies the thirst and hunger of those who long for him.

When Jesus was presented to him, he took him in his arms and praised the Lord: for fulfilling his promise, for enabling him to see God’s salvation for his people Israel and Gentiles. He saw beyond a baby; in Jesus, he saw God’s grand plan of salvation.

Having seen his aspiration fulfilled, Simeon asked for one thing: to be dismissed in peace. Jesus was everything that he had hoped for. To him, Jesus is the single greatest treasure that the merchant found and sold everything he had to acquire. The fulfillment of Messianic prophecy before his eyes fulfilled every longing in his heart that he now readily desired death.

The Greek word translated dismiss/depart (ἀπολύεις) has several background that enrich its shade of meaning. It means to release a prisoner, to untie a ship and set sail, to take down a tent, and to unyoke a beast of burden. Death to a believer is a release from the burdens of this life to rest in the next life. Like Simeon, we can only be ready to meet our Maker when we have seen/experienced the salvation of God.

Likewise, prophetess Anna was godly old widow who spent her time in the temple. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Lk 2:37. At the sight of the child, she gave thanks to God and spoke of the child as the fulfillment of the longing of those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

It is no doubt that these two godly people lived in a hopeless time. All around them, Greco-Roman context, were empty philosophies, religion was amoral, impersonal and polytheistic. Hope in Roman politics and security was futile and disappointing. Monotheistic religions like Judaism were plagued by the legalism of the Pharisees, withdrawal of the Essence and the half-truths of the Sadducees. These two were examples of few remnants that chose to put their hope in God’s intervention and fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. The two chose to have hope in God’s word.

In a world faced with war, terrorism, hatred, diseases, violence, what should be our hope? When we see evil in the world or even in the church what should be our response? Like Simeon and Anna, we need to focus on living godly lives. In addition, we should live in anticipation to the second coming of Jesus and the revelation of God’s eternal kingdom. That is a kingdom of joy, peace, and righteousness. Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come” and Maranatha (Please Lord Come!). Therefore Christmas celebration reminds us to hope in God, to look into the future with anticipation of God’s triumph over evil.

The birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of a promised “seed of a woman” that will crush the head of the serpent

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Christmas is a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity.

In the beginning, Bible records, God created the heavens and the earth. He created man in his own image and to have fellowship with him. He blessed them.

However, the blessedness in Genesis 1-2 was cut short by man’s disobedience in Genesis 3. Man is cursed, banished from the garden of Eden, and the fellowship with God is broken. But with the reality of human falleness and hopelessness, God breathes hope to the human situation.

Right from Genesis, He makes a promise of a “seed of a woman” who will crush the head of the serpent; “and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel, (Gen 3:15). This verse has been referred to as protoevangelium; the first announcement of the gospel.

The restoration of the Baraka/blessings of Gen 1 and 2 was promised. However, this restoration/redemption was not going to be instant, but will roll out progressively.

Sin is serious. Therefore solving this human enigma will require more than human efforts. It must involve divine initiative and intervention for humanity to be rescued its  helpless state.

Sinfulness and guilt was not going to be atoned for by covering oneself with leaves but by subtitutionary death of a life-thing. Meanwhile animal blood (life) had to be shed as it awaited for the perfect sacrifice (the promised ‘seed of  a woman’) who will remove sin once for all. The fulfillment of this promise took several generations; levitical priesthood becoming a shadow of the reality to come in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.

The promise of a “seed” or offspring in Gen 3:15 and the message of blessings that was eclipsed by the fall of man is revived in the Noahic covenant. Again in the midst of human wickedness (Gen. 9:1-4,8-11), God blesses Noah and his sons: Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth (Gen 9:1).

In Genesis 12, God in his redemptive agenda for mankind calls Abraham and makes a covenant with him.  He promises him land, nation and blessings.  The promise, “and all people on earth will be blessed through you” was going to be accomplished through his “seed”. And subsequent generations became inheritors of the eternal promise. Out of Abraham would come a nation (Israel) that will be God’s vehicle of bringing blessings to entire world. The promise of the seed remained.

Later in history, God made a covenant with David, 2 Samuel 7:11-16 and Psalms 89. He reaffirms his former eternal promise of a seed/offspring.  He promised David that an “offspring” after him will establish the throne of his kingdom forever, 2 Samuel 7:11-13 (it does not in strict sense refer to Solomon thought he inherits the throne from his father). These promises are made to David, but David like Adam was a human representative in the covenant.

The prophets also expounded on the promise affirmed to David, In that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious, (Isa. 11:10-12).

Man always broke his part of the covenant but God remained faithful. God further promised to make a New Covenant. ‘New’ does not mean that it deviates from the old covenant but it builds up on it, guaranteeing better thing to come. The New Covenant promises a new heart, the law placed directly within the heart, a responsive attitude toward God’s law (Jer. 32:39). The new covenant takes the redemptive story to a higher level. In the New Covenant, Gentiles would come to know Yahweh, (Isa. 49:6; Ezk. 36:23’37:28).

All the covenants God made in the OT became fulfilled through the seed/offspring in the line of David, Jesus Christ. The incarnation of Jesus decisively dealt with the power of sin, Satan, and death. Indeed, the evil forces tried to strike his heel (in the cross), but he crushed the head of the serpent; triumphing over them by the cross, Col 2:15.

It therefore matters that Mathew in his account (Matt. 1) traces the lineage of Joseph to Abraham through King David; Luke traces it even further to Adam (Lk 3). The promise was specific and had to be fulfilled in its specifics. It was not through a Marakwet (my tribe) or any other Gentile that the offspring would come from but from the line of David.

An Encouragement this Christmas- Promises of God must come to pass- Many generations (around 42 to Abraham) patiently waited for the promises of God to be fulfilled in their times but it never happened. But that did no cancel the promise. The promise remained. God is faithful to thousands upon thousands of generations. He cannot forget his word, or change his mind along the way.  Are you praying for someone/something or patiently waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled in your life? Don’t lose hope even when the fulfillment delays. Christmas season is a reminder that God’s promise stands. Jesus promised to come back soon; it is now two thousand years since the promise was made. The promise remains “I am coming soon!”.

Are you looking forward for the fulfillment of his promise?

The Birth of Jesus Prophesied

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Jesus’ birth was long prophesied before it took place. The prophets, through the power of the Holy Spirit, made specific revelations concerning the Messiah to come. They talked in detail concerning the birth, life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of Jesus.

A few examples- right after the fall of man there was a pronunciation of a “seed of a woman” that will crush the head of the serpent Gen. 3:15; David in Psalms talked about Messiah to come (Ps. 2, 16, 22, 69, and 110). It is clear through NT hermeneutics that the full application of these Psalms pointed to the coming Messiah.

Isaiah prophesied about 750 years before Christ. Isaiah 9:6-7 reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

In this portion of scripture Isaiah mentioned key things worth pointing. First, Messiah was to be born a child. Second, He will be a ruler over God’s people Israel and the world (also in Zech. 14:9). Third, names are given that describe his character (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, prince of peace). This is a revelation of both the humanity and divinity of the Messiah.

Fourth, he will rule on David’s throne with justice, righteousness, and peace flowing from his throne. His kingdom will have no end (also see Dan. 7:14,27; Mic. 4:7). Fifth, the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. The realization of this prophecy will be God-driven. It utterly depends on God. Prophet Micah prophesied of a coming ruler from Bethlehem, “whose origins are from of old” Mic. 5:2.

In the OT, there were three offices that God ordained: king, priest, and prophet. No one person in the entire period of OT did occupy all these three offices and functions. For instance, King David was both a prophet and a king but not a priest; Samuel was a priest and a prophet but was not a king. But prophecies indicated that, in one person, these three offices will be fulfilled. Jesus becomes the king of kings, the high priest in the heavenly sanctuary and the prophet.  This is what we exactly get in the NT. The birth of Jesus is with no doubt the fulfillment of the OT.

The gospel authors clearly pointed out that the birth of Christ was foretold by the prophets. Mathew quotes Isaiah 7:14; 40:3-5; Jeremiah 31:15, Micah 5:2, Hosea 11:1 because the birth of Jesus was according to the Scriptures.

In the birth of Christ, we see the fulfillment of prophecy in part; we now await for the fulfillment of the eschatological prophecies. But are we also living in prophetic times?

In 1 Peter 1:10-12, we are told that the prophets who prophesied about salvation and the grace that was to be ours searched and carefully inquired concerning these things. They also longed to see these things happen in their own times but it were not to be so. The revelation belonged to us and the prophets were serving us!

Today, because of our position in history, we are blessed to understand these things better than the OT people, or those who lived in the past  generations. We are blessed to know God’s plan in totality. Therefore we have a great reason to celebrate Christmas! At least we can look back and comprehend what awaits us in the future. #merrychristmass

 

The Birth of Jesus a historical fact

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One of the things that the gospel authors emphasized in their accounts was that Jesus birth did in fact happen at a particular point of time in history. The historical, geographical, cultural, and religious details mentioned can be proved, explained, and/or be verified historically. The record of biblical events happened in real places showing that the birth of Jesus was real. The power of Holy Spirit overshadowed a virgin woman named Mary and indeed she gave birth to a Son, Jesus in Bethlehem in Judea.

According to the Bible, Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus (Lk. 2:1). Historically, Caesar Augustus, son of Octavius and Aria, ruled the Roman Empire from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14. Again, Jesus was born in the time of King Herod (Matt. 2:1). Historical evidence indicates King Herod the Great ruled until 4 B.C.; the approximate time Jesus was born.

Further, Mary and Joseph are not fictitious but real people. They both traveled to Bethlehem, a town 96Km south of Nazareth, to take census. Roman government took census every fourteen years for both military and tax purposes, and each person had to return to his homeland or where he own a property. Mary and Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea; to Bethlehem, the town of David because he belonged to the house and line of David. It is here in Bethlehem that Jesus was born (Lk. 2:4) thus fulfilling OT prophecies. This was while Quirinius was the governor of Syria (Lk.2:1-5). Today, we know of a tax census that was done in 6 A.D under Quirinius the governor of Syria; but Luke’s account seems to indicate one a prior to this.

The evidence for the historicity of Jesus is overwhelming; you can’t deny his physical existence in the face of the earth about 2000 years ago.

But why the historical emphasis?

It is very important not just for unbelievers/doubters to know but also for believers. Luke in his carefully investigated account to Theophilus, and by extension to us writes, “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Lk. 1:4). Luke had unrivalled access to the primary sources, the eye witnesses, and that speaks of the authoritative nature of his account just like other gospel accounts. It is also for us today to know that the things fulfilled and recorded in the NT concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus was “not cleverly invented stories” 2 Pet 1:16 but a clear testimony of the truth.

These historical facts may not increase one’s faith but it confirms the fact that our faith is not based on mythologies, human wisdom, or fictitious stories but on a solid  foundation of truth. #merrychristmas