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Great Joy

The Christmas season is upon us, and signs of joy are all around. The real reason behind the joyful season sometimes gets lost in the holiday hustle and bustle. Jesus' birth often becomes a second thought rather than the focus of our hearts. I have not written many posts this month because I have been working on a new Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew. Here is an excerpt from Chapter One regarding the birth of our Savior. Although the study is on the Gospel of Matthew, I cannot talk about the first Christmas without including the story from Luke. The study will be released this January, so be on the lookout.

Enjoy this sneak peek!

Luke 2:8-14, "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.'"

When I was in the third grade, I had the privilege of narrating and reading these verses from Luke 2:1-20 in the church Christmas pageant. Onstage children were dressed as sheep and goats, as shepherds and angels, as Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. I was quite happy with my place on the sidelines reading this joyously hope-filled passage of the Christmas Story. Needless to say, I was overjoyed as an adult when I had the opportunity to visit Israel and the little town of Bethlehem. Nowadays it is a bustling town, divided into Jewish and Muslim zones. Mosques stand alongside churches, and from the courtyard of the Church of the Nativity you can hear the Muslim call to prayer. Once inside the Church though, all outside noise falls away and distractions cease. Caught in the moment you realize you are standing in the place where the little Lord Jesus took His very first breath—and your breath is suddenly taken away. While in Bethlehem our group also had the opportunity to visit the hillside where the humble shepherds kept watch over their sheep by night. Seeing the place where my favorite Bible story happened brought tears to my eyes as I reflected on that quiet star-filled night when the angels sang out the Good News of great joy for all mankind from their stage in the heavens. We looked out over the fields where the sheep would have grazed, and the shepherds would have laid themselves to rest at the close of each day. We climbed down into the caves where long ago the shepherds would have taken refuge. Our tour guide said that as a child he and his friends often played in this location and hid in these very caves. History at our fingertips, and under our very feet, come to life right before our eyes as we heard the story told in the exact site where it occurred. Our group visited the Church of the Shepherds’ Field which stands atop this location, and we quietly sang, “Silent Night,” at this miraculous and tender spot. The distance between these two Holy Sites is approximately two miles—the shepherds didn’t have too far to run.

(excerpt from Matthew: Your Kingdom Come)

It's a little blurry--But this is me inside one of the caves in Bethlehem.


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