Here is today’s fiery Calendar Piece:
December 15th | A Light to the Nations
Bible Background: Many Jews thought (and still think) that Messiah’s main task is to set the Jews free from their Gentile enemies, but Isaiah pointed out that the Messiah would guide the Gentiles to God, as a light in the darkness. Anyone who claims to be the Messiah, God’s (symbol of) Covenant to the people, must also bring the Gentiles closer to God.
The Jews in Jesus’ day were members of the Israelite tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi: descendants of the exiles of the southern kingdom of Judah that had returned to their homeland centuries before. Jesus rarely interacted with Gentiles: when He did, it was exceptional and the results are noted in the Gospels. Despite the narrow focus of His earthly ministry, Jesus did take the time to heal Gentiles who responded to Him in faith; He also went out of His way to speak with a Samaritan woman, who was not Jewish.
Jesus came at a pivotal time in human history. Trade routes, shipping routes, and roads had been established; common languages had been developed–Greek and Aramaic–so that barriers between people groups were removed; the Jews from the southern kingdom of Judah had been scattered all over the world (the “Diaspora”) and with them, a knowledge of the Scriptures; these three elements–infrastructure, language, and the Diaspora–combined to make the perfect conditions for spreading the good news about Jesus to these scattered Jews and the Gentile peoples around them. God waited for the perfect time in human history to send His Son, so that all the Gentiles in the world would have an opportunity to hear about Him.
Bible Study Questions: For many years the Gentiles lived in ignorance about God. What was one result of this (see Matthew 6:31-33)? How did the Gentiles respond to the news about Jesus, the Jewish Messiah (Acts 13:45-48)?
Today’s Main Idea: Before His resurrection, Jesus was duty bound to extend salvation to the Jews because they were the covenant people of God. After His resurrection (and ascension), Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to empower His disciples to preach to Jews AND Gentiles. Jesus made this clear in visions to Peter and to Paul (formerly Saul), and the Holy Spirit confirmed it by giving Gentile believers the same radical, spiritual experiences that had been given to Jewish believers. The Gentiles were now “in” on God’s plan of redemption.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is key to understanding how this was possible. The principle involved is this: ethnicity, legal status, and religious requirements only apply to the living, not to those who have died! Because He died and rose again, Jesus secured freedom from ancestry, the Law, and the old system of priesthood. I say “secured” because God set up a spiritual “mechanism”, by His Grace through our faith, that Jesus’ freedom could be ours.
When we believe in Jesus and are baptized into His death, we are reborn to a new spiritual life that is not defined by ethnicity, social standing, or gender (Galatians 3:28-29). We are spiritually “born again” apart from everything that defined and limited us; since we are born of the Spirit, we are empowered by the Spirit to be obedient to His law written on our heart (more on that tomorrow). This is good news to Jew and Gentile alike!
Application: The Gentiles were worried about where their material provision would come from; they also thought their prayers were more effective by repeating them over and over. They assumed they were on their own, “making it” on their own, even as they made up their own idols and superstitions. Materialism and superstition both connect to the same problem: a lack of relationship with God and an improper understanding of who He is.
This Christmas we need to get to know the Father. When we focus on what He is really like, we will no longer approach Him superstitiously or drudge through life believing “God helps those who help themselves”. Let’s ask God for His help and guidance this Christmas. Let’s trust He will provide for us and take care of us as we give Him our cares and worries and allow Him to direct us. We no longer have the excuse that past Gentiles had: Jesus is our Light and He has shown us what the Father is really like. We can come before Him boldly with our requests and troubles.
There is a further step to take! We all need God’s light in us this Christmas, but He expects us to do something with it: shine! When we know something of God’s love and care for us, then we have a great gift worth giving! Jesus told us to let our good deeds shine before others so that they will become open to the Father’s love. Focusing on material things makes us dim and dull; let’s take our eyes off the things that do not matter and focus on what matters to God: people! Beyond buying and wrapping presents for others, let’s gift others with smiles, hugs, words of affirmation, a helping hand and undeserved kindness. God’s Light is the best gift worth giving this Christmas!
Prayer: Father God, thank You for sending Jesus at the right time to be my light. Help me to open my eyes to Your light by taking my focus off what I want. Give me the creativity and thoughtfulness to come up with ways to share Your goodness with others so they can see You clearly through me. In Jesus’ Name; Amen.
Family Activity: Christmas List! Using some pretty Christmas paper and a colorful pen or pencil, write out a Christmas list…but not for toys! Write “Christmas Deeds” on the top of the page. This list will include kind and helpful deeds you can do for the people you know. Leave gaps between the items on the list; after you have done each good deed, write a good thing that happened as a result in the gap. For smaller or special needs children, print out a small (2″x2″) image of each person on the list and glue it to the paper; draw or print clip-art images (2″ x 2″) pertaining to good deeds that your child is able to do and cut them down to size . Have your child pick an activity and “match” it to the face of a person on the list. Help your child to accomplish that task and help them strike it off the list with a pen when they are done. Everyone can shine God’s light, young and old!
ADVENT posts are available via the “Celebrations” category page, accessed from the “Fun” menu tab on my site. These posts are adapted from a much simpler, child-friendly devotional that I intend to publish in the near future; ADVENT posts are geared more toward adults and are best paraphrased if sharing content with children as some of the topics may be too mature to be beneficial to them. Discretion is advised!
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