Monday, December 22, 2008

"Twas The Night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas" begins Clement Clark Moore's poem written in 1823. Perhaps nothing ever written has so influenced our secular view of Christmas. But we want to think of this "holy night" in spiritual terms. As we muse on that first Christmas Eve, and on the one we will celebrate, we want to think in terms of heaven and earth and our own hearts. In three circles of application, beginning at the outter rim and moving towards the center, let us ask, "What was and what is taking place?"

What was taking place in heaven on that first Christmas Eve?
Here we must rely on our spirit-led imaginations.Can we not imagine the angel Gabriel reporting on the events preceding Christ's birth that had been committed to his care?
He could have told the assembled angels of his visit in a vision to Zacharias (Luke 1:8-20) and of the events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist.
He could have reported on the annunciation to Mary, a virgin in Nazareth, and of her obedient response (vv. 26-38).
He could have told of the visit of Mary to her relative Elizabeth and of their mutual joy (vv. 39-56).
He could have told how he reassured Joesph in a dream so that both the child to be born and his mother would be protected (Matthew 1:20-23).
He could even have told how God used the decree of Caesar Augustus to bring it about that the Christ should be born in Bethlehem of Judea as the prophet had foretold (Micha 5:2).

Again, can we not imagine a great congregation of angels around the throne awaiting the moment Paul calls "the fulness of time" (Galatians 4:4) to sweep down to earth to hearld his birth? Perhaps as they waited they interrupted Gabriel's report with songs of praise to their Lord and ours. They were ready for instant obedience. Earth was oblivious to the great event about to happen in lowly Bethlehem, but heaven was trembling with expectancy.

Again, can we not imagine a farewell conversation in Heaven that night between the Father and the Son? One writer has seen in Hebrews 10:5-7, where the writer quotes from Psalm 40, a record of this conversation. This is fanciful exegesis, but we can still imagine that such a conversation did take place that night. The nature of Christ's incarnation, for his human body was the result of a divinely creative act; the purpose of the Incarnation, to do the Father's will; and the glory it would bring .... all these could well have entered into that conversation that night.

What was taking place on earth on that first Christmas Eve?
Here we have the clear Scripture record of four events.First, There was the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, their frantic search for quarters, and their settling down in a shelter for cattle. The "fulness of the time" had come for Mary. For months she had been pondering in her heart the annunciation of the angel, the words of her relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45), the angel's assurance to Joseph, and the Old Testament prophecies she incorporated in what we call "the magnificat" (vv. 45-55). All these things probably came to a climax in Mary's heart as she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem.

Second, there was the virgin birth of Jesus. Isn't it remarkable that the event on which all history turns was unhearlded, unattended, and unknown except for the animals and the angels? This was the advent of that ancient prophetic sign that a virgin should conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, "God with us" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Hosts of angels fell down to worship then rose up to sing.

Third, there was the appearance of the angels to the shepherds. Unto these simple and faithful men who believed the prophecies and had prepared their hearts, the veil that separates earth from heaven was drawn back; and they saw and heard heavenly hosts. How wonderful was the announcement, how glorious their praise. I cannot help but get excited even writing about it.

Fourth, in some far-off land the Magi, as they studied the skies, saw the appearance of a new star that night. They were men chosen of God because of their search for truth. When they saw the star they knew somehow that the King had been born. In them we have the forerunners of many Gentiles who were, and are yet, to come worship the King. In them also we have God's provision, through their gifts, of safety and financial security for the long journey to Egypt.What will be taking place on this Christmas Eve in our hearts?

Across over two thousand years, what is the factor that will make this "night before Christmas" meaningful for us?It is the fundamental Bible truth that Christ is reborn in the regeneration of every child of God. When a person is born again, there is, in a very real sense, another incarnation of God, so that that person can say, "Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

We are living in a world that seems to have no room for Christ, but you can make room for Him in your heart.Have you worshipped and adored Jesus as did the angels? Have you sought to see him for yourself as did the shepherds? Have you crowned Christ King in your heart by the gifts you bring, as did the magi?

From The Studio

Morning Gossip

Morning Gossip
by Van Stewart Bevil
I painted this group of Maccaws after I joined an online internet chatroom (Artists Cafe). There's not much else I can say about the painting, the painting says it all.Rather than artists helping other artists I found nothing but gossip.

It's always nice to do a painting that says what you feel or saw without having to explain alot about the work. With a minimum amount of brush strokes and detail, the birds say it all. Morning Gossip!

This oil painting was done on a 24x36 inch stretched canvas. This painting is hanging in our livingroom and has added greatly to our tropical decor. Joyce says it's time to share it with someone else. LOL


Going Home

Going Home
by Van Stewart Bevil
I spotted this Wood Duck silently flying through the trees in Western Kentucky. The sun had just set and an evening mist was beginning to rise off the dense forest floor. Only his distinctive whistle alerted me to his presence.He was obviously on his way to the nest for the night.Wood Ducks are the only duck native to North America.