Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Angel and the Star

In preparing for this week's lesson, I ran across something while reading the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of Luke gives the account of shepherds watching over their sheep during the night. All of the sudden an angel appears and tells them to go to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. They hurry off to see Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus still in the stable. The Gospel of Matthew tells of Magi from the East who follow a star to Jerusalem where they inquire, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?". They are told to travel to Bethlehem where they will find the child in a home with his mother, Mary.

These are the only two stories we have in the Gospels of people being given the greatest birth announcement ever. This announcement is given to shepherds and Magi. Let's explore these two groups of people.

Being a shepherd was not exactly a great job. I am sure if the show "Dirty Jobs" were around back then these guys would have been on it. They spent their time protecting sheep, arguably the dumbest animal of all, from being eaten by other animals. It's quite possible that the shepherds were guarding sheep meant for temple sacrifices given their proximity to Jerusalem. We can gather from the conversation the angel had with the shepherds that they know; 1) The town of David was in fact Bethlehem of Judea, and 2) It was the Lord who sent the angel to deliver the good news. These shepherds were no doubt God-fearing Jews, however they remained, as one commentator puts it, a "despised class".

The Magi, on the other hand, are the more educated and sophisticated of our two groups. These were astrologers and magicians who knew a great deal about the natural world and the stars above. From what part of "the East" these Magi came can only be guessed, however we can assume by the nature of their gifts (gold, incense, and myrrh) they were from Arabia. We can also be safe to assume these Magi were Gentiles. Their reference to "the king of the Jews" and the need to inquire as to the prophesied birthplace of the messiah leads us to believe they had a limited understanding of the Jewish religion.

So, what can we learn from these two birth announcements? I think there are three huge things God is telling us by allowing these stories to be included in the Gospels. First, God is telling the world that the coming Messiah is not only the Savior of the Jews, but the Savior of the all the world. In sending the star to guide the Magi from the Gentile East, God was telling the world that no longer should He be seen as the God of the Jews, but rather as the ruler of all. The second lesson we can learn is that God seeks out and cares for all people no matter what their position in society or their economic status. God loves the shepherd and the Magi; the trash man and the CEO; the homeless and the mansion dwellers.

And finally, let us now turn our attention to the methods God used to send this holy birth announcement. To the Jewish shepherd God sent an angel. Or more accurately interpreted, a "messenger of God". The shepherds, even though terrified at first, recognized the angel as being from God. They did not need someone to explain where the "town of David" was or the importance of these events. They simply "hurried off" to see the infant savior. Contrast this story with the story of the Magi. A star was used to send the message of Christ's birth to the Magi. Why a star and not an angel? Maybe an angel would have been too much for this Gentile crowd. Maybe they would have spent more time questioning the origin, mechanics, or reality of the messenger instead of listening to the message. God knew His message would have been lost in translation had he sent an angel to the Magi. Instead, God may have used something very familiar to this group of astrologers. He used a star. The Magi understood stars. They understood that for the most part, stars remain relatively unchanged. But every now and then the heavens would create a cosmic phenomenon that would require their full attention. The star of Bethlehem captured their attention enough that they could do nothing more than seek to understand to purpose of this star. Their journey took them to Jerusalem where they discovered the events announced by this star would take place in Bethlehem. From there they went to the place where Jesus was and "they bowed down and worshiped Him".

So, what do we learn from this star? We learn that God used an instrument familiar with Gentile people to bring them into fellowship with the Savior. We learn that people unfamiliar with faith sometimes may need direction in a creative manner. We learn that just as God was creative in His choice of message delivery to the Gentile audience, so we too need to be creative in the way we reach out to those still searching for the true spirit of Christmas, Christ our Lord.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Movie to Make You Think

I watched "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" last night with Jennifer. (Thanks to Jordan for letting me borrow it!) It's a great documentary about the Darwinian vs. Intelligent Design debate. I like this movie because there are some great interviews and we hear from both sides of the issue. If you have a couple of hours, I would recommend checking this out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Hey, check out this really awesome website. It's called "I am Second". Good stuff!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Sure Sign of Parenthood

Last night I was watching some football in our family room. As I went to sit on the couch this image of my trusty old Fender amp caught my eye. I had to take a picture of it. Here's why...

I got this Fender amp for Christmas when I was a Senior in High School. I had recently joined a rock band, therefore my tiny Peavy beginner amp wasn't cutting it. I asked Santa (my parents) for a new and bigger amp. So, I was beyond excited when I received this amp that Christmas morning. I shredded on this thing for hours that day. It was awesome!

The Fender went with me to College. It was still my primary source of playing some rock guitar, but my roommate and I invented an alternative use for it. It was now also the sub woofer for our surround sound system. Nintendo 64 sounded awesome hooked up to this baby!

This amp has been with me through moves, different jobs, my marriage, and now with children. These days the Fender sits in a corner of our family room. Every now and then I take out the Tele and play some tunes on it, but for the most part it serves as a jumping board for Nathan to dive into all the stuffed animals. We also sometimes use it as a chair when guests come for dinner.

One of these days it will have a more prominent place in the house. But for now, my time is much better spent playing Memory or Rescue Hero's with Nathan or just laughing at Kate as she learns to wave or clap. Every stage of life has it's joys. My joy right now is hanging out with my family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Youth Ministry Silo

Good post here on Josh Griffin's blog. It's called, "4 signs you are a youth ministry silo." Check it out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where The Trees Stand Still

It's the place in your life where you can find rest.
It's a spot high in the mountains where the wind dosen't blow.
It's a place of comfort as you bask in the sun.
It's your tent, your shelter, your home.

This blog is home to the thoughts, ideas, and words of Corey Bearden.
I like talking about my family, God, camping, sports, church, and maybe some politics.
So, check back often and join the conversation.