A Birthday Game
Years ago when Eastern Europe was behind the Berlin Wall, I got to go to an isolated camp in northern Poland and teach young adults how to live a wise life in a foolish world from the Book of Proverbs. One night they introduced me to a Polish birthday custom. It was Maui’s birthday and he sat in the seat of honor. Instead of gifts, we sat around him, and one by one shared something special about who he was and what he meant to us.
Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, and here’s an idea. Sometime during a lull in the holiday activity take some time to share with your family Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. Jesus is going to be the main character in Luke’s Gospel, yet in the first two chapters Jesus doesn’t say a word. (The text doesn’t even tell us that he did or didn’t cry.) On the other hand in the events of the first Christmas Luke tells us a ton about Jesus. Here’s the game.
You can start reading from the beginning, Luke 1:1. Your family listens, and when you get to the first thing the text tells us about who Jesus is or what He will do, they are to stop you and tell what it is. For example, here is what I think is the first one. It’s when Gabriel tells Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, the mission his son will accomplish.
“and he will go ahead of Him in the spirit and power of Elijah.“ - Luke 1:17
This one is a little tough. For some background: Malachi, a Jewish prophet four centuries before Jesus, stressed that Israel’s God would be honored among all the nations (Mal. 1:10, 14). He also rebuked His people for not honoring Him as their great King (Malachi 1:12 , 14). It was a bad time. The LORD’s priests were not teaching His Word (Malachi 2:8). Older Jewish men were divorcing the wives they married in their youth so they could marry younger women (Malachi 2:15-16). To deal with this mess the LORD said He would send a herald to announce His coming. Then He Himself would show up (Malachi 3:1-4). Malachi closes his Book saying that, for those who reverence the Lord, this would be a good Day. They would see “the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings.” (Malachi 4:2). This would not be the case for those who rejected Him (Malachi 4:5-6).
Luke’s text tells us that the time has come. John the Baptist is the Elijah Malachi predicted, and Jesus is the LORD showing up in Bethlehem. It would be decision time for His people and for us.
This is Luke’s first clue about Jesus’ identity and it’s why in the second verse of “Hark! the Herald Angels,” we sing,
Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail th’incarnate Deity!
Please as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
I could have given you a lot more about Malachi’s message, but it’s time for you to go on reading Luke’s Christmas Story. (Hint: The next clue is in the episode when Gabriel appears again.)
LORD, thank You that You were conceived in Mary and that You were born in Bethlehem. I’m still blown away by the fact that You were willing to become a baby and lie in that feeding trough. Use this Devo to help a lot of families today discover from Luke’s Christmas Story who You are and what You desire to do not only for the world, but also for each of them if they will humbly open up and trust.
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