by Walker Moore
During the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to think of some of New Year’s resolutions. As hard as I’ve tried, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to change. I like my life the way it is. My wife could probably give me a hundred ideas, but I haven’t finished the last list she gave me.
by Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor
FBC, Spanish Fort, Ala.
God’s new thing is a wonderful word for the New Year. We read in Isaiah 43:18-19, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth, shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.” Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) explains the best commentary on Isaiah 43:18-19 is found in Jeremiah 16:14-15; 23:7-8, where we read, “‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers. . . . Therefore, behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.’”
by Robin D. Foster, pastor
Second Baptist Church
When I was a kid, Christmas was a magical time. I enjoyed it all: from listening to the Christmas songs to setting up the tree with decorations. When I was 16, I bought my own tree to decorate. My mother gave me some ornaments and I used Dad’s old set of lights. I know that sounds weird for a 6’ 2” football jock, but I did say that Christmas was a magical time for me.
by Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor
FBC, Oxford, Miss.
So much about the way we envision the First Christmas distances us from the reality and message of Jesus’ birth. Our Christmas cards and crèches are bathed in soft light, framed by friendly farm animals, drummer boys, and earnest shepherds all focused on the little Lord Jesus, “no crying He Makes.” We are simply more comfortable with a Savior born “inside,” quietly occupying a warm nook somewhere on the margin of our lives, a lullaby playing while He sleeps on the hay.
This picture, however, bears little resemblance to what happened that night. In fact, Luke is at pains to contrast the humiliation of Christ’s arrival with the power, prestige, and privilege of Caesar Augustus and the security of Rome. Jesus came into the world squalling, naked, and covered in afterbirth. His parents had no place to stay because news had already come to Joseph’s ancestral home (which would have been filled with relatives obligated to take them in) through the tightly woven gossip system of Judea that the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were too shameful to warrant any hospitality.
So, Jesus was born outside, on the ground, with the warm, pungent smell of manure hanging in the chilly air. Mary delivered her first child with no anesthesia, no skilled midwife, so the night was probably not “silent,” “calm,” or “bright,” and it completely redefined the word “holy.”
The first recipients of and witnesses to the glory of the Advent were shepherds, men whose reputation as liars and thieves was so ubiquitous that they weren’t allowed to give testimony in court. They lived their whole lives outside— geographically, socially, morally, religiously.
So, Jesus was born outside, to outsiders, for outsiders. He ministered outside, observing that while even animals had homes, “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). He died outside between two outsiders, fulfilling the destiny foreshadowed in His birth. How, then, do we celebrate Christmas in a manner faithful to the First One? The writer of Hebrews tells us: “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13.11-12). Let the Christ Child call you away from the cozy Christmas of our own creation and out into the Adventure of mission to those still outside.