This month John shares how the many birth and genealogy narratives in the Old Testament culminate with the climactic birth story that drives who we are and all we do.View Transcript
– Merry Christmas, Alliance family. It’s my pleasure to bring you a devotional thought today that’s been stirring in my heart that I trust will be an encouragement to you as well. I’ve been looking out my window a lot these days as large amounts of dirt are being moved by large pieces of equipment as the site work has begun for One Alliance Place. Thank you for those who have joined us in Project ReImagine. We’ve come this far by faith. We still have a long way to go, but we celebrate what God’s done to this point. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the sending of new waves of international workers as we are on target for our now. campaign of having one new international worker released every week of this year. We rejoice in those that God has raised up, and thank you for those who are participating in our Christmas offering because it is through these funds that we’re able to release this next wave of international workers.
There’s been a devotional thought stirring in my heart that I would hope would give you some encouragement today. When we step back and take a whole view of the Scriptures, I find that this theme of “childbearing, birth” very significant throughout the pages. We get to chapter four of Genesis and it’s already there: “That Adam lay with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the Lord, I brought forth a man.’ Later she gave birth to his brother, Abel.” Stories of birth– Cain and his wife have Enoch. The birth stories continue throughout Genesis until we get to the difficult one of Abram and Sarai who are unable to have children. They take the alternate route of including Hagar in the story, and Ishmael is born, but then ultimately, that son, Isaac, is given to them. Babies jostle in Rebekah’s womb, so much so that she wonders what’s going on, and she’s told, “Not only do you have twins, you have two nations that are being born.” And as the first child comes out, Esau, he’s being grabbed by the second-born, and they named the grasper Jacob. Jacob is renamed Israel, and through four different women, give us the 12 tribes of Israel and their sister, Dinah. Joseph has two sons whose names become very significant in the storyline. You turn the page to Exodus, and we find Moses being born and hidden for three months by his parents.
The birth stories are just common in the text, and we come to Ruth, a beautiful story there, climaxes with her marriage to Boaz and the birth of the son, Obed, the grandfather of David. Just a page later, Hannah is grieving because she’s unable to have children. And from that sad beginning we get the beautiful story of Samuel, the prophet who ministers to the nation. The birth story of David, that perhaps we remember most, is through Bathsheba, who has the unnamed son who dies, and then he comforts Bathsheba, and the Lord gives them Solomon, that God actually names Jedidiah, loved by God. As you turn to the Prophets, you find that babies are born and sometimes given prophetic names, difficult names, like through Hosea and Gomer, we have names like “not loved” and “not my people.” Maybe my favorite Old Testament name comes from Isaiah 8, where Isaiah and the prophetess have a child whom they name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Perhaps his nickname was Pouncer, pouncing on the plunder. Page after page, story after story throughout the Old Testament, there’s these birth narratives, so it’s no surprise to us when we turn to the Gospel of Matthew that we have a genealogy waiting for us.
Matthew provides the family line of Jesus, going back through King David and all the way to Abraham. Nor does it surprise us when we turn to the Gospel of Luke to have a barren couple who receive an angelic visit, announcing to them that they’re going to be able to have a son come to their family. And the Apostle John summarizes that story succinctly by saying, “There came a man who was sent from God. His name was John.”
Birth stories that then lead to the birth story. This time, not an aging, barren couple, but a very young couple– Mary, the virgin, Joseph, engaged to be married, living sexually pure, receiving the angelic announcement that they will be made responsible and gifted with the joy of getting to raise the Christ Child. You know the story, Alliance family. Joseph chooses well, but they have no place to dwell. Where animals once fed becomes the child’s bed. Angels break into the scene announcing the good news to shepherds, and shepherds can’t keep it to themselves but share it with everyone they meet. Magi arrive on the scene and bring gifts with them–treasures, really. And Mary treasures up all these things in her heart.
Friends, this is the last birth narrative of all the Scriptures. Now, I know that in Revelation 12 there’s a prophetic picture of a woman and a child fleeing a dragon. And I’ll leave it for you to debate its meaning and place in prophecy. I’m 63 years old, and I don’t have any idea how I made it 63 Christmases without realizing the fact that this is the final birth story of all the Bible. Some of you thought about this 20 years ago, I’m sure, but I’m intrigued that while we know quite a bit about the apostles, we know nothing about their kids. And while Paul had a spiritual son, Timothy, we don’t know anything of a physical family. There’s no begats, no further genealogies. I’m sure there must have been some healing of a woman who was barren but not recorded for us in the text. Billions of babies have been born since, but none of them made it into the Scriptures. The birth of the Christ Child was the last birth recorded in the Bible. This baby, the baby, is the Bible’s culminating and climactic birth narrative. And so it should be, for it cannot be equaled or topped. A virgin gave birth to the Divine Son, the fully God, fully man who is given the name that is above every name, the name before whom every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. No equaling, no topping of that story. And so, this is the Bible’s crowning and concluding birth story, and so should it be. All stories culminate in this one. All prophecies are fulfilled in this one. The Messiah has come.
But you know well, Alliance family, that this theme of birth is far from over in the Scriptures. We turn to the Book of John, and we read chapter one, verse 10: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was own, but His own did not receive Him, yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. Children not born of natural descent nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Jesus Himself picks up the theme in his conversation with Nicodemus. He says, “‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised to say you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear it sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’ ‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You’re Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and you do not understand these things? I tell you the truth. We speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but still, you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe. How then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man.'”
And so Jesus, the only one who has ever come from heaven to earth to be born as a person, gives us this message of reconciliation and new birth to all people, and it must be our priority, Alliance family. It always has been. It always must be that which we are passionate about. And so, this is the energy which has driven One Alliance Place and all those trucks that are pushing dirt behind our office. This is the passion behind the sending of a new wave of international workers and our Christmas offering. This is the prayer behind our desire for there to be peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is the reason that we gather around this Christmas story again, because too many have not yet heard of the hope and the new birth that is available through the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Hopeless. That’s how the Christmas season feels for many around the world. In the hard places The Alliance serves, there are people who do not know the name of Jesus. No songs are sung in hope of His birth, no Advent candles lit in anticipation of our Coming King. It’s a season like any other, and it’s empty, but emptiness begs for hope, and hope is here. The Creator entered His creation to bring salvation. In Scripture, this moment is declared with a host of angels, with the glory of the Lord shining all around them, tearing the darkness apart. Through Jesus, hope came into the world, and the world would never be the same again. So, while that which surrounds us may be void of the Christmas spirit, there’s no emptiness in our hearts. The invitation for us is simple: extend hope to those dwelling in darkness. When you give to the Alliance Christmas Offering, you keep international workers, leaders, and our churches present in those hard places, extending the hope of the Christ Child among the world’s marginalized, displaced, and unreached peoples. This Christmas, join me in giving to the Alliance Christmas Offering, where, as the Body of Christ, we have the opportunity, the blessing, to extend hope.