Zechariah 5

Titus 2:11-13

Guess Roger wouldn't like living in this house! Peggy! http://youtube.com/watch?v=rRvzcs3gQYk

I’m not big on a great deal of holiday decorations. I like things relatively simple. When I see extravagant decorations and lights on a house over the holidays I often think it odd to invest that much money and storage space on something you can only use for a little while.

In this letter to Titus, a fellow believer, we have a comment on grace. What has the grace of God done? What does grace teach us? What is the “blessed hope?”

While it is important to keep our hearts, minds and souls focused on the goal, the end, our reward in heaven, it is unfortunate that many Christians are so focused on eternity that they have lost sight of today. Their faith is a lot like the decorations – it is all focused on a very limited time.

The celebration and commemoration of Christmas and the Christmas story is not limited to a few weeks in December. This is a gift that covers a lifetime. And the love from God to us should be shared with others.

God’s grace, His love and tenderness, His caring for us, has appeared to all men in the form of Jesus. And Jesus offers us salvation. But we are not simply to hoard this grace from God, clinging to the blessed hope of Christ’s return.

This grace from God goes beyond just our own salvation. It covers all time, and helps us to live good and godly lives. God’s grace, especially in the form of Christ, teaches us how to turn away from ungodliness and worldly passions. By following the example of Jesus, we can live self-controlled and upright lives here and now.

And, just as was mentioned in the Hebrews 11:1 reading, when we live this type of life, we are living examples for those who are not familiar with Jesus. And living as an example to others is a way of passing on the gift of hope and God’s grace to others.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Share the blessed hope with someone new this Christmas.

Zechariah 4

Hebrews 11:1

We held our “Hanging of the Greens” service Sunday evening, which included a carry-in dinner. I was asked how many people to expect for the dinner so we would have enough juice, napkins, coffee, etc. I said we should expect 30 people. Thirty-two showed up.

The writer of Hebrews has a simple sentence at the outset of Chapter 11 which sums up faith. What is faith? What does this mean to you? How can you apply it in your own walk of faith or ministry?

My estimation for Sunday was a hopeful guess and nothing more. It was more coincidence than anything else that we had the number of people that we did, however, that kind of attitude is what we need as we go through our lives as believers in Jesus Christ.

If we believe in God, then we have faith. If we have faith, then we should be confident in our hopes – sure of them, certain of them. It is all too easy for us to doubt and question, but that is not what we are called to do.

Christmas is a commemoration of the gift of Jesus, God’s Son sent from heaven to show us the way to live and the path to salvation. Part of the ministry of Christ, which began with that humble birth, involves teaching us to have hope for good.

First, we can hope for the salvation and mercy that comes from God, and that hope need not be weak or vague. We should live in confident knowledge that Jesus Christ did indeed live and die for us.

And not only should we have hope for good, we should have confidence in our hope, knowing in our hearts without doubt that goodness will be done. This is also part of the gift of Christmas, the knowledge that you have a shepherd king who watches over you in the strength of the Lord. And he also imparts to you, his heir, the strength of the Lord, so that you may serve God’s kingdom with goodness and grace, and with the certainty that what you work for – if it is meant to serve God – will be successful.

This attitude of confident hope can also be a gift to others. When you live out this attitude you show others, those not familiar with the ways of the Lord, how they ought to live too. The gift of hope with certainty is then passed on.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to share your hope, and your confidence in that hope, with others?

Zechariah 3

Truly one of the strangest shepherd pictures I could find on the web.  Peggy

Micah 5:4

One of my self-appointed duties has always been to check the doors before going to bed. I make certain each one is closed securely and locked. Then I can sleep with some confidence that nothing bad will happen at night. It is something that brings a sense of security.

The prophet Micah has a vision of a new king who will rule over Israel. What type of king will he be? Where will he gain his strength? How will the people live?

This image of a shepherd, a king who rules with the authority and power from God, is traditionally interpreted as a prediction of Jesus. Earlier, in verse 2, Micah has predicted that this wonderful king will come from Bethlehem. Part of the description is that this is a king “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

We can keep our life as safe as possible with locks and doors and planning that avoids trouble. Yet, there is not always protection from the stresses of life, nor the heartache and sorrows that come. But, rather than hiding away in fear, we can live a life with some hope knowing that no matter what our troubles may be, physical or emotional, we are guarded over by a great and glorious king of mercy and love.

Jesus is indeed our king. And Jesus is indeed a shepherd who watches over his people – us – with the strength of the Lord. Knowing that our king has come, that he is with us now, should bring us a sense of security, a comfort and a hope that is greater than that which comes from the strongest of locks.

No matter what may happen to us in life, no matter what adversities we face, we can rest in the hope and peace of knowing that we are guarded by the great king and shepherd Jesus Christ. For it is true what Micah has predicted, his greatness has reached the ends of the earth and his grace and love and protection has no limit.

In Jesus Christ is our hope and our security, for in Christ is our salvation.

DAILY CHALLENGE: As you lock your doors this night offer a brief prayer of thanks to the shepherd king who watches over you.

Zechariah 2

Psalm 42:5

(Here's what Roger SHOULD have done! LOL Peggy)

Nearly 30 years ago I worked as a cashier at a convenience store. One night a few days before Christmas a man came in and robbed the store. It was a very traumatic experience for me, one I will never forget. I thought it odd that such a crime would happen at Christmas, but the police said that crime actually goes up at the holidays.

Why? People feel desperate to have things, to be able to provide for their families. There is also much more new and valuable merchandise available for the taking.

It is ironic that the season of Christmas, the season that celebrates God’s gift of love to the world, is also when crime reaches a high point.

But this is nothing new. What emotion is the psalmist feeling? What is the solution?

We can find ourselves feeling downcast at the holidays. For many people, the holidays are actually a depressing time – the cold weather prevents them from getting out and about. The darkness of winter can cause depression. The stress of holiday shopping, of crowds, of expenses can really bring some folks down.

Even those of us who are able to keep our spirits up can feel discouraged and tattered by the hectic hustle and bustle of holiday parties and preparations.

We may easily find ourselves feeling downcast, having our souls disturbed within us. What is the solution to such a problem? The psalmist realizes he must focus on God. The troubles of life are set aside so that he can put his hope in God.

We can do the same. When we find ourselves feeling down or pushed around, beaten up by the holidays, we can put our hope in God. Focusing not on the material and tangible trappings of the holidays, but on the true reason for this celebration can lift our hearts and our souls.

Christmas is a season of hope. The birth of the Messiah was a reason for a world without hope to lift their eyes to heaven and praise God for His mercy. Christmas is still a time to remember the great gift of hope that God gives us through His son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Set aside a time each day of Advent to praise God, to put your hope in Him, and thus avoid feelings of being downcast.

Zechariah 1

Luke 1:8-17

The other night at a gathering of people I was reminded of the first indications that I was being called into the ministry. Those incredible moments when God broke into my heart were not on a mountaintop or in a grand cathedral. They happened while I drove home from work or attended a small service at a local church.

God’s incredible presence can be found in the everyday occurrences of our lives.

How was it that Zechariah was in the temple? Who appears? What will happen with Elizabeth? What can Zechariah expect from his son?

This is the earliest beginning of the Christmas story. An angel appears to a man named Zechariah, a priest in the temple. The angel predicts the birth of a son to the priest, not the Messiah, but the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

The angel has some incredible information and incredible predictions for John. Verses 15-17 give us some profound statements about the child who would become John the Baptist.

What strikes me, however, is the “when” and “where” of the appearance of the angel. The angel appears in the temple, true, but not on a special holiday nor during some grand ceremony. Zechariah was going about his duties, a commonplace occurrence for him, when the angel announces such awe-inspiring news.

This was a message of earth-shattering importance, a message of hope for a people who had no hope. And the angel came during an average day in a familiar place.

But that is the story of Jesus Christ – a profound Savior who comes to the ordinary person. And that is the message of Christmas – a story of hope that breaks in to our everyday lives.

This Advent season, be a messenger of hope for other people, not in grand and elaborate ways, but in the everyday, common times of life. Tell others the story of Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Find someone you see almost every day who needs to hear about Jesus and tell them about him.