Thankful In Advent #12

December 13, 2014 | Posted in Devotional, Uncategorized | By

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Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel

At the heart of advent is one strikingly awesome fact… we do not have a God who says ascend to my heights and then you will be acceptable.

No!

He says I will descend and become one of them.

The name Isaiah prophesied for the saviour says it all. Immanuel, which means ‘God with us’. That is the heartbeat at the centre of the advent season. God with skin on moves into our neighbourhood. Jesus is literally God… live in concert!

We can be thankful for three reasons…

1. He is GOD with us!

He did not send and emissary or ambassador on His behalf. He Himself came to this fractured and desolately fallen planet to bring restoration. The first ever Christmas gift was that God came in person and gave himself!

2. He is God WITH us!

Contrary to popular belief God does not have an axe to grind against humanity. He created us, He loves us, likes us and He came in flesh because He is FOR us.

3. He is God with US!

He did not come for someone else… He came for you and I and He came on our terms. Intensely personal and familiar. Born to an unmarried teenage mum. Born into homelessness. A refugee from the word go. A man of sorrows familiar with suffering. Despised, hated, rejected. He suffered 3 unjust trials. Was murdered. Exposed naked on a cross and buried in another mans grave. He more than knows what each moment of pain you experience is like because in so many ways He was just like us and is with US!

We can be Thankful In Advent because any way you slice it… He is God with us and good news of great JOY for all the people!


Listen

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #11

December 11, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…

We so often sing about three wise men at this time of year but this totally misrepresents this part of the advent story!

Nowhere are kings (apart from Jesus and Herod) mentioned. And certainly there is no mention of a number… that is derived from their gifts alone. and they probably weren’t at Jesus’ birth either (the greek word used to describe Jesus means toddler not new born)

And this is this problem with advent…

So many assume they know the story so well when in fact they know the folklore.

The magi were soothsayers, astrologers and magicians (its where we get our word magi from). They were the kingmakers those who would ‘predict’ who a king should announce as their heir. after the king they would have been the next most powerful men in the kingdom… they would have travelled with a huge regiment of cavalry… and this is why Herod and ALL Jerusalem was so troubled at their appearance.

When magi came to worship Jesus, the most revered and powerful pagan priests, the King makers recognised their Creator and Lord and conceded Jesus is ‘numero uno’.

 

We can be Thankful In Advent because the story re-enforces the simple truth…. despite all the claims of other Gods and men, Jesus is King and that is that!


Listen

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #10

December 11, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin…

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”

Favour is such a welcome word. In our imaginations it conjures up all kinds of blessing Fed Ex’d by the Father directly to us. An international travelling ministry, prosperity, universal popularity?

Mary was strangely intuitive when she was troubled by Gabriel’s words. Yes the family would have international travel to Egypt, as refugees from a violent and jealous puppet king. Yes the family had gold… they were going to need it to survive in a foreign land. No they were not popular… to the point that a death warrant was issued on her precious baby.

Somehow Mary knew this favour from God also spelled TROUBLE!

Advent is the story of what Happens when God’s favour is bestowed upon you.

You get to partner in birthing world transforming initiatives…

And sometimes you get into a LOT of trouble…

We can be Thankful in Advent because the advent story shows us that one is worth the cost of the other.


Listen

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (ESV)


Listen

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #9

December 9, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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When Jesus’ mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly…

At the time of Jesus a betrothal was almost as binding as marriage itself. To break a betrothal in effect required a divorce.

So the engaged couple (but as good as married) find themselves pregnant. The problem with being pregnant and especially in a small rural village, is that eventually EVERYBODY knows about it. And then the finger pointing begins.

In our world now this kind of news only makes ripples, but at the time of the New Testament a pregnancy out of wedlock would have been cataclysmic. The finger would have been pointed… Joseph can legitimately throw his hands up and say… ‘Er not me guv!’ For Mary, the outcome could have been terminal. The law stipulated she should be put to death by stoning ().

And yet in the middle of this discovery of Mary’s news, we read that Joseph was ‘unwilling to put her to shame’.

And so as the Saviour and mediator of the Grace Covenant grows in her womb… His divine grace already starts flowing into the lives of those he will one day die for. Even before Joseph is re-assured by an angelic visitation, a revelation of grace seeps into the situation… the act of exposing sin and projecting shame has no place in the life of a ‘just’ man of God.

NO ROOM for shame!

That is one of the great forgotten truths of the advent story…

The apostle John tells us that…

...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ ().

We can be Thankful In Advent because when Jesus was revealed FULL of Grace and Truth, He so filled the life of faith He left no place for shame to dwell… and that includes your and my very worst days!

There is now no room for shame. Let it be so!

 


Listen

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (ESV)


Listen

20 But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21 then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. (ESV)


Listen

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #8

December 8, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end.

There are those who like to declare that planet earth is going to Hell in a hand basket… that it is getting more evil, darker and twisted.

I object!

What we fail to recognise is that we have more access to news and information than at any other time in history. The reality… we HEAR more bad news than any generation ever before us. But that doesn’t mean the world is getting more evil. There is a part of me that thinks its impossible for the world to become more evil… evil is as evil does… end of! We’re just hearing about it more. Evil by very nature is not creative or progressive, it is destructive and regressive… your Hitlers and Stalins are no more just as the Assyrians, Babylonians and every other despot and crackpot before them.

Set against the backdrop of darkness (and I do believe the world is in darkness) is set the glorious light of the advent story. Goodness IS creative and progressive. The messiah walks a journey from childhood to sonship until eventually He is described as the Everlasting Father.

Where darkness is celebrated there is no doubt it becomes ‘thicker’. However, the advent gospel reminds us that where light has broken in, it burns ever brighter and longer. As each new soul, sphere of society and nation is impacted by Jesus there is an ever increasing experience of His government and PEACE.

We can be Thankful In Advent because the advent story proclaims ‘of His Kingdom there will be no end’ and that His Kingdom will be characterised by the eternal ongoing exponential increase of His government and peace.

The Apostle John summed it beautifully… “He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…” ()

That’s got to be good!


Listen

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (ESV)


Listen

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #7

December 7, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard…”

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…”

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

We can be Thankful In Advent because the advent story dis-arms the four great fears of believers…

1. Fear Not: Your prayers have been heard (Zechariah)

2. Fear Not: God has poured His favour on you (Mary)

3. Fear Not: In doing the right thing (Joseph)

4. Fear Not: The gospel is good news of forgiveness that brings great JOY… not the threat of punishment (Shepherds)

The perfect LOVE of the Trinity casts out fear!


Listen

12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (ESV)


Listen

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (ESV)


Listen

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (ESV)


Listen

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #6

December 6, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said…

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel

His father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty- four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem

The Nativity reveals those who had been expecting the messiah’s appearing for decades.

We can be Thankful In Advent because the account in Luke shows us in the story of Simeon and Anna that those who truly hunger after God’s supernatural manifestation, activity, intervention and rescue get to see it in their generation!

I want to encourage you to pursue Him, His supernatural manifestation, His supernatural activity, His supernatural intervention… no matter your age because in your generation He is the same yesterday, today AND tomorrow!


Listen

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #5

December 5, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

Annunciation

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph…

the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

It was once said that God never asks us to do anything that is within reach of our own skills, giftings and resources. This is not because He is a cruel and capricious God, but because once we have figured out there’s a faith gap and we invite Him in… the impossible happens and He gets the glory due His name!

You may have huge unrealised promises and prophetic declarations hanging over your life. You may have no idea how to get from ‘here’ to ‘there’. Do not worry, be inquisitive but remember…

We can be Thankful In Advent because the “How can this be, since…?” questions of life are always answered with “The Holy Spirit will come… and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” answers of God.

Our part is to watch and pray with a heart that says ‘let it be to me according to your word’ ()

Its good to know that in the impossible anything is possible through His Holy Spirit power and presence!


Listen

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (ESV)


Listen

38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #4

December 4, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

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Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born

In a world where our headlines are dominated by Presidents, Prime Ministers, Politicians, Celebs and Reality Stars it is so easy to adopt the ‘li’l ol’ me’ mindset.

‘I don’t matter, I don’t count, I don’t figure, I’m not important…’ are the whispered thoughts of so many everyday people. But advent turns that all on its head. We matter so much to God that He stepped down into human history to rescue us from the warped and degraded destiny we had created for ourselves to restore us to our original identity and mandate… Sons and Ambassadors!

We can be Thankful in Advent that in God’s Sovereign goodness He passed over a Roman Governor, an Idumean King, a Jewish High Priest and a whole Council of the worlds most religious ‘experts’… to turn up in the supreme manifestation of all His glory and presence to a teenage girl living in the ‘Back-of-beyondsville’.

Who says you don’t matter?

Who says His desire is to stay aloof and distant?!

 


Listen

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. (ESV)


Listen

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. (ESV)


Listen

2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (ESV)

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Thankful In Advent #3

December 3, 2014 | Posted in Devotional | By

 

Augustus 

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Someone once said the only inevitabilities in life are… death and taxes. This was certainly true at the time of Augustus! His M.O. was simple… count the people, tax the people. A huge empire takes manpower and money to run and so a census was decreed.

At the grand age of 46 I’ve had my details recorded in a number of censuses, and as an adult I have had to complete a few as well. One thing I’ve never had to do, is relocate to register. This would have been a huge inconvenience for Mary and Joseph, especially knowing there was a tax bill and that tricky first labour at some point at the end of their journey.

Here they were… political pawns, names required so that they could be factored in the treasury’s numbers… And yet, that census was required, so that the messiah the new king and saviour could be where he was meant to be for his birth. When the magi visited later in the story, Herod consulted his religious experts who scoured the prophetic scriptures to verify the birthplace of messiah. Why? Because it had been prophesied centuries before ().

We can be thankful in advent because Augustus’ census reminds us that even in the most seemingly powerless, senseless and inconvenient details of life, Father God is able to conceive and birth the most extravagantly beautiful plans using the details arranged by man. WOW!

And so a question for us to ponder… What powerless, senseless and inconvenient details are you under right now… and more importantly what extravagantly beautiful plan does Father want to conceive and birth in the midst of all that?


Listen

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (ESV)


Listen

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth. (ESV)

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