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Monday, December 26, 2016

Follow the Star, Part 4

The Baby Jesus was born day some 2,000 years ago.  And ever since, we have been preparing for his return.  He shall come again--for he said he would.  In the meantime, we must to prepare for him, just as we prepared for Christmas.
Mary and Joseph prepared for him.  For an angel from God spoke to them both separately telling them about the coming child, who was to be the Messiah.  Sometimes God speaks directly (in a vision or a dream)--if we we are sensitive enough to hear.  Do you walk humbly and obediently with God every day, like Mary and Joseph, so your ears are tuned in to hear and obey God’s voice when he speaks?  Do you know Him so you will know when He speaks?
The Wisemen also received a sign, but it was more subtle.  They saw star in eastern sky.  There are millions of stars in the sky.  Why did this one start get there attention?  Sure, it was brighter than the rest, but how did they see that star and decide it was special when everyone else paid no attention?  The Jewish religious leaders in Bethlehem saw the same star hovering over Bethlehem and paid no attention.  They were so wrapped up in their own ambitions and the political intrigue of Jerusalem they missed God’s sign, at least until the Wisemen came asking questions that turn their world upside down.  Then they searched their own Scriptures and found the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.  Are you so wrapped up in your own plans and aspirations that you are missing God’s signs pointing you to a better life?  Maybe it’s time to slow down, refocus, search the Scriptures, and see what God is trying to tell you?
The Shepherds also received a sign--a dramatic and frightening sign.  An army of angels filled up the night sky singing and praising God and announcing the Messiah’s birth.  Sometimes God signs are big and bold and impossible to miss.  God wants everyone to know the Good News about Jesus--even lowly shepherds--and He certainly wants you to know about Jesus.  But you must have the courage to listen and obey or it’s all for nothing.  Do you have the courage to listen and obey God?
But there is another way God speaks to us I want to share in the final blog of this series.  God speaks to us through important people.  We see an example in the Christmas story itself.  Listen to the Word of God...

Luke 2:25-38
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
   as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
   and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Simeon and Anna
Here we have two VIPs in the Christmas story who tell Mary and Joseph and everyone willing to hear (including us) that Jesus is a very special child.  Jesus is the Messiah, the one God chose to save the Jewish people (and the whole world). Jesus will turn the whole order of the way the world works upside down.  He will humble the rich and powerful who do not care about God and exalt the poor and lowly who faithfully trust in Jesus. In the process, Jesus will reveal the Truth about who is on God’s side and who is not.
First, we have Simeon, who the Bible says was righteous and devout. Righteous is defined in the dictionary as acting in an virtuous, upright, and moral way.  We all know someone who is a good person, but Romans 4:5 says, “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”
Simeon was righteous and also devout. He was devoted to the worship and service of God.  While most people in the world are wrapped up in their own dreams and ambitions, there are a few devout people like Simeon who are totally focused on God.  These are people you should listen to. Simeon was righteous and devout and lead by the Holy Spirit and he told Mary and Joseph (and, through the Bible, the whole world) about Jesus.
There was also Anna, who was a prophet. A prophet (contrary to popular belief) is not someone who tells the future.  A prophet is someone who speaks God’s words. Like Simeon, Anna was devoted to God.  She was very old and had spent almost all her life in the Temple, fasting and praying.  We should listen to devoted people like Anna, who speak the Word of God.

Who Speaks God’s Wisdom to You Today?
Left to right: Rev. Jack Gillespie, Rev. Bob Beckwith,
Rev. Charlie Green, and Sara Brooker
There are people like Anna and Simeon in our world today.  People who are righteous (who live right and moral lives--but even more important--who trust God).  People who are devoted--not to their own dreams and aspirations, but--to God.  People who’ve gained wisdom through the Holy Spirit who lives in them.  Listen to them.  Seek their advice.  If you believe God is speaking to you, wants something from you, has given you a sign, or is leading you, consult with someone who can give you good advice.
Perhaps it is a Christian minister. I have had many preachers who spoke the Word of God to me and changed my life. There was Jack Gillespie and Bob Beckwith who were talented preachers whose inspiring sermons helped me hear God's call to be a preacher myself. Then there was Charlie Green, who was a pastor with the spiritual gift of caring who nutured me as I answered my call to the ministry. There are many different kinds of ministers with all kinds of gifts. Some are excellent preachers. Some are excellent pastors. Some are excellent administrators. Some are excellent counselors. No one person can be exceptionally gifted in all areas. Don't expect your minister to be all things. But perhaps you might find help in knowing God's will for you though a Christian minister.
We also have our Christian elders. I think of my own Grandma, who when I was only a young boy took my and and looked me in the eye and said, "Chris, one day you're going to be a preacher." I thought, "No way. You don't know what your talking about. That's not part of my plans or even on my mind." Looking back now after 30 years, I see Grandma was not delusional old lady. No, she was righteous and devout and filled with the Holy Spirit and I should have listened to her more while she was alive. Who are the elders in your life you should listen to who could be the voice of God to you? Or perhaps you have a good friend who is firm in the faith who can speak GOd's word to you.
And most importantly, let's not forget the Church--the collective voice of God’s people, chosen by Jesus to be his representative in the world. The Church is an invaluable source in revealing God's plan for you and the whole world. The Church gets a bad wrap these days. So many times have I heard someone say, "I just don't like organized religion." I wonder have they considered the alternative? If there's no organized religion, all we have left is a bunch of people running around thinking and doing whatever they like. We had a time like that before in our history. You can read about it in y the Bible in the book of Judges. It was a time when "...all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." (Judges 17:6) it was a dark, chaotic, evil time and many, many people suffered. I don't want to go back to that kind of living. So I'm glad we have the Church to be the voice of God to us. I know the church has made mistakes in the past and will make mistakes in the future. We are not perfect. However, when we seek the will of God collectively, we get it right more often together than we do as individuals.

This Christmas, God is speaking to all of us.  He has given us a sign--a baby born in a manger to save the world.  An angel spoke to Mary and Joseph.  The shepherds saw an army of angels announce his birth.  The Wisemen followed a star.  Simeon and Anna--filled with the Spirit and wisdom--both spoke of Jesus’ importance to the world.
Jesus reveals Truth in our hearts about whether we are truly focused on God or our own selfish ambitions.  He offers forgiveness for all who turn away from their sin and choose to follow him.  Jesus comes to you this Christmas with this word:

"Turn from your sin and turn to me.
You will find no peace, no hope, no joy, no love until you do.
Following your own path will only lead
to death, despair, destruction, and eternal punishment.
But if you repent and turn to me,
You will find peace, hope, joy, and love
And even more, you will have eternal life."

Whoever has ears to hear:

Hear the Word of the Lord and obey.

Pause to Admire the Baby

It never fails. Everything will be quite and peaceful at my home while I am watching a movie or TV show. That is, until a really important part of the show. Then my wife will come in to talk to me about something important or the kids will have some emergency. That's why I love the pause feature on my DVR. I can pause my show and tend to what is more important. Then when the crisis is over, I can return to my show in peace.
I wish life had a pause feature. So you could pause one situation to give you enough time to deal with another important situation over there, or at least long enough for you to catch your breath. Since you can’t pause life, sometimes you just have to take a moment to pause yourself.  You have to make a conscious decision to turn away from one thing and focus on something more important--even if it’s just for a few moments. Maybe it means turining off the TV, your cell phone (which I plan to do more this week), and taking a Sabbath to pause and admire something more important.

Luke 2:1-7
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

A Busy World
Jesus was born into a busy world. It was a world of government and politics. There was an inconvenient census that disrupted life, there were taxes being collected, people traveling all over the Mediterranean world (the innkeeper's business in Bethlehem was booming!), and even working class shepherd watching sheep. But a baby doesn’t wait for a busy world.  When it’s time, it’s time.  And so Jesus was born at just the right time--God’s time--whether we were ready or not.  
Mary and Joseph experienced God’s irrepressible timing more than anyone else.  The birth pangs began.  The contraction ensued--washing over Mary in painful waves as Joseph hastened to find shelter.  They clambered into a stable in a hollowed out cave.  The baby came.
When has God’s plan broken into your world at an inconvenient time? (As I was writing this very thought, I received a message on my phone that a young pregnant mother and her husband lost their baby at 19-weeks.)  I paused to pray and comfort a hurting family...

The Shepherds
Mary and Joseph were the first to pause for God’s baby.  The shepherds were next.  God sent a big sign to get their attention--an army of angels heralding the news of the baby's birth. The shepherds paused to go admire the baby Jesus. They found him lying in a manger in Bethlehem just as the angels said. Who or what has been an angel to you, saying something big to get your attention and beckon you to pause and pay attention to something more important?

The Wisemen
The Wisemen also paused.  God gave them a more subtle sign--a star in the east.  I wonder how many people noticed that star?  How many who noticed took the time to find out its meaning?  How many who knew what it meant made the effort to go find the baby Jesus?  Only the Wisemen.  For it is truly a wise man who--when he sees God’s sign--obeys, even if it means taking a long and difficult journey to a far away land. How far are you willing to go to pause and admire Jesus?

Our World
What’s the most important thing in the story of Christ’s birth?  It’s not the census or inn. It’s not the shepherds or the Wisemen. It’s not even the angels or the star in the eastern sky. Even a child knows the most important part of the Christmas story is baby Jesus.
Our world is no less busy than that of Mary and Joseph.  But what’s really important in our busy story? It’s not all the things we have to get done before the weekend. It’s not all the crazy characters we meet along the way. It’s not even the miraculous signs we might see as we go through this life. The most important thing in our story is Jesus.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the business of this life--especially this time of year.  But I implore you, take time to pause and appreciate the baby:
Who was born in a manger in Bethlehem
Who left the glory of Heaven to come to our sinful world
Who came to seek and save the lost
Who came to die for the sins of the world
Who offers forgiveness and grace and reconciliation
Who brings new life and peace,hope, joy, and love
The baby who beckons us to pause and focus on what’s really important

Will you pause--just for a moment--to admire this precious little Baby?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Birth of Christ

The Birth of Christ
Advent is the season Christians prepare for Christmas and the coming of Christ.  This year for Advent, I decided to do something different to prepare spiritually.  I paraphrased the biblical story of Christ's birth in my own words.  It was an insightful exercise.

Let me share my method.  First, I selected the Gospel passages I wanted to use.  Then I arranged them in chronological order.  Next, I copied the passages from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) into the left column below.  Then, I made a column on the right side to hold my own paraphrase.  I put a column in the middle for notes--footnotes from the NRSV and any notes about my own paraphrase.  I worked mainly from the NRSV to create my paraphrase.  However, I also consulted the Message, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, and the King James Version.  I also consulted the original Greek on a number of occasions using the word study function on my Olive Tree Bible App.

Working on this paraphrase gave me a deeper understanding of the events associated with birth of Christ.  It also gave me knew respect for the work of biblical scholars who translate the Bible from the original languages or who paraphrase the Bible into their own words.  Most of all, it was a humbling and spiritually enriching endeavor.  I prayed often for God to guide me and speak to my heart as I pondered the meaning of each passage and thought of how I would say it in my own words.  I share the results with you below.

Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase
John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,a and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.b
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own,c and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son,d full of grace and truth.15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”)16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,e who is close to the Father’s heart,f who has made him known.

aOr 3 through him. And without him not one thing came into being that has come into being. 4 In him was life

bOr He was the true light that enlightens everyone coming into the world

cOr to his own home

dOr the Father’s only Son

eOther ancient authorities read It is an only Son, God, or It is the only Son

fGk bosom
John 1:1-18
1-5 The Word was the very beginning.  The Word was there in the beginning with God.  The Word is God.  He brought everything into existence.  Nothing came to be without him.  He brought life, the light of life to everyone, everywhere.  His light shines out in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t have a chance.
6-9 God sent a man named John to point people to the light so they would know who to trust.  John wasn’t the light; he was just there to point to the light.  THE LIGHT, which makes it all clear for everyone, was about to come into the world.
10-13 He came to the very world he made, but the world didn’t recognize him.  Most didn’t want anything to do with him, even though they were his own handiwork.  But anyone who welcomed and trusted him realized they were God’s children--not the results of some biological conception, but--chosen by God as his very own.
14-18 The Word became human in every sense, living alongside us and experiencing everything we do.  We saw his glory, the glory of the only son God ever conceived.  He was so full of grace and truth.  (John told people about him, saying, “He’s the one I was talking about when I said, ‘The man who’s about to come is so much more important than me because he existed long before I was even a thought.’”)  He gave us so much undeserved love from his never ending supply.  Moses gave us the rules to follow; Jesus gave us grace and truth.  No one has ever seen God directly; but if you’ve met Jesus, it’s the same exact thing.
Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”g 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him 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 ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”h 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borni will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

1Elizabeth was John the Baptist’s mother and Mary’s cousin

gOther ancient authorities add Blessed are you among women

hGk I do not know a man

iOther ancient authorities add of you

Luke 1:26-38
26-27 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s1 pregnancy, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to visit a virgin named Mary in a town in Galilee called Nazareth.  Mary was engaged to Joseph.  
28-29 When Gabriel found her, he said, “Greetings! God wants to give you something very special!”  Mary was so confused and didn’t know what to think of this strange encounter.  
30-33 Gabriel told her, “Don’t be afraid.  God has taken a special interest in you and wants to give you a great blessing.  You are about to conceive a son in your womb and will soon give birth.  You will name him Jesus.  He will be great, will be called ‘God’s Son’, and the Lord God will give him the spiritual kingdom of his ancestor David.  He will rule Jacob’s House forever. There will never be an end to his kingdom.”  
34 Mary told the angel, “I don’t understand how this can happen? I’ve never been with a man.”  
35-37 Gabriel replied, “The Holy Spirit will enter you and the Highest Power of All will overwhelm you.  And so, the child you bear will be the Holy Son of God.  Your cousin Elizabeth is already six months pregnant, even though she was old and infertile.  You see, nothing is impossible for God.  If God did that for Elizabeth, He can do this for you.”  
38 Then Mary surrendered and said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  I will do whatever He wants.”  Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:19-25
19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;j and he named him Jesus.

jOther ancient authorities read her firstborn son
Matthew 1:19-25
19-22 Mary’s husband, Joseph, was an upstanding and compassionate man. He didn’t want to endanger Mary or her reputation.  He was considering how to break off the engagement secretly without making a scene when the Lord’s angel spoke to him in a dream!  
“Joseph! You are David’s ancestor!  Don’t be afraid to wed Mary, for the child she carries came from the Holy Spirit.  She will have a son and you should name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”  This all happened to fulfill what the Lord said though the prophet:
23 “You see, a virgin will conceive and have a son,
and they will name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.”  
24-25 When Joseph woke up, he did what the Lord said through the angel in his dream.  He took Mary to be his wife, but he didn’t lay with her until after her boy was born.  He named him Jesus.
Luke 2:1-38
1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,k the Lord.12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,l praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”m
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;n this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.o 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeonp came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,28 Simeonq took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servantr in peace,
   according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which 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 the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeons blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Annat the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the childu to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

kOr the Christ

lGk army

mOther ancient authorities read peace, goodwill among people

2The religious law code God gave to Moses in the Old Testament

nOr the Lord’s Christ

oOr the Lord’s Christ

pGk In the Spirit, he

qGk In the Spirit, he

rGk slave

sGk Symeon

tGk Hanna

uGk him

Luke 2:1-38
1-7 This all happened while Caesar Augustus was making a list of everyone he could tax in the Roman Empire.  This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  Everyone had to go to their family’s hometown to register.  Joseph had to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to his ancestor David’s hometown, Bethlehem, which is in Judea.  His fiance, Mary, went with him even though she was nearing her due date.  While they were in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor.  She had a baby boy, her very first child, and wrapped him up in a blanket.  She put him in a manger because there wasn’t enough room in the inn.
8-9 There were shepherds nearby guarding a flock for the night.  God’s angel came to them in a glorious light and the shepherds were terrified.  
10-12 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.  Look, I bring good news full of tremendous joy for everyone:  This very day in Bethlehem, David’s ancestral home, a Savior was born who is the Chosen One from God, the Lord of all.  This is how you will know you’ve found him.  He will be wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger.”  
13-14 All of a sudden, a vast army from heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying,
“Glory to God all the way up in heaven,
and peace to everyone he has blessed down on earth!”
15-20 When the angels were gone, the shepherds discussed it.  “Let’s go to Bethlehem right now and see what this is all about.”  So they ran and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  When they saw it was all true, they told everyone they could find what they’d heard about the baby.  The story amazed everyone, but Mary quietly wondered about the story in her heart.  The shepherds went back to their work, praising and glorifying God for all they had seen.  It was just as the angel proclaimed.
21 The child was circumcised when he was eight-days-old.  They named him Jesus, the name the angel gave before he was conceived.
22-24 When the time was right, they presented Jesus to the Lord for purification in Jerusalem in keeping with the Law of Moses2.  (God’s law commands: “Every firstborn son is to be given as a special offering to God” along with a sacrifice of “two doves and a pair of young pigeons.”)
25-26 There was a very good, devout man in Jerusalem at the time.  Simon was full of the Holy Spirit and patiently waiting for God to comfort His suffering people.  The Holy Spirit had assured Simon he would not die without seeing God’s chosen Savior.
27-28 The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple the same day Jesus’ parents brought him in to fulfill the ceremonial law.  Simeon cradled the child in his arms and praised God, saying:
29-32 “Lord, your servant can rest in peace now.  I have seen the Savior You sent with my own eyes, just as You said I would.  You sent Him as the glorious light of your people to lead everyone Home to You.”
33-35 Mary and Joseph were amazed by Simeon’s proclamation.  Simeon blessed them and then said this to the mother, “God sent this child to see the whole order of things flipped downside up.  He will be a target for all who oppose God and it will be clear where everyone really stands.  However, their viciousness toward your precious son will be as painful as a sword piercing your own soul.”
36-38 The prophetess Anna was also there, the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher.  Anna was very old.  She was only married seven years when her husband died and then she lived eighty-four more as a widow.  She worshipped and fasted day and night and never left the temple area.  As Simeon was speaking, Anna joined the group and started praising God and she told everyone in Jerusalem who was looking for redemption about the child.
Matthew 2:1-23
1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise menv from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,w and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiahx was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherdy my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise menz and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,a until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,b they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, 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 Then Josephc got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,d he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.e 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
   wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
   she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Josephf got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

vOr astrologers; Gk magi

wOr in the East

xOr the Christ

yOr rule

zOr astrologers; Gk magi

aOr in the East

bGk saw the star

cGk he

dOr astrologers; Gk magi

eOr astrologers; Gk magi

fGk he

Matthew 2:1-23
1-2 Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea when Herod was king.  Astrologers (called Wisemen or Magi) from a foreign land far away in the East came all the way to Jerusalem asking, “Where can we find this child who was born to be the king of the Jews?  We saw a star rise in the eastern sky that signaled his birth.  We want to worship and adore him.  
3-4 King Herod was very disturbed to hear this, along with everyone in Jerusalem.  He summoned all the most important Jewish priests and scholars and asked where God’s Chosen Savior was supposed to be born.  
5-6 They told him, “In the town of Bethlehem in the province of Judea, because that’s what the prophet wrote:
‘You, Bethlehem of Judea,
are a very important place because a ruler will come from you
who will lead my people, Israel, like a shepherd leads sheep.’”
7-8 Herod hatched a treacherous plan.  He asked the eastern astrologers in private when they first saw the star signalling the baby’s birth.  He sent them on to Bethlehem saying, “Go search for the child and don’t give up until you find him.  Then send word where he is so I can go worship him too.”
9-12 After speaking with King Herod, the eastern astrologers started out for Bethlehem and the star was right there leading the way straight to the child.  They were overjoyed when the star stopped above the child’s home.  They came in and saw him with his mother.  They knelt reverently and worshipped him.  They opened their treasure chests and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Since they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they took a different road back to their home in the East.
13 After they left, Joseph dreamed God’s angel was telling him, “Get up!  Take the child and his mother and run away to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you to leave.  Soon Herod will come looking to snuff the boy out.”  
14-15 Then, under the cover of night, they fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod was dead. This all happened just as God said it would when the prophet proclaimed, “I called my son out of Egypt.”
16-17 Herod was livid when he realized the Eastern religious scholars had outsmarted him. He ordered the murder of every last boy 2-years-old and younger who lived anywhere near Bethlehem. He figured the child must be about that age because of what the Eastern religious scholars had revealed.  This all happened just as God said when the prophet Jeremiah declared:
18 “A sad cry was heard in Ramah--
wailing and mourning.
Rachel is crying for her children,
refusing comfort,
because her children are dead and gone.
19-20 When Herod died, God’s angel came to Joseph in Egypt in a dream and said, “The coast is clear. The people who wanted to kill the child are dead.  Now you can take the child and his mother back to Israel.”  
21-23 So Joseph listened and took his family back to Israel, but avoided Judea because he was afraid of Herod’s son, Archelaus, who he heard was ruling there.  So Joseph took them to Galilee after he was warned in a dream.  He settled down in a town called Nazareth.  This all happened just as God said it would when the prophets revealed, “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2:40
40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40
40 The child grew big and strong and was very wise; and God helped him every step of the way.