Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17)

Jesus Christ by Liviu Dumitrescu, 2017

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. (New International Version)

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus in the series “The Chosen”

You might be saying to yourself, “Really? You’re doing a reflection on this, a genealogy? Are you kidding?”

Why? Because all of Holy Scripture drips with grace, including genealogies.

The gospel of grace is the good news of Jesus; and, through the genealogy, we have the opportunity to understand and appreciate Christ better.

At the heart of Matthew’s gospel is a presentation of Jesus and Christ’s teaching which centers on the kingdom of God. Jesus is the King who fulfills all Old Testament promises. The genealogy is more than a chronicle of Christ’s lineage; it is a theological statement that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the anointed King of Israel, and the Savior of the world.

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the Christ. The name “Jesus” means “God is salvation.” And “Christ” means “anointed one” (king). The name “Jesus Christ” communicates his person and his mission; he is the sovereign king who brings deliverance. 

Matthew, throughout his Gospel, takes pain to convey that Jesus is the King over an ethical kingdom of righteousness, and not a political kingdom. Therefore, Jesus is unlike King Herod or any other earthly king who seeks to have power and serve his own interests. Instead, Jesus uses his authority to serve others through love and grace; he doesn’t make subjects by coercion.

Jesus is the son of David 

Matthew establishes Christ’s pedigree by saying that Jesus was not some new kid on the block; he was anticipated for centuries. Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant given to King David by God:

When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up a descendant of yours after you, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingship. He is the one who will build me a temple, and I will establish his throne forever. I will become his father and he will become my son, and I’ll never withdraw my faithful love from him as I did from the one before you. I’ll install him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever. (1 Chronicles 17:11-14, CEB)

Jesus is a king in the same line and spirit of David. For example, when David became king, he didn’t immediately set out to annihilate all of the previous king’s (Saul) sons. That’s often how kings did it back then. Instead, David used his power to scan the land and show kindness to them. (2 Samuel 9:1-16)

Jesus is the son of Abraham

Matthew also establishes Christ’s pedigree as the rightful king of the universe by saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant given to Abraham:

I will make you a great nation,
I will bless you.
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you, I will curse.
Through you every family on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3, GW)
                 

Abraham was called by God because of sheer grace. There was nothing special about Abraham, other than the fact that God called him out of a pagan land to create a people for God’s own possession. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise; all nations are blessed by coming to Christ the Lord and King.

From Abraham to David

Matthew made a statement about God through the genealogy: the Lord is merciful and full of grace. Grace is seen in the inclusion of four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. 

The use of genealogy was a conventional form in the ancient world for establishing the credibility of a king’s right to rule. What was highly unconventional was including women. Matthew purposefully included them for two reasons:

  1. Women are central to the kingdom of God and play a pivotal role in the New Covenant.
  2. The women in the genealogy are Gentiles and were all notorious for their sexual exploits. 

Matthew highlighted a gospel of grace. No matter your gender, race, or even sordid past, the kingdom message is for everyone and is not an exclusive club. 

God is acting to redeem and reconcile the world. The gospel is not bound in any way by scandal, race, or gender. Jesus is the Savior and uses whomever he wants to extend his gospel of grace. 

From Solomon to the Exile

The men listed in this part of the genealogy are all kings; most of them not very good kings; and many of them downright evil. Because of this, God’s wrath was aroused, and the people were expelled from the land for following the unrighteous kings. 

However, grace overcomes everything. God’s purposes are still providentially accomplished despite human failure and sin. The lineage of Jesus was neither cut off nor thwarted because of powerful men who went in the wrong direction. In the end, God’s promises prevail.

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10, NIV)

From the Exile to Christ

God is faithful, despite human unfaithfulness. Even though the people didn’t listen to the prophets during the reign of the earthly kings, the Lord quietly preserved a remnant who carried on the kingdom ethic. 

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.” (Jeremiah 23:3, NRSV)

Instead of extermination, God sent a Savior to settle the sin issue once for all. God’s grace and providence reign supreme in the universe.

Jesus is the Promised King

Matthew’s genealogy is presented with 3 sets of 14. The number 14 is symbolic: the name “David” has three consonants in Hebrew, and the number value of that name is 4+6+4=14. By modern standards, this doesn’t make much sense. However, by ancient standards, this was a conventional use of genealogy. And so, Matthew’s original readers got the point that David is the center of the genealogy; and Jesus is the promised king to come. It’s a creative way of pointing to Jesus, which connected to people accustomed to using numerology for making arguments.

It’s good to think about avenues of communication that speak to the people we want to reach. For example, in raising three girls, playing tea party with dolls was a way to love them and have a conversation on their level.  

In other words, we must ask: How do I need to change in order to reach the people I want to reach? (and not how others need to conform to what I’m doing).

Conclusion

God acted in history by sending Jesus, who is the rightful king of the universe. Christ is the Anointed One, sent to restore people to God. He is our peace, and our hope. To walk in the footsteps of Jesus is to walk in grace, not self-serving, but looking to use what has been given us to live as God’s subjects in the kingdom. 

May we make our own theological statement of who God is by the manner in which we live and speak, truly having Jesus at the center of all we do and say.

Soli Deo Gloria

Slave or Free? (Galatians 4:21-5:1)

Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (New International Version)

Get your hermeneutics together, man

First of all, I want to say that I have little tolerance for Bible readers who insist on an exclusive literal interpretation of Scripture – because it’s downright nonsensical.

Today’s New Testament lesson is one of many biblical passages which really ought to put a wooden stake to the heart of such a misguided hermeneutic. The Apostle Paul himself uses an allegorical or figurative approach to interpreting an Old Testament story.

Holy Scripture interprets itself in many ways. It is, at the least, hubris to believe one has the corner on biblical interpretation through a single mode of literal Bible interpretation; and it is, at the worst, damaging to other’s souls to restrict them in their reading and reflection – not to mention destructive whenever a literalist (who is typically also a legalist) brings their judgmentalism forward to condemn the other approaches.

Okay, I feel better now, getting that off my chest. But, unfortunately, we’ve still got to deal with legalism – which is what Paul set out to do with his writing to the churches in the region of Galatia.

Let go of the legalism

There can be something oddly comforting about law. Having clear black-and-white no-nonsense rules can give a sense of security. You always know where you stand. You’re either in or you’re out, either pure or sinful. 

Yet, here’s the score on the law: it is meant for the immature and is designed as a guide to lead us to maturity. 

If we live by law, we are bound by law. Law can only take us so far in our walk with God. A slavish commitment to rules must, at some point, give way to the greater virtues of grace and love. 

The Galatian churches wanted a religion they could see and hold in their hands. But Paul would have none of it; he was dogged about the devotion to a life of grace. Since Christ has set us free, we are truly and really free. So now, we are to embrace the freedom and never go back to being slaves to the law again – which is closely akin to relapsing into spiritual immaturity. 

We (hopefully) expect a kid to be a kid. When the kid grows up and is an adult with adult responsibilities, we expect him to speak and act like an adult, not a kid.

What’s more, we ought also to expect the adults in the room to treat one another like adults. Layering a bunch of rules and regulations on grown-up people is nothing more than handling them like they’re kids. It’s a nonsensical approach to dealing with each other.

Embrace your freedom

Freedom means that we have no obstacles in expressing grace, love, and hope to others. We are free to bask in the forgiveness we possess in Christ. 

If our Christianity is reduced to a point system or following a list of juvenile rules, then we have missed what the law was all about in the first place. The law is meant to lead us to Christ, and it must, at some point, give way to the larger law of love.

The law has its place. Yet, if we are perpetual slaves to it and never outgrow it’s intended purpose for us, then we need to move onto maturity and embrace the freedom we have in Christ. 

To live in freedom doesn’t mean we can simply do whatever we want, as if there’s no consequences to our words and actions. It’s not “anything goes.” Rather, Christian freedom is a life attuned to the Spirit; an awareness of living for Jesus through the fruit of the Spirit. It doesn’t break laws; it fulfills them. 

All Christians must grow up and become spiritual adults. That means leaving childish ways of the law behind and embracing the freedom of the Spirit. 

So, where are you in your Christian life? Are you a slave to Law or a free person to Love?

Covenant Promises (2 Samuel 7:1-17)

Jerusalem. Photo by Anton Petrus

After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation. (New International Version)

What is a covenant?

A covenant is simply a contract or agreement between two or more parties. The Bible is a covenant document. The Old and New Testaments are really Old and New Covenants. The word “testament” is Latin for “covenant.” When God makes a covenant with people, it means they receive divine promises of what God will do; and, in response, the people have moral expectations or ethical responsibilities to follow. 

The ancient world operated on a covenant system. A nation or empire would conquer a city or territory and set up a covenant in which the conqueror promised protection, certain provisions, and left a military presence among them. In response, the conquered people were required to offer their allegiance and some of the goods and services of the land. 

God made a covenant with Abraham and promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. The only stipulation that God gave to Abraham was to leave and begin a new life in the land he would show him. (Genesis 12:1-3)

The Lord continued to work through Abraham’s descendants, the Israelites. They would be a kingdom of priests, testifying to the nations through a lifestyle of having God at the center of all they do. The people were expected to embody the Ten Commandments and be holy, thus reflecting the holiness of God.

The difference between earthly covenants and God’s covenant is that God saturates the divine covenant in love and grace – because the Lord cares about the divine/human relationship.

What do we learn about God through a covenant?

First and foremost: God never forgets nor reneges on divine promises. God was faithful to David by establishing a covenant, yet also spoke to him about his descendants. The Lord promised David a dynasty, a kingdom that would never end, a temple, and a father/son relationship with his progeny. 

Furthermore, God promised that divine love would never be taken away. The Lord shows continuous love to people, even when they go astray. Unlike the nations of the earth, the fickle nature of people, and the inconsistent commitment of others, God is a Being whose very nature is love.

In a world of broken families and severed relationships; of selfishness and trying to impose one’s will on another; of taking advantage of others; and in a world that is messed up and depraved because of sin and unfaithfulness, God stands as the consistent, never-changing Sovereign of Love who graciously blesses people. 

What sort of covenant is this?

Short answer: a covenant of grace. It’s demonstrated in how the tables are turned on David with grace. David intended on doing something for God. But the Lord completely turned it around and blessed him abundantly beyond what David could even ask or think. David had it in his heart to build a house for God, but God comes back and says that an enduring house (household and dynasty) will be built for David.

How does this covenant apply to Christians?

All the good and gracious promises given to Abraham, Moses, and David are all fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.  

The New Testament Gospels are steeped in the language and explanation that Jesus is the Son of David, the Promised One, Savior, Lord, Teacher, and Healer. He will save the people from their sins and bring them to a spacious kingdom full of the grace and love. 

Through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ we are brought into union with God and participate fully in all the promises of the New Covenant of love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. All this love is personified in Christ.

Where is the covenant?

The Davidic Covenant is not limited to a specific place or a building. God is present with people wherever they go. 

A common understanding in the ancient world was that there were local gods, not a universal God over all the earth. The Jews were unique in the belief that there is not one square inch of this entire earth where God is not present. The Lord does not need a permanent structure because God is everywhere. 

We, as New Covenant people, are God’s temple. The Lord takes up residence within our lives. We possess covenant loyalty and faithfulness, continually, in the person of the Holy Spirit.

What do we learn about ourselves?

Timing is important. David had a good idea and good motives for wanting to house the Ark of the Covenant in a temple. Yet, God let David know that the timing was off. So, David would need to be patient and let his vision of a temple come to fruition with his son. 

However, that didn’t mean David was idle. By the time he died, his son Solomon had most of the building materials already stockpiled and ready for the temple construction. Waiting does not necessarily mean passivity. 

A vision for life or for ministry rarely is implemented quickly. It needs to grow and mature before it will bear fruit. Two sage questions to ask, therefore, are:

  1. Is the future I am imagining, a future that God desires, or do I have my ladder leaning on the wrong building?
  2. If I am imagining a good and gracious future, is it the right time for it to happen? 

We also learn about ourselves that we must bank on the promises of God – and trust in the person and work of Jesus because all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. In Christ we are taught how to live, and by his wounds we are healed. Jesus is the hope of the world. 

There is grace to be found; forgiveness to be had; and dreams to be realized, if we are attentive to the promises given to us in Holy Scripture. Do not let your sanctified dreams die, because they might not yet have come to full term.

God’s direction for our lives is needed. We have responsibilities as God’s covenant people to be faithful and uphold the ethics of the kingdom, as expressed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)

Perhaps what we learn most about ourselves is to surrender our plans to God. My life is not all about me. Most of the Christian life is about weaning ourselves away from our own thoughts and ingenuity, learning to submit to God’s plans for our lives. We must pray and not make assumptions, because after a night of prayer, the prophet Nathan withdrew his building permit for David.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.

Psalm 127:1, NIV

The Lord is gracious, loving, and loyal to covenant promises. We are to live into what God is building on this earth: an ethical kingdom with people characterized by mercy, purity, and peace-making. 

Soli Deo Gloria.

The Shepherds’ Candle of Joy (Luke 2:8-20)

The Shepherds by Malaysian artist Hanna Varghese (1938-2009)

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (New International Version)

We Are Meant For Joy

The past 10-20 years have seen an explosion of understanding concerning the brain. Even though there is so much we still do not know, what we do know is that our brains cannot survive, let alone thrive, without emotions like joy. The frontal lobe of the brain monitors our emotional state, while the thalamus (the information center that regulates consciousness) helps determine how to express our feelings.

We feel joy in our bodies because of the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Both of these chemicals are associated with happiness (in fact, people with clinical depression often have lower levels of serotonin).

So, simple activities like going for a walk in nature, petting a dog or cat, kissing a loved one, standing and sitting in a worship service, and yes, even forcing yourself to smile, can help those neurotransmitters do their job and raise your mood.

Neurologists and scientists have also discovered that practices of mindfulness, silence, contemplation, and meditation stimulate the brain’s cortex and create a state of happiness, contentment, and joy. And those practices also enable individuals to become more self-aware, more aware of others and what is happening around them, as well as a heightened awareness of unseen realities, like God and angels.

God with Us

The way that God has wired us means that joy does not come from getting all the presents we want for Christmas or having everything go our way. Instead,  joy is the fruit of meaningful movement of the body and relational interactions with God and others. We do not need to look for joy in a store because joy comes being with God, God’s creation, and God’s people.

The good news of a Savior coming to this earth means God is coming to be with us. This is good news of great joy! We are loved because God is good, not because we are good. And because God is good, and we are a mess of humanity, there is joy that the Lord is coming to save us!

Seeing Shepherds by American painter Daniel Bonnell

The Shepherds

The reason Christ’s birth was good news of great joy to the shepherds is that they were shepherds.  Shepherds in the ancient world were generally looked on with contempt. In fact, the ancient Egyptians refused to eat with Jews because they were mostly shepherds (Genesis 46:31-34). 

  • Shepherds spent most of their time living with their sheep outdoors, to protect the flock. 
  • Shepherds were not dressed well, not culturally refined, and smelled like sheep poop. 
  • Shepherds also had the notoriety of being drinkers. Because they slept with the sheep, many shepherds would pass the time and deal with the chilly air by taking a nip of alcohol. We do not really know whether most shepherds were drunkards, or not; but we do know they had a bad reputation.

So, becoming a shepherd was not a profession any young person aspired to. Nobody took out a student loan to major in shepherding at the University of Jerusalem. King David started out as a shepherd. He was the runt in his family and got stuck with the job nobody else wanted. Out of all the persons and people-groups the heavenly angels could have come to announce the birth of Christ, it was shepherds.

Grace

The good news of great joy for all the people is truly a gospel of grace. The announcement to a bunch of stinky shepherds is profoundly significant and cannot be overstated. It is important because grace is being shown to the lowliest of society. A lowly Savior, born to a lowly family, and placed in a lowly feeding trough, came to reach the lowly, common, ordinary person.

To have this kind of attention from the sovereign almighty God is like the owner of a dog coming home at the end of the day. We, as the common, ordinary mutts of society, are beside ourselves with joy, feeling privileged to be in the same room as Jesus.

It is only the lowly and humble in heart who will see God and enjoy the Lord’s presence. That is because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. It is why the angels came to the shepherds and not the religious leaders. It is good news of great joy for all the people. The gospel is not limited to those who are the most educated, the wealthiest, or from the most prominent of families – it is for everyone.

Worry and Anxiety

Yet, many people still live their lives primarily in fear, worry, and anxiety, instead of joy, not getting the message of joy firmly pressed into their minds and hearts. Even though a Savior is born, we still experience the harshness of a world under the dominion of darkness.  We worry about constant disease, financial difficulties, and the daily stresses of life.  We fret about dealing with ornery people, hard circumstances, family members who go astray, and the little plastic things on our shoelaces coming off leaving the shoestrings frayed! 

Sometimes, we strain to see much joy. Jesus is the son of David, born in the town of David – both were anointed as kings but had to go through a lot of hardship before realizing their kingships. We live in the time between the two advents of Christ in which the kingdom is already here but not yet here. It is a time characterized by a weird mix of sinners and saints, despair and joy, adversity, and comfort.

Joy is not found in having every circumstance go our way and having everyone like us all the time. Joy comes from the gospel of grace, from God coming down and being with us.  Being in the presence of the Master makes all the difference. If joy comes from being with God in Christ, then cultivating and practicing the presence of Jesus in our daily lives is important.

Solitude and Silence

Another reason the angels came to the shepherds is that the shepherds were away from the growing crowd that was swelling in Bethlehem due to the Roman census. The shepherds were out in the sticks, by themselves, experiencing a silent night. And so, they were able to hear the message of God when it came.

Noise comes in various forms, both around us and within us. Sometimes we even create noise on the outside so that the noisy racing thoughts on the inside will get drowned. To be quiet is to be able to listen. To listen is to receive another’s voice. And receiving the voice of the angels, their message, and their praise to God, is the pathway to joy and the way out of unhappy inner noise.

Freedom

We need deliverance primarily from ourselves, from our own brokenness, and from unhealthy ways of coping with hard circumstances. There is far too much unhappiness in this world. For example:

  • One in every two-hundred teenage American girls cut themselves on a regular basis.
  • More than half of people in the United States with serious depression do not receive or will not get adequate help. 
  • Anxiety disorders affect nearly sixty million adults in the United States. 

The coming of Jesus into this world makes a difference. Christ’s incarnation means that God has come to meet the deepest needs of our lives. Our deliverance is realized by eagerly anticipating the Lord, spending time with him, and allowing his loving presence and compassionate voice to transform our hearts, changing us from the inside-out. 

Christianity is not a magic happy pill to swallow; it is a relationship with God that is to be cultivated and which grows over time.

Joy is relational. No amount of positive thinking, buying new stuff, or good situations will create it or sustain it. Christianity offers joy in Jesus – not a cheap sentimental happiness of having every prayer answered or each situation go our way – but the settled joy of God with us.

Neither worry nor fret. Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. In the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. 

What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would give him frankincense or gold.

Yet, what can I give him? I can give him my heart.