The Shepherds

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Luke 2:8-12 NKJV

It’s become more widely told today
that these were specific shepherds,
who’d been watching over their flock
in the outlying fields by night.

They’d been trained in the special care
of those lambs that were destined–
to become sacrificial temple lambs,
which were to be kept pure and free from blight.

To a cave that had been kept very clean,
the ewes who were carrying young,
were brought by these guardian shepherds,
as the place for them to give birth.

Once born, the lambs were wrapped immediately
in the protective swaddling cloths.
Jesus, God’s sacrificial Lamb, too, was so wrapped,
illustrating His destiny and signifying His great worth.

“Behold the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist, later, said of Him,
“Who takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus was crucified on a cross, died, and was buried,
but rose up victoriously from the dead.

Son of God and Son of Man…
Jesus, our Messiah, became the fulfillment of God’s redemption plan.
Born to bear the penalty for your sins and mine,
He had become man, to die on the cross in our stead.

P. A. Oltrogge

“(The Lamb Of God) The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”
John 1:29 NKJV

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:3-5 NKJV

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12 KJV

For further details, from Greek New Testament
Christmas videos:
http://www.renner.org

The Innkeeper

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into 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 wife, who was with child.”
Luke 2:1-5 NKJV

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A couple stopped at our Bethlehem inn, having come from quite a distance away. But due to the census, I had no rooms left at all in which any more people could stay.

The husband declared that his wife was ready, at any moment, to give birth. So I thought of the stable to offer them, hoping it might be of, at least, some worth.

There just was something about them, and my wife had sensed it, too. But because of the incoming crowds that day, there was nothing else we could do.

My wife took over some swaddling cloths and things she’d kept for a baby’s birth. She overheard the soon-to-be parents speak of their expected child’s great worth.

Later, in the inn, we thought that we heard the sound of a baby’s cry… That evening, we saw a group of shepherds there, who, for some reason, had stopped by.

We finally got some rest for the night–the inn was full with those who’d traveled far; and I turned and looked out the window, where I saw the most brilliant star….

It’s said you can entertain angels, without being fully aware… So I wondered if Someone greater than angels was connected with that special couple there.

P. A. Oltrogge

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Luke 2:7 NKJV

Photo by Porch of the Lord

…from Christmas on the Porch, the book, available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com

A Heavenly Christmas

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I wonder how Christmas celebrations in heaven today would actually be.

Perhaps there are extraordinary garlands and a most brilliant Christmas tree!

Surely, the angels who lauded Jesus’ birth to shepherds in the field back then

are still singing the beautiful chorus of “Peace on earth, good will to men!”

Those shepherds who first heard the message are now in the presence of the Lord,

along with many faithful Christians who have gone on to their eternal reward.

Mary and Joseph, the chosen couple, would remember the time of Christ’s birth—

what a role they had in providing tender care for the Redeemer of the earth!

Beautiful carols, written over the centuries, must be so gloriously sung,

the saints joining in with grateful praise—people of every nation and tongue!

Love, joy, and peace would surround overwhelmingly in that heavenly place—

Christmas, or any season in heaven, will be the richest experience of God’s grace.

The wise men who traveled from afar, and fell down in worship of the Child,

are there in heaven, for they recognized Him, as the King who’d been born undefiled.

And, oh, The Bright and Morning Star—Jesus Himself, would tower over heaven’s Christmas tree.

He, who was crucified on a “tree” long ago, reigns in victory throughout eternity!

P. A. Oltrogge

Noting these scriptures after, and because of, Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, also known as “the tree”…

“Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.” Acts 13:29

“(The Just Live by Faith) For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13-14

“…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
1 Peter 2:24

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” Revelation 22:16

Scriptures NKJV

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No Greater Star

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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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’” Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV

One of the names of the Lord, Jesus Christ, is The Bright and Morning Star.
Long ago, the wise men followed “His” star when traveling from afar.

It guided them like a compass—perhaps giving light to them on their way.
The Bright and Morning Star, through God’s Spirit, is still guiding men who are wise today.

This Christmas, a distant neighbor’s roof has a large, lighted star for all to view.
Its twinkling in the darkness speaks of God’s love—always there to see us through.

Each night, I look for that star, which reminds of the presence of the Lord—
and that, for those who take Jesus as Savior, peace with God has been fully restored.

P. A. Oltrogge

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:21-23 RSV

“‘I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’ And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
Revelation 22:16-17

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20

Scriptures NKJV

Advent of a Rose

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Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
as men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright,
amid the cold of winter
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah ‘twas foretold it,
this Rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it,
the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to men a Savior
when half spent was the night.

This Flower, whose fragrance tender
with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor
the darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God,
from sin and death He saves us
and lightens every load.

This hymn originally appeared in 1599,
Translated from German by Theodore Baker 1894

“There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.’”
John 8:12

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 2:15

Scriptures NKJV

You may enjoy viewing various informative
Christmas videos at http://www.renner.org

Choosing the Real versus the Artificial

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I remember many chilly Christmases past, as you likely do as well…
going to a local tree lot, to choose the best tree, as far as we could tell.

Some may have been too short, and some may have been too tall;
then, finally, we would discover…the best one for us of them all.

At some point, years ago, it became popular to switch to an artificial pine,
but they never truly could satisfy this old-fashioned heart of mine.

When it comes to choosing the truth about God, there really is only one way.
Jesus—the way, the truth, and the life, who came to us, first, as a baby on the hay.

You can’t make up your own version of God—an artificial “god” won’t do.
For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…this He did for you.

So as you go about enjoying the beautiful trees of the Christmas season,
remember God’s Biblical and satisfying truth—that Jesus IS its reason.

Most trees are topped by an angel or a star, reminding us of Christ’s birth.
Rejoice, for God loves you very much; and Jesus is (the real) Lord of heaven and earth!

P. A. Oltrogge

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.’” John 14:6 KJV

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:19 NLT

…from Christmas on the Porch, the book, available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com

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A Walk through Bethlehem

In the wintry month of December, during the Christmas season each year,
a nearby church creatively causes the town of Bethlehem to appear.

Not as Bethlehem is seen today, but, instead, how it might have been,
with people of different trades at work; and there’s even the sold-out inn.

Watching a person making pottery or someone doing basket weaving,
or kneading dough for some bread makes you feel you are there and not make-believing.

An actual camel with a rider and some shepherds watching over their sheep…
add to the atmosphere of old Bethlehem as the night turns dark and deep.

“Angels” in white, with golden sashes, and “wise men” in rich-looking attire
also walk among the visitors, who can warm up at a carefully-tended fire.

Hot cider or chocolate are provided, and Christmas carolers are heard…
here and there on the “Bethlehem” grounds, reflecting the joy of God’s Word.

The highlight is the blessed manger scene—or the nativity, as it’s called—
featuring Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus, with whom we’re most enthralled.

Little children, as well as adults, walk away with hearts that are fully amazed…at having taken a walk down Bethlehem’s streets—to ponder the Lord’s birth—God, our Father, be praised!

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:13-14

P. A. Oltrogge

“Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (from the message to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-12)

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Poinsettias for the Prince of Peace

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At the Christmas season, with decorations inside and out,
the poinsettias reflect what it’s all about.
Clean as the whiteness of a lamb or a dove–
the purity of ivory petals speaks of the Child sent from above.

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Pink reflects cheer and the joy that was proclaimed
by the angels about the Christ child–Jesus, He’s named.
Crimson red speaks of blood that was shed for mankind
by Jesus Christ upon the cross–our salvation defined.

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The lives of those who receive Him gain a new lease
in finding faith for living through this Prince of Peace.
So, in seeing the poinsettias, rejoice for the reason
that His birth in Bethlehem is what gave us this season.

P. A. Oltrogge

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11 KJV

“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” John 1:12 KJV

“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His Name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

…from Christmas on the Porch, the book, available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com

Son of the Highest, Son of Man

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth have been from of old,
From everlasting.”
Micah 5:2 NLT

From destined Bethlehem Ephrathah, a town that was very small,
would come the One who would be Ruler of Israel and the Lord of all.

The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, a virgin humble and mild,
whom God the Father had chosen to bear the Messiah—Jesus, His Holy Child.

Coming forth from the family of Judah, Jesus’ birth was lauded that night,
by rejoicing angelic voices, as the world’s Savior from sin’s blight.

His goings forth, the prophet Micah said, were actually “from of old–
from everlasting,”
as He preexisted with God the Father, if the truth be told.

After His birth, Mary laid Him down in a manger—a depiction very sweet.
But He was Immanuel, the eternal Mighty God, sent to bring about Satan’s defeat.

P. A. Oltrogge

…this writing inspired by a devotional written by Kenneth E. Hagin,
Founder, Rhema Bible Training College

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Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was troubled, having learned she was with child, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying…

“‘Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:20-23 NKJV

Prior to this, Mary had been visited:

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’

“But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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.’

“Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’
And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’

“Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”

Luke 1:26-38 NKJV

“And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”

Luke 2:7-14 NKJV

“For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

“For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” Matthew 18:11 NKJV

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 NKJV

“The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—“. Acts 10:36 NKJV

Artwork print
Pixabay

Two Significant Births

The Hebrew people had prayed for a deliverer to be their long-promised King.
While living under Roman rule, they looked for the answer that God would bring.

Then it came to pass that two little babies were born in the same time span.
The lives of each one of them would be major in God’s great redemptive plan.

One would be a prophet named John, the baptizer, and was the son of Zacharias, the priest. The other was Jesus, who would be the focus and celebration of God’s greatest Passover Feast.

John’s mother, Elizabeth, had longed for a child and rejoiced at the birth of her son.
And Jesus’ mother, Mary, told the angel who came that God’s will for her should be done.

The angel, Gabriel, had first appeared to Zacharias and told him what to name his son…John, “The Lord is gracious,” a preparer of the way for the Messiah, God’s Anointed One.

When betrothed, Mary’s Joseph had gained assurance from God, by having been visited in a dream too. Mary stayed with her cousin, Elizabeth, for a time before her own baby would become due.

These four parents realized, through faith, the significance of those entrusted to their care. A messenger of God, and Immanuel, “God With Us,” were birthed in answer to prayer.

P. A. Oltrogge

(from Luke 1 and Matthew 1:18-25)

Written of Jesus:

“And the angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father, David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.’ Then said Mary unto the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:30-38 KJV

Written of John:

“And his father, Zacharias, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying… ‘And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’” Luke 1:67 and 76-79 NASB

…from Christmas on the Porch, the book, available at http://www.Amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com

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