For God So Loved the World
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The Word Became Flesh
John 1:1 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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own peopledid not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, the has made him known.
John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
In the familiar story detailed in Daniel 3, something jumped out to me that I never focused on before: the emphasis, as noted through repetition, on man's efforts in creating idols. You've probably heard of Nebuchadnezzar's 90' tall golden statue and how Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego) refused to bow down to it, resulting in their being thrown into the fiery furnace.
SPOILER ALERT: God rescues them from the furnace without even a hint of smoke on them.
Usually the focus of the story is on that aspect, and rightly so. It's an amazing event with, most likely, the preincarnate Christ setting these young men free and establishing the Lord's sovereignty over creation. But as I studied the passage recently, I couldn't help but notice the amount of times that the phrase "the king had set up" (or something very similar) was used in describing the 90' statue of gold. (It's at least 10 times in the first 15 verses.)
Nebuchadnezzar's power and arrogance convinced him that he was invincible. His efforts had accomplished all that a man could accomplish, so to receive worship unto himself, he created a huge golden idol. He made it and set it up and then told everyone to come worship it. It reminds me a little of this:
The text of Daniel 3 clearly shows us that Nebuchadnezzar's idol originated from himself and that his narcissism rejected any idea that there could be anyone greater. That's why he asks the Israelite young men, "what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" He didn't believe there was one. He had made an idol, he had caused everyone else to worship it, he fired up the furnace and he was the only one who had the authority (or so he thought) to kill these dissenters or spare them.
This is what our idolatry does in our own lives. When we set up for ourselves, as Nebuchadnezzar did, the idols that make us feel comfortable or pleased, we begin to think we're the ones in control. After all, we set it up!
If you're looking for a way to identify idols in your heart that you may not realize you've set up, consider your reaction to losing things you hold dear. Often, when we're reminded that we're not in control or don't have final say, we get upset. The things we REALLY want to control or have final say over usually have become idols in our lives. Even in the context of the Christian life, it's easy to set things up for ourselves in a way we like. Then we continue down the path we've designed while attributing our walk to obedience to Christ, hoping that He won't actually call us to veer from what we've set up.
Let us turn our hearts to the one who set it ALL up!
Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD:
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
There is none like you, O LORD;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.
They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
(Jeremiah 10:1-10 ESV)