December 9, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Luke 2)

Submitted by Jenny C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth.

Caesar: powerful, authoritative, influential, untouchable, commanding, removed from and higher than the rest of society, a person of means, respected and feared, others are subject to him, unapproachable, insulated from the rest of the world, esteemed, well-known

Jesus: gentle, mild, humble, lowly beginnings, poor, a commoner, came near to people, powerless, weak, frail, subject to the whim of others, vulnerable, accessible to even the lowest in society (shepherds, children), unassuming, limited, unknown

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

–        The heart of God and the need of man
–        Love
–        Power
–        Weakness

In the message of Christmas, the heart of God is revealed because God sends Jesus as that tiny baby, so frail and unprotected, into the world. God has seen man’s condition, his helplessness against the centuries of enslavement to sin and death, his need for a Savior. And God’s response is to descend, to give us His own Son, stripped of his heavenly glory and limited to the vulnerable body of an infant, so that we would know that for “sinners here, the silent Word is pleading.” In Jesus, we know God’s heart is one of compassion and grace for sinful man, that He would not leave us alone to perish, separated eternally from Him because of our sins, but to provide a way back to Him through His son.

In Christmas, God shows us what the nature of love is – the limiting of self, descending, lowering of oneself, and veiling one’s power in order to draw near. In Christ’s birth, we see God forgoing His divine attributes – His omniscience, His omnipotence, the heavenly peace and perfection that He dwelled in – and coming into a world as an unknown baby born to a peasant couple in less than ideal circumstances, in a coarse manger in a stable, so that He could be with us. This is love – to limit and veil oneself, to make oneself vulnerable for the sake of other people’s needs, to surrender personal comforts and any sense of entitlement so that others can find their way back to God.

Christ’s birth shows us that the nature of true power is not used for personal gain, not used to protect and preserve oneself, and not to shield oneself from the rest of the world.  The world’s definition of power would be Caesar, who is respected, feared and esteemed, insulated from the harms and dangers of the world. Yet Caesar, as a powerful human ruler, is able to command whole villages of people to uproot themselves to register for census yet he does not have the power to save people from their sins. Here we see Jesus, who is the Almighty King, who sat enthroned in Heaven from the creation of the world, descending and letting go of the divinity that is rightfully his, and entrusting himself fully to God the Father. True power is not attached to riches, fame, or status.  It is not found in the palaces of dictators and presidential suites of earthly rulers, but it comes from God, who is selfless.  True power came veiled in the form of a crying baby laying his head to rest in a crude manger.

In Christ, God demonstrates that something we consider weak can be used as part of His redemption plan for all humanity. A small baby, born to parents of no means and no influence, whose first dwelling in the world is a stable with animals, would seem inconsequential to others, easily overlooked by the rest of the world. He is vulnerable to disease, to hunger, to poverty, to thirst, to pain, to sadness, to disappointment, to injustice, to mistreatment and to misunderstanding. Yet through this frail baby, God sets into motion His master plan to save men from their sins. God is not limited by what we think is weak, but is able to work through weakness to reveal His power, wisdom and sovereignty – for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (cf. 1 Cor. 1:25).

Please write a prayer personally rejecting the way of power and aspiring to man-made security, and embracing weakness in order to love as God would.

Dear Lord, in the baby Jesus, I see You limiting yourself, veiling Your divine power and rights in order to come to us in love and compassion. You did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made yourself nothing, taking the form of a man, in order to save us from our sins. Lord, I want to follow in Your steps to forsake status and to be known, to let go of shielding myself from the pains of the world. I confess that my tendency is to want to protect myself, to raise myself up, to be strong and competent, like Caesar in his palace far removed from the rest of humanity. Yet just as You made yourself weak and vulnerable, as that tiny baby in the manger, I pray committing to relinquishing my hold on my sense of entitlement that my life be comfortable, be easy. I pray that I would be able to honor the divine self-limitation that You willingly went through in order to rescue me from my sins. I commit to opening myself up to that life of suffering in order that other people may be reconciled to God and to know Your love. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.


Submitted by Joel L. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth.

Caesar in his fortified palace was comfortable and powerful. He had wealth and the power of the Roman empire at his disposal, and with all the control and influence he possessed, he chose to take a census to know the might of the empire that was under his command and further fill his heart with pride. Because of his fortified palace and the authority he had, there was no one among the people who could approach him about this census and the burden it placed on everyone part of the Roman empire. Selfish motives were behind Caesar’s census and his distance from the people lacked any kind of connection he could have had with them.

Looking at Jesus’ birth, he left the heavens to dwell with his creation. He exposed himself by taking on the vulnerability and dependency of a child. His life was fragile and yet it was unguarded; those who were near could approach him without fear and trembling. Strangers from a distant land like the Magi could come and see him without fear. Jesus at his birth did not seek to be approved by the splendor of his surroundings, but in his love, he came to descend and be among the poor and be placed in a feeding trough at his birth unlike Caesar who slept on a comfortable bed.

Words that I can associate with Caesar are proud, distant, burdensome, selfish, wealthy, unapproachable, and comfortable. Words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth are: vulnerable, open, fragile, approachable, dependent, poor, weak, and loving.

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

– The heart of God and the need of man

The heart of God is filled with His love for people, and this love wants to meet the greatest need of man, and it was love that drove him to send His precious Son, Jesus, into the world. Man was in need of saving, but man was also in need of knowing the love of God and what a relationship with God meant. God wanted to show humanity his heart by descending to identify with even the poorest and most vulnerable.

– Love

Descending is the nature of love, and this is what Jesus did by stepping down from his throne and choosing to take on flesh and entering into the world he created in the form of a baby. Love is also vulnerable and what a wonder that Jesus entrusted himself to take on flesh and be devoid of power and strength and be completely be at the mercy of the people he was trying to save under the protection of the Father.

– Power

Caesar was thinking about the power he was exercising for himself, but he was oblivious that he was carrying out the will of the Heavenly Father and solidifying concretely the sovereignty of God by fulfilling what was spoken hundreds of years prior. Christmas shows us that power doesn’t come from the strength of our armies or the influence we can have on the weak, but power comes from God and what He determines to take place. The power we think we have is not true to reality, but God’s will being done through people and events is the ultimate reality.

– Weakness

The Christmas message gives us assurance that weakness in the eyes of the world may not be weakness from God’s perspective. The world sees weakness in the form of lacking resources to provide security, strength, provisions, and power. Weakness is like the vulnerability and dependency of a baby. From God’s perspective, weakness is where humanity can realize that God is in full control of what’s actually happening, and where God is present and actively working, there is really no weakness. God’s glory and power is made known through the weakness of humanity.

Please write a prayer personally rejecting the way of power and aspiring to man-made security, and embracing weakness in order to love as God would.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for showing me that power is not about the strength that I possess, the influence I have over people, or the security that comes from man-made efforts that the world tries to convince me of. I pray for strength to persevere against wanting power for myself and to embrace weakness so that I may grow in my capacity to love and recognize with greater clarity how I have been loved by you and the people you have brought into my life. Help me to not fear when I am led into circumstances or situations where I am weak but find strength in the fact that your will is being done and this is an opportunity for you to receive glory through my life as I obey and serve with love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Submitted by Brian W. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

As you review the hymns from this week, reflect once again on the contrast between Caesar in his fortified palace, and Jesus laid in a manger.  List out some words you can associate with Caesar (and similar figures today), and all the words that capture Jesus as shown by his birth. 

Though Caesar probably was not the most well-liked person of that age, he epitomizes what everyone would agree as someone with great power – who in a single decree could stir up the lives of thousands of people from those of nobility down the lowly of peasants.  The things that people nowadays attribute to greatness the ability to force and move people like the Steve Jobs and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the age – people who have changed drastically even our apparent “needs” as people flood to buy their company’s product and software, the Caesars of this age that exert influence and the legacy that these people aspire to imitate and become.

He represented the kind of luxury and comfort that comes with the kind of wealth and privilege that he was probably born into and the kind of life that most people would want to live.  Even if not at that level, the appeal of being comfortable, thinking that the world’s worries can’t touch you: that outside the walls there could be poverty, pain, difficulties, that you are protected, that you have control has it’s appeal – and for a long time, this worldview carried a strong notion in my life, and was the path I was happy to head toward.

However Jesus’ life was quite the opposite, here was someone who was born into anything anyone would’ve wanted to be born into.  Povertythe world wouldn’t even ask what child is this, because to the world a peasant couple, who couldn’t even get a room like Joseph and Mary would be the last on their mind, and after all they were disregarded that not one person would let them in.  Jesus was born into filth and disease, lying in a manager having not even a crib, no midwives, no bed, not even adequate shelter.  He was born into scandal given the nature of Mary and Joseph’s betrothal.  And there was nothing about the Christmas story that was to be desired. (undesired).  Quite simply Jesus epitomized the opposite of what Cesar represented; He began humbly.

Although my life very well could have ended up as some derivation of Caesar: success to a degree, comfort of home, and possibly a “cozy family.”  I’m glad that it didn’t, and I’m glad that I was not satisfied with the picture of life that I painted for myself.  Because with all the works of human achievement; all that happiness would’ve been an illusion and what Jesus did was address that reality even in His humble beginnings.  Within those walls I would have built inside would still be the same broken person, anxiously trying to control his surrounding with whatever money and fractured relationships.  In those hollow walls I would have been a person unknown, only known by my limited achievements.  Caesar built an empire but his influence was only temporary on this earth and only finds itself in the pages of history.  And of course my life wouldn’t even have reached as close to those heights, but I would’ve experience the same kind of emptiness and the anxieties of trying to control everything avoid the problems of the world despite the fact that all those problems would have been originated from my own selfishness, ego, and sinfulness.

Jesus however began at the very bottom, fully realizing the plight of man–-born into humble beginnings and if anyone could relate it would be Him.  And think about His life-–it has had more impact on the rest of the world than any other person who ever lived.  Millions of people still follow Him today.  Who was He?  A carpenter, itinerate preacher, with no formalized education, but the things He spoke about eerily addressed people’s need, need for being known, even though we rather hide in darkness, need for being loved, though we would rather build up walls and protect ourselves.

What is the nature of the following realities according to the message of Christmas?

–        The heart of God and the need of man
–        Love
–        Power
–        Weakness

The message of Christmas shows us that what man needs is not another achievement, another title, another person to know his name, but rather to be known.  And that is what God did.  God’s heart has always and will always ache for man.   With all our efforts to try to build up things for ourselves – and for me it would’ve been a lucrative career, a comfortable family without a care for others in this world – these things don’t address the source of all that pain.  Sin would still destroy these empires I build up for myself – as that career would’ve become all consuming and empty, that family would become dysfunctional after factoring in my selfishness, pride, and ego.  Jesus enters into the world not as a great warrior, but as a humble child to experience all the poverty with everything working against Him from the government, to the elements itself, to even the petty and selfish nature of man not being able to find a place to stay.  This is God’s heart, and this is God’s love – to descend like a mother bending her knee to relate to her child.  Likewise God descended the greatest distance to be with us and to show us that He is not cold and distant, but rather he is love – lying in a filthy manger.

Christmas reverses everything we know about power and weakness, from the character like Caesar and Herod who had all the power in the world could not anticipate the affects of a simple peasant boy would have on the rest of history.  It’s a reminder that behind power is still human, it is still people who can try with all their power to control their situation, try to steer their lives – and I know what that feels like, having experience time and time again, disappointments, discouragements, hurts and things people have done in the past that in the end no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control the outcome of most things in my life.  As I let go of more and more certainties in my life, I am learning to be weak, meaning not jumping on necessarily every opportunity to further myself and making myself more available, I not only find myself at a place where I can be in a better place to love other, but I also find myself in a place where I can relate with less pretense by lowering my guard, being more open and in the end to being known by more people.  In the way God descended as a babe, He revealed that this is the way that I ought to live as love requires the limiting of oneself.  If I build my life around my accomplishments and my family, who could touch my life and whose life could I relate to?  And in the end it is only embracing this life Jesus lived that I could even possibly begin to have any sort of impact with the people around me.

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