Monthly Prayer Focus

December 2017

Hope for the World At Christmas

Written by: Thomas Sledge

Well December is upon us again, and it’s the month we celebrate Christmas.  In this month’s prayer focus, we’ll look at some of the history of the Christmas story. Scripture and history accounts that in the year 587 BC, the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, and left it in ruins carrying its inhabitants off to slavery.  One of those people enslaved was Daniel, a then Jewish youth who would go on to serve King Nebuchadnezzar and his successors [1].  While a slave in Babylon, the Lord spoke revelation to Daniel of the Persians conquering Babylon, Jerusalem being rebuilt, and of a Messiah to come. During his period of enslavement, those that heard preached this messianic message of a Messiah, the same message delivered from our Lord to Daniel, hoped, dreamed, and even prayed that the Lord would raise a leader to defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its’ glory days past. The hope of the world in ancient times past, Jesus remains in this month’s prayer focus, the Hope for the World at Christmas.    

            Now let’s look back at the some of the Christmas story.  As it goes, there was a teenage girl name Mary who lived in Nazareth, the Arab capital and largest city in the Northern District of Israel, who would become engaged to a carpenter; his name was Joseph.  Now in those days, men had to work for years and establish themselves to sufficiently support a wife and family, and often they married much younger women strong enough to bear and raise lots of children.  Hence, Joseph was much older than Mary. It was customary of the man to negotiate with a father the proper price for being granted his daughter’s hand in marriage. Joseph paid the bride’s price to Mary’s father, Mary agreed to marry Joseph, and the two became legally engaged (Matthew 1:29; Luke 1:27).  Well it was about this time that an angel of the Lord, Gabriel, visited with Mary, announcing God had chosen her to give birth to a son, and to name him Jesus. The angel proclaimed that the son, Jesus, would be great, called the Son of the Most-High, given the throne of David, reign over the house of Jacob forever, and that his kingdom would never end.  Now just imagine what must have been going through Mary’s mind!  Mary was not pregnant at the time. She was a virgin, but Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid because the child would be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, and that the holy child would be called the Son of God.  The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, drops what one could call this bombshell of information on Mary, tells her that everything spoken to her was true, and then promptly departs, ending the visit (Luke 1:38).  Put yourself in Mary’s shoes.  One can only imagine the shock and amazement at the news revealed to Mary by the angel.  Mary then tells Joseph all that was revealed to her by the angel, Gabriel. Joseph is troubled by the thought of the appearance of a not yet married girl’s pregnancy out of wedlock.  In those days, this was an offense that could be punishable by death, but an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream with words of comfort to not be afraid (Matthew 1:20); and by then Joseph had fallen for, and deeply loved Mary.

            Or course you know the rest of the story.  The Virgin Mary gave birth to a son and named the holy child Jesus, the one Gabriel proclaimed as the Son of the Most-High, the one who would be given the throne of David, reign over the house of Jacob forever, and be called Son of God.  As Gabriel assured Mary at their visit, Jesus’ birth and life exemplified every word spoken by the angel, Gabriel, to be true.  How amazing!  How miraculous!  Just as the Lord spoke revelation to the enslaved Jewish youth Daniel, and the messianic message of the Messiah to come was hoped, dreamed, and prayed for in ancient times, the promise of a deliverer of a nation remains the Hope for the World at Christmas. The Persians defeated the Babylonians, Jerusalem was rebuilt, and the Messiah has come, and is coming back again.  Now as we celebrate this season of Christmas, the words of the angel still ring true.  We’re thankful that Jesus still frees all from that which enslaves and holds them captive, he still rebuilds shattered lives, and he’s still saves all from sin who confess and called upon his name. Just ask and call on his name; he’ll deliver you today. Yes, how wonderful, how amazing, and miraculous; Jesus, the Hope for the World at Christmas.


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