Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

If you have trouble believing in the virgin birth, then think about the way the first human being was constructed. Out of mud Adam was formed. Then God took Adam’s rib and fashioned another human being, his partner Eve. God uses matter and turns it into living and breathing beings. What a way to create life! His first original creation then must have been matter. God literally created something out of nothing. Matter progressively evolved into the ever-changing universe we see today. Matter never stays the same. Only God does.

The Son of God was born of a woman. He did not need to be created, He was already there. He was the One who previously had created matter, and now He Himself became matter. A precious member of the Trinity materialized in a woman’s womb. That’s why we celebrate Christmas.

God who created matter could have easily materialized out of thin air. In fact, this is what people had expected from the Messiah. The apostle John wrote about a situation in the Jerusalem temple where people were divided over Jesus; and this is what they said [John 7:25-27]:

“At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’”

Nobody was supposed to know where Jesus is from, and yet there He was, born into a carpenter’s family growing up in a despised neighborhood.

Have you ever noticed that God’s way of doing things rarely conforms to our expectations? God chose to collaborate with human beings to send His Son into the world; her name is Mary, and we know that God first sent a messenger, Angel Gabriel, to ask for her permission. When Mary accepted she welcomed the Son of God. So did Joseph, her fiancé, when he married her. Mary and Joseph both adopted Jesus, and the rest is history.

Here is the beauty of God’s plan that came to fruition: Mary and Joseph believed, and so they adopted God’s Son into their family; now we get to be adopted into God’s family when we believe. What a Christmas miracle that is!

“Winter’s grip is upon  the world
Chills go up and down our spines
It seems life has come to a screeching halt
And lifeless nature pines
Despite the cold there’s no need to despair
Hope melts all icicles away
Every winter’s night has a dawn approaching
And soon the Holidays are here!” Songwriters: Bill & Evelyn Snyder

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

During Prophet Isaiah’s lifetime the home country of the Jews was split into the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. The division happened right after King Solomon’s death. Ever since, the two kingdoms had been at odds. One day Pekah, the King of Israel, made an alliance with the Syrian king to overturn the kingdom of Judah. And so Ahaz, the king of Judah, found himself in a pickle. From a military standpoint he was clearly outmatched; naturally he began to worry about the impending war. In this situation God spoke words of encouragement to King Ahaz and the people of Judah saying that the planned invasion of Israel and Syria would not take place. And in order to confirm the prophecy, God asked King Ahaz to request a sign from Him. For reasons unknown to us, King Ahaz refused to comply. His official statement [Isaiah 7:12]:

“But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’” And here is Prophet Isaiah’s response to King Ahaz’s reaction [Isaiah 7:13-14a]:

“Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:’” Apparently, the Lord insisted on choosing a sign, since this was not just about King Ahaz and the nation of Juda but concerned all of mankind; and the sign God chose is unusual to say the least [Isaiah 7:14]:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Virgins don’t get pregnant, so this is obviously a supernatural phenomenon. Also, the name of the virgin’s son: “I Am with you” remarkably contains God’s name “I Am”. What would you think God is suggesting with this kind of name choice other than bestowing His family name to the baby, thus implying that a pregnant virgin will give birth to the Son of God.

700 years later Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the Virgin Mary gave birth to a baby boy. Miracles such as stopping the Sun in its tracks or parting the Red Sea show God’s unlimited power. As a vulnerable baby He stripped Himself from such power. Born into Mary and Joseph’s family, the Lord demonstrates that He wants to be near us, so near that He becomes a close relative. This very special relative of ours has a name: “The One who saves”, aka Jesus.

“I know my Redeemer lives and He will stand upon the earth at last” Job 19:25

Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”

On a set day, in the presence of Moses and the people of Israel, God came down with fire and thunder on Mount Horeb. It was the day when He delivered the Ten Commandments. However the people were too scared to pay any attention. When they saw the spectacle on Mount Horeb they trembled with fear and asked Moses to go up the mountain and speak to the Lord on their behalf.

The Lord’s response to the people’s fearful reaction was later recorded. Moses wrote [Deuteronomy 18:17-18]:

“The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.’” 

About 1443 years later, Jesus was born. He grew up to become a mighty man of God who quickly grew a following. When Jesus called Philip to follow Him, Philip went to break the news to his friend Nathanael [John 1:45-46]:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Nathanael’s response is classic. Certainly, a carpenter’s son from a humble town is not the kind of Messiah people have expected. – A catch 22, isn’t it? People are either too overwhelmed or too underwhelmed to listen to what God has to say.

Meanwhile, centuries have come and gone; and people still discuss the phenomenon of Jesus of Nazareth. How do we know that He is the Son of God? I believe that this is something we will have to find out for ourselves. Naturally, there are many different voices out there competing for our attention. However, one distinctive voice stands out and brings peace and clarity. It is the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.

Our part is to step back, take our time, focus and listen, and the Spirit of God will speak to our hearts. This is why Jesus says [Matthew 7:7]: 

“Seek and you will find.”

When we seek the Lord we will find Him. Jesus is ready to meet us at any place, at any time – He was born ready.

“Now, I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange
Way to save the world” 
Songwriters: David Allen Clark / Donald A. Koch / Mark R. Harris

John 15:5,8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

When God created us He danced over us and blessed us. More than being the Creator of the universe, God is the Father of creation; otherwise He would just be a production machine, dropping off His creation without further involvement – but nothing could be further from the truth. God is no heartless genius; He loves His creation and thankfully, this is His most defining feature. He has a beautiful heart and mind; and we miss out on His tender fatherhood if we fail to recognize that. Jesus calls Him “Abba”, which means “Dad” and the Father and His Son trust each other completely.

On account of trust our cat taught me a lesson this morning. He jumped on my desk to be petted – expecting me to drop everything else I was doing. He purred with his belly up, exposing his most vulnerable parts. Our cat knows I would never do him any harm, and He is right of course. I love him very much.

Jesus loves the Father as much as the Father loves Him; and the Lord invites us to be a part of this close-knit relationship. Our connection with Him produces a crop of fruit. Jesus says that we can recognize a tree by its crop. We can have good nourishing fruit or we can produce sour grapes that give us a stomach ache. Our good fruit hinges on knowing the Lord. – On this note, I know a dirty little secret: the underlying reason for most fruitless efforts is doing things on our own; but when we stay with the Lord our good fruit reflects back on Him and gives Him glory.

We are called to know God intimately; and Jesus uses a grapevine to illustrate this kind of closeness: Some types of climbing vines have small disk-like adhesive tips that can attach to any type of surface; spiritually, we can be attached to the Lord anywhere, anytime. With this imagery in mind, can we appreciate how close God is to us? He is a very good Father and His children are His pride and joy. Reaching out and taking His hand makes the best version of ourselves and brings healing to the world.

“Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee” – Songwriters: Gene Mac Lellan

John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Despite all our discoveries and advancements, human nature has not changed very much; still today, truth can walk right in front of us while going completely unnoticed.

Jesus had a heart-to-heart talk with His disciples on the evening before His death. He talked about the future and encouraged them to stay on course. He also gave them a little sneak peek of heaven. Heaven is a real place, and there is an unmistakable path that leads there. The Lord told His disciples that He was confident they knew the way – but they were not so sure about that. Here is a snippet of their conversation [John 14:4-5]:

[Jesus said] “And you know where I am going and how to get there.”

 “No, we don’t,” Thomas said. “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”* [*The Living Bible]

This is when Jesus utters His famous statement, which precisely answers their question [John 14:6]:

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”

God is mysterious. The key to unveiling the mystery is recognizing who Jesus is. Believing in Jesus is like marrying into God’s family. Through Him we cry “Abba” – “Daddy”. Growing close to the Almighty and calling Him “Daddy” was unheard of prior to the birth of Jesus.

By getting acquainted with the Lord we study the road-map to heaven. His way of life is basically love in action – no broken life goes unnoticed.  Jesus loves indiscriminately, with total abandon and absolutely no strings attached. Following Him we live in His kingdom already – and we know our way home.

“Yeshua, Light of the World, whoever follows You will not walk in the dark but will have the Light of Life” Songwriters: Basically Two, Bill & Evelyn Snyder

John 11:25: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Not everybody is on board with the afterlife – assuming that once our bodies are dead, we are completely gone. However, a person is more than just a physical phenomenon.

If you are skeptical of the claim that there is an “eternal human soul”, then the terminology “spiritually dead” will probably make even less sense. Maybe it’s helpful to think of a spiritually dead person as a human being without a conscience. We all are born with one. If we succeed in overriding this God-given inner compass we’ll end up spiritually dead. Despite our physical heart still beating, we have no heart.

In matters of the heart, the Christmas story “How the Grinch stole Christmas” comes to mind. The author Dr. Seuss wrote about his main character, the Grinch:

“The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”* [*Source:; web link: ]

A heart two sizes too small is no good. Our hearts need to be infused with love – and not just around the Christmas season. Without roots, a plant withers and dies; heartless, a human being turns into a walking dead, metaphorically speaking. We need God to come alive. He called us into being, that’s why we need to return to Him to be complete.

The Lord’s resurrection is an amazing milestone in the history of mankind. When Jesus was resurrected His body and soul were reunited and He was restored to heaven; the same will happen to us when we believe in Him.

John 10:14-15: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

When people speak about themselves they usually do so to hijack some attention. I see it all the time – in conversations people get frustrated with short attention spans and so they brag a little and appear flashier than they really are. Not so the Messiah. When He talks about Himself He simply states the truth. To make His statements understandable He cloaks His self-portrayals in imagery. “I am the gate” is one; “I am the good shepherd” is another one.

On that note – I find it interesting that Jesus refers to Himself as a shepherd, not a sheepherder.  There is a significant difference between the two:  Sheep herders drive their herds much like cowboys drive their cattle by pushing them from behind, while shepherds guide their flocks by leading them from the front. Also flocks differ from herds. While herding associates with feeding and running together, a flock is meant to congregate in places or alternatively head towards a location. To put it bluntly: Jesus is no cowboy and God’s children are not mindless sheep driven by one. 

In Psalm 23 we put ourselves in sheep’s shoes (that is to say if sheep wore shoes) because King David wrote the lyrics of Psalm 23 entirely from a sheep’s perspective. [Psalm 23:1-4]:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23 could not showcase the relationship between sheep and shepherd more beautifully. I believe this is what Jesus is referring to when He says about His sheep. [John 10:14-15]:

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Our relationship with the Lord is designed to grow past mere acquaintance. We are invited to know Him intimately – just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father – a level of intimacy that is special indeed.

John 10:7, 9-10: “Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”

A fence-less society is God’s dream for us, and this is definitely not a pipe dream. We will live to see a society built solely on love and mutual respect; a world where even animals will stop killing each other; a world void of crime and abuse; a world where we can devote our energies to build, create, invent, explore, interact, and inspire. – Welcome to God’s kingdom!

God has paved a way to fulfill His dream by sending us the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the door opener to God’s peace on earth.

Whether we like it or not, we have an enemy to our soul. This enemy has many names and may look like the nightmare figure of a fairy tale, but his hate for us is very real. Satan has affected all of us one way or another. Despite his vicious activities though, he will not bring us down if we trust in the Lord.

As part of His salvation plan, God chose to become powerless and relinquish Himself. This goes against everything we believe. We believe in warfare and conquering by force. How in the world could God save us by letting go of His power and submitting to human limitations? As puzzling as it may be, God’s method of salvation is clearly not ours to choose.

The devil mistakenly believed that by having Jesus killed on the cross he would emerge as the winner. Ironically, Jesus won the war by letting Himself get killed. Jesus upholds the principle of peace to His dying breath.

Like yeast permeates the dough, that’s how God’s kingdom permeates the earth. In a world full of fences and ongoing violence we are offered a different way of thinking and a new code to live by. Following Jesus we become the light of the world, the salt of the earth and are blessed beyond compare. However, among all the gifts that Jesus has given – friendship with God is His greatest gift of all.

Christmas is upon us
It is Christmas time
And a longing for peace
Lives inside of men
In a broken world
In any nation at any time

Throughout time people pray
Crying out to the Most High
Our Heavenly Father
With great compassion
Gave His Son to us
On Christmas morn

John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

For two decades Bill and I have lived in Arizona, and we have fallen in love with the local desert. Nature trails around here are usually very uneven. Hikers keep their eyes glued to the ground to avoid tripping and falling. We have both done our fair share of hiking; I particularly like the early morning hikes.

In Arizona it gets light outside long before the Sun actually shows up on the horizon. The early light paints the awakening desert in pastel colors. Hiking before the Sun is up is magical, but can be a bit hazardous. On one occasion I forgot to bring my flashlight, BIG mistake! As a result, I stumbled more than I walked. Thankfully, the Sun rose in time before I got seriously hurt. Wilderness walks are unforgiving if we are not properly equipped.

We don’t need to be hikers to be able to relate to the wilderness experience. Life can resemble a wilderness walk, metaphorically speaking. Randy Newman’s song “It’s a jungle out there!” is a humorous way of putting it. God helps us through that jungle. The Light of the World has a way of seeing us through confusing times.

During the Christmas season it’s a custom in North America to decorate our homes, yards and streets with a myriad of Christmas lights; I believe this is one way of depicting Jesus bringing God’s Light into the world.

Jesus will change our fears and tears into hope and radiant joy, much like the sun shining through the drizzling rain will create a beautiful rainbow. The Lord dips our life in color. Walking with Him, we have the Light that leads to life.

John 6:35: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

Our soul, similar to our physical body, is in need of healing after a traumatic event. Our Western culture has a tendency to overlook such things – probably because souls do not show up with physical evidence.

Imagine we could see each other’s soul-bodies and recognize how malnourished or wounded some of us are. The Lord certainly can. Connected with God, His children will become sensitized to the demands and longings of their soul.

There are countless references to the complex human soul in the Bible; one of the most prominent is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul [Deuteronomy 6:5]. In the book of Psalms our soul is encouraged to cry out to the Lord, to praise the Lord, to sing to the Lord. As the body gets hungry, so does the soul. The body craves physical food while the soul craves spiritual food; God has plenty of spiritual food for the longing soul. In Peter’s first letter we read [1 Peter 2:2]:

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

It is the Lord’s kindness the soul is after. No amount of fame or fortune can satisfy the extravagant cravings of the soul, not even the love we experience from other people. That is why Jesus says [Matthew 4:4]:

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread”, we request the physical and the spiritual bread, since we are in dire need of both. It is wise to pay attention to the urges of our soul and pursue God’s wonderful Bread of Life.