Friday, December 5, 2008

"joyful all ye nations rise . . ."

"simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
'sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the gentiles,
and the glory of your people israel.'" (luke 2.28-32 tniv)

i hated junior high. i really hated junior high. in elementary school, i had plenty of friends. i was closer to some neighborhood girls than others but i don't remember feeling particularly lonely or anything. suddenly, in junior high my friends got weird and made it plain that i no longer fit in with them. i remember feeling lost; who would be friends with me? what had happened that suddenly i didn't fit in anywhere?

high school was better. i finally found a group of friends who were similar to me. it felt great to fit in and feel a part of something. on a much larger scale, that is what happened for the "nations" when Jesus was born. in the old testament, God focuses his attention on a relatively small group of people. they are his chosen people, his treasured possession. they were supposed to use their chosen status to be a light and witness to other nations but you don't have to read far into the old testament to learn that they failed pretty miserably in that area.

with Jesus' arrival, suddenly the door was opened for the nations to come to God. jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female: all now have access to God through Christ.

God's people israel finally fulfill God's plan for them to be a light to the nations in the person of Jesus Christ. any person from any nation is welcome to God's table because of the work that Christ accomplished in his life and death. i would say that is something worth getting up on our feet to sing about!

"burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed jerusalem.

the LORD will lay bare his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God."
(isaiah 52.9-10 tniv)

"great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
for you alone are holy.
all nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
(rev 15.3-4 tniv)

for the kids: talk to your children about a time when they may have felt left out, whether from a game or a party or just a conversation. let them describe how that experience made them feel. talk to them about the significance of being included and explain that when Jesus was born it meant that we could all be included in the celebration. for a project, if you have a nativity scene, let them make a figure that represents themselves (out of a wooden peg or just cut out of paper with some kind of stand). let your child place his or her figure in the stable, a welcome part of the birth of Christ. if you want to make an ornament, you could cut out different colored hand prints and glue them together in a circle to represent the joining together of the nations in worship of God.

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