O Little Town of Bethlehem (a Christmas meditation)

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

The song O Little Town of Bethlehem speaks to the great thing that came out of seeming insignificance. This is the very thing that happened with the birth of Jesus. When God sent his Son into the world to be our Savior-King, he chose insignificance.

Yes, for Jesus to be a descendant of David, he had to be born to one of David’s relatives. We get this in both his birth mother, Mary (the genealogy in Luke), and through his adoptive father, Joseph (the genealogy in Matthew). But, to be a descendant of David didn’t guarantee prosperity or notoriety. Mary was a young virgin, likely from a poor family. Joseph was a common tradesman, probably young in his craft and not well off.

When a census was declared, the couple, with Mary nine-months pregnant, headed back to their ancestral city. Bethlehem had the notoriety of being the town of King David’s birth, but not much else.

The census flooded the small town with travelers. Joseph and Mary were too late to find a room at the local inn, and didn’t seem to know anyone in town to stay with. So, they ended up with cattle where God the Son was born into the world. If not for a chorus of angels sent to display God’s glory to a group of shepherds, the birth would have largely gone unnoticed.

Everything seemed so insignificant. Yet through this, God fulfilled a promise given by the prophet Micah centuries before: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).

God has a way of working through what the world deems as insignificant. Jesus was called the carpenter’s son. The twelve, most were poorly educated fishermen. David was a shepherd boy, the youngest of his warrior brothers. Yet in the small things, God did great things.

So, Christmas reminds us that smallness and insignificance is no hindrance to the work of God. As Paul reminded the church at Corinth:

For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth…. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:26, 28-29)

So, let’s not boast in our strength, wisdom, and might this Christmas season. Instead, let us celebrate the God who does great and mighty things through what seems insignificant.

This post first appeared on fbcadrian.com. Tweet Mike @mbergman_1980.

That all the Lord’s people were prophets (a meditation on the work of the Holy Spirit)

 

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” ~ Numbers 11:29 (NLT)

In Numbers 11 we find a scene where the Exodus people were complaining, some wanted to return to Egypt, and Moses felt overwhelmed as the leader. In the midst of everything else, Moses cried out to God for help, saying, “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me” (11:14). In response God told Moses to gather seventy of Israel’s elders on whom he will put a portion of his Spirit which had been resting upon Moses.

On the day the elders gathered, the Spirit came upon them and the men began to prophesy. But two, for whatever reason, did not gather with the rest; still, the Spirit came upon them and they prophesied as well. A young man ran to tell Moses what was happening and Joshua, Moses’ assistant, encouraged Moses to stop them. That is when Moses replied with what is quoted above: “I wish all of God’s people would be prophets with his Spirit upon them.”

HolySpiritPerhaps for Moses it was a moment of exasperation where he spoke better than he knew (that would certainly fit the context); or perhaps God had given him insight into the far future. Either way, what Moses longed for, Joel prophesied would occur, and Peter preached its fulfillment:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. ~ Joel 2:28 (ESV) and Acts 2

Moses longed for the day that the Holy Spirit would rest upon all of God’s people. For nearly two thousand years, this has been the case. Every follower of Jesus has received the Holy Spirit within them as a gift from God, indeed as God in us.

The Spirit’s work in the believer’s life is vast: giving new life, assuring us we are God’s children, leading us to grow in truth and love, shaping our character, empowering us as witnesses of Christ, and gifting us to serve others. And that’s really just scratching the surface.

For the rest of this thought it is the last item in that list that I wish to focus on. The Bible’s most thorough treatment on spiritual gifts or gifts from the Spirit is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14; though Romans 12, 1 Peter 4, and Ephesians 4 also speak to the subject. Each list is slightly different with well over twenty unique gifts listed, yet not thoroughly described.

Likely this means a few things: (1) the lists are representative and not complete; (2) the Spirit gifts different churches in different ways to serve in their context and culture; and (3) the act itself of serving others is more important than figuring out exactly which gifts or gift you have.

In the spring of 2003, when I took my last college spring break trip with my Baptist Student Union, one of the speakers during our retreat said, “Sometimes I feel like I have all the spiritual gifts, sometimes I feel like I don’t have any.” It’s a shared feeling.

Sometimes we can waste too much time trying to figure out our gifts via inventories and books that we miss out on serving. But God’s Spirit within us is a compelling Spirit and sending Spirit. He turns our attention outwards to see others in need and to do what we can to help. He turns our hearts to love more and more.

So to serve in the Spirit, we need to look…

Look inward. What are the passions of your heart? What motivates you? Excites you? Don’t limit yourself only to these things, be willing to try something new, but your passions can be clues to where you should serve. If you’re motivated to feed the hungry, then perhaps that is how the Spirit has gifted you.

Look outward. What needs do you notice? What burdens your heart when you see other people struggling? Maybe it’s human trafficking. Maybe it’s care for children or the elderly. Maybe it’s the nation’s porn addiction. Perhaps what you see is where the Spirit is leading you to serve.

Look around. What other ministries exist to meet the needs you see (if any such ministries exist)? While God has made us unique individuals in the mix of our personalities, gifts, talents, backgrounds, and experiences; he has not called us to serve on our own. Part of being a body is serving together. If a ministry already exists, then instead of staring one perhaps your place is to jump on board and provide them with your gifts and abilities. If one does not, then perhaps there are others around you to labor with you if only you will ask them.

God has given us his Spirit, as Moses desired long ago. So let us walk in the Spirit, and serve in the Spirit to share the burden, meet needs, and show the world Jesus.

This post first appeared at www.fbcadrian.com

Image credit: www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/so-who-holy-spirit-anyway