Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

On a wintry day in Jerusalem, Jesus walked in Solomon’s Colonnade—the long, covered, columned portico on the east side of the Temple—overlooking the Kidron Valley.

Hanukkah—When Jesus Claimed to Be God

(Photo: Solomon’s Colonnade lay along the eastern wall of the Temple. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The conversation Jesus had that day occurred at Hanukkah—a celebration the Jews referred to as “the Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22).

The feast had historical significance, which heightened the passion of those in Jerusalem. They encircled Jesus to ask Him a simple question.

His reply gave them more than they bargained for.

Today, some say Jesus never claimed to be God. But His words during that Hanukkah left little doubt.

3 Wise Men and Age-Appropriate Gifts

Today is my birthday, and I’ll be honest. Growing up, I often heard: “Wayne, this is your birthday-Christmas gift.” I thought, Hey, gee, thanks. December birthdays are tough on kids.

3 Wise Men and Age-Approprite Gifts

(Photo by Photodune)

As a boy, I also felt a little disappointed getting clothes for Christmas (though now I love it). Some people just don’t know how to give age-appropriate gifts to kids.

When we read the Christmas story, it seems the three Wise Men didn’t have much experience shopping for children either.

What to Do When It’s Not Really the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The songs play it. The movies portray it. Even our church services have their part to play. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Yeah, well what if it isn’t? For many people, holidays bring up painful memories.

(Photo by Photodune)

(Photo by Photodune)

Sore spots from childhood or the loss of loved ones hit hard during this sentimental season. While many people celebrate the joys of Christmastime, others suffer lonely holidays.

During one of the most desperate times of King David’s life, the anointed future king of Israel found himself running from two separate enemies—hardly a time to celebrate. With the Philistines to the west and King Saul to the east, a distressed David sought refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2).

David felt very alone.

His situation offers encouragement to us during lonely holidays.

A Conversation about Priorities I’ll Never Forget

I got my first suicide-threat phone call during my first year when I served as a pastor. I drove to the neighborhood and found the address in a row of massive homes with fine-trimmed lawns.

A Conversation about Priorities I'll Never Forget

(Photo: By Whipwhopwoo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I rang the doorbell and a woman with a severe look cracked the door and eyed me without saying a word.

I began the brief conversation. “Hello, uh, I received a call about . . .”

“He’s around back,” she interrupted. The door slammed. I made my way to the back of the mansion and saw one of the several garage doors open. Inside, I found a man sitting on an upside-down bucket.

His bloodshot eyes looked up at me.

I enjoyed this section of Nativity scenes from “The Bible: The Epic Miniseries.”

You’ll have to overlook the improper chronology of the Magi’s appearance. Instead, enjoy the inexplicable wonder of the Incarnation.

Jesus’ birth in a barn had you in mind.

O, come let us adore Him . . .

Question: What fascinates you most about Christmas? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Ramat Rahel stone manger with child

Thanks to Christmas cards and holiday movies, we usually think of Christ’s manger as a wooden crib with straw. But it wasn’t so.

Mangers were carved from stone, like the one above. Archaeologists have found mangers at a number of sites in Israel, such as Megiddo, Tekoa, and Ramat Rahel (above).

Question: How did you picture the manger? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

God’s Odd Leading in Your Life

Almost 2,000 years ago Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem. But approximately 2,040 years before they did, Jacob and Rachel, another expectant couple, traveled south along the same road.

Rachel gave birth to Benjamin, but died soon after delivery, and Jacob buried her near Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19).

God's Unusual Leading in Your Life

(Photo: Anton Raphael Mengs. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Rachel’s death foreshadowed the devastation that the territory of Benjamin would suffer in Jeremiah’s time:

Rachel is weeping for her children . . . Because they are no more. —Jeremiah 31:15

Yet the prophecy found its final fulfillment in Jesus’ day, when Herod the Great slaughtered all baby boys in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:17-18). So, at God’s direction, Joseph fled to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to live until Herod’s death.

Each movement of Jesus’ family finds its cause in God’s revelation to Joseph:

  • Fleeing Bethlehem to Egypt
  • Returning from Egypt to Israel
  • Avoiding Judea to settle in Galilee

God’s purposes for these moves lay first in the protection of His Son, but Matthew notes that each directive also fulfilled Scripture. I doubt anyone but God saw beforehand the murky prophecies fulfilled by these geographic moves. But in hindsight, they become clear.

God’s Odd Leading

God’s leading and timing in our lives often don’t make sense either.  At least at first.

7 Christian Christmas Readings for Download

It’s a good thing we have holidays. Without these forced pauses in our hurried schedules, we would plow through life with only a headstone to stop us.

7 Christian Christmas Readings for Download

(Photo by Photodune)

Christmas certainly offers us a time to take a break from work. It’s also a time for family to reconnect. But most importantly, the holiday reminds us of essential truths in our spiritual lives.

Here are 7 Christian Christmas readings from Scripture with suggested themes for personal reflection or group discussion.

You can also download these Christian Christmas Readings if you prefer to print them.

The Power of Providence in Your Life

The first Christmas looked like a coincidence. From a human perspective, politics set the agenda: Caesar took a census of his people. Period. End of story.

The Power of Providence in Your Life

(Picture by Danka Peter)

But from the divine viewpoint? God orchestrated ordinary events for extraordinary outcomes.

Think about this past year in your life. Many ordinary events occurred. Most you don’t remember. But God has been working.

It isn’t just the Christmas story. It’s your story too. God uses the power of providence in your life as well.

Waiting on God’s Promise a Long Time

When we think of the Bible’s Christmas couple, of course we picture Joseph and Mary. But there’s another couple in the Christmas narrative. In fact, they appear even before Jesus’ parents do.

God had been silent for 400 years. No additional Scripture. No more prophecy. No visions. Just waiting for the Messiah. 400 years! Then, God spoke to an old man in Jerusalem.

Waiting on God’s Promise a Long Time

(Photo: Church of St John in Ein Kerem, Israel. Painting by El Greco. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

God had been silent to Zacharias and Elizabeth as well. They were elderly and had no children. They prayed for years. But nothing.

God’s Word makes the point that they were righteous in God’s sight—blameless in God’s Law. In other words, their childless home wasn’t because of their unfaithfulness.

Times of waiting on God can even come to a point of what seems impossible. Most times of lack are like that.

Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. (Rom. 8:24, The Message)

God had something special planned for them. And for you.