Augustine on the Mystery of the Incarnation

For years I have loved this quote by St. Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation (quoted from his Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany):

Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. . . .
In [the Father] He remains,
From [His mother] He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless;
filling the world, He lies in a manger;
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant,
but so that His greatness is not diminished by His smallness,
nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.

From the Stiles home to yours, Merry Christmas!

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

On the Mystery of the Incarnation

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

Jesus—God’s Ultimate Missionary

Years ago some American missionaries stayed in our home. They told us about an animated evangelist they saw try to communicate to a Russian audience—through a less-than-animated translator.

Jesus—God's Ultimate Missionary

(Photo: The Moscow skyline, by Dmitry Azovtsev)

The evangelist began, “Okay folks, tonight I want you to tell the Holy Spirit something! I want you to say, ‘Yeeessss!’” (pronounced with three syllables).

But instead of translating the passionate “Yeeessss!” the interpreter flatly translated, “Da.” And when the evangelist hollered, “Now, give God a hand!” the interpreter translated the words literally—and the audience stared at one another in confusion. (“Give Him what?”)

The words were translated, sure, but their meaning failed to connect.

Jesus, on the other hand, was a perfect translator. Here’s how.

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.

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.