The year’s end: watching, waiting, and staying warm

The other day, I was talking about watching for opportunities to witness about Jesus. This may have been one of them.

“It’s the oil, folks!”

The guy on the bike directed the remark at no one in particular, as he rode past us on the Alexandra Bridge, linking Gatineau, Québec, and Ottawa.

20171228_155925

The Nation’s Capital looking over the Ottawa River — it may look really cold, but believe me, it is that cold!

The temperature hasn’t climbed much past -20 Celsius (-4 F) since Christmas Day, and other parts of North America are in a similar deep freeze, so the cyclist was doomspeaking about climate change, linking the unusually cold weather to the storied “addiction to oil” as many people do (except, maybe, the President of the United States).

The cyclist’s tone was one of triumph — “See? I told you so!”, delighting to be proven right. It’s worth remembering at this point that really, our use of oil is not what’s evil, in and of itself.

“The Lord alone led [Jacob],

And there was no foreign god with him.

He made him ride in the heights of the earth,

That he might eat the produce of the field.

He made him draw honey from the rock

and oil from the flinty rock.

— Deuteronomy 32:12-13

That’s from Moses’ song, giving praise to God after the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea. I added the emphasis: what is “oil from flinty rock” but petroleum?

So it’s not really about oil: we’re supposed to have oil, but we’ve gotten greedy. (Besides, I defy the cyclist to show that he was not using petroleum-based products any place on his person.)

I digress. The “opportunity” was to point out that throughout the Bible, there are predictions of the very climate upheaval that we’re seeing today. Jesus Himself tells us that we will see “famines, pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places” (Matthew 24:7) and the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15). Indeed, when His disciples ask Him for the signs of His return, He lists those and interconnects them with other things, like wars, terrorism, incurable diseases and lawlessness — “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).

And while our cyclist friend is essentially looking backwards (unless he was trying to wave a magic wand and undo centuries of oil consumption and its effects), Jesus lets us know what comes next.

His return.

That’s kinda hard to put into a quick, pithy retort to someone zooming past at 15-20 mph.

But as we close out this year of 2017, which has had more than its share of Jesus’ predictions come to pass — leaving one to say, “What do You mean, this is the beginning of sorrows?” (Matthew 24:8) — let’s remember that instead of beating ourselves or others up over past indiscretions with the planet God has given us and our failure to be His branch managers (Genesis 2:15), we need to get ready. We need to encourage others, learn to love unconditionally and point people towards Jesus with our words and actions.

Debates over climate change (which the President of the United States gleefully entered this morning), oil consumption or anything else are rabbit trails that we need to avoid in order to do what Jesus told us to do. We can’t “save” the planet in anymore than we are fully responsible for the problems in the first place. Nor do we simply roll over and wait for the Rapture.

What we can do to respond to the changes we see around us is to recognize the wakeup call: to keep in the forefront of our minds that,

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”

— 2 Chronicles 7:14

Who knows what 2018 will bring? What we do know is that we have Jesus, and the Word of God, standing with us, steadfast, true and unchanging.

Swimming upstream – a key to following Jesus

 

Yesterday, I went on about watching for an opportunity to witness Jesus to people, especially around Christmastime, when our culture tends to remove Jesus from the “holiday mix”.

One of the suggestions was simply to live the way Jesus calls us to, and Jesus calls us to do things that go against our animal nature.

Our animal nature, after all, is to react rather than respond; to desire to “get our own back” and to take all offenses personally, as if the offender were evil.

But Jesus calls us to respond to an offense by forgiving the offender, and I believe that involves doing something completely against the grain: assuming that the offender is acting with the best intentions. They may be unthinking, unfeeling, corrupted by the devil in their thinking and their view of the world, but there is the distinct possibility that we’re not lily-white, ourselves.

Jesus says,

“… [God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

— Matthew 5:45

Refusing to give in to our animal desire for revenge and choosing to pray for the people who hurt us reflects a desire for God to have His will in a situation. It recognizes that the truth — what He wants — is somewhere between our position and that of the offender. Perhaps, by praying for that, we’ll see the offender change his or her attitude, so that the good intentions that were at the basis of their actions — whether it’s correcting someone’s fault or adducing a group of people to forsake their old ways and follow Jesus — will shine through. Perhaps, also, our own attitude will change and we’ll see things differently.

It’s the kind of approach that people notice because it’s so against-the-grain. You also may feel like …

salmon

… and that’s not too far-fetched, because the goal of swimming upstream is to lay eggs — or in the case of a Jesus Follower, to plant seed. It’s a tough, arduous trip, where you get beaten up and sometimes driven backwards, but at the end of it, you accomplish your life’s journey, as God intended it.

The analogy, by the way, does not break down when you recall that salmon die once they’ve spawned (unless you’re talking about the Lake Tahoe trout in Taylor Creek — they do several cycles before turning dorsal-fin-down). You’ve sown and fertilized seed, and who knows where that seed will go? You’ve helped to create new life in Christ, and that new life will go on adventures that no one can predict, eventually sowing and fertilizing seed of its own.

You, yourself, will have died a little in the process. You’ve gone against the current for the purpose of planting that seed and are a different, renewed person; and one way to begin it is to assume that someone who has offended you really had the best intentions at heart.

Sharing the True Meaning of Christmas

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them all the things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

— Matthew 28:19-20

It is now Christmas III, going by the Twelve Days of Christmas format.

reserved for cool picture of 3 French hens

This means you may well be surrounded by culture and friends and family that look to the more “worldly” version of Christmas, which focuses on Santa Claus, presents, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and Rudolph. It can be a great opportunity to witness Jesus. The thing is, bringing up Jesus in the midst of singing “Jingle Bells” or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” may not be the definition of uber-cool. You may get personal satisfaction out of speaking up and saying something beginning with, “Well, actually …”, but others may get turned off and stop listening before you’ve reached the key point — and it’s hard to win souls when you’re losing listeners.

Nor can you clam up and crawl off into a corner with your Bible. We’re supposed to be “in the world – not of it”, but separating yourself only makes you into a stuck-up religious snob, for whom the rest of the world isn’t holy enough.

peanuts-christmas-linus-speech

“Lights, please.”

The trick is to be on the lookout for an opportunity. Linus got lucky, when Charlie Brown cried, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” Usually, though, the overture isn’t quite so obvious. Expect the unexpected: it’s likely that someone will say or do something that invites a response that involves Jesus, and that’s when you can open your mouth and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.

Some years ago, when I was fired from a radio station during a purge of older on-air talent, the Human Resources guy who flew in from Edmonton to swing the axe asked me if I was okay. There was my chance: “Hey,” I said, “if I didn’t have Jesus Christ in my life, I’d be a basket case.” I hope that planted a seed in his life. Generally, that’s all one can hope for.

Most often, it’s not words that will convince people, but your actions.

Take each and every opportunity to preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.

— att. to St Francis of Assisi

If you

  • maintain a positive attitude,
  • refuse to judge others,
  • assume that someone who’s doing wrong — either by you or by others — is not acting from evil intent but really feels they’re doing the right thing,
  • encourage people at every turn and not allow any words to drag you or anyone else down, and of course,
  • are humble without drawing attention to your humility;

sooner or later, people will notice there’s something different about you. They’ll see that you don’t respond to situations in a way that would satisfy your body.

Sooner or later, they’ll want to know why.

Sanctify the lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

— 1 Peter 3:15

So as we continue to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let’s learn to sharpen our senses so we’ll spot the opportunities as they come, and know how to let people in on the good news we’ve known for so long.

The “disappointment” of Christmas

For most of us, the turkey is still digesting and the wrapping paper is still scattered around the living room floor. And some people might be disappointed at Christmas, because they didn’t get what they wanted. Has that ever happened to you?

christmas-story

(I’ve actually grown sick of that movie …)

Probably my two worst disappointments were the year we did not get the GE Portacolor TVge-portacolor that I’d asked for (and which “only” cost $300.00 back in 1967) and the year that the girl who’d just dumped me in the first week of December did not call up and say, “Merry Christmas! Let’s get back together!” I think I stayed close to the phone much of the day — just in case.

I know: you’d trade problems with me …

But if you want to talk disappointment, how about:

  • meeting the girl of your dreams, being convinced that not only is she the only one for you, but you are the only one for her … only to find out that she’s pregnant?
  • being an honest, upright, God-fearing girl: you’ve met the man you will marry, only to find out that you’re pregnant, and you just KNOW that no one will believe you when you say how it happened?
  • being promised something for literally hundreds of years and when it finally arrives, it’s considerably different from what you thought you were getting? Like, say, a Saviour to help us overcome all the things that were tormenting us, like disease, famine and invading countries, and when it all comes together, all the signs are in place, you get …

A BABY?

A BABY, LYING IN A FEEDING-TROUGH IN A STABLE?

God actually has a record of disappointing us. He calls on us to suppress our natural desires and inclinations. He declares, “Vengeance is Mine,” thereby depriving us of the personal satisfaction “getting our own back”. When we do something well, He expects us to give Him the glory and take none for ourselves.

The thing with the Baby, for one thing, was a classic case of using foolishness to confound the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), although God also did promise that “a little child shall lead [us]” (Isaiah 11:6).

But sending His Son as a Baby also ensured that the Saviour would be someone who started His journey just like any human being, going through the entire growing-up process with its temptations and desires, so that we could continue our respective journeys after our meeting Him (whenever that might be) in a way closer to God. Of course, who could have known that at the time?

It’s in these times of disappointment that God visits us. A friend of mine, Clarence Vickers, is fond of saying, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something.” We need to remember that the solutions God sends are rarely, if ever, what we were expecting — but inevitably turn out to be exactly what we need.

If you want it …

And suddenly, there was with the Angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host, praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest! And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
— Luke 2:14
dali-christmas-1

The Nativity — Salvador Dali

Recently, I was struck by something I’d puzzled about for many years: John Lennon’s declaration that “War is over, if you want it”.

The Angels’ song, heard by the shepherds outside Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago, was actually a declaration of war: war on war, in fact, as only God can do it. With those two sentences, He changed the game, and with World War III blazing all around us, let’s take a breath and contemplate that.

The movie Miss Congeniality spoofs a recurring theme in the hopes and dreams of beauty pageant contestants — to work for “world peace”. A friend of mine recently sent her own non-religious holiday greeting with the words Pax in terra. But if you parse the Angels’ song, you actually find that “peace on earth” is just one of three interconnected ideas:

  1. Glory to God in the highest
  2. On earth peace
  3. Goodwill toward men
I believe those three are not only interconnected, they’re inseparable. We are to give the greatest glory to God — glorify Him with our words, our actions and most importantly our love; and extend goodwill towards everybody, regardless of their declared Religion, background or past — remembering that “goodwill” actually means God’s Will, and His Will is for us to have more abundant life.
When we do that, we have peace on earth.
Can we have peace on earth without giving God the highest glory and extending His will towards people?
Have we even tried? Think about it.
War is over, John sang, if you want it.
As I contemplate that, I realize that God has done His part to end the war. He’s given us an “out” through the Birth of His Son, that breaks us out of that vicious cycle that comes from the human desire to want “one last lick”, but it’s up to us to receive it.
Jesus also breaks us out of that mind-set — the slavery — of discrimination and hatred caused by race, class, educational background, religious doctrine or any of the myriad other things that cause one group of people to claim superiority over another — which is the basis of all wars.
The thing is, God has declared “war is over”; it’s up to us to agree.
This Christmas, and heading into 2017, I pray that we’ll all reach out, in our way, to receive that amazing Gift the Lord has given us: the solution, that smashes the chains of our own human nature and the yoke that comes with it, and truly sets us free.
Merry Christmas, everybody!

The right man for the job

Can you think of a less heralded man in the Bible than Joseph?

He doesn’t have much more than a “walk-on” role in this Divine Drama, but just as God chose the right girl to bear His Son, the man she married also had to be the right man.

We know this: he was a just man (Matthew 1:19) and agonized over the decision to follow the law and send his pregnant fiancée away; but at the same time, his heart made him want to cut her a break.

We also know he was a carpenter (Mark 6:3). The Roman Catholic church canonized him as St Joseph the Worker. What do we know about carpenters? They build things from raw material, and they do so by following instructions. What if a carpenter were to say, “Blueprints? We don’t need no stinkin’ blueprints!”? Who knows how many people would fall off (or through) the chair or whether the bookshelf would hold the weight of one magazine?

Just as with the taxation decree that moved Joseph and Mary from their home in Nazareth to their ancestral home in Bethlehem, God was putting His ducks in a row before anyone knew there was a pond. There was Mary, the perfect girl, and here was Joseph, whose heart was for doing the right thing. I get the sense that their relationship had been building for some time — that it was a love marriage, as opposed to something arranged. That might explain why he was so willing — one might say desperate — to believe that something extraordinary was behind her getting pregnant and that she wasn’t the sort of girl who would have cheated on him.

Joseph was open to hear and act on the word of an angel of the Lord; he was also authoritative enough that when he told Mary, “We have to get out of here now — tonight!“, to escape Herod, there was no back-chat. That was another Divine manoeuvre, setting up the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Hosea 11:1).

One other thing: Joseph was a model husband. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) For all his strength and authority, Joseph risked ridicule for standing by Mary, but instead, he obeyed the word of God and put Mary’s interests ahead of his own. It’s an example we husbands should try to emulate.


Further to my musings the other day about moving away from calling ourselves “Christians”, in favor of something like “followers of Jesus”: I think the term “Christian” separates us from Jesus. If we keep His name as part of whatever label we hang on ourselves, it reminds us constantly that we’re to remember Him and what He called us to do. We submit to a Person of God, rather than claim a moral authority or superiority through the anointing He gives us.

No vacancy!

(a re-run from last Christmas)

Do you have moments when one or two words leap out at you in a Familiar Passage? That’s just happened to me.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

— Luke 2:4-7

no-room-in-the-inn

Every time I’ve read that, I’ve simply imagined that the inn was packed to the gunwales and the only space Joseph and Mary could go was the stable. But there were two words that had sort-of slipped past me until just now.

For them

And suddenly, a whole different scenario started to play out in my mind. Imagine: a man and a teenage girl show up, evidently not married but evidently expecting a child.

JOSEPH: We need a place to stay tonight.

INN-KEEPER (Dickensian sleaze-ball sent from Central Casting): Sorry, mate – no room for you ‘ere.

JOSEPH: But this girl is about to have a baby.

INN-KEEPER: Do we have a learning disability? I said —

TRAVELER AND WIFE (arriving): Got a place for tonight?

INN-KEEPER: Yes – go right on in.

ANOTHER TRAVELER (arriving): I need a bed tonight.

INN-KEEPER: Welcome!

JOSEPH: So you do have a room tonight.

INN-KEEPER: Let me clarify. There’s no room for you here. I don’t want your kind here: you get that tart knocked-up and don’t even have the backbone to stand on The Law like a real man and have her turned away.

The writer of Hebrews points out how Jesus knows full well what we go through:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

— Hebrews 4:15

But more than that, He started His life on earth not just in as lowly a state as you can get — born in a stable and laid down in a feeding-trough to sleep — but as a victim of discrimination and prejudice.  And He was raised by parents who did not rant and rail and kvetch about how unfair life was: His parents went along with the situation. They knew that technically the inn-keeper was right: they were in violation of The Law, but in total obedience to God. It was a foreshadowing of the life that lay ahead for that Baby.

Somebody knows the trouble you’ve seen: poverty, temptation, ostracism … and even prejudice from Day One.

Go on — say it!

So I was sitting in a Second Cup in Toronto around Christmas a couple of years ago (it was the same Second Cup I was sitting in when I observed people crossing the street at the five-way intersection), and got chatting with a fellow who had come in for his morning latte. As he was about to go, I said, “Merry Christmas!”

He did a double-take, and then his face broke into a smile. “Merry Christmas to you, too!”

Maybe I was reading too much into it. This whole “political correctness” thing has me wondering if someone will take offence if I say “Merry Christmas”, but he did seem pleasantly surprised that I’d said that.

Just before that trip to Toronto, I was in the airport in Orlando, Florida, and as we finished the check-in procedure, I said to the clerk — who was one of these all-business guys — “Merry Christmas!” He immediately broke out of his facade and said, “Merry Christmas to you, too, my fr– uh, sir!”

When I say “Merry Christmas” to someone, I’m expressing a wish for them to have all the joy, peace and love of God that Christmas represents. Indeed, I have yet to find anyone who’s actually told me those words offend them. Perhaps those who take offense are not those of “other religions”, but those who, for one reason or other, want to deny there’s a God at all, much less one to whom we are ultimately accountable — even if He will go to any lengths to bring us close to Him.

But if we say, “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays”, as the “inclusionists” would demand, there’s nothing particularly special about this season over others that would require “greetings”, and what other “holiday” is there?  Some “official” functions are now referred to as “Winter Festivals”, to eliminate Christian references. But the only religion I can think of which has a “Winter Festival” is paganism, so that name actually excludes a whole lot more faiths than just Christianity, thereby making it even more “exclusionary.”

melbourne-christmas

This backlash against acknowledging the holiday we’re celebrating is not something found in all First World countries. I was in Melbourne, Australia, just before Christmas a few years ago. Sure, there was lots of noise about Santa Claus and shopping specials along the malls downtown, but it’s also very clear that this is Christmas. Nowhere was that more apparent than in a public space, near St Paul’s Cathedral, where they had a Santa Cabin set up, and nearby, this installation. The photo barely captures what it is, but if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s a combination of passages from Matthew 1 and Luke 2, describing the birth of Jesus.

Maybe the Christmas backlash is back-firing? It’s forcing us to re-visit the true meaning of Christmas and re-kindle the joy in our hearts about what it means. The devil is the one who wants to squelch any sort of joy in our lives, so go ahead and tell anyone you meet, “Merry Christmas!” You’ll be surprised at how many people are just waiting for a chance to say it back.

What’s in a word?

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a story about the impact felt by Evangelicals for supporting Roy Moore’s unsuccessful bid for the US Senate. Some religious leaders are worried that their reputation was tarnished by supporting someone who had a passel of accusations of bigotry and sexual assault attached to his name. The editor-in-chief of Christianity Today wrote that “many card-carrying evangelicals” are ready to disavow the label.

It’s what people in marketing would call a “branding issue”.

Until a year or so ago, I considered myself to be an evangelical Christian. I took a literal view of the meaning of the word: as a follower of Jesus, I’m committed to living the Gospel, loving others unconditionally, loving God with all I have, and spreading the good news about Jesus Christ.

But today, the word “evangelical” conjures up an image of a (usually white) person who’s against all sorts of things that are not Just Like Them, tacking “in Jesus’ Name” onto their beliefs.

Rather than loving one another, as Jesus calls us to do, an “evangelical” appears to define his or her faith by what they despise. This leads to the mindset that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, meaning that if someone running for office is opposed to the same things you are, that candidate gets your vote. You’re an accused child molester? You’ve made bigoted statements in the past and have a record of race-based positions? You hang out a Confederate flag on January 19 (Robert E. Lee’s birthday)? No matter: you’re against abortion and same-sex marriage, so I know where I’m putting my “X”!

In the process, non-believers — the very people Jesus calls on His followers to reach with the Gospel — are pushed away. “I don’t want to be like them!

I’ve been wrestling with labels all my life (my mother warned me not to let anyone “pigeon-hole” me), and if someone asks me what “kind of Christian” I am, I tend to mumble something about “born-again, Spirit-filled, Bible-believing …”. I considered the term “red-letter Christian”, denoting someone who strictly follows Jesus’ words (since they’re printed in red ink in many versions of the Bible) and leaves the rest open to discussion, but that leads to a debate over whether we should consider something if Jesus didn’t specifically say anything about it. “Do you know that Jesus didn’t say anything against … (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH A SIN) … ?”

(My response to that is that Jesus, being God incarnate, did “say something” against sin– all through the Old Testament. Jesus the Man didn’t say anything about a lot of sins: in fact, hypocrisy, self-righteousness and sectarianism are three things He did speak against; but other that that, His main message was to love God above all else, love others unconditionally and follow Him.)

Maybe we need to drop the term “Christian”.

Jesus didn’t tell people to go into all the world and turn people into Christians. He told us to spread the Good News and make disciples of people. He invites us to follow Him, and maybe that’s a better term: Jesus Follower.

A JF. A Jayeff.

Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples awere first called Christians in Antioch.

— Acts 11:25-26

Kenneth Copeland’s take on that was that since “Christ” means “anointed one”, people heard the words and saw the actions of Paul and Barnabas and the others and called them “those anointeds”. With that in mind, could that have been the start of this disconnect between Jesus and the words and deeds of His followers? Does being filled with the Holy Spirit lead to a sense of invincibility and infallibility, so that one thinks that whatever one says or does must be anointed, even if it flies in the face of Jesus’ calling on our lives?

Even taking on a new term seems self-righteous and sectarianist, as if to say, “Don’t lump me in with those evangelicals! I’m not like them!” I think it’s a discussion worth having, because if we’re to win souls for the Kingdom, we need to push past the initial reaction to the brand.

And sometimes, the answer is in finding a new brand.

When anticipation turns to expectation

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,

Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”

— Micah 5:2

That’s the passage the scribes referred to, when King Herod asked where the Messiah was to be born. And we know that, indeed, that’s where Jesus was born — Micah’s prophecy was fulfilled. But was the prophecy fulfilled by any design of man, or in any way we could have expected?

Joseph and Mary did not live anywhere near Bethlehem. They lived in Nazareth, considerably north of Bethlehem.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.

— Luke 2:1-4

And that’s why Joseph loaded his nine-months-pregnant wife onto a donkey and set off on an 80-mile journey, only to find an over-crowded inn, where the only place to crash was in the stable with the animals.

But it was in Bethlehem. And thus was the prophecy fulfilled.

And look at how it was fulfilled! Both Joseph and Mary were aware that she was carrying the Child of the Holy Spirit: we don’t know how well they knew the prophecies. Even if they did, would Joseph, a loving, caring husband, have taken her on that journey in order to fulfill the prophecy? Wouldn’t he have taken her there in her fourth or fifth month and made sure she was in comfortable surroundings?

No – it was the Roman dictator, Caesar Augustus, who set up this Divine Appointment. God used the architect of the Jews’ oppression to make sure that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

Who would have fathomed that? For that matter, who would have fathomed the bit about the stable and the feeding-trough; or the fact that Jesus’ birth was announced not to royalty or the high Jewish priests, but to a group of shepherds and to several wise men via a sign in the heavens — when God had forbidden observing signs in the heavens?

This was the entrance for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Why didn’t the scribes and high priests whom Herod consulted say, “Wait – why are you asking?” and then catch on when they heard about the star?

God said He was going to bring the Messiah, but He didn’t say how, and the things people expected led them to miss what was going on.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the 21st Century and situations you might be going through. When we face a situation and pray about it, saying, “Alright, Lord, You take this one”, we need to understand that He will come through. But the solution He provides will likely be far, far away from anything we would have thought of; and so will be the way in which He makes the solution happen.

Heaven knows, He’s surprised me with the way He works things out. During a time of financial turmoil, I prayed for more work. I got more work — the equivalent of more than one full-time job — but I was quickly burning out. In a prayer time, He pointed out that that was what I’d prayed for and I should change my prayer. So I simply asked for more income without burning out. A couple of months later, I was fired from one of the jobs and there were no hours to be had at the other. And a couple of weeks after that, came the totally unexpected phone call that led to a situation that supported my ministry work, put me right where I was supposed to be and, oh by the way, provided more income — without the burnout factor.

People anticipated the coming of the Messiah. But they expected the Messiah’s arrival to be considerably different from the way He came, and so they missed it. So it is with us: when we place a problem in God’s hands, the only thing we can expect is that He will resolve it. If we expect that He will resolve it in a certain way, or using certain people, chances are, we’ll miss the solution when it comes.