When we look at the Nativity scene, Jesus is naturally the center of attention. What is it about this little baby that sets him apart? What makes his birth so unique and special? I don’t have enough time in this blog or even in a lifetime of blogs to detail the characteristics of Jesus. But if I can choose one to highlight, let me choose love.
Obviously Jesus was not able to speak when He was born and we only have one event recorded from his childhood. Nonetheless, there are many verses throughout the scripture that point to Jesus’ love compelling Him and being a driving force behind his coming. Take a look at this passage for example:
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and thatyour fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17 This I command you, that you love one another. John 15:12-17 NASB
As Jesus came into this world His mission was clear; save people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He had also stated that he came to serve people (Mark 10:45). The overarching character quality that motivated Him was love. Pure. Holy. Unconditional. Love. Jesus was the epitome of love and He embodied love to the fullest by laying down His life. This Christmas may I encourage you to consider the following example from Jesus?
Love is His Commandment.
Jesus states it clearly in the passage above that we are to love. This is not a request, suggestion or ideal. It is a command for anyone who would be likened unto Christ. Jesus says He has given us an example and that example started in the manger, where out of great love for the whole world, Jesus takes on flesh and bone to walk among us! Sometimes followers of Jesus can get hung up on all different commands but Jesus makes no bones about it, to love is His greatest command for us to obey.
Love is His Choice.
There is no doubt that loving people can be difficult at times. Feelings of love and joy, peace and happiness are not always going to accompany us in our real-life relationships. However, love we must remember is a choice. It is an action that produces a greater good for those around us. In the passage above Jesus says He “chose” the disciples; they didn’t choose Him. Perhaps this Christmas the greatest thing you can do for yourself and those around you is to make a different choice? Choose to love. Choose to respond differently. Choose to act instead of react.
Love is His Character.
Everywhere Jesus went, people followed in wonder and amazement. He not only healed people but He loved them! Love kept people coming back for more! It’s easy for us in our society to substitute gifts and things for real heartfelt love. Christmas has been commercialized and many have bought into the idea that stuff is going to make them happy. But there is nothing that will ever take the place of a warm hug, or a loving embrace. Suicides are not high because people don’t get the things they want, they are high because people feel empty and unloved. As followers of Christ this Christmas, ma I encourage you to adopt a loving heart and develop your sense of compassion. There is nothing greater that you could give to Christ this Christmas than to be more like Him in this area.
Questions to think about:
Is there anyone that is hard for you to love?
How does viewing the love as a command change the way you approach it?
How do you practice love?
Do you only love those who are “lovable”?
How will you practice love this holiday season?
Shepherds were in the fields doing what shepherds do, tending their sheep. They probably had a long day and were settling in with the darkened sky as their blanket for a restful uneventful evening of sleep. And then to the surprise and wonder of everyone in the field they were surrounded by a host of angelic beings giving praise to God and announcing wonderful news! Here’s their story:
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:8-20 NASB
The shepherds display many admirable qualities but the one I’d like to focus on today is leadership. The character quality of leadership shown through these shepherds is something we can all learn from and incorporate in our daily lives.
Leadership is Faithful.
These shepherds were not out looking for the next great thing, they were simply doing what they were called and gifted to do. They were tending their own sheep. Sometimes in our Christian circles we get too focused on trying to tend to “other flocks” that we can lose sight of the sheep God has entrusted to our care. The leadership I see in these shepherds reminds me that I simply need to be doing what God has called me to do and as I do that, God will show up and reveal what He wants me to do next. I don’t have to “go looking” for what’s “next” as much as I need to be faithful with what I have “now”. There is much to be said about faithfulness in our society. Suffice it to say that as a character quality, we all need to strive to be faithful in the mundane as well as the exciting! Perhaps the greatest test in faithfulness is monotony?
Leadership is Focused.
Once these shepherds heard God’s message from these angelic messengers they didn’t question. They encouraged and acted. They went straight to where they were supposed to go. If there’s anything that defines many of our leaders today it’s “multi-“anything. We pride ourselves in being multi-taskers to multi-dimensional. This is certainly a talent leaders can and need to develop. However, many leaders suffer from doing too much that is not directly related to getting them or their people to the desired goal. These shepherds knew exactly where they needed to go and they got going! As a leader, it’s essential that people know where you are going, how you plan to get there and they get the sense that you are going soon! These men wasted no time in making their decision nor did they waste time in their action on the decision. That’s leadership: focused decisions with deliberate actions.
Leadership is Fast.
The passage says they came in a hurry. Leaders must have a sense of timing and an understanding that life is time sensitive. A leader must discern how quickly to move from place to another, from one issue to the next. The leader must realize that time is passing quickly and compel others to move along to where Christ is fast. In matters of eternity, time is escaping at a speed faster than any of us would like to admit. Not only must leaders act quick but all people. The message of Christ has been given and we are all compelled to come and worship! It’s time for everyone to take charge of their own lives and act fast in worship and glorifying God. There’s no greater time than this season of Christmas to take the lead of your own life.
Angels were present announcing the coming Messiah. Shepherds gathered to hear their message of good news and great joy. The angels demonstrated a couple of important character qualities for us to integrate into our holiday and Christmas season. Read their story here:
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in amanger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
Angels are created for worship.
The scriptures give us the picture that there are many created beings called angels. Arch Angels, Cherubim, Seraphim, and Principalities are mentioned throughout the Old and New Testaments. These angels serve to do God’s bidding and obey Him in all things. In so doing, they worship God. Worship is essentially doing what we were created to do. We were all created to worship God; the difference between us and many other created things is that we get to choose to worship God and how to express that worship. Since worship is a by-product of who or what we love, one can easily determine from watching our lives the object of our worship. These angels worshipped God and it was expressed in their obedience.
Angels are obedient in accomplishing God’s Will.
At one point in Eternity Past, there was an uprising of angels who chose to follow Lucifer. These angels were cast out of heaven along with Lucifer who became Satan. The other angels who remained with God proved their faithfulness and allegiance in worship as well as obedience to God’s Will. As angels appeared to the shepherds they obediently announced God’s message and they compelled others to worship along with them.
Angels are continually praising God.
Worship happens in innumerable ways. Not only is singing, being obedient, and living correctly ways to worship but we cannot forget the act of praise. Praising God with our lips and lives is a definite way to develop character in our lives. Praise is the act of saying back to God who and all He is. The angels in this passage proclaimed all glory to God. We must be sure we do this! There is no other God and our God is alone worthy of praise and worship.
Thoughts for reflection:
What elements or abilities do you use for worship to God?
Have you been tempted to use those things for worship of someone else or even yourself?
How can you demonstrate your obedience to God? In what way is God asking you to be obedient in delivering His message?
What qualities of God come to your mind as praiseworthy? What can you say back to God about who He is or what He has done?
Joseph was Mary’s counterpart in this mysterious birth. A simple carpenter running a good trade, Joseph was a good man with a good name. Everything within him would want to protect his reputation and his business. What seems to stick out most to me about this man and his character is his value of honor. Read his story below.
18 This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David’s family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God’s Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding.
20 While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. 21 Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 So the Lord’s promise came true, just as the prophet had said, 23 “A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
24 After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord’s angel had told him to do. 25 But they did not sleep together before her baby was born. Then Joseph named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph could have taken the easy way out.
They were not “technically” married. He could have walked away and gone on with his life and probably had a good one at that. No need to go into this marriage with these kind of questions: doubt, trust and faithfulness issues are not a good way to build a marriage! Even though Joseph wrestled with what to do, he was still a man of faith and courage. Bravery was not lost in him! Instead of taking the easy way out, Joseph choose to remain with Mary and eventually marry her, taking in the Christ child as his own.
Joseph struggled with doing the right thing.
It’s not always cut and dry with how to handle life’s most difficult choices. Joseph had to grapple with how he would handle his family, work, and ultimately Mary over this issue. He considered simply quietly bowing out of the relationship and allowing her to quietly disappear, which in and of itself was honorable. Instead of publically shaming her and ruining her reputation, he considered just letting her go. But when the angel of the Lord came to visit him in a dream, Joseph’s doubts were somewhat relieved knowing that Mary had been chosen for this task due to her faithfulness. It was her faithfulness that led to her pregnancy not her infidelity!
Joseph chose to put aside his rights and do the honorable thing.
We all have rights and we certainly like to exercise them and protect them. We are willing to fight for our rights and most certainly willing to defend them when we feel like we are being slighted in some way. Joseph however does something amazing. Joseph lays aside his rights to shame and accuse Mary and instead He takes her in and protects her and Jesus as his very own. Joseph was obedient and brave to do so as there were certainly family and friends who would have counseled him not to venture into marriage with this woman at this point.
Even though Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, he was the father-figure on earth that God entrusted his son too. I believe that part of that reason was due to the fact that Joseph was so honorable and committed to loving his wife and his God, no matter how crazy it seemed.
Questions to think through and ponder:
Can you think of a time when you took the easy way out of something? How do you feel about it now? Would you go back and do things differently if you could?
What kind of doubts, questions, or even frustrations do you have about doing the right thing?
Do you ever feel that when you do the right thing it isn’t worth it? Why or why not?
Have you ever put aside your rights for another? How did that feel? What happened as a result?
What rights do you hold onto? What personal rights do you refuse to surrender?
How can you become more honorable this Christmas?
In this series we will focus on characters from the Nativity and draw out character qualities we can model and implement into our daily lives.
Apart from Jesus, Mary is central to the story of Christmas. Not only does she play an important role but she exhibited great moral character. Take a few minutes to ponder the passage and consider what character qualities you find in her from the reading.
Passage: Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her:
Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
31 Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”
35 The angel replied to her:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Character Quality #1: Moral Integrity
Mary was a single young girl pledged to be married. Many believe she would have been between the age of 12-14 years old when she was given this enormous task and privilege of bearing the son of God. She had been chosen and was greatly used of God in impacting all of humanity. During the time of Jesus and even today, woman can be slighted, taken advantage of, and maltreated within the home and workplace. Women have not had an easy road.
Our current society has often sexualized women, making them objects to obtain through lust. Young women today have much to overcome in their representation of themselves to men much less our society that values looks over character and appearance over depth. Mary is certainly a model for all young ladies and women alike. Moreover, everyone can learn a few lessons from Mary.
1) Mary was taking the proper channels to be married. She was engaged for a period of time.
In our day and age, it’s nothing for people to be involved in all kinds of improper relationships. From shacking up to multiple illicit relationships, our moral character leaves much to be desired! Mary and Joseph alike, demonstrate to us that it’s important to take the proper paths to developing interpersonal relationships with one another. Take your time in dating people. Don’t allow the relationship to diminish into something that is just “physical”. Honor the person you are with and be honorable within your relationship. Build trust with each other, which was a huge thing for Mary and Joseph to have after hearing such news! Their love and trust in God and each other allowed them to bear this burden together!
2) Mary was a virgin. She had some boundaries in her life.
Again, this is very tough to live out, especially when the word “virgin” has such a negative connotation. However, one of the facts that she was given such an honor was because she was a virgin! Don’t get me wrong, people who are not virgins can still be greatly used of God and God most certainly forgives sins of a sexual nature. Yet Mary stands tall among women and all Humanity as someone unashamed because she had kept herself pure. All of us have areas of our lives in which we struggle and the area of sex can most certainly be delicate to deal with to say the least. But one thing is for sure, someone who keeps themselves pure and clean sexually will have nothing to fear. It’s better to be ridiculed and live without fear than to yield one’s body and live in regret. Follow Mary’s lead and set boundaries. Remain a virgin until God sends the right person to you and you become married. You won’t regret it! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to be called a virgin…it’s a title not many people can wear and an attribute that many wish they could bear.
To wrap up this character quality think about these things:
How do you need to give your “dating” life to God?
In what ways have you been compromising your morals and values?
How does what you watch or listen to depict relationships between men and women? Does it reflect God’s view of how we should live and treat one another?
What boundaries do you need to establish to remain clean, pure and healthy in your relationships?
If God was going to choose you to bear His son to the world, what would you feel compelled to say? Would you take it as an honor, burden, or privilege?
In what ways can having a moral code or ethic set you apart from others? Would you be embarrassed to be called a virgin?