Read an Excerpt
CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS WITH JESUSAN ADVENT DEVOTIONAL
By Max Lucado
J COUNTRYMANCopyright © 2011 Max Lucado
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDAY 1
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
John 1:14, 17–18
* * *
It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment that was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man. While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived. Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.
God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created. God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen. He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.
God had come near. No silk. No ivory. No hype. To think of Jesus in such a light is— well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it? It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.
But don't do it. For heaven's sake, don't. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
FROM: GOD CAME NEAR
Jesus' Baptism and the Witness of John
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.' I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water."
And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."
* * *
John the Baptist saw a dove and believed. James Whittaker saw a sea gull and believed. James Whittaker was a member of the hand-picked crew that flew the B-17 Flying Fortress captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. Anybody who remembers October of 1942 remembers the day Rickenbacker and his crew were reported lost at sea.
Somewhere over the Pacific, out of radio range, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean. The nine men spent the next months floating in three rafts. They battled the heat, the storms, and the water. Sharks, some ten feet long, would ram their ninefoot boats. After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater. It would take a miracle to survive.
One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes. A bird landed on his head. He peered out from under his hat. Every eye was on him. He instinctively knew it was a sea gull.
Rickenbacker caught it, and the crew ate it. The bird's intestines were used for bait to catch fish ... and the crew survived to tell the story. A story about a stranded crew with no hope or help in sight. A story about prayers offered and prayers answered. A story of salvation. But the greatest event of that day was not the rescue of a crew but the rescue of a soul.
James Whittaker was an unbeliever. The plane crash didn't change his unbelief. The days facing death didn't cause him to reconsider his destiny. In fact, Mrs. Whittaker said her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, a crew member who continually read his Bible privately and aloud.
But his protests didn't stop Bartak from reading. Nor did Whittaker's resistance stop the Word from penetrating his soul. Unknown to Whittaker, the soil of his heart was being plowed. For it was one morning after a Bible reading that the sea gull landed on Captain Rickenbacker's head. And at that moment Jim became a believer....
Isn't that just like God? Who would have gone to such extremes to save a soul? Amazing the lengths to which he will go to get our attention.
FROM: A GENTLE THUNDER
Jesus Turns Water Into Wine
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, "They have no wine."
Jesus said to her, "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."
His mother said to the servants, "Whatever He says to you, do it."
Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
Jesus said to them, "Fill the waterpots with water." And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, "Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast." And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!"
This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.
* * *
Hospitality at a wedding was a sacred duty. So serious were those social customs that, if they were not observed, lawsuits could be brought by the injured parties!
"Without wine," said the rabbis, "there is no joy." Wine was crucial, not for drunkenness, which was considered a disgrace, but for what it demonstrated. The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests....
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the first to notice that the wine has run out. She goes to her Son and points out the problem: "They have no wine."
Jesus' response? "Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come."
Interesting statement. "My hour." Jesus is aware of the plan. He has a place and a time for his first miracle. And this isn't it.
Jesus knows the plan. At first, it appears he is going to stay with it. But as he hears his mother and looks into the faces of the wedding party, he reconsiders. The significance of the plan is slowly eclipsed by his concern for the people. Timing is important, but people are more so.
As a result, he changes his plan to meet the needs of some friends. Incredible. The schedule of heaven is altered so some friends won't be embarrassed. The inaugural miracle is motivated—not by tragedy or famine or moral collapse—but by concern for friends who are in a bind....
His friends were embarrassed. What bothered them bothered him.
So go ahead. Tell God what hurts. Talk to him. He won't turn you away. He won't think it's silly.... Does God care about the little things in our lives? You better believe it.
If it matters to you, it matters to him.
FROM: HE STILL MOVES STONES
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
"The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned."
* * *
He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories. He balanced the hammer in his hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye.
It was time for him to leave. He had heard something that made him know it was time to go. So he came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber. Life was peaceful here. Life was so ... safe.
I wonder what he thought as he took one last look around the room. Perhaps he stood for a moment. Perhaps he listened as voices from the past filled the air. "Good job, Jesus." "Joseph, Jesus—come and eat!" "Don't worry, sir, we'll get it finished on time. I'll get Jesus to help me." I wonder if he hesitated.
You can almost see the tools of the trade in his words as he spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as he called for moral standards. You can imagine him with a pencil and a ledger as he urges honesty. It was here that his human hands shaped the wood his divine hands had created. And it was here that his body matured while his Spirit waited for the right moment, the right day. And now that day had arrived.
FROM: GOD CAME NEAR
Jesus Calls Peter, James, and John
When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"
For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.
* * *
Push out into the deep, Peter. Let's fish." I groaned. I looked at John. We were thinking the same thing. As long as he wanted to use the boat for a platform to speak, that was fine. But to use it for a fishing boat—that was our territory. I started to tell this carpenter-teacher, "You stick to preaching, and I'll stick to fishing." But I was more polite: "We worked all night. We didn't catch a thing." ...
With every pull of the paddle, I grumbled. "No way. No way. Impossible. I may not know much, but I know fishing. And all we're going to come back with are some wet nets."
Finally we cast anchor. I picked up the heavy netting, held it waist-high, and started to throw it. That's when I caught a glimpse of Jesus out of the corner of my eye. His expression stopped me in mid-motion.
He noticed me looking at him, and he tried to hide the smile, but it persisted....
"Boy, is he in for a disappointment," I thought as I threw the net. I wrapped the rope once around my hand and sat back for the long wait.
But there was no wait. The slack rope yanked taut and tried to pull me overboard. I set my feet against the side of the boat and yelled for help.
We got the net in just before it began to tear. I'd never seen such a catch. We began to take in water. John screamed for the other boat to help us.
It was quite a scene: four fishermen in two boats, knee-deep in fish, and one carpenter seated on our bow, relishing the pandemonium....
It was a scene I would see many times over the next couple of years—in cemeteries with the dead, on hillsides with the hungry, in storms with the frightened, on roadsides with the sick. The characters would change, but the theme wouldn't. When we would say, "No way," he would say, "My way." Then the ones who doubted would scramble to salvage the blessing. And the One who gave it would savor the surprise.
FROM: THE APPLAUSE OF HEAVEN
DAY 6 Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
* * *
Sacred delight is good news coming through the back door of your heart. It's what you'd always dreamed but never expected. It's having God as your pinch-hitter, your lawyer, your dad, your biggest fan, and your best friend. It's hope where you least expected it: a flower in life's sidewalk.
And it is this sacred delight that Jesus promises in the Sermon on the Mount.
Nine times he promises it. And he promises it to an unlikely crowd:
"The poor in spirit." Beggars in God's soup kitchen.
"Those who mourn." Sinners Anonymous bound together by the truth of their introduction: "Hi, I am me. I'm a sinner."
"The meek." Pawnshop pianos played by Van Cliburn. (He's so good no one notices the missing keys.)
"Those who hunger and thirst." Famished orphans who know the difference between a TV dinner and a Thanksgiving feast.
"The merciful." Winners of the million-dollar lottery who share the prize with their enemies.
"The pure in heart." Physicians who love lepers and escape infection.
"The peacemakers." Architects who build bridges with wood from a Roman cross.
"Those who are persecuted." Those who manage to keep an eye on heaven while walking through hell on earth.
It is to this band of pilgrims that God promises a special blessing. A heavenly joy. A sacred delight.
FROM: THE APPLAUSE OF HEAVEN
Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar.... Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well....
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."
The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?"
Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
* * *
He was seated on the ground: legs outstretched, hands folded, back resting against the well. She stopped and looked at him. He was obviously Jewish. What was he doing here?
Sensing her discomfort, Jesus asked her for water. But she was too streetwise to think that all he wanted was a drink. She wanted to know what he really had in mind. Her intuition was partly correct. He was interested in her heart.
They talked. Who could remember the last time a man had spoken to her with respect? He told her about a spring of water that would quench, not the thirst of the throat, but of the soul.
"Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."
Excerpted from CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS by Max Lucado Copyright © 2011 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission of J COUNTRYMAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.