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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter home in Lancaster County (Photo by Joe Ulicny)
Our friend Joe Ulicny shared with us this photo of his home built in the 1840's all decorated for Christmas.  He took this photo after our first seasonal snow.
(Click on photo for larger image)

"Rejoicing In His Star"

This week we are considering joy, the theme for the third Sunday in Advent.

Message summary: Today we consider an occasion of those who "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy."

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"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him" (Matthew 2:2). “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (Matthew 2:10).

We tend to compress a lot that happened over several years into the four weeks or so we give consideration to the Christmas stories. However John's conception would have occurred some 15 months before the birth of Christ and John's birth some six months before Christ was born. While contending for the supernatural conception of Christ (His Virgin Birth) there's no contention that Christ would not have developed in His mother's womb in the normal manner for nine months. And an event often considered part of the manger scene actually happened some time after the birth of Christ; that is, the visit of the Magi.

Contrary to traditional Christmas pageantry and artist's portrayals of the nativity setting, Scripture indicates that the shepherds were present at the birth of Christ in Bethlehem’s stable, but not the wise men.

Careful consideration of Scripture actually reveals that the wise men who followed the star arrived some time after Christ's birth. They had first seen the star while in the east and had traveled to Jerusalem to inquire regarding the exact place of Christ's birth.
In the verse following today's text we read that the Magi came "into the house" (Matthew 2:11).

Just who these wise men (or Magi) were remains a mystery. Possibly they were among those from the Jewish line who stayed in the East (present day Iran) following the Exile or perhaps they were proselytes who were very familiar with the Messianic promise.  After receiving the information that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem they went there with a specific purpose - to worship the Christ Child.

For some reason, after initially seeing the star in the east, it was no longer seen for a period until after they had been to Jerusalem and were on their way to Bethlehem. (Compare 2:2 with 2:9,10.)

Matthew 2:2
These men were earnest seekers. The journey from the east to Jerusalem was likely long and hard, but they were persistent. It was the reappearance of the star on the way to Bethlehem that prompted the response described in the KJV when they "rejoiced with exceeding great joy". The apparent redundancy in the English is an attempt to convey the richness of emotion that Matthew uses four Greek words to express. The Amplified says, "thrilled with ecstatic joy."

Why were they filled with such great joy? After all, at this point they had not yet seen Jesus (read the text carefully). Clearly, it was the reappearance of the star that prompted their joy. It reassured them that this was the real thing and also gave them the ability to continue their journey to find the Christ child.

I believe we have here an example of how God reveals Himself to the earnest seeker. They had seen the star while in the East and then went to Jerusalem by faith. The reappearance of the star on their way to Bethlehem gave them an assurance that their seeking was not in vain!

At times the light of God's guidance is remarkably clear like the star seen by the wise men while in the east. At other times God's leading is less clear, such as when the guiding star was no longer visible. But like these wise men, as earnest seekers, we walk by faith and obedience to God's Word.  Then we see again the clear, unmistakable light of God's guidance as the wise men did when they saw the star a second time. Truly this is a time of great rejoicing.

Where are you today in your walk of faith? For some the answer will surely be, "I haven't seen the 'star' for a long time". Keep seeking, believing, and following my friend. Remember this important truth: "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Help me to journey in faith when the path is dimmed or obscured by that which You have planned for me. When I can only see through a glass darkly, help me to trust You for what is yet to come. May I have a believing, obedient spirit even when I don't fully understand Your plan. The wise men who followed the star in the East at times lost sight of it. But when the star shone brightly again they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. When walking by faith and not by sight, we too rejoice greatly when Your light shines through the darkness leading us toward our eternal homeland. Amen.

Study note: This week we have been studying references to joy in the Christmas story accounts. The first account was a message from the angel when Zechariah was informed that he would have a son and the final was in today's text concerning the wise men. These events essentially bookend the Biblical accounts and cover a period of some 2+ years.

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Special Year-end Financial Appeal: We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year (and some for many years!). We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Like many ministries, we typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful.

Our ministry labor is comprised of approximately half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive compensation. Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each would provide half of our ministry expenses and income.

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To donate directly online here. This will open to a page that designates the offering to: WEBER,STEPHEN CHAP, Specialized Chaplaincy Ministry ID: 700001-237376

Make A DonationPlease Note: We also provide this familiar option due to the convenience, for international supporters, and for those who may not be concerned regarding receiving an official tax deductible receipt. Click here to send an offering using PayPal. This will open to a page that states "Brooksyne Weber"

Thank you

Here are some views from our visit yesterday to the Christmas program at the Pine Grove school, a one-room Amish schoolhouse, in eastern Lancaster County. Respecting their customs we did not take photos from inside the school where many children and guests were gathered.

Amish school Christmas program 12/20/17
Approaching the school...

Amish school Christmas program 12/20/17

Amish school Christmas program 12/20/17
The little school surely had over 100 inside and it very was full! The children do an outstanding job with singing, drama and recitations. We heard a clear presentation of the Gospel numerous times.

Amish school Christmas program 12/20/17
View from the parking lot.

Jim Smith with LBC prof
Jim Smith, right in photo with LBC shirt, is a friend and long-time Daily Encouragement reader. He is 78 years old and is shown with Victor Jacobs, one his professors at Lancaster Bible College where he is presently a student!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"  Video   The Collingsworth Family

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"  Video  
Dailey & Vincent

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"  Video   An Appalachian Christmas Tour

"When They Saw The Star They Rejoiced With Great Joy"  Video  Unidentified youth choir. Based upon the dress and head scarves on the girls this reminds us of a Russian Christian church we sometimes attend where several of our friends are members.

"Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy"  Video  Gaither Homecoming Singers

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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