Daily Encouragement Net
The online Bible teaching ministry of Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
A daily, Bible-based perspective of hope, encouragement and exhortation.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Winter home in Lancaster County (Photo by Joe Ulicny)
Our friend Joe Ulicny took this photo of his home built in the 1840's all decorated for Christmas after the first seasonal snow several years ago. At first glance you might think this is a Currier & Ives print.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

"The Blessing Of Renewed Joy"

Note: Today's message is a bit longer which can happen when you study a passage!

Message summary: At times we see again the clear, unmistakable light of God's guidance as the wise men did as they looked upon the star a second time. Truly this is a time of great rejoicing. But sometimes the guidance is not as clear and we may not see the "star".

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"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). "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).

This week planet earth experienced a heavenly phenomenon as Saturn and Jupiter aligned for the first time since 1623.  But it was the first time since 1226 that the alignment was visible to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. This close approach is called a conjunction. Ester has been excited about this and was prepared to take a photo but in our area it was cloudy just after sunset blocking the event in the western sky from our view.

Some have speculated the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter, the two largest planets in our solar system, was the "Christmas star" that the wise men saw and followed. But only God really knows! He is perfectly capable of putting a light in the sky that had nothing to do with stars and planets or any other natural phenomenon. It is our prayer that in this unusual year it may be a reminder of what the birth of our Savior means for the final salvation of mankind.

We tend to compress a lot that happened over several years into the four weeks or so in December when we especially 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 sometime 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. However don't be bothered by seeing the traditional manger scene with shepherds and kings. It is representative.

Careful consideration of Scripture actually reveals that the wise men who followed the star arrived sometime 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). Another sense of when this happened is in Herod's abortive slaughter of the infant boys under 2 years of age "according to the time which he had determined from the Magi" (Matthew 2:16).

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.

Apparently 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.)

MagiThese 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.

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 a reassurance 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.

At times we see 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.

But sometimes the guidance is not as clear and we may not see the "star".

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, following, and obeying Christ, 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 man Daily 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.

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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.

If you would consider making a donation to our ministry see here for more information.

To donate directly online click 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 easy 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,

Stephen & Brooksyne

Today we will share several photos of Lancaster County farmhouses in our area.

Lancaster County farmhouse in snow
This stone house is on the grounds of the Nissley Vineyards
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Lancaster County farmhouse in snow
This large brick farmhouse is on Bullmoose Road about two miles due west of us.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Lancaster County farmhouse in snow
This stately home is on Old River Road near the Susquehanna River.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Lancaster County farmhouse in snow
This red farmhouse on Donegal Springs Road is a colorful contrast to the snow!
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"  Video   Dailey & Vincent

"We Three Kings"  Video  The song was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857. At the time of composing the carol, Hopkins served a church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy perfect light

"Silent Night"  Video  Herb Basso  A very colorful man of Italian descent who was in the church we served in New England in the 90's. Herbie is now with the Lord. Before we left the New England area Herbie and Celia took us out to dinner in Rhode Island. I can still recall Herbie, with a little suction at the snail's head, sucking the meat from the shell straight into the mouth, one after the other. He was thoroughly enjoying the taste of escargot.

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 you, your family or church 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 over the 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. Here's a great Communion Hymn for Christmas (Video)

"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 page was first posted in 2005 soon after my Mom passed away.

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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