Sunday, December 07, 2014

Advent Bible study: The Road to Christmas

From one of my vintage Christmas carol books
Again this year I am doing an Advent Bible study.  This one is "The Road to Christmas" from Love God Greatly.  As I glanced over the reading guide for the four weeks, I found myself wondering just how meaningful this was going to be.  The readings included some from Genesis -- not verses where the Savior had been promised, as one might think, but verses from the life of Tamar,  Judah's daughter-in-law.  Well, after having completed the first week,  I must say I am finding this study very meaningful indeed.

It begins with Matthew 1 with the genealogy of Christ.  Interestingly, this genealogy includes the names of several women in addition to Mary.  It includes Tamar in verse 3, Rahab and Ruth in verse 5, and Bathsheba in verse 6.  As you consider this list, you notice that these women (including Mary) were not women who led neat, tidy, problem-free lives.  In fact, several of their lives were downright messy and fraught with difficulty.

What stood out to me was that God used ordinary people, living ordinary lives, as part of the family line to bring Christ to earth.  As I read Tamar's difficult story, I was encouraged by the reminder that God chose to use this sordid situation on the way to bringing about the very best good for mankind: the birth of a Savior!

On Friday I looked at the account of Elisabeth and Zacharias in Luke 1.  Their story was very different, as you know. They were "both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless (verse 6)."  By this point they were old; they had no children because Elisabeth was barren.  They had apparently been praying for years for a child.  As Zacharias ministered in the temple, an angel appeared to him and said, "Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear a son, and thou shalt call his name John (verse 13)."

This is a good reminder to me that we can be walking with God, seeking to live for Him, and to obey His Word -- and yet that is no guarantee that our lives will be free from problems.  This couple had some serious heartaches (and in Elisabeth's case, the reproach and shame of being childless).  God had allowed this situation to go on unchanged for many years.  Yet Zacharias, at least, had apparently continued to pray, for the angel told him his prayer was heard.

And in God's time, when He was ready to bring John the Baptist on the scene, He answered that prayer.  As I concluded my study of these verses from Luke 1, I thanked God for the encouragement of how He answered prayer long after an answer seemed possible.  In the seeming deadness of that situation, His glory shone out brightly as He did the impossible to work out His perfect plan.  I am reminded that He can do the same today in our difficult situations!

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