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Superstition and a Sovereign God

Christmas stars are popular. Many children like to have big, colourful stars in their homes for Christmas.

Wise men and kings from the East came to worship Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:1-12). One tradition assumes there were three as three gifts are named; other traditions think there were 12 or even more.  According to one of the traditions they were Melchor, a Persian scholar, Gaspar, king from India and Balthazar, representative of the king of Arabia.

The wise men understood the movement and position of stars.  It was considered science at that time but was mixed with occult practice, hence the word ‘magic’.  Before the era of telescopes, planets, stars, supernovas, comets and meteors were all called with a generic term ‘stars’.  Those astronomers/astrologists tracked the position and timing of the stars when they were first visible.  “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). God in His Sovereign power and authority used the Magi’s superficial, superstitious and frankly stupid faith to reveal His marvellous work of incarnation.

The journey could have been a month long. The scribes and other leaders could not walk three hours from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to worship the King, but the Magi risked their lives and travelled huge distances to worship the King of Kings.

God uses insignificant and unlikely things and people to draw people to Himself.  Let us pray that God may use us too.  May all kings bow down and worship him (Psalms 72:11). Are you a star used by God to lead people into righteousness?  (Daniel 12:3)

#jnmanokaran #insights #christmasstars

Website:  jnmanokaran.me

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

by Rev. Dr J.N. Manokaran

Christmas trees bear gospel fruit!

When we were in Haryana as missionaries, during December one of my neighbours said: “I will come on Christmas day to see your Christmas tree.”  I said: “Come I will give you a surprise.”

I did not intend to have a Christmas tree and decorations as I did not think they were important. A  few more people in our neighbourhood also wanted to see a Christmas tree.  That made us think.  We found a pine tree branch and set it in our home and decorated it.  It was on the front balcony of our house.  Many would pass by and stop to look at the tree.  We would invite them in and tell them about first Christmas in Bethlehem.  Then on 24th December, we had a Christmas event inviting friends and neighbours.  We sang a few songs, listened to one or two testimonies, explained about Christmas and gave a gospel message.  After that, we used to have sweets as many of our neighbours do not eat cake (as it contains egg) and tea. We said that those who wanted to take a New Testament were welcome to do so.

The Christmas Tree created us an opportunity for us to share the gospel.  We did it for many years as long as we were in Haryana.  Many of our friends followed our method and created opportunities to share and develop a friendship in the community.

In many cities in the West, there are awards for the best Christmas Trees.  Unfortunately, Santa Claus, stars, tree and these traditions have reached people before they have been introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ. So, what would be the best strategy?  Ride on those worldly elements to offer the truth.  Traditions could give us strategies to reach people more effectively.

As believers, we are like palm trees planted in the courts of the Lord (Psalms 92:13) and are blessed planted trees that are evergreen and give fruit in season.  (Psalms 1)

Let us use all the opportunities God gives this Christmas to share the gospel!

#jnmanokaran #insights #christmastrees

Website:  jnmanokaran.me

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

by Rev. Dr J.N. Manokaran

Priests, Kings and Wise Men

Matthew records that the wise men came in search of the new-born King following a star. (Matthew 2:1-12) In the narrative, we can see three kinds of responses:

1) Apathetic religious leaders: The Wise men reached Jerusalem unannounced and unscheduled, creating a commotion in Jerusalem.  When Herod heard that a special or unique child was born within his jurisdiction, and these wise men took all pains to visit the infant, he was troubled. The paranoid Herod summoned the Chief Priests and Scribes who were experts in the spiritual and religious issues.  Apathetic religious leaders gave a quick answer – Bethlehem – as the prophet Micah that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Most probably, they were paid for their duty and they simply returned home.  They should have gone ahead of the Wise men to worship the new-born King covering just 6 miles.

2) Adverse political leader: Clever and selfish King Herod was troubled when he heard the message that a King was to be born in his geographical jurisdiction. It was more so because the infant could attract a delegation of diplomats from a foreign nation in the East.  Herod was clever enough to summon the right people to get the right answer.  He wanted to know the exact location not for worshipping but to eradicate him.  He sent his soldiers to kill all the male infants under two years. (Matthew 2:16)

3) Awe and Worship: The wise men went to Bethlehem and worshipped the new-born King. They travelled, probably in caravans of camels crossing forests, rivers, nations and deserts to worship the Lord.  Faithful seekers who were willing to sacrifice, suffer and lose to gain eternal blessings.  They also offered symbolic offering: gold (for a king), frankincense (for a divine) and myrrh ( a reminder of death and resurrection).  The Wise men’s response was awe and worship like that of shepherds.

The world is divided into three categories of people. Which category do you belong to?

#jnmanokaran #insights #wisemen #king #priest #worship

Website:  jnmanokaran.me

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

by Rev. Dr J.N. Manokaran

Prepare, Partner and Partake

In the Christmas narrative in the gospels, angels appeared at least three times.

The first one was a private appearance to Zachariah that became public immediately (Luke 1:11-17), the second was also private and to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and it was not disclosed immediately, the third was public and it was acted upon immediately by the shepherds (Luke 2: 8-20).

The angels gave a message to all generations.  Zachariah was a senior citizen and old enough to be a grandfather, even though he did not have any children.  Mary was a teenager, from a small town.  In some quarters there is a tendency to despise young people who aspire for ministerial and missional roles.  Mary was obedient to God’s call, even though she did not understand the whole process of redemption.  A group of marginalized shepherds – able-bodied, hardworking adults out in the field -saw an angel appearing to them, giving them the first news about the birth of Lord Jesus Christ. Their response was wonderful; they rushed there immediately, worshipped and spread the word to others.  They were worshipers and witnesses.

The messages were received in different contexts.  Zachariah received the message in the temple in Jerusalem. Mary got the message probably as she did her household chores!  Shepherds were at work, keeping vigil to protect their flock.  God reaches us in any context.

Zachariah and his son John were given the task of preparation.  For Mary, the message was a call to be a partner in the Plan of Redemption.  There was a need for a human instrument to fulfil God’s eternal plan.  It could be accomplished only by a woman. God’s choice fell on this humble, submissive and available vessel. The shepherds, a marginalized group of people, were called to partake – by worship and witness.  God prepared the way for His Son to come, called Mary to be a partner, and invited the shepherds who responded by worshipping and witnessing.

This Christmas season once again reminds us of the basic call for all Christians.  We are called to prepare the way for our Lord’s Second Coming.  Like Mary, we are His Holy Instruments.  As members of the Body of Christ, we are worshipers and witnesses for His Glory like the shepherds.

A season to Prepare, Partner and Partake?

#jnmanokaran #insights #christmasangels

Website:  jnmanokaran.me

Image: William Blake

by Rev. Dr J.N. Manokaran

 

No Room!

Humanity had perpetually rejected the God who created, sustained and loved them. It was abundantly clear in Bethlehem when Joseph and Mary arrived with the baby imminent (Luke 2:7).

Joseph did not have a room booking app on his smartphone to reserve a place in advance in a hotel. Hospitality to strangers was a noble virtue of the ancient days (Judges 19:20). Job declared that he would not allow any stranger to stay on the street, his home was always open (Job 31:32). Strangely, this hospitality was missing that day in the city of David, Bethlehem.

Certainly, Herod would not have given room in his palace. How can a King allow a commoner (though a descendant of King David) to claim to be a king?

In Nazareth, he was rejected and could have been killed (Luke 4:14-30). He was rejected in his hometown. He could not do many miracles among them because of their unbelief (Mark 6:2-5). The Lord Jesus condemned Capernaum because of the people’s unbelief (Matthew 11:24). “And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)

When the Lord healed the demon-possessed man, the people were not delighted. In fact, they asked him to leave. “Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.” (Luke 8:37)

Today the situation is unchanged. Which country would elect the Lord Jesus as President? Will any university offer a chair like that offered to Aristotle or Socrates or others? Which multi-national corporation would accept him as a director?

Blessed are millions who have opened their heart to Lord Jesus Christ. Have you opened your mind and heart to the Lord Jesus?

#jnmanokaran #insights #noplaceininn

Website: jnmanokaran.me

by Rev. Dr J.N. Manokaran

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