Monday Reverb – Christmas2023


For those of us who follow the Christian Worship Calendar, the season of Advent (four weeks of anticipation and preparation for this day) ended yesterday.  During the Advent season, we used each of the Sundays to remind us that Jesus Christ is our HOPEour PEACEour JOY and our LOVE.  

Today is Christmas Day.   Today, we celebrate the fact that He is our SALVATION. — the day we commemorate and celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  So, Merry Christmas to you!    





•  ••

Our theme for Christmas is a Son, given to all of us.

  • In Psalm 96:1-13, the whole earth is invited to worship because the Lord is coming.
  • In Isaiah 9:2-7, the prophet writes about the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace given to us.
  • In Titus 2:11-14, we read about the grace of God that has appeared in Jesus Christ, who has brought salvation to all.
  • And finally, in Luke 2:1-14, an angel declared that the birth of Jesus was good news for all humankind.


From the transcript …


In the quiet of this holy night, we gather to celebrate the coming of the Light of the World, a beacon of hope in our waiting hearts.

Isaiah 9:2-7 foretells the birth of a child, a son given to us, whose light would shine in the darkness, bringing joy and peace to a weary world.

In the vulnerability of a child, we find the promise of God’s boundless love, a love that knows no bounds.

As we gather in this season of Advent, we join a chorus of voices echoing through the ages, proclaiming the arrival of our Savior.

Tonight, we light the Christ candle, a symbol of the Light that has come into the world, dispelling the shadows of doubt and fear.

As the flame grows, may our hearts also be kindled with the fire of God’s love, warming us from within.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
You have multiplied exultation; you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden and the bar across their shoulders,  the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.  
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.  
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders, and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Great will be his authority, and there shall be endless peace  for the throne of David and his kingdom.  He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore.  
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.  

Isaiah’s words remind us that unto us, a child is born, a son is given, and he shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In this sacred space, may we feel the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, as we come together to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

As we journey through this Christmas season, may the Light of Christ guide our way, leading us to a deeper understanding of God’s boundless love.






Luke 2:1-14 NIV

King Charles III, the current monarch of Great Britain, was born on November 14, 1948.  He was born in Buckingham Palace to Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, surrounded by one of the best medical teams in all of England.  Just before midnight on November 14, a proclamation was posted on the railing outside the palace announcing the safe “deliverance of a Prince.”  Hundreds of people gathered outside the palace to see the proclamation and celebrate the new prince.  The next day, every major newspaper in the world carried the story.  Every news program on the radio gave the details of the prince’s birth.  The bells of the Royal Abbey melodically celebrated the future king and cannons were fired in Hyde Park.  The whole world knew that something special had happened.  These are the kinds of things we would expect when a future king is born.

Even in ancient times, the births of future rulers were major events.  Gaius Octavius, later known as Octavian and Caesar Augustus, was born on September 23, 63 BC.  Augustus was named after his father, a member of a very prosperous family, who served as a senator and later a praetor (like a Supreme Court justice who also had control over parts of the government).  His mother, Atia, was the niece of Julius Caesar, ruler of the Roman Empire.  Augustus was born in the center of Rome in a place called Ox Head on Palatine Hill, which was walking distance from the Roman Forum.  When he was 17, his great uncle Julius Caesar adopted him and named him his heir.  We do not know much about the exact circumstances of Augustus’ birth, since it was impossible to know at that time that he would one day become Caesar.  Yet, we find evidence of the Roman Empire retroactively celebrating Octavian’s birth.  In the Berlin Museum, you can find two stone tablets that come from a marketplace in the ancient city of Priene, which is in modern-day western Turkey.  These tablets record a Roman decree made in 9 BC (54 years after Augustus’ birth) that stated, “The birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good news for the world that came by reason of him.  From his birth, a new reckoning of time must begin.”  The decree changed the beginning of the new year to September 23 in honor of Augustus’ birth.  So, the entire Roman world was changed as a result of Gaius Octavian’s birth.  But, these are the kinds of things we would expect when a future king is born.

We expect our royalty to be extraordinary.  We expect them to be born in extraordinary places and to extraordinary people.  We expect them to live an extraordinary lifestyle with the world watching, commenting on how extraordinary they are.  Evidence of this can be found in every supermarket checkout line in the US.  Our tabloids persistently cover the British royal family because many, for one reason or another, find them extraordinary.  We even expect extraordinary things from babies who may one day grow up to be kings.

Around nine years after the decree recorded on the Priene stones, a very special child was bornThis child was not born a prince who could one day become king, like Charles. This child was born a King.  He was born with the government resting on his shoulders.  Similar to Augustus, the birth of this King was said to be “good news for the world.”  Yet, unlike Augustus and Charles, very few knew that the birth of the King was good news. There was no proclamation placed on a palace fence or cannons firing. Hundreds of people did not gather to celebrate. In fact, only a very small group of people had any idea that something extraordinary had happened. Let us look at the circumstances surrounding the birth of the child who was born King.  Please turn to Luke 2:1-14, where it says:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:1-14 NIV)

From a human perspective, the birth of the Savior King was … ordinary.  In fact, one could argue that the circumstances of the birth of the Messiah were humble, at best.  He was born to unwed, working-class parents.  He was not born in a palace or mansion.  Not to mess too much with your nativity scene, but he was most likely born in a crowded room surrounded by distant relatives and next to an open room where cattle and sheep were kept.  He was wrapped in simple cloths and laid in a manger, which was the feeding trough usually located along one low wall in the room, separating the family from the animals.  The family of the one born King did not come from the seat of power of a great empire.  Rather, his family hailed from a poor town that was thought to produce nothing good.  Crowds did not gather to celebrate his birth.  Instead, a small group of poor shepherds were the only ones besides distant relatives to welcome the Lord.  In fact, the authorities would later seek to take this King’s life.  The birth of the Christ seemed to have gone unnoticed by most people in the world.  This is not what we would expect from a child who is born a king.

In the passage, it seems like Luke is drawing our attention to the contrast between Augustus, a great king by human standards, and Jesus, the King of kings.  Luke deliberately mentions a decree by Augustus, which may have brought to the mind of those reading his gospel the decree that came less than 10 years earlier which changed the calendar in most of the Roman world.  In that decree, it was declared that the birth of the Caesar was “good news for the world.”  Augustus was incredibly powerful and thought to be a god.  Yet, Luke provided a glimpse of true power.  Luke introduced us to the one true God.  At the birth of Christ, the heavens opened, and an angel of the living God declared that Jesus was “good news for the world.”  Augustus (and all like him) was the counterfeit and Jesus the reality.  God himself is the one who testified that Jesus was (and is), despite his humble beginnings by human standards, extraordinary.

This should cause us to shout, “Hallelujah!”  We should be filled with joy because we serve a God who can make the ordinary extraordinary!

  • From human reckoning, Jesus was a nobody born to nobodies.  But God broke into our reality to declare with a chorus of angels that Jesus was everything.  God can make the ordinary extraordinary.
  • By human reckoning, Jesus was from nowhere and going nowhere.  But God himself testified that the newly born baby was the prophesied Christ who would save the world.  God can make the ordinary extraordinary.
  • By human reckoning, very few knew or cared that Jesus was born.  But God brought heaven across through the veil to join the earth in celebrating the arrival of the Creator. God can make the ordinary extraordinary.

What have people reckoned about you?

  • Have you been given the message that you are ordinary?  Maybe even less than ordinary?
  • Have you been made to feel overlooked and unappreciated?
  • Do you feel like your talents and gifts are nothing special?

In the infinite wisdom of God, he knew that human beings would chronically see ourselves as less than what he created us to be.  If Jesus was born in an extraordinary place to extraordinary people, many of us would assume that he could not be for us.  After all, how could royalty truly understand the lives of ordinary people?  In the beautiful humility of God, Jesus came into the world as one completely impoverished so no matter our station in life, we can declare that Christ is for us.  Jesus is for all of us!

This is the good news of the birth of Christ — that Jesus is the savior of all of us, not just the ones deemed extraordinary by human standards.  No one is so low that they cannot reach him because Jesus was wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough.  No one is so high that they are above him because heaven itself joyously celebrated his birth.  Rich and poor, great and small — we are all invited to worship the King of kings and enjoy friendship with him.  Praise God for his wonderful ways!

And here is more good news.  Because of the incarnation, we cannot be ordinary.  Others may call you ordinary, but Jesus made us extraordinary.  Angels rejoiced when you started following Christ.  Your name is written in the Book of Life.  Even now, Jesus the King is preparing a place for you so you can be with him forever.  You are extraordinary!  Notice, that I did not say, “Perfect.”  I did not even say, “Better than anyone else.”  I said, “Extraordinary.”  Your personality, your gifts and talents, your righteous desires — all of these things are special because they flow from Christ.  We get both prideful and discouraged when we compare ourselves to others.  Rather, we should joyously praise God because our extraordinary Jesus lives in us.  It is not about us.  It is about him.

Let the story of Christmas inspire us to live extraordinary lives in Christ.  Since Jesus lives in us, we can use our gifts to be a blessing to others.  We can be generous and kind.  We can strive for justice and practice radical humility.  We can turn our eyes toward the overlooked and put our arms around the outcast.  In Jesus, we are extraordinary, so let us be extraordinary.  More than that, let us be inspired to celebrate Jesus.  The one who was born King is for all of us.  He truly is good news for everyone.  Joy to the world!



Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think there is an expectation for royalty to be extraordinary?
  • Jesus was willing to be born into the most humble of situations — what does this say about God and how he values humanity?
  • What are some ways you can live a more “extraordinary” life?
      • Start by realizing that “extraordinary” doesn’t mean great.  The prefix extra- just means outside or beyond.


The Incarnation

The greatest event that has a beginning, but no end.  


I love the way the apostle John starts his Gospel, “In the beginning…”

What is he referring to?  The beginning of the creation?  The beginning of the earth?  The beginning of the universe?  The beginning of time?  The beginning of the plan of God?  We don’t know, but what we do know is the best translation of the Greek refers to origin, or the beginning of all things.  We know John makes it clear he is not referring to the beginning of the Word, because he says, “In the beginning was the Word.”  Granted, the word “was” is an English word translated from the Greek, but it points to the “I Am,” or the eternal existence of the Word.  Beginnings and endings are part of time and space, God is outside both; he has no beginning.  So I like to think of John’s focus as the beginning of God’s plan.  Let’s continue.

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1 NRSVUE)

John is making it clear that the Word is not a created being; He is God.  There was never a time that the Word was not a part of God or God was not part of the Word.  John wants his reader to understand the significance of who the Word is – He is God.  John continues:

 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What came into being in him is life, and the life was the light of all people. (John 1:2-3 NRSVUE)

To further emphasize his point, John is making it clear that this Word who has always been is the Creator – the one responsible for all of creation; without this Word, we would not have life.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. (John 1:10-11 NRSVUE)

John next emphasizes that this Word – the Logos – God – wasn’t absent or apart from humanity.  Here are just a few reminders …

  • The Word walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
  • The Word spoke to Cain after Cain murdered Abel.  (Notice the Word was still present in the midst of sin.  Sin didn’t turn God away; sin causes man to turn away.  That will preach.)
  • The Word spoke to Noah and told him to build an ark.
  • The Word promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations.
  • The Word wrestled with Jacob, and later told him it was safe to move to Egypt.
  • The Word met Moses in a burning bush and guided him as Moses challenged Pharoah.
  • The Word led Israel out of Egypt, using fire by night and a cloud by day.
  • The Word revealed himself to Moses on Mt Sinai.
  • The Word appeared in the tent in the Holy of Holies as Israel wandered the wilderness.
  • The Word spoke to several kings and prophets.
  • Notice 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

The Word – who was with God and who is God – has always been present with humanity.  John wants this made clear as he progresses in sharing who Jesus was, is, and will be.  John’s statement that the world did not know him … and his own people did not accept him is a brief summary of more than 4,000 years of humanity’s existence.  From the very beginning humanity rejected walking in relationship with God, desired to do things their own way, and preferred to hear from God through a mediator (Moses, Joshua, prophets, kings, and priests.  We refer to this time period as “the fall.”

Then God put the biggest, most exciting, most transformational part of his plan into motion.

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NRSVUE)

I will spend the rest of my life attempting to grasp the significance of these words.  We call this transformation, INCARNATION. (Yes, I actually capitalized the entire word because it needs to be emphasized.)

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines Incarnation like this:

Incarnation [N] that act of grace whereby Christ took our human nature into union with his Divine Person, became man.  Christ is both God and man.  Human attributes and actions are predicated of him, and he of whom they are predicated is God.

The Word who was in the beginning, the one who was with God, the one who was God, became fleshHe became one of us.  He started the same way we startedin the womb.  He entered the world the same way we enter the world – in pain and joy.  He learned to walk;  he learned to talk;  he went to school;  he played with friends;  he learned a skill with his dad – carpentry or stonework;  he spent time in church (synagogue);  he learned to obey his parents; he got dirty and sweaty;  he got angry and happy;  he laughed,  and he cried.  He was fully human because, as Author Max Lucado phrased it, “He took off his robe of light and put on pigmented human skin.”

This is the beginning of the Incarnation, but it is just the beginning.  Jesus didn’t put on humanity for a few years and then throw it off at his death and say, “Whew! I am glad that is over.”  No, Jesus kept his humanity.  He remains human.   He is the first of the first of what we term “glorified humanity.”  We don’t know what that is, but we do know it is good – very good.

The Incarnation is the most unprecedented event ever – and let me put this in all caps as well.  GOD BECAME FLESH.  Wow!  Take a few moments, hours, days, weeks, years to think on that.  Our God loves us so much, He put aside his equality with the Father and became one of us.

The apostle Paul said it best as he encouraged believers in Philippi to have the same mind as Jesus Christ.  Here he describes the Incarnation:

Who, though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him even more highly and gave him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name given to Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11)

The Incarnation is the greatest event that has a beginning, but no end.

Rick Shallenberger — Editor, GCI Equipper

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Name change for Monday Reverb … to GCI Calling

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M.A.P for 2024  … to improve and expand our ON-SITE ministry and our ONLINE ministry.

ON-SITE Sunday 9:00 a.m. Church Service Hope Avenue
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