“Highlighting” Bethlehem

As I prayerfully pondered our Christmas edition for 2020, it occurred to me that my wonderful wife has picked up one of God’s practices that I hadn’t really considered before. It appears that both of them are inveterate “highlighters.”

If any document is significant enough to require my wife’s undivided attention, she’s going to want a separate printed copy to work with. That’s because whether it’s a study guide, a tax form, a quote for some project, or the instructions for using a new device, you can be assured that when she reads it, she’ll have a highlighter in her hand and will apply it to every important word or phrase. If I see papers lying around that don’t have a bunch of bright yellow swatches all over them, I can be sure that they’re either not very important, or she hasn’t dealt with them yet.

It’s a Good Idea ~                                                                                                                                    Though I’m not nearly as consistent with the practice as she is, I think highlighting things is a good idea. It helps us focus our attention and evaluate which details are most important. Later, when we review what we’ve read, highlighting helps draw us back to those things we need to be careful not to overlook. 

God didn’t inspire the writers of Scripture to use brightly colored ink. Instead, He chose to highlight profoundly important concepts by repeating them in ways that capture our attention and draw us back to truth that we must not overlook or forget. The Apostle Paul was one of the highlighters God used to draw our attention back to Bethlehem and to remind us of what the shepherds were told that Jesus would bring with Him. Luke’s rendition of the angelic announcement is familiar: 

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11 NKJV)

A Different Kind of Highlighter ~                                                                                                        Much later and in a totally different context, God prodded Paul to remind everyone of some of the priceless benefits that Jesus brought into the world that night. The concepts he mentioned as he penned a single statement in his letter to the church in Rome would certainly qualify as one of God’s “Bethlehem highlighters.” He said,

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NKJV) 

There are some specific words in this compelling and powerful benediction that deserve additional attention. They help us to realize the extent of the angel’s words and what those promises mean to us. There was much more wrapped inside those swaddling clothes than the shepherds could have grasped, and as our country reels from the effects of a traumatic year, the need for what Jesus offers has never been greater. So, let’s do some highlighting of our own and focus on some of the words in Paul’s benediction that might help make this Christmas more meaningful:

Gifts Available for Immediate Delivery ~

 Now” ~ Christmas, 2020 concludes a year that has, to so many of us, been awful on multiple levels. We’ve been vainly waiting months on end for some relief, and God, it seems, would have us pause a moment and reflect on this word, “Now.” The promises Jesus offers aren’t relegated to some far off place and they’re not put on hold until circumstances are better. They are available now, even in the midst of this plague-ravaged Christmas. 

God of Hope” ~ If God ever gave a consummate demonstration that He is, indeed, the God of hope, it was in that Bethlehem stable. The hope He brought to life in Jesus that first Christmas night finds its origin in Him, and no set of circumstances, viruses, plagues, or political reversals can overcome it. The hope God offers lives, and is as invincible and eternal as He is.

Fill” ~ This is a simple, but deeply meaningful, word. When a vessel is full, there’s no possibility of adding more. Jesus promised to provide the same kind of joy that He experienced (John 15:11) and peace that the world can’t offer (John 14:27). He isn’t rationing these gifts out as little spiritual and emotional tidbits to a select few followers. We are the vessels He intends to pour those qualities into and He wants to fill up all the space we have with them. Imagine how much anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, and frustration would be displaced if we were filled with joy and peace this Christmas.

All” ~ Here’s another simple little word with powerful implications. It means that the kind of joy and peace God offers is inclusive of every form or context in which they might be found. The qualities are more than something to be received and experienced as spiritual consumers. They are the fountainheads from which the behavioral expressions of who we are flow. 

Believing” ~ These incredible benefits aren’t achieved by working hard, or by repetitious ritual, or by joining some group. They aren’t confirmed by our portfolio, or our political affiliation, or our social status, or our physical appearance. The benefits Jesus offers are available without distinction to everyone–except those who refuse to believe. And “believing” in this case is more than just a verbal acknowledgement. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ that is personal, active, and evident in our lives every day.

Abound” ~ The arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem heralded a new kind of joy, peace, and hope that the world had never known, and the supply is inexhaustible. We’re facing an abundance of bad news and an apparently endless supply of frightening prospects. Accessing this boundless joy, peace, and hope would be a more powerful catalyst for healing and restoration than anything science can produce.

Power” ~ The kind of dynamic energy required to translate God’s incredible promises into visible behavior is not found in human capacities, legislative ordinances, or bureaucratic mandates. These concepts have the potential for transformational impact on individuals and entire nations, but it takes the power of the Spirit of God to activate them. Trying to generate genuine peace, joy, and hope without Him is an exercise in frustration and futility.

Paper Wrapping Not Required ~                                                                                                          As the usual array of hectic Christmas demands is made even more challenging by the unusual circumstances gripping our nation, maybe it’s a good time to reflect on the things God chose to highlight. For instance, how much would you give to have a life filled with an abundance of joy, peace, and hope right now? Then consider that there are no monthly payments, no delivery problems, no size or color issues, and the only wrapping involved is wrapping your heart around the One who gave His life to free us from all the plagues we’ll ever face. Maybe if we focus on the things God highlighted and apply the gifts He gave, this Christmas can be the best ever.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!


“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

  • “The hope that God brought to life in Jesus that first Christmas night finds its origin in Him, and no set of circumstances, viruses, plagues, or political reversals can overcome it. This hope lives and is as invincible & eternal as He is.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
  • “We are the vessels God intends to pour joy and peace into. He wants to fill up all the space we have with them. Imagine how much anxiety, fear, confusion, anger, and frustration would be displaced if we were filled with joy and peace.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
  • “Believing is more than just a verbal acknowledgement. It’s a relationship with Jesus Christ that is personal, active, and evident in our lives every day.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
  • “The kind of dynamic energy required to translate God’s incredible promises into visible behavior is not found in human capacities, legislative ordinances, or bureaucratic mandates, but in the power of the Spirit of God.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
  • “There are no monthly payments with God’s focus, no delivery problems, no size or color issues, and the only wrapping involved is wrapping your heart around the One who gave His life to free us from all the plagues we’ll ever face.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)   

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© 2020 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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12 Responses to “Highlighting” Bethlehem

  1. Ron,
    That last paragraph “highlights” a beautiful Christmas message. I have peace and even joy knowing our God reigns over all. Nothing can stop Him or His good purpose—not a pandemic, politics, shutdowns, or protests riots—not even the powers of hell!
    Indeed, Jesus is King forever! And He is the reason for the season.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Like

    • Thanks for the encouraging bright spot, Beckie. With all you have going on in your life, I’m humbled and blessed to hear from you. We’ve moved from being east coast fans to middle Tennessee fans, but nothing else has changed. We still love seeing how God is moving your heart and blessing your work. Thanks for staying strong in the CA craziness. Your comment that “not even the powers of hell” (which are, by the way, on full display in this country these days) can overcome Him or frustrate His purpose is spot on as usual.

      May your Christmas will be a living, vibrant, joy-filled contradiction of every lie the devil’s propaganda machine can crank out.

      Ron

      Like

  2. Shirley Cunningham says:

    Beautiful message!! Hope you and Diane will have a very Merry Christmas!
    Shirley and Jerry

    Like

    • Diane and I hope that your Christmas celebrations are moving along as smoothly as possible, and that His presence will be unmistakeable in the midst of the uncertainties around us. Thanks for letting us know you’re out there, and have a Merry Christmas.

      Like

  3. May the Word of God, and His promises, highlight our days with love, joy and peace.
    Merry Christmas, Ron!

    Like

    • I love your prayer-wish for us, Martha, and we send our petition for the same kinds of blessings for you and your family. You have helped to make the burdens lighter and this unbearable year bearable. May God keep you safe and joyful, and your ministry fruitful as we move ahead.

      Like

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