Every Tuesday, we have company Bible study time. For the longest time, the boss was the one leading the study, but after awhile she decided to step away and (I swear I'm not sure how this happened) I was assigned to take the reins. And it's kind of gone back and forth from there. I also open it up for other leaders, and sometimes someone else will step in for a week, which is always awesome. I never really know whether I'll be "teaching" or not until about 10 a.m. each Tuesday. Now, it's been awhile since I've led consistently due to Kim's hospital visits and the boss occasionally stepping in, so I've been a little lax at getting things together ahead of time. (And I'm sure it's shown when I have taught)
This week, I spent some extra time putting this morning's lesson together. It's the last Tuesday before Christmas, our last chance to gather as a unit during Advent season, and so I wanted it to be something that was not only good but simple and communal as well.
I didn't end up doing the study today, but I still wanted to share. So, for my 600th post on this blog, I'm going to go ahead and type out pretty much verbatim what would have happened had I had the opportunity to share this morning :-)
(This is where it starts)
I know I said this last year, but who cares. It's still true, so I'll just say it again. Christmas is so busy here. And it's busier this year, because there are fewer of us with the same workload. And most of us are doing things with our churches, too. And most of us have been planning family things, too. Blah blah blah, busy busy busy. And it's all good, all the stuff we're doing, but I know that there are probably a lot of us here who either haven't had time or likely won't take time to just sit down and think about the Christmas story. So that's kinda what I want us to do today.
I like Bible study, and I like in-depth teachings, and I know you guys all know I love finding out what this Hebrew word means, and how that Greek word rhymes with this other Greek word, or whatever. But I also like sometimes to just read scripture and let it speak for itself.
(Here is where I'd explain the "format" for the day's actual study: I've picked out some specific scriptures--a LOT of them, actually--and I'd like for us to take turns reading them aloud. Sharing in the sharing of the Christmas story. So when you read the rest of this, keep in mind it was originally supposed to come from many different voices, lending some variation to the texts)
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:1-5
"Then to Adam He said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, "You shall not eat from it"; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments for skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and life forever'--therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." Genesis 3:17-24
"Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." 2 Samuel 7:8-13
"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer! She weeps bitterly in the night and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile under affliction and under harsh servitude; she dwells among the nations, but she has found no rest; all her pursuers have overtaken her in the midst of distress. The roads of Zion are in mourning because no one comes to the appointed feasts. All her gates are desolate; her priests are groaning, her virgins are afflicted, and she herself is bitter. Her adversaries have become her masters, her enemies prosper; for the Lord has caused her grief because of the multitude of her transgressions; her little ones have gone away as captives before the adversary. All her majesty has departed from the daughter of Zion; her princes have become like deer that have found no pasture; and they have fled without strength before the pursuer. In the days of her affliction and homelessness Jerusalem remembers all her precious things that were from the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the adversary and no one helped her. The adversaries saw her, they mocked at her ruin. Jerusalem sinned greatly, therefore she has become an unclean thing. All who honored her before despise her because they have seen her nakedness; even she herself groans and turns away. Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she did not consider her future. Therefore she has fallen astonishingly; she has no comforter. 'See, O Lord, my affliction, for the enemy has magnified himself!'" Lamentations 1:1-9
"Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, and said, 'I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. And in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He will cry to Me, "You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation." I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven. If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they violate My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgressions with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is beautiful.'
But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your annointed. You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown to the dust. You have broken down his walls; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass along the way plunder him; he has become a reproach to his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice. You also turn back the edge of his sword and have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground. You have shortened the days of his youth; You have covered him with shame.
"How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the songs of men! What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness? Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Your servants; how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples, with which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, with which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed." Psalm 89: 19-51
"How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to you, 'Violence!' Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted." Habakkuk 1:2-4
"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." Psalm 13:1-5
"The godly person has vanished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net. Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe, and a great man speaks the desire of his soul; so they weave it together. The best of them is like a briar, the most upright like a thorn hedge. The day when you post your watchmen, your punishment will come. Then their confusion will occur. Do not trust in a neighbor; do not have confidence in a friend. From her who lies in your bosom guard your lips. For son treats father contemptuously, daughter rises up against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own household.
"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me." Micah 7:2-8
"Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our reproach! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our houses to aliens. We have become orphans without a father, our mothers are like widows. We have to pay for our drinking water, our wood comes to us at a price. Our pursuers are at our necks; we are worn out, there is no rest for us. We have submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. Our fathers sinned, and are no more; it is we who have borne their iniquities. Slaves rule over us; there is no one to deliver us from their hand. We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the wilderness. Our skin has become as hot as an oven, because of the burning heat of famine. They ravished the women of Zion, the virgins in the cities of Juday. Princes were hung by their hands; elders were not respected. Young men worked at the grinding mill, and youths stumbled under loads of wood. Elders are gone from the gate, young men from their music. The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned into mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our heart if faint, because of these things our eyes are dim; because of Mount Zion which lies desolate, foxes prowl in it.
You, O Lord, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation. Why do You forget us forever? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old, unless You have utterly rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us." Lamentations 5
"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" Jeremiah 31:31-34
"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old." Micah 7:18-20
"Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is b owed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassiions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3:19-26
"'But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrath, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.' Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has born a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. The One will be our peace." Micah 5:2-5a
"There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens ever man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God." John 1:9-13
"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:2-7
"Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.' Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'" Luke 1:30-35
"And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:19-23
"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:1-7
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about him and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me."' For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." John 1:14-18
"In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.' So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them." Luke 2:8-20
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." John 3:14-21