IT’S SO EASY TO BECOME MARTHAS AT CHRISTMAS
WORRIED AND ANXIOUS ABOUT SO MANY THINGS
TRYING TO SATISFY OUR RAVENOUS IDOLS
OF COMFORT, CONTROL, AND APPROVAL
THE PEACE, &
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING
INSTEAD, THIS ADVENT, BEGINNING TODAY
LET US SEEK FIRST TO BE IN HIS PRESENCE
AND WHAT WE WILL DISCOVER IS THAT
SOME CHRISTMAS TASKS WILL FALL AWAY
AND THE THINGS THAT REMAIN WILL BE TRANSFORMED
WITH A PEACE THE WORLD CANNOT GIVE
MOST OF THE TIME HIS PRESENCE IS GENTLE
LIKE SOFTLY FALLING SNOW
CHANGING YOUR HEART
LIKE THE PRISTINE POWDER TRANSFORMS
THE SOD INTO A WINTER WONDERLAND
YES, MOST OF THE TIME HE WILL COME GENTLY
BUT HE MAY ALSO SURPRISE YOU
FILL YOUR HEART WITH EXCEEDING GREAT JOY!
LORD WE CANNOT SEEK YOU WITHOUT YOU DRAWING US, AND SO I ASK
FOR YOUR SPIRIT TO WOO EACH OF US
TO GIVE US THE DESIRE, AS YOU DID THE MAGI, TO FIND YOU,
TO SEE YOUR FACE,
AND TO WORSHIP YOU.
IF IT PLEASES YOU, DEAR LORD,
MAY WE EXPERIENCE JUST A TASTE OF WHAT THE MAGI EXPERIENCED
OF KNOWING YOUR WORD LED THEM ARIGHT
AND REJOICING WITH EXCEEDING GREAT JOY!
THINK ABOUT THE MAGI AS YOU READ THIS QUOTE FROM WALTER WANGERIN:
Faith is work.
It is a struggle.
You must struggle
with all your heart.
And on the way God
will ambush you.
Oh, how long the Magi journeyed to seek the one born King of the Jews.
It was hard work — but then, when they drew near to Bethlehem,
they were indeed astonished, amazed and ambushed!
They saw the star reappear.
They rejoiced with exceeding great joy!
They knew: it is true!
I’ve shown the following clip of T. S. Elliot reading his poem, Journey of the Magi before,
and I will, if God gives me life, keep showing it at Advent, for it is so rich.
Watch, listen, let it sink in, and share your contemplations.
We are beginning our journey of seeking His presence.
1. What stood out to you from the comparison to Martha — and why?
2. What stood out to you from the Journey of the Magi and why?
BIBLE STUDY: MONDAY-WEDNESDAY
There is always a danger with familiar passages to glaze over, but honestly, I saw new things that are helping me to seek Him. And I’m so praying that His Spirit will do the same for you. So read slowly, with fresh eyes, to discover some of the ways God wooed the Magi and ways they responded that kept them in His presence. It is a clear picture of what Larry Crabbe called “dependent responsibility.”
Perhaps these three responses of the Magi will help you experience His presence:
- WORD (It was the Word that led them to the Savior — may we stay in His Word each day)
- WAY (When given a choice, they chose the right way — not to go back to Herod, but a different way. May we be so sensitive to His Spirit throughout the day that we keep avoiding the wrong way and go God’s way.)
- WORSHIP (Their hearts responded with worship when they saw the star, the baby. May we find ways and quiet moments to worship: using music, poetry, and where we go in our minds.)
3. As an overview, read Matthew 2:1-12 and find ways God wooed them and ways they responded so as to stay in His presence. (See if you can find the Word, the Way, and the Worship.)
4. Read Matthew 2:1-2.
A. How did God woo the Magi to seek the one born to be king of the Jews? (vs. 1-2)
B. What are some ways God wooed you to Himself, both initially, and is continuing to woo you now?
5. Read Matthew 2:3-6
A. The “Good News” doesn’t seem like good news to everyone. How did Herod feel, and why do you think (what idol might have been protesting?)
B. Why do you think “all Jerusalem” was troubled with him? (In the paid sermon, Keller gives detail into the fact that he was a maniacal monster.)
C. With whom did Herod consult? What might have been his motives, but how do you see God having the upper hand?
D. What prophecy did the chief priests and scribes quote, and what wisdom did this give the Magi?
Clearly, one of the ways we seek His presence is allowing His Word to lead us, as the Magi did. That can only happen if we are not too distracted to contemplate His Word. Read this by Sara Young:
Relax in my healing presence. As you spend time with Me, your thoughts tend to jump ahead to today’s plans and problems. Bring your mind back to me. Let the light of my presence soak into you as you focus your thoughts on Me. Thus I equip you to face whatever the day brings. This sacrifice of time pleases Me and strengthens you. Do not skimp on our time together. Resist the clamor of tasks awaiting to be done. “You have chosen what it better and it will not be taken away from you.”
(Jesus Calling, January 2)
6. How can you stay in His presence this week through His Word? Do you have a plan to defeat the call of your idols?
7. Read Matthew 2:7-12
A. What lie did Herod tell the Magi and how did God correct that lie?
B. Discerning God’s voice amongst the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil means taking thoughts captive to Him. The lies will tell you to go one way, but God will tell you to go “another way.” Right now, I’d like you to ask Him to help you discern His voice by asking:
1) Lord — what is important for me to do this Advent and what is not? (Be still and listen.)
2) Lord — I know my idols will fight what is best for me, lying to me, telling me to run to them because I cannot trust You. Help me trust You, hear you, and by faith go in the way You would lead me. What lies are my idols telling me that could lead me into danger?
8. Read Matthew 2:10-11
A. How did the Magi feel when the star re-appeared and why?
B. If you have a recent time when God “amazed, ambushed you,” we’d love to hear it!
C. What did the Magi did when they saw the child? (Find two things)
D. What part does worship play in experiencing His presence? How might you bring worship into more of your life this Advent?
E. Do you think giving to the poor (as the Magi did with this family who was poor in worldly wealth) can play a part in experiencing His presence? (Consider also Matthew 25:35-40)
F. What one thing might you do to bless the poor, the lonely, the prisoner, the least of these this Advent?
G. Is there a poem, a hymn, a carol you might go to in your mind this week, replacing any worry or complaining?
THURSDAY – FRIDAY SERMON FROM KELLER
FREE SERMON ON THE MAGI: LINK
Many of Keller’s Christmas messages are geared toward the non-Christian, as is this, but I find it to be a great blessing to my faith and to my ability to relate to non-Christians.
9. What notes to you have on the above?
OPTIONAL PAID SERMON ON THE MAGI: LINK
This is an important message, but still it is optional. Keller talks about how though Christ brings peace, He also brings a “fight.” Our idols will fight us — where as before there was no fight. People will persecute us if we are living authentically. In the end, we will have peace, but in this world, we will feel discord — as the Magi did, as Joseph and Mary did, and certainly, as Christ did. I thought of you who are married to unbelievers or who had unbelieving husbands leave you — so much pain — you could perhaps have had a temporary peace by relinquishing Christ. But oh — what you would give up. Part of experiencing His presence is a fight — saying no to our very loud idols, and doing what is right, no matter the cost. If you can listen, do! (There was one part of the sermon that confused me — I’m not quite sure how Rachael’s death led to life for her — unless Keller meant simply the life of Benjamin. So I’m eager for your thoughts.)
10. What notes do you have on the above?
11. What is your take-a-way and why?
12. Did you sense His presence this week? If so, share!