As Christmas Day rapidly approaches—and, for that matter, all other days—Christians should be listening carefully and responding obediently as Jesus Christ unveils Himself along the many avenues of each one’s life. To teach and train, Scripture reveals a significant number of things that (1) Jesus taught, (2) situations in which He revealed Himself, and (3) various ways that people responded.
For examples of just a couple of ways that people responded to Him, consider the following:
When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. (John 6:19 emphasis added)
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as One who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:28 emphasis added)
Today, Jesus continues to reveal Himself in ways that people are not expecting. Regardless of how the Lord approaches, He is always trying to get us to go deeper in our relationship with Him. Our natural tendencies, however, are to hold back and just do what we always do. For each person, there is a comfort zone that is easily developed, and if not subdued by one’s will power, such a feeling will figuratively paralyze when action is in order.
It is important to know that during this earthly sojourn, Christians continue to struggle with evil; and the battle is over the heart. I am astounded at how few Christians seem to be aware of this, and how little they do to protect their hearts. Many act as though they live in a sleepy little town during peacetime, when just the opposite is true. In truth, all mankind lives in the spiritual equivalent of 9-11. This should be a wakeup call to Christians to be vigilant—to watch over their hearts. Don’t let just anything into your heart through your eyes, ears, or speech! In every situation, ask yourself, “What will this thought, word or action do to my heart?”
Protecting your heart—choosing not to harden your heart as Pharaoh did in the time of Moses—is the only way to maintain discerning sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
To gain some understanding of the critical nature of this need, try to visualize the Holy Spirit leading you through a literal minefield. If every placement of your feet is of extreme importance, you will strive to be very heart-sensitive and obey His commands however and whenever they may come to you, e.g., a still small voice, dreams, thoughts, a word through others, etc., as they line up with Scripture.
May our goal be to diligently protect our hearts by following in like manner the responses of Joseph and Mary to God’s commands as recorded in Scripture (with emphasis added):
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”-which means, “God with us.” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt…” (Matthew 2:13-15)
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. (Matthew 2:19-21)
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he [Joseph] withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22-23)
During this Christmas season, let us keep our hearts responsive and pure to the Holy Spirit’s leading. May our goal be to maintain sensitivity by not only listening, but obeying. Join me and consider the message conveyed by the lyrics in the audio embedded below, allowing this Christmas season to be one of responding to Jesus—however and whenever He comes—as did Joseph and Mary.
O Holy night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night
Of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world
In sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared
And the soul felt its worth
The thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night, oh night divine