17

Dec

Oh, the Depth of the Riches of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God!

Written by Steven Frey

As I sit in my little office in our basement in Manitoba feeling internal nervous tension due to the multiple stressors that seem to be crushing in around Theresa and me at present I am struck by the juxtaposition of the dreamy magic that we try to create for “Christmas”, and the truth of what it really was 2000 years ago when our Savior, the Lord God Almighty, was born and took on “flesh”.

We desire picturesque cards with snow-ensconced cottages and white-steepled churches. We fill the house with the crooning voice of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” in the background as the lovely scents of freshly baked cookies, mandarin oranges, and hot chocolate waft throughout. The tree stands stately and beautifully bedecked in the place of honor in the living room, while carefully wrapped presents overflow the hand-sewn tree skirt under the brightly-lit symbol of “Christmas”.

But is this truly what Christmas is all about?

Today I step back and ponder the account of Jesus’ birth given to us in the 2nd chapter of Luke:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth to Bethlehem because he belonged to the 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 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.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived”.

I notice something in these verses: Jesus’ birth took place within the pressures and burdens of daily life, or perhaps to others, the mundane. For Israel as a nation, crushed down and enslaved by tyrannical Roman rule it was an horrific time as a people. The census and taxes imposed upon them by Rome were brutal and unjust. The taxes would mean financial ruin and perhaps even slavery for many who could not fulfill the ruthless and cruel edicts of Rome.

For Joseph and Mary personally this was also a time of great pressure and fear. They were hated and outcasts within their own town of Nazareth because Mary was pregnant while unmarried. As a teenage girl she was now not only anathema, but at full-term pregnancy she needed to accompany Joseph to whom she was pledged to be married on a 90 mile, 5 – 7 day journey on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral town in which, undoubtedly, neither of them had ever set foot. This was a brutal and dangerous time in Israel. The journey was long, arduous, physically dangerous, uncomfortable, filled with thieves and robbers, without any amenities or comforts along the way, and no place for a nine-month pregnant expectant mother. Then, to complicate matters, there was no guarantee of any place to stay when they actually did arrive in the Nazareth, a small village approximately 6 miles outside of Jerusalem even though it was becoming increasingly obvious that the time of giving birth was imminent for the expectant teenager.

Something else about the narrative in Luke pops out at me immediately: three times it is specifically mentioned that the newly-born infant was placed in a manger. Now, I ain’t no farmer, but I have been around enough places where animals have been sheltered to know that they ain’t always pretty or sanitary places to hang out in. Let’s just say that Solomon was correct when he noted in Proverbs 14:4 that “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox”… enough said!

I can’t even imagine the stress placed upon Mary as well as Joseph who must not only deliver Jesus in a filthy stable, but then wrap him in torn strips of cloth and lay him in the only cradle available – a filthy, chewed-up, animal feeding trough. Let us remember that Mary was a real woman, not a Christmas card myth. Childbirth for her was as is faced by every other woman – filled with pain, hours of excruciating labor, and the need for a sanitary environment in order to avoid infection of herself or the baby.

Then comes the account of the shepherds: These were men and boys whose profession kept them on the fringes of society. No doubt they were raggedly dressed, dirty from the dust of the hills, and not very socially acceptable in many ways, more comfortable among the flocks of sheep that they cared for than among the bustling crowds in Jerusalem only 6 miles away among the twinkling lights upon the hill to the north. It was to these poor shepherds that the message of the angels first came “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. A Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord”.

Then, lastly, I want to note something else because it shouts loudly of the humbling humanity of the incarnation of our Lord: On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child”…  Jesus the Christ, God incarnate, King of all kings, Lord of all lords, the Sovereign Word became flesh, and not only so, but he was conceived in the womb of a virgin, born as a human baby boy and upon him was done what was done to every baby Jewish boy in Israel – upon the eighth day he was circumcised.

How can words ever hope to capture the incredible truth of the Incarnation!

No wonder Paul had to break out in doxology in Romans 11:33 where he shouts “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out”!

So yes, the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ, Yeshua Hamashiach, the occasion for which we celebrate Christmas, did take place within the pressures and burdens of daily life 2000 years ago, and we might feel pressed down today. But this diminishes nothing of its majesty, nor does it detract from the one event which has changed all of human history forever: God became man in the incarnation and dwelt among us.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. John 1: 1-14

Because of the mystery of Jesus’ incarnation the Gospel is true; which simply stated is:

The reality is that from the moment of our birth we all have a deadly, terminal condition – life. Unless Jesus returns first, we will all die ONCE in physical death.

However, we do not have to face the SECOND death – spiritual separation from God in hell because Jesus, the Son of God, who, while being totally God, also became a man. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, (Jesus) that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”.  (John 3:16)

Jesus came to earth because of the fact that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. If we agree with what God says in the Bible: that we are sinners, and that there is only one solution to that sin, and that is to place our hope and trust in Jesus Christ who left the glories of Heaven to come to earth where he clothed himself with humanity for the very purpose of doing what no one else could do – to pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross at Calvary, and then offering forgiveness to anyone who admits that they are a sinner, and repents of that sin and places their trust in Jesus as their Savior – then they will be saved.

That is the essence of the Gospel.

Praise be to God!

I want to now take this opportunity to bring you three accounts that Javier has recently sent to me. They were not originally sent to me in any way thinking about Christmas. However, as I was translating them I began to realize that they are very relevant to the season. I will comment no further, and rather will let you draw your own conclusions:

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There are times in our lives when we become burdened under the pressures of life and ministry and when it is good to look back at “stones of remembrance” as in the account of the Children of Israel in Joshua 4 where they crossed the Jordan River into Canaan at Gilgal, on the eastern border of Jericho. Joshua used these stones as a memorial to remind God’s people of His goodness and faithfulness to them.

I proclaim with certainly that God is, and has been with me as well, and I am grateful that he has also allowed me the privilege of being able to have my own memorial stones along my walk in the ministry.

I would like to share a few of these stones of remembrance with you now.

I go back in my memories to the year 2002 when my wife and I and a friend went to visit a family in a place called Arroyo Seco in the arid state of Querétaro. While our companion Jorge was driving we met a very old man of over one hundred years old along the road. To be more exact, he told us that he was 103 years old.

When we met him he was carrying a very large bundle of firewood on his back and my wife said “Why don’t we help that old man with his load”? We stopped to help, and the old man dropped his bundle of firewood beside the road. Although we were both much younger men almost twenty years ago, between the two of us brother Jorge and I we could not lift the bundle of wood up into back of the pickup truck without dividing the load. We are talking about an old man, who while being extremely old, was almost carrying a load which would burden a full-grown donkey.

When we finally got his load of firewood into the pickup truck we asked the old man where he lived, and he directed us to a very luxurious residence and said that he lived there. This surprised us greatly, almost as much as everything else about the whole encounter because it did not seem to agree with anything that we had seen about him. We helped him take his firewood to his house but we did not see any family at all.

There still remain many questions surrounding this strange encounter: how is it possible for someone of his greatly advanced age to carry so much firewood on his back? – we are talking about 200 to 250 kilograms which he was carrying easily on his back. Also, how was it that his house was not a humble hovel as one would have expected from his personal appearance, but as we saw, it was an elegant dwelling? It simply is not possible for someone to have so much strength at his age.

Another experience that happened to us was when we went on our second missionary trip to the Pame village of Tanlu in the Sierra Madre Mountains to the west of Cd. Valles. On the way back we met a man along the way who was in a cornfield. I got out of the pickup truck and asked him if he would sell me some ears of his corn. He said “Of course. Take what you want”.

Ana, Armando and Alicia’s young daughter also got out of the truck and came into the corn row to pick the ears of corn, and the man picked as well. Together we picked about 12 ears of corn which he gave to us, while all the time we were talking with him. He told me that his name was Ciro Apolinar and that he lived in a nearby community called El Coco. “I live there” he told me, “and if you can, please come and visit me”. He was a very poor, simple man in appearance.

A month after we had encountered him we went to look for Ciro in that community. We immediately found Ciro’s family but we did not find him. We continued looking for him for three months every time we returned to the region on a missionary trip. What we learned about him over that time was that he was a drunk who did not come home for long periods of time, and that he had left his family without food and without any means of maintenance. Despite this we continually held him up in prayer asking that God would change his path, believing that God would break through the darkness in his life.

Three months after we began praying for Cyro’s condition I finally found Ciro. But I was in for a very big surprise because the Ciro from whom I had received the ears of corn and who had invited me to his community was not Ciro. The person who had invited me to that community and who told me “I live in El Coco” was another man, unknown to anyone from the village. However, it was through this encounter and the resultant search for Ciro and the ongoing contacts with his family that the doors to the village of El Coco were opened to us and to the gospel, making it possible for a mission church to be planted there.

Another one of these unusual experiences occurred just last week:  I left Cd. Valles and travelled into the mountainous region to the west of the city on a mission outreach into the various Pame villages in which we minister. On Sunday I ministered in Santa Catarina. The next day, Monday, I left from there in order to minister at the mission church at El Coco. I finished the service in El Coco at 12:30.

I had taken the pickup truck and it was the first time that I had gone alone on one of these missionary outreaches because I always try to take a ministry team with me. However this time it had not worked out to do so. When I was driving on the road leaving El Coco I encountered an old woman who was standing beside the roadway and was asking for a ride. She was carrying a very large bundle of brooms made from branches. What seemed strange to me was not meeting an old woman who was carrying branch brooms, no doubt on her way to some market to sell her wares, but rather that the bundle of brooms was huge and she hefted it into the back of the truck without any problem. She then got into the passenger seat of the truck without any difficulty. Another unusual thing is that she never raised her face.

I started a conversation with her and asked her where she was going. She told me that she was on her way to El Salto, a village along the way where she was going to sell her brooms. I asked her how much she gets for the brooms and she told me that she sells them for $45 pesos. I told her that I would like to buy one, and we continued talking.

I asked her where she was coming from and she told me that she was coming from the town of Tanlu but that she had no actual home, and that she was from here and there, and that she had just been to a place called Los Puercos. I asked her what her name was and she told me that it was Joaquina Fernandez de la Cruz.

Upon reaching El Salto she took down her brooms and spread them on the ground and told me to choose the broom that I wanted. I take one of them and put it into the back of the truck. I then got into the driver’s seat of the truck to start the motor and looked into the rear view mirror in order to see where the old lady was.

To my great surprise she was no longer there. I opened the door to see where she was, but she was nowhere to be seen. At the time I did not reflect deeply or question what had happened, rather I simply felt a sense of peace and security.

When I arrived at Agua Nueva for the service there some of the sisters from Milpas Viejas were sharing and were talking about the visit of the angels to Sodom and were commenting on how no one recognized them as angels or realized who they were. It was then that I understood that the old woman who had accompanied me was an angelic being.

I began analyzing the meaning of her name that she had told me twice, emphasizing each time, saying: “my name is Joaquina Fernandez De la Cruz”.

Joaquina – “Jehovah will establish”,

Fernandez – “protector”,

 De la Cruz – “from the cross” – My assurance of salvation.

Thank you God for your appearance. Courage. And my gift of salvation.

That is the meaning of the old woman’s name. Thank you Lord!

Javier Santos Hernandez

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I trust that this has been a blessing to you. May the joy of Jesus fill your heart and life as you reflect anew upon Jehovah our King and our protector, and upon the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord whose birth we celebrate.

Merry Christmas.

Your fellow laborers in Jesus Christ,

Steven and Theresa






One Response to “Oh, the Depth of the Riches of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God!”

  1. I hope I can carry that much wood when I’m old…

    Thanks for shifting our focus back onto the real work of God in Christ, amidst all the busyness of the season.

    James Frey commented on 12:25 pm on December 24th, 2021


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