We've seen the bumper stickers during Christmas, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season".  But, when we think in terms of
biblical Christianity, the real “meat and potatoes” of our faith has to do with the death and resurrection of Christ.  Christ’s
atoning sacrifice for our sins, and His resurrection from the dead are the cornerstones of our faith.

So, why did the early church find it important that we set aside a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior?  
Theologians would say that it was obviously important to God, since there are a number of prophecies pointing directly to His
birth.  Yes, I agree with that, but I think that God had something else in mind when He carved out the history of the world b
efore
it
ever began.

As we study the bible, we are constantly reminded, by God Himself, that (1) His ways are not our ways, (2) He always knows
exactly what we need, when we need it, (3) He wants the world to know that He is real, and (4) He wants us to know Him as well
as He knows us.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve.  He placed them in the Garden, and told them that it was theirs to do with what
they wished.  The only rule – Do not eat from the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Was God being stingy
when He made this rule?  Was He keeping something from them that was good?  No, He was protecting them.  God knew that if
they ate of the fruit, their innocence would be lost.  Before they ate of it, they only knew good.  There was no evil in their hearts
and minds.  We all know what happened next.

Man was set on a course of corruption.  Mankind would need a savior to get them out of this mess, and that savior could only
be God Himself.  So God set into motion the events that would lead up to the coming of this savior.  In Romans 5:6, the Apostle
Paul explains that Christ came at just the right time, but there was a lot of groundwork that needed to be laid.

In Genesis 12, God called Abram (later called Abraham) to become the nation that would set the stage for the coming of the
savior.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  The Savior of the world is going to come through a nation that doesn’t eve
n
exist yet?  Shouldn’t He come through the biggest and most powerful nation?  That’s how we think.  That’s not how God think
s.  
God specifically chose Abraham to become the nation of Israel.  
The nation of Israel would always be one of the weakest of
nations by world standards.  
Why?  So that the world would know that it was God working through them.

In Exodus, we see the story of the Egyptian captivity.  Israel became the slaves of Egypt – the most powerful nation in the
known world at that time.  God called Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go.  Pharaoh laughed!  Slaves are in no position
to make demands!  Moses told God that it was impossible to go up against the army of Egypt.  God told Moses to trust Him.  By
worldly standards, it would be impossible, but God’s ways are not our ways.  Pharaoh, and the known world, needed to know
that God is real, and that if God chose to use a bunch of broken down, beaten slaves to conquer the most powerful nation in
the world, there would be no one that could stop Him.  And He did.

Many years had passed, and there were a lot of great events for the nation of Israel.  With Joshua as their leader, they were
moving into the land of Canaan – The Promised Land.  Joshua knew that they had to capture the city of Jericho in order to
take the land.  But Jericho was a fortress city, with walls that could not be breached by any human means.  Joshua prayed to
the Lord for advice, and the Lord told him to march around the walls one time each day for six days.  Then on the seventh day,
march around seven times, and at the end of the seventh time, yell with a mighty shout and the walls will come down!  Joshua
told his army what to do.  I can only imagine what they were thinking.  Are you kidding me?  No army in the history of Jericho
has ever been able to penetrate these walls, and you expect us to do it by yelling at them.  We’re gonna look like idiots!  
Luckily, they had enough faith to give it a try, and God delivered.  His ways are not our ways.  He knew exactly what they
needed, when they needed it.

The book of Judges tells the stories of the leaders of Israel.  The people wanted a king, but God said that He would raise up
Judges to guide them.  Samson is probably the most recognized of the Judges because of his strength, but God also raised up
Gideon.  Gideon was probably the least likely person in all of Israel to be a Judge.  In a word, he was a coward.  The angel of
the Lord appeared to him, and he ran and hid in the bottom of a wine press.  The Lord said, “Mighty Hero, the Lord is with
you!  Go with what strength you have and rescue Israel from the Midianites.”  But Gideon replied, “Lord, how can I rescue
Israel?  My clan is the weakest, and I am the weakest of my whole family.”  The Lord said, “I will be with you.”  So Gideon called
together the army of Israel, that numbered 32,000 men, and they set out to meet the Midianite army.  Gideon spied on the
enemy camp and was horrified to find that the Midianite army was so huge that it looked like a swarm of locusts covering the
entire valley.  How could 32,000 go against an army of that size?  It was impossible.  

But, God told Gideon that he had too many warriors, and to tell any of them who are timid or afraid to leave and go home.  
22,000 went home leaving only 10,000 to fight.  If you thought Gideon was worried before, now he was freaking out.  But God
wasn’t finished yet.  There were still too many for God’s purpose.  So, he instructed Gideon to bring the remaining 10,000
down to the spring and have them drink.  Those who got down on all fours and drank like dogs should go home, but those who
knelt, scooped the water with their hands, and brought it up to their mouth to drink would stay and fight.  Only 300 drank with
their hands and stayed to fight the battle.  

The Lord gave them victory over the vast Midianite army with only 300 warriors.  The Lord knew Gideons fear, and used it to
help Gideon understand that God’s ways are not our ways.  God promised Gideon victory.  Gideon wanted God to provide him
with an army of greater size than his enemy.  It wasn’t about winning a battle, it was about making the world understand that
God is real and that He can do mighty things in the lives of those who trust in Him.  

In the 2000 year history of Israel preceding the birth of Christ, Israel had only experienced 80 years of peace.  These 80 years
were consecutive during the reigns of King David and King Solomon between 1010 BC and 930BC.  Before King David, Israel
was fighting for a piece of land that they could call their own, and after King Solomon, they were fighting to hold onto it.  After
King Solomon’s death, the nation divided into two separate states – “Israel” was the northern state with Samaria as its capitol,
and “Judah” was the southern state with Jerusalem as its capitol.  The nation of Israel began to drift away from God.  In 722
BC, the northern state was taken captive by the Assyrians.  In 701 BC, the southern state also fell to Assyria.  The nation of
Israel would never see freedom again.

Assyria was conquered by Babylon.  Babylon by the Medo-Persian empire.  The Medes and Persians were conquered by
Alexander the Great of the Greek Empire.  The Greeks were conquered by Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire.  The nation
of Israel was caught in the middle of this huge world power struggle.  For 700 years, they lived under the oppression of a
conquering nation.

Every good Jew knew of the prophecies of the coming messiah.  They clung to the prophecies that told of the messiah that
would conquer the world and free them once and for all from the oppression that they had lived under for so long.  And, just
like Gideon, they were looking for a messiah that would drop down from heaven with an army of angels that was ten times
bigger than the entire Roman army.  But God’s ways aren’t our ways.

They prayed for an army, and God gave them a baby.  By our standards, He wasn’t much of a baby at all.  His parents were
poor.  They didn’t have the money, power, or influence to even get a room for the night.  They were forced to seek shelter with
the livestock, and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born in their presence.  

The Wise Men of the East came to pay homage to this new-born King.  They went to King Herod and asked where they could
find Him.  Could you imagine how Herod must have felt?  You see, Herod was appointed by the Roman government to be the
King of Israel.  He was not from the royal line of King David.  Herod knew that he was a king only by title, and now these
foreigners are telling him that the real King of Israel was just born!  Matthew 2:3 records that “Herod was deeply disturbed”.  I
say that is an under-statement.  Herod called together a meeting of the Jewish priests and Pharisees, and asked them what the
ancient prophecies said about where this coming king would be born.  I have to laugh every time I read this.  The Jewish
leaders didn’t even hesitate to quote the Prophet Micah as recorded in Matthew 2:5-6.

“In Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
Oh Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah,
for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.”

The Jewish leaders knew this!  You would think that they would all jump on their camels and donkeys and head to Bethlehem to
check this out… But, they didn’t.  Why?  Because in their minds, there was no way that the King of the Jews could be born in
Bethlehem, at that point in time.  There was no palace.  There was no royal residence.  There was no detachment of soldiers
that would be assigned to protect this new-born king.  There was no king and queen to give birth to this prince.  They were
looking for a great king, just like David and Solomon.  So they didn’t even bother to go and look.  But God’s ways are not our
ways.  

They wanted a conquering king, and God gave them a baby.  But this was no ordinary baby.  God spoke through the Prophet
Isaiah;

“Look, the virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel – which means “God is with us.”
(Isaiah 7:14 NLT- 734BC.)

“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  And the government will rest on His shoulders.  These will be His royal titles:  
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His ever expanding, peaceful government will never
end.  He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David.  The passionate commitment of the
Lord Almighty will guarantee this!” (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT – 734BC.)

They knew these prophecies, but chose to ignore them.  They wanted so badly for God to deliver them in this life from the
oppression that they had lived under their entire lives.  But God’s plan was to give them eternal life.  In their minds, the Roman
government was their enemy, but in God’s mind, sin was their enemy.  God sacrificed Himself, in the form of Jesus Christ, to
conquer our greatest enemy
- sin.

We’re really no different from the first century Jews.  Even as believers we are faced with trials that we don’t understand.  We
pray for deliverance from the situation and we cling to the hope that God will answer our prayer.  We expect a miraculous cure
for an illness, or a job to open up for us.  We pray and lose hope when our prayer is not answered directly.  And, just like the
first century Jews, we forget the reason that Christ came in the first place.  He came to conquer sin.

God’s ways are not our ways, and His timing is not our timing.  He told Gideon to go,
with the strength that he had, and fight the
Midianites.  He asks us to do the same thing.  He gave Gideon victory because Gideon trusted God.  Gideon was scared, just
the same as we are.  He felt helpless, just the same as we do.  He felt unworthy to even talk to God, just the same as us.  But
Gideon obeyed God.  And that is all we can do.  

When trials come our way, we need to stop asking God to send an army to save us, and start asking, “How can I get through
this with what little strength (and faith) that I have?”

A man came to Jesus, with his young son, that believed the boy was possessed by an evil spirit.  He couldn’t speak, and would
throw himself into violent convulsions, rolling on the ground, foaming at the mouth, grinding his teeth, and becoming rigid.  The
man brought the boy to the Apostles, but they couldn’t heal him, so they brought the boy to Jesus.

Jesus said to them, “You faithless people!  How long must I be with you until you believe?  How long must I put up with you?  
Bring the boy to me.”  So they brought the boy.  But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion,
and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth.  “How long has this been happening?”  Jesus asked the boys
father.  He replied, “Since he was very small.  The evil spirit often makes him fall into the fire or into the water, trying to kill him.  
Have mercy on us and help us.  Do something if you can.”  “What do you mean, if I can?”  Jesus asked.  “Anything is possible
if a person believes.”  The father instantly replied, “I do believe, but help me not to doubt!” (Mark 9:19-24 NLT)

The father’s prayer to Jesus was perfect.  Nothing could be added to it.  “I do believe, but help me not to doubt.”  The father
was at his wits end.  He couldn’t say any more.  Jesus healed the boy because of the tiny spark of faith that his father had left
in him.  And in doing so, Jesus brought glory to His Father in Heaven.

Faith is not something that we obtain on our own.  Faith is a gift from God.  No matter how much faith we have, we will never
reach the point where we have enough to be self-sufficient.  Faith is not something that can be stored away like money in an
account.  Our faith ebbs and flows with the changing of the circumstances in our lives.  Growing in faith is a continual process
of renewing our trust in Jesus Christ.  This is why it is important to surround ourselves with fellow believers of strong faith when
ours is faltering.  The father in this story brought his son to the disciples, who in turn brought him to Jesus.

When trials come our way, we need to stop asking, “Why me, God?” and start asking, “What do you want me to do with th
is?”  
We make bad choices, and we get ourselves into situations that seem unbearable.  Remember, God’s ways are not
our ways.  
You may have committed adultery and your marriage is coming apart because of it.  You pray for forgiveness,
and you know
that God has forgiven you.  But, you still need to live with the consequences of your actions.  You pray th
at your marriage will
stay together, but your wife moves out.  Do you give up and say that it was not meant to be?  No.  You conti
nue to seek God’s
wisdom
through His Word.

Looking back through my experience, I can see the hand of God guiding me towards His plan.  During the year and a half that

my wife
Kathie and I were separated, I never stopped asking the Lord, “What do you want me to do with this?”  We had both
given up all hope that we would ever be a family again.  But, in response, we each surrounded ourselves with people of faith
and continued to focus on Christ.  In growing closer to Christ, we began to slowly grow closer to each other.  This growing
process will continue for the rest of our lives.

The bible is filled with stories of the lives of people, just like us, that God used in their situation to do His will and turn their life
around.

Abraham was a liar, Jacob was a conniver that stole his brother’s birth rite, Moses was a murderer, Rahab was a prostitute,
Elijah contemplated suicide, David committed adultery and then had his lover’s husband murdered, Jonah refused to do what
God asked him and ran the other way, Matthew was a tax-collector who was hated by the Jews, and Paul was a religious fanatic
that tried to end Christianity by killing all of the Christians.

Do you think that if God could use people like this, He could use you?  Remember, God’s ways are not our ways.

It’s difficult for us to surrender ourselves to God – to completely trust in Him to do what is best for us.  It’s easier to blame God,
and ask Him why He let this happen.  God didn’t put you in this terrible situation, you did.  We are the ones that make the
choices that direct the path of our life.  We live in a corrupt world that is full of disease, hatred, immorality, and violence.  
Innocent people get sick and injured.  It happens.

The question is; can you rise above the situation and do what is right?  Can you ask God, in the midst of a horrible
circumstance, “What do you want me to do with this?”  “Please guide me through this.”

In my case, Kathie and I had to separate and grow in the Lord, before we could ever have a chance to get back together.  I
made the mistake.  I got myself into that situation.  I nearly ruined my marriage.  But God picked up all of the broken pieces and
started putting them back together.  He will do the same for you.  Trust Him.  Focus on Him, and not your situation.  You will
make it through.

We asked for a conquering king, and He gave us a baby.

“Who has believed our message?  To whom will the Lord reveal His saving power?  My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence
like a tender green shoot, sprouting from a root in dry and sterile ground.  There was nothing beautiful or majestic about His
appearance, nothing to attract us to Him.  He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief.  
We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way when He went by.  He was despised and we did not care.  Yet it was
our weaknesses He carried: it was our sorrows that weighed Him down.  And we thought His troubles were a punishment from
God for His own sins!  But He was wounded and crushed for our sins.  He was beaten that we might have peace.  He was
whipped and we were healed!  All of us have strayed away like sheep.  We have left God’s path to follow our own.  Yet the Lord
laid on Him the guilt and sins of us all.  He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet He never said a word.  He was led as a
lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, He did not open His mouth.  From prison and trial, they
led Him away to His death.  But who among the people realized that He was dying for their sins – that He was suffering their
punishment?  He had done no wrong, and He never deceived anyone.  But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich
man’s grave.  But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush Him and fill Him with grief.  Yet when His life is made an offering for sin,
He will have a multitude of children, many heirs.  He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s plan will prosper in His hands.  When
He sees all that is accomplished by His anguish, He will be satisfied.  And because of what He has experienced, my righteous
servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for He will bear all their sins.  I will give Him the honors of the
one who is mighty and great, because He exposed Himself to death.  He was counted among those who were sinners.  He
bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.  (Isaiah 53:1-12 NLT - 681BC.)

During this Christmas season, we must remember that God is faithful in answering every prayer.  No prayer falls on deaf ears.  
Every prayer is answered in God’s perfect time, and in only the way that our perfect Heavenly Father can.  It may not be the
answer we are looking for, and it may not be at the moment we ask.  But rest assured that God has a plan for you, no matter
what your circumstance may be, or no matter what bad choices you make, and no matter how far you drift away from Him.  The
Holy Spirit works in our lives to draw us back to Himself.

We asked for a conquering king, and He gave us Himself.

God bless you all,

Joe
The Reason
Written December 28, 2008 by Joe Cunningham