Nazareth to Bethlehem

4th Sunday in Advent

Luke 2:1-5 – In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

2013-12-22 - Nazareth to Bethlehem (IMG_6816)Stopping for lunch and giving our feet some rest at a scenic spot off of Rough Trail.  Red River Gorge, Slade, Kentucky.

I have never had the opportunity to travel to Israel, but thanks to the technology of Google Maps I was quickly able to determine that the distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem, via modern day roads, is about 100 miles.  Although the Bible provides no details of Joseph and Mary’s journey, their likely means of travel given their social status, was either by foot or possibly, in the best of conditions, riding on a donkey.  Either way, it was a long and difficult trip.

More than 700 years before the birth of Christ the prophet Micah foretold the place of the Messiah’s birth, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”  (Micah 5:2)  The reason Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem in the first place was because of the decree from Caesar Augustus, someone who did not even acknowledge the God of the Israelites.  If not for his decree there would have been no reason for a poor carpenter from Nazareth and his pregnant betrothed to make the difficult trip to Bethlehem.  When you stop to consider the events that took place to ensure the fulfillment of this prophesy you realize just how incredible they are, and perhaps you can begin to understand the sovereignty of God.

Now translate that understanding into the circumstances of your own life and you may begin to think differently about the things that take place on any given day.  When you put your trust in Christ you are turning your life over to the sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the one who had planned, in great detail, the birth of a Savior for his people, “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

And They Shall Call His Name Immanuel

3rd Sunday in Advent

Matthew 1:18-23 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

2013-12-15 - And They Shall Call His Name Immanuel (IMG_1388_Sat-100_Mid-50_AutoCorrect)El Capitan towers more than 3000 feet over the valley below.  Yosemite National Park, California.

Standing in the Yosemite Valley gazing up at the massive granite monolith called El Capitan is an awe inspiring moment, to say the least.  For me it is a reminder of just how small and vulnerable we are in this world; but, even more, it is a reminder of just how great and awesome our God truly is.  Yet, our God who has all the power and might to create such as this, and even the universe beyond our sight, this is the same God who loved us so much that he sent his only Son down to dwell with us and save us from our sins, “and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

For to Us a Child is Born

2nd Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

2013-12-08 - For to Us a Child is Born (IMG_7069)Anticipating the sunrise on a cold March morning in the hills of eastern Ohio.  Pathfinder School property, near Jackson, Ohio.

If you have ever camped out in cold weather you know a little something about anticipation.  The dark hours of early morning, before even the faintest rays of sunshine begin to grace the eastern sky, seem endless.  There is certainly some trepidation knowing that you have to climb out of a warm sleeping bag into the freezing morning air.  But, there is also excitement for those good things you know await you, stoking the smoldering embers of last night’s fire back to a blaze by which to warm yourself, that first steaming cup of coffee, and, perhaps, a hot cinnamon roll baked in a Dutch oven over the coals.

Those in Isaiah’s time knew a lot about anticipation.  In fact, it would be many generations before the promised Messiah arrived.  Fortunately for us, we have the advantage of knowing how the story of the Messiah unfolds.  Advent is a time of waiting for Christmas, that day we have set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ.  But, as Christians, our real anticipation is for the coming of God’s eternal kingdom, that time when we can celebrate the “marriage supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9) with our Lord and Savior in heaven.  If a warm campfire, a steaming cup of coffee, and a hot cinnamon roll on a cold morning sound good, try to imagine what awaits us in heaven!

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

Joy and Peace

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

2013-12-01 - Joy and Peace (IMG_1170)What better way to find joy and peace than a beautiful fall afternoon spent out in God’s amazing creation? Sharon Woods, Great Parks of Hamilton County, Sharonville, Ohio.

As we enter into the Advent season it is important to remember why we celebrate Christmas. The advertisements on television would have us believe it is all about the “things,” the diamond ring, the new <insert expensive brand name car>, the latest video game, or electronic gadget. Despite the beautiful images of happy, smiling people we see on our screens, these are not the things that fill us with joy and peace. These are not the things that will ever give us hope. They may produce temporary happiness, perhaps, but ultimately they only lead to a desire for more “things.”

As today’s Bible verse tells us, true joy and peace come “in believing.” Believing, that is, in the one for whom we celebrate Christmas, and that is Christ the Lord! It is God who fills us with that joy and peace; it is by the power of his Holy Spirit that we will abound in hope. And, it is only through Christ his Son, that babe born in a stable over 2000 years ago, that we can find this promised hope, joy, and peace.

While the beautiful fall colors may be gone, and temperatures may be a bit colder, winter is still a great time to get outside. Take some time to get away from the hustle and bustle this Christmas season and get out into God’s creation. If you do, perhaps the silence will give you a chance to reflect on why it is we celebrate Christmas.

Autumn colors will fade and the leaves will fall, the “things” we get for Christmas will lose their luster and soon be forgotten, but the love of Christ will endure forever!

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.