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Here we are again, another year on its last gasp, and all the Holiday flurry bearing down hard upon us. Christmas is an intense season, filled with shopping, entertaining and social pressures. One of my personal traditions is to spend December slowly working through the Greek text of the Nativity, mediating on the various component parts of this singular story. I find that when I do this, my heart is primed for the culmination of Christmas week, and joy peaks at just the right time. There is also another unforeseen benefit; inevitably, a phrase will jump out at me, particularly significant and strong, which becomes the Rhema word I navigate and interpret the entire season upon. This is where Emmanuel is looking to make His personal appearance in my own intimate little saga. I find that this practice personalizes a story so familiar, it may be underestimated. All of a sudden, the focus contracts and the edges of the tale sharpen dramatically. If you want your Christmas to be more than simply rote, if you want it to be real, pay attention, for there’s a powerful undertow of the river of God for you, specifically. This year, the strong verse for me is Luke 2:4. It reads simply

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)…”

That might seem like a strangely insignificant verse to be standing up for attention, but the anointing is unmistakable. 2017 has been a year full of successfully culminated tasks, but it has also been a time of particularly delicate family negotiations. We’ve had some success over longstanding issues of dislocation and disconnection, and that’s no small cause for celebration. A combination of deep examinations of the heart, important encounters, and anointed timings were all interwoven by the Lord to create maximum benefit for family healing. So, it shouldn’t be surprising, that here at the close of the year, a phrase relating to family should jump out and capture my attention.

I state freely that when it comes to dealing with family, friends or other high-stakes social confrontations, I am a full-on coward. When it comes to intensive self-examination, the heart is utterly obdurate. As an introvert, I do not relish stirring up deep waters, where any number of lethal beasts of jealousy, offence, sibling rivalry, etc, etc, could be lurking. ‘There be dragons’, and I’ve already run into quite a few of them, with the scars to show for it. To deal with profoundly convoluted, labyrinthine issues of kith and kin is the spiritual equivalent of going for a series of root canals; expensive and painful (but oh, do you feel better afterwards!). You have to be earnestly obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, or it will never get done. It takes exceedingly high motivation. If the strict, put-your-feet-to-the-fire word from Heaven itself to me, over the last 3 years had not been ‘let love be genuine’….’speak the truth in love’ and finally ‘expose the works of darkness’ (Eph 4:15, 5:11, Rom 12:9-13), I would have happily carried on in indefinitely in my wayward, self-deceived ways. So, upon the rigorous backdrop of this interpersonal cleansing, the year terminates in Christmas, the quintessential, unrelenting showpiece of family, faith and divine intervention.

‘The House and lineage of David’. That’s a strong statement, for the house of David is a dynasty of considerable veneration. The simple and sincere fidelity of David provoked from God a weight of serious and precious promises. The little shepherd became a magnificent king, and the Lord is still honoring it! How interesting is this, in view of the fact that David himself had a highly vivid back-history of family dysfunction! He also struggled greatly in administrating his own nuclear family issues with truth and justice. Many times, he missed the mark. However, God promised that the Messiah Himself would be born out of this genetic line, and that the throne of David, through Him, would continue forever. Psalm 89 and all of its fifty-two verses deal with God’s intent regard of the house of David, through thick and thin. Study it out, and you will be amazed at the breadth of Divine response.

Ok. All of that pertains to us, here in 2017, how? As we gather, in whatever way we do at this time of year, relational ties get wildly tested. In fact, where you come from even colors the way you receive and perceive Christmas. The wonderful story of Jesus’ birth may actually cause us pain as we compare it with the glaring inadequacies of our own domestic situation. If your family condition is a painful challenge to you, take heart. This is part of the vital, very personal, wonder of Christmas. As born-again believers, we access the highest levels of Jesus’ own privilege. We have been regenerated into the kingdom of God, out of the peril and brokenness of fleshly ties. The ‘house and lineage of David’ is now ours. We are all now, 'Kings and priests to our God' (Rev 5:12). Our first, true Father, Abba Himself, sends us Jesus, and all other histories become secondary. There can now be ‘peace, goodwill among men’; yes, even family!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Cor 5:17

Interestingly enough, it was the reality of his family background that caused Joseph and Mary to be on the dark road to Bethlehem that night. Indeed, all through the Nativity story, ties of clan and kinfolk play a major role. The Lord chooses to move through them. In that moment, dysfunction met destiny and came away transformed. Don’t discount the moment they may yet play in your own intimate miracle. Open your heart, and you will find Emmanuel in the humble swaddling cloths of your own particular, even peculiar, family.

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