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15 December 2022

The Birth of a Baby: Place

As part of its holistic approach to health care in the Democratic Republic of Congo, HEAL Africa trains male and female chaplains to provide support and spiritual care not only in hospitals, but also in prisons, schools, churches and rural communities. These chaplains work hard to bring healing and restoration to the broken hearts and traumatised minds of those living in areas of conflict. They shepherd their flock in a humble, sensitive way, reflecting the servant-hearted care of the good shepherd Jesus. Ask God to give the chaplains wisdom as they plan for 2023 and pray that they would be able to compassionately support communities facing conflict, whilst remaining safe.

An Advent devotional on Matthew 2:1-6

Where someone is born says a lot about who they are. Prince George, second in line to the British throne, was born in the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, London, where many other royals and celebrities have been born. His birth was announced on a gilded easel outside Buckingham Palace. Jesus, heir to the throne of heaven, was born in a simple manger (Luke 2:7) in Bethlehem, Judea (Matthew 2:1). His birth was announced by a star shining high in the sky (Matthew 2:2).

In Matthew 2:1-6, we are shown the birthplace of the long-awaited Messiah. Not that we really needed to be told. If you look at your Bible’s footnote about verse 6, you will see that the chief priests and teachers of the law are quoting Micah 5:2 and 4. Many hundreds of years before Jesus' birth, the prophet Micah had foretold this most unassuming birthplace of the King:

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times."

So, looking for this foretold ‘ruler’, the Magi from the east went to the most obvious place… the palace of the king of the land. I imagine I’d do the same! Where else would a long-awaited King be born?! But verse 4 of Micah 5 helps us there:

"He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth."

Because don’t forget, Jesus is our shepherd King. Yes, he comes in strength, majesty and greatness. But he comes to shepherd his flock. From humble beginnings comes our humble, servant ruler. And as we’ve seen, this was always part of God’s wonderful plan – to send his son Jesus to live a perfect life and to die on the cross so that we can ‘live securely’.

So let’s praise our glorious shepherd this Advent, knowing we are part of his beloved flock.

Your Advent 2023 Prayer Challenge:

Where were you born? How has this impacted you? Read Hebrews 13:20-21. Take some time to think through what it means for Jesus to be your shepherd and how this will impact your thoughts, words and deeds throughout the Christmas period.
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