Links to Our Classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Hello Beloved Friends and Merry Christmas,
It has become a Speak Comfort tradition to share our classic series on the hidden meanings of the different gifts from the wonderful carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The twelve days occur between Christmas Day and January 6th, or the Day of Epiphany, which marks the time between the birth of Christ and the arrival of The Three Wise Men of Matthew 2:1-12:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
We hope you enjoy and God Bless!
To read the entire series, click on day one, then follow the links at the bottom right of each page.

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

What Child is This?

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 (Isaiah 9:6).
“…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10b-11).
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14 KJV).
Unto us a Child is born. To us a Son is given. He is Wonderful. He is our only Savior. He is our Counselor. He is Mighty, Everlasting – the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the answer to the plight of a fallen and broken world.
Heralded by angels. Laid in a manger. Attended by shepherds. The holy Child who the prophets looked steadfastly into the future to see is with us now, ready to abide forever in every heart that will receive him.
All around us, crises have reached the boiling point, with no end in sight. It seems there is nowhere to turn to avoid riots, fires, blizzards, disease, hunger, strife, terror, loneliness.
Let’s pause for a moment from all the busyness, not only of the holiday season, but from all the stress, worry and struggle we see on every side attempting to swamp our lives, and remember why we are here, and to whom we belong.
Jesus is exactly and precisely who the Word of God says he is. He is Wonderful. He is our perfect Counselor, to whom we can turn at any time for consolation and comfort. He is Mighty, to save and to heal. He gives us his strength in times of need. He is Everlasting – he does not change! What he did two thousand years ago, he does for all those who come to him as Lord and Savior.
He is the Prince of Peace, and through his Holy Spirit, Jesus gives us his peace that flows, not from worldly circumstances but from the very throne of Grace. When the storms of life rage all around us, Jesus says, Peace! Be Still! Know that I Am God!
At this time of year, it is easy to become heavy laden with many burdens. Jesus does not want us to be bowed down under the weight of the cares of the world. He came from heaven to earth as the Son of God, to walk with us as the Son of Man, cradled in a virgin womb, laid in a manger, hung from a cross and placed in a tomb; he rose again to dwell forever in our hearts and give us his peace.
Unto us a Son is given. Unto us a Child is born. For God so loves the world.
As we prepare to come together in fellowship with the ones we love in this season of joy and light and giving, can we prepare him room in our hearts, and receive the gift of his everlasting peace and comfort? Jesus does not give as the world gives. What he gives he does not take away, it does not rust or grow old, and it never decreases. His gifts are freely given and unconditional – a matter of grace. His gift of peace is living, powerful and active. The more of his peace, love and joy we receive, the more we have to give.
Our prayer for us all is that we will be more abundantly blessed in the love of God this holiday season than we can imagine, and that in being blessed, God will guide us to be a blessing, to shine the light of the gift of Christmas into a dark and stumbling world – for the glory of God Almighty.
All of us at Speak Comfort wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and every blessing in the New Year. We thank God for you daily, and you're in our hearts and prayers.
If you would like Jesus to come into your heart and your life as your Lord and Savior, please take a moment to pray this prayer with us, so that you may enter into the joy, fellowship, and protection of Christ:

Dear God, I believe with all of my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins.  I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation unless otherwise noted.

Bethlehem: The House of Bread.

In 1 Samuel 16:1-13, the prophet Samuel anointed David the shepherd boy king over Israel. God warned Samuel not to be impressed by the stature of David’s seven older brothers, because the Lord looks not at the appearance of a man, but at his heart:
And the Lord said [to Samuel], “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse [David’s father] to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they came, he looked on Eliab [the eldest] and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”…And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him… And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.
The little town where David was anointed was called Bethlehem, where his great, great, great grandfather Boaz and grandmother Ruth had lived: “And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem…[and] Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David” (Ruth 2:4a; 4:21-22).
The gospels of Matthew and Luke list King David in the genealogy of Christ. Therefore, Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy God gave to Isaiah, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.  And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3a).
David was an overlooked shepherd boy, alone in the fields tending his sheep, when God ordered Samuel to anoint him as Israel’s new king, in the town of Bethlehem. Jesus, the King of the Universe, was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough, in that same city: “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

But why Bethlehem?
Strong’s Concordance assigns “Bethlehem” number 1035, which in Hebrew means “house of bread.” The first part of the compound word is beyth, meaning a house or a place that could contain a family (Strong’s 1004-1006). But the word for bread, lechem, can also mean food, fruit, or victuals, and is related to l’chem, a feast, and lachem, battle or war (Strong’s 3899-3901).
This is interesting because we would expect that after being anointed king of Israel, David would have immediately taken control of his kingdom. However, that is not what happened, and King David would spend twenty years battling his enemies before he assumed the throne. In fact, the next task that God assigned the young shepherd boy was not to take his seat as king but to defeat the giant, Goliath, thereby snatching the army of Israel from the jaws of defeat and catching the attention of King Saul (see 1 Samuel 17). Young David who had been brought up in Bethlehem, spent much of his life at war. He was born a shepherd boy, who was raised up by God to be a mighty king and assume the throne of Israel.
But Jesus, who is God Almighty, King of kings and Lord of lords, stepped down from the Throne of God in the courts of heaven to be born in a stable in Bethlehem as both the Son of Man and the Son of God. David was born to become a warrior king. The King of kings was born to become bread for a lost and starving world.
In John 6:35-40, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The gospel of Luke chronicles the birth of Jesus:
“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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (2:4-7).
The arrival of the Savior of the world was heralded by angels and shepherds, on a lonely night in an insignificant little town, away from princes and palaces:
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (2:8-18)
And this sweet babe, swaddled and lying in a manger, is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s great prophecy of the One who was, who is, and who is to come:
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.
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.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
All of God's Blessings for a very Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones from the Speak Comfort Team. 
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All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

The Annunciation.

 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
There are so many wonderful things that stand out in this interaction between Mary and the Archangel! One of the things we learn is that God sent his angelic messenger directly from the throne room of heaven to a little town named Nazareth. You might recall that after Jesus had called Philip to join his disciples, saying to him, “Follow me,” Philip carried the good news to his friend, Nathanael, who asked a very important question…
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see’” (John 1:45-46). 
Soon after Jesus’ birth, his stepfather Joseph was instructed to take Mary and their infant son into Egypt to protect him from being murdered by King Herod: “…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:13b-15).

We do not know exactly how long the Holy Family lived in Egypt, but we do know that historically King Herod died around 4 BC, at which time Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would have returned to Israel: “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:19-23).
If you pick up a copy of “Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,” you won’t find a reference to the Messiah being called a “Nazarene” anywhere in the Old Testament. So why is this important? Why did God send Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth, why did Nathanael wonder if anything good could come from Nazareth, and what Old Testament prophecy was Matthew referring to in recounting the story of Jesus’ birth? Matthew was quoting the prophet Isaiah, chapter 11, where the Messiah is called “The Root of Jesse”:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-2).
If you go to “Strong’s” and look up the word for “branch” in Isaiah 11, you will be directed to Strong’s number 5342, in Hebrew, netser, a “shoot” or “descendant,” and in Jesus’ case, he is the promised descendant of Jesse, the father of King David. So, we could say that Jesus could be called a branch, shoot, or root of the house of Jesse, or a “netserene,” or Nazarene. Therefore, the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 11 is foreshadowed in the very first words of Luke’s description of the Annunciation to Mary: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:26).
Remember that in Luke 1:19, the archangel announced to Zechariah, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” It was not a coincidence that Mary and Joseph lived in the tiny, forgettable town of Nazareth, in Galilee, or that they returned there after Herod’s death, where they could be safe. But there are no Christmas songs that mention “O Little Town of Nazareth,” so why then, was it important that Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, and not all warm and cozy in Mary’s house back in Galilee?
Please stay tuned for the next part of our Advent celebration, where we will discuss the meaning of “the house of bread.”



All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

The First Week of Advent: The Promise of Hope.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).
Beloved Friends, much about the past few years has been disheartening, and the world seems to be locked in a struggle between light and darkness, triumph and disaster. But there was a time in Biblical history when things were significantly worse, when there was no Church, and humanity had not heard from God for centuries…
The interval between the Old and New Testaments is known as “the intertestamental period,” which lasted for 400 years. During this time, there was no communication from God to his people, the Holy Spirit was not present, and the heavens and the earth waited in anticipation for the prophecy of Isaiah to be fulfilled:
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone…
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.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end...
(Isaiah 9:2, 6-7a)

The last book of the Old Testament was written by the prophet Malachi. In it, God gave Israel his final instructions to prepare them for the intertestamental period when there would be no light. Malachi 3:1 foretells the mission of John the Baptist: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”  This prophecy confirmed the words of Isaiah, whom God instructed: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her…A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (Isaiah 40:1a, 3). And the birth of John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecies of both Isaiah and Malachi: “He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said’” (John 1:23).
For thousands of years, God had been preparing to send his Son into the world, until suddenly an ageing priest named Zechariah was confronted by an angel, who announced the coming of the New Testament prophet that God would send to make ready the hearts and minds of his people to receive their King:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah... And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving [in the Temple] as priest before God…the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar...And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:5-17)

Perhaps because he and Elizabeth had been childless for so long, unlike the patriarch Abraham (See Genesis 15:6), Zechariah doubted what the angel promised: “And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.’  And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’  And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple” (vv. 18-21).
It was the duty of the priest on departing the Temple to stand and bless the congregation who had been praying outside. But because of his unbelief, Zechariah was dumb before the Lord and before the people. At that moment, the ministering priest embodied the spirit of the entire intertestamental silence, and he prefigured the coming of the Messiah, the Mediator of the New Covenant (See Hebrews 12:24), who would be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The Law stood silent in anticipation of the coming of the Lord: “And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home” (v. 22).
Can you imagine the uproar that ensued when the priest who had entered the Temple fully able to communicate exited the Temple unable to speak? And then somehow by gestures and signs indicated to the people that after 400 years Israel had finally been given a visitation by a messenger of God? Who was Gabriel the Archangel, no less!
I live in a small town, and even in our twenty- first century with all the different gadgets we use to keep up with the news, there is nothing like the local grapevine to instantly spread all manner of gossip from one end of the county to another! How much more would this have been true in the first century, where the only way to receive information was by word of mouth!

“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach [of barrenness] among people’” (vv. 24-25).
Four months later, Elizabeth gave birth to a son:
And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him…And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel. (vv. 58-66, 80)
Zechariah had prophesied over his newborn son, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (vv. 76-79).
Meanwhile, in the midst of all this hullaballoo, God’s messenger, Gabriel, had been busy elsewhere, and a young virgin named Mary was treasuring within her a miraculous hope…
“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
 my soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.
 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is plentiful redemption.
 And he will redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:5-8).
Please stay tuned for our exploration of the Annunciation of Mary in the next part of our Advent celebration…



All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation unless otherwise noted.