How Should we Celebrate Christmas – Worship!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!

How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!

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CHAPTER 13

SUBJECT: "HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS? 'WORSHIP'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 2:9-11

TEXT: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:20)

"On coming to the house, they (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." (Matthew 2:l1 a)

INTRODUCTION: Jesus is worthy for many reasons. Because of who He is and because of what He can do! He is declared, in those several Christmas-related Scriptures, to be the Saviour, the Lord, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, the Light of Hearts, the Source of Joy and Salvation.

PROPOSITION: As one considers the various responses of the various persons surrounding the Christ Child – the shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon, Anna-there is 'common denominator' in their response. All in their various ways responded in worship of the Babe of Bethlehem.

What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. The Basis of Worship – Recognition Of Jesus' Identity (Luke 2:10-14)

II. The Response of Worship – Surrender to Jesus' Person (Matthew 2:11)

A. Frankincense is the gift for a priest (Jesus is priest)

B. Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die (Jesus is Savior)

C. Gold is the gift for a king (Jesus is King)

III. The Goal of Worship – Glorifying and Praising God (Luke 2:20)

IV. The Benefits of Worship – Joy and Peace In The Worshiper's Soul (Luke 2:29-30; Luke 2:37-38)

CONCLUSION:

O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
Christ the Lord! 

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Chapter 13

SUBJECT: "How Should We Celebrate Christmas? 'Worship'!"

SCRIPTURE: Luke 2:8-15; Matthew 2:9-11

TEXT: "The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:20)

"On coming to the house, they (the wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." (Matthew 2:11 a)

INTRODUCTION: What does it mean to worship God? To worship God is to declare God's worth. The angel declared the worth of Jesus when he declared to the shepherds: "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) The kings from the East followed the star to Bethlehem, and they went into the house and saw the Christ Child before whom they bowed down and worshiped. They recognized Jesus as the 'King of the Jews' (Matthew 2:2, Matthew 2:11). Simeon recognized Jesus as God's instrument of salvation, God's light from heaven as a gift, not only to Jews, but also to Gentiles (Luke 2:29-32). To Anna, the elderly prophetess, Jesus was the One whom she and all of Israel had anticipated – the long-awaited-for Messiah (Luke 2:38).

Jesus is worthy for many reasons. Because of who He is and because of what He can do! He is declared, in those several Christmas-related Scriptures, to be the Saviour, the Lord, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Reconciler, the Light of Hearts, the Source of Joy and Salvation.

It was appropriate that the shepherds, and the Wise Men from the East, and Simeon and Anna should all respond in worship of the newborn babe – the Babe of Bethlehem.

How should we celebrate Christmas? Like the shepherds, we too should (1) Witness, (2) Wonder, (3) Worship.

"Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning; 
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; 
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing; 
O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, 
O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!" 

PROPOSITION: As one considers the various responses of the various persons surrounding the Christ Child – the shepherds, the Wise Men, Simeon, Anna – there is a 'common denominator' in their response. All in their various ways responded in worship of the Babe of Bethlehem. From these worshipers, we may learn better the meaning of true worship.

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We must look at: (1) The Basis of Worship, (2) The Response of Worship, (3) The Goal of Worship, (4) The Benefits of Worship. What was the greatest of all of God's acts? God's act of becoming a Man!

I. The Basis Of Worship – Recognition Of Jesus' Identity.

But the angels reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem! How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!" Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven." they sang, "and peace on earth for all those pleasing him." (Luke 2:10-14)

Someone rightly pointed out that all persons are incurably 'religious'. In other words, everyone everywhere worships someone or something. However, the object of one's worship determines the value of one's worship!

Why did the shepherds (in Luke 2:10-14) worship Jesus? Because God revealed to them, through the angels, that Jesus was unique and special and worthy of worship!

The basis of true worship is recognition of Jesus' identity. When people, like the shepherds, are shown who Jesus really is, they are instinctively drawn to Jesus and find themselves on their faces before Him.

The great Napoleon once said, "If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honor. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him!" (Shoe-Leather Faith; No. 138).

Said the angel to the shepherds, "Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11)

Why is Jesus worthy of worship? Because He is the Savior, i.e., He came to seek and to save the lost! There is no one more worthy of praise and worship than Jesus, for Jesus gives hope for the despairing, life for the dying, forgiveness for the guilty, joy for the sorrowing, friendship for the lonely. He is everything that your soul ever hoped for – the Bread of life, the Water of life, the Way of life, the Truth of life!

Jesus said, "I have come not to condemn, but to save!" "I have come that ye might have life, and might have it more abundantly!" "I have come to seek and to save the lost!"

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In announcing the birth of Jesus to Joseph, the angel said to Joseph, "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

Why is Jesus worthy of worship? Because Jesus alone provides a means by which sinful men can become reconciled to God. After the one angel announced to the shepherds that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem, "a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" (Luke 2:13-14)

It is not the condemnation of God that rests on mankind, but it is the peace and favor of God that rests on mankind! God is for, not against, the human race! It is not strict justice, but it is loving mercy, which God is ready to offer to a lost race of sinners!

Wrote William Tyndale (1494-1536),

"Now, do you see what this means? 
All men in jail to sin, 
All men wounded by death 
all men overcome by the devil, 
- all such men are, 
neither by merit nor 
because they deserve it, 
loosed! 
made right! 
restored to life! 
saved! 
given their freedom! 
brought into God's favor! 
put in harmony with God! 
All that is great news, 
and as many as believe it, 
sing, praise, and thank God - 
well! they just can't help but be glad, 
sing, dance for joy. 

II. The Response Of Worship – Surrender To Jesus' Person (Matthew 2:11)

"Entering the house where the baby and Mary his mother were, they threw themselves down before him, worshiping. Then they opened their presents and gave him gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11)

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The essence of true worship is self-surrender, i.e., presentation of ourselves to God.

The wise men "bowed down and worshiped him." Each gift that was presented to Jesus, recognized the purpose of His mission, which in turn calls for a proper response to the Christ.

A. Frankincense is the gift for a priest (Jesus is Priest)

When a gift of frankincense was given to Jesus, this symbolically identified Jesus as a Priest. Priests of the Old Testament presided over the Temple sacrifices, and "it was in the Temple worship and at the Temple sacrifices that the sweet perfume of frankincense was used." (Barclay's Matthew, pg. 23)

It was the work of the Old Testament priests to act as representatives of God to man, and to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The Old Testament priesthood was imperfect and unable to remove the guilt of sin. "But in those (Old Testament) sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." (Hebrews 10:3-4)

Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. "The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The Priest is the man who builds a bridge between man and God. That is what Jesus did. He opened the way to the presence of God; He made it possible for men to enter into the very presence of God." (Barclay's Matthew, pg. 23)

In the Old Testament the common man was barred from personal access to God. It was the High Priest's responsibility to intercede in behalf of the people. On the day of Atonement the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where it was held that God's presence dwelt. Jesus, the Perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. The veil of the Temple was rent in two, symbolizing man's personal access to God.

Frankincense is the gift for a Priest. Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. Jesus, the perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. Christ, as 'Bridge-builder' (i.e., Priest) provides a means by which the sinner can have access to God. The great' gulf of sin' has been bridged by Christ. Wrote Paul, "This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he longs for all to be

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saved and to understand this truth: That God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together, by giving his life for all mankind." (1 Timothy 2:3-5, Living Bible)

Properly to respond to Christ, is to recognize Him as my Priest, and boldly (though humbly) to come to Christ to become reconciled to Almighty God. My sins no longer need bar me from God! I no longer need feel isolated, alone, and separated from God!

If Jesus is High Priest, how should I respond to Him? As a sinner, I should cross the bridge and reestablish that sweet fellowship with Jesus which sin destroyed. I should 'come home' to Jesus!

"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, 
Calling for you and for me; 
See, on the portals He's waiting and watching, 
Watching for you and for me. 
Come home, come home, 
Ye who are weary, come home; 
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, 
Calling, O sinner, come home!" 

As a believer, I can come boldly to the throne of grace, because of my High Priest!

B. Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die (Jesus is Saviour)

In the opening account of Matthew's Gospel, the purpose of Christ's coming is defined. "She (Mary) will bear a son, and you must call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21, Barclay) Jesus is both the Perfect High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice for sin. "And if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a burnt heifer were, when sprinkled on the unholy, sufficient to make the body pure, then how much more will the blood of Christ himself, who in his eternal spirit offered himself to God as the perfect sacrifice, purify our souls from the deeds of death, that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:13-14) "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that comes unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25) "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 8:12)

Christ died for the sins of the world. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death. To stop with the Babe of Bethlehem, without considering the Christ of

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the Cross, is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation. Christ was born into the world to transform individuals, to make bad men good.

Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death, His Saviourhood.

Properly to respond to Christ means that I affirm the fact and accept the reality that Jesus has died for my sins. His death spells life for me! His suffering spells healing for me! He shed his blood in my place. This means that I cannot merit His forgiveness; I can only humbly receive it as a free gift of His grace. I am not worthy of the least of His favor, but He nevertheless accepts me and forgives me. Such love 'demands' that I give him the praise and worship of my total being!

"My sin - O the bliss of that glorious thought! 
My sin - not in part, but the whole, 
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more, 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 
It is well with my soul; 
It is well, it is well with my soul." 

C. Gold is the gift for a king (Jesus is King)

When a gift of gold was given to Jesus, this symbolically identified Jesus as a king, for gold is the gift for a king. The coming of a great king was a deep-seated expectation in the hearts of all Jews throughout the centuries, since the rule of David Tasker notes the spirit of anticipation that was maintained amidst the decline of Israel after David's reign. "The abuse of power led to the division of the kingdom, and so to its permanent weakening, rendering it more and more the prey of foreign powers. But often during the period of decline that followed the disruption, the Israelites looked wistfully back to the happy days of King David, and dreamed of the time when a king of David's descent would arise and establish the reign of God at Jerusalem, and manifest the sovereignty of God by bringing all other nations into subjection and bestowing great blessings upon His people." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels; pg. 63)

Jesus came to be King, but not the type of king that the Jews were anticipating. The Jews looked to Jesus as God's agent through whom the Jews would conquer all their enemies and enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. This expectation reached its height when the excited Jews shouted Hosanna to Christ as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Jews expected Jesus to soon fulfill their nationalistic dreams.

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Jesus, however, came not to be a conquering king over earthly kingdoms, but He came to be the King of men's lives. He came not to shatter the Romans, but He came to die on a cross in order that the Romans might be truly transformed, as well as all the Gentiles of the world. Christ came not to destroy, but to restore. He came not to hate, but to love. Christ came to destroy man's passion and pride and then set up his rule in man's heart.

Gold is the gift for a King. Jesus is the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords, and as such, I must surrender my all to His kingship! I must look to Jesus as my king. Because He is my King, I must submit to His kingly reign! What is His reign? His reign is the reign of love. Therefore, to make room for King Jesus' reign in my life, is to make room for the King's love.

To make room for Jesus' love in your life means that you allow Jesus to cast out the 'demons' of hate and bitterness and resentment and jealousy.

Norman Vincent Peale tells of being invited to an old-fashioned prayer meeting and praise service. "The house was full of people. Many were sitting on the floor; some were on the stairs, even two on the grand piano. People were everywhere and all were singing old Gospel hymns – 'Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run,' 'Just as I am', and many other familiar hymns. Then they prayed, holding hands as they did so. It was like an electric current flowing around the circle. Power was emanating from one to the other. Finally a man arose and walked across the floor with a slight limp. 'I had a very bad physical condition and was told I would never walk again.' he said.

'Well,' I commented, 'you're walking now. How did it happen?'

'Jesus did it', he replied.

"A beautiful woman came forward and told how she had been helped out of a street gutter in the city of Chicago, a drug addict, and sent to an institution where she received treatment. She found herself, kicked the habit, and was free at last. 'How did it happen?' I asked.

'Jesus did it' she replied.

"Then a couple stood up, arm in arm. 'You have no idea how we used to fight,' they said. 'We cursed and swore at each other. We hated each other and each of us tried to be the most devilish to the other. But now we are remarried and live happily in love and peace.

I asked,' And how did that happen?"

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'Jesus did it,' they answered." (Sermon: 'Defeat? No Way. The Word is Victory'; pg. 8, 9)

Have you made room for Jesus' kingly deliverance in your life? Have you allowed Jesus to deliver you from your personal hang-ups, from a foul temper, or from foul words, or from foul attitudes, of from foul habits? Remember, Jesus is King, and "He is able to deliver thee."

He is able to deliver thee, 
Though by sin oppressed, 
Go to Him for Rest; 
Our God is able to deliver thee." 

One man was 'making fun' of a new convert. Said the cynic to the new convert: "How do you explain the fact that Jesus turned water into wine?" Replied the new believer, "Whether Jesus turned water into wine, I do not know. But one thing I do know. When Jesus came into my heart and home, he changed my beer and wine into furniture!"

Jesus is King! Will you worship Him as your King? Will you submit to His kingly power, the kind of power that can transform your entire life? Paul was transformed! "I (Paul) used to believe that I ought to do many horrible things to the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. I imprisoned many of the saints in Jerusalem, as authorized by the High Priests; and when they were condemned to death, I cast my vote against them. I used to torture to try to make Christians everywhere curse Christ. I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities in foreign lands. I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when one day about noon, sir, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice speaking to me in Hebrew, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? You are only hurting yourself' 'Who are you, sir?' I asked. "And the Lord replied, 'I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now stand up! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and my witness. You are to tell the world about this experience and about the many other occasions when I shall appear to you. And I will protect you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am going to send you to the Gentiles to open their eyes to their true condition so that they may repent and live in the light of God instead of in Satan's darkness, so that they may receive forgiveness for their sins and God's inheritance along with all people everywhere whose sins are cleansed away, who are set apart by faith in me." (Acts 26:9-18)

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III. The Goal Of Worship – Glorifying And Praising God.

"Then the shepherds went back again to their fields and flocks, praising God for the visit of the angels, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had told them." (Luke 2:20)

What is the goal of worship? Is it to solve our human problems? Is it simply to feel good? We need to have our human problems solved, and we all like to feel good, but the goal of worship is neither of these. The goal of worship is to focus on God, not on ourselves and not on our world's problems. "The Bible is filled with praise to Eternal God. The Psalms, hymn book of the Israelitish nation, and the burst of song which appears with almost calculated regularity throughout, characterize the Word of God. Why, then, the preoccupation with man, his problems, and his world? Even our modem devotions tend to be man-centered. Surely this is but one more symptom of what Archbishop William Temple called our self-centeredness which is our original sin'." (Alive To God Through Praise; Preface; Demaray)

The object of all true worship is God – His character and His purposes. "Glory to God in the highest" was the theme of the angelic choir on that historic night long ago. And it remains the theme of heaven's angelic choirs throughout eternity. "Day and night they (the heavenly hosts) never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.' Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 'You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.'" (Revelation 4:8-11)

IV. The Benefits Of Worship – Joy And Peace In The Worshiper's Soul!

"Lord," he said, "now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world." (Luke 2:29-30) "She never left the Temple but stayed the night and day, worshiping God by praying and often fasting. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph and she also began thanking God and telling everyone in Jerusalem who had been awaiting the coming of the Savior that the Messiah had finally arrived." (Luke 2:37-38)

The message which the angel announced to the shepherds was a message full of joy. Said the angel, "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." (Luke 2:10) When the Wise Men "saw the star, they were overjoyed." (Matthew 2:10)

Can you sense the joy that the old man Simeon must have felt when he took the Christ child into his arms? Do you remember the account? "That day a man named Simeon,

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a Jerusalem resident, was in the Temple. He was a good man, very devout, filled with the Holy Spirit and constantly expecting the Messiah to come soon. For the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen him – God's anointed King. The Holy Spirit had impelled him to go to the Temple that day; and so when Mary and Joseph arrived to present the baby Jesus to the Lord in obedience to the law, Simeon was there and took the child in his arms, praising God. 'Lord', he said, 'now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will shine upon the nations and He will be the glory of your people Israel!

And think of the joy and contentment that Anna, the elderly prophetess, must have felt when she first saw the Christ child! Her response to the Christ Child is recorded in Luke 2:38. "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."

Whenever people appropriately respond in worship to the Christ, there inevitably comes a sense of joy and fulfillment and contentment. In Christ's presence there is joy forevermore!

Worship should never be a drab or monotonous routine. Rather, worship should be filled with excitement and joy – "joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!"

After he came from his prayer closet, where he worshiped his blessed Lord, John Wesley's face often shone with a glow of joy. Someone said of him, "He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining." Moses too was a "man with a shining face". When he descended Mt. Sinai, where he had been a long time alone with God, his face was radiant with the glory of God – shining with such a brilliance that the Israelites put a veil over his face!

Notes William Barclay, "It must never be forgotten that joy is one of the commonest New Testament words."

"When Dr. Farmer, organist at Harrow, pleaded with the Salvationist drummer not to hit the drum so hard, the beaming bandsman replied: 'Lor' bless you, sir, since I've been converted, I's so happy, I could burst the blooming drum.'"

Notes Donald Demaray, "One of the doxologies of the Church contains the phrase, 'Him praise with mirth!' ….It was Mauree Johnson who told of the old mountaineer who said, 'When I give thanks it happifies my soul'" (Alive To God Through Praise; Preface) If you want joy – real joy -let Jesus come into your heart! If you want joy – real joy – make Jesus the object of your worship.

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Concerning his great happiness as a worshiper of the true and living God, John Wesley wrote the following:

As a Christian I am happy in a special kind of way, inexpressibly happy. 
Happy in what? In these clear and complete convictions: 
The God who is all-powerful, all-wise, all-gracious, governor over all, loves me! 
This God who is the lover of my soul is always with me, is never absent, no! Not for a moment. 
Well! Is it any wonder I love Him too. 
There is no one in heaven but God. There is no one on earth I desire but God! 
Something else: 
He has made me like Himself; He has stamped His image on my heart. 
Now then: 
I live for Him; I do only His will; I honor Him with my body and my spirit. 
Before long, I will die and go to Him, I will die in the arms of God. 
Then! 
Good bye to sin 
Good bye to pain 
Then! There is only one thing left - to live with Him for ever! 

(Quoted in "Alive To God Through Praise"; by Donald Demaray; pg. 100, 101)

CONCLUSION:

O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, 
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem! 
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels! 
Sing choirs of angels, sing in exultation, 
O	sing, all ye bright hosts of heaven above! 
Glory to God, all glory in the highest! 
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning, 
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given; 
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing! 
O	come, let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
O	come let us adore Him, 
Christ the Lord! 

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The goal of worship is to praise and to glorify God. All persons or groups of persons surrounding the manger, find themselves praising and exalting in God and in the Good News which God revealed in Jesus Christ:

(a) The Angels - Luke 2:13-14 
(b) The Shepherds - Luke 2:20 
(c) Simeon - Luke 2:28 
(d) Anna - Luke 2:38 
(e) Wise Men - Matthew 2:11 

Jesus' worth is recognized when:

1. Like Anna, we are willing patiently to wait upon God to reveal the Christ to us (Luke 2:37-38).

2. Like the Wise Men, we are willing to search for the Christ (Matthew 2:9-10).

3. Like the Wise Men, we are willing to bow low before Christ to surrender ourselves to Christ (the most important gift we can give to Christ).

4. Like Simeon, we are able to understand and to experience the significance of Christ's universal salvation (Luke 2:28-32).

5. Like the Shepherds, we are eager to witness for Christ to others (Luke 2:17).

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CHAPTER 13

Questions

  1. What common response did the following make to Christ, when they first heard about the birth of Christ, or when they first saw Him? – ( a) The Angels – Luke 2:13-14; (b) The Shepherds – Luke 2:15-20, (c) Simeon and Anna – Luke 2:25-28, (d) Kings- Matthew 2:2, Luke 2:11.

  2. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "The basis of true worship is recognition of Jesus' identity. When people, like the shepherds, are shown who Jesus really is, they are instinctively drawn to Jesus and find themselves on their faces before Him."

  3. Because of what Christ accomplished when He came to earth, what attitude does God have towards mankind, according to Luke 2:13-14?

  4. According to Matthew 2:11, what is the essence of true worship?

  5. What significance is there in each of the gifts of the Wise Men – 'Frankincense', 'Myrrh', and 'Gold'?

  6. Because Christ is your 'Priest' – i.e., your 'Bridge-Builder' – what should be your response to Him? (1 Timothy 2:3-5)

  7. Why is it impossible for a person – a sinner – to earn, to purchase, or to deserve God's salvation?

  8. Why is it impossible for Jesus to be the King of your life while, at the same time, you nurse grudges against people or hold hate and bitterness and jealousy in your heart?

  9. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statements: "We need to have our human problems solved, and we all like to feel good, but the goal of worship is neither of these. The goal of worship is to focus on God, not on ourselves and not on our world's problems." (Note Luke 2:11, Luke 2:13-14, Luke 2:20, Luke 2:28, Luke 2:38; Revelation 4:8-11)

  10. From your own personal experience, tell if you can attest to the truth of the following statements: "Whenever people appropriately respond in worship to the Christ, there inevitably comes a sense of joy and fulfillment and contentment. In Christ's presence there is joy forevermore!" (Note Luke 2:28-32, Luke 2:38; Matthew 2:10; Luke 2:10)

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The Identification of a Personal God

The Identification Of a Personal God

Chapter Seven

The Identification Of a Personal God
The God With A Beautiful Face! 87 A Man Of Sorrows 92
Fully Man – Fully God 88 Out Of The Ivory Palaces 93
Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job 89 He Is Nearer Than You Think! 94
God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear! 90 Discussion Questions 95
"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People" 91    

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

The God With A Beautiful Face!

One little frightened girl in a dark room cried out to her mother to quickly come to her. The mother went to the dark room and reassured the daughter that God would take care of her. The little girl replied: "But God has no face!"

A small boy was gazing at a picture of his father who was away for several months. Exclaimed the boy: "I wish daddy would step out of that picture and be here in person with me just now!"

That is what God did! Christianity declares that God stepped out of His vast universe and became a real man with a real face. Jesus gave God a face! Jesus is the God with a beautiful face! Because Jesus is God, God is approachable, available, lovable!

One woman who was struggling to make a surrender to God was making little progress. The very thought of God terrified her! Finally a friend said, "If you were asked to make a surrender to Jesus, would that be difficult?" "Oh, no!" replied the woman. "Jesus is so beautiful. I could easily surrender!" She was told to surrender herself to Jesus. When you surrender to Jesus, you surrender to God! The beautiful face of Jesus is the very face of God! What Jesus was, God has always been!

John writes, "In the beginning was the Word." Jesus is called the 'Word' for, just as one's words express one's hidden thoughts, so Jesus communicates the hidden thoughts and plans of the Almighty God!

The writer of the book of Hebrews clearly states that Jesus, the Son, is the heir, agent, and preserver of the created universe! "But in the last of these days He has spoken to us in (the person of a) Son Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time–(that is) He made, produced, built, operated and arranged them in order. He is the sole expression of the glory of God–the Light-being, the outraying of the divine–and He is the perfect imprint and very image of (God's) nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power." (Hebrews 1:2-3) (Amplified version) The beautiful creation is the product of the beautiful Son. A little girl who had lived all her life in a large city, was taken for a day in the country. When she saw the beautiful bluebells in the woods, she asked, "Do you think God would mind if I plucked some of His flowers?" (Daily Study Bible; Barclay; John Vol. 1; pg. 201)

"God, how can I longer be terrified by you when I behold your face in the face of Jesus Christ! Such beauty, such love, such acceptance! Surrendering to Jesus, I surrender to you! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My struggle shall turn to surrender, my terror to confidence, when I look upon the beautiful face of Jesus!

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Colossians 2:9-10; John 1:9, John 1:14

Fully Man – Fully God

John declares that Jesus is not only the Eternal Word, but that Jesus is also the Incarnate Word. John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John 1:14)

'Coming' denotes continuous action. Gradually the constant eternal light of God's truth was being revealed in many ways and at various times.

'True light' means that all other lights are only partial rays or reflections, imperfect, incomplete, transitory.

'Lights every man' means that no person is without some degree of light. The light of truth which came in various ways at various times in history (Hebrews 1:1-4) was culminated in Jesus Christ!

God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man! "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." (Galatians 4:4)

Jesus was fully God! Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9) Jesus' disciples who knew Him most intimately, declared Jesus as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2:22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless!

Jesus was fully Man! Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man." (Philippians 2:7) The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the fact of Jesus' humanity. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same;… For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham… that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." (See Hebrews 2:14-18.)

"Because Jesus was fully human, He identifies completely with the human race. Because Jesus was truly God, He provides a perfect sacrifice for the human race. Thank you, God, for giving the world the Perfect God-Man. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The lesser lights will lead me to the greatest Light. I will follow on until I find the 'Light of the World.'

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1 John 1:1-7

Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job

Notes J. B. Phillips, "Now once you honestly reach this conclusion that Christ was God–God revealed as fully as is possible, in a human being–you certainly don't know all the answers, but you have a remarkable amount of light to live by. For one thing, it revolutionizes your conception of the character of God. You don't see him any longer as a remote and terrifying being insulated from human life. You see him as God who so loved Man that he became Man. It was not a put-up job. He did it properly, without supernatural advantages, and he lived and died in the sweat and pain of human life. This is not one of those pagan legends about one of the gods disguised as a human being: this is the real thing. And once you see what God really was and did and suffered, you begin to see what kind of a person he is, and you have a powerful clue to his long and patient purpose." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 72, 73)

The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants a more organized method to carry their heavy pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of the confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.

The naturalist who viewed the ants wished only to become an ant in order to help them. Christ only became a man in order to release man from his bondage of sin. But Christ "came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11)

Why does man reject the Son of God? John well knew the reason when he wrote, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:19-20)

God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced as self-fulfillment. Wrong concepts and attitudes must be surrendered if we are to experience the Light of God as self-fulfillment. Jesus calls us, as He called the Jews of His day, to surrender (a) false Messianic conceptions, (b) legalistic systems of self-salvation, (c) nationalistic pride.

"Jesus, I am beginning to realize that you are 'the real thing.' You are not a god simply disguised as a human being, but you are truly human and yet truly God! You revolutionize my concept of God, for you are God fully revealed in human form. What a mystery, and yet, what a revelation! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Self-surrender will lead me to self-fulfillment; walking in the light of truth will lead me to the Light of the world!

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John 3:16-21

God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear!

The Jews of Jesus' day needed to surrender certain things if they were to experience God's Light as self-fulfillment. And so must we.

First, false Messianic conceptions need to be surrendered. The Jews' physicalistic concept of the Messiah caused them to believe that God would always save them and always destroy their enemies. People still try to use God for selfish reasons. Some expect God to protect them and make them happy and prosperous, regardless of their lack of repentance, confession, restitution, discipleship, or involvement in human suffering. We must realize, even though the Jews failed to realize, that God's first concern is our holiness, and only secondarily our happiness and material prosperity.

Second, legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. The Jews believed that moral justification could be found through outward observance of written law. They failed to understand the law's purpose (to define sin; to magnify sin; to humble man and to drive him to Christ). Law was not given to save man but to show man that salvation can be found only in Christ. Their wrong conception of law led to hypocrisy and shallowness in spiritual understanding. Attempts at self-salvation led to religious pride. Religious evasion became an accomplished art. External respectability was used to cover up internal heart corruption. Modern man also often prides himself in law-keeping or in religious observances, rituals, moralism, ethics, and philosophy. Some seek to balance their moral account with God by good deeds. But, breaking one of the commandments makes one as guilty as the man who has broken many of the commandments (James 2:10)! The Light of God can only be known as self-fulfillment through surrender of pride and moral self-sufficiency.

Third, nationalistic pride must be surrendered. The Jews believed that God was unconditionally 'married' to Israel–to protect her, to prosper her. Israel believed all other people to be inferior, objects of God's judgment. Thus, Israel believed her salvation to be automatically guaranteed by virtue of racial descent from Abraham. Some modern Americans assume, sometimes subconsciously, that God favors America and that God is unconditionally obligated to advance America's interests, regardless of personal repentance and faith. Only when we realize that God's covenants are conditional, and then humble ourselves in repentance, can we know the Light of God as self-fulfillment. God's light can soothe or sear, save or condemn, depending upon man's response to it.

"God, give me courage to surrender my wrong concepts to you in order that I may receive your Truth. I confess that often I have tried to earn salvation through mere human effort or moral performance. I reject the false and accept the True! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's Light will heal me, not hurt me; save me, not condemn me; soothe me, not sear me!

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Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 5:7-10

"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People"

The Bible says, "He (God) hath visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68) Says E. Stanley Jones: "The only way to redeem His people was to visit them. He couldn't sit on a cloud and utter commands or pick us up and take us to heaven with celestial tongs, not soiling His fingers with the messy business of human living. No, He dwelt among us–amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our oppositions and disappointments. He lived among us and showed us how to live by living." (Word Became Flesh; pg. 34)

God, in the person of Jesus, knew what it was to pass through childhood, adolescence, and manhood–with all of the temptations unique to each stage. Jesus, like us, felt the pull of materialism, the pull to popularity at any cost, the pull to accomplish the right ends with the wrong means. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus understood what poverty was all about. After Jesus had entered into His public ministry, on one occasion He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus understood the challenge of involvement with people, for he worked with all sorts of people–religious and profane, literate and illiterate, high and low, rich and poor, young and old, healthy and sick, Jew and Gentile, urban and rural. He understood the complexities of human relationships and the subtleties of human nature.

Jesus understood what it was to be misunderstood, rejected, and despised, and he also knew what it was to be hailed, praised, and followed. Jesus knew abounding times and abasing times, prosperity and poverty, apparent success and apparent failure, companionship and loneliness, joy and sorrow, acceptance and rejection. Through all the changes and chances, due to the ebb and flow of life, Jesus learned to be master of circumstances. As we would say today, Jesus learned to cope with life, to cope with the challenges and the responsibilities of life. Jesus' life demonstrates God's total identification and involvement with man's daily changing experiences.

Jesus even identified with man's sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

"Jesus, you hit rock bottom in your identification with mankind when you went to the Cross for my sins! No one but God could demonstrate such love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In His total identification with mankind, Jesus gave Himself totally for my redemption. Nothing less than the total giving of my Self to God is worthy of God's infinite love for me.

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Isaiah 53:1-4

A Man Of Sorrows

Most scholars believe that the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is a description of Jesus Christ.

The sorrows and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Wrote Kagawa, the great Japanese missionary: "God dwells among the lowliest of men. He sits on the dust heap among the prison convicts. He stands with the juvenile delinquents. He is there with the beggars. He is among the sick. He stands with the unemployed. Therefore let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to Church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads his Bible let him help the beggar." There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Picture Jesus as He makes His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the graveside of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. Go with Jesus to the Mount that overlooks Jerusalem; and witness Jesus' tear-soaked cheeks as he cries out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto the desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son–Christ could not bear it! The leper, the innocent, once gay young life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death–Christ could not bear it. 'I will, be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery–Christ could not bear it. And so He died to free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion.'

'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, 
Pure, unbounded love Thou art; 
Visit us with Thy salvation, 
Enter every trembling heart.'

But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 197)

"Do you care, God, when my days are weary and my nights are dreary, when my heart nearly breaks with sorrow? O yes, I know you care, for I see Jesus moving among suffering humanity, applying His touch of healing. Let Jesus touch me! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus was acquainted with grief, I will not detach myself from grieving persons.

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Philippians 2:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9

Out Of The Ivory Palaces

"Many years ago, when the Duke of Windsor was the Prince of Wales, he one day left Buckingham Palace, journeyed west into the coal mining country, put on a miner's cap, and went down into the dingy tunnels to see for himself the conditions in which men toiled in a difficult and dangerous branch of British industry. As a member of the royal family he was as much a prince in the coal mine as he was when he lived in the palace in London. But, while his essential equality with royalty was unchanged, there was no longer an equality of experience. He had consented to enter into experiences that never came to him amid the elegances and immunities of the palace." (Proclaiming the New Testament; Paul Rees; pg. 44)

Jesus was still the royal Son of God while he dwelt on earth, but Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poorness of humanity. As 2 Corinthians 8:9 points out, the costliness of the Incarnation is seen in three facts: (1) how rich Jesus was, (2) how poor He became, and (3) how wealthy he made us.

Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe–all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-equal with the Father and the Spirit–this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!

Says Bishop Sheen: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting as beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat… There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable… The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of the Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manger. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."

"Jesus, your very name means 'Love' to me! Love can go down. You went down into the very pits of sin to rescue sinners! You left the glories of heaven to experience the miseries of earth! All because You loved a sinner like me!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus humbled Himself to serve all; I will surrender myself to serve Him!

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Psalms 145:14-21

He Is Nearer Than You Think!

The Incarnation teaches us that God, far from being detached and disinterested in man, is instead the God who has taken the initiative in seeking and saving mankind! There is a story of a woman who was trying to find God. "She had a certain dream which she dreamed more than once, namely, that she was standing in front of a thick, plate glass window. As she looked at it, she seemed to see God on the other side. She hammered on the window, trying to attract His attention, but without success. She grew more and more desperate, and began to call to Him and found herself shrieking at the top of her voice. And then a quiet, calm voice at her side said: 'Why are you making so much noise? There is nothing between us.' Perhaps that illustrates our difficulty, does it not? We have been thinking all along that God was somewhere far away, unapproachable… some place that was difficult of access… and we have been groping around for a long time, and all the while He is standing beside us." (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master; Peter Marshall; pg. 131)

It is a great thing to know that God loves the human race–corporately yes, but more amazingly, individually. Paul Rees tells of a community canvass being made. At a certain door the questioner asked the woman who answered his knock what children she had. She began, 'Well, there's Willie, and Horace.' But the canvasser interrupted, 'Never mind names, I just want numbers.' Then she grew impatient and a bit indignant. 'They haven't got numbers,' she protested. 'Every one of them's got a name.' Concludes Paul Rees: "They had personalities that spoke with all the eloquence of their individual characteristics… So God looks upon His human creatures." (Stand Up in Praise to God; Paul Rees; pg. 23-24)

Jesus was made rich but He became poor in order that, through His poverty, we might be made rich! The way God accomplished this purpose is most mysterious and wonderful! "It is fifteen hundred years ago that this apparently invincible Empire (of Rome) utterly collapsed, and all that is left of it is ruins. Yet the little baby, born in such pitiful humility and cut down as a young man in his prime, commands the allegiance of millions of people all over the world. Although they have never seen him, he has become friend and companion to innumerable people. This undeniable fact is, by any measurement, the most astonishing phenomenon in human history. It is a solid rock of evidence which no agnostic can ever explain away." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 162-163)

"God, forgive me for groping around so long, trying to find You when You have already found me! You are nearer to me than I ever dreamed! Your initiating love is not only for the world as a whole, but for me as a person! Amazing!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will listen attentively to the quiet, calm voice at my side. It sounds like the voice of Love!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Identification Of A Personal God'

  1. What is meant by the statement: "Jesus gave God a Face!"

  2. Why is Jesus called 'the Word'? (John 1:1, John 1:14)

  3. Who does the writer of Hebrews (in Hebrews 1:2-3) declare that Jesus is?

  4. What significant truths regarding God's plan of salvation can you describe, as noted in John 1:9?

  5. What declaration from the lips of Jesus' disciples offers strong evidence for the deity of Jesus?

  6. What evidence from Scripture can you cite for the true humanity of Jesus Christ? (Note Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14-18.)

  7. Why must Jesus be fully Man and yet fully God in order for Him to be the Savior of mankind?

  8. How does acceptance of the conclusion that Jesus was God revolutionize your conception of the character of God?

  9. What was the purpose for which God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ?

  10. According to John 3:19-20, why do people reject the Son of God?

  11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced and enjoyed as self-fulfillment."

  12. What false Messianic conceptions regarding the mission of Jesus, did the Jews of Jesus' day hold? What are some of the false conceptions people have today regarding the mission of Jesus?

  13. What is meant by the statement: "Legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. "What behavioral manifestations will likely be evident in the life of the person who seeks to live by law rather than by grace?

  14. Were God's covenants with Israel conditional or unconditional? Is God obligated to favor America, regardless of the degree of America's obedience to God's revealed moral laws and will? What is meant by the expression: "God's light can soothe or sear!"

  15. Name several ways in which Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, identified with the human race when He was on the earth.

  16. Describe what is meant by Bishop Sheen's statement: "Divinity is always where one least expects to find it."

  17. What is there about Jesus that makes Him and the movement that bears His name–Christianity–one of the most astonishing phenomena of human history?

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