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Christmas I: Growing in Favor

Pastor’s Column
Christmas I: Growing in Favor
CJ Bowen

One of the most striking things about today’s texts is how they set Samuel and Jesus side by side as those who grow in stature and in favor with God and men. Although we know a great deal about Jesus’ birth and later ministry, we don’t know very much about His childhood. Because of this link, though, we do have a point of reference: Jesus’ childhood was something like Samuel’s.

Both boys had surprising birth stories: Samuel’s mother Hannah was barren, Jesus’ mother Mary was a virgin. Humanly speaking, neither birth should’ve happened! They’re both miracle babies. And both Hannah and Mary were singers: Mary’s Magnificat is in many ways a remake of Hannah’s song in 1 Sam. 2. Both boys had parents who went to the temple each year to offer sacrifices, and so they were shaped by godly examples of faithful worship. Both boys grew up with a special connection to God and God’s house that was even more important than their connection to their biological families.

And so, Scripture summarizes their childhoods much the same way: they grew in stature, and in favor with God and man. As these boys grew up, they lived in ways that were increasingly pleasing to God and man.

But our texts not only include examples of growing in favor with God; we also have a passage that shows us how to grow in favor with God. The book of Colossians begins with Paul’s prayer in 1:9-14, where he prays that the Colossians “may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

In other words, Paul is praying that they will grow in wisdom and in favor with God. And so in Col. 3:12-17, we have six verses that describe what growing in favor with God involves. Paul tells the Colossians to put on Christlike character and virtues by letting the word of Christ dwell in them richly, teaching and admonishing one another through singing. But not just singing: whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. That’s a life that’s growing in favor with God!

So first, give thanks to God for Jesus Christ, who grew in favor with God until God exalted Him to the highest place! Glorify Jesus, because He is the one who makes it possible for sinners to become children of God! Sinners cannot please God, but God’s children can! Thank you Jesus!

Next, realize from the lives of Samuel and Jesus that serving God takes priority even over the claims of the natural family. God wants you to love and bless your family, children, submitting to parents, parents, loving and caring for children, but growing in wisdom and putting on Christ are even more important than that.

Third, an exhortation for young men: Samuel and Jesus show us examples of preteen boys who spent their time seeking and serving God. Our culture doesn’t expect much maturity from young men, but these passages teach us that even boys are capable of using their early years to grow in favor with God and man, and not simply “being boys”. Young men, how can you be like Samuel? How can you imitate Jesus and His desire to find out more about God and His Word?

Really, that’s the challenge for all of us: how is the Word going to dwell in you richly this next year? I’ve linked to more than a dozen different Bible reading plans on the Church Facebook page, and many of our ladies are deep into the Bible Reading Challenge. It’s not too late to join, and the new year is a great time to reboot or start fresh.

And don’t forget that one of the richest ways for the word to dwell in you is through singing. How will you put on Christ and grow in favor with God when it comes to singing this year? Paul wrote to the Colossians so that they would be fully pleasing to God, and to that end, he told them to sing. So sing!

After Christmas, the early years of Jesus’ life were spent growing in favor with God. God has called you to follow in His steps, filled you with His Spirit, and has given you instruction from His Word so that you can do just that. Celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas leads into a life of growing in favor with God, so receive this Word today with thankfulness in your hearts.

Posted on Wednesday, January 02, 2019 by CJ Bowen