Friday, December 23, 2016

A Season of Sorrow

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:


Christmas is a season of joy- “children laughing, people passing, dressed in holiday style.”

Christmas is a season of sorrow.  Mother’s weep under shining trees over flat bellies-babies lost or never conceived.  Tables heavy with holiday goodies have empty seats where spouses, parents, children, siblings passed or estranged used to sit.

There is a carol for a mourning Christmas-Coventry Carol.  If you’ve never heard it, the carol commemorates the massacre of the innocents, when the enraged Herod slaughtered every son of Bethlehem two and under.  With a lullaby of lamentation, the carol weeps with Rachel.

Think today of someone you know that may not be celebrating this Christmas.  Take a moment of compassion and let them know that you and Rachel join them in their tears.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A New Star

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

 All creation held its breath.  The Savior was being born.  That spring day was so momentous that a new star appeared in the heavens.  I don’t understand the science of it exactly.  Did the wise men witness the birth of a star or its death?  
When did God put things in motion so that the light hit the earth at just that moment?  Where was it positioned in the night sky?  Was it visible in every hemisphere?

I understand this: creation knows its Creator!  When Christ rode into Jerusalem, he told us that if the people hadn’t praised God in this the day of His visitation the rocks themselves would have done the job (Luke 19:40).  Just a week later when He hung outside the city, the earth shook and the sun refused to shine (Matthew 27:45-53).

If the universe itself shines on the Savior can we do less?  

“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).

Ready for more Christmas Posts?

A New Nativity Scene

Shining as Lights

Friday, December 16, 2016

Learning to Wait

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLDTHE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SONAND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Self-denial is at an ebb as a virtue. We are a society drive by self, desire, even whim. Thus we betray our future selves.  We have forgotten how to wait.

Waiting was something Joseph excelled at.  He waited to bed his betrothed until they were married.  When the angel told him to wait further until his wife’s son was born, Joseph live with her chastely.  

Self-denial at its best.  He chose to do what was right over whim, desire, and self.

Is it any wonder that God chose this man to help Mary to raise his son?  Joseph’s stepson grew up to become the expression of self-denial.  Jesus calls us all to follow Him in this hard virtue.  “Take up your cross and follow me.”

In this Christmas season of excess find a moment everyday to put yourself aside.  With self out of the way,  we can wait on God--a quiet servant ready to work her master’s will.

Ready for more Christmas posts?

Building a home for God
Pregnancy Announcements

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Complex Gifts

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 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 name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

God’s gifts are complex.  Mary’s gift, a child conceived by the Holy Spirit came, with such complications: nearly being divorced from her betrothed, birthing her firstborn in a stable, living as a political refugee in Egypt.  Mary’s gift brought joy and sorrow.  Mary’s gift was a sword piercing her own heart.

Our gifts are often similarly complicated.  An ill and aging parent comes to live with us.  Joy and suffering in a single cup.  We reach out to friends with the gospel; some receive glady, more turn awkwardly away.  

For Mary her answer to the gift was simple, “behold the bondslave of the Lord”. May we be her daughter’s in this.  When joy and suffering come wrapped up together as a complex gift from our Lord, may we say simple, “I too am your servant Lord.  Speak and I obey.”

Ready for more Christmas Posts?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Declaring His Generations

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

(Matthew 1:1 and 17)

Matthew opens his gospel by declaring the generations of Jesus Christ. Fourteen recorded ancestors starting from the covenant with Abraham to bless the world through his seed.  Fourteen generations later the promise to David that he would have a son to sit on his throne for all eternity.  Fourteen generations since the shame of Israel when the presence of God left his temple.

And now Matthew declares that God has brought the fulfillment in his generation of all those generations of waiting.  The seed that will bless all mankind has come into the world.  The king who will reign forever has come to take His throne.  The presence of God has returned to Israel.  

Let us join Matthew in a shout of song.  Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!  In our day, in our generation as in theirs, the world is blessed, the King reigns, and God is come!  

Ready for more Christmas Posts?

Jesus' Wish List

Friday, December 9, 2016

All We Like Sheep

    Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

            And our sorrows He carried;

            Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

            Smitten of God, and afflicted.
      But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

            He was crushed for our iniquities;

            The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

            And by His scourging we are healed.
      All of us like sheep have gone astray,

            Each of us has turned to his own way;

            But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

            To fall on Him.
      He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

            Yet He did not open His mouth;

            Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

            And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
            So He did not open His mouth.

     By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

            And as for His generation, who considered

            That He was cut off out of the land of the living

            For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
(Isaiah 53:4-8)

I love this part of Handel’s Messiah!  One year as a kid I checked the record of the whole thing out of the library and listened to it.  I was old enough to enjoy being different maybe not old enough to really appreciate the lyrics.  But I remember the chorus swelling “all we like sheep-have gone astray.”

And I remember being that sheep.  Not some cute and fluffy lamb from a Christmas pageant but a panicked matted sheep caught in the brambles wondering where the shepherd went.  

The last part of the song drops the frenzied primary melody into a sad slow fade.  “He has laid on Him the inquiry of us all."

In Christmas and every other season we have this precious gift: our Shepherd became a sheep.  He left the glory of heaven to be a broken and bloody lamb.  

Ready for more Christmas posts?

Jesus the Lamb of God

Families are the best   

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

His Heart's Desire

      And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth...

      Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 

      The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

      The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But 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. 

I have long wondered why Gabriel struck Zacharias mute.  Mary asked a similar question.  And given their age and years of infertility is a little disbelief so inexcusable?

Perhaps in Zacharias, it was.  What Gabriel was announcing was the answer to prayer.  For who knows how many years or even decades Zacharias had been begging God for a child. As an answer God sends Gabriel, the angel that came to Daniel, to tell Zacharias that he was to receive a miracle the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Abraham. 

Zacharias isn’t ignorant; he was an observant Jewish male, a priest in active service described by Luke as both righteous and blameless. Yet faced with his heart’s desire, his dearest prayer answered-he doesn't believe.

Perhaps under your Christmas tree is a bounty of gifts or a single lonely box but either way I wish for you better gifts: answered prayers and the power to believe in them.  

Ready for more Christmas posts?

All I want for Christmas

A Good Guest

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The God Who Sees-A Book Review

As a Christian I believe in supporting the good rather than complaining about the bad (Philippians 4:8).  That's why I am not going to waste your time telling you how I HATE fluffy condescending Bible class material for women and teens. 

Instead let's talk about a new book I love.

Recently I got a copy (for free in exchange for my honest review) of the 
The God Who Sees: Lessons from Another Perspective by J.A. Busick.  This is the second of her books I have reviewed.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

God gave to me: (A Song and a Free Printable)

As I was brainstorming posts for Christmas, my teenager spontaneously came up with the first couple of verses to this song.  Impressed with her creativity, I told her if she'd finish it, I'd post it.  When it was done, I stunned by the breadth of God's gifts!  I hope you enjoy the song and I'd love for you to share it with your kids as a short hand to remind them that the baby in the manger was the seed that so many amazing gifts spring from.  At the bottom of this post you'll find links to a fun Bible search (like a scavenger hunt through scripture) based on the song and suggestions on how use it.