Archive | December 2011

Faith of a Child: Part 4

Luke 2: 1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

This is such an incredible story.   There are so many facets of it that I am just amazed by.

First, the trip.  I looked on Google maps to see if I drove by car from Nazareth to Bethlehem, how far it is and how long it would take me by car to get there.   It said that it was 155 km (approximately 97 miles) which is about the same drive as from New York City to Philadelphia.   (The New York trip is just 5 miles further).   It would take me about 2 hours to drive it.   But at that time, of course, there were no cars, so the trip took….okay take a guess….   remember they are ON FOOT…..

A)  6 hours

B)  24 hours

C)  33 hours

D) 48 hours

Did you guess?  According to google maps (and yes, there is a function there to WALK from Nazareth to Bethlehem), it takes 33 hours to walk the trip.  (And of course google maps puts up this warning on the map… Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.)   That made me chuckle out loud!!  I would say there trip had more possible problems than that!

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Knowing that they needed to participate in this census, they got ready to go.  But can you imagine walking in Mary’s sandals?   She is 9 months pregnant, due any day, and she is about to go on a trip that will take 33 hours by foot.   I know when I started my last trimester with both my pregnancies, that the doctor told me to limit my travel and stay closer to home.   Not possible here.  Census takers didn’t come knocking on your door or the census survey wasn’t sent to your house…you had to go to the town of your birth.   I would have a 3 day trip by car to get to my home town of birth.  The same with my husband.   I am so glad that I don’ t have to follow in her footsteps.   Maybe she did get to ride on a donkey…but can you imagine all the potty breaks, how uncomfortable she must have been with a baby pressing up on her lungs and into her ribs.     Maybe having Braxton-Hicks contractions, maybe having real contractions, but still, they pressed on.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

It doesn’t say how long they were there.  Did he get his taxes paid on time?  Was he in the process of knocking on doors, trying to find a place to stay?  Didn’t Mary’s pregnancy cause ANYONE to give up their room?  Evidently not, because the passage said there was no room for them in the inn.    So Joseph and Mary stayed in a stable and Mary gave  birth right there where all the animals lived.   No sterile hospital,  no birthing center, not even able to give birth in her own home…Mary delivered her baby in a stable.   Girls, remember what it was like delivering your babies if you’ve had any?   It’s not a very clean process either.  But she wrapped up her newborn baby and laid him in a manger.

What is a manger?  It’s a feeding trough for animals.  Have you ever fed pigs or watched a farmer feed his pigs?   Slop goes in there.    So did our Savior.

One of my favorite songs of this season sums up this whole story… this is such a strange way to save the world.    But when have any of God’s ways truly made any sense?   If they did, they wouldn’t mean as much or be as memorable, would they?  I mean, if a baby was born to an unwed mother in the hospital, who would really talk about that?  It happens all the time now a days.   But a baby born in stable?  Placed in a manger?  His mother did not conceive him with his father?   That is something to remember.   These all came true.  It was prophized in the Old testament.   It came true.

I want to leave you at the end of this story with the video that I spoke of earlier.   The song on the video is so beautiful.  It really covers the spectrum of all the questions that Joseph and Mary probably had during the entire time span…from when the angel appeared to Mary to the time when her baby boy came into the world.   Why?   Because it is all part of God’s plan.  He loves us so much, it pains Him to be separated from us.   It pains Him that we don’t follow Him.  So He sent His Son to save the world.   All you have to do is believe in Him.  Believe that you are a sinner separated from God.  Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins.   God thought of you when He sent his Son, and the Son thought of you on the cross….won’t you trust and follow them now?   God has the perfect gift for you… one size fits all…all you have to do is take it.

Enjoy the video.  May all the blessings that God can send be heaped on you this Christmas season.    I know I feel blessed already.

Faith of a Child: Part 3

Matthew 1:18-25

18This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d]—which means, “God with us.”

24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

When we left the last bible study, Mary had just spent 3 months with Zechariah and Elizabeth and was now on her way home.   But now, I pick up the story from the eyes of the man who she was betrothed, Joseph.

Joseph was caught off guard by all this.  The young woman that he was betrothed be be married to was pregnant.  Now remember from the first installment, that betrothal meant that you were basically married.  It wasn’t an engagement period, it was the real deal.  What was he to do?  She was pregnant, so she couldn’t be a virgin….she was an adulteress!    But being the kind and righteous man that he was, he was going to quietly divorce her without making a spectacle of the whole thing.  He cared for her and didn’t want to make a public disgrace of her, so surely this whole thing could be done hush hush, right?  Until……

Here comes the angel of the Lord again.  In a dream, the angel reveals to Joseph God’s plan.  Mary was a virgin.  She was having God’s son, who would save the world.  His name will be Jesus.  Do not be afraid to take her as your wife.  The angel even quotes the prophet Isaiah.   Remember, Joseph was a righteous man, and he knew the laws and he knew of the prophets.  It was coming true.  Right in his own home.  God’s word was being fulfilled right in his own home!

So he took her into his home to be his wife.  He didn’t have any doubts.  He had great faith in the Lord through all of this as well.  And to be sure the prophecy was fulfilled, she remained a virgin until the birth of her son.

A lot of times, we take matters into our own hands.  Especially those of us (like me) who are type A personalities who believe that no one can do a better job than I can.  I thought for all the years that I was a refuser, that I could handle it.  I could figure out the way to make it right…to make it better.  I could solve this big problem that we had.  It wasn’t until I gave it up to God and His plan that was so much better that my marriage was saved.  I couldn’t do it without His help.  See, Joseph though he could fix the whole situation, too, but when God stepped in and said, “Trust me. I have a Plan”, he yielded to the One he had great faith in.  Dear one, we need to all yield to God.  Is there something that you just can’t let go of?  That you think you have the answer to, but it just isn’t working out the way you want it to?  Step aside and take a look at God’s plan.  In the end, it is so much better than anything you can plan.

Lord, thank you for your Master Plan for our lives.  Help us to see when we need to yield to Your will.  Help us to take the step of faith to let you take the reigns and take us on a wonderful ride of our lives.  Lord, thank you for sending your Son.  Your Plan would not be complete without Him.  Thank you, Lord for the free gift of salvation that you offer us.  Lord, I pray that if there is someone reading this who does not know your Son, that they would ask more about Him and learn to trust in Him.  Thank you, Lord, for saving a lowly sinner like me.  Amen.

The Faith of a Child: Part 2

Luke 1:39-45

39At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

I pick up the story after Mary found out that she would have a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit.  So she was told by this angel that her relative, Elizabeth, was also with child.  What a miracle that would be to see!  So off to Judea Mary went to visit Elizabeth and to see for herself!  Elizabeth was having a baby after all these years!  How was that possible??

For nothing is impossible with God.

Oh, yes.Nothing is impossible with God.  As soon as Mary entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth, something amazing happened….Elizabeth AND her unborn baby realized that they were in the presence of the Lord’s mother.  How did they know that?  The bible tells us that Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Not only did she know, her baby leapt in her womb.

Now, any of us who have had babies know that you can feel the baby move.  I am sure you felt your baby kick and tried to figure was it a hand or a foot that just got your rib cage.  But have any of you had a baby like my daughter?  I felt like I had a gymnast inside me at times.  Almost like Shawn Johnson doing summersaults inside me.  When I used to feel her inside me doing flips and turns and whatever else she was doing in there, I used to think of Elizabeth.  Was this what she felt when John leaped in her womb?  At that moment, Elizabeth knew a miracle was going to happen through Mary as well.  Mary hadn’t said a word, but Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Wow.Did you get the tone of that?  Mary didn’t have to worry about “my parents are gonna kill me!”…Elizabeth knew that God was going to do something miraculous through Mary, and she also knew that Mary believed what God said was to be true.

56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Have you ever felt so strongly like the Lord was telling you to do something, but everyone around you would pretty much try to shoot the helium out of your balloon?  What would you do?   You would go to someone who would support you…who would understand what you believe and why you believe it.  That is what Mary did.  A miracle had happened to Elizabeth, so she went to Elizabeth.  Who would believe her?  Who would still believe that she was a virgin carrying a baby?  What shame would be placed on her at home?  What would Joseph do?

But Mary had faith that the Lord had taken care of it all.  She was lifted up and strengthened my Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Her faith was not shaken.  She knew that God was on her side and He was in control.  Listen to this…

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

Does this sound like the song of a desperate girl?  No. “ for the Mighty One has done great things for me— “

The Lord of all Creation can do mighty things for you, too.  For some of you this Christmas season might be a difficult one.  Maybe your spouse is a refuser….maybe you or your spouse dabble in pornography…maybe you’ve lost a loved one or a spouse.  The one thing I hope that you take from this story today is that the Mighty One can do great things for you, too.  He didn’t just do things for Mary.  He didn’t just do things for Elizabeth.  He will do great things for you, too.  He is the Great Healer.  He is the Abba Father that we all need.  Put your faith and trust in Him.  Let him fill your needs.  God sent the most awesome gift to you this Christmas.  Mary is carrying him in her womb in this story.  The Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, God, for all the great things you do for us, and thank you for sending your Son to save us all.