After Advent..’The Rest of the Story’..Naming and Dedication

Just like after John’s birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph had a naming and circumcision ceremony on the eighth day. They named him Jesus, as that was the name the angel had given them even before Jesus’ His birth. Luke 1:31 and Matthew 1:21 Then the Jewish law required the couple to wait 40 days before presenting their child in the temple for dedication to the Lord. On Jesus’ dedication day God prepared yet another confirmation for Mary and Joseph that their child was from God. Here is their encounter with Simeon and his words about Jesus.

Luke 2:25-35 “ At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Wow! What confirmation from this godly man that Jesus was going to provide salvation for all people and bring light into the world. Bringing salvationTitus 2:11 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” and Hebrews 5:9 “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Bringing lightJohn 8:12 “Jesus said to them, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” and 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” Simeon also blessed them and spoke words for them to treasure in preparation for the future that God had planned for their child. Saving the world and giving light to all was not going to be an easy pathway as He would face opposition and many hearts would be effected, even theirs.

What encouragement do you find in this story of Jesus’ dedication? It confirms to me that God is Sovereign and Omniscient. He knows all that will happen and had a plan to redeem mankind. It shows God is Merciful, Gracious and Compassionate as He sent His Son to bring light into a dark world and provide salvation for all. God is loving and keeps His promises just as He kept his word to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Savior. He also prepared Mary and Joseph for the coming life their son would lead, one that would to be filled with godly purpose. God knows each of us as He did Simeon, Joseph and Mary. He knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Reflect today on how God’s timing has been perfect in your life.

How has God fulfilled his promise in Romans 8:28 to you? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I can attest to God’s hand in my life even in the darkest times. Even those tough times produced growth and experiences that God has used many times over to help others, to build my faith and produce results I had never envisioned or dreamed possible. God is indeed Sovereign and can and will use all things for my good and His glory as I walk with Him.

Linda

Advent…the Unexpected Places God Takes Us

As we enter the last days before Christmas, our focus shifts to the actual birth and arrival of the Christ child. Today’s scripture tells of the birth of our Lord. Luke 2:6-7
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

In the stable cave believed to be the birthplace of our Lord, we sang Silent Night.

These 2 verses pack a powerful punch. After the long journey by walking or on the back of a donkey, they arrived in Bethlehem to find the city packed and all the inns filled. The census had drawn many others to Bethlehem as well, which was a small town outside of Jerusalem. As they looked for lodging, they found that all the inns were filled, but the landlord of one inn offered them shelter in the stable attached to the inn. They would be with the animals but in a warm and dry place. The irony of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who owns all the cattle on the hills being virtually homeless and humble enough to be brought into this world in such a lowly way leaves me in awe. In addition, scripture reminds us again that the baby being born is Mary’s son, miraculously conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was no ordinary child and yet he was born as every other human child is born to a mother. She cared for the child and wrapped him to keep him warm and laid him down in a manger cradle. I’m sure she was exhausted but happy to be safely delivered just as any young mother would have been. Perhaps she had been scared as she only had Joseph to help her deliver the child, worried about his first cries and seeking to be comforted by by his sleeping pose in the manger. Joseph was undoubtedly worried about the delivery and the health of both her child and his young wife. These are possible thoughts that might have been in the minds of both Mary and Joseph that first Christmas Eve. But God, was with them and they both trusted in God’s plan and were walking in faith. Their faith was sufficient to overcome whatever obstacles were in front of them that day. Their faith and obedience to God is evident as no words of panic or despair are present in scripture, just calm hope.

Let us take a lesson from this scene. No matter how bad things look- no room, no place, no how, God is in control and has a plan. Nothing is greater than God and with God ‘nothing is impossible.’ This is hope that required faith on our part as God has got this. We need to walk in trust knowing He has us in the palm of His hand. Isaiah 49:16 is a promise to each of us “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

May the blessed hope shown by Mary and Joseph seep into your soul today as you consider this unusual birth in a very unexpected place. I love the promise in Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” Claim God’s promise and know in your heart and mind the truth of His loving care just as Mary and Joseph did that first Christmas Eve.

Linda

Advent…Expect the Unexpected

Mary enters our Advent story today. She is a young virginal woman who is engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel appears to her with a startling message. Luke 1:26-34

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!””

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.

God is gracious to us in that we know the time this takes place. It is only 6 months after Zachariah was in the temple and Elizabeth conceived. The angel messenger sudden and miraculous appearance caused Mary to be afraid. That is understandable as the appearance of an angelic heavenly being was most unusual and would have been cause for fear. The angel had a special message just for Mary that was one of hope and wonder. Being a Jewish girl, she knew of the coming Messiah- the anointed holy one to come. But, she was perplexed as to how this could happen as she was pledged but unmarried and had not had relations with Joseph. Her question was one of How can this be? She was not doubting God’s ability to cause this to happen as Zachariah had in the temple. Her doubts were answered by the messenger factually as we’ll see tomorrow.

What lessons can we take away from this portion of Mary’s story? Mary was open and receptive to God’s message. She was willing to listen and desired to know more about God’s will for her life. Are you open minded towards God? Do you look expectantly for His work in your life? Unexpected things can happen to each of us and they are solely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. We need to trust in God’s providential care just as Mary did to receive the blessings God has in store for us.

Will you look God’s hand of care in your life today and praise Him?

Linda

Christmas with Eternity in Focus!

Merry-Christmas

Today we celebrate the birth of the Christ.  His birth was foretold by the ancient prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born…”   The place was foretold in Micah 5:3  “But you Bethlehem…”.    He came to earth that day born as a human child, yet one who would lead a sinless life and die to save us from our sins.  We believe that only God’s Son, Jesus, could satisfy Holy God and bring us back into relationship with God.  Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”   So where does that leave us?  If we believe He was born miraculously as a man who was both fully human and fully God, and He was able to die to save us from our sins, what more is there for us to believe?   return-of-christHe is coming again1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we need to remember the story does not end in the manger or at the cross.  The story of the redemption of mankind will end with us living with God for eternity.  Just as His first coming was heralded by angels so will His second coming.  Just as His first coming was miraculous, awesome and breathtaking so will His second coming be worthy of King Jesus when we meet Him in the air.

God eternalWhat do these events say about God?  God is eternalGod exists outside of time.  He is not measured by anything.  We measure time by the movement of the planets and stars, which God created.  God has always been and always will be.  No one is like Him.  We are not eternal because we have a beginning and an end.  Because God is eternal, He can give us eternal life.  David described God in Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, form everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  John wrote in Revelation 4:8 “Holy, holy, holy is he Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.”

With our finite minds, the eternality of God is difficult to grasp.  However, we can be assured that God is who He says He is and will do as He has planned for eternity. Jesus is the one who holds the key to our eternal life. john-4-14 John 4:13-14  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   Come to Him this Christmas and be filled with His eternal blessing.  Look  past the manger, past the cross and look forward to His return!

Linda   

 

 

Anna, one who sees what Jesus will do

Mary and Joseph had just encountered Simeon and now they faced an old woman who was known as a prophetess.  There are a few women who speak for God under His guidance in the Bible.  Deborah (Judges 4:4) and  Aaron’s sister Miriam (Exodus 15:20) are the most well known.  Anna was known for her devotion to the Lord and constancy in prayer and worship.

anna“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Going 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.”  Luke 2:36-38

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there that day and heard what she said about Jesus and what He would accomplish?  Her focus was on the redemption of Jerusalem, meaning the Jewish people.  She knew that God was just and that He would redeem and rescue her people with this child  just as He had promised.

justHow is God just?  God’s justice is perfect.  His decisions are always based on His righteous character.  God cannot ignore sin because He is holy.  It would be unjust to ignore wickedness, rebellion and sin. God is just and does not show favoritism.  Every penalty will be fair and right.  God does not treat His children as their sins deserve because Jesus suffered the full punishment for our sins.  Because God is just and merciful, He will never punish His children for the sins for which Jesus paid on the cross.  Anna could see this sacrifice in Jesus’ future that day and knew He was the key to the redemption of all God’s people.

justice__a_cross__by_540_edalbHow are you and I affected by God’s justice?  We can count on God to always be Holy and intolerant of sin.  We can trust that His justice is and has always been perfect as He is unchanging in character and does not show favorites.  God is true to His Word and will do as He promised in Scripture.  He will be victorious over Satan and Jesus will return again.  We have proof of God’s justice.  He dealt with our sin through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.  Now that our sin has been dealt with, it is over and God’s justice is done!  Praise Him for His Justice and keep pointing others to Jesus.  Live focused on things with eternal value that glorify God.  Cling to God’s promises prayer for justice and mercyin Scripture and pray for those that do not know Jesus as Savior.  Do not judge others but leave justice to God. Trust in God’s justice and mercy it is and always will be perfect and always enough.

Linda