Advent…A Time to Show and Tell

Advent is a time when we need to show our faith to others and then tell them about Jesus by our actions. When I was teaching writing, show don’t tell passages were those that showed what the action was by describing what was going on instead of just telling it. The use of descriptive words was imperative to show the reader what you were trying to say. Advent is a time when churches, religious groups and civic organizations look to meet the needs of the poor, hungry, unemployed and hurting people of all ages. The seek to show the love of Christ to others with deeds and not just with words. This year, 2021, has been particularly difficult as we live with the daily effects of the global pandemic. Yes, the conditions have improved over 2020, but there are still a great number of people who are sick, out of work or lonely. I have an 80 year old friend that faithfully works at her church’s food bank sorting and filling bags of food for the hungry. I am amazed by the long lines seen on the news of people waiting in cars to get bags of food. Many of those seeking help have never had to ask before as they had always been self-sufficiently employed.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is eliz-and-mary.jpg

One verse in our Christmas story brought this to mind. Luke 1:56 speaks of Mary staying with Elizabeth for about 3 months then going home to Nazareth. “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Scripture said that the angel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was in her sixth month, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,” Luke 1:26 Doing the math, it would seem that young Mary who was only just pregnant came to visit Elizabeth when Elizabeth was six months along. Staying with Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy before John was born, when Zechariah was not able to talk (Luke 1:20), was probably a great comfort, blessing and help to this aged mother and father to be. We are not told in scripture that Mary was present when John was born, but I would imagine Mary stayed until John was born and then returned home. By helping Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary was also blessed and comforted as she shared this time with them.

In this one verse God shows us how we are to be supportive of each other and stay the distance. My friend could go and help out occasionally at the food bank but she has made it a priority to give of herself 3 days a week. Many I know, prior to Covid, went regularly to nursing homes to share, sing and pray with residents or visit those in hospitals. Another friend had a brother that had a severe accident and the family ministered to him and nursed him back to health after being released from the hospital. Ministering to those in need shows godly character as we give, are compassionate, merciful and kind. It also opens the door for you to speak of your motivation for doing acts of kindness, Jesus.

Even with Covid restrictions, find a way to meet someone’s needs this week. It could be a phone call, text, card or letter to a friend you know is lonely or sick. Maybe you can make cookies or bread to leave on their doorstep. Know that things done serving others out of love pleases God. Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let the world see your love for Jesus through your actions of service towards one another.

Linda

Advent…gives examples of God’s Grace

Mary and Elizabeth were related in some way and since Mary was young and Elizabeth was old, perhaps she viewed her as an elderly aunt. The angel had mentioned Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy when he came to Mary, so going to visit with her would have been a ‘soft’ spot to land, so to speak, while she grappled with her changing life. Elizabeth would have been able to comfort Mary and care for her just as young Mary would have been able to help Elizabeth. Being close in distance was a blessing for both of these godly women, which is evidence of God’s providential care. Read this account from Luke 1:39-45 with ‘grace’ in mind which is God’s unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor or goodness towards us.

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

What grace or favors from God jumped out at you? The the child within Elizabeth ‘jumped’ or moved in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Somehow the presence of the fetus within Mary was recognized by Elizabeth’s unborn baby. The result was confirmation to Elizabeth and Mary that the child she carried was the long awaited Messiah, their Savior. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit came upon people for an allotted time, and He did not dwell permanently within the body of the believer as he does today. The Holy Spirit was the cause of Elizabeth’s proclamation acknowledging the deity of Mary’s baby and how precious Mary’s faith and trust was in God. I love that God favored Mary and Elizabeth and gave them confirmation in what would have been a difficult social time for both of them. Elizabeth being an old woman and pregnant and Mary being unwed and pregnant. In addition to this, God also gave Mary the gift of grace in her faith. She fully believed, no doubts, that God was able to do what He said He would do. Her faith is amazing as she never wavered in following through with God’s plan or doubted His ability to complete what He had started. Such complete faith and trust in God is a blessing filled with His grace. I am reminded of Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Mary knew what God started He would bring to pass.

When have you experienced God’s favor in your life? Was it during a difficult time? Did it give you encouragement? We live in the age of ‘grace’ as Jesus came, died on the cross and rose from the dead so that we could be forgiven and drawn into a relationship with Him through faith. He has given us His Holy Sprit to indwell us. Living the Christian life takes dependence upon His Holy Spirit each and every day. This age of grace will end when He returns again, and we will be with Him for eternity. Come Lord Jesus, Come again!

Linda

Advent…Elizabeth Thankful for God’s Kindness, What about You?

How do you react to unexpected news or changes in your life? In today’s portion of the Advent journey, we see Elizabeth’s response to her unexpected pregnancy? She was advanced in age and had long since given up hope of having a child. God miraculously provided and we see her humble, thankful response in Luke 1:23-25. When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

Just as many women today do not announce their pregnancy until the first trimester is completed, Elizabeth went into seclusion giving herself time to adjust to this new life within her. Her joy is evident in her words and she gives praise and credit to the Lord. The sigma of not having children was more than just being deprived of the joy of being a parent as people also thought the woman was not favored by God. Elizabeth’s joy at realizing her dream of having a child and being favored by God to have a son with a specific purpose was overwhelming. She chose to thank God for His attribute of kindness. She recognized God’s kindness in sending her a child and also his promised Messiah to come. As believers in Jesus, we see this as stated in Titus 3:4-7 “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Elizbeth saw God’s love and mercy towards her, His generosity and grace. Her whole being was thankful. We too see this same kindness towards us in Jesus. God’s provision of salvation and hope is overwhelming and filled with His grace.

What about you? What makes you joyous and thankful to your very soul? Is it your relationship with God? Is it God’s expressions of love, joy and grace towards you? Mediate on your attitude and ask God to create in you a spirit of whole thankfulness so you may enjoy this season of great joy!

Linda


Advent Brings Greetings for All of Us!

I love today’s glimpse into the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth and their unborn children. Luke 1:39-45 tells us about the first meeting of these two relatives after the angel had appeared to them both and how the power of God was revealed.

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Scripture had told us in Luke 1:15 that John, the baby of Elizabeth and Zechariah, would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit would come upon someone for a specific period of time so that they could accomplish the work God had for them to do. After the coming of the Holy Spirit recorded in Acts 2, the Spirit came to dwell within the believer when they believed in Jesus. So John who had the Spirit already and Elizabeth who was filled for this exact moment of greeting saw Mary and the Spirit within them reacted to the presence of preborn Jesus! John in the womb leapt and Elizabeth was given foresight to know that Mary was to be the mother of the Messiah. Elizabeth walked with the Lord and knew of the coming Messiah who would save the people of Israel. She was in awe that the Lord had allowed her to be alive and present when the Redeemer of Israel came. Her prophesy of blessing to Mary, who would give birth to the Savior, has been fulfilled year after year as Christians learn about love and obedience of faith as they read her story.

How does this meet and greet have meaning for us? Do you listen to the Spirit that lives within you as a believer and look for opportunities to exclaim the goodness of the Lord in your life? Mary could tell by Elizabeth’s words and actions that she knew the Lord. Can others tell that you know Jesus by the things you say and do? This is the perfect season to reexamine your words and deeds and prayerfully ask God to help you align them so that what you say and do reflects Jesus. Christmas time is a time for ‘good will towards all men’. Let us spread this good will from Jesus wherever we are- in person, online, in texts, in emails, on the phone…. Let God use you to show the love of Jesus, then you too will experience joy that only Jesus can bring.

Linda

Amazing- the Invisible God becomes visible!

After Gabriel spoke with Mary, she decided to go and visit her cousin Elizabeth.  She was going to have a child in her old age as the Lord had promised her husband Zachariah.   When Mary arrived Elizabeth and her unborn child greeted her.  Luke 1:39-45 “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary and ElizabethMary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” 

The baby inside Elizabeth’s womb miraculously recognized the baby Mary carried as the coming long-awaited Messiah.  This whole scene is surreal and gives us a glimpse into the invisible power and spirit of God.  God is invisible.  He is spirit and somehow Elizabeth’s baby sensed God’s spirit within Mary.  The miracle of Mary’s child is that the Invisible God of the universe was going to become visible for all mankind to see.  Even though God is invisible we know He exists.  Romans 1:20 says we are without excuse,  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”   We see evidence of God’s creation and power all around us.   With the coming of Jesus, the invisible God became visible.  colossians 1 15Colossians 1:15 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

Let us praise God for his grace and mercy that He sent visible Jesus.   The Invisible became visible, Praise God!   Be encouraged today!

Linda