Since becoming a mother some 30+ years ago, I often find myself wondering at CHRISTmas time, what it must have been like to be Mary, the mother of JESUS. I've thought how absolutely overwhelming it must have been to be a young teenage girl about to be married and suddenly learn you are going to have a child, not by your husband, but by the Holy Spirit! I wondered how she told Joseph and how she told her parents, what they must have said, and the sting of the rumors which must have swirled around her home as neighbors and friends heard the preposterous news. How frightened she must have been that lonely night in Bethlehem with only Joseph to attend her as she wrestled through the pains of giving birth. No anesthesia, no mid-wife, no mother to hold her hand. Just she and Joseph, the man she had not even yet known in an intimate way, yet here he was delivering her baby. And, not only any baby, but the Son of God!
Luke 2: 19 is one of my favorite verses of the CHRISTmas story. It says "....but Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." That verse reveals to us just how human Mary was. She may have been highly favored by God, she may have been the mother of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but she was still a MOTHER.
So today, the day after CHRISTmas, I wonder what Mary and Joseph did the day after Jesus' birth? When the shepherds were gone back to the fields, the angels were gone back to Heaven and outside the stable, life went on in Bethlehem as usual, what did Mary and Joseph do?
Scripture is silent about those immediate days following Jesus' birth. It does not pick up again til he was eight days old. I believe in my mother's heart, that God allowed them those few days to just be Mommy and Daddy...to hold Jesus close to their heart, to sing to Him, to rock Him, to drink in the sweet fragrance of that new baby skin. God knew what would lay ahead for this Son of His. He knew that Herod would seek to kill Him. He knew that some 30 years later he'd begin his public ministry. But for those few short days, I believe that God just allowed them to enjoy their baby boy before He was shown to anyone or known by anyone.
God is just sweet like that. He understands us. He cares about how we feel. He understands the deepest longings of our heart and He delights in giving good gifts to us. Mary was highly favored of God. He knew her heart and as she pondered all that had happened to her, as she thought about this miracle she was holding in her arms, He gave her the gift of time to be alone with her baby for a short time.
Has God been sweet to you lately? Maybe you haven't had the time to notice. But He is so incredibly sweet! That is not a word that is often associated with God, but I tell you it is a word that just describes Him to me. Maybe it's because that is a word we use often here in the south. When someone does something really nice for us, it is common for us to say "Oh Darling...that was so sweet of you!!" So I guess it comes naturally to me, a good old southern girl, to find myself saying often "Oh God...that was so sweet of you!! You didn't have to do that for me, but you did!! Thank you!"
Those "sweet" blessings are what I call my "truffles from God". Psalm 63: 14 says "So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands. You satisfy me as with rich food [what better rich food than truffles?!]; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips." That says to me that God satisfies me with lots of SWEET things, things that are rich and delightful like truffles.
God has blessed me with several dear friends from our Bible study that are just a delight to be around. They make me laugh, they encourage me and together we lift each other up and pray for each other. I have had so much fun with them this past year, that I've actually dubbed them "my Truffles"...and they are. They are a sweet blessing from the Lord and I treasure them.
But they are not my only truffles. God constantly does things for me and blesses me in so many ways. So I think I'm going to try to keep a list in 2011 of all the "sweet" things that God does for me. And, maybe at the end of the year, I'll share some of those with you! Maybe you will want to even start a list of your own. I think it would amaze you if you did!
"And she brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2: 7
That's it. That's the CHRISTmas story! That is the Gospel wrapped up in one sentence, 29 words that sum up the Bible.
Genesis 3:15 first predicted the Messiah, and this verse shows the fulfillment of that. He was born to die, and even as he was laid in "swaddling clothes" which were nothing more than strips of cloth like they wrap a body in for burial, he was being pointed toward the cross, His ultimate destiny and our salvation.
He was born in poverty that we might be rich. He came clothed in humanity so that one day we would be like He is, eternal and glorified through His love and grace.
He came, knowing that some would never make room for Him in their hearts.
How about you? Have you made room?
This CHRISTmas I pray that each of you reading this will ask yourself that question. He came that YOU might have life, everlasting life...."For God so loved the world [YOU] that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever [YOU] believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16
That is HIS gift to you today. I hope you will receive it and open it and delight in all that it holds. It is truly the greatest gift you could ever receive!
Today is CHRISTmas Eve and I'm sure for most of us, a very busy day. So I just want to give you one thought to remember and ponder today.
The manger is empty.
Yes, I know when you look at the nativity, the baby is IN the manger. And CHRISTmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. But for many, they still see Jesus as the baby in the manger. I just want to remind you, He is no longer a baby and He is no longer in the manger.
Neither is He still on the cross. He went to that cross for you and for me. He paid our sin debt and three days later He arose. Today He is seated at the right hand of the Father, just waiting His word to return and bring time to an end. BUT...and here is the most important part....for those of us who are believers, He is not in the manger, nor on the cross, He is IN our hearts! And that's what I'm celebrating today and tomorrow and every day!!!
If you've never invited Jesus to come and take up residence in YOUR heart, you can do so today and have the best CHRISTmas you've ever had!!
Today, if you see a manger scene, where is JESUS to you?
They were expecting pomp and circumstance. They got the lowing of cattle and baas of sheep.
They were expecting he'd come in splendor. He came in a borrowed feeding stall.
They were expecting golden trumpets to herald his coming through the streets of Jerusalem. Instead angels announced his birth to lowly shepherds on a hillside in Bethlehem, and a silent star directed the wise men to his humble home.
They were expecting him to establish an earthly kingdom, instead He offered them an eternal home in Heaven.
They expected him to hob-nob with the rich and famous....after all, he'd be a king...and they were looking to be at his right hand. He spent his time with sinners...the down and out, the misfits, the lowest of the low.
Yes, he did not come as the king they expected. But he was the Messiah, no less. And He IS the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS.
The first time they mocked Him as King. When He returns, they will all fall at His feet, proclaiming Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
"Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" I Timothy 6: 15
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" Rev. 17:14
"And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Rev. 19: 16
It is significant then that we use a crown as a CHRISTmas symbol. It should remind us that although He came as a man, born in a manger, He will return as THE KING.
As princes and princesses, heirs of the Kingdom, we also shall have crowns:
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." II Tim. 4:8
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
"And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." I Peter 5:4
"And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold." Rev. 4:4
What then shall we do with our crowns? Shall we wear them and sit on thrones beside THE KING? No. Although we WILL rule and reign with Him, we shall cast our crowns at His feet, for He alone is worthy to be praised!
"The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,'Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.'" Rev. 4: 9-11
This CHRISTmas maybe you will want to search for a crown to hang upon your tree just to remind you that the baby did not remain in the manger, but is coming again as KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS!!! Hallelujah to the King!!
Post Script: I completed the above post, then picked up my JESUS CALLING devotional to read in today's entry:
I am King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dwelling in dazzling bright light. I am also your Shepherd, Companion and Friend---the one who never lets go of your hand."
WOW! I never cease to be amazed at how PERSONAL my God is! That in the midst of all that is going on in the world and among the billions of people on this ball of dirth, GOD would take time to notice this little insignificant weakling, just totally blows me away! And, while He is tuned into the most intricate details of MY life, He is also just as intently involved in the details of YOUR life too....at the very same time!!! I hope you get that today. What a priceless gift we have in Him!!!
Although HOPE is not traditionally a symbol of CHRISTmas, it has everything to do with CHRISTmas because JESUS is our hope.
He is our hope of tomorrow. He tells us in John 3:16 that "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have EVERLASTING life." Our life is hid in Him, it is eternal, everlasting. The knowledge of that gives me hope. Paul wrote that if our hope was only in Christ in THIS life only, our lives would be most miserable. (I Cor. 15: 18-20)
Our hope is also in the fact that one day, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be made righteous. "For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." Although God sees us now as righteous through the blood of Christ, one day when we shed this earthly body and no longer have a sin nature, we will finally truly be righteous. I don't know about you, but that gives me a great deal of hope to know that I will not always be plagued by the sin nature.
We also have hope in knowing that one day we will see JESUS and will spend eternity with Him!! Paul again speaks of hope in Colossians 1: 4-6 when he refers to our hope as "the hope which is laid up for you in Heaven." Jesus Himself gave us this hope in John 14: 1-4 when He promised us "Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house [Heaven] are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go to prepare a place for you I will come back and receive you to Myself that where I am, there ye may be also."
That gives me the greatest HOPE of all...that one day I will SEE JESUS myself, face to face. He is waiting for me. He is preparing a place for me. And, it also reminds me and gives me the hope that I will see my loved ones there as well.
A year ago today, our sweet Mamaw went to be with the Lord. Oh how we have missed her!! It has been difficult for all of us to adjust to the absence of her presence. Those twinkling blue eyes, her beautiful smile, her mischievousness and her wonderful sense of humor and most of all, her great love for her family are things each of us miss. So many times this past year, I've been hit by a sudden and unexpected wave of grief as something would trigger a memory of her. As my daughter and I were at her house going through some things recently, I came across some business cards that my daughter had made her so that she could hand them out to "customers" who wanted to purchase her fried pies, banana nut bread and other goodies that she was famous for making. My eyes filled with tears and I had to choke back the emotions that flooded my heart. I was reminded of the love that went into making those cards and the joy with which they were received...a special bond between granddaughter and grandmother. Just last week I was walking into church for our granddaughter's preschool program, when out of nowhere I was slammed again as I remembered that it was just a year ago that I walked into church for a preschool program, only that day was overshadowed by tremendous grief as I knew that day that Mamaw was in the hospital and she was dying. I remembered how hard that day had been. I remembered how terribly difficult that entire week had been...probably one of the hardest of our family's life.
But today I have HOPE. Hope that I will see her again one day. Hope that tells me that although we are sad without her presence, we KNOW that she is with Jesus and that she is dancing with the angels! (She loved to dance as a young girl!) And, if there is food in Heaven, you can be assured that her mansion is filled with the smell of banana nut bread cooking in the oven and peanut butter cookies fill her cookie jar. I also have the hope that she is happy, all tears have been wiped from her eyes and there is no more pain, no more worry, and no more death. She is at the feet of her Savior, worshipping Him, and her worship has just begun because as one of her favorite songs tells " when we've been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun". [Amazing Grace]
Today we can rejoice in our Savior JESUS CHRIST whose birth we celebrate this CHRISTmas. Because our hope is in Him, we have bright HOPE for the future...a hope that is eternal and true for all who know Him and call Him Savior.
One of the most prominent symbols of CHRISTmas is the star.
Matthew 2:2 says "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."
After the birth of Jesus, a star appeared in the east. For many years, the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah to come. Micah had prophesied that "out of you [Bethlehem] will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel." (Micah 5:2) So they knew that something wonderful was going to happen in Bethlehem. Yet it was the wise men, Gentiles, who first saw the star and acknowledged that it was HIS star.
So what would make them take notice of a star? Stars shine in the sky most nights. What was so unique about this particular star?
First of all, this was not a literal star. That's quite a shocker, isn't it? How can that be?
The Greek word for "star" is "brilliance". So there was a "brilliance", shining much like a star in the sky. But notice that the star MOVES. Actual stars move, but only slightly over the course of years. Actually, when it appears, it is just due to the earth's rotation.
To guide the wise men from the east to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem, the star would have had to move from est to east, then north to south. Something that literal stars do not do.
Stars also do not hover, as many photographs portray the star doing as it hangs almost within reach of the roof of the stable where Jesus was born. (Another mistake, as the wise men did not come to the stable where Jesus was born. They came to his house when he was a toddler "It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.....entering the house [not the stable or barn]]...they saw the child [not the baby] with His mother Mary." (Matt. 2: 9, 11) If the star had hovered as often pictured, the heat from it would have ignited the roof of the house.
So, it we conclude this was NOT a literal star, what was it?
It was the Shekinah glory, the visible manifestation of God, much like the pillar of cloud that led the Israelites through the Wilderness by day and the pillar of fire that led them by night. "Skeine`" in Greek means to tabernacle with, which means to come and go.
The Shekinah glory appears a number of times in the Bible. As mentioned above, it appeared to the Chilren of Israel several times. It also appeared to shepherds the night of Jesus birth when Luke tells that in Luke 2:9 that "behold the angel of the Lord stood before them and the GLORY OF THE LORD shone round about them".
The greatest manifestion of the Shekinah Glory from Adam to Christ, however, was not the star, nor the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire. It was Jesus Christ himself as He reflected His Father's glory.
From Christ to the end of time, WE, as believers, are to be the Shekinah glory to others around us. That is, we are reflect Christ in such a way that we are like a light in a dark place. Ephesians 1:6 tells us we are to "to the praise of His glory" on our way to Heaven. We are not to get the praise, we are to BE the praise. He alone is worthy of all praise, honor and glory!
So this CHRISTmas when you see the star portrayed in manger scenes, CHRISTmas cards or photographs, just remember that is just an illustration. The real star shines in your heart, if you are a believer. Jesus is the star that illuminates our darkness and we are to, in turn, be lights to a sin darkened world.
Several years ago I went on a CHRISTmas tour of homes. One home in particular has remained in my memory.
It was a large home, beautifully decorated throughout. As you entered the home, you were in a large foyer with a winding staircase to the second floor...very elegant.
An enormous CHRISTmas tree filled the foyer. But as I looked closer I realized very quickly that this was not your ordinary CHRISTmas tree. This tree was beautifully decorated with symbols of the names of Jesus.
There were small baskets of bread, symbolizing Jesus as the Bread of Life; wooly sheep representative of His being Our Shepherd; beautiful pink roses for the Rose of Sharon; small nosegays of lilies of the valley because He is called the Lily of the Valley; shining stars for He is our Star and on and on.... It was, without a doubt, the most beautiful, most impressive tree I'd ever seen.
We often get so familiar with Bible stories that the details are overlooked. We all know the CHRISTmas story of Jesus being born in a manger in Bethlehem. We see countless nativity scenes throughout the holidays, we decorate with them. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is a wonderful way to keep the focus on Christ during the holidays.
But, maybe we need to take a moment to really think about what the symbols of CHRISTmas are really all about. So for the next few days I want to draw your attention to the names of Jesus, to some of the very symbols we decorate our trees with.
Today let's begin with the sheep. In every nativity we see sheep. The shepherds who came to worship Jesus the night he was born may have been followed into town by a few of their sheep. In my nativity, a shepherd is carrying a lamb. Shepherds often do that if the lamb has been injured. Scripture does not tell us whether the sheep came with the shepherds, but it does tell us about the shepherds. I do believe it is significant that the angels made their first announcement of the Savior's birth to a group of lowly shepherds out on a hillside. Jesus did not come just for the rich and powerful. He came for the common man as well. He came for all.
Shepherds were held in low esteem in Jewish society. They lived out away from everyone. They lived WITH their sheep. No one lives with cows or horses. But because sheep are so dumb and require constant care, a shepherd must stay with his sheep. Interesting, isn't it, that God compares US to sheep?
Jesus is referred to in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep" and in verse 14 He says "I am the good shepherd and know my sheep and am know of mine".
A shepherd cares for his sheep with a watchful eye. "All we like sheep have gone astray" Isaiah 53: 6. Without the constant attention of the Shepherd, the sheep will stray into dangerous territory or become pray to wild animals.
He provides for their needs. Psalm 23 says "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. . He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul." A shepherd must constantly be moving the sheep to where there is grass. Left on their own, a sheep will just continue to graze right down to the dirt. He must be taken to clean, pure water. Drinking from a stagnant pond could mean death to a sheep. And, sheep will not drink from a moving stream. It must be still water.
Yes, sheep require a lot of care and attention....just like we do. And, the shepherd must be constantly at their side. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He provides and protects. He leads us, He guides us, He tenderly cares for us.
This CHRISTmas as you view the sheep and shepherds in your nativity, recognize the meaning behind the symbol and thank God for your GOOD SHEPHERD.
I am all about great deals, aren't you? My daughter is the queen of the GREAT DEAL! That girl can find more amazing buys along with coupon codes, free shipping and discounts than anyone I know. I love it!
Right now the stores are all competing for our business, and if you are like me, you are scouring the ads and the emails for the best buys on what you are searching for this CHRISTmas. I understand that they even have an app for those of you with iphones that will search out the best price on any item you are looking for!
Here are just a few of the great buys I've seen just today:
Snapfish.com has 35% off all photo books....
Coldwatercreek.com has 25% off EVERYTHING and FREE SHIPPING....
Joann.com has huge sales on everything and for TODAY (Monday) only FREE SHIPPING, no minimum purchase required...
Old Navy has Buy One Get One FREE on all sweaters for the family and if you use the coupon from Sunday's paper and spend $50, you get $10 back
Photoworks.com Get 5 photo gifts for $5 each with FREE SHIPPING
15% off EVERYTHING at Kohl's with shopping pass...today is the last day
HP All in One printer at Walmart $20 shipped (includes ink cartridges)
Walmart - Hungry Hippos game .24 with coupon from this weeks Smart Source coupon $5 off 1 game
Hope these will inspire some of you to get your shopping done while the deals last. But you know, just as the deals won't last, neither will any of these things that you are buying. All of them, even the BEST of them, will eventually wear out, come apart, be replaced by a better product, or go out of style. None of them will last forever. Some of them will not even survive CHRISTmas!!
However, there is a gift that will never wear out, never grow old, never go out of style or be replaced by a better model. It never requires batteries or chargers. It can never be outgrown. The value of it will never diminish. In fact, it grows more precious the longer you have it.
That gift is JESUS.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever more.
He is more priceless than rubies, more precious than diamonds.
He will never disappoint you, never fail you, never leave you or forsake you.
The one you purchase the above gift for may decide tomorrow that you are not good enough, not pretty enough, not rich enough or that you do not measure up in some form or fashion. But Jesus says come just the way you are and I will love you forever. In fact, He said "But God commended His love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
This CHRISTmas you can have the greatest GIFT of all. You can have the gift of Jesus Christ, an eternal gift that keeps on giving forever and ever and ever. He truly is the greatest gift of all. Do you know Him? If not, please contact me. I'd love to share with you how you can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and have the best CHRISTmas you have ever had!!!!!!!!!
"For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 (HCSB)
As we enter the CHRISTmas season, may we direct our eyes to the Scriptures to read of the One whose birthday we celebrate....JESUS.
Isaiah prophecied many years prior to Jesus' birth that a Savior would be coming...the Messiah. He told the people that He would be very special....WONDERFUL....MIGHTY....ETERNAL....PEACE.
They waited for Him. They watched for Him. Yet most did not recognize Him when He came. Most Jews are still waiting for Him today.
"The Old Testament books in the Bible (all of them written between 1450 BC and 430 BC) contained hundreds of prophecies about an “anointed one” (“Messiah” in Hebrew) who would arrive in their future. The Messiah would “deliver” or “save” all the Jewish people, bringing them to paradise or heaven. These prophecies also stated that the Messiah would save all the other people in the world “through the Jews.” For this reason, people who are not Jewish need to learn about the Messiah, too." (Clarifying Christianity (c) 1998)
Even with all that evidence, they still missed Him.
Today, God continually reveals Himself to us every day. He demonstrates His love for us, yet many fail to see it. He provides protection, yet many chalk it up to "coincidence" or "karma".
I am married to my high school sweetheart, have two precious children...a wonderful son and a sweet daughter-in-love; and a lovely daughter and a great son-in-love....I am truly blessed! But then God has seen fit to double those blessings by also giving us 2 precious, beautiful, adorable granddaughters and the happiest, sweetest grandson in the world. GOD IS GOOD! I have worn many hats in my life, but none more rewarding than being a wife, mother and grandmother. I have loved writing all my life and also enjoy scrapbooking, which allows me to both be creative with photos AND journal to create a legacy for our family. I am what is known as true GRITS...grown and raised in the South. My blood runs ORANGE for the University of Tennessee VOLS but still will cheer for the University of Memphis (as long as they are not playing UT). Teaching women to pursue a passionate relationship with the Lord is the delight of my life. I thank God for giving me that opportunity to be used by Him and to put Him on display.