A Prayer For Christmas

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This Christmas let us remember the reason for the season.

Let us, in the midst of the cooking, the wrapping, and the shopping, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Let us reach out to others, remembering to put them before ourselves and helping those who are less fortunate.

Let us pray for the homeless, the veterans, those away from family, and all those who have situations much more difficult than our own.

Let us remember those closest to us, and spend some time with friends and loved ones as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us never take anything for granted but be thankful for what we do have, as we anticipate a new year filled with hope, resolutions, and promises.

Let us take some time to enjoy the little moments, those small nameless moments that get pushed aside for the glamor of Christmas, because someday those small moments won’t be so small anymore.

Let us remember those we miss, be thankful for those that we do have, and move forward with the hope and knowledge that someday we’ll be see our deceased loved ones once again.

Let us put aside our busyness, our stress, our fear, and our worries, remembering that in the midst of all of the stress of life, we have a Savior who understands, and a peace in the midst of chaos.

Let us deck the halls, enjoy our Christmas dinner, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with love, because this season only comes once a year.

And, despite the fleetingness and busyness of this season, let us keep its spirit in our hearts, so that in some ways, this holiday may last all year long.

* * * * *

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, see, the angel of the Lord came on them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

 

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Some Musings in Joseph’s Shoes

Note: The story below is in no way intended to be an addition of or distortion of the nativity account written in Scripture. This is not meant to be an exact, academic account of Joseph thoughts and feelings—this is simply written as a journal entry of what Joseph may have been feeling and thinking in light of the facts we are given in the Gospels and historical documents. Please do not take this as anything other than speculation as to what it may have been like to be in Joseph’s shoes.

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I can barely believe all that’s been going on lately. It all seems surreal, like something that would happen to some other guy. I knew it was supposed to happen someday—I studied it throughout my schooling, after all—but to me? A simple carpenter, engaged to a nice local girl? 

At first, when she told me, it felt as if someone had stuck a dagger through my chest. “It’s God’s baby.” she had told me. “An angel visited me and told me I would give birth to the Son of Man.” Now, I’ve never been one to doubt God, but this sound a little far fetched—even to me. My initial thought was that she’s been sleeping around, even though she’s never seemed like the type of girl to do such a thing. After all, Mary’s as pure as snow. She would never do something like that—not Mary. 

I knew Mary was a good person, but what was I supposed to think? Even more pressing, what was I supposed to do? I didn’t want her to be stoned—I didn’t want anything to happen to her. I love her—I have even before the marriage was arranged. She had a beautiful heart, I couldn’t be more lucky to be set up with someone like her. 

“What would our life look like together?” I wondered. Holding our heads down as we received dirty looks from the townspeople? Having to desperately try to explain to my friends that we did nothing wrong? Constantly being object of suspicion among the townspeople? I thought that the best thing for both of us would be to divorce her quietly, and draw the least possible amount of suspicion and attention as possible. That is, until I was visited by an angel last night, confirming that everything Mary had said was true. 

Mary was pregnant with the Child prophesied about in Scripture. 

She was telling the truth all along. 

I knew the road ahead would be hard, but after that sign from God, I knew what I had to do. I had to marry her—and be the best father I could be to this Child.

This blessing to us and the world.

Out of every couple throughout the course of history, we were the ones God picked to raise the Savior. I may have no idea what I’m doing—I’ve never been a husband or a father, after all, but I know that Mary and I will figure this out together. We’ll figure it all out together, because we’re a team. From this day forward, Mary and I are going to face the biggest challenge two people could face. 

Raising God’s child through the power of God and for the glory of God. 

As hard as it will be, I knew deep down that there was no greater honor. 

And I’m going to do this thing right.

No matter what the cost. 

 

Some Musings In Mary’s Shoe’s

Note: The story below is in no way intended to be an addition of or distortion of the nativity account written in Scripture. This is not meant to be an exact, academic account of Mary’s thoughts and feelings—this is simply written as a journal entry of what Mary may have been feeling and thinking in light of the facts we are given in the Gospels and historical documents. Please do not take this as anything other than speculation as to what it may have been like to be in Mary’s shoes. 

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I may not have believed it – if I hadn’t seen it so vividly with own eyes. I would say that this is the kind of thing one might expect from a dream, except I’m not sure even a dream could cover the absurdity of this situation. If I told any of my friends, I’m pretty sure they’d think I’ve lost it – and that’s the best-case-scenario.

I mean, virgins don’t get pregnant. They just don’t. And they certainly don’t get pregnant with the Awaited One —the man my entire country has waited centuries for. Why would God choose me of all of the girls in the world to carry His Son? What makes Him think that I’m fit for something so great? 

I’m just your average girl on the brink of adulthood (But don’t get me started on that). I laugh too loud when I’m nervous and sometimes I cry from joy rather than sadness. I grew up in a humble little town where literally nothing ever happens and I’ve had the same neighbors since birth.  Nazareth isn’t a place that’s big or flashy or important, it’s a small town — a town where everyone knows everyone else.* It’s not the kind of place that would bare someone so important. It’s not the kind of town where an ordinary girl becomes the mother to her Savior. 

Juse writing those words sends chills up my spine. Somehow, writing things like this down make them seem more real, more concrete. This is really happening — I’m really going to become pregnant with a child who is, as the angel put it, “The Son of God”*. 

I want to be happy about this — I really do. I am for the most part. But the other part of me is scared, terrified even. How will my parents react to this—their clean-cut daughter becoming pregnant without being married? How will my friends react—will they even talk to me any more? And what about Joseph? He’s bound to think that I’ve been unfaithful, there’s no other way of interpreting this kind of thing. I know I did nothing wrong, but I’m not sure anyone else will believe me. There’s a very real chance that I could even be killed for something like this. But even if that doesn’t happen, the public shame that’s certain to come will be a certain death in itself. Just yesterday, the only big event that I had in my near future  was the upcoming wedding. Now, not only will I soon be a wife, I’ll be a mom too. 

It’s all just happening so fast. I like Joseph, I really do! He’s a great guy who lives his whole life for the Lord. He’s a hard worker and a kind, sensitive soul. But I just wish there was a little more time – more of a chance to get to know him before marrying him. 

There’s so much I wish he knew about me. Like, how I draw in the sand to make sense of life around me. Or how sometimes, once everyone has gone to sleep, I climb up the old olive tree outside my house and wonder what’s out there, outside of my hometown. Or how often, when I’m tending to the animals, I wonder how aware they are of life around them.

And I want to know about him too – what he does when he’s not studying or working with his father…where he sees our life going in the future…what his favorite pastime is..the secrets that he’s never told anyone. I just feel like you should know these things about a person who you know is going to be so significant in your life. 

I wish I could talk to him about these sort of things, but I have a feeling that he wouldn’t understand. Joseph has always been quick to accept others’ expectations of him. He’s responsible, level headed, and never seems to to be jilted by anything. Well, up until now, that is. How he’ll respond to this situation is anyone’s guess. 

This pregnancy is about to change everything. My life will never look the same again. Never again will I be a young child—I’m about to have a child. But, do you want to know the craziest thing about all of this? Somewhere, deep down, I still have a certain peace. If everything is as the angel says it is, than the Lord is with me in very real way. He has His hand on this and what’s about to happen is all for His glory. It’s about Him. 

It always has been. 

It always will be. 

*Luke 1:32 

*www.jesus-story.net 

 

 

 

Lessons From Bethlehem (Part Three)

Imagine this scenario: An angel appears to you to tell you that you’re pregnant.

Not only are you pregnant, but your to-be-born child will save the world.

You’d probably be scared. Like, what-the-heck-is-happening-scared.

What complicates this situation even more is that you’re engaged to be married. Somehow, you’re going to have to try to explain all of this to your fiancé and hope he believes you.

If you’re a guy and reading this, imagine that your fiancé is telling you all of this. You may be a little suspicious. You may wonder if she’s completely lost it when she tells you that an angel appeared to her.

This is more than just a crazy what-if scenario, this is what happened to Mary and Joseph in the midst of the very first Christmas 

I don’t know about you, but if I were Mary, I’d be really freaked out. I think we can pretty much bet that she would have been at least a little scared during that event, if not completely terrified. By the Jewish law of the time, Mary could have been stoned to death.(http://www.scripturestudies.com/Vol4/D7/d7_nt.html)

Nonetheless, Mary trusted that God knew what was best. “”I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38. Joseph also chose to have faith in God, and faith in his to-be wife after an angel appeared to him and explained that Mary’s child is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:24 says “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.”

Sometimes, we don’t know why things happen the way they do. Life situations don’t always make sense to us in the here and now, from our perspective. But, God can see the whole picture. It’s kind of like a story. In book POVS, the omniscient narrator can see the entire story. With books written in this point of view, you can see every characters’ thoughts and actions. However, in first person, we can only see life through one character’s perspective. In real life, we can only see a tiny piece of a greater story in our own limited point of view. Nonetheless, God can see the entire storyline. He knows exactly how things will affect not only our own lives but the lives of others.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Even if we don’t understand life’s many unusual circumstances and wrenches in our plans, God does. Romans 8:28 reads “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This doesn’t mean that all things are good, or even make sense to us in the natural realm. But, it does mean that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He holds the pen to all of our stories.

Sometimes, our job is to put down the pen and let God narrate, trusting that He will turn our lives into a beautiful masterpiece. 🙂

This is the last installment of the Lessons From Bethlehem series. There are many more things that we can learn from the Nativity, as well as many other events from the Bible. I highly encourage you to read the Bible on your own, letting God speak to you in a way that only He can.

I believe this song really captures the emotion that must have taken place on the night before Christmas. It’s also one of my favorite modern Christmas songs.

The Night Before Christmas by Brandon Heath

 

Lessons From Bethlehem (Part Two)

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been a couple of days since my last post! I’ve been busy wrapping presents, Christmas shopping, and baking cookies. The usual Christmas stuff.

The last post was all about how God can use anyone, no matter how small. This post is all about humility, and how God left all of Heaven for us.

John 15:13 says Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

While this verse is speaking about Jesus’ death on the cross, He laid down His life in multiple ways each and every day just by coming to earth. He left all of Heaven’s glory to come down as a baby, be born in a manger, live his life as a carpenter, preach the good news, and eventually die on the cross for our sins.

Jesus didn’t have to make such a humble entrance. He’s God, so He could have just as easily come as a king, not a baby. Yet, that’s how He chose to enter the world. And, not only did He come as a baby, but he was born in a manger!

Interestingly enough, His entrance into the world is consistent with his preaching later on.

So the last will be first, and the first will be last.-Matthew 20:16

But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.-Luke 14:10

Jesus lived and preached a message of humility. Now, I’d like to clarify that humility does not mean having a poor opinion of yourself. God created us and wants us to have a positive self-confidence. Psalm 139:14 says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” 

To be humble simply to be the opposite prideful. It means to put others before yourself. Jesus sacrificed his life for us, and because He did that, we’re called to sacrifice in small ways each day for others.

This could be something as small as letting your friend or sibling have the last cookie or holding the door for an elderly lady. Or, it could be something with a greater cost, such as standing up for someone whom no one else will.

However God may be calling you to sacrifice or give, I challenge you to accept that call. When God is leading us, it may not always be easy, but it will be worth it. The holiday season is always a great time to give back, so I challenge you to think of some way that you can make someone’s Christmas season a little brighter. 🙂

Here are two Christmas songs/music videos that I think apply to this post. I used two because I sort of ended up combining two different post ideas into one.

You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli 

Somebody’s Angel by Mandisa

P.S. I would highly recommend the movie that Mandisa’s song is from, called Christmas Angel. It’s a really sweet Christmas movie 🙂

Lessons From Bethlehem (Part One)

A young peasant girl. 

A carpenter.

A shepard boy.

These are the people that God cast in the grand story of bringing the Savior into the world.

Jesus didn’t come into the world sitting on the throne. He didn’t come with a loud, grand entrance. He came in the form of a baby, whose parents were ordinary people just like you and me.

But, why? Why would God use such ordinary people to raise His son? Why not a king? Why would a Shepard boy be the one to take this family in? Why not at least a real inn and a bed, rather than a dirty old manager?

One reason could be that it had to be this way, in order to fulfill the prophesies, but why would God use his people to prophesize such a grand event this way to begin with? I believe that part of the reason he did this may have been to show us that no matter how ordinary our lives may look to us, God can use them for great things. Everyone’s life has a purpose. I bet the Shepard boy had moments when he saw his life as ordinary, but today, we still talk about him, and he’s known for his generosity in letting a tired Mary and Joseph stay with him.

Never think that your life is insignificant, because God just may use it in big ways that you never could have dreamed of 🙂

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.-Ephesians 3:20-21

A Strange Way To Save The World-Rascal Flatts 

As I was writing this post, I decided to stretch this out into a series, so keep checking back for new posts! I plan to post more on the Nativity in the near future. 🙂