Favor With God

Background Passages: Luke 1:26-38; James 4:6; John 3:16

The young woman bent low in the knees and ducked through the doorway of her father’s home a tall jar of water upon her shoulder. As she turned to place the vessel on the table she stared in fear at the angel standing near the fireplace.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

As the jar of water crashed to the floor, Mary back away toward the door in fear and confusion. Quickly, the angel spoke, his voice comforting and concerned, “Do not be afraid. Mary, you have found favor with God.”

As the angel laid out God’s plan for Mary’s life, I cannot fathom the whirlwind of emotions she experienced. Her world turned upside down.

Through God’s great gift of Christmas, the final piece of creation’s puzzle fell in place, planned before time…perfected through the life, death and resurrection to come. Mary heard the words of the angel and struggled to understand the heady revelation that she, an ordinary young woman from an inconsequential village in Galilee, would be the vessel through whom God chose to present himself to the world.

As profound as those words might have been, had I been Mary, I might have wrestled as much with the beginning of the angel’s message…

“You have found favor with God.”

In the world’s language, to show favoritism is to show exceptional kindness to someone, especially in comparison to the treatment of others. Preferential treatment. In the first century, people believed that wealth, health and blessing were signs of God’s favor upon you. That you had done something to earn his favor.

Consider Mary’s life following the angel’s announcement. It hardly speaks to preferential treatment. Her life spun out of control almost immediately.

Joseph had every right to disown her and discredit her publicly. Though he embraced a similar angelic message, others would be less understanding. A few months later, she faced an arduous and uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem in her last trimester. Upon their arrival, the only place available to them was an unholy stable among the animals. She gave birth far from family and friends who might celebrate with her.

A short time later, she fled to a foreign land ahead of a king’s murderous soldiers who were intent upon killing her son. She later watched in dread as her son’s message of God’s forgiveness was met with scorn and hatred by the religious leaders of the day. She heard a bloodthirsty crowd call for his crucifixion. She watched from a distance and felt the echo of each hammer driving nails through the hands and feet of her beloved son. She wept at his feet as blood and life drained from his body.

If she thought at all of the angel’s announcement as she stood near the cross, I doubt she felt favored. This was hardly a life of preferential treatment. What, then, did it mean for Mary to find favor with God?

Nothing in scripture indicates that God’s favor falls upon people simply for their own enjoyment. We find those on whom God’s favor rests given great responsibility so the lives of others may be changed. So God might be glorified. Moses. Abraham. Job. These were men who found God’s favor. Nothing about their lives was easy. All carried the burden of life heavily on their shoulders.

You see, I often thought God chose Mary because of something uniquely righteous within her. That her faith was deeper and her life purer than any other…by extension, deeper and purer than my own life. Seeing Mary in those terms diminishes God’s work of grace. In many ways it cheapens the miracle of Christmas.

Bible scholars tell us that the word in Luke 1:30 which most Bible’s translate as “favor” is the same Greek word from which we get our word for “grace.”

“Mary, you have found God’s grace.”

Mary wasn’t chosen to be the mother of Jesus because her goodness outshone any other. Rather, God extended an offer of grace to Mary to be used by God for something which carried enormous responsibility. The angel’s declaration came, not because she deserved it. It came as a gift. Undeserved. Unmerited.

Mary could have rejected God’s offer. She could have said, “Not me. Find someone else.” Yet, she considered all the angel said and declared, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

With those words, Mary, as a young teenage girl, accepted God’s grace gift and all that it would entail without fully understanding the implications for her own life.

James 4:6 proclaims that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor (grace) to the humble.” It is this thought I had not considered in the Christmas story. That Mary found favor with God had little to do with her goodness and everything to do with her humble spirit. Her desire to be open to the possibilities God presented to her. That idea has implications for my life I had not considered.

I stand today a recipient of God’s favor, his unmerited grace. The offer to accept Jesus Christ as savior came through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, not because I deserved it, but as a gift undeserved. It came as an offer I could have refused. Yet, I considered all the spirit said to me and said in essence, “I am your servant.” With those words, as a nine-year-old boy, I accepted God’s grace gift and all it would entail without fully understanding the implications for my own life.

For any of us to embrace God’s gift of his son, there comes a point when we must humble ourselves before him, recognizing that it is not our goodness that merits his favor. It is through his unfailing love for us that his grace flows.

For those of us who have placed our faith and trust in Jesus, Christmas is a joyous reminder that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to be to be his grace gift to the world.

Mary humbly embraced the role God asked her to play and bore the burden of responsibility it carried with it. Like Mary, in response to God’s grace, may we, in all humility, be open to the possibilities God presents to us.

 

Peace on Earth

Background Passages: Luke 2:1-14; John 14:27

The young man leaned against a boulder, resting his head upon his arms as his calloused hands gripped the shepherd’s staff held in front of him. The quiet of the night interrupted by the soft bleating of a ewe calling for his lamb. The nearby campfires set around the hillside illuminated the measured steps of his friends standing watch around the flock. He found comfort in their presence.

Without warning, an angel in radiant garments, appeared among them, night’s shadows chased away by the brilliance of God’s glory. Stricken with fear, the shepherds dropped to the ground. “Do not be afraid,” the angel said with a voice calm and clear. “I bring you tidings of great joy for all the people. Today, in the city of David, a Savior is born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”

As soon as he made his announcement, a great host of angels surrounded them, singing praises to God of his unsurpassed greatness and declaring “peace to all on earth on whom God’s favor rests.”

From the moment the angel declared the birth of God’s own Son, we have longed for the promised peace. When we look past the tinsel and trappings of the season into the world around us, the angel’s words of good cheer and peace seem elusive at best. The fault lies not with the angel’s pronouncement, nor with God’s promise. Rather, the failure lies in our definition of peace.

Jesus’ birth did not usher in a time of peace. The savior was born in a region consumed by strife for hundreds of years. The Roman conquerors, just the latest in a long line of foreign rulers, kept a heavy hand upon Judea. Herod, the appointed king of Judea, feared any and every rival, eventually calling for the death of every child under the age of two. Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt. No, Jesus’ world was hardly a place of peace.

Throughout his life and ministry Jesus encountered suspicion and hatred, ultimately leading to his death on a cross and the persecution of his followers. Upon hearing of the declaration to the shepherds, the casual observer might ask, “Where is the promised peace?”

Nineteen centuries later, the world watched as the United States of America tore itself apart in a ugly Civil War, fought to end the enslavement of one people by another. During this brutal time, the eldest son of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the famed American poet, enlisted in the Union army without his father’s permission. Young Wadsworth suffered a severe wound at a battle in Virginia.

As a result, our poet wrote Christmas Bells, a poem later put to music and renamed, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It begins with a declaration of the popular seasonal sentiment of peace on earth before decrying the reality of war and violence. The sullen lyrics proclaim, “And in despair, I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said; ‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’” The casual reader might hear the song and ask, “Where is the promised peace?”

Understand clearly, Jesus’ birth remains one of earth’s most amazing events and marks the beginning of the final expression of God’s plan for bringing salvation to the world. It did not then, and does not now, end the disharmony among men. Turn on the television and listen to the divisive conversations. See the reports of warfare and violence across the globe. The casual observer might ask, “Where is the promised peace?”

God calls us to live in harmony today with one another, to love our neighbors and our enemies, but this is not the peace of Christmas. God’s promised peace is not found in our external relationships. God’s perfect peace is internal…in the heart of every believer…and it is eternal…in the life everlasting he promised through his son, Jesus Christ.

As he prepared for his death on the cross, Jesus comforted his disciples. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Then, he echoed the words of the angels to the shepherds, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

While the world’s discord ought to concern us and our lives ought to be about bridging those damaged and fragile relationships, we tend to live in fear of the anger that exists among us. God reminds us often in scripture, “Do not be afraid.” Fear is overcome by living as God desires us to live.

God loves it when we live obedient to his will. It pleases him. We find the peace and contentment he promised while here on earth only when living in the light of his will for our lives. It is not the absence of conflict as the best peace given by the world. It is the peace he gives us as his spirit lives within our hearts in the here and now.

The baby God sent to lie in the manger in Bethlehem, the one the angels proclaimed as the Messiah, brought God’s gift of grace and salvation to a hateful world so that those who would place faith and trust in him would find true peace…not just in the present day, but for all eternity.

In the end, Wordsworth’s expressed pessimism yielded to the promise of the baby in the manger. His last stanza declares our greatest hope. Where is the peace? It is found in these words.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep.
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.

Then ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Listen to my favorite rendition of this Christmas classic by Casting Crowns.

God is still in control and his victory over all that is wrong is assured. In Christmas we catch a glimpse of what we can be. In Christmas we bury that which divides us to find a brief respite from the rancor that rules the year. In Christmas we find peace that only a life committed to Christ can find. Because of Christmas we rest in God’s promise of eternal peace.

This is my prayer for you this Christmas.

Mary Did You Know

Background Passages: Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:8-20, 25-33 and John 3:16

It was not so long ago that a slight, little girl dragged through the dirt of her village a ragged bundle of old cloth shaped roughly like a swaddled child. Motherhood little more than a child’s fantasy, innocently oblivious of the hardships she would one day endure.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye, Mary, now a teenager, gently cradled her tiny baby in her arms, keenly aware of the pain of labor and blessed exhaustion that inevitably follows. As the little hands grasped her thumb, I wonder if Mary could ever look upon her child without thinking about the circumstances that brought Jesus into her life.

The Bible tells us that she often…

“Wondered.”

Felt at a loss to explain her experiences. Struggled to make the pieces fit into what she knew of life as it was to unfold.

“Pondered.”

Thought deeply about the implications that which she was told. Opened her heart to the possibilities.

“Treasured.”

Held in her heart as precious and valuable all she learned about her first-born son as she watched him grow into the man he was to become.

It must have been overwhelming at times as this young woman came to grips over time about her son’s role in God’s plan to bring salvation of the world. It must have been disturbing the more she listened as he grew to clearly understand and articulate his purpose and what God required of him.

Later as he faced the cross, all those images must have flashed before her, trying to find a way to deny the reality of what she knew to be true. Trying to figure out a way for him to avoid the suffering they both knew was coming.

As she stood at the foot of the cross, her tear-filled eyes watched her son die an agonizing death. At the end, did she remember how it all began.

I think that’s why words written in 1984 by Mark Lowry and set to music in 1991 by Buddy Greene has become one of Christmas’ most beloved songs. When he wrote Mary Did You Know, Lowry said he wondered if Mary understood the “power, authority and majesty” of the child she bore that first Christmas. He said, “I tried to put into words the unfathomable and thinking of the questions I would have for her if I were to sit down and have coffee with Mary…’What was it like raising God?’ ‘What did you know?’ ‘What didn’t you know?’ Over time, the song just happened.”

Today, more than 400 artists have recorded this beautiful song. Setting the song against the backdrop of Jesus’ ministry drives home the message of the lyrics. The questions asked of Mary could just as easily be asked of you and me. “Did you know?”

Mary, did you know…? Mary had a front row seat to the miracle of Christmas…not just the birth of God’s son, but the meaning behind it revealed through his ministry and his message. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

We read or hear the Christmas story every year. As Christians, it is deeply etched into our hearts. Yet we too often fail to treasure its meaning as Mary did.

The song asks, “Mary did you know?” But, it begs a greater question for you and me 2,000 years later. Did you know? And, if you know…will it make a difference in what you believe, what you say and how you live your life?

 

 

Let Us Go To Bethlehem

Background Passage: Luke 2:1-20

Surely the black of night darkened the shadows as much that night as any night. To the shepherds who lived in the hills outside of Bethlehem, the night began as every night began. Ordinary piled upon ordinary. Armed only with a short sword, a sling and a shepherd’s staff, the men guarded their sheep against man and beast, predators which threatened their flock. They herded the sheep they tended into a rocky enclosure and sat at the entrance, ensuring that the sheep within their care did not get lost in the night. Careful to let nothing in; nothing out.

These were unlearned, solitary men, spending days and weeks alone in the countryside tending their sheep. They worked under the temple authority, contracted to supply the temple with sacrificial lambs for important feasts and ceremonies. Their chosen profession among the animals and far removed from the temple rendered them unclean under Jewish doctrine and seldom granted the time needed to seek repentance and atonement through the sacrifice of the very animals they raised. By virtue of their lifestyle, faith became far more practical and personal than priestly.

Can you imagine their feelings when the night to which they were accustomed, yielded its darkness to the power and glory of God in the form of an angel clothed in radiance, reflecting the majesty of the Father.

These men, who willingly faced lions, bears and thieves to protect their sheep, cowered in fright. Hid their faces in the folds of their robes, trembling at the feet of God’s messenger. The chill of the evening heightened by their anxious hearts, left them shivering as they backed slowly away.

Imagine the calm command of the messenger’s voice, whose words tempered even the startling light that surrounded them, slowing the furious pounding within their chests and quieting their troubled minds.

“Do not be afraid,” he said. With those simple words, their hearts, which had grown faint, found a breath of serenity. They stopped retreating, bent a knee, and listened to the one who carried the greatest news God ever passed down to his creation.

“I bring you good news for all the people. For this night in the City of David, a Savior is born to you. Let this be a sign for you. You will find a baby, wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.”

Imagine the wonder that filled their eyes as suddenly legions of angels appeared above them singing praises to God and shouting, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Imagine their eyes overflowing with tears as joy overwhelmed them. They were caught up in a moment in time like no other…and it ended, as quickly as it began. The light shining around them faded in an instant, leaving them alone again in the dark of night.

Their mouths once open in amazement slowly closed. They waited, hoping that the angels would return and that they could again experience the rapture of the moment. As they waited, the shepherds sat in the darkness and the silence pondering all they had seen and heard.

Then one shepherd whispered in a voice so timid it seemed to hover on the cool night air, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

One by one they rose to their feet and hurried off, searching the tiny village until they found Mary and Joseph and the baby.

Imagine that night…not as a pristine performance where cherubic children act out the biblical story with stilted lines and short songs sung cutely off key. Instead, imagine that night…as the turning point it was for a world lost in its own selfishness. Imagine that night…as the greatest gift ever offered to humankind.

Imagine that night…and sit among the shepherds. For, despite living centuries ago, they are not that much different than you and I. Their need for a Savior was no more and no less than our own. They could do nothing to earn salvation, no matter how hard they tried. They lived as much in need of the gift God offered as we do today.

Imagine that night…realize it was part of God’s plan for the world since the dawn of time. Unchanged since creation. It marked the fulfillment of his desire to enter into a redemptive relationship with his creation; a way for him to reach out to each of us by sending a part of himself into a tumultuous world in desperate need of his touch.

The Bible passage shares what we need to know. “Do not be afraid.” The gift God offers is not a curse of narrowly defined parameters, rules and regulations that suck the joy out of life. Rather, it is freedom to live the life God lays before us regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. That is true freedom. In a life lived for him, there is nothing we need fear.

The messenger also said, “I bring good news for all people.” The Savior born in Bethlehem is not the Savior of the few, but the Savior of all people. That is indeed good news. No one is left out. His gift is available to everyone. God’s gift has a global reach.

The messenger heralded the good news to all, but, he added, “A Savior is born to you.” Salvation is not universal by virtue of living in a “Christian nation.” It’s personal. He is born to you. We become a Christian nation only when enough of us, as individuals, make it personal.

Sit among the shepherds and sing praises to God above. For when we live a life without fear, reveling in the good news he shares with everyone and recognize that for us to experience all that God has planned for us since the beginning of time we alone must make that personal choice…only then will we experience the peace the angels promised.

We can never fully grasp the miracle of God’s grace, love and gift of his son Jesus Christ until we first go to Bethlehem. That’s the wonderful thing about Christmas. It is hopefully a time for those who have never placed their faith and trust in Christ to make the journey to Bethlehem where it all started.

Those of us who have committed life to Christ, need to use this time to remind us to live the life he called us to live. Christmas offers no better time or place to rededicate our lives to him and in genuine love and service to each other. So…why do we delay?

Let us go to Bethlehem.

When Christmas Is Over

The Christmas story of the Bible remains one of the world’s most cherished stories for more than one-third of the world’s population. Those of us who celebrate the birth of Jesus reflect upon its meaning, using the day as a reminder of God’s plan and purpose to bring the world back into relationship with him by sending is Son.  It is far too easy for many of us to revel in the birth of the child and forget that God expects more from us.

What do we do after we read that beautiful story for the last time this year? After we snuff out the Advent candles? After we sing the last carol? After we dismantle the Nativity scenes? What change does it bring to our lives? What do we do after we celebrate the birth of the Christ child?

The Christmas story does not end with the birth of Jesus. Once the baby is born, the story and its impact should serve as a catalyst for God’s power in our lives. What should we do when Christmas is over? We need look no farther than the scripture recorded in Luke 2.

Consider the Parents. The baby promised by the angel was born under those most unusual circumstances , but afterwards,  the new family settled into a routine in Bethlehem, awed daily by the presence of the baby Mary and Joseph held in her arms. Six weeks after baby is born the parents take Jesus five miles to Jerusalem at the required time of purification, commending their first born son to the service of God.

In this we learn our first lesson of Christmas. Joseph and Mary ensured that Jesus started out on the right foot by dedicating him to God from the beginning, the start of a process of “training him up in the way he should go.” So, after we celebrate the birth of Christ, it is a time of recommitting ourselves to God’s service, repaying him for the greatest gift we will ever receive by dedicating ourselves to his will and way. Rededicating ourselves to the worship of our Father.

Consider Simeon.  This “devout and righteous” man of God had been told by the Holy Spirit that the Messiah would come during his lifetime. As he entered the Temple and stumbled upon the purification ceremony for this little baby boy, he knew in his heart that he was looking at the one God had sent to bring salvation to the world. His response was simple (Luke 2:28)…

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God.”

As Simeon holds on the God’s Son, we experience our second lesson of the season. The days after Christmas ought to be a time when we embrace God’s Son and declare our praise to God for the salvation he offers, not just on that day, but every day. Give him the proper place of prominence in our lives. Hold on to him during the good and difficult times as the sources of our strength.

Consider Anna. This elderly widow worshiped at the Temple day and night, devoting her life to God. Her love for God evident to those who entered the Temple court. Heard her prayers. Listened to her proclaim truth she had been taught. On the day of purification, she was drawn to the young couple holding a little boy. As she heard their story and listened to Simeon’s pronouncement, she believed with all her heart that the child before her was the Messiah. Luke 2:36-36 tells us what she did…

“She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna’s lesson is a reminder that we are to be so thankful for the presence of Jesus that we bear witness to those around us of his saving grace, giving testimony to the difference he has made in our lives. Serving him with faithfulness no matter where we live. No matter what we do. To be God’s voice. God’s hands. God’s heart in a troubled world.

Consider Jesus. Born to human parents, but also divine. God’s Son. It’s a hard concept to grasp. So much of it we accept by faith. Jesus may have been born with God’s DNA, but understand the full measure of what it meant to be Savior did not come instinctively. He learned. When he turned 12-years-old, Jesus journeyed to the Temple with his parents. Look at Luke 2:41-52, where we find Jesus…

“spending his time sitting among the teachers,  studying scripture and asking questions…” Learning more about “his Father’s business.” Eventually, he returned with his parents to Nazareth where…“Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.”

Understanding our relationship to God and his will for our lives is not implanted naturally into our DNA just because we are born to Christian parents or attend church regularly. Our understanding of what God requires of us comes from following Jesus’ lead. We learn. We grow. We “spend time sitting among the teachers, studying scripture and asking questions.” In the end, our desire is to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.

*

Christmas ends. When that last Nativity gets put in its box and stacked in the closet, we can forget its meaning and live our lives ignoring the demands of discipleship,  or we can…

Consider the Parents. Commit ourselves and our lives to God.  Every hour. Each day.

Consider Simeon. Embrace the Son, not just for the holidays, but each and every day. Praise God for sending his Son as our Savior.

Consider Anna. Give thanks for God’s goodness and bearing witness to all we encounter about everything he has given to us.

Consider Jesus. Live as he lived, growing in our understanding of God’s will for our lives and putting into practice all God reveals to us each day.

There is life after Christmas. As we approach the New Year and its resolutions, let’s recognize that Christmas never ends. Rather, it stands as a time of recommitment and rededication as we pursue life worth living.

May you and your family enjoy all of God’s grace and wisdom in the year to come.

Don’t Say ‘Merry Christmas’

We sat on the floor in the middle of my son’s living room on Christmas morning, amid open boxes and scraps of torn wrapping paper. My grandsons, Eli and Josiah, laughed and played with new toys that had quickly become their favorites. Snatching Josiah into her lap as he danced across the floor in delight, my wife, Robin, hugged our youngest grandson and wished him, “Merry Christmas.”

Continue reading “Don’t Say ‘Merry Christmas’”

The Star

Background Passages: Genesis 1:14-20, Matthew 2:1-2, and 2 Timothy 1:8-10
An  Angel.
Sat beside the Creator.
Stardust smeared across its cheek
after a long day of placing planets and suns in place
under the watchful eye of God Almighty.
It surveyed the heavens.
Smile brightening.
Glancing at the Creator with a twinkle in its eyes,
“It’s good.”

 

The Creator.
Placed a hand on the Angel’s knee.
Shook His head.
Grinned.
“Not quite yet.”
One more thing to do.
One last heavenly body among
countless points of light.

A quiet word.
Wisps of ice and rock appear
in front of His face.
Spinning slowly.
Suspended
on the backdrop of
space.

The  Creator.
Gathered the formless mass into His hands.
Rolled the aggregate in His palms into a tight ball.
In deep concentration,
He looks into the universe
He just formed on this fourth day of conception.
Triangulating a position in a distant, inconspicuous galaxy
with the third planet from a remote sun
and a precise moment in time yet to come.

He nodded to His Angel.
Pointed into the depths of the cosmos.
“Take it…
there.”

In a flash the Angel carried it across universe and time.

“A little left,”
the Creator instructed.
The Angel shifted its position ever so slightly.
“Perfect,” said God.
“Now…
give it a push.”

The small rock hurtled through space
beginning its protracted,
but crucial journey.
God leaned back.
The Angel suddenly by his side again.
The Creator lifted his chin.
Stretched out his arms
to encompass all He designed that day.
Turned to his Angel.
“Now,”
He said with a smile,
“It’s good.”

*

Eons.
The Angel studied the rock on its course.
Baffled.
Bewildered.
Bemused.
Pondering the point of its
placement at that
precise spot
in the universe.

Such a small object
tumbling through space.
Mundane by any standard.
Especially when compared to the splendor of the
star clusters,
supernovae and
galaxies.

It left him…
wondering.

For time upon time,
the angel would check its progress.
Nothing spectacular.
Nothing of note.
Nothing to indicate its purpose.

It always left him…
Wondering.

One day as the Angel
watched and waited…
The ball of ice and rock,
pulled by the intense gravity of that
distant, yellow star,
reacted to its heat.
Ice cracked.
Broke off from the surface.

As it gained speed it left a
thin trail of frozen particles in its wake.
The residue grew brighter each passing day,
reflecting light from the star.
The tiny ball of ice and rock blossomed into its
God-planned existence as a large comet.
Its entire existence conceived for
this purpose and
this purpose only.

The Comet.
Caught in a death spiral by the gravity of the sun.
Glowed brightly.
Visible day and night.
Its light seemed to stand still
amid the incomparable beauty of a
God-created universe.

Locked for this time…
Inside an
undistinguished galaxy.
In an
isolated solar system.
Near an
indistinct planet.
Over an
insignificant country.
Above an
inconsequential village.

This “star,” to those who observed it more than 2,000 years ago,
pointed to
an inhospitable stable
in which lay an
indescribable child.
God’s only Son.

The Angel.
Watched events unfold.
No longer wondering.
Rather in awestruck wonder
of God’s revealed plan.
It looked in reverence at the Creator
as He looked in Love at the Creation.

The Angel whispered…
“It’s very good.”

*

Think about it.

The Star…
The stable
in Bethlehem.

The Star…
The shepherds
in the fields.

The Star…
The sages
from the East.

The Star…
The Savior
in the manger.

What perfect timing!
What intricate and eternal planning!

With the gentle push of an Angel
eons past,
God planned for the Star to reach that
specific spot in space
at that
special moment in time.
Pointing to the most beautiful
Creation in the entire expanse of
His immeasurable universe.

God sent His Son…
immaculately conceived and
human born…
not as an afterthought to a world that
unexpectedly broke away from Him.
Not as an attempt to correct His
botched effort at a perfect humanity.

No.
The birth of His Son.
Written on God’s heart
as a planned intervention.
Considered
before time existed.
Contemplated
before human creation.
Conceived
before we knew our need for Him.

His Son…
sent to redeem a world He knew from
inception would selfishly refuse the relationship
the Creator most desired with
His most beloved Creation.
You.
Me.

When I look, really look, at
God’s creation…
His majesty evident
in all I see.
His mystery evolving
in so much I don’t fully understand.
It leaves me…
wondering.

When I surrender, really surrender, to
Salvation’s Child…
His mercy evident
in His sacrifice.
Its miracle evolving
in so much I don’t fully understand.
I watch my life unfold…
no longer wondering.
Rather in in awestruck wonder
of God’s grace so freely offered through a Child
whose destiny lay on a cross.
My reconciliation.
My redemption.

Before the world was made.
The Creator put everything in motion.
Designed to come together at a
perfect place and point
in time.

For no other reason but to…
Give me a choice.
Give you a choice.

We can follow our own path or we can…
Follow the Light of the Star.
Find a Savior.

For no other reason…
that makes this a
Merry Christmas.

We look in reverence at the Creator
as He looks in Love at His Creation.
As believers in what He has done,
we whisper as did the Angel…

“It’s very good.”

Continue reading “The Star”

The Stable Boy

Background Passage: Luke 2:1-20
People flooded Bethlehem
in answer to the governor’s decree.
Returning to their home town to be taxed.
Travel made them…
irritable.
Taxation made them…
irate.Boisterous.
Belligerent.
Bellicose. Families poured into the
 City of David from all directions of the wind.
Swelling the population of the sleepy village,
well beyond its capacity.

 

Hospitality ruled.
Family and stranger
open home and business to the weary travelers.
Considerate.
Courteous.
Custom.

 A stable boy.
Ten-years old.
All too skinny.
Almost skeletal.
A brush with a Roman chariot as a young boy
left him with a shattered leg that never healed properly.
Twisted at an awkward angle.
Weak and wobbly,
each step aided by a walking stick.

The stable boy
dodged through familiar streets.
Picked his way back and forth
from the town’s only inn
to the stable inside the rocky cave,
behind the mud-bricked building.

He spent his day…
Lugging belongings
to the rooms inside.
Leading beasts of burden
to the stalls out back.
Lifting water jars
to fill the troughs.
Laying fresh hay in the mangers
To feed the livestock.

Seen, but unseen.
Speaking, but never heard.

Long after the sun set,
The stable boy blew out a slow breath.
A sigh heavy with fatigue.
He leaned down.
Picked up a wooden bucket,
Turned it over.
Sat wearily upon it.
Pulled his knees to his chest.
Laid his head on his arms
Fell instantly asleep.

His mind registered the sound
long before his eyes blinked open.
The echoing clip clop of a donkey’s hooves
trudging through the rocky street.

A young man walked out of the shadows.
Broad-shouldered.
Brawny.
The flow of his robe could not conceal that he was
powerfully built by years of hard work.
Physical vitality betrayed only by the
exhaustion in his eyes.

The man led his donkey by a loose halter.
Upon the donkey a young woman.
Pregnant.
Pained.
Spent.
Jostling back and forth with each
labored step of her animal.

The couple stopped at the door to the inn.
The man gently braced the woman
as she slid from the donkey’s back.
A kind smile and a quiet word
let her know they reached their destination.
She leaned against the donkey as
he stepped toward the front door.
With a crooked grin,
he placed a heavy hand on the
stable boy’s shoulder as he passed.
Squeezed it in a way that said,
“We made it,”
Walked inside without another word.

The stable boy stared at the woman.
He could not help himself.
Saw how young she was.
Could not imagine the difficulty of her journey.
Knew enough of the world to know…
she was ready to deliver her child.

She greeted the boy with a wave.
“Good evening.”
After the chaos of his day,
her words sounded like the melody of a meadowlark.
Wistful.
Welcoming.
Warm.

Before he could answer,
Her husband came out of the building
followed on his heels by the apologetic innkeeper
They spoke in whispered and urgent tones.
The stable boy listened to the muted conversation,
deliberately kept quiet and low to
avoid alarming the woman.

“Look at her,”
the man pleaded.
“She is due any day. I must find her a place to stay.
We’ve been everywhere else.
I can find no bed for her rest.”

“We have no room,”
said the man in sympathy,
all too aware of his unfulfilled responsibility as host.
 
The young man looked again at his wife.
Nodded his acceptance of a bad situation.
Shook the innkeeper’s hand.
Stepped toward his wife,
fatigue etched in his face and
his fallen shoulders
All too aware of his unfulfilled responsibility as husband.

“Wait,”
said the innkeeper.
The young man turned back,
a faint glimmer of hope in his eyes.

Continue reading “The Stable Boy”