Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Every year during December we see the signs of Christmas around us, wreathes, trees, lights and baubles. Advent encourages us to watch for another kind of sign. A sign from the Lord himself that leads us to the cradle again this year to give our own witness to the birth of Christ. Information is one gift the Bible has given us. It paints a vivid picture of the perfect and glorious outcome of that journey of the pregnant virgin and that carpenter to that first cradle and the finally the Birth of Faith, Jesus. That’s what I give thanks for but I believe I may have overlooked another reality to be thankful for. It’s the reality of their tough circumstances and simple obedience that ultimately led to another kind of birth, the birth of my faith. This year I want to imagine and give thanks for their long, hard days on dusty roads and the fatigue, discomfort and inconvenience of travel. I want to appreciate the reality of the relief and gratitude they felt sinking into a pile of smelly straw in a barn at the end of their journey. It was not a perfect situation but they would become part of a perfect plan. I want to be grateful for that too. That pregnant virgin and that carpenter have walked through the words of the prophets, through history, into Bethlehem and now into my life this year to become the Lord’s sign for me of the reality that the Birth of Faith can happen in the most unusual places and circumstances.
Originally posted November 30, 2015
The idea of each Chapter being another layer peeled back has become an intriguing journey for me. My anticipation is building that when I get to chapter 1 of Hebrews I will discover my “final” thought has led me to the “core” of meaning for this experiment of reading the book backwards. Anticipation is the interaction I believe God desires between His Word and the followers of Jesus.
8 Just as faithfully as we practice those other disciplines of experience we need to learn to practice this simple truth…“I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
7 The word sacrifice is familiar when thinking about Jesus but it was a new and meaningful thing for me to consider Abraham’s tithe as the prepaid debt that gave all of us descendants the option of Jesus, God’s promised “perfect” and final “tithe.”
6 A very important concept of faith every believer has to learn is renewal is not repetition. Surely that’s the beginning of a whole new direction that leads us to “become mature in our understanding.” Maturity and understanding have their ups and downs but God has a plan for that.
5 None of the diligent and and rigid rules of sacrifice had the power to deal with the full capacity of a broken human being to choose to sin on purpose. Jesus was “appointed by God to represent the people in matters related to God” in place of those sacrifices.
4 God swears on an oath He will jealously guard the heart, soul, mind and strength of “we who have believed” and entered the rest He’s completed for them.
I’m diverting from II Corinthians because at the moment you’re reading this I’m on the high seas for a 3-day cruise but thanks to WordPress I can schedule this story and at the appointed time [I hope] it will be told.
Thank you Lord for the image of “your” new life, your Son, lying in a Cradle of circumstances. This time of preparation shows us how important this annual pilgrimage is to our celebration of that birth and that Cradle. It was your own preparation for us that made Advent a celebration at all and Jesus your special gift of access for us.
We all enter the Kingdom of God through that same Cradle: another “new” life born in the midst of a broken world. The Cradle still contains the memory of God’s preparation. It still holds the promise of what new life can become through the stories of wise men, shepherds and angels, even in a still-broken world. That Cradle is the shelter of God’s provision for us when there doesn’t seem to be room for us anywhere else. This annual journey shows us one more time where we’ve come from, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. There will be emotional and physical joy and hardship involved in that journey but…
• We have wise men today that have found their special path to that Cradle to offer their treasure and then share their story with us so we can follow and find our way too.
• We have shepherds today who despite their own fears rise and boldly share your Story.
• We have angels in our lives who sing your praises and share your promises of renewal, restoration and grace that prepare us to recognize and receive your gift of forever…again this year.
It’s glorious to remember isn’t it?
II Corinthians 7:13b In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
Paul’s phrase about Titus, “… His spirit has been refreshed” has become this part of my Advent journey. Long ago the Sovereign God first chose to create new life from dust and a rib…and here’s the key to remember: God was there with those new people, when their spirits were refreshed he shared that intimacy in his own Spirit. When that relationship was ruined he could justly have chosen to end the poison of sin right then and there, but for the second time he chose life for them.
They would live with the consequences of that poison – their own brokenness and separation from God, but they were not abandoned. The people he loved had been caught in an unnatural separation but God would continue to offer to refresh their spirits through the instruction and opportunity of the law and prophets until…“The Advent.”
Jesus Christ, Son of God was born! For a third, and final, time “The Advent” is God’s choice for new life. This time his choice is an eternal one for us; a relationship that will save, restore and refresh our spirit with his Spirit for the rest of time. Paul’s words describe the refreshed spirit of Titus but they read like God’s own words of encouragement for our choice this Advent journey. “And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.”
If by chance you have been reading my readandponder.com blog posts on Facebook AND if by chance you have sent me a friend request that I’ve ignored, this post is for you. I am just not comfortable accepting friends I don’t know but I want you to know it means a great deal to me if you are following my posts. I would love to continue sharing my thoughts on faith with you but my request is that you click the link to take you to the WordPress page and select “Follow” there and take advantage of the Comment section to share your thoughts with me as well. You will continue to be able to read the posts on Facebook as usual but you will be encouraging me by that process. Just like you I’m on a journey I believe God has chosen for me. It’s a journey of learning to live by faith every day and with every post. My comfort comes from the realiation that I’m not alone because you’re there with me. ❤
Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
This journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is so romanticized [make something seem better or more appealing than it really is]. In my mind it’s a serenely beautiful story of a faithful man and a very pregnant woman traveling at an inconvenient time. I see the image in my mind of them traveling alone on that road to Bethlehem carried along by the promises given by angels that the coming “holy Child shall be called the Son of God” That image is further supported by many movies and books…but…
Then I started pondering the bottom line of what makes their story real…and beautiful too. Did they realize the birth was that close? What was the trail like? How far could they go in a day? Where did they sleep? How did they cook? What did they eat? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation? Weren’t there many other people and animals on the same trail?
I don’t know any of those answers but here’s what I do know…Mary and Joseph were real people, in real circumstances with real choices. Each chose to believe their own promise received from an angel despite the impossible circumstances. They chose to obey the law of their heritage and go to the city of David to do what was required of them despite the timing. They chose to be obedient even when they others would say they had no choice in the matter. .
Their lives were filled with legitimate opportunities and reasons to say “no” to circumstances beyond their control but instead they chose to say “yes” to God. God bless choosing “yes.”
Posted in Christmas Eve, Luke, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Beautiful, But..., Choices, Circumstance, Journey, Obedient, Real, Yes
Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The Magi were men who still had the desire for God in their hearts. Desire was why they watched for a sign. When they recognized the star they prepared their gifts and took that first step of a long journey expecting God would to lead them to a king.
People really do still have the desire for God in their hearts. God has pulled out all the stops for us during this season with many different and personal signs to guide us to “the one who has been born king,” the Big Event. This is our modern-day version of the journey but it’s still all about desiring God, watching for the signs, preparing our gifts of worship and then taking that first step expecting God will lead us to the King.
These are the perfect gifts of worship if you’re short on gold, frankincense and myrrh.
• Give Jesus your desire.
• Offer this new born priest your long journey.
• Let him be King of all your expectations.
God bless our journey.
Romans 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.
“My dear friend, In my last Letter I said that in the Bible there is more that FINDS me than I have experienced in all other books put together; that the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and that whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.” ‘Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Be subject to” is a phrase that conflicts with individual choice. It requires surrender of control and a degree of trust that a response is not only necessary but right. We experience the wisdom of governing authority, at its simplest level, while driving. We respond as required at every traffic light because if we subject ourselves to that authority our journey will be safer and more orderly.
I think Coleridge is right. The Word you read in the Bible does find you at the “greater depths” of your being and becomes the green light of “irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.” That’s the governing authority, the holy traffic light if you will, established by God within you for your journey of faith…and it gets even better! That “traffic light” makes possible a two-way street of unique interaction that will bring you the priceless reward of personal intimacy with God.