Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mary's Story revisited, Part Three.

Just as I want to reach out to family and friends at this joyful season with the Christmas cards I still haven't managed to send, I also want to reach out to my (oft-neglected) blog-readers.  As Christmas speeds closer, I thought you might like to reflect for a minute or two on Mary.  Two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon in the first person as Mary, costume and all!  What follows is the text from that talk (reposted from 2009, I know, totally blog-cheating)--written as if Mary was speaking.   I hope you enjoy reflecting on the birth of our Savior!  Merry Christmas! read from the beginning, start here.

When I returned to Nazareth I knew it was time to tell my parents and Joseph (aah, good, kind Joseph...) what God had done in me. The signs of pregnancy were beginning to show. Oh Lord, how would they ever believe me?

My parents did their best to be supportive, but I am not sure if they believed me. If this baby was not God’s own (and who ever heard of that?) then their daughter (who was betrothed!) had committed a wicked sin and dishonored the entire family. Yet, they wondered how I could ever make up such a story. They summoned Joseph and when I told him—he was disgusted and heartbroken. He didn’t say so…but I could see it on his face. He left without a word. That night I cried myself into a fitful sleep. I knew Joseph would likely divorce me…oh what would I do? I waited for word from him. I tried to be strong and take heart. God was in this. He gave me the strength to cooperate with his plans.

I was so relieved when a few days later Joseph returned to say that He believed me. He had thought to divorce me quietly without accusation (such a dear man), but God revealed to him that I was telling the truth. He took me as his wife and promised to care for this holy child as his own.

I remember the day that Joseph and I went to my parents and told them we needed to go to Bethlehem, the city of our ancestor David, for the census. My mother strongly objected. She said my time was near. She was right. I knew it too. But, it was law. God would sustain me. He hadn’t forgotten the baby inside of me. And now I see that God was fulfilling the words of the prophet Micah that said the messiah would come out of Bethlehem…. God was working through the Emperor of Rome to fulfill his prophecy. There’s something to ponder, huh?

Joseph didn’t have much in the way of travel comforts—but he put me and a few belongings, and food for the journey on a donkey and we set off after a tearful goodbye with my family. 

It was a journey that took over a week. It felt like a year. I was SO uncomfortable, and had to stop often to stretch my cramping muscles and rest my aching back. Any of you who have been heavy with child can relate to how I was feeling. Joseph was kind to me…but also was hurrying us along. He wanted to get there—I think it’s something about the way God created man—always wanting to get there. So, I did my best not to slow us down too much.

It seemed like the longest journey ever. Not just physically, but emotionally. I battled thoughts of inadequacy, and worries about what would happen when we arrived. How was this all going to work out? I felt like these were crazy circumstances.  I asked God once again to help me be strong and take heart and wait on him. The pains were coming on and off…and I began to pray we would at least make it to town to find the services of a midwife and a place to have this child. Would Joseph be delivering this baby on the side of the road to Bethlehem? “Oh God, rescue me!” I prayed.

We did make it in time…but we weren’t in town long when my water broke and the pains came quicker. The place was swarming with people, every last corner of folks homes were taken with relatives and travelers, and we had to bed down in a stable-- the place where animals were kept at night. At that point I didn’t care…I just wanted to have a place off the street to have this baby. A midwife was found and some distant female relatives attended me. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy—ah, you should have seen him—right there in the stable. Without my mother at my side. Without the comfort of home and the celebration of my family.

It wasn’t how I thought my first child’s birth would be. Certainly not. I had dreamed, as most girls did, of marrying a kind man and having lots of children. I never dreamed of this. I have to confess that I wondered if God had forgotten--in all of his Messiah-plans--to secure us a proper place for His arrival. Nothing is impossible with God. The messenger told me that. Why didn’t He remember to take care of securing someone’s guest room for us? A stable? Really? Is that where a king should be born??

But God granted me peace and my heart was filled with joy. He was here. My baby. The Messiah. God with us. And somehow that was more than enough. And He was born in a stable.

I have since come to know that there was a purpose in the stable. God wanted the world to see that this was a very different Messiah than the political king they expected. A messiah who would hang out with the lowly of society. (In fact, some of Jesus’s first visitors where a stinky, dirty group of shepherds—who weren’t intimidated to come visit us in the stable. Their story encouraged us so.) No this Messiah was not going to fit their expectations, but instead cause them to rethink most things they thought they knew. The stable was part of God’s plan from the beginning—regardless of whether I understood at the time.

I wonder if any of you are in your own stable of sorts. Circumstances that are unexpected, don’t make sense and make you wonder if God Almighty has forgotten about you? Maybe He seems silent. Your stable might be a season of heartache, or of discontent or of pain. How will you wait on the Lord? Will you trust that He is Good? That there is purpose in the stable?That there is something bigger going on? Will you ask God what it looks like in your life to be strong and take heart and wait on him?

Remember, God came to earth. As a baby. My baby. For all of us. He is with us. God with us. Immanuel. Praise be to God!

I hope this reflection on Mary encouraged you. Special thanks to Missy at It's Almost Naptime for her influence on this part of my talk.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Mary's Story revisited, Part Two.

Just as I want to reach out to family and friends at this joyful season with the Christmas cards I still haven't managed to send, I also want to reach out to my (oft-neglected) blog-readers.  As Christmas speeds closer, I thought you might like to reflect for a minute or two on Mary.  Two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon in the first person as Mary, costume and all!  What follows is the text from that talk (reposted from 2009, I know, totally blog-cheating)--written as if Mary was speaking.   I hope you enjoy reflecting on the birth of our Savior!  Merry Christmas!

(continued--the story starts here)

I knew what all this meant in my life. When my pregnancy was discovered it would appear as adultery. I would be labeled a sotah and as was our way, be asked to drink the bitter waters to determine if I was guilty or not. I had seen it happen to others—their clothes ripped to expose their skin, publicy scorned and made to be an example to others. If when she drank the bitter waters made her sick, she would be found guilty—and she would be condemned to death by stoning. Even if I was spared death, at the very least, Joseph would be legally bound to divorce me. My child would be an outsider and scorned by the villagers He would not be permitted in public assemblies. My reputation would never recover—I knew well the wagging tongues of the women in my village--and I would never marry. My child and I would be alone in the world. I would be breaking my parents hearts if they didn’t believe me…and I would be destroying Joseph’s reputation as well. If I was to defend myself and share that the child was God’s and not a man’s…I would be labeled blasphemous—perhaps the worst accusation of all.

I remember the weight of the realization that this would be costly. But when Almighty God asks you to do something…you say yes. I knew God’s faithfulness to our people in years gone by…and knew He was good. He had a plan and had somehow chosen me to play a big part in it. And I believed that He would be faithful to me.

And then came the waiting. There would be months til the child came. Days until I could know for sure this was really happening in my body. Weeks until I knew how Joseph and my family would respond.

We were no strangers to waiting—my people. We were God’s chosen people, awaiting a messiah, yet we lived under Roman rule. We were taught early on to fear the soldiers…my mom told me that whenever I heard the yells or hoofprints of Roman soldiers, I was to run and hide…cause it wasn’t unheard of for them to take a young women as their own. They did whatever they wanted and we were the ones to pay. We were oppressed and we were waiting for the messiah. Some had given up hope…it had been 400 years since God had made contact with His people and we waited to hear from Him again.I often dreamed of being one of those freed from Egypt—able to see God in the pillar of smoke and fire. At least they could see Him, and knew He was leading them and doing something. My people were waiting in silence—and nothing around us pointed to the long-awaited messiah. So we waited.

You see, waiting sounds passive. Yet it isn’t. Have you had to wait for something? Are you waiting now? Then you know…It’s active. It takes energy and perserverance. I was on a journey that I needed to be actively engaged in. I have even heard it said that waiting on God is the very work of the people of God.

So the question came to my heart—how will I wait? I remember my father quoting the scriptures. “Wait on the Lord, be strong and take heart, and wait on the Lord. So that’s how I wait…be strong and take heart. I asked God to give me strength for the journey ahead, and Hope that He was in control. I asked Him over and over again in coming months…and He was faithful. My hope was in Him.

After the initial shock wore off—I knew I needed to see my cousin Elizabeth. She is the only person who would understand what it was to be pregnant with a miracle baby. It was a five day journey. I hoped she would receive me and I would find her well. It was hard to wait to reach her and see that she truly was with child as the messenger said she was.

When I arrived… I saw her. My old, tender-hearted cousin, obviously with child!  What the messenger said was true! I happily called to her and before I even had a chance to tell her what had happened… she grasped her belly and gasped. I was afraid, “ohno! Elizabeth are you OK?” And she said with a huge smile on her weathered face, “When you greeted me, the baby in my womb leaped with joy!” She went on to proclaim that I was blessed among women and so was the baby I bore. She asked why she should be so favored that the mother of her Lord would come to her. She said I was blessed because I believed that what the Lord said to me would be accomplished. Oh Lord, thank you for this sign that nothing is impossible! My heart rejoiced and I sang out in praise to God. Elizabeth was such an encouragement to me, I decided to stay with her for the remainder of her pregnancy—about three months--to help until her baby was born. Then, I’d return to Nazareth.

It wasn’t long before it was obvious to me I was pregnant. I was so very tired, and my stomach was unsettled all the time. It was true. God had given me a baby.

to be continued tomorrow...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mary's story revisited, Part One.

Just as I want to reach out to family and friends at this joyful season with the Christmas cards I still haven't managed to send, I also want to reach out to my (oft-neglected) blog-readers.  As Christmas speeds closer, I thought you might like to reflect for a minute or two on Mary.  Two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon in the first person as Mary, costume and all!  What follows is the text from that talk (reposted from 2009, I know, totally blog-cheating)--written as if Mary was speaking.   I hope you enjoy reflecting on the birth of our Savior!  Merry Christmas!

I am so humbled and thankful for this opportunity to share the story of the birth of my first -born son, Jesus, with you. It is my favorite story of all.  Of course, all mothers love to tell of their experiences of bringing their children into the world…I’m no exception. But this birth story is so un-ordinary.   And it doesn’t belong just to me—but to all of us.  I’ve treasured these things and pondered them in my heart and am so happy to be sharing them with you.

Even after all of these years I still can’t believe this happened to me. I was just a poor, jewish girl from an obscure village of 400 called Nazareth. I’ll never understand why God chose me to be the one.

Let me start at the beginning. I hadn’t been of marrying age very long…but was already pledged to be married to Joseph, a local carpenter. This was the first stage of marriage, and meant that although I still lived with my folks, I was legally Joseph’s wife. My parents had arranged the marriage, as was our custom. I was relatively pleased with their choice. I didn’t know him well, but I knew he was from our tribe, and from the royal line of David, and that he observed the Torah and loved God. He had a trade that would provide us a sufficient living. What more could I ask for? I knew I would easily grow to love him…just like my mother learned to love my father…and was anticipating the day when he would take me to his home and I would live as his wife.

One day during that time of betrothal--the day that forever changed my life--as I took a break from my daily chores to rest, I felt a disturbance in the air. It’s hard to describe—but the hair on my arms stood up on end and my skin tingled. I looked up and before me was a figure unlike any person I had ever seen before. He was glowing so bright I could not make out his face. He said, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you”.

To say I was startled and afraid was an understatement…my heart was racing, my breath was caught in my throat. Could he mean me? Favored? Then he told me not to be afraid and called me by name, Mary. When he said my name, a peace came over me—for which I’m very thankful. I’m not sure I would have been able to hear what he said next because of the pounding of my heart in my ears! But God calmed me. The messenger went on to tell me that I would be with child, and give birth to a son, and give him the name Jesus. (I remember hoping he meant eventually…but somehow knew he meant soon.)

He then went on to tell me the most overwhelming news of all—that this son will be great and will be called Son of the Most High! He will have David’s throne! And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever…His kingdom would have no end!

My mind swirled with the implications of what he was saying. I knew promises of the scriptures well enough to know he was saying that I would be giving birth to the long-awaited Messiah!

I asked him how this could be that I would be with child when I hadn’t been with any man? And then he told me I would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit! I had never heard of that before…and didn’t understand…but he spoke with such authority that I knew that what he was telling me must be true. 

As if this wasn’t enough for me to take in…He went on to tell me that my cousin Elizabeth was pregnant as well! Let me tell you, this was just as impossible as me being pregnant—as she was well past child-bearing age and had never even been able to have a child. Elizabeth had long ago given up hope on ever having a child. He said nothing is impossible with God.

In my opinion, the most surprising thing of all was yet to come. The most surprising thing was that I consented! I said, “I am the lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” God gave me the strength to muster some courage and agree to this plan. As soon as I did, the messenger left me.

to be continued tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

unwrapping on a bad day?

Today I had one of those mornings.  I woke up sad.  I was discouraged.  The sadness seemed to flavor everything...even the Christmas music sounded a little sad to me.  (Of course I've always thought "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is fairly depressing--I could totally do without it.  Close second--"I'll be Home for Christmas".  Can I get any amens out there?)  I had a headache.  And too much to do.  And my daughter disobeyed and needed a consequence first thing this morning.  She's 15, so we aren't talking a time out--we are talking losing a privilege.  I hate it when that happens.  I wanted to go back to bed and wake up tomorrow.

So, on a Tuesday, where unwrapping gifts with emily at chatting at the sky would be the focus of my post, I wasn't sure if I should write.  I mean...I don't want to depress everyone.  And finding a gift on one of those days is hard, ya know?  However, is there a better day to unwrap the gifts of every day then one where you have to look hard?  I think probably not.

So tonight, I'm unwrapping a few gifts I've noticed today:

*  Cleaning my too-neglected bathroom was cathartic.  Something about getting rid of dust that has been staring at me from the never-used large bathtub and some grime from other places (use your imagination) gave me a sense of satisfaction.  I can unwrap cleaning a bathroom today.

*  Pickle accepted her consequence without much grief.  She knew she had broken a rule and then lied about it.  She took the consequence with a maturity I hadn't expected.  I can unwrap unexpected grace in the form of a calmer-than-expected teenager.

*  Although I didn't want to, skipping my Healing Journey class to be present on a hectic night at home was a good decision.  I ran into one of the leaders today who gave me tonight's video, so I will be caught up in no time.  That was a gift.  I can unwrap a hard-but-good decision that resulted in a little space to breathe, and I can unwrap the timely gift of a bible study video.

*  As I sit here tonight, Bubba is finishing up a project for school.  It is almost conquered.  I can unwrap is always good to finish a project.  Pickle and hubby are downstairs in the basement, pulling the guestroom together for my in-laws to stay in later this week.  What I hear from down there is Christmas songs--not from the ipod, but instead their acapella voices are belting them out.  I can certainly unwrap the gift of help with housework and joyous singing from those I love.

*  And my mood?  Significantly improved--even though circumstances remain unchanged for now.  God has showed me that He's got my heart in His hands.  And He is faithful.  And that is no small gift to unwrap.

Tonight, I'm unwrapping the little gifts in the midst of a poopy Tuesday.  Some Tuesdays are like's OK.
Related Posts with Thumbnails