Tuesday, December 31, 2013

January: Celebrating Fresh New Starts

When I began this blog a little over a year ago, I was struggling a bit. My life had changed dramatically in the year before and I was mourning my "old life". It was a very difficult time for me. I had been in a blue hue for many months at that point and I don't like living my life in a blue hue. I really do prefer to live life joyfully with a Rosie outlook.

So...I started this blog out of a desperate attempt to make some changes in my life. I came up with a plan. I would tackle a "Quest" each month: something I wanted or needed to do that I had just not taken the time to do. This is how I came up with my 2013 Year Long Adventure I called my Heart & Spirit Monthly Quest.

I chose Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a pure heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit within me" as my inspiration verse for this special quest. I truly wanted God to help me create a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit.

Here we are on the brink of another new year. I have completed my first year of blogging. I did a Quest every month...thirty days at a time...and I accomplished my goal. It really was a great adventure and I'm so glad I decided to add this project to my life. I made some wonderful changes throughout this year...which most certainly helped me develop a purer heart and most definitely renewed a steadfast spirit in me. All Glory goes to God. He did it!

I come away from this adventure with an acceptance of my place in this world and goals for my future that I had never considered before. It is exciting and makes me look forward to 2014!

Which brings me to my 2014 Year Long Adventure...I have decided to continue blogging for another year. I have chosen a new inspiration Bible verse for this new Quest from Psalm 16:11: "You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment."

David said these beautiful words to God and I love them. In December, I want to be able to look back on the entire year of 2014 and say those words myself to God. So this year I will focus on Joyfully Celebrating the Seasons of Life. As Winter melts into Spring...and Spring warms into Summer...and Summer cools into Fall...with each new Season I will be celebrating each month with a different theme.

I will kick off this 2014 Year Long Adventure with Winter bringing "Fresh New Starts in January".

Please join me on my Quest to seek the Fresh New Starts that a New Year brings! I already have a few interesting ideas brewing...

*UPDATED*

Here are my January Fresh Starts Posts:
The Blessings Jar
The Quick Jot Journal
White As Snow
Praying It Forward Basket
My Mission of the Heart: The Prayer Book
Because God Declared It!
Seventeen
Going For A Five Star Day
It's Not About Me
If You Give A Girl A Pile...
Keeping Up With A 90 Year Old Wonder
Just For Fun Friday: The Blessings Jar Update

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Real True Christmas Story

For the past two weeks, I have been sharing the stories within The Christmas Story. When I decided to focus on The Real True Christmas Story for this month, I went to the real true source - The Bible - for the complete story. Both Matthew and Luke wrote about the birth of Jesus.

Interestingly, their two books really intertwine the story of Christmas. They each tell different parts of the story and we really only get the complete story by putting both of their writings together. So to wrap up this adventure of focusing on the The Christmas Story, here is the complete story -straight from the Bible - woven together from the books of Matthew and Luke.

Luke 1:5-56:        
 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.  But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,  he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.  And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 

He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel toNazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. WhenElizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabethwas filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Matthew 1:18-24:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

 Luke 2:1-38:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
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.


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Matthew 2:1-16:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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.  
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.


When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”


So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 


Matthew 2:19-23:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Luke 2:39-40:
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2:51-52:
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

For my daily December postings, click The Christmas Story.

Merry Christmas! A Savior is born! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Homecoming

After a long journey and quite the adventure...Joseph, Mary, and Jesus finally returned home.

Their homecoming is found in Matthew 2:19-23:
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

and Luke 2:39-40:
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

King Herod's death meant that Joseph and Mary could safely return home. Finally. So much had happened since they left their home to travel to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. They couldn't find a place to stay....Mary gave birth to God's Holy Son, Jesus...everyone from shepherds to Magi came to see their new baby...word spread and people believed that their tiny little boy would grow up to save the world...Jesus was blessed in the temple...an evil king tried to kill their baby...they had to escape to Egypt in middle of the night...and remain in hiding until the king's death.

Yes, they had quite the story to tell when they finally arrived back home to their families and friends. It would be a story that would be told and retold...written down in God's Holy Word, the Bible...and celebrated every year around the world.

And that young faithful girl who would humbly serve God without question would be blessed beyond measure. We know this when we read in Luke 2:51-52:
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

The little baby boy will grow up to be strong, wise, full of grace and favor from the Lord. At the appointed time, He will die for the sins of all mankind. The little baby Jesus will become the Risen Savior. And He will bring joy to all the World.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Great Escape

Did you know there was a great escape involved in The Christmas Story?

After the Magi visit baby Jesus, the Great Escape is written in Matthew 2:13-16:
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 

This is a sad and dark part of the Christmas Story. God knows King Herod's heart and the evil that he is plotting. God wakes Joseph and instructs him to escape with Mary and Jesus before King Herod's men can find them.

Joseph has complete trust in God and obeys immediately. He doesn't even wait until morning. He bundles up Mary and baby Jesus, and they head off to the safety of Egypt. Because Joseph obeyed without question, Jesus is spared from King Herod's horrible decree to murder all the little baby boys in the area.

Joseph's obedience also fulfilled a prophecy written in Hosea 11, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

While this part of the story truly is sad and filled with the dark self-focus of King Herod, it is also a reminder that God is our Protector...and He always has a plan. A very good plan. God knew the evil lurking in King Herod...He knew all about his plot to kill Jesus...so God put together an Escape Plan to protect Jesus.

Thankfully, Joseph obeyed God and our Savior was safe to grow up... love...teach...preach...and perform miracles before fulfilling His purpose on earth: to die on the cross for each and every one of us...for our sins...to give us the gift of salvation.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Magi Story

From the moment the angels told the shepherds Jesus had arrived, people had been hearing the news that a Savior had been born. Many had come to see him...including some very wise men bringing gifts for the new King.

The Magi story in is Matthew 2:1-12:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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.  
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Magi traveled a very long distance seeking to find the child born to be King. Along the way they encountered King Herod. The King had an evil motive and tried to use the Magi's worshipful journey for his own gain.

Thankfully they did not let him or his evil plans distract them for their mission. They traveled on and soon found the star standing over the place where Jesus and his parents were staying. The scriptures tell us they were excited to find Jesus and showered him with precious gifts. Then these faithful servants of God obeyed the warnings they were given during a dream and did not do what King Herod asked of them.

Just this week I was working on something that I felt was clearly directed by God. Then...out of the blue...came a huge distraction that not only took my focus off the task at hand, but also had me doubting the work I was doing.

This morning as I was working on this post...reading the Magi Story again...it hit me that I was allowing someone else's "evil motive" to interfere with the work God called me to do. It was a humbling realization for me. After requesting forgiveness from God...with a new resolve...I got myself back on track...and continued my focus on God's path for me.

Thinking back to the wonderful Magi Story...what an amazing sight it must have been for Joseph and Mary to have such highly regarded men coming to bow down to their baby son. To this day, the Magi are a shining example of obedience to God and a blessed reminder that all people (from shepherds to kings) must bow down and believe in Jesus.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Temple Story

Eight days after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary took their new baby to the temple. While you might not hear this piece of The Christmas Story very often, it is an important part of it. As a matter of fact, it occurs just after the scriptures we enjoyed yesterday about the shepherd's story.

The temple story is written in Luke 2:21-38:
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

The visit to the temple was a very important part of the Law of Moses, so Joseph and Mary made the trip to the temple to fulfill the Law. It was just a little over a week since the birth of Jesus and parenthood was still very new to these inexperienced parents.

Often people gravitate toward a newborn baby. It isn't unusual for people to want to hold the baby, and offer sweet words of wisdom. But when Simeon does this, it is very special because his words are guided by the Holy Spirit. He holds Jesus, blesses him, and fulfills God's plan.

Joseph and Mary were clearly amazed by the whole scene. Their lives had changed in a remarkable way in just a few short months. They must have been shocked by the difference in their plans verses what God chose to do with their lives. It must have all seemed a bit surreal for them.

Their visit to the temple did fulfill their requirement to the Law, but it did so much more as well. Joseph and Mary were blessed by those worshiping there. They not only welcomed Joseph and Mary in and blessed their baby, but also believed. Those who were there were given the opportunity to meet the Savior face to face! Everyone in the temple that day must have felt the favor of God.

Joseph and Mary continued to encounter those who believed and rejoiced in the arrival the Savior! Not only was God with them, but He was providing earthly support as well!

Glory to God! A Savior is born! Blessings to those who Believe!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Christmas Story: The Shepherd's Story

On Thursday we read the scriptures that tell of the birth of Jesus Christ. Once Jesus was born, God wanted everyone to know about it, and so He chose some unexpected messengers to share the Good News with everyone.

Their story...the shepherd's story is told in Luke 2:8-20:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Today's part of the story is another one of those "can you even imagine?" moments. I certainly cannot. What a complete shock this must have been for the shepherds! They had no idea God was going to choose them to be Jesus' first visitors and the ones to share this amazing news with everyone!

This passage is a wonderful reminder that God loves to give everyone an opportunity to share about his great love. It doesn't matter who you are or what you are doing in life. When baby Jesus was born, all were welcome to worship him...from kings to shepherds. Everyone was and is given the opportunity to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

When the shepherds were given the opportunity they immediately went to worship Jesus and then they just had to share this amazing news with everyone they could! Can you picture them running around town...arms waving excitedly as they tell this incredible story of angels, a manger, and a little tiny baby born to be the Savior?

Oh what a glorious site they saw out in the fields and then an even more glorious site once they arrived at the manger. And God chose them...shepherds...to be his messengers.

Does this make you think of what God has chosen you to do? It makes me think of what opportunities He has offered to me...especially when it comes to sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

I want to be like the shepherds. I want to be filled with excitement and obedience to God. I want to share the good news!

So tonight, I want you to know that Jesus was a real baby born to be a real savior. Believe.

I believe it. And like the shepherds, I too glorify and praise God for this most wonderful Christmas gift.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Just For Fun Festive Friday: What Christmas Is All About!

My hope is that you have been enjoying The Christmas Story this week. I have shared stories about Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. If you missed any of this week's posts, you can click here. At the bottom of the post you will see links to the last five days of The Christmas Story.

And Just for Fun...because it's Friday...here's a sneak peek of what will be coming up next on the blog:

Of course, Linus is right! That is exactly what Christmas is all about!

Please join me tomorrow as I share more of the real true Christmas Story.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Christmas Story: Jesus Is Born!

And now...the part of the story we've all been waiting for...
Jesus is born in Luke 2:1-7:

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
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.

As if being visited by angels, finding out they were going to be the parents of Jesus Christ, and thus expecting a baby before they were even married wasn't enough excitement for Joseph and Mary...next they have to travel a very long way while Mary is "great with child" to pay taxes! And of course, when they finally get to town after their long long journey, they can't find a place to stay. There is no room for them.

Can you even imagine???  I really can't.

Thinking back to the pregnancy and deliveries of our two beautiful baby boys...I really can't imagine what it would have been like. I remember traveling about 10 hours in our nice comfy car when I was only five months along with our Engineer. I wasn't that "great" with child yet, but I remember that trip.

Even though I rode on a padded seat with air conditioning, I was still uncomfortable for that long of a trip. How in the world did Mary do it? Or Joseph for that matter? Mary was riding on a donkey. That is an uncomfortable ride even when you are not "great" with child. And poor Joseph was, I'm sure, going slowly...taking every precaution. What a long exhausting journey that must have been.

And when they finally got to their destination, there was no time to rest and recover from the trip, because first they had to struggle to find a place to stay, and then before they knew it, Jesus had arrived! What an overwhelming experience!  I wonder if Joseph and Mary were worn out from all of the excitement or exhilarated by it? Maybe both!

This is such a well known part of The Christmas Story...but it's also very special. Whether it is your own or someone else's, the arrival of a new baby brings such joy. It's such an exciting time. But for Mary and Joseph they knew their experience was extraordinary. It had been from the very beginning...and yet with the arrival of this precious little baby...they had no idea the blessings and miracles that were still to come!

Meanwhile...out in some fields...there was an amazing show lighting up the sky...soon visitors would be coming to see the new King. I'll give you a sneak peek at that story tomorrow.

But for tonight...I'll leave you with this:

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Christmas Story: Joseph's Story

Joseph was a wonderful man. How do I know this? In just a few sentences, the scriptures tell us a great deal about the man Mary was pledged to wed. Not long before the marriage, he learned some very disturbing news, and yet his reaction... and how he handled the situation speaks volumes to the kind of wonderful man Joseph truly was.

Joseph's story is in Matthew 1:18-24:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

In the story of Christmas, Joseph is amazing. Have you ever really thought about that? He really is. Oh what he must have gone through! I think it is often overlooked, but Joseph is an important part of this story. He was the earthly father of Jesus! That was no small task, indeed.

Joseph's future was looking good. He was going to marry a very lovely faithful young lady, but before the wedding happened, he learned she was pregnant. Joseph was a noble man, so he decided he would break off the engagement quietly. He did not want to shame Mary.

Joseph was compassionate. He was kind. He was thoughtful. He was even loving toward Mary at a time when he must have been so hurt, heartbroken, and maybe a little angry. His goodness is evident...first in the caring way he wants to end the engagement with Mary....and then again when...he too...humbly accepts God's plan for their lives.

Joseph and Mary were planning their future. I'm sure they had talked about having kids, and yet...I'm sure they never once discussed Mary having God's son and Joseph being his "adopted" earthly father. I doubt that conversation had come up in their plans for the future.

Yet this was God's plan...and once Mary...and then Joseph realized it, they trusted in God to handle all the details and they willingly went along with His amazing plan.

Of course this part of the story makes me think back to the days of my engagement to Hubby. Nearly 26 years ago, right before a Christmas party, Hubby got down on one knee and gave me a beautiful diamond ring. He asked me to be his wife and I happily accepted. We too were really young. We were engaged for quite some time which gave us plenty of time to think about and plan what our married life was going to be like.

Over the years, some of our plans have happened...but nothing exactly like we imagined back then! No...God had other plans for us...much better plans. He has surprised us many times over the past 24+ years of marriage. And while we have never gotten a surprise as big as Mary and Joseph did, we certainly know what it's like when God comes up with a much different plan than what we have envisioned.

Has it happened to you too? Maybe you had your life all figured out. You knew exactly what you wanted to happen and yet...that's not how it worked out?

In our experience...each time the plan has changed, we might have been disappointed or even struggled with the changes a bit, but we also knew that God was in control and we trusted him to show us a better way. And I can say, without a doubt, that we can always look back and thankfully see that God's ideas were way better than ours.

In this passage, Joseph humbly accepts God's plan. He will become the husband of Mary. He will become a father to Jesus. God certainly chose the perfect man to be Jesus earthly father.