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Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Story to Ponder

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Can you sense the anticipation growing?  There are two days left till Christmas break and we are 7 days and counting till the big day.  The presents are wrapped, the tree is decorated, the lights are hung and yummy goodies line the counter-top in my kitchen. I love this time of year when we make our home look pretty with Martha Stewart like decorations, we bake like Betty Crocker and we post Christmas photos of our family and friends on the fridge. The music is cued to the holiday music station and my favorite Christmas candle is burning.  Ahh the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas are here.  I want to hit the pause button and savor it all year long.

I was supposed to get chemo treatment last week on Wednesday.  I had it planned out this way so that I could enjoy the days leading up to Christmas better.  It didn't work out that way.  Christmas is still going to happen.  It happens every year on the 25th of December.  I am reminding myself that we can celebrate like this anytime of the year.  I wonder if Mary might have felt the same way.  Her plans to get married somehow interrupted by news heralded by the angel Gabriel: you will be with Child by the Holy Spirit and you shall call Him Jesus.  Talk about a change in plans!  It's Mary's response to the angel that catches my attention.  It strikes a chord in me. She responds, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." Luke 1:38 Mary immediately accepts the news and believes. This is faith in action.  The bells ring loud and the choir sings forth Glory to God in the Highest.  Do I respond this way when my plans don't seem to work out?  I have to admit most times my ways don't work out. I don't respond with a quick yes Lord.  Instead I parade around like a chicken with it's head cut off.  Lovely picture!  It's true that I get upset when my plans seem to fail.  I want to hear those words, "you are highly favored."  I mess it up over and over again.

Mary was betrothed to be married to Joseph.  It was Jewish custom to be pledged or like an engagement period.  In all aspects Joseph and Mary were "married" yet Jewish custom stated that they were to remain pure.  So for Mary to return from Elizabeth's pregnant was a big deal.  She could have been stoned or Joseph could have divorced her.  God had plans for Joseph and Mary.  It was hard.  People talk.  Joseph also had an encounter with an angel.  Joseph also believed and put his faith into action: he obeyed and took Mary as his wife.  He was told not to fear, but it is human nature to be afraid.  Afraid of the future.  I can relate.  Faith conquers all fears.  I think both Mary and Joseph were afraid, yet they were determined to be obedient to what God had told them.  Was it hard for them?  Certainly.  Did they miss their family when they had to travel to Bethlehem for the Census ordered by King Herod.  Did Mary really think her time to deliver was not soon?  Did the travel bring labor?  Many questions I ponder.  Scripture tells us they did not return back to Nazareth but were warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.  More distance between family.  I can imagine on one hand they were both relived to be away from those in Nazareth and the ridicule they must have experienced. New friends and community would not know their circumstances.  Maybe this was God's divine way of protecting their fragile hearts.  God's ways are always best.  I must remind myself of this daily.  I fight to be in control, but then remember His ways I can not fathom.

I was reminded of this once again this morning in church.  Pastor Jackie was reminding us of the Israelites and their captivity to the Babylonians.  They were placed in chains, families torn apart heading for a life of slavery.  Life was not going as planned.  Yet God gave Jeremiah a message for the children of Israel.  He told them, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 I think this future and a hope means two things.  One, it was the promise of a Messiah to come.  The second was not going to be found here on earth.  It was set in their hearts: eternity.  For the Jew the promised Messiah was to come and set up His kingdom and set them free from captivity.  God was speaking of a heavenly kingdom and freedom from the law and peace with God.  The long walk to Babylon must have been rough.  Where was God? What was He thinking?  This is not the plan!  Yet it was part of God's perfect plan for the children of Israel.  The future and hope was on it's way...all in His time. 

Sweet Mary and Joseph did not plan on a baby prior to starting their marriage.  Yet this was part of God's plan to bring salvation to the world.  A baby changes everything.  So Jesus was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.  A feeding trough. A stark reminder that He is the Bread of Life. The star brightly reflecting the glory of the moment.  What am I reflecting?  Is it this God glory? Or am I too caught up in this Christmas hype to see the miracle before me?  My heart screams out like Mary I am the Lord's servant...I want to make a difference, I want to be a light. In spite of my circumstances and the way plans seem to change like the wind, I must take a stand.  Like Mary I must resolve in my heart that I am the Lord's servant  -- let it be as the Lord has chosen. For I know that the plans God has for me are good and he is building a future for me and that gives my spirit hope for the moment and hope for a bright future in heaven.

Christmas time seems to bring to the front of our memory our relationship with Christ. It causes us to wonder at the miracle of the virgin birth.  To marvel in the amazing gift God gave us: his one and only Son, Jesus, Emmanuel God with us. We make time to be with friends and family.  We exchange gifts, food and stories.  This year is different for me.  I have a fresh perspective.  A God-given-glory view.  I want to cherish it and savor this season of Christmas for the year to come.  I have great hope and expectation for the future.  I can only say one thing about it: I know it will be good!
Merry Christmas Friends!