This advent season we have attended beautiful concerts. Our grandchildren participated in a Christmas program at their church. The fours & fives sang Away in a Manger. Older children read scripture and sang additional Christmas carols. Advent is a time to share the celebration of Christ’s birth with others.
I have been writing Christmas cards and receiving messages from friends that date back to my high school and college days. Our friendship continues.
Christmas is a time that ties family and friends together. And yet, some of the deepest pain comes from loss and broken relationships during the holidays.
God sent Jesus to an imperfect human family. This is significant. Jesus lived a sinless life in a human family and then offered himself as payment for our sin. He offers us salvation and the opportunity to become a member of God’s family . . . forever!
When we reflect on this truth we see God’s great love for us and find the joy of Christmas.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46: 10
In the past couple weeks I have been feeding, swaddling and cuddling an infant. And I have thought about Mary. The account in Luke tells about the angel’s appearance and promise “You shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 2:31b-33
When Mary visited Elizabeth, she received encouragement and confirmation. She responded with a beautiful song of praise.
But then Mary and Joseph had to make the trip to Bethlehem. And the birth of Jesus took place in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. Did she wonder about the circumstances of his birth, the Son of the Most High? If it was me, at this point doubt of the angel’s words might have crept in.
The visit by the shepherds may have encouraged her once more as they told Mary and Joseph about the angels that had announced Jesus birth to them.
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19
God’s way are often different from what we expect.
Mary is an example for us. She took note of the signs that God gave. When she was called on to trust Him she sang an offering of praise. She treasured the events that demonstrated God at work. She pondered. She thought and considered quietly, soberly and deeply.
I am linking up with Five Minute Friday, a community of inspirational writers. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is DIFFERENT. Click here to visit FMF.
The Nativity Scene is from a Raphael Tuck & Sons postcard courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com
The winter storm in Michigan was brutal. I had left early in the morning hoping to get to my mother’s nursing home before it became too bad—but it was already bad. In some places I couldn’t see the road and just followed tire tracks in the snow. I hit a patch of ice and lost control of the car. I veered toward a ditch before the car went into a spin. I think it made two complete revolutions. The engine died and I sat still in shock. My car was still on the road and there were no other vehicles in sight. I started the engine and drove on. Further on the car slipped and fish tailed a couple more times, but I reached my destination safely. I praised God for his protection.
I spent the day with my mother at the nursing home. She was glad to see me, but a little confused about who I am. We joined the hymn sing in the activity room. Mom was able to join in when the hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, came up.
The nursing home was decorated for Christmas and my eye was drawn to the nativity scenes. I pushed my mother’s wheel chair up to a display in the dining room.
Later I paused at the display in the lobby of the nursing home.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4: 4-5
I stayed with my mother until evening, and then went to a hotel to wait out the storm.
As I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter I was reflecting on gospel accounts by Matthew and Luke. It is apparent that the people of Judea lived in fearful times under Roman rule. Injustice, corruption and violence were common. A young woman lived in Nazareth, north of Judea, during this turbulent time.
My thoughts turned to Mary—and the grace shown to her by God. God sent an angel to speak directly with her. The angel gives her an amazing message.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1: 30-33
Wow! Mary asks how this is possible, and then responds with obedience.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 38
We know that Mary was encouraged and guided by her cousin Elizabeth. ( Luke 1: 39-56) God’s timing for the pregnancies of these two women was a provision and a gift. The two women spent three months together. Elizabeth gave birth just months before Mary.
The time spent with Elizabeth prepared Mary for her own labor and birth—not that it was easy. She was away from Nazareth and her family.
And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7
As a labor/delivery nurse I have worked in hospitals with all the technology and interventions that are common today. I am pleased that God chose to send Jesus to a young woman who would give birth simply. The design of her body was enough. Perhaps she had a midwife with her. The scripture doesn’t tell us.
My experience with home birth helps me get an idea of the birth of Jesus. Birth can be a natural physiologic process. I saw the way endorphins (natural pain relief hormones released by the body) assisted women during labor. With position changes they were able to cope with contractions that gradually became more intense. I also saw women and their husbands lean in to prayer, seeking strength from God. It was both refining and empowering.
Mary is an example for us. She was obedient and resilient. She knew the scriptures and the history of God’s faithfulness to Israel. She trusted God.
God is good. He is sovereign. The birth of Jesus is a magnificent chapter in God’s plan of salvation.