Tag Archives: christmas

Time Out to Praise -Anna

 

anna

 

Luke 2:36-38  Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years,[a] who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord,[b] and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.  (emphasis mine)  KJV

What a precious woman this is!  Once more we see that Scripture is able to take less than one hundred words and paint a picture of exquisite beauty and depth.  This is why we “hang on every word” of Scripture because not one word is extraneous.  Each vital to the painting and the lesson and to the Lord’s story.  We know this little lady well!  Her name is one of my favorites for it means “grace or favor.”  We know her spiritual gift is prophecy and we observe how God recognizes her for this gift for she wields her sword well.  We are introduced to her family:  she is the daughter of Phanuel which means “face of God,” of the tribe of Asher–the happy tribe.  Asher was blessed by his father Jacob with these words: “Bread from Asher shall be rich, And he shall yield royal dainties.” (Genesis 49:20)  Moses blesses the tribe of Asher in this way:  “Asher is most blessed of sons;  Let him be favored by his brothers,  And let him dip his foot in oil.”    In the Midrash, an ancient group of rabbinic writings, it points out this is referencing the quality of Asher’s tribe and the connection they had to the tribe of Levi.  It seems the women of the tribe of Asher were beautiful, highly sought after for marriage by the Levites because of their characteristic “nobility and modesty.”   It further explains the Torah when speaking of the beauty of women is referencing not their physical beauty but their “inwardness.”    (from Asher’s Beautiful Daughters by Rochel Holzkenner on chabad.org)   Asher’s daughter’s made great “pastor’s wives” and they raised great “PK’s.”

Anna is of great age.  Theologians estimate she is between 84 and 107 years old.  She became a widow after only seven years of marriage.  She might have been only 21 years old when widowhood wrapped its heavy cloak around her.  Was she married to a priest?  We are not told this but we are told she devoted herself to the Temple, to prayer, to fasting, and to looking for Messiah.  She was a godly woman;  very much a picture of the tribe of Asher.  Is there a more lovely sight than a white haired woman in prayer?  Gnarled hands folded in prayer?  Stiffened knees bent in humility?  She is well known at the temple.  She has been coming a very long time.

On this particular day, forty days after Jesus birth, Anna enters the Temple and SEES the “face of God” and REJOICES (she is ohhh so happy!).  Asher was the eighth son of Jacob:  The number eight is for “new beginnings.”  Anna witnesses God beginning something new.  Her joy rises from deep within her beautiful soul and she praises the Lord God of Heaven.  Anna on this day fulfilled Jacob’s blessing over his son, Asher.  Her “bread,” her words were very rich for she was proclaiming the coming of the long awaited ONE.  Anna herself was one of the “dainties” from his tribe.

As I read this account, I was reminded of a lady in my congregation, who to me, is another “Anna.”  She too is a widow and she comes to the sanctuary daily to kneel, lift her hands in prayer and her crown is as white as snow!  She is a kind and gentle soul.  She is watching for the Lord to do a “new thing” and return.  She is as genuine and humble and expecting as Anna.  I believe she will be one of the first to see the Lord upon His return because she is watchful.  Her name means “light!”  Her life sure does shine.  She too is one who speaks under divine inspiration-a prophetess, using the Word of God as a sword.  (Hebrews 4:12)

Anna did not just thank God for His Son once.  The manna (bread) was shared over and over to all who would listen as she proclaimed His birth.  Anna, in all likelihood, died within a few years.  Her final days were her “happiest,” for she had seen the salvation of the Jews with her own eyes, touched Him with her own hands, heard His coos and cries, and worshipped the newborn KING.  Going to the Temple daily in anticipation was rewarded.  May we go to worship with expectation.  Indeed, “wise men still seek Him!”  (see November 28, 2016 Vacation: Time out with a Purpose)  May we watch expectantly for His long expected return.

 

 

 

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Red Mountain Music

Praying to be Wise

Joseph Strong Silent

 

joseph_the_worker___michael_adams

Are there any strong silent people in your life?  These people say very little.  At times, they seem almost invisible except for an occasional moment. I believe Joseph may have been such a man.

“And Joseph, her(Mary) husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.  But when he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1: 18-25 NAS)

We have looked at the several of the lives in the Christmas story this month. We have seen the hope of Israel from Zacharias, Simeon, Anna, Elizabeth, Mary, the shepherds and the angels.   We have seen the joy of each person and how one little baby impacted the world.  We have seen fear, anxiety and amazing comfort come to each person as they fulfill the role God had given them.

Today, we want to see Joseph’s story.  Not one word is recorded in scripture that Joseph ever said!  We are told that he is a righteous man.  We know he knew Jewish law because he knew what would happen to Mary if anyone found that she was pregnant. He must have been like most men, a processor.  He had to process what Mary was telling him.  He must have spent hours in anguish going through scenarios of what he should do, could do, or would do.  I see Joseph as a young but mature man who is looking so forward to his new life and now is thrown a curve that changes his view of his life forever.  We never know the twists and turns in life that can come fast and furious like a tornado that picks us up and spins us and sets us down in new and unrecognizable places.  We are stunned, angry, disoriented and terrified at what might be next. Joseph must have felt that way.

When the dust settled and Joseph had made his decision, he moved forward without looking back.  He took Mary to be his wife. He protected her.  He covered her with grace instead of shame. He took the child to raise as his own.  He taught Jesus the skills he knew, carpentry.

He gave him a home.  He lived out his faith before Jesus.

I have had a quiet, background, processing man in my life for 50 years. Sometimes it is very frustrating but he has loved me, protected me and shared his life with me. Life was hard for Joseph and Mary.  The times and the cultures were hard, difficult and I am sure scary with the Romans always breathing terror. But God!  God protected them as he does us.  God guided them, he directed them to the right places and he provided for them.

The very Son of God who had given up all the riches of heaven was living in their home!  Yet they experience sorrow, suffering, pain, fear as well as exceeding great joy.  What joy must have been in their hearts as they watched Jesus grow up.  Knowing all the time, they had been given the privilege and responsibility to raise this child.  The child who sits at His Father’s right hand even today is interceding for us.

Scripture says Mary treasured all these things in her heart.  It never mentions Joseph heart.  I just know in my heart that Joseph treasured and pondered many things in his heart also.  He might have been a background man, quiet, gracious, loving and strong but I believe Joseph accomplished a life well lived and in the kingdom of God.  I like to believe Joseph holds a special place beside the son he raised.

We may never realize the influence we have in the lives of those around us.  So many times we are wrapped up in the fast paced life we live that we forget there are background people, invisible maybe to us at times but never to the eye of our loving heavenly father and His Son who gave His life that we might have eternal life.

Look around today and find those who quietly stay in the background supporting  and loving others. It is the season for loving and giving.  If you have a Joseph in your life, let them know you see them.  Michael Card’s song “Joseph’s Song” is a beautiful reminder of what Joseph’s thoughts might have been.

https://youtu.be/KT4VDAIaMwU?list=RDKT4VDAIaMwU

Michael Card  Joseph’s Song

Go Ahead Touch Him

 

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Go ahead…. Touch it

Have you ever seen the signs that say “DO NOT TOUCH”? It makes it so much more tempting.  I may not have wanted to touch whatever it was until I saw the sign.  Now it is all I want to do.  Then I start pondering… Why can’t I not touch it?  What will it hurt?  Most of the time it is for our protection or the protection of whatever we are not supposed to touch.  I bet you are wondering where in the world is she going with this…there is a point I promise.

Last evening while visiting with some special ladies, we start talking about nativity scenes that we put out at Christmas.  I love putting mine out each year and each year thinking I want to get another one.  The one I have is nothing fancy.  It is just a few pieces of simple colors, baby blue and white with a clear shine to the glass.  I purchased it at a consignment shop years ago, and have put it out every year since.  Well, we ladies start talking about how so many nativity scenes are to be seen and not touched.  To a small child, the baby Jesus is so fascinating that they must touch him, hold him, kiss him and carry him around.  What a wonderful opportunity to start teaching them about Jesus.   I have been guilty of saying “Don’t touch or Leave Him alone” not that they will get hurt but so that my precious figurine would not get damaged.  But as we ladies were talking, I got to thinking…I have missed the point but have learned a lesson.  Jesus is not a figure to bring out each year, to put on display for all to see but no touch.  My Lord is very much alive and will touch your heart if you will allow Him to.   He should be displayed in our lives all year long and should never be told not to touch.  We should show Jesus so that others will be curious just like my granddaughter is with the baby Jesus in the nativity scene.  We should never keep anything to do with Jesus to ourselves.  He is for everyone, if they are only willing.  So, this year my granddaughter carries baby Jesus around the house, puts him in her doll house so he can go “nite, nite”. Every chance I get I will tell her about Jesus, who He is and what He did for us.  And if the figurine gets broke, that will be okay…For Jesus, does not live in a figure but in my heart.  May you see Him in my life and not just on display at Christmas.

Ephesians 3:16-19(NIV)

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

https://youtu.be/9EM2QgLsc5U

Silent Night/ Away in a Manger by Reliant K

God bless you  Merry Christmas

Lorie Jenkins Waker

Serving so others can worship

 

shepherds-watched-their-flocks

I read of shepherds and what I read does not match the images I have seen all my life.  This illustration of a young lad is closer to what Bible scholars write (Shepherd LIfe; the care of sheep and goats, by Fred H. Wright in Manners and Customs of Bible Lands).  Shepherds were the youngest boys in the family!  The older sons served the family as farmers, lending their strength in the manual labor required to till, plant, and harvest.  When I think of young boys out in the fields all night alone to fight off wolves, hyenas, jackals, and bears, it makes my mamma heart weak.  Out in the elements and expected to protect the sheep even at the expense of their very lives.  I see safety in companionship and I am thankful for shepherds tending flocks together through the long nights.

We read in Luke 2:8-14, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Several shepherds watching their flocks.  Shepherds tending together, but tending their own individual herds.  The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  The shepherd calls each of his own sheep by name.  The shepherd leads them to water, to green pastures, and insures the safety of each lamb.  (Psalm 23, John 10:14, 27)

I read how at night when the shepherds were ready to sleep they “circled up the wagons” so to speak.  They gathered the sheep close together and then the shepherds would lay around the perimeter of the sheep to “keep watch” and placed campfires between them to provide additional protection and warmth.  Can you see this in your mind’s eye?  Like a group of Boy or Girl Scouts camping, all the tents in a circle, doors facing inward,  with a campfire in the center providing light, warmth, and security while they sleep.

On this one night, these shepherds see something spectacular.  In addition to the brightest star, an angel appears to them and tells them the Messiah is come and to go find Him!  They have been chosen as the first visitors to see this long awaited miracle of God.  There is just one problem!  Who will stay with the sheep.  They cannot be left unattended.  Would you want to be the one left behind?  Did these young boys draw straws to see who had to stay?  Did one gracious heart volunteer to stay?   We are not told.  Let us not miss the message of this child.

We know the sheep could not be left alone: To leave them alone would lead to injury or death.

Sheep are like babies in a nursery.  They need supervision.  Do we realize the beautiful souls who keep the nursery every week allow others to have the awesome opportunity to worship?

This one sweet, kind young man stepped up to the plate and hit a homerun with his fellow shepherds.  His graciousness allowed them to see what few would see:  The Christ child newly born and lying in a manger.  They were allowed to go honor the Christ child with a song on a flute, the collective ooh’s and ah’s of children whom Jesus would later insist be allowed to come to Him.   (Matthew 19:14)  God loves children and how they worship and serve.  The shepherd boys who went were able to go because of the selfless heart of another.  I find this convicting.  When was the last time I got up and went to the nursery and sent another to worship.  When was the last time I went and sat with a shut in so a family member could go to participate in worship.  Jesus said “whatever you do for the least of these, you have done it for me, to me!” (Matthew 25:40)  This child understood a sacrifice was needed for entering into the Presence of the King.  He sacrificed his opportunity to see with his own eyes the Christ.  I wonder, was this poor shepherd boy one of the men who thirty three years later lined the streets as Jesus carried His cross to Calvary?  Did this shepherd ever see The Shepherd during His earthly walk?

One fact is certain.  He never forgot the night the sky exploded with angels.  This child is not even mentioned in the Scripture.  He is not singled out as a hero.  He is not honored for his sacrifice.   We too may never be singled out for accolades of service.  This young life proves it is no less honorable to serve others than to go to worship the King.   It is stated in the Mishnah (“an authoritative collection of exegetical material embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law and forming the first part of the Talmud”) these poor shepherds were actually tending the sheep bred and raised near Bethlehem for Temple sacrifices.  If so, this makes this young lad’s gift to the Sacrificial Lamb all the more profound.  HIs simple gift was the gift of TIME allowing the other shepherds the gift of going, a timeout for adoration of the “newborn king” by service to the King.

https://youtu.be/6aGLV5CfoTU

Oh What a Glorious Night/Mary Did You Know

by Sidewalk Prophets

In Worship of the King

Yvonne Jones

The Great Gift Exchange

 

 

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“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts,

the gift of God to man, his Son;

and the gift of man to God,

when we first give ourselves to God.”

quote by Vance Havner

colors-violet-crowncross-websmall1

 He didn’t come to kings and queens

He came to men of humble means

He gave up His crown

And to earth came down

A Savior for all

The great and small

The sin debt He paid

Eternal life he gave. 

The Gift Goes On

https://youtu.be/MMCa0-VxBuw

May your days be full of worship of the Savior

Freda Reynolds

Joseph’s Dream

 

joseph-s-dream-in-the-stable-in-bethlehem-1645

Luke records Mary’s story.  This makes perfect sense because he was a physician.  He was fascinated by the miraculous birth.  Matthew, or Levi as he is also called, records Joseph’s story.  Matthew was a tax collector, a publican.  He was concerned with helping others connect the dots to see Jesus as the Promised Messiah.  He was a Jew appealing to his countrymen to see Jesus for who He really was:  Not a good man, but as the Long expected Savior.

Matthew 1:18-25 and Matthew 2:12-21

Joseph is of the house of David just like Mary.  He is a good man:  gentle, respectful, kind, considerate, honorable, and a man of faith.  He is legally married to a young maid and is in the process of preparing their home.  Until he gets his house ready, he cannot go get his bride to bring her home and before God and man, consummate the union.

Mary has returned from cousin Elizabeth’s and shared her experience.  Pregnant by a light, going to have a son, told to call this baby Jesus.  Who on earth would believe this?  She is visibly  pregnant.   What is a man to do?   Joseph has the first of three encounters with an angel as he sleeps.  Mary saw her angel and was wide awake.  Joseph is visited in his dreams.  The first dream occurs as Joseph is trying to figure out how to dissolve the marriage without getting Mary stoned to death.  He is good and kind but he has his pride and it is wounded.

The angel gives Joseph four, not one but FOUR confirmations Mary is telling him the truth:

  1. She is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
  2. She will have a son and His name is to be JESUS
  3. This child will be the Savior of the World
  4. The angel quotes Isaiah’s prophecy of a virgin shall conceive…..

This is exactly what Mary told him as she recounted her experience.  (Luke 1:28-38)

Joseph realizes he has been asked by God Himself to watch over His Son and the mother of His Son, this woman Joseph loves.  Joseph gets up in the middle of the night and goes to get Mary and take her home.  His protection of her begins IMMEDIATELY!  He covers her “shame” in the eyes of the law by claiming this child as his very own.  Going in the middle of the night to get your bride was not unusual in Jewish culture! (Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 12:35-38)

Joseph is visited a second time as Herod prepares to have all baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem killed because he will tolerate not even a baby “king.”  Joseph is directed by God through the visitation of the angel in his dreams to get up again, in the middle of the night and go immediately under the cover of darkness to Egypt.

In Joseph’s third dream,  God once more directs him through the angel to return to Israel.  Everything is to add weight to Joseph’s knowledge and understanding,  this child is indeed the long expected Messiah.  Jesus.  Immanuel, God with us.

Do we need to take time out to dream?  We are told,  “AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says, ‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS.”  (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17 NAS)  God was pouring out His Spirit on Joseph to direct the care and provide protection for His Son!  We too are His Sons and Daughters and this is His Word to us.    Do we not dream because we are so wrapped up and bogged down in fear and anxiety?  I see NOTHING  but calm and peace in Joseph.  Do you find this as amazing as I do?  One more time, Proverbs 3:5-6 should be our mantra:  Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and HE SHALL DIRECT YOUR PATHS!

Jesus was not Joseph’s child and Mary could not have known all they would face.  Neither do we.  Whatever is going on in your life right now, could you ponder this lesson and lay down the burden of responsibility of how it will all work out?  It really is not our job!  Lay it down and rest.  You just might see God.  He is still on the throne!  He is still dispatching angels to deliver His Word and direct us.  We need only trust and obey!

https://youtu.be/Hui3emqJS2Q

Phil Vasser and Julianne Hough  It Wasn’t His Child/Mary Did You Know

Treading in awe of such faith,

 

 

Tiding of Great Joy

 

shepherd-with-angel

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and the were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you, You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it (him), they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”  Luke 2:8-20

The good tidings of great joy!

The announcement of the most important birth in the history of the world came to shepherds abiding in the fields outside of Bethlehem.  Shepherds!  Most probably the least influential people of that day.   Most were outcasts. They were the lower class of society.   They worked on the Sabbath!!!  No one was to work on the Sabbath; it was against Jewish law.   Because they could not keep the Jewish laws,  they were considered unclean. But, their profession was essential to the Jews.  The people needed sheep to bring to the temple for the sacrifices.

John MacArthur notes that Rabbinic teaching “required that flocks be kept only in wilderness areas.” (http://www.gty.org/resources)  Bethlehem is located about six miles from Jerusalem. The area between Jerusalem and Bethlehem would have been purposely used to keep the sheep for sacrificing.  The sheep would be close enough to be available but not so close as to break Rabbinic laws.

These particular shepherds may have been caring for the sheep that would used as sacrifices. If they were in charge of shepherding the sheep to be used in the temple, they may well have believed in God.   They would have been aware of the need for a quarter of a million animals killed during Passover.  They had probably heard the priest speak of a day when there would be no more sacrifices.  A day when their Messiah would be with them.  Immanuel. God with us was their hope.  Maybe they heard discussions of what Yahweh had told the prophets concerning the coming of this one who would be their shepherd.  I can imagine them re-tell stories they had heard about David and his shepherding skills.  Yes, I believe because of their actions when they heard the good news, they believed in the true and living God.


If we believe in the true and living God, can the world tell by our actions?


 

They could have been devout righteous men who were looking for the Messiah to come. MacArthur writes, “How interesting that the announcement of the final and full sacrifice, the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the world, the Savior of the world, was made to shepherds, who very likely took care of sheep who were offered as pictures of that coming sacrifice.” (http://gty.org/resources)

When the angel appears, the shepherds were frightened just like we would be.  But they believed the message given to them.  We see that they “made haste.” (Luke 2:16)  They didn’t want to miss this one who would be the Savior.  Once they saw the baby, they didn’t just go on back to the fields and forget about it.   “When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” (verse 17)  They did not keep it to themselves.  They felt great joy and they spread their excitement.  “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds,” (verse 18)

We are separated by 2000 years from Jesus’ birth.  The story has become so familiar to us that we lose the excitement that the shepherds felt.  This same Jesus who was born in a stable told us in His love letter to us that he will return.   The wonder of Jesus birth and the anticipation of His return is “good news”.   Ask the Lord God to revive the wonder and excitement of His story this Christmas.   Then go out and tell someone the good news that we have a Savior who came as a baby born in a stable, announced to the least of society, and given to a young couple of humble means.  He has come to bring us forgiveness of our sins and an eternal home in heaven with Him.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” John 3:16

 

 
https://youtu.be/PvxobziZ7jY
Angels We Have Heard on High
Pentatonix

Merry Christmas

Freda Reynolds