An Advent Journey with Mary

The Christ Candle

As we light our final candle tonight, who better to tell us about her Son, than Mary herself ~

The Christ

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Everything about my Jesus was miraculous. Shortly after his birth visitors began to come. First shepherds, who had been heralded by angels, declaring his birth came to see him for themselves.  They left declaring all that they had seen.

We had such a wonderful greeting from Simeon and Anna at the temple, as we came to offer our first fruit to the Lord. They knew who we were, they said they had been fasting, praying and believing for the Messiah to come. And Jesus was He, just as the Lord has said.

I have always remembered, the words Simeon said to me, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.  As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

His words were unsettling to me. What had he meant when he had said, a sword would pierce my own soul?

Oh how I loved my son, I held him close, nursed him, cared for him. We enjoyed every milestone, his first smile and coo, then crawling, his first words and finally Jesus took his first steps.

It was about that time there was a knock on the door. Three Kings from afar stood before us. They said they had followed a star in the sky that they were searching for the promised Messiah. With gifts in hand they came to worship the new King.

The first knelt down with a gift of gold for a King

The second, bowed low with a his gift of frankincense for a Priest

The third stood before our little son with his gift of myrrh for the Sacrifice.

Myrrh, what a strange gift to give a baby, I thought to myself. Like many other moments since Gabrielle’s visit. I tucked all of these thoughts deep into my heart. One by one I would recall them.

We longed to go home to Nazareth, but Joseph was warned in a dream that it was not safe, that we should take a detour to Egypt. It was difficult being so far from home with a new baby to care for. Finally, it was time to journey home.

Once at home with family and friends we settled into normal life. More children came and our family grew

I can only think of one time that Jesus gave us a fright. We had gone on our annual journey to the temple, for the Passover festival. As we returned home we realized that Jesus was not with us. We turned back and found him sitting among the teachers in the temple.

We did not know what to think. “Son why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” I cried.

“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” We didn’t understand what he meant that day, but we would.

I felt a slight twinge in my heart as I stored that memory in my heart with the many others.

We gathered him up and brought him home to Nazareth and he was always obedient to us. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.

Jesus grew from a boy to a man. He was a skilled carpenter, but soon he would be called to something else. His life mission I would call it.

I was present the night it began.  We were at a wedding, the wine skins were empty. I called for Jesus, “Jesus, these wine skins are empty.” 

Jesus looked at me intently and said this words, “Woman, it is not yet my time.” 

Did my son just call me woman?  There it was again that pricking pain in my heart.  I simply said tot he servants, “Do whatever he asks,”  and I walked away.

That night would be the beginning of the miracles.  Jesus turned the water into wine, not the wine served at the end of the wedding feast, the best wine served at the beginning.

I watched as Jesus laid his hands upon the sick and they were made well.

As he took the hands of the lame and they stood up and walked.

He touched the blind and they would see, the deaf and they would hear.

Demons scampered from their human hosts at his command.

I sat in the backround listening as he taught the people and as the crowds gathered and grew.

I watched as people loved and adored him and listened intently as the whispering and the threats came form those who would hate him.

I would remember the words of Simeon as the piercing of my soul began…

He was arrested and  taken to prison in chains.

As he was beaten and tortured almost beyond recognition.

As he was mocked and spit upon, his beard plucked from his face.

Just when I thought I could bare no more…

A crown of thorns was pressed deep into his skull until blood began to trickle down his swollen face.

I watched as his blood soaked body shake with pain as he carried his cross, my cross, your cross through the streets and up the mountain.

I stood there as nails pierced his hands and his feet, as they nailed him to his cross.

With each strike of the hammer, my heart felt as if it would burst with pain.

All I could do was stand there as the sword of grief slashed at my heart, watching my dear son struggle for each breath.

Even in his last breaths, he still had love and concern for me and said these words to John and I, “Woman, behold your son!”  Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour John took me into his own home.

Then my Jesus took his last breath, with these words he gave up his spirit, “It is finished!”

I found myself holding my son in my arms once again.  I cleaned his body, wiping away the blood, just as I had done after his birth.

I began to wrap him for burial, just as I had swaddled him as a baby.  As I reached for the burial spices, I remembered the third King kneeling before Jesus giving his gift of Myrrh, Myrrh for the sacrifice.

My son was the sacrifice for all, even for me.

My Son had become my Savior

I was merely the one who was honored to wrap God’s Gift to all man-kind, once at his birth and once at his death.

The grave would not hold my son, for in three days his wrappings would fall away and He would rise again!  Defeating death and the grave not only for himself, but for all who would call him – Savior.

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Merry, Merry Christmas dear friends – May you see and celebrate our Savior this day !

 

 

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

Love

We all think we know love, we have felt romantic love, maternal love, family love.  This love that was coming was would be perfect, flawless, agape love.  It would be a feast of love for all man kind.  If we allow it, it can overtake us and flow through us.

The Agape Love of  Jesus.  His birth, his life, his death and  his resurrection poured out love.

Mary is about to feel one of the strongest facets of love a human can feel, a love for her child.  She wouldn’t know it or understand it until it happened.

The moment baby Jesus took his first breath, let out his first cry and then nestled close to nurse from his mama, would change the way Mary loved for always.

Even the love for mother and child does not compare.  It would be Jesus who would show Mary and the rest of creation what true agape love would look and feel like.

This kind of love can be heart piercing.  Have you ever loved someone so much, it hurts.  That is a glimpse of Jesus Love.

Jesus was born and the whole world was rejoicing.  As was custom Mary and Joseph took their little bundle of joy to the Temple to present their first fruit, their first born, God’s first born son – to God.

There were two waiting for them. They had been waiting long, but their faith had endured and their reward was coming in the form of a tiny babe.

Simeon a man who was just before God and who was waiting, waiting for a promise to pass.  The promise given to him by Holy Spirit, that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ.

Anna an old woman who had been widowed, she had only had seven brief years as a married woman. From then on, she would spend her days and nights in God’s Temple, praying, fasting and waiting.

The moment they laid eyes on this couple carrying a baby along with two turtledoves they knew.

They knew because they had been listening, praying and believing.

Both rejoiced and gave thanks to God and Simeon said these words as he held the long awaited baby Jesus in his arms and blessed God-

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
 I have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared for all people.
 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.” Luke 2: 28-35

In order for our salvation to come, God sent a Light, a Glorious Light.  Many would fall because he would reveal Truth and many would rejoice.

He was the sign of God’s Love, though many would oppose him.  Our hearts would be laid bare because of him.

Mary would see it all, feel it all.  She would get a glimpse of Jesus Love, Agape Love.  Her heart, her very soul would feel as if it were being pierced by a sword as Jesus’ life mission walked out before her eyes.

I wonder how often these words of Simeon would came back to her?

Love

As we light our Love Candle tonight let’s think about this Love, this Jesus Love, the kind of love that pierces hearts and souls.  That is the love that Jesus has brought to us, a love so deep, so wide, so sacrificial that its only result is salvation for all man-kind.  Agape Love 

Next week we are going to gather with family and friends.  Due to sin, mistakes and hurt feelings that fill this broken world we may find this very difficult, almost impossible.  This is not a love we can drum up on our own, but when we let Jesus Love move through us, all things are possible.

Let’s Live the Love ! 

An Advent Journey with Mary

Joy

Joy is this – the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

This season is to be a joy-filled, but sadly it can become joy-less, when joy stealers like anxiety, stress, tension and sadness overwhelm us.  I’ll be honest there have been Christmas Days that I have been so tired, I just wanted to get through the day and crawl into bed.

How do we refocus?

How do we get our joy back and enjoy this Holy Season?

Here is how… we go back to the beginning.

Mary had every right to be filled with anxiety and stress.  She was carrying a baby that was not her husband’s and there could be many wrong turns in this journey.

By faith, She Chose Joy 

Let’s listen to her song and get a glimpse of the joy that filled her soul.

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.  Msg Luke 1: 46-55

Wow!  Instead of worry and fear, Mary was bursting with what the Lord was doing within her.  Looking at her through the world’s eyes no one would think Mary was fortunate to be in this situation.  She chose to look at her position through faith – trusting that the Lord would take care of her and her baby.

Her entire song declares the very character of God – the very character that would live in her son, her Savior, our Savior.

To Mary He is a God who is –

  • Holy
  • Set Apart
  • Full of Mercy
  • Strong
  • Rescuer
  • Provider
  • Honors His Promises

In the months that followed Mary’s song, she would watch as the Lord protected her and worked everything out between her and Joseph.

She would find herself giving birth in a stable full of hay and animals.  I must say, I would not be feeling the joy at that moment.

The moment Jesus took his first breath, let out his first cry the earth would be filled with joy.  Angles would appear in the sky singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest,And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’

After the angles made their grand announcement to the shepherds on the hill side, those very same Shepherds would be knocking on the stable door.  Once they laid eyes on the new born babe, they left declaring to all with joy filled voices all that they had seen and heard.

The joy in the air must have been tangible!

joy

If you find yourself loosing your joy this Christmas Season.  Take a moment, as we light our joy candle and remind yourself who God is to you.

Remember a young woman, who carried a precious gift.  Immanuel, God With Us.  The Christ,  who would honor the Promise of His Father and become the sacrifice for our sin.

He would come as a new born babe, who would grow to be a man, that would lay hands on the sick and they would be healed.  He would speak to the storm and it would calm.  He would stand for justice and lift up the oppressed.  He would take a journey to a cross, where He would take His final breath.  For you.  For me.  For all.

Then take a quiet minute and let joy seep into your soul.

An Advent Journey with Mary

Preparation

 

We spend more time preparing for Christmas than actually celebrating Christmas.  Our days are filled with grocery Lists, gift lists, baking, cooking and decorating.  Let’s be honest Christmas can be a lot of work and preparation, it is also part of the fun.  For me, I enjoy the baking.

With Christmas carols playing, I roll and cut the sugar cookie dough. Soon I’m pulling out trays of warm cookies and frosting them with a thick layer of butter cream icing. It’s my happy place… a place where my young  children, nieces and nephews would gather around the table to add the sprinkles.

Just like we prepare every year to celebrate this beautiful and holy day, the Lord in His wisdom knew that Mary would need some preparation.

Her cousin, Elizabeth played a big part.   As we read in Luke Chapter 1 Elizabeth had something wonderful happen to her.  She had been barren up to this point, longing for a child of her own.  In her words, she had suffered a lifetime of reproach, of blame, she was the object of scorn or contempt from those around her. The Lord was preparing to redeem those years that she spent aching for a child.

In their old age, when it would seem impossible to have a child.  An angel appears to Zacharias telling him that Elizabeth will bear a son and his name has already been chosen, John.

He would be a child who would…

  • Would bring joy and gladness
  • Cause many would rejoice at his birth
  • Be great in the sight of the Lord
  • Not drink wine or strong drink
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
  • Turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 
  • Walk in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord

Zacharias couldn’t believe what he was hearing and for doubting his lips were sealed until the day he would name his son.

Elizabeth stayed in her home for the first five months of her pregnancy.  Why?  We wonder.  My guess, to stay away from the naysayers and doubters.  She was hanging on to her God Promise.  There are times when we must hold our God Promises, close to our heart, so that no one can bring doubt to our mind.

Elizabeth and Zacharias may have been weary of waiting and praying for a child, but the Lord was planning to give them an extraordinary child who was well worth with the wait, John the Baptist.

Elizabeth would be part of the preparation process for Mary.  Two women experiencing miracle pregnancies, they had much to discuss!

Let’s look at this precious greeting between them…

Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!  Luke 1: 39-45 Msg

Elizabeth knows and so does baby John.  The knew the were in the presence of the Messiah and both were filled with joy.  Just typing those words made my own heart leap!

Then the visiting began.  I am sure that Mary and Elizabeth laughed, ate, cried, prayed and encouraged each other.  Such a beautiful time between friends and all the while Elizabeth’s belly grew.  Reinforcing the miracle happening within her.

God knows how important friendship is.  How it encourages and strengthens us.  We see examples all through  the Bible.  We can find ourselves consumed with creating the perfect Christmas for our families that we forget our friends.  Our friendships are a treasure, we must nurture and care for them.

For me, spending time with a good friend, refreshes me in ways nothing else can.

As we light our preparation candle this week plan to reach out to a good friend.  Plan to spend time together eating, talking, laughing, even crying.  Make it a point to encourage each other, this will prepare our hearts.

Preparation

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

Hope

After almost 400 years of silence, the Lord was preparing for a big announcement.  Who would have ever thought that His first message would be to a young and  ordinary woman, named Mary.

Our lives may seem ordinary to us, I am sure Mary felt the same way.  Most likely her aspirations in life were to find a husband and have a family.  What else could there have been in life for a young woman in biblical times?

We can look at our lives the same way and we simply say, “this is my life,”  and we put a period at the end of that sentence.  Maybe, just maybe God would say, “Place a comma there, I have more.”

Prior to this big announcement, God’s people found themselves drowning in a sea of despair and hopelessness.  They had been oppressed and they had not heard a word from their God.

Gabriel, an angel of the Lord appears to Mary and he speaks,  “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

We know that Mary was startled to say the least.  What a great greeting!

  • Rejoice 
  • Highly Favored 
  • The Lord is With You
  • You Are Blessed.

I would have said, “Gabriel, tell me more!”

Oh, he did!  These words …“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.   And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; 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.”

This is where Mary’s life comma comes in.  God has so much more to add on.  I’m betting that when Mary dreamt of her future life and family, she didn’t have this in mind.

  • She would have a son, he was already named, JESUS. 
  • He would also be the son of the Highest (God),
  • He would be given the throne of King David,
  • He would reign of the House of Jacob (Israel)
  • There would be no end to his Kingdom.

That is a whole lot of information, but Mary had only one question.

She simply says this,“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

To that Gabriel said,  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.   For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Mary must have been wowed and a tad bit nervous with this unbelievable information!

  • The Holy Spirit was going to come upon her
  • The Power of God would overshadow her
  • A Holy Child, her child would be born
  • He would be the son of God

Just in case Mary was unsure about all of this… Elizabeth her cousin, who was an older woman, well past child baring age, was six months pregnant.

Elizabeth was no longer barren- For with God nothing is impossible.

(We will talk more about Elizabeth next week)

To all of that Mary said,“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” 

She simply said, “Yes Lord, yes.”

And there is was…Hope.  Hope for Mary, hope for us, hope for an entire World.

The very hope that was conceived in Mary, lives in us today. 

Mary had an encounter with God, it changed the course of her life.

Our God is longing to have an encounter with us, often we just won’t sit still long enough. What if we did?

Maybe, just maybe, we would see  the Lord replace our period with His comma.   Maybe we would say, yes Lord, yes to whatever He is asking of us.  Only He knows who’s lives will be impacted.

My challenge to myself and to you this week as we light our first Advent Candle is: Encounter God

  • Each day this week 
  • Grab your Bible, notebook and pen
  • Find a quiet place
  • For 5 minutes open your Bible read Luke 1 and 2  
  • For 5 minutes sit still and quiet in God’s presence and let those verses and word pictures stir in your heart and mind
  • For 5 minutes write down your thoughts
  • If you like, share a thought or a comment with us!

 

Hope

 

 

 

An Advent Journey with Mary

An Advent Journey

I am so excited for this Series!

Year after year I have found myself swallowed by my to do list, my grocery list and my gift list.   Christmas Eve and Christmas Day would bear down upon me and I would feel a great sadness overwhelm me.  Christmas cheer was nowhere to be found and  I had failed yet again to celebrate Jesus  the way I really wanted to. I am determined that this year will be different. Continue reading “An Advent Journey”