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Christmas grace

Over lunch this week, we sat side by side. In between bites of pork loin and vegetables, we chatted, our conversation never faltering. It was like a tennis game, each of us taking our turn talking and listening.

It is the way of women.

As I meditate upon Mary’s visit to Elizabeth her relative, so many questions circle in my mind. I want more details. What is left untold is left to the imagination.

Mary hurried to the town in the hill country of Judea? What was her hurry? I have my thoughts. People didn’t believe her story of an angel’s visitation, of the Holy Spirit coming upon her, of a pregnancy before she and Joseph were husband and wife. But perhaps Elizabeth would. She was the recipient of her own miracle.

The long journey on foot would have been weary for young Mary. Perhaps she sighed with relief when the house finally came into view. Longing for some refreshment and a place to rest, she knocked on the door.

Elizabeth greeted her and then the joy happened all around them. The presence of the Holy Spirit surrounded the young and the aged and the babes in their wombs. The atmosphere was electric, and their faith in a God who works wonders united in explosive praise.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” — Luke 1:45, NIV

When we believe, we are blessed. When we believe, we honor the God who promised. When we believe, we encourage one another. When we believe, the Holy Spirit is powerful in us.

What are you believing for this day? Does it seem impossible? Have you been waiting long?

“Who has believed and confidently trusted in, relied on, and adhered to our message of salvation? And to whom, if not us, has the arm and infinite power of the Lord been revealed?” — Isaiah 53:1, Amplified Bible

Sometimes we need to gather together and believe with each other. Let faith arise. Let God be exalted Encourage one another with words of confidence and trust in a Mighty Savior.

“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” — Luke 1:46, 47, KJV

Sunday grace.

 

Image result for google images mary and elizabeth

Christmas grace

I remember becoming engaged. The excitement of it. Showing off the ring. Gathering my trousseau. Conversations with my mother that only women understand. The look on Sweet William’s face.

It was a time of anticipation, and my dream of becoming a wife and then later a mother was coming true. And that is what I had wanted since I was a little girl playing with my dolls and setting up my pretend house.

Did Mary feel the same?

Matthew 1:13 tell us Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph.

Her situation was similar yet different. In first century A.D. marriages were arranged by the parents. Mary didn’t get to “fall in love” or “find her soul mate.”  A contract was drawn up and covenant confirmed by both families. It was done.

Marriage was the hoped for dream of a young Jewish woman, to have a husband to take care of her and provide a home for her. And they would pray for children. Mary would expect to bear a child.

Neither Mary nor I had any idea what the future would bring.

None of us ever do. We dream, make plans, follow through with our promises, and begin walking out the life we hoped for, the perfect little white cottage with the picket fence and a life of happiness.

The unfolding of our days never plays out exactly like that.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways, “

God’s plan is so much loftier, elevated, immense, huge. It is deeper than we can fathom. It is wider than our minds can comprehend

Mary expected a normal Jewish life, the way she had seen it lived out in her mother, her aunts, and the women of her community.

But God had grander things in His infinite mind. Plans that would take Mary on a journey she never could have imagined. Plans that would embrace a world in need of a Savior.

God’s plans for me have been surprising, unexpected, even unwelcome by my limited viewpoint. While I hoped for a flower-strewn pathway, the road has often been rough and rocky, an uphill climb, a test of endurance.

I am comforted by the promises made to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. . . . 
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

Like Mary, God tells me not to be afraid. He says I am loved and cherished. He promises the Holy Spirit will be with me and in me, to comfort, guide, and teach. I have assurance that nothing is impossible with God and that He is faithful to His promises.

Can I respond to the mystery of the unknown like Mary did?

“Behold,I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

I want to. I bow my face before a Holy God in surrender to His will and His plan for the rest of my wild and wonderful life.

And this is my assurance and consolation, that we will walk together.

Image result for mary and the angel, the nativity movie

Even then

When the chestnuts get burned on the open fire,

When Jack Frost leaves painful frostbite in his wake,

When the carolers are singing off key,

And we shake with the cold of depression, sickness, loneliness, or strained relationships,

When bellies are empty and hearts are too,

And the season does not seem bright or happy or fun any more,

When kids want more and adults can’t be satisfied either,

And we find it hard to sleep at night because of heartache, fears and worries that dance in our heads,

Even then.

Even then God is good.  Even then He is enough.

If He never gives me another gift, He has given Himself and that is more than I deserve.

He is enough, completely by Himself, fully satisfying my deepest longings.

Nothing I desire compares to the manifold richness of His offered presence.

He came to be near.  Emmanuel.  The “with us God.

He put on a robe of flesh to identify.  He suffered, hungered, felt lonely and rejected, became so bone weary He slept through a raging storm.

He prayed for relief, then willingly submitted to the ultimate Will.

He bled and died to bring sweet relief, to open the door of access to the Father, to offer undeserved grace more than sufficient.

He rose to life with a promise that I can live, here and now with fullness, and in another world when immortality replaces the mortal.

He is enough.  No matter what.

Christmas Grace.

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With us

And His name shall be called Emmanuel.

emmanuel

The Hebrew interpretation is “with us God.”

A God who is with us.  Think about it.  Let it sink down into your soul.  The greatest One with whom there is no comparison or equal wants to be with us.  Us.  Us the created.  The fallen ones.  The sinful.  The reprobates.

It is beyond me to understand this.  And yet it is a primary truth in the Christmas story.  A baby is promised and His name shall be called Emmanuel.

After 400 years of heavenly silence, a word comes.  A word from God.  Though the silence was deafening, He had not forgotten or forsaken His people.  He was sending Someone to be with us.  And that Someone will be small, helpless, defenseless.  He will need someone to care for Him.  Those “someones” will be the reprobates and sinners.

And I ask Mary’s question, “How can this be?”

Only a love beyond measure can explain it.  Even then I am unable to comprehend that kind of love.  My love is no match to it.

The greatest gift of Christmas is the With Us God who came to earth.  He gave us Himself.Christmas-Ribbon-Tree

Let every heart prepare Him room.

Make space for Him.  Unwrap the Gift and behold the glory.  Take the Gift and receive the grace and beauty offered.

The With Us God has come.

 

He comes

baby jesus

He comes, this infant God.

He comes as helpless babe to take our burden of guilt.

He comes, a sleeping child, to give us rest.

He comes to bring joy to the broken hearted.

He comes to deliver the captive.

He comes, the Word made flesh, to bring Truth.

He comes to restore, to make beauty from ashes.

He comes with love, offering Himself.

When He comes, will you receive Him?

He comes.

Sunday grace.  Christmas grace.