A Message to Mary Shows Why Jesus Came

At Christmas time many enjoy the festivities of shopping, going to church programs, and Christmas Eve services. The focus is on the joy of Christmas and songs are sung such as Silent Night and Away in the Manger and we think of the baby Jesus. Babies do not force us to deal with harsh realities. They pose no threat to us.

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When a woman has a baby, there is a special glow of love between mother and infant. Family and friends rejoice with the new mother. It is supposed to be a time of joy, but for Mary while in the midst of her joy of being with her new born child, a strong message showed the purpose of Jesus coming as a baby and what it would mean to her someday.

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple when he was 8 days old to present Him to God. Ok I have to consider the irony of that- they took Jesus, God the Son who came to earth, to the Temple to present Him to God.

Anyway, Mary and Joseph faithfully followed what they were supposed to do as Jewish parents of a new born son. They took Jesus to be circumcised. While at the temple, an old man named Simeon held Jesus in his arms. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die  until he saw the Lord’s salvation. When Simeon saw Jesus, he knew Jesus was the promised one from God. Simeon then had a message for Mary. He spoke about how Jesus would cause many in Israel to rise and fall. Jesus would be a light for all peoples. In other words- Jesus came to be our Savior. Then Simeon said something that a young mother of a newborn does not expect to hear.

He said, “and a sword will pierce your soul too” in reference to the sorrow Mary would feel when Jesus died on the cross.

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When we remember the baby Jesus, it seems a safe thing to do. We focus on a baby bringing great joy. Mary’s baby, however, grew to be a man. He was not just a man, but the Son of God. He would grow and do miracles to show His glory. He would grow and one day die on the cross for us and defeat death for us. A baby does not force us to be accountable to anything. Jesus was no ordinary baby. He is God the Son who left heaven to come to earth to die for us.

Mary got that message about the suffering of Jesus when no one would expect such a message, when Jesus was only 8 days old. However, that message shows why we have Christmas.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Whatever Jesus Does for Us Is Better Than Our Best- John Chapter 2

Here in the USA a big part of the celebration after the wedding ceremony is the wedding cake. Can you imagine how distraught the bride would be if the cake was all gone after only half the guests had some?

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Wine was a big part of celebrations when Jesus was on earth including wedding feasts. One day Jesus was at a wedding feast in Cana. A problem arose. They were out of wine.

Jesus’s mother Mary was there and brought it to Jesus’s attention. His response was:

Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

When he called her woman, it was not a sign of disrespect. It can be understood as dear woman. The rest of his response is telling.

By asking Mary-why do you involve me- Jesus acknowledges a change has taken place. He has moved into his public ministry now.

The rest of his response is the first we see of a theme thread through John of- my time has not yet come or the hour has not yet come. Jesus knows he is on a mission to be our Savior. John uses the theme thread many times in his writing.

Mary did not give up. She told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do. Jesus told them to fill the empty jars with water, Jars that were large enough to hold twenty to thirty gallons of water.

Then Jesus told them to take some out and give it to the master of the banquet. They did so and the reaction of the master of the banquet shows an important lesson for us to remember.

The reaction of the master of the banquet was:

“Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

The custom was the serve the good stuff first and the cheap stuff after people’s senses were dulled. The master of the banquet thought a mistake had been made because the wine Jesus made from water was better the the good stuff.

The lesson I see here is:

Whatever Jesus does for us is better than our best.

The result of this miracle is the second theme thread we see in John 2.

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

The disciples believed in him. Their infant faith began to grow.

We will see the two theme threads of; my time has not yet come and people believe in Jesus because of miracles as we go through John.

For now, remember:

Whatever Jesus does for you is better than your best or anyone else’s best. 🙂

Signs of Jesus Suffering When He Was A Baby

In my morning Family Literacy class, when one of the moms is pregnant, we have a baby shower for her in class. The gifts are all about babies. There are toys for babies, supplies for taking care of a baby, and other items for babies.

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Do you know what I have never seen anyone give at a baby shower? A burial insurance policy for the baby or anything to do with a funeral.

But when Jesus was born, one of the gifts given by the three Magi was myrrh. Myrrh was used for embalming. It was common to present myrrh along with gold and frankincense as gifts for a king. The purpose of myrrh was clear-for burial.

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Even through the birth of Jesus, we have a reminder of why he came. Jesus was born as a human, so he could sacrifice himself on the cross for us. He came to die for our sins.

During the baby showers, there is a lot of laughter and sharing of stories. It is a joyful occasion. The moms are all smiles. The expectant mom feels blessed by the friendship shared with her.

When babies are born and presented to friends and family, it is a joyous time.

When Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus to the temple to present him to the God and others, a man named Simeon held the baby Jesus. He spoke a blessing with a warning at the end. It is in Luke 2:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

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He prophesied of the suffering Mary would endure. No one understood it at the time, but Mary suffered agony was she stood there watching Jesus die on the cross.

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the reason for Christmas. Jesus left his throne in heaven to become a human baby for the purpose of dying for us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Thoughts About Mary Mother of Jesus

Wow here we are already. We only have 24 more days until Christmas. It is the first Sunday of Advent in traditional churches. My church is not a traditional one, but whenever Christmas draws near, I always think about Mary’s example for all of us.

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When I think about Mary embracing God’s plan for her to give birth to Jesus, there are a few points that often get overlooked. They have to do with Mary being engaged but not married to Joseph yet.

Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus, but by saying yes to God’s plan, it meant she entrusted her very life to God. In Deuteronomy 22 we read:

“If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death”

Not exactly a verse we think of for Christmas, but so important to remember. The punishment a young woman who was found not to be a virgin before she married a man was death by stoning.

So by Mary saying yes to God’s plan, she was placing her very life in his hands to protect her. That is a huge example of faith for us to follow.

In Mary’s song when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, Mary revealed that she understood that Jesus would be her Savior too. In Luke 1, we see the first words of her song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”

Mary had great faith to say yes to God’s plan for her to give birth to the Savior of the world whom she also knew would be her Savior. I can’t imagine the thoughts going through her mind in the days, weeks, months before Jesus was born.

These are the thoughts I have about Mary. She is a woman worthy of respect and a wonderful example of faith. The drama she went through is much more dynamic and full of emotion than what is shared in simple Nativity scenes.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Message for Mary Reveals Why We Have Christmas

At Christmas time many enjoy the festivities of shopping, going to church programs, and Christmas Eve services. The focus is on the joy of Christmas and songs are sung such as Silent Night and Away in the Manger and we think of the baby Jesus. Babies do not force us to deal with harsh realities. They pose no threat to us.

nativity scene christmas decor
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

When a woman has a baby, there is a special glow of love between mother and infant. Family and friends rejoice with the new mother. It is supposed to be a time of joy, but for Mary while in the midst of her joy of being with her new born child, a strong message showed the purpose of Jesus coming as a baby and what it would mean to her someday.

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple when he was 8 days old to present Him to God. Ok I have to consider the irony of that- they took Jesus, God the Son who came to earth, to the Temple to present Him to God.

Anyway, Mary and Joseph faithfully followed what they were supposed to do as Jewish parents of a new born son. They took Jesus to be circumcised. While at the temple, an old man named Simeon held Jesus in his arms. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die  until he saw the Lord’s salvation. When Simeon saw Jesus, he knew Jesus was the promised one from God. Simeon then had a message for Mary. He spoke about how Jesus would cause many in Israel to rise and fall. Jesus would be a light for all peoples. In other words- Jesus came to be our Savior. Then Simeon said something that a young mother of a newborn does not expect to hear.

He said, “and a sword will pierce your soul too” in reference to the sorrow Mary would feel when Jesus died on the cross.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When we remember the baby Jesus, it seems a safe thing to do. We focus on a baby bringing great joy. Mary’s baby, however, grew to be a man. He was not just a man, but the Son of God. He would grow and do miracles to show His glory. He would grow and one day die on the cross for us and defeat death for us. A baby does not force us to be accountable to anything. Jesus was no ordinary baby. He is God the Son who left heaven to come to earth to die for us.

Mary got that message about the suffering of Jesus when no one would expect such a message, when Jesus was only 8 days old. However, that message shows why we have Christmas.

Christmas- 2 Miracle Births Announced/2 Different Responses

How do we respond to God guiding us in life? Do we doubt him and his ability to come through only looking at our circumstances or do we respond with faith even though we are unsure how it will happen?

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2 times the Angel Gabriel appeared to announce miracle births, one time to Zechariah to announce the John the Baptist would be born even though he and his wife were old and had never had children, and one time to Mary to announce she had been chosen to have the baby Jesus even though she was a virgin. Both Zechariah and Mary had questions. The difference was in their attitude and faith behind the questions.

Zechariah answered, “How can I be sure of this?” expressing doubt in what he was being told by a messenger obviously sent from God. Zechariah had ignored the lesson from Abraham and Sarah when they had Isaac when Abraham was over 100 and Sarah was over 90. Zechariah was a priest so more was expected from him. As a result, Zechariah could not speak until John was born for doubting God’s revelation.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary she had been chosen to have the Son of God, Jesus, she asked a question that makes a lot of sense to me considering her life situation at the time. Mary was a virgin at the time, so she asked “how will this be since I am a virgin?” She was seeking clarification and once Gabriel explained it for her, she said, “I am the Lord servant. May your word be fulfilled.”

nativity scene christmas decor
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When I think about Mary’s question, I realize how many times I have had the same question when God shows me He wants me to do something.

When I think about Zechariah’s response, sadly I must confess at times I have also had doubts.

When God showed me that he wanted me to teach English while I was on a trip in Bucharest Romania in October 1999, I had limited experience at that point having only taught in a few English camps in Romania in 1997 and 1998. It was a complete change of direction for me in my life. I wondered how it would work out. I asked him to show me the way. I asked for clarification of the call. I took the first steps to begin teaching English in Lincoln and each step along the way He has guided me. I have been teaching English for seventeen years in my home city and since that trip to Bucharest have also taught in English camps in Romania and France and also in a university in Brazil.

We all have questions when God guides us. It is normal to have questions. The difference is in our attitude behind the questions. If we do not understand and want clarification from a humble heart like Mary, that is okay. If we doubt and question the message even when it is obvious it is from God, there can be consequences.

The question is do we want to follow Mary’s example of faith while asking for clarification or Zechariah’s example of doubt even in the face of something obviously from God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless

 

Music Mondays- Mary Did You Know sung by Ceelo Green

When I think about the first Christmas, it impresses me when I  think about Mary. She is an example of faith in, obedience to, and reliance on God. The Angel Gabriel shared the news from God that she had been chosen to give birth to the Son of God when she was still a virgin promised to be married to Joseph.

Saying yes to God’s plan meant she was entrusting herself, her safety, and the safety of the baby Jesus to God because in that culture at that time, she could have been stoned to death for being pregnant outside of her engagement covenant with Joseph.

She knew some of the plan that Jesus would be the Son of God. In her song when she met her cousin Elizabeth she said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”

so she knew Jesus would be her Savior and the Savior of the world.

But as with any calling from God, the whole story is revealed step by step. Steps Mary walked through in life with Jesus.

Think about what Mary witnessed first hand, the birth of Jesus, his first miracle at Cana and other miracles, his death, and his resurrection. She is the only human being to have witnessed Jesus on earth from birth to death to resurrection.

I like this video I found of the song Mary Did You Know because the scenes show the whole story about Jesus and his earthly life.

Think of it, Jesus went through all of it because he loves us. The whole story about Jesus from birth, to death by crucifixion, the resurrection is what Christmas is really all about and Mary witnessed most of it first hand. She is an excellent example of faith in God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Christmas Season- Birth of Jesus Makes Me Think about the Refugees I Serve

At Christmas time many will go to Christmas Eve Services and focus on the baby Jesus. We have a peaceful, calm experience and leave with a special feeling. That is wonderful,

nativity scene christmas decor
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but how many of us leave remembering the turmoil involved surrounding the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had to seek shelter in a stable. Jesus was born where animals were housed.

One aspect of the WHOLE Christmas saga that I was reflecting upon is the fact that Mary and Joseph had to hurriedly flee Bethlehem because Herod’s soldiers were seeking to kill the baby Jesus.

food city man person
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The angel came to Joseph in a dream and warned him to get up, take Mary and the baby Jesus and get out of town fast because the King’s soldiers were coming. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt and lived there until they were told it was safe to return due to Herod’s death.

Herod did in fact send his troops into Bethlehem and the cruel and sadistic soldiers killed every male baby and toddler. It was a horrific scene and the bible speaks of the cries of the mothers in Matthew 2:

“”A voice in heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”

Evil was seeking to kill Jesus even when He was a baby and evil savagely killed all of the boys 2 and under. That is why the angel told Joseph and take Mary and Jesus and get out NOW.

As I thought about this, I also thought about the refugees that I work with and how they too had to flee evil. Refugees from Sudan who fled to refugee camps in Kenya or Ethiopia to escape government troops trying to kill them. I thought about refugees from Burma who fled to Thailand and had kids. Most of the young ones under 25 never even saw their homeland because they were born in refugee camps. I thought of those who fled to escape Sadaam in Iraq. I thought of my Yazidi friends who fled from the genocide in August 2014. I thought of my Mandean friends who left Iran because of religious persecution and oppression.

Suffering has gone on for a long time. Even in the danger of the first Christmas, there was hope. Hope because Jesus came to bring us hope and to bring us back to God. His birth did not end the evil and suffering, not yet anyway, but His birth did bring God to us and began the process by which God will one day bring His kingdom to earth and there will be no more suffering. Until then or for what time I have left here, my desire is to bring His love to those who have suffered.

God Reminded Me of His Power Through a Baby.

On Sunday morning I visited my friends at their Ukrainian church, House of Prayer,  to join them for worship. It was a special weekend for them, so I was glad to join them.

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I needed to step out for a moment and when I walked to the door to leave the worship center, a baby was crawling to get out the door that was cracked open briefly when kids went out. The door was about to shut on the baby. His father put his hand on the door and I picked up the baby and handed him to his father. Possible disaster averted.

For the baby it would have been impossible to stop the door from closing on him and injuring him. The baby was in danger. For me it was no big thing to pick the baby up and out of harms way.

God kept reminding me of it yesterday, so I began to reflect what happened.

For us, much like the baby, there are obstacles, problems, and difficulties that seem hard if not impossible to overcome in our own power. For God nothing is too big, too difficult, too hopeless. God can easily pick us up out of harms way. It makes me think of the simple yet profound truth the Angel Gabriel shared with Mary when she asked how it could be possible for her to have the baby Jesus when she was a virgin. Part of Gabriel’s response was:

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Jesus defeated death through his resurrection- nothing is impossible for God.

All of creation was created by God- nothing is impossible for God.

Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few fish- nothing is impossible for God.

The list goes on endlessly because nothing is impossible for God.

Dear reader whatever circumstance we are in, nothing is impossible for God.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

 

Moms Are Heroes of the Common Everyday That Make Up Life

Growing up in a family with a mentally ill mother, Mother’s Day was always a day that I dreaded each year as I would see happy families celebrating their mothers. They always seemed so lucky and I would wonder why I had the one I had. Her moods were unpredictable and she was highly manipulative.

After coming to Christ, I began observing people in church and in life. I have always taken note of moms with their kids not because I was looking for a mom, but because I wanted to understand. What have I taken away from observations? Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens.

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Every weekday morning during the school year, I watch the moms in my class have the courage to study a difficult language to learn, English,  because they want to help their children. I am an eye witness of their daily effort to help their kids. They are low income, but they do the best they can to have a safe and nurturing home for their children.

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I have a friend at church whose husband died of cancer and watched from afar her courage as she kept her kids going through extremely hard times. One of her sons just sang with his high school choir at Carnegie Hall. She has one son in college, one about to begin college, and one in high school the one who is in the school choir. My friend faced the day to day struggles of being a single mom and trusting Jesus in the struggles. She had to be the only ‘taxi’ driver in the family, the only one to take them to doctors’ appointments, the only one to discipline when needed and encourage when needed.

The list could go on to become several books if I listed each mother that has impressed me with the way she has faced the common everyday things in life, hardships, sickness, school problems etc that her children have had. Moms are heroes of the common everyday stuff where life happens and also heroes of the big things.

Moms know pain, not just the physical pain of childbirth, but also the spiritual, emotional, and mental pain of raising children in the down times. This makes me think of Mary the Mother of Jesus when Jesus was only 8 days old in his earthly life and a man told her, “a sword will pierce your soul too” to indicate that she would suffer grief and sorrow because of Jesus. She was there watching him die on the cross. She experienced great pain.

Moms know the joy of seeing their children grow and develop and the joy of seeing their kids succeed at something for the first time. Moms know the joy of adult kids coming to visit them after being gone for a long time. Can you imagine the joy Mary had when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection?

So if you are a mom and reading this, Happy Mother’s Day to you.