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The census and the birth

The Birth of Jesus
[2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2 This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.]

She had her baby in an animal barn, using the manger for a bed fulfilling scripture and also she had to have been very tired from all the walking and riding on a donkey.
We don’t know if Joseph helped her or if another ‘local’ lady coached her in her labor and delivery.
We do know she was young and most likely scared, only having Joseph helping her.
I cannot imagine what was going on in her heart and spirit.
For any new mom giving birth is not only an emotional time but also a time of connection with your ‘baby’.
Mary would have been not any different than any other new mom.
Her son was born. Perhaps flashbacks of the angel appeared in her mind of the ‘foretelling’ of a baby to be called Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us.
It was HER son… and when she cuddled him and held him; HE was also ‘God’ looking at her with ‘eyes’ of love.
One cannot imagine the night of this HOLY birth.
I am sure she felt different and wondering about so much; the word tells us,
“she treasured all that she heard in her heart.”
The heart of a mama. Mary the young ‘unknown’ will be known throughout history.
It was just beginning for them now. Mary and Joseph and the little baby born in a stable.
On this Holy Night, a child was born and a son was changing the world forever.

Joseph accepts his role

Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
[18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:
His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.]

This reads all so simply but in reality it was probably a very confusing time for him.
Can you imagine being a righteous man who finds out the one you are ‘engaged to be married’ is now pregnant?
He could have done what he desired, to leave her quietly and divorce her, but he also knew in those days she would be stoned for that was the law of the land at that time.
It was a choice HE made to stay with her, and to walk beside her, and to be with her in this time of stress.
It was a protection for her and also a form of obedience for him for the angel had said, “don’t be afraid, it’s all going to be alright.”
I love this part of the story for not only he becomes her ‘partner’ but HE chose to be a part of this miraculous birthing process.
The story continues and acceptance plays a role.

Mary’s response a declaration of life

After hearing Elizabeth’s reaction and excitement over her own tiny little baby; we find Mary’s response as she listened when she said ‘the mother of my Lord’.
Mary’s Song Luke1:
46 And Mary said:
[“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.]
I have often wondered if Mary stayed there till John was born and perhaps learned how to deal with labor and delivery.
In those times they did not have fancy ‘delivery’ rooms like we have now.
It could have been very primitive and very private.
We are not told. We just know Elizabeth was old and this was a pregnancy chosen by God to be special.
Mary returns home to where Joseph was and the story continues.

I have often wondered

I have often wondered how the visit between Mary and Elizabeth played out.
Remember Mary is ‘with child’ and Elizabeth is also. Like most expectant mom’s the desire to encourage and or compare experiences with each other would be for them too. Both were expecting miraculous babies.
Both were amazed at the news and the power of the Spirit from on high.
I could just see or imagine how Mary would ask to feel Elizabeth’s tummy and the movement of the baby to be.
I find it amazing and hopeful that even in the word God showed value to unborn little ones.
It tells us how JOHN leaped in the womb upon hearing Mary’s voice. They have done studies about the unborn how they react or respond to music or stimuli. This was no different.
I wonder if Mary stayed with Elizabeth because she was accepting of her and maybe there were problems at home? Certainly Joseph had to have an agreement for her to travel to see Elizabeth.
We are never told about Mary’s family and their reaction to her ‘pregnancy.’
To be expecting and not be married would be a very serious crime meaning one could lose their life.
If Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary saw her, John would be close to Jesus age as they grew up.
He was also called to fulfil and used to proclaim the news about ‘the Lord.’
Amazing stories and an awesome God to choose a young teen and a old lady to fulfill the prophecy of a coming Savior.

Mary visits Elizabeth

In the book of Luke chapter 1:
[26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”]
Remember GOD SENT the angel Gabriel to where Mary was. It was a Choice.
[29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”]
{We have to remember the genealogy of Jesus, Yes He was fully God but also Joseph had to be in the lineage.}
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.
37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”]
There is so much wonder in these passages.
Mary knew her aunt was barren so to hear she had a child coming, would have been a sign for her to believe in her own ‘miracle baby.’
I think that is why she rushed to see Elizabeth. To see and know for sure, was this true?’
Her response was a choice. Her response was normal.
Her response was amazing. “I am the Lord’s servant.”

It was a choice

There are many factors that make the Christmas Story as I shared before; the orchestration of people create the whole in depth story of Hope.
God through His DEEP love for us created a way for a Savior to come to restore peace and give life to a dying world.
In the book of John it says:
“For God so loved the world that HE gave his one and only Son so that whoever chooses to believe in him will have everlasting life.”
It was a choice for God to send His Son who was fully God, fully human, fully Spirit in the form of a baby.
Like in an orchestra, each had a part; each has a ‘place’ in the story.
We all have heard the nativity story.
How Mary was a young teen and how the Holy Spirit came upon her after the angel told her she would be the ‘chosen one.’
Mary had heard the story over and over of a Savior to come someday; but she surely would not have considered herself to be the one bringing him life.
Before we learn about Mary; we find Zachariah and Elizabeth and their miraculous baby who would become John, and the cousin of Jesus.
[5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.
7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.]
8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,
9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.
13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,
15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”]
19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.
22 When he came out, he could not speak to them.
They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home.
24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.
25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”]
The story shows us so much already. Three players already mentioned and chosen.

December 1st – The beginning of Christmas

It’s hard to believe it’s December 1st already.
The older I get I sense the passing of time like a wind that blows one year into the next.
Life as we know it keeps us busy.
Routines are good and healthy and so are the goals we set for ourselves both individually and as a couple.
One of my goals is to keep on track with my writing and I remind myself that this is the time for the Christmas series again.
The words must move to a new level of exploring the message for us one more year.
The Christmas story is not one we can get tired of reading. It is the showing of the heart of God.
It is an orchestration of God creating an opportunity for us to have and receive a Savior as an outpouring of His intense love and willingness to let go.
We cannot read the story lightly for without the Christmas story, Hope would not be approachable for us.
There were many characters who were involved and it amazes me how beautiful it presents itself.
As we move with the characters and journey along I pray we find new awareness and new insight of what we have always believed and what we know to be true.
I am not an expert on scripture so if something doesn’t seem right check it out for yourself.
There is great depth to the story and the hymns and carols we often find ourselves listening to and singing.
As we begin this month of remembering may we challenge ourselves to learn more and see differently.
The power and wonder of the Christmas Story.A book written by a friend of mine, you can find it on Amazon.

Through storms, we still give thanks – guest post


Through storms, give thanks
November 21, 2017
This post was written last November as we explored the act of giving thanks.
Sharon Osterhoudt wrote such eloquent and encouraging words on giving thanks in the storms of our lives (could we even add in the busyness in our lives?).
We thought it would be a great post to revisit in this week of thanks.
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The other day, as I looked outside, I noticed the wind blustery and pounding with rain pouring down in many directions, as the darkened clouds cracked the skies with thunderous roars.  Watching it inside a warm home, listening to the roar of the wet as it fell onto the brown grass, I was giving thanks.
God gives us examples every day of letting go and remaining steadfast.  The force of the wind gave the trees no choice but to let go of the remaining leaves that once held on, transforming the limbs to empty, barren sticks.  The moment left me in awe of how we “have to let go” just as that tree limb to its leaves.  Life’s forces slap us from one side to the other at times and we have no choice but to let go, and release our grip to what was familiar.
I was gently reminded of so much that we have to be thankful for.  That God gives us tangible lessons to see and observe.  That in the letting go we actually receive new, as time permits.  In order for the trees to prepare for the growth in the spring, they must let go in the fall.  It has to take place.
As I think of this, I am reminded to give thanks for the hard and difficult times for they prepare us to praise Him in the good and peaceful times.  In the midst of trials and struggles and questions, He prepares us for the Power of his Glory.  Oh, it’s hard to remember to give thanks when we are hit hard with the storms.  It is hard to stand strong when the wind hits us and the rains dampen our spirits.  But we must always remember, after a storm, often there is a rainbow.
A promise that we can look up and give thanks.  We can open our eyes and our hearts to the One who is in control of all things.  Some times we remain, shaken, but even in those times we can give thanks.  Without the pause and reflection, we lose the sacred moment of the lesson.  When life hits really hard, it is good to know God is taking care of us.
“Give thanks, to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever.”  Jeremiah 33:11

Sharon Osterhoudt has been married for over 44 years. She has two grown ‘children’ and six grand children.
She and her husband have attended Grace chapel now for over ten years.

Let’s take time to remember

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks.
It is also a time for family, friends, food and drinks and most important conversation around the warm fire.
One year we tried a new tradition; before we ate the ‘meal’ we went around the table and said what we are most thankful for.
It keeps the perspective of the day as a posture of being thankful not just eating and watching football.
(which I do not like to do)
I really love the tradition of making memories.
Before we do that we have to return to making lists and figuring out what will be on the table.
Meal preparation can be days before the big meal, this year we already ordered the turkey off the farm.
I feel kind of bad it will be processed a few days before we cook it.
The reality is; it will give it’s life for our table. (hard to think about)
Then what else goes with it? potatoes, gravy, dressing, green beans (no casserole) just fresh beans, relish plate, cranberries made fresh, homemade pumpkin and maybe apple pie with real whipping cream.
Always a glass of wine, coffee and fresh water.
The menu cannot change as the grand children love the traditional meal.
I cook the dressing in a separate baking dish not inside the turkey the way some people do.
This year will be a little different as we will be getting new windows the day before and it might be messy.
I like to dress up a bit, not just jeans and whatever top, the tradition of a festive meal calls out for nice clothing.
Thanksgiving, is a time for slowing down.
Perhaps as we make a list for the meal we also can make a list of who we are thankful for and send out cards.
Mail is a dying way of correspondence now and to receive a hand written letter or card is priceless.
It adds meaning to the special time of year and gives depth in our relationships.
What do you do in anticipating the festive meal?
Let’s take time and remember the real reason we set a day aside for Thanksgiving.

Traditions around the holidays

I mentioned already that we used to have very special traditions around the holidays when we went to our grandparents house.
After my husband and I got married we established new traditions as a couple.
The first mistake we made was to spend our first thanksgiving holiday as a couple with his family.
It created a lot of ‘feelings’ and after that we decided where to spend our time during the holiday seasons.
My family didn’t really do anything on Easter and they always did Christmas on Christmas Eve.
So we set it up that Easter and Christmas day would be his side of the family and Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve for my side.
It worked wonderful when we had children as I was determined to not drag them to different homes with different foods.
Good way to have sick kids and I was not going to do that to any of us.
Now that our children have grown, we still have our traditions only they have changed to adapt to the ‘grandchildren’.
We always have an Easter dinner. That is a tradition and anyone is free to join us.
We always have a big brunch on Christmas morning at some point in time we have had up to over 20 around the table.
I love to use china and pretty glasses, and we have old country rose dishes for Thanksgiving.
Then I purchased Christmas china dishes for brunch.
I love to see a beautiful table with pretty flowers and a fire in the fireplace warming the room.
Traditions for the holidays are so important.
Now that we are writing down a list of important things in our lives, what would your traditions be?
What is negotiable and what is not?
It’s important to know what you need for family and for peace in the holidays.
I am not one to over pressure our ‘grown’ children to be here for the mealtime.
They are making their own traditions and at some point in time my husband and I might be alone.
Restaurants make wonderful meals and if you choose a nicer one the meal can be a real treat.
I challenge you to figure out what your traditions are then do what you can to make that happen.
We can make our holidays full of tension or we can make them very peaceful by deciding what is most important.
It’s really a matter of choice and decisions for each family.