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The wisemen were the next ones to arrive on the scene

The wise men were the next ones to arrive on the scene with Mary and Joseph.
We often see the manger story with them near the manger; where Mary had the baby, that is actually not accurate.
In Matthew 2 we find a different kind of story.
vs 2: About that time (when Jesus was born) some wise men (or maji) from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star (or star in the east) as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was the whole land.
He called a meeting leading priest and teachers of the law and asked,
“Where is this Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: vs 6b “a ruler will come from you O Bethlehem, who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.”
“Then Herod told the wise men to go to Bethlehem and search for him, come back and tell me so I can worship him too.”
vs 9: After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star in the east guided them to Bethlehem.
It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star they were filled with joy!
They entered the house [notice it is not a manger scene] and saw the child with Mary his mother, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh.
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
vs 13: After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
“Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said, “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother and stayed there until Herod’s death.
[I don’t know how long that was for them but it was very important for them to stay away as long as possible.]
The wise men were the next ones in the story, to complete the cast of characters surrounding the birth of Jesus.

The prophecy of Anna the prophet

The prophecy of Anna the prophet came right after the meeting with Simeon.
Anna was a prophet who lived in the same Temple Mary and Joseph went to when they dedicated Jesus.
It tells us in Luke 2:36 that she was very old, similar to Simeon.
Most likely she knew him as they were in the same setting for a very long time.
She was a widow for eighty four years and lived in the Temple and never left there after her husband died.
The word said she had been married seven years before he died.
She worshipped and prayed day and night worshipping God with fasting and prayer.
She came near the room where Simeon was talking to Mary and Joseph and we are told she began to praise and worship God.
I often wonder how would she know this was the child, the baby Jesus? The one they waited for.
Did he look different? was there an aura around him or maybe a deep confirmation in her heart about him?
She talked about the child to every one around her who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
Not long after that Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth in Galilee where Jesus grew filled with wisdom and God’s favor was on him.
[I find it fascinating that both Simeon and Anna were able to SEE and meet Mary and Joseph and fulfill parts of the story.
God uses ordinary people to set the stage and allows us to see and feel the great anticipation for the coming Messiah.
I often wonder if Mary and Joseph ever truly ‘got it’…
the word said Mary hid it in her heart and thought about them often.
That would be a very amazing amount of remembering for her.
Could she really know deep in her heart that her baby was the Messiah, the Savior who would come to save the world?]
The prophecy of Anna continued to set the stage for many other scenes to come as the story unfolds.

Jesus was presented in the Temple

Jesus was presented in the temple eight days after he was born, and he was circumcised as was the custom and given the proper name.
The name Jesus, the name given to him by the angel even before he was conceived.
His parents took him to the temple for a purification offering in Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
The law required a first child who was a son to be dedicated to the Lord.
Luke 2:25
At the time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.
He was an old man who had waited his entire life for the Messiah to come rescue Israel.
The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
That day the Spirit led him to the Temple.
So when Mary and Joseph came to present baby Jesus, Simeon was there.
He took the baby in his arms and praised God, saying,
“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,
“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.”
[Can you even imagine the moment Simeon saw the baby? With great anticipation and confirmation in his spirit, this is the ONE.
Have you ever anxiously waited for something and when it finally happened your JOY was complete?
I believe Simeon was like that. Now I have seen him. Now I can release myself and leave this world knowing that I saw HIM.
Just as it was promised to me.]
Jesus was presented in the temple to fulfill more of the prophecy surrounding his birth.

The night there were shepherds

The night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
Luke2:9-20
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.
They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid! he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior-yes the Messiah, The Lord has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven-praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph.
And there was the baby, lying in a manger.
After seeing him the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.
All who heard the shepherds story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
It was just as the angel had told them.
[We must remember a part of this story is the shepherds were marginalized people. Not what we could call credible witnesses and yet; the people listened and believed them.
I wonder if God knew they were to be chosen so the story could be told in an amazing way through those who normally would not be listened to by others.
Value is always given when God has a hand in a chosen moment. They were given value and purpose and a reason to share. Isn’t that hopeful for others who seem to think they have no voice?]
The night there were shepherds staying in the fields and their lives would be changed forever.

When Joseph woke up from his dream

When Joseph woke up from his dream he did what the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
But he did not have relations with her until her son was born and Joseph named him Jesus. (Matthew 1:24)
Luke 2 we learn of the birth of Jesus.
At the time of Jesus birth there was a census that was called and all the people were to return to their ancestral town to register for this census.
And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem, in Judea David’s ancient home.
He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first born child, a son.
She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available to them.
[Now let’s stop here for a second.]
There was no lodging available because of the census and there were many people in the town.
Also it sounds so simple the way Luke writes it but I would imagine it was not that simple.
If I think of both Mary and Joseph; they would be tired after all that traveling and perhaps feeling a bit desperate to settle in for the night.
Maybe Mary was already in labor and giving Joseph the full details of what she had shared and experienced with Elizabeth while watching John’s birth.
We can only guess and imagine what it was like for this young ‘mommy’ to be and this dad who would be responsible for the ‘Son of God.’
Both were chosen and both were given a role like no other and a place in history for ever.
When Joseph woke up from his dream he knew what he needed to do and he married his wife Mary.

A few days later after the angel met

A few days later after the angel met with Mary, she hurried to the hill country of Judea to see Elizabeth.
I am not sure how far that was to walk but it says she hurried, so it was a fast exit out of Galilee to Judea.
The story unfolds like this in Luke 1
When Elizabeth saw Mary and greeted her, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth gave a good cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.
Why am I so honored, that the Mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.
You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
Now let us stop for a second.
This is Elizabeth, a relative of Mary’s who has known her all her life. Can you imagine the moment between them?
Mary’s response to her was amazing.
It is called the Magnificat: Mary’s song of praise
Found in Luke 1:46-56
When she was finished with her praise and honor she stayed with Elizabeth; about three months and then went back to her own home.
I am not sure about her own family, or her responses from Joseph or even if HE knew or not.
What I do know is the angel met with Joseph. In the book of Matthew chapter 1 vs 19
Joseph, her fiancé was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
“Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(fulfilling prophecy from the Old Testament)
A few days later after the angel met with Mary she saw Elizabeth.
Perhaps even stayed there long enough to see John born, the time frame would certainly be about right for the delivery.

When Elizabeth was six months along

When Elizabeth was six months along with John, an angel met with Mary who was engaged to be married Joseph.
Gabriel appeared to her in Luke 1:28 and he said, “greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.!”
Now we must stop for a second and remember she was only 16, not quite a woman; but God knew.
It said she was, Confused and disturbed as she thought about what the angel had said to her.
Wouldn’t that be the normal response when hearing a greeting like that?
The other thing to remember women who were pregnant and not married were often stoned to death.
It was a serious issue not only for her, Joseph and the families involved.
She must have had many questions and concerns.
Then the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”
Mary asked the angel, “How can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the baby to be born will be holy, and will be called the Son of God.
What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!
People used to say she was barren, but now she is in her sixth month.
For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary’s response to the angel was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true,”
Then the angel left her.
{I truly think the angel brought the news about Elizabeth to Mary so she would believe more intensely and with more reality. She knew Elizabeth was old and barren. She also knew she must go see her and see for herself what the angel had said.}
When Elizabeth was six months along with John, Mary went to visit her.

When I think of the Christmas story

When I think of the Christmas story; I am in awe and in amazement of the amount of players that were used to create the scenes.
It is orchestrated like a screen play with every one doing every little part to make the whole, story complete.
God was so wise to use a simple teenager, and a humble man.
It was perhaps a love story that would be tested from the moment the angel met with Mary.
She was a teen, so young and being told. “You are to be the chosen one.”
She had a tender heart full of acceptance and honor.
Can you even imagine how it started? Being startled by an angel in the room?
Don’t be afraid. (Of course he would have to say that!) I would be terrified.
I have always been amazed over the fact that the angel spoke in a language Mary could understand.
I wonder if sometimes WE get an angel among us telling us things that we hear, but not realizing Who was telling us?
Mary was the chosen one to be the Mother of Jesus.
In Luke 1: The story is written and played out and it unravels with each and every character.
The beginning of it began with Zechariah and Elizabeth who were relatives of Mary.
It was the miracle before the miracle.
Their son, John would be born before Jesus.
Elizabeth was barren for many years and then Zechariah was told they would have a son.
He didn’t believe the angel and so the angel told him to be quiet until the birth took place.
I don’t blame him for doubting, that would be the reaction of many in the same situation.
But God… can do miracles.
A miracle before the miracle.
When I think of the Christmas story I am always in awe of the details and the obedience.
It was all taking place so the day of delivery could happen.

I will praise the name of God with a song

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30 RSVEnter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:4-5 NRSV
When I read these words it is a great reminder that Thanksgiving is not just a day for good food, and being with family or friends.
It is a day for perspective of giving thanks.
I will SING the NAME of God with a song. I will MAGNIFY HIM with Thanksgiving.
(Those are action words…it requires our participation)
Enter his gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
(Go into the sanctuary whatever that may be, an old church or a gym) it doesn’t matter just go with the intention of praise.
Give THANKS to him. BLESS his name
(for we have so much to be thankful for and we are so blessed)
It is a perspective of Thanks.
When someone does something really special for you, it is a common courtesy to write a thank you note to express to that person; what it meant for you to receive.
How can we not do that for God?
Give THANKS with a grateful heart, Give Thanks to the HOLY ONE.
(Who by the way made a way for you and I to receive GRACE)
I love to sing worship and praise songs; it is one thing that will touch my spirit deeply.
To add to that good old Southern Gospel does that too.
I think every church no matter what kind; has books of hymnals or songs of praise on the white pull down boards.
Songs bring us to the place of listening. A place of worship. A thankful place. A place of receiving.
Without God’s intervention we would not have a place of forgiveness.
That in itself is a big one to be thankful for.
Soon we will be sitting around our table with those we care for and love and we will remember to give thanks.
For the blessings we have received, I will praise the name of God with a song.
Maybe for once we can sing the doxology together.

click onto the above link.

When I think of what we can be thankful for

When I think of what we can be thankful for it is easy to make a list and then be done with it.
Not so easy my friend, we must really take in and consider all the many blessings we have surrounding us.
First of all, we live in houses that have heat. We can go to a thermostat and turn it up or down.
Some people do not have that choice.
Second of all, we have fresh running water to make coffee or brush our teeth or shower.
Some people do not have that choice.
We have facilities within our home that keep us clean, such as bathrooms, dishwashers or laundry.
Some people do not have that choice.
We woke up in a warm comfortable bed with clean sheets and warm blankets and soft pillows.
Some people do not have that choice.
We made our breakfast from food that was kept safe in a refrigerator that is cold with an oven that is warm.
Some people do not have that choice.
We walk on clean soft carpeting, as we look out a window that is open to the outside; yet it keeps us safe inside.
Some people do not have that choice.
At any point in time we can get into our car and drive down the road to a grocery store for fresh goods.
Some people do not have that choice.
Are you beginning to get the picture of how blessed we are? How fortunate we are? How thankful we should be?
Not to put a should upon you or me, but so often we complain and get frumpy for no real reason.
We have nothing to complain about when we think of others in different situations that is not our reality.
Inconveniences for us would be a major blessing to some of them.
Not to use the ‘them and us’ concept but you understand what I mean?
When I think of what we can be thankful for it is easy to make a list and be done with it.
May I challenge us all to think more clearly and with more intentions?