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The wise men were the next ones to arrive

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.
beginning in 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.
(These gifts were symbolic of what was to come.)
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 to arrive on the scene with Mary and Joseph.

The prophesy of Anna the prophetess came

The prophecy of Anna the prophetess came right after Simeon met Joseph, Mary and the baby.
Anna 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 may have been between the ages of 90-104 having been married so long.
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 imagine her walking by and noticing this scene with Simeon perhaps overhearing his words proclaimed.
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 everyone 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?]
There is a song that is played this time of year called, Mary did you know?
It is a wonderful song with many questions.
The prophecy of Anna came right after Simeon met Joseph and Mary and the baby.
It continued to set the stage for many other scenes to come as the story unfolds of his birth.
The prophecy of Anna the prophetess came to be completed on that day.

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.”
I love this story about Simeon. He waited and prayed, and every day wondered.
Would this be the day?
[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 staying

The night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
Luke 2:9-20
[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 leaving their flocks behind and found Mary and Joseph.
And there was the baby, lying in a manger, just as they were told.
After seeing him the shepherds told everyone in the village, what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.
All who heard the shepherd’s 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.]
Can you even imagine the excitement and the joy they must have felt?
They all saw it, they all heard it, they all were a part of the glorious singing.
We must remember a part of this story, is the fact that shepherds were marginalized people.
Most people left them alone and gave them no credit or worth.
They were out in the fields, dirty and rough. Left alone.
But God…chose them, chose them to be a part of the story forever in time.
They were not what we could call credible witnesses and yet; the people listened and believed them.
I wonder if God planned for them 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.

The angel of the lord met with Joseph

The angel of the lord met with Joseph, just like he met with Mary.
He told Joseph, Mary was expecting, and it was from the Holy Spirit and when the baby was born, his name was to be Jesus.
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 forever.
When Joseph woke up from his dream, he knew what he needed to do, and he married his wife, Mary.The angel of the lord met with Joseph, just like he met with Mary.

A few days later after the angel met with Mary

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 how the news was received.
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)
Perhaps while Mary was visiting Elizabeth John was born, the time frame would certainly be about right for the delivery.
A few days later, after the angel met with Mary she left to be with Elizabeth.

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 to 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, for Joseph and their 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.

It was all taking place to complete the story

It was all taking place to complete the story.
When I think of the Christmas story; I am in awe and in amazement of the number of players that were used to create the scenes.
It is orchestrated like a screen play with everyone doing every little part, to make the whole, story complete.
God was so wise to use a simple teenager, and a humble man.
Of course, HE was wise, He is God the Almighty Father.
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.
We don’t think of angels having language or sound other than singing.
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 to complete the story.

The end of the month already

The end of the month already and the year is almost over.
We had our small Thanksgiving meal with family and friends, and soon we will begin to decorate.
Christmas is a fun time of year, but the mess is often not fun to drag out and then put away.
I love the lights in the dark, and our nativity sets.
Oh, and I really love the music and the festive spirit it creates in the room.
We get cards in the mail from family and friends, and we try to write a ‘newsletter’ with pictures.
The end of year traditions.
Each year I think it’s good to re-evaluate how the year went, what did we learn and how could we do better.
Our health was good. No big issues to deal with.
Our family is all well and healthy and the kids are doing good in all of their adventures.
There is very little to complain about.
I think it’s more about giving thanks.
We give thanks for many things both now and in our future.
I am glad we don’t see what could be coming.
Be rested and prepared. Be ready and alert.
My word of the year was comfort and I am not sure why, but the year is not over right?
There is a verse in the book of Micah in the Old Testament.
6:8 [He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.]
It is a good way to live actually.
I think there are other verses that challenge us and help us to grow more thankful.
It is good, to love mercy. Act justly. Walk humbly with God who knows our hearts anyway.
He has shown you. Meaning We saw, we listened and we learned.]
The end of the month is almost over and Thanksgiving will be put away to make room for Christmas.
We will sing the songs, write the cards, and make the phone calls.
The end of the month already and the year is almost over.

A time for Thanksgiving and reflection

A time for Thanksgiving and reflection is here.
There is so much going on with many people on a personal level and on a statewide level.
Tragedy is the word of the week.
A family in our church lost their oldest son in a car accident.
What a terrible loss and shock.
Then a car smashed into a group of parade band players wrecking so many lives in the middle of carnage.
SO unnecessary, so horrible.
I have few words to share about any of this; it is just too difficult to wrap my mind around the why.
Last night I was getting ready for bed as I was thinking of Thanksgiving and the dinner to come.
Families will have one table setting missing. One chair empty. A chair EMPTY.
What do you do?
The parade could have had multiple kids in a family.
I am not aware of the names or the damage I just know it was horrible.
Thanksgiving, A time for giving thanks.
Can we really do that in the middle of crisis times>
Grief follows those around whose hearts are broken and weary.
No one can prepare you for the loss of a loved one.
It is not in a book that one can read, it is not a class for preparation.
It is in the shock of hearing and receiving the news.
YOUR loved one is gone. Injured. Wounded somewhere in a hospital bed.
Someone who did not know you or them or anyone else, just kept driving.
Someone caused the intensity and the life altering moments forever.
At a time of Thanks giving we are a bit confused how we can do it.
Give thanks with a grateful heart.
But how if your loved one is gone or seriously injured?
Our Pastor spoke on Sunday, how you just have to keep pressing forward.
He is very sad, having lost a lot of those who meant the most to him this year.
It is not an easy job and sometimes your own emotions cannot be pushed down anymore.
A time for Thanksgiving and reflection is here.
Let us take some time for some quiet.