Advent for the Brokenhearted: Announced by an Angel

When the angel came to Mary and told her she was to be the mother of God’s Son,  she was (rightly) confused.

Her first thoughts ran to what she knew and understood:  children are conceived by the joining of man and woman, she was a virgin.

How can this be?”

The angel Gabriel explained (sort of):  “Your child will be conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And as proof of God’s miraculous ability to do what He says He will do-your old relative, Elizabeth, is six months pregnant!” [loose personal paraphrase]

So Mary graciously bowed her heart to this strange thing God was doing in her and asking of her.

“I belong to the Lord, body and soul,” replied Mary, “let it happen as you say.” And at this the angel left her.  (Luke 1:38 PHILLIPS)

She was willing, even though she could not possibly have understood all that would be asked of her in the end.

God did not give me any warning that He was about to take my life in another, very hard, very painful, horribly sad direction. 

No angel explained to me what God was doing. 

I didn’t have a chance to ask questions or beg for a different path.

I cannot change what HAS happened-Dominic is dead.  But my heart attitude determines how I will REACT to what has happened.

I am faced with precisely the same decision Mary had to make:  Will I trust God-Who cannot lie and Who will fulfill every promise-or do I turn my heart from Him and seek my own will and way?

I am not nearly as gracious as Mary.  I have kicked against the goads and screamed, “Why???” at the sky.

I will still tell anyone who asks that I do not like this plan at all.

But I am learning to rest in the same truth that guided Mary’s heart. 

I am God’s servant-His bondslave-and He is in control. 

He may do with me as He pleases.

mary-and-jesus

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: By the Holy Spirit

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

 

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25 MSG

I’m not the first person on the planet God has asked to walk into the future without understanding exactly what the plan is. 

When Joseph found out his bride-to-be was pregnant, of course he suspected that she had cheated on him.  That’s how babies are made, isn’t it???

Yet he was noble and kind and hesitated to expose her to public ridicule, or worse (the Old Testament penalty was death) so he waited a bit, deciding what to do.

As he waited, God spoke to Joseph’s heart, assuring him that this was no natural conception and that Mary had done nothing wrong.

God also gave Joseph a commission:  to raise His son as his own.  

Joseph received this word and did as God commanded.   

Now God hasn’t spoken to me in a dream, or in clouds across the sky or from the mouth of a donkey or any other supernatural phenomena.

BUT He has spoken to me by His written Word.  

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.

Romans 8:24-27 PHILLIPS

It’s hard when life seems to be going terribly, terribly wrong to trust.  

It’s understandable to look at what I can see and assume that is all there is. 

But I don’t want to do that. 

I can choose, like Joseph, to embrace the command to wait, to be patient, to step confidently in the direction of tomorrow because He is already there.

I want to stretch my faith-receiving God’s promises, holding onto them, and walking boldly into the future trusting they will be fulfilled.  

he is faithful who has promised

 

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: At the Right Time

Change can happen fast.  

There is nothing that prepared me for that split-second when the words, “I’m sorry to tell you….” sank into my brain and my world went black.

In a single instant, life as I knew it was utterly and irrevocably destroyed.  

Some changes can be seen from far away.  

A mother waits nine months to birth her baby.  Time enough to set up a nursery, choose a name, pick out clothes.

And then some changes are longed for, hoped for, hinted at but seem that they may never actually come to pass.

The birth, life and ministry of Jesus was all these things.  

Prophesied for so long, Messiah’s coming was almost a sacred fairy tale passed down from one generation to another-a nice thought, a promised Savior-but no more likely to happen TODAY than hundreds of years ago.

And then, there was Mary.  Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and bearing within her body and heart the beautiful knowledge that He had finally COME!  It was years more before Christ began His public ministry and others were privy to what only a few knew in the beginning.

Finally, Jesus completed His earthly task-paying in full the price required for sinful and selfish men-died, was buried and rose again

He conquered death.  

He offers abundant, eternal life to all who believe.

For the Jews that lived centuries before, it seemed as though God had tarried. 

For those who lived at that moment, it seemed a sudden and unexpected thing.  

But for God, the timing was precisely right.

He had neither forgotten His promise, nor delayed in keeping it.  

When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.” You no longer have to live as a slave because you are a child of God. And since you are His child, God guarantees an inheritance is waiting for you. “

Galatians 4: 4-7 VOICE

He sent Jesus when it was time.  

I often wonder about the timing of my son’s death.  From my perspective, it feels like his life was cut short.  It feels wrong.  

But I don’t know the end from the beginning like God does. 

I don’t have a panoramic view of all history so that I understand precisely where I fit in, where Dominic fits in and how our stories mesh with the story God is writing for everyone.

So I  lean in and trust that the Father Who sent His son at the right time, knows what He is doing.

And that when it is again the right time, He will redeem and restore this pain I’ve carried.  

Because what He has promised, He will do.  

blessed is the one who believed his promises to her

 

 

 

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Kingship Foretold

There are so many surprises in the Christmas story.

A young woman “has” to get married.  She and her husband are forced to make a long journey while she is large with child.  Bethlehem is so full of folks there’s not a single place to lay their heads so she and he and the Son of God sleep in a “barn”.

But the birth is only the beginning.

God continued to bring forth His plan to save the world in ways our human hearts could never imagine.

Rejoice, people of Jerusalem. Shout for joy, people of Jerusalem. Your king is coming to you. He does what is right, and he saves. He is gentle and riding on a donkey. He is on the colt of a donkey.

Zechariah 9:9

Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Ruler over all the earth.  He reigns supreme and cannot be conquered.

Yet He is also a Humble Servant, who gives Himself to all who ask.

My life is certainly not what I thought it would be.  It’s upside-down and backwards from the plan I made for myself years ago.

It would be natural to turn away from God because what He has allowed is not what I want nor would choose.

But when I read the words of Zechariah, I am encouraged.

God turns the world’s wisdom on its head.  He is not bound by my expectations nor my understanding.

I can rejoice because I know He is working His will even when the story is hard and painful and full of sorrow.

Jesus saves.  Jesus redeems.  Jesus restores.

That’s a promise.

rejoice greatly zech 9

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Birthplace Foretold

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
    whose origins are in the distant past,
    will come from you on my behalf.
The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies
    until the woman in labor gives birth.
Then at last his fellow countrymen
    will return from exile to their own land.
And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
Then his people will live there undisturbed,
    for he will be highly honored around the world.
    And he will be the source of peace.

Micah 5: 2-5a NLT

One of the things I struggle with since Dominic ran ahead to heaven is this:  is every detail of history planned by God?  Or are there general outlines filled in by human choices (good and bad) and leading ultimately to God’s working out HIS story within OUR stories?

How do I reconcile God’s sovereignty and my free will?

I’m still working on that. 

But there is one thing I do understand.  God had a plan from the foundation of the earth to reconcile sinful man to Himself by the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

He sent prophets to point the hearts of His people toward the place the Savior would be born.  He laid out promise after promise for hundreds and thousands of years so that when Jesus came, they would be ready.

It was no accident Jesus was born precisely when and precisely where the prophets foretold.  

Bethlehem-The House of Bread-became the place that housed the Bread of Life.

bethlehem christmas tree

 

 

Advent for the Brokenhearted: Suffering Foretold

It’s easy for us this side of Calvary to point fingers at the Jews for getting it wrong. 

But when you are waiting for a Savior, you aren’t thinking that the One Who will save will be the One Who suffers.  

You think He will be strong and mighty and armed for battle.  You think He will conquer and lay waste and stride triumphant through the streets.

You don’t expect a Baby who becomes a Man who becomes a Sacrifice.  

But that is exactly Who Jesus is-He is a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief.  And that is why this brokenhearted mama can lean in and hold onto the hem of His garment. 

Because He knows. 

He. Knows. 

 

“Who would have believed what we now report?
    Who could have seen the Lord‘s hand in this?
It was the will of the Lord that his servant
    grow like a plant taking root in dry ground.
He had no dignity or beauty
    to make us take notice of him.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing that would draw us to him.
We despised him and rejected him;
    he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
    we ignored him as if he were nothing.

“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
    the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
    was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
    beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
    made whole by the blows he received.
All of us were like sheep that were lost,
    each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
    the punishment all of us deserved.

Isaiah 53:1-6

When I think I can’t take any more, I remember that Jesus took it all.  

When I think this life is too hard to endure, I turn my eyes and heart to the One Who endured the wrath of God for my sake. 

When I want to give up and give in, I hold fast to the One who holds me in His hand and Who held me in His heart as He hung on the cross. 

jesus-the-heart-of-christmas

Waiting With Hope: Advent for the Brokenhearted

I  wrote this in 2013-the last Christmas my family circle would be unbroken. Now the longing hope Israel felt is so much stronger in my own heart.

Hope is what I hold onto.

It’s my lifeline.

Twenty-five days to ponder the coming of God’s great Gift. We know the end of the story which can make us jaded and impatient. If for a moment we can recapture the desperate hope that was in the heart of Israel longing for Messiah and then in the next remember that He has come, we will be forever changed.

For the next twenty-five days I will be publishing two posts-a regular post like always AND an advent post for those who would like to follow along.  If your heart is too tender to join in, feel free to skip this second post. 

But if you think you can bear to hear just a little truth, to swallow just a tiny morsel of the Bread of Life, then stick around.

I hope this helps at least one heart to hold on.  ❤

Jesus was promised from the beginning.

He is the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”  

I don’t understand it.

But I believe it.

prince of peace image

His Birth Foretold

Isaiah 9: 2-7

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
    Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.