Old Elizabeth, young Mary-both bearing sons. Zechariah’s doubts, a young maid’s submission-he was supposed to understand God through study and practice, she was the ignorant one yet trusted.
Priests within a Sabbath walk from the manger slept on unaware that God had broken forth into their world while outcast shepherds got a personalized and most glorious birth announcement writ large across the sky.
Perhaps the most poignant contrast of all is a tired young mother pondering quietly what this might mean for her and her newborn Son and shepherds telling everyone they meet what they saw and praising God for giving them the privilege.
Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart.
20 The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising God for all they had seen and heard, and they glorified God for the way the experience had unfolded just as the heavenly messenger had predicted.
Luke 2:19-20 VOICE
My heart beats with Mary’s. She knew and understood part of what was going on but had no way to anticipate or comprehend precisely what it meant to be the mother of Messiah.
She pondered the shepherds’ visit and their story.
I’ve pondered too.
“Ponder” means “think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion.” (Oxford Dictionary, online).
When Dominic was killed I dragged everything I thought I knew about God and how He worked in the world into the glaring light of child loss. I examined and turned it over. I compared my notions with Scripture and with my ongoing experience.
I was forced to make a decision.
I had to reach a conclusion: Was God who He said He was or was this all a made up, feel good story I told myself? Is the Bible true? Is Jesus real? Was His sacrifice sufficient and does it guarantee eternal life?
After long and careful thought I decided that my Heavenly Father was faithful, His character is trustworthy, every promise He made is “yes” and “amen” in Christ.
I imagine Mary had many moments when she wondered what God was doing in and through her. I suspect she had her doubts.
I think often of the ultimate pain and horror she endured at the crucifixion.
But she held on.
And the Lord called her blessed.
I am holding on to truth and hope with both hands.
Sometimes my faith wears thin.
But I know, know, know that my Father is trustworthy.
We really don’t know how much Mary understood about what was happening in and through her. Gabriel visited her, yes, but even his message wasn’t comprehensive. Have you ever thought about what or how much Mary knew? Does it give you courage to trust God as things unfold in your own life?
How has child loss impacted your faith?
The shepherds praised the Lord because everything the angel told them was accurate. Has your personal experience affirmed the truth of Scripture?
Can you find reasons to praise the Lord even here, even now?
You are the Almighty God, the King of the Universe, Creator and Sustainer of life. You know the end from the beginning. You are working all things for my ultimate good and for Your glory.
But it’s hard to walk along a path when I can’t see far ahead. Sometimes it’s a struggle to trust and not be afraid. I do ponder things in my heart. I want to make sense of what You are doing (at least what I think You are doing) and what I’m feeling.
Help me lean into your truth, to trust your heart even when I can’t trace your hand. I believe, help my unbelief!
Thank You for every evidence that points my heart in the right direction. Thank You for showing me more of yourself. Teach me to praise You for all You are and not only all You do.
So often it seems like God is dragging His feet, holding out on us, refusing to grant something we desperately desire.
The people of Israel waited and waited and waited for Messiah.
Many felt abandoned.
But God wasn’t being slow, He was waiting for the precisely perfect moment to send His Son.
Around the time of Elizabeth’s amazing pregnancy and John’s birth, the emperor in Rome, Caesar Augustus, required everyone in the Roman Empire to participate in a massive census— 2 the first census since Quirinius had become governor of Syria. 3 Each person had to go to his or her ancestral city to be counted.
4-5 Mary’s fiancé Joseph, from Nazareth in Galilee, had to participate in the census in the same way everyone else did. Because he was a descendant of King David, his ancestral city was Bethlehem, David’s birthplace. Mary, who was now late in her pregnancy that the messenger Gabriel had predicted, 6 accompanied Joseph. While in Bethlehem, she went into labor 7 and gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped the baby in a blanket and laid Him in a feeding trough because the inn had no room for them.
Luke 2:1-7 VOICE
An entire kingdom was mobilized to fulfill prophecy!
Because Rome demanded taxes from conquered peoples and wanted every penny owed, a census was ordered. Because the only way to get an accurate count was to order folks back to their ancestral hometowns, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem. Because of the timing, Mary was bursting with baby and gave birth.
Just as promised: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. ” Micah 5:2 KJV
Caesar was acting in his own self-interest.
Mary and Joseph were complying with the law.
Nature took its course as Jesus grew in the womb.
All the while God was weaving together the strands behind the scene to bring forth His purpose and provide salvation for His people!
I’m not privy to everything God is doing in the world. And, frankly, what I see sometimes looks like He’s not doing much. I want Him to step in and make things right according to my limited knowledge.
But He’s working behind the scenes in ways I can’t imagine or comprehend.
He has a purpose and plan that will not be thwarted.
I do not for one moment believe that God Took My Child. But I absolutely, positively believe that He is using what the enemy meant for evil to accomplish good.
So I try to be patient.
Even though it’s a lifetime.
Because no one who waits on the Lord will be disappointed.
It’s so easy to read the familiar words and forget that each element of the story was important in fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever looked back on a series of seemingly unrelated events and realized how they came together to orchestrate God’s purpose in your own life?
I have often wondered how much Joseph and Mary might have thought about (if they thought about it) the words of the prophets as they fulfilled God’s commission to faithfully raise His Son. Can you put yourself in their position and imagine the weight of responsibility and also the fear of uncertainty they might have experienced in real time?
I admit that waiting is hard. I long for a supernatural revelation that gives my heart a handle on how long I’m going to have to practice patience. But I take some comfort in the multitude of promises kept by my God and His ever-faithful, always trustworthy character. When your heart doubts, what promises do you cling to?
You literally moved Heaven and Earth to bring salvation to Your people. You work where I can’t see and in ways I can’t comprehend.
But it’s hard to hope when things look dark and it seems as if You are slow to act. And sometimes it looks as if evil, death and sin are winning. That’s when my heart has the most trouble holding onto hope.
Help me cling to truth in spite of my feelings. Give me light in the darkness. Teach my heart to trust and sing hope over my soul. You are Faithful and True.
Even if I wait a lifetime my waiting will not be in vain. Every one of Your promises is “yes” and “amen” in Christ. The end is guaranteed. Victory is assured.
It’s so easy to decide that since the world isn’t what I want it to be, I’ll just ignore the greater “out there” and create my own little corner filled with people and things that suit my preferences.
But that’s not who I’m called to be.
Jesus has called me as a conduit of His love, mercy, compassion, truth and grace to a hurting world.
I am inundated every day with comments or messages from struggling hearts. They are hungry to know that God sees, that God cares and that His people are willing to listen and minister His love to others.
So when God tells me to reach out- I DON’T resist.
I may be the only hope a hurting heart can hold onto.
If God is calling you to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend your time, DO IT.
Be the drop of His love in the ocean of another’s need.
Some are outside myself and others start in the secret corners of my own heart.
All of them make me wish for quiet and calm, peaceful waters where I can sail the ship of life and not worry about sinking beneath the waves.
When I’m afraid I remind myself that Jesus is the Peace Speaker.
He calmed the wind and waves on the Sea of Galilee and He will calm the wind and waves of my heart.
He is the unchangeable, faithful God and I am always safe in the sea of His love and goodness.
Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, You remain the same.
Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of Your love I came to life, by Your love I am sustained, and to Your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by Your unwavering love….
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea.
I’ve had the privilege of keeping my grandson this week.
It’s the first time he’s been away from his mom and dad since he was born early and stayed in NICU for over two months.
So it’s no wonder the first night he was here and sleeping in a different room with light coming through the windows from the moon and casting strange shadows his sleepy eyes told his little brain there was something to fear.
What started as a whimper grew to a full on desperate cry and I could tell it wasn’t just restless sleep-he was startled and afraid.
So I picked him up, held him close to my chest, nestled his head under my chin and whispered, “It’s alright. You’re not alone. I love you.” I rubbed his back, calmed him down and he was able to drift off to sleep once again sure he was safe.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I felt like I’d been picked up from the world I knew and understood and thrust into one where everything was unfamiliar, frightening and potentially dangerous.
There were strange shadows everywhere.
I not only whimpered, I cried out in desperation for some solace, some confirmation that I was seen, heard and loved.
As my perfect, faithful, loving Father, God reminded my heart He was there in the dark when the shadows threatened to undo me.
One of my favorite verses is found in Zephaniah and is a picture of God gathering His people in His arms, comforting them with His love and singing peace and joy over their souls.
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. ~ Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
When I listen I can hear Him sing over me.
When I am still, He covers me with His grace.
When I lean into His arms and rest my head on His chest, I am filled with strength and peace.