why’s

We don’t always take a close enough glimpse at one person in the Christmas story whom I can relate to the most.

Because like me, Joseph appears to have wondered at the whys of Jesus.

  • Why, Mary?
  • Why Mary?!
  • Why this way, God?
  • Why now?
  • Why me?
  • Why?

‘Why’ is a question we can all see ourselves saying when faced with a new scary or unsettling situation.

At times, we echo what we imagine Joseph’s attitude was when informed about Mary’s pregnancy.

We don’t know actually who told him, for we know Mary was out of town for several months visiting her cousin Elizabeth as she was awaiting her son to come, John. We can hazard a guess that the grapevine may have gotten to Joseph before her parents or Mary did.

Because bad news likes to spread when outsiders begin to ask why.

As her fiancé (in those days called betrothed) Joseph had pledged to marry Mary. To us today, being betrothed is like being married except not living or sleeping together yet. In that time, he had the legal right to accuse her of infidelity, divorce her, see her stoned, and be set free without any blemish on his reputation. (see Matthew 1:18 – 25)

Joseph must have asked why.  For we all want to know the answer to that question when faced with drama or trauma.

He was likely broken-hearted, angry, frustrated and second guessing himself for choosing her as his bride.

We get a critical glimpse into Joseph’s personality with his response to Mary’s news, and the hint of what he must have been thinking, when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. (Notice the angel showed up after he had decided to quietly divorce her.)

His message from God for Joseph?

  1. Son of David: Yes, I know you, and i have the right guy, Joseph. You are part of the promise, the hope for Israel.
  2. Do not fear: I am with you.
  3. Take Mary as your wife: live up to your covenant with her.
  4. She is pregnant by the Holy Spirit: your wife became pregnant through God’s actions, no man’s. She is still your pure fiancée.
  5. She is to bear a son:  So you will know I speak the truth.
  6. Call him Jesus: For this is happening because He is the Messiah..
  7. For He will take away the sins of the world: this is the plan.
  8. And fulfill the prophecies spoken about him: this is the time for him to arrive.

Notice what Joseph did first thing after awakening from that dream.

He went and got married to the girl of his dreams. (With one exception. He didn’t consummate the marriage while she was pregnant with Jesus.)

Despite all the why’s left unanswered, Joseph heard exactly what he needed to in order to obey God, and become the step-father of the most important man in history.

I’d be asking why me too if I were Joseph.

Because I do so often enough in my own life at times.

Here is the thing.  God knows why He chose you and I.

Just because we don’t always know why He chose us, doesn’t mean we were not His intended chosen.

God knew Joseph would be engaged to Mary.  He knew him to be a just man, who loved Mary so much he would show her kindness in a heartbreaking situation.

For Joseph, despite his likely questions, was a man after God’s own heart.

After Jesus was born, Joseph was given another set of instructions in a dream via an angel of the Lord.  He was warned to take Mary and Jesus, and flee to Egypt.  (Matthew 2:13-15)

Then he was told why.

For in that instance, being a devout Jew and being asked to go back to Egypt, the country which kept your people enslaved for generation?  I’d want to know why, just like Joseph would.

The why? For Herod wants to kill Jesus.

God didn’t need to say any more than that, apart from wait for My further instructions.

There are some why’s we already know the answer to, we just need to hear them confirmed.

There are most lessons we can learn from the briefly recorded life of Joseph, step-father to Jesus, husband to Mary.  But why is evident the greatest in this portion of the Word.

Because when God asked Joseph to do something, just like Mary, he did so. Even without all his why’s answered.

There is no question in my mind that Mary and Joseph were real life people like you and I.  God knew the plans He had for them, and look how history was changed through their obedience.

Why Joseph ultimately comes down to this: Jesus needed an earthly father who resembled His heavenly Father. One whose heart was for following the ways of heaven while here on earth. 

The next time you are overwhelmed with the questions on your heart and mind, ask Him to reveal Himself to you.  

For He is the ultimate answer to all our questions: the how’s, the what if’s, the who’s, the what’s, the where’s, the when’s and yes, the why’s!

This piece of history reminds me to wonder anew at the bigger picture God has in store for us!
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for the days you need extra grace

This morning, a delay due to a family member (who although needs the sleep caused me to leave 50 min late this morning) lead to to prime time traffic jam on the only day this week I had a vehicle to drive to work, versus usually taking the bus.

It became very apparent with three narrowing down to one lane heading in my direction that it was going to be a long congested ride.

God promptly met me there.

A new CD popped into the CD player, and my vehicle became a worship concert on the way to work.  Me offering up my worship in a concert of praise, adoration & proclamation.

Quite honestly, I didn’t want the ride to end when I got there.

When I got into work, I knew why He had prepared me with the longer hang out time this morning.

But I got today’s to do list completed, and a deeper appreciation of learning to go with His flow despite road jams, traffic snarls & drivers with missing signal lights.

He is with us each step, each drive we take. 

And especially today, as I head into rush hour traffic on my way home, I am so thankful He is heading out there with me.

Yesterday I drove through Toronto, and happened to catch a brief glimpse over my right shoulder of something shinishy glimmery there. I choose to believe He allowed me a glimpse of one of the angels He has assigned to keep me covered.

Soon after, the engine light came on.

Without panicking, and despite the major foot cramp which hit my driving foot, He kept me focused and calm as I drove my hubby home from a procedure at the hospital.

Yesterday evening, He spoke through one of small group members to remind me He has me covered, through a red umbrella image. His love both protects & covers us. 😉

He so goes before, behind and all around us, not just beside us, Beloved.

Ask Him for a closer glimpse, a fresh Word, or a deeper sense of His Presence today.

He longs to give good gift to those He loves, for He is a good good God!

#Hesgotuscovered

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God is….Incredible

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This week, my church is running a Blast from the Past Vacation Bible Camp for our community.

I can’t help but get excited about what God is going to do through the willing hands serving & revealing His character to the children who will be attending.

So this week, I felt led to post the main themes of the week, especially coz not only is my son going to be volunteering there, but because God is stirring within me to remind me of these/His five characteristics being taught, and I pray, caught!

God is….INCREDIBLE!

We not only see how incredible He is through creation & caring for His chosen ones, but incredibly, He initiates contact with us!

He pursues us, and reveals Himself to us!

We tend to think we are the ones initiating things with God, that we are in control.

Not.

The incredible Maker of all things wanted to set His people free. Despite many turning from Him while in Egypt, He heard their cries for deliverance, and arranged for His deliverer to be raised by the very household He would overturn to set His people free.

Moses was not only Israeli born in captivity, He was adopted into the royal family who were enslaving Israel.  Talk about awkward.  It’s not surprising that he would have had conflicted emotions, and been stirred by His Maker to have compassion on his birth family.

Because God stirred up His compassion within Moses before they met!

They didn’t meet in church, or while Moses was praying, or because someone introduced them face to face, although I suspect Jethro was praying fervently for Moses, married to his daughter, as the priest of the Lord in this area.

God showed up while Moses was watching the flock of sheep he has been entrusted with by Jethro.

Think for a moment about that whole scenario.

God was about to call Moses, raised & educated to understand rule, who has lately been working exclusively with sheep. 

God calls His people His flock, the sheep in His care.

What better balance to his royal training than to be hands on with stubborn sheep?

How better to prepare Moses for the leadership role God had to come for him?!!!

God is truly incredible!

Flash back to Moses with the flock. Doing his usual job, he has led the flock near Horeb, the mountain of God.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to to him…

Say what? Just that alone is incredible!!!

in a flame of fire….

Okayyyyy… God’s got my full attention now, and I am sure Moses’ too in the moment!

Out of the midst of a bush. Moses looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

INCREDIBLE!

God used an ‘average joe’ bush out in a desert as the basis for His Presence to reach Moses!

Moses’ response was to draw closer to this phenomenon. Once we get to know him a lot better as his character becomes more revealed, we learn he is very fearful, and uncomfortable speaking in public.

Unusual for someone raised as a royal…

God knew that this set up, the burning bush, while Moses was away from other people, was the best way to intrigue him to draw near.

(Incredibly, He meets each of us exactly where & when we need Him most, and that encounter is tailored uniquely to do so by the One who made us and knows us sooo well! But I am getting off track!)

When Moses did, God called him by name, and invited Moses to draw close & talk with him, as He revealed Moses to be His, and His deliverer. (Exodus 3)

INCREDIBLE!!

And despite his fears and apprehensions, God went on to guide Moses as He asked him to lead His people out of Egypt.

Moses became one of the most talked about stories in the Bible, in no small part because he knew how desperately He needed the God who never failed to move in His behalf, speak with him, and empowered him to lead His people.

INCREDIBLE!

God uses ordinary folk & does the incredible through their willing hands!

And He still does the same today.

May we dig deeper in the Word to catch all the glimpses of our INCREDIBLE God He reveals to those who still seek Him today!

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when you are asked to flee…Joseph

After the wise men were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.” Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”

-Matthew 2:13-15

Joseph was likely thinking now that Jesus had been born, things in his family life would settle down for a while. They would have Jesus named on the way home, Mary would spend her time recovering and they would begin their new life together. It is possible Joseph may have rented a place in Jerusalem and found some work as a carpenter while Mary finished her purification period after giving birth, as traveling too far with a newborn was not the best idea for everyone’s sanity.

So we pick up the story Joseph may have believed finished and discover Joseph to be the feature again.

We know that Herod flew into a rage when he realized the wise men were not coming back to betray the new born King, but there is no sign that Joseph or Mary knew of the danger until the angel appears to Joseph again.

Humble, faithful Joseph has now seen an angel twice in his dreams.
Both times, he is informed of news no one else knew by the angel.

Interesting to note, he clearly recognized the angel in his dreams, and believed the words spoken enough to life alteringly act upon them.

The first time, Joseph was told Mary was carrying Messiah & to marry her, raising the child as his own.

This time? He is told to wake up, take Mary & the child and flee to Egypt, for Herod wants to kill Jesus.

I am guessing this was an early enough warning timing wise to get them to safety before Herod’s horrible plan began.

I know that the gifts Jesus had been given by the wise men were no accident, as all three were hot commodities to trade with, and would likely have been enough to cover all their expenses while in Egypt. Because God would certainly have provided for Jesus again. Note it mentions that this would be a fulfillment of calling His son out of Egypt in verse 15.

As Egypt was not likely on the best of terms with Israel over the whole escape from slavery issue, Joseph may not have been able to get work there as an immigrant.

God would have taken all of this into account to get the Carpenters ready for their sudden trip & extended stay in Egypt.

The other noteworthy point to observe? Joseph immediately woke up and while it was still dark, had the family well under way to Egypt by daylight.

Simply put, his obedience saved Jesus.

Not sure about you, but I would have been more than a little freaked at a second angelic visit while I was sleeping. I wonder if it took Joseph just that bit longer every night for a while to fall asleep. Tentatively wondering if an angel would speak to him yet again.

So how does this impact us, the readers of the Advent story?

I see three clear ways.

1. When God sends an angel to speak to us, we should do what it says.

2. God can speak to us while we are sleeping, not just while we are awake!

3. Some times its the right time to just pick up and go.

We leave today’s continuation of #AdventuresinAdvent with the Carpenters fleeing to Egypt, as Herod’s horror is unleashed on the families of Israel.

#TheWhenSeries
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Image from: http://jlgragg.org/2011/01/05/beyond-the-season-celebrating-christ-after-christmas/nativity-2/

when the sky fills with wonder…the angels

There was another sight to wonder at, besides the star illuminating Jesus had been born….

There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

-Luke 2:8-14

When an angel suddenly shows up in all their wondrous glory, people take notice.

This being the third angelic sighting of the Advent story, I am struck awe with wonder at how much God has already reached out to people to lay the way for His son’s arrival!

The angel captivated his audience that night with the message of Jesus’ birth, and then the full spectacular angelic event ever recorded so far filled the sky.

Wow!

Seeing and hearing an angelic choir, after hearing one speak to you would be mindbogglingly wonder-full, wouldn’t it?!

Imagine being the angels. I am sure there must have been wonder at what God was doing as they praised God with their song.

But just seeing and hearing the good news isn’t where this story ends, it swiftly moves on to ewe….

#AdventuresinAdvent
#theWhenSeries
#JesusisBorn
#LoveCameDown

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trusting a teen- Luke

I am the mother of two teens.
The first will become a full fledge adult this January as she hits her double decade milestone, the youngest will turn 18 in February.

I have learned, as well as every other parent, to begin to trust my teens as they matured with age appropriate skills & jobs. 

It is hard, isn’t it, to let go and let them step up to the plate in the beginning, because you don’t want them to fail, nor have to redo the job because it wasn’t done right the first time.

The first time one of my teens drove our car. Their first sleepover. Their first resumes. How they spend their first pay cheques, allowance. Their clothing choices.  Cramming last minute before a major paper or exam.

It is hard to step back and watch them, when you are unsure of whether they will fail, and if they do, what failing will do to their confidence. 

I found that my trust in them helped keep their perspective in check with they failed.  They knew there was love, grace and a helping hand if needed.

As we peer into this week’s part of the Advent adventure, we meet one of the most important people of this amazing story: Mary.

Mary was a teenaged girl, likely 12-16 years of age, engaged to be married (we will leave her groom until next week!)  In Luke 1:26-38, we get a closer look…

Besides being engaged, Mary is an inwardly beautiful Jewish girl  (according to vs. 28, referring to her radiating God’s beauty), and also noted twice in vs 26-27, is a virgin. She lives in Nazareth.

Six months into her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy (with John), Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, who greets her with:

Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

Hullo! What a morning greeting that was, let alone delivered by a messenger of God’s! No wonder Mary was “thoroughly shaken”, and “wondering what was behind a greeting like that.”

Gabriel then tells her not to fear, God’s got a surprise for you.

(Now Mary may have heard, being related to Elizabeth, some gossip around the market about Elizabeth being MIA for the past several months. She for sure would have heard about Zachariah seeing an angel in the Holy of Holies, and being struck dumb.  I think Mary likely felt on edge seeing an angel, let alone having one greet her and tell her God has a surprise for her. She may even have been doubting she was really seeing an angel…I would love to ask Mary about this when we meet in heaven.)

The surprise?

You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and his name Jesus.

I think the thought may have quickly crossed Mary’s mind that sure she would have a son after getting married…and then the full meaning of the rest of Gabriel’s words would have sunk in..

He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever- no end, ever, to his kingdom.

“Okay, God. Gabriel is telling me I am going to give birth to Your son? But how? I’ve never slept with a man. I believe You can do it, I am just curious as to how?”

Notice somehow Mary’s response is not a doubting one like Zachariah’s was, because Gabriel answers the question:

The Holy Spirit will cover you & come upon you. This child is going to be literally the son of God, Holy.

But Gabriel keeps on speaking a little bit longer:

“And just in case you need a bit of proof, Mary? Cousin Elizabeth? She’s 6 months pregnant, despite being old and barren. Nothing is impossible with God.”

And with Gabriel’s reply to her question, Mary responds with an incredible amount of trust in the God who has sent this angel to her:

“Yes, i see it all now: I am the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.”

This teenaged girl reveals a depth of trust on God that her cousin Elizabeth’s priest husband Zachariah seemed to miss.

She was able to see the big picture: this is about God.

She was able to see the immediate picture: this is going to happen.

She was going to see the obvious picture: this is happening to me!!

Her ability to trust in His plan is reflective of the trust God must have had in Mary.

Coz you don’t turn over the baby son of God to someone you don’t trust.

God trusts her enough to choose her.

Mary trust His choice enough to agree to her requested part.

I dunno about you, but Mary is not only being shown favor by God choosing her, but in His sending an angel to deliver the news in person.

Extra favor.

God trusting this young woman
who in return trusts Him, as she accepts the role of mother to the coming King.

What a woman she must have been!

The fact that God trusts her reflects however well He knows us, inside and out.

Despite her youth, God chooses Mary.

Her heart chooses Him, and His plan, in response.

Mary may be a teenager, but she shows a strength of character few display. She accepts this gift, the privilege  of giving birth to her people’s Messiah.

She doesn’t question what the path ahead looks like.

She trusts in response.

Not your typical teenaged pregnant before marriage story, is it!

God takes risks based on what He sees in us, not just was we can see on the outside.

As a parent it can take a leap of a faith to help us believe our kids are worth our efforts.

When God chose His baby’s momma, He chose well -inside and out.

May we all have the grace of Mary to say yes when God offers to surprise us with His plans!

#AdventuresInAdvent
#TheMaryChronicles

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Preparing the Way- Luke

Luke begins the Advent story with a miraculous conception, but not the one you may be thinking of!

Zachariah was a priest, married to Elizabeth. Luke tells us they lived honorably before the Lord. They never had children, and were now passed their prime.

Sound familiar? (echoes of Abraham & Sarah….)

Anyhow, Zachariah got chosen to do a once in a lifetime opportunity for the priests, to burn incense in the sanctuary of God, the Holy of Holies. As he began to perform his duty, an angel appeared, freaking Zachariah out.

The angel didn’t just show up to be seen, but was sent with good news. Zachariah & Elizabeth were going to have a child, a boy they were to name John, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth & herald the arrival of God-with-us. His job would be to help get the people ready for God.

Wow! Awesome news, right?

Zachariah had a hard time accepting Gabriel’s news. As a result, God struck him dumb until it all came to pass, as He has prepared.

It became apparent when Zachariah left the temple that he had seen a vision…but he couldn’t speak, except for some hand gestures.

Zachariah went home to his wife, and surprise! Guess who became pregnant!

Elizabeth was so delighted, she went off by herself for five months to enjoy her pregnancy.

The same gift, with two difference responses.

The first immediately questioned, the second responded with delight.

When God prepares the way, we need to prepare ourselves to receive the gifts & blessings He has in store for us.

We will revisit Elizabeth a little later this month, as more people are added to this family drama we are unpacking as we work our way through the gospels.

Adventures in Advent may appear to have taken a detour, but this was all a part of God’s plan….

I can’t wait to keep unwrapping the layers again tomorrow!
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