Anticipating Christmas: A LESSON FROM MARY

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And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:18-1

I love this part of the Christmas story.  I imagine the shepherds, having just seen the Newborn King, left in awe and amazement, proclaiming to everyone what had happened.  Then there’s Mary.

Luke says in verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The conjunction “BUT” is a powerful word here. It separates the woman Mary was from other women and, I believe, shows one of the reasons she found favor with God. Mary was a contemplative woman. She took time to consider, meditate, and quietly ponder things. The first words she says in her song are “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).  It’s more than just the words of her mouth, though. Her faith goes to the deepest part of her soul – a quiet, constant place of discernment We see the way she faithfully discerns in even the question she asks – ‘How can this be?’ I believe it was more of a rhetorical question, done in faith, but shows a confusion within her.

Mary had nine months to get ready for the birth. Nine months to dwell on the angel telling her  “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33. I bet she spent a lot of her time contemplating and replaying those words the angel spoke to her.

Mary teaches us a lot about pondering and being contemplative. She shows us the importance of learning to treasure things in your heart and share them in quiet prayer.  Many times we think of prayer as us talking, but there is so much about prayer that is done while listening and mediating on His Word.

I challenge all of us this season to choose a favorite Bible verse or passage to contemplate on daily.  Do this in quiet, taking time to treasure the words in your heart.  Spend this intentional time in the Word and with God – silently praying and openly listening.

Anticipating Christmas: GOD IS CALLING

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

I was recently visiting a congregation in Dallas. I saw listed on the bulletin that we would be singing a hymn I had never heard before. Honestly, when this happens I concentrate on trying to figure out the tune so much that I don’t really pay attention to the words.  However, this time was different.

I opened the Lutheran Hymnal to #833, “Listen, God is Calling”. Since I hadn’t heard it before, I decided to just listen to the first verse before I jumped in. That didn’t happen, though. I was so struck by the words of the refrain that all I wanted to do was listen.  Those words have been with me ever since and I think they are perfect for  any season, but especially during Advent.

“Listen, listen, God is calling

Through the Word inviting,

Offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.”

 

May we remember to listen to His Word and remember that we have received forgiveness, comfort and joy that only Jesus can offer.

During this busy season, we often times miss hearing Him. Take some time to pause, be still and listen.

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 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 

 

Anticipating Christmas – AN INVITATION

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:12-14

Jesus was the greatest gift we could ever receive – a gift to show us God’s love.  His birth represents an invitation to all of us to become children of God and heirs to the Kingdom.  It is one of the many promises of God to us. We are His children. The Kingdom belongs to us through Him.  We are invited to be part of it in every way. We can share in the joy of His birth and share in His glory. Jesus Christ, our brother, was given to us as a gift for our salvation.  He is a sign of God’s perfect love for us, His children.

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We invited Jesus into our hearts and He invites us to be with Him eternally.  In John 14:2, He tells us that His “Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”  We are invited to live with Him there. That invitation was manifested that night in the manger over 2000 years ago. Extend the invitation to those around you.

If you have already accepted the invitation then I encourage you to invite others.  Start small, if you wish. A simple invitation to come to worship with you can go a long way.

 

Anticipating Christmas: ANTICIPATION

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 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”  Psalm 130:5

The holiday season is a season filled with eager anticipation, hope and glorious expectation. Halloween has passed and now we look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, to family and friends, to celebrating gratefulness, love and joy.

This entire season encompasses the idea of preparing our hearts for True Love. It’s a beautiful time to get ready to celebrate the arrival of our Lord.  

We live in an amazing time. We live on the other side of His birth, knowing the story of Joseph, Mary, how there was no room for them at the inn. We know that Jesus was born into this world as a lowly and weak infant.  Now, we live in the excitement of this season, ready to rejoice in the birth of our King.

The people then were living in a time before they truly knew the story.  They were waiting for the true Messiah to save them. They didn’t know when God would send Him. yet they were filled with hope and anticipation.  

We can live in hope and anticipation as well. So often we don’t take the time during the holiday season to do this. Instead we create such a busy and stressful life that we forget what we are even celebrating. It gets filled with exhaustion instead of anticipation.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord” Micah 7:7

Our hope, our expectation and our anticipation should come from using this season to prepare our hearts for Christ. It’s important to take time during this busy season to really prepare your hearts for Christ. 

What traditions can you and your family start to help you focus on the hope, expectation and anticipation of the birth of Christ?

 

Who Knew?

It has been an amazing journey on this road of writing I have been on.

From the beginning, I have wanted to write children’s books – picture books and first readers. However, that is not where God has taken me.

I have written many devotion pieces, entered a short story competition (dystopian genre) and wrote an article for a travel magazine.

Yesterday, I had my first piece published. It was the article for a travel magazine. I was excited about the article and nervous too. It was certainly different than anything I have been writing. It was both extremely challenging, but incredibly rewarding and exciting. I couldn’t be more proud of this piece because I absolutely love the subject.

You can check out my article here:

The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells

On to the next adventure . . .

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What’s Next ?

It’s been a while since I have posted on this blog. It’s not because I haven’t been writing. I have been. Instead of writing what I am comfortable with, I felt nudged to step out of my comfort zone and challenge myself as a writer.

First, I wrote a piece which is definitely unlike anything I have ever written before. It was a first-person narrative for a travel magazine which focuses on roadside attractions. This piece required no fiction and quite a bit of research. It was a huge challenge, but one I ended up really enjoying. It will also be my first paid published piece. I would have never thought about writing for a magazine, but I trusted God’s lead and I succeeded.

Secondly, I entered a writing contest for the first time ever. It was an exciting, but stressful contest. They have you paragraph #1 and #20, you had to write the other 48 paragraphs. Each one had to be at least 40 words. I almost gave up on it because I could not come up with an idea. However, the Lord lead, and the words flowed. Not only did I enter my first contest, but I also ended up writing a piece in a genre I would have never thought I could write in: Dystopian.  I am looking forward to seeing if I placed at all in the contest.  I hope I did, but I am also grateful for accepting the challenge.

Finally, I finished my Advent Devotional based on Christmas Hymns which I have been working on for 4 years.

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All of these pieces had the same deadlines. I managed to reach them.  At the end, I sighed and thought, “What’s Next?”

I’ll admit. I felt a little lost. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I kept waiting for God to lead me.  Finally, I have the answer.  The answer will require challenging myself again.

I am going to write pieces based on my husband’s paintings. I am not sure if they will be stories or devotional pieces yet, but I will be using his paintings as writing prompts.  I have no idea how this is going to go, but I will trust the lead and the process.

 

 

 

Thank You to a Joyful Stranger

I was almost to the lobby doors of the medical center when I heard a voice speaking. At first I didn’t know they were speaking to me. My head was wrapped up in the pain I was feeling from the area where they removed the stitches. Then the voice asked, “Right?, young lady.”

I turned to see an older woman sitting on one of the benches. I approached her and apologized for not hearing what she said.  She repeated it –

“Can you believe I fell two weeks ago and I am almost healed already?”  She gestured to her arm which was badly bruised. “I am 88 years old and I am ready to go meet Jesus. I thought I was going to when I fell, but I guess Jesus has more work for me to do here.”

This woman’s face was filled with the brightness of joy as she told me this story. She continued on with how she wondered what else she could do for Him and then, finally, closed the conversation with a blessing on me and my day.

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I was almost too distracted by my own pain that I almost missed an opportunity to hear this woman’s story, to be touched by the joy she exuded, and to witness honest and sincere love for the Lord.

She doesn’t know this, but she continued doing work for the Lord just by having that conversation with me. She reminded me of 1 Peter 1:8:  “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,”

She had that glorious joy and I don’t know about you, but I want to be the person who others witness this joy in.

So, beautiful lady, where every you are, thank you.