THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

We all respond differently to various situations. It is sometimes easy to judge others because they don't react as we think they should, or because they do not respond as we ourselves would. In the story of the birth of Christ there were many people involved, with various reactions.

I have been rereading the story of the birth of Jesus from the first two chapters in both Matthew and Luke. Last week I wrote about Mary's response to the news the angel brought; that she was going to conceive and bear the Christ child. Her response was, “Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said.”

What about Joseph's response? All we know is that Mary was promised (or pledged) to be married to Joseph. We don't know if it was an arranged marriage, which was the custom of that time period, nor how well the two of them knew one another. But when Joseph heard the news that Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit, he desired to protect her. Matthew 1:19 says, “And her [promised] husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose her publicly and shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss (divorce) her quietly and secretly.”

But as he was thinking this over, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Joseph awoke and did as the angel commanded him, and took Mary home as his wife. Mary remained a virgin until after she gave birth to Jesus. I'm not sure how many men would believe their future bride was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and then follow through and take on the responsibility of raising the promised Messiah. This shows the character of Joseph.

We really don't know a lot of details about Joseph and he isn't mentioned very often in scripture, but just as Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, Joseph was the man chosen to be the earthly father to the Son of God. Joseph could have reacted many different ways when he found out that Mary was pregnant, but he obeyed the angel that appeared to him and fulfilled God's plan. He responded as a man filled with faith and trust in God.

When the angel appeared and the glory of the Lord shone around about the shepherds, who were keeping watch over their sheep during the night, they were terrified. But the angel declared the good news of the birth of the Saviour; he is Christ the Lord. Suddenly a great multitude of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

As soon as the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” After seeing the Christ child, they spread the word regarding his birth. They glorified and praised God for all the things they had heard and seen.

Wise men (Magi) from the east, followed the star to come worship him. When they entered the house where Jesus and his mother were, they bowed down and worshiped. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We see where the angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus by praising God. The shepherds responded by immediately going to see the newborn baby, and left glorifying and praising God. Then the wise men bowed and worshiped when they saw Jesus.

Not everyone's response was so exuberant and accepting of who Jesus really was. King Herod was disturbed and troubled when he heard about the birth of the Messiah, as was the whole of Jerusalem. He gathered all the chief priests and scribes together and asked where the Christ was to be born. When they told him Bethlehem, he secretly called the wise men from the east to him, and told them to report back to him when they found out where the child was. But God warned them in a dream to not return back to Herod, and to return to their own country by another route.

Herod was furious and responded by giving orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under. He had asked the wise men when they had first seen the star, then estimated how much time had past since that time. Herod wanted to try and destroy the Christ child. Mothers had their babies torn from their arms, and lamented the death of their children because of Herod's wickedness.

Previous to the slaughters, an angel had appeared to Joseph and told him to take the child and his mother, and flee into Egypt. He was told to stay there until the angel brought word; for Herod was going to search for the child in order to destroy him.

After Herod's death, Joseph took his family back to Israel, but heard that Herod's son was reigning as king. Having been warned in a dream, Joseph took Mary and the child to a region in Galilee, and lived in Nazareth.

Jesus began his life as a refugee and stranger in a foreign country. So that prophecy was fulfilled, Joseph and Mary had to leave their families and all that they knew, in order to protect their son. They were not wealthy, but were very poor and humble. Perhaps the wise men's gifts of the gold, frankincense, and myrrh financed the journey from Bethlehem to Egypt and provided shelter and food for their family.

It's easy to question why God didn't remove Herod from office immediately. Why were the babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding area not protected from the needless and senseless slaughter that was ordered by Herod? It's hard to understand why Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt in order to be protected and safe. We can question and debate why things happened as they did, but we know that God had a plan and that plan had to be fulfilled.

We can see how God gave Joseph dreams in order to know where to go and what to do, in order to thwart Herod's wicked plan to destroy Jesus. God delivered them out of the hands of those who would seek to do harm.

In circumstances we face, it's easy to question God at times and try to figure out why He did or didn't respond in a certain way. But our life is like a puzzle where we can only see one piece at a time. At times, we try to force ourselves to fit into a place where we really don't belong, which can cause discomfort. But when we allow God to fit the pieces together, we begin to see the picture take shape and know that God has a reason for doing what He does. We can choose to respond with praise and worship, or we can balk and try to do things our own way.

This Christmas season, take time to consider the great gift of God's only son that was sent to us. We each must choose our response. We can come to God obediently and willingly. We can come with a heart filled with praise and worship for the Saviour sent to redeem us from our sins. We can glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who loves us with an everlasting love. Or we can reject and deny Christ. We can destroy any relationship He longs to have with us by rejecting and turning our heart from Him.

Choose Jesus and celebrate His life!! Respond to the great gift He has offered to you by offering Him praise and by glorifying His name. Bow in worship to the Almighty Saviour.

Philippians 2:9-11 says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Let's celebrate Jesus this Christmas season!!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

We recently went several days without electricity. It was an inconvenience in many ways. We use a well, so no electricity means no pump; no pump means no water. Our heater is gas, but the fan and controls are electric. So, we used buckets to collect rainwater to flush toilets and slept in the living room next to the fireplace. It helped give me a refreshed appreciation for the luxuries we usually enjoy.

Now, can you imagine having no electricity and a missing wall? How about sleeping in the barn for the night? and your wife is about to give birth? to a baby that isn't yours? and you're going there on a government order until they get around to taking a census?

Just as we knew we would get electricity back, Joseph and Mary knew they wouldn't stay in a stable forever. And even better, they knew that the Messiah was about to be born. They probably didn't know precisely what that meant. But they had a promise that they could count on. And that's they key. It's amazing what we can go through as long as we can hold onto a promise of something better coming. We all have a promise, too. Ultimately, we have the promise of heaven. I don't know precisely what that means, but I know there will be no illness and no death. And we will be able to bask in the presence of Jesus and God. And that's enough for me.

ON THE MENEWE:

Mint Thin Cookies

1 pkg. (8 squares) Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate (Chocolate Almond Bark can also be used)

Ritz Crackers

Andes crème de menthe baking chips

Microwave chocolate in small microwaveable bowl as directed on package. Stir until completely melted.

Dip crackers in melted chocolate, completely coating crackers with chocolate. Carefully scrape off excess chocolate or gently shake to get rid of the excess. Place on wax paper covered baking sheets. Sprinkle a few Andes crème de menthe baking chips on each cookie (don't overdo or the mint flavor will be overpowering).

Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chocolate if firm.

CHRISTMAS GREETING:

What a year this has been! It began with me fulfilling my dream of being a stay-at-home wife. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to do this. Jon has gotten used to me being home taking care of things here, and really likes me being not working. I took care of all the yard work this year, and Jon enjoyed not having to mow in the evenings or weekends. It seems like I manage to stay busy all the time. There's always something that needs to be done!

In March, we began our Gray Sheep website. Hard to believe that this is our 41st newsletter already! Hopefully you all have enjoyed and been blessed each week, as much as we have been by having this opportunity to share with you.

May brought many family graduations. Jon's niece and two of my nephews and one niece all graduated from high school. I also had a niece graduate from college, and a nephew and his wife graduate from seminary.

Then we each had a nephew get married this year; Jon's in July and mine in September.

Both of our families welcomed new babies. Jon became a great-uncle for the first time in September, when his nephew and wife had a baby girl. I became a great-aunt (not for the first time) when two of my nephews and their wives both had baby girls also.

September brought about the most difficult change, when I very suddenly and unexpected lost my dad. I don't grieve as often as I did at first, but it still comes in waves from time to time. So many times I have wanted to pick up the phone and call my dad, or go sit with him and visit. My memories of him and my mama are very precious.

Looking back over this past year, we know that we have been blessed. Other than me having a 1-day stomach virus, we have both been healthy and well all year. We have been safe and our needs have been met. God has been good to us!

Now we look forward to the new year. We know that we are facing a career change for Jon. We ask for your prayers for his nephew, who is in the Army reserves and will be leaving for Afghanistan in February. My nephew is in the Army and stationed in South Korea. He and his wife are expecting their first baby, and it's hard on them living so far from home and family. In May, my youngest niece and nephew will both be graduating from high school. Only God knows what else 2008 holds, but we know that He will be with us and our families, whatever may happen.

We pray that your Christmas and the New Year are filled with blessing. Although we may not know you personally, we love you and pray for you. Thank you so much for reading our newsletter. We pray that what is written each week will somehow touch your heart and encourage you.

Merry Christmas!

LAUGHING LAMBS:

I recently received a Christmas card from one of my cousins and her husband. She had been looking through some old pictures and had found a snapshot taken of me when I was about five years old. She had the picture tucked inside the card for me. I was at her parents house, standing in front of their Christmas tree. This was in 1970, when wigs were popular for women to wear. My cousin and her sister had a wig, and had put it on me. I have a grimace on my face, and you can tell that I'm really not too happy about wearing it. I'm the youngest girl cousin on my mom's side of the family, so was like a big doll for the older cousins to play with.

I was showing the picture to one of my sisters. She started laughing when she saw it. She said when she was growing up that she always thought Bill and Ruth (our aunt and uncle) always had the prettiest Christmas tree. The tree in the picture was a real tree and really didn't have a lot of decorations on it. It had that silver foil rope tinsel and icicles on it, with a few balls hanging off the limbs. It was kind of a scraggly looking tree! She was trying to figure out why she thought their tree was so special, and decided it was because our house was tiny so we usually had a smaller real tree. Also, they probably had store bought and prettier ornaments than we did. Most of our ornaments were either old or handmade. It's was funny how different things look from the perspective of a young girl than it does from an adult.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

We're too blessed to be stressed!!”

(Quote heard on TV recently from a group of soldiers in Iran. If they feel that way, how much more should we!)

We wish you a blessed Christmas. Relax and enjoy time with family and friends.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org