"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!'"
December 24, 2014
This weeks devotional is an adaptation of one I wrote a few years ago, but as I went back and re-read it, the message spoke to my heart.
I remember how excited all of my sister were when each of their children were born. They would call shortly after each child's birth to share the good news, and we would all be excited to welcome the new addition to our family.
My sisters would be excited and their voice filled with joy as they would give all the details about their new son or daughter. Listening to them, I too would become excited. I could hardly wait to see my new niece or nephew and hold them in my arms. Even though my sisters lived in various states when their children were born and we were separated by miles, my heart shared in their joy.
There is something exciting about a baby being born, which causes you to immediately want to share the news with other people. Throughout the years, whenever I've received word that another tiny member has been added to our family, I always think, "Okay, who can I call or email and tell this news to?" I don't want to take away from the new parent's or grandparent's excitement of telling others, so try to think of individuals they will not think to call and tell. There is something very special and miraculous about a child coming into the world, which makes people want to spread the word.
I remember when my sisters had a baby and would come back "home" to visit that first time after the birth. They wanted to show their child off to everyone. They were anxious for family and friends to "ooh" and "ahh" over their little one; and enjoyed attending the church they grew up in so that even more people could see their little bundle of joy. Parents want others to share in their happiness and admire their newborn.
Now, whenever I see cousins whom I haven't seen in quite some time, they want to show off their grandkids, so will pull out pictures that they "just happen" to be carrying in their purse or pocket. They are proud of their precious grandbabies and want everyone to see their pictures. That's okay, and I'm glad to look at them (at least for a while). But I also find it a little humorous. All of my sisters and female cousins are all grandmothers now, so when any of them get together they'll visit for a few minutes, then before you know it... out come the pictures. If any of them forget to bring pictures with them, they'll make up for it by telling stories. They all think that their grandkids are the cutest and smartest, and you can hear the pride in their voices as they talk about them; and that's how it should be.
Mary was engaged to Joseph, when an angel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the birth mother of the Messiah. I wonder if during her pregnancy, Mary assumed that she would be surrounded by the support of her family and friends when the birth took place. She was young, and had more than likely lived in Nazareth all of her life and was acquainted with all of the people who lived around her. Mary felt very honored to be chosen to carry the Holy Child in her womb. But like most young women, she also may have wanted to have her mother or a special aunt or midwife there with her when she went into labor. She may have thought about the birth of this special baby, and dreamed of sharing that moment with those closest to her. But that was not to be.
Shortly before her delivery date, a decree went out that all the world should be registered for tax purposes. In order to do that, everyone had to go register in their own city. Joseph was from the lineage of King David, so he was required to travel from Nazareth in Galilee, into Judea to the city of Bethlehem. Mary had to go with him in order to be registered. After their arrival, the days of her pregnancy were completed and it was time for the birth of Jesus.
Bethlehem was crowded, due to the influx of people there to register. I'm sure that Joseph did everything he could think of to try and find a room for Mary; but there were no vacancies anywhere. Finally, he found a stable where they were allowed to stay. Was Mary frightened when she realized that, not only was she going to have her first baby alone, away from all her family and friends, but she was going to give birth in a dirty stable? This was probably not how she had envisioned the birth of the Messiah.
I once heard a pastor talk about the stable in Bethlehem. He and his wife have been there, and were able to see the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem is built into the side of a hill, and the stables there were not the wood structures that we see in the nativity scenes or imagine in our minds. There is now a church built over the stable where Jesus was likely born. The stable was just a small cave that was in the hillside. Like most caves, I'm sure it was dark and dirty. And since animals were kept there, it probably didn't smell very good.
Joseph was a carpenter, and I can see him looking around the stable with a creative eye, trying to figure out how to make Mary more comfortable. Perhaps he found some straw or leaves and fashioned a small bed for her to lie upon.
I can imagine my husband in that situation doing everything within his power to make me as comfortable as possible, and creatively coming up with ideas of how to afford me as much privacy and comfort as he possibly could.
While Mary was in labor, I can picture Joseph looking around for something to use as a cradle in which to lay the baby after the birth. He found a manger from which the animals ate. I'm sure he carefully cleaned it and ran his hands across the wood to make sure there were no splinters that would hurt the newborn baby. Then he probably got some fresh straw and carefully filled the manger to try and make it as soft as possible. Perhaps they had a blanket or cloth with them, or he took his own robe and gently laid it over the straw so that the baby would be warm and safe. Joseph knew that Mary was giving birth to the Messiah, the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. This baby was given into his care by God. He must have felt a strong sense of responsibility. I'm sure he felt helpless when he couldn't find a room in an inn where Mary would be more comfortable. Perhaps he felt like he was failing God by not being able to provide a better place for His Son to be born on earth.
Although Joseph was the earthly father who loved, protected, cared for, and raised Jesus; he was not the biological father. Mary was a virgin and Jesus was placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Although Joseph was given the responsibility of being Jesus' earthly father, the true Father of Jesus was God. It's an amazing thought that God, the Creator of all mankind, formed and shaped His Only Son when He was in Mary's womb.
When the birth occurred, God was excited and wanted everyone to know that His Son had made His arrival onto the earth! I can just imagine, as He looked down from heaven into that manger, His heart swelling with love for His Son. He couldn't let this event go by quietly. God sent some angels on a very special mission. There were some shepherds in a field, watching over their sheep. God gave instructions for the angels to go announce the good news of the birth of His Son -- the Messiah. I can see these shepherds all gathered around a fire, talking about their families and things that had happened out in the field that day. Perhaps some of them had dozed off. Suddenly a bright light shone around them and an angel appeared. Needless to say, they were terrified!
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Then the angels returned back to heaven.
The shepherds said to one another, "Hey, let's go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."
The birth of the Messiah didn't occur in the splendor and grandeur that many expected. He experienced a very lowly birth. And who better to make the announcement to, then to a group of lowly shepherds. What an honor it was, to be chosen by God to be the ones to receive the greatest message the world has ever received! God had sent His Son to earth; go see this Child and rejoice!
After seeing the Christ child, the shepherds spread the word which was told them by the angel concerning this Child. They just couldn't keep the good news of this birth to themselves, but told everyone who would listen; much like we do today when there is a newborn baby in our family. All that heard the news, marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. And then those people began telling everyone that they saw, and on and on.
Much like today, all it takes is one announcement to be made by the new parents that their child has been born, and by nightfall the news has been far spread. The new mommy and daddy tell the grandparents, who tell the uncles and aunts, who pass it on to other family and friends. Good news, such as a birth, spreads very quickly.
God sent His angels to make the announcement about His Son's birth to a group of shepherds, who began to spread the word as soon as they had seen the child. Those whom they told began to spread the word to those whom they knew or met, and on and on the word about the birth of the Christ Child was widespread. I'm sure by the time that Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem, all their family and friends had already heard about the birth. Perhaps others who had come to register heard the glad tidings, and as they journeyed back to their hometown, they told all those they passed on the road and spread the word in all the villages they passed through.
Although it has been a few thousand years since the birth of the Christ Child, each year on December 25th, we still celebrate His arrival on earth. Although it has been a long time since Jesus walked upon this earth, may we never forget this great Gift that God sent to mankind. Not only one day a year, but every day, may we each be filled with excitement at the good news that the Messiah has come and made a way for us to receive salvation. May we joyfully declare that Jesus has come and made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. I pray that the story of Jesus never becomes boring or insignificant to us. But just as the shepherds ran to see the Christ and proclaim the news of His birth, may we each be filled with joy and excitement as we tell others about Jesus.
Most families have someone to inspire a saying like "If you want the world to know, just tell her, and by the time you get home, everyone will know." For Israel, it was the shepherds.
God could have opened the heavens, and announced Jesus with a voice of thunder. It might have even been a little faster at spreading the news. I'm not sure exactly why He didn't. But it was important that Herod didn't know how to find Jesus. And it would be important years later that the jewish leaders wouldn't believe.
Even if God had forced the news on everyone, there would be many who wouldn't believe. God did declare Jesus was His Son when John baptized Him, but still many didn't believe. And there was an earthquake that tore the veil in the temple when Jesus died, but still many didn't believe. Jesus returned from death, but still many didn't believe. So, even if God shouted to the entire world today that we must repent, and worship Him, there would be many who wouldn't believe.
Puppy Chow Candy
(For people consumption only -- not for puppies!)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup butter
9 cups Crispix cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
Combine peanut butter, butter, and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute; stir. Add vanilla and stir again until well blended. Put cereal in a very large bowl. Pour mixture over cereal and mix gently to coat. Next coat with powdered sugar. To coat with powdered sugar, put the cereal mixture in a large paper bag. Add the powdered sugar; fold down top of the bag and shake (the bag.... or you can shake yourself while shaking the bag.... whatever will be the most fun!) to evenly coat. Store in a tightly covered canister or bowl.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is when I was a little girl. My mother's family, the Parton's, would all gather on Christmas Eve and have a potluck meal together. As time went by and families grew, it became harder and harder to get together, so that gathering eventually fell by the wayside. Apparently, they had all got together for many years prior to my birth. I was one of the younger cousins, so didn't get to participate in as many of the family Christmas dinners as some of the older ones did.
After our dinner with the Parton's, our family would go home and open our Christmas presents.
In the years after the Parton family stopped getting together on Christmas Eve, our family began our own traditions. We would have a special meal that evening, then would all gather in the living room. We would read the Christmas story, then open our gifts. Such special memories of Christmas with my family when I was growing up!
Luke 2:1 begins, "It came to pass". After all the years of watching and waiting, the promise of a Messiah had finally came to pass. When praying for situations in your life, don't give up, but have faith and believe that there will come a time when you too can say, "It came to pass!"
We love you!
Loretta & Jon