The Willing Servant

“…behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. …When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him:  he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.  And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:20b-21; 24-25

We’ve talked about Mary this month, who was indeed God’s servant, but today I thought it would be appropriate to mention Joseph.  His sacrifice for God was also great.  No doubt he endured some disapproval and/or ridicule for marrying an already pregnant girl.  Later, after another God-sent dream, he flees with the family to Egypt, abandoning his home, friends and livelihood.  He does all this without complaint or questioning.  He doesn’t hesitate or procrastinate.  In fact, He never speaks!  The Bible does not include a single word spoken by Joseph. What we do have is a record of his action — obedience.  God knew the kind of man He wanted to raise His son;  a man who understood servanthood and could model it for Jesus as He grew up.

Christmas

It is humbling to realize how far I fall short of this ideal.  Often I obey, but in a slow and grudging manner.  I whine about my circumstances and wish for an easier life.  I don’t usually want to suffer or sacrifice, even if it’s for the good of others, even if it seems to be God’s will.  If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit that I’m more like Jonah than Joseph.

So today, of all days, amidst the gifts and the feast, the visiting and rejoicing, I need to take time to meditate on the lives of Joseph and Mary, God’s faithful servants.  The people who raised Jesus, the God-man who lived and died as a servant to all of us.  I’ll remember what truly pleases God.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”  1 Samuel 15:22

God doesn’t want us to be “good” people;  He wants us to be His people. Dear readers, I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas.  Go in peace;  serve the Lord.

 

 

 

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Mary, A Servant #2

Many people love the modern carol, Mary Did You Know.  In fact, at our recent Christmas Luncheon for the women of the church, somebody asked if it could be sung on Christmas Eve. Beth Ann’s post about Mary, a servant of God, made me think of it.  It seems appropriate to both our theme and the season. Here’s the story behind the song as told by the author Mark Lowry.

“In 1984, Jerry Falwell called and asked me to write the program for their next Living Christmas Tree.

As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary. I have always been fascinated with the concept that God came to earth.

…As my mind went back to the manger scene, I began to think about the power, authority and majesty she cradled in her arms. Those little lips were the same lips that had spoken worlds into existence. All of those things were contained in the young child lying quietly on her bosom. Even now, he was the very one who had given life to his mother, Mary.”

And for those who know and treasure it, and for anyone who hasn’t heard it yet, here’s the song.

 

Mary, a Servant

It’s Christmas time and one of the Lord’s greatest servants doesn’t get equal time with the birth of our Lord.  Of course, I’m talking about Mary!  Just think, and put yourself in her shoes a minute.  You are young, probably only teen-aged, betrothed to be married, and this Angel appears and tells you that of all the people on earth you are chosen to carry God’s son.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be really freaked out.  Mary only said:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:38)

I’m sure that Mary had some rough days ahead.  Carrying this baby for nine months and traveling to Bethlehem.  What if Mary had refused.  We can’t even conceptualize that now, 2000 years later.  She was the perfect servant, even though I would bet she had her moments of doubt.

Breath Of Heaven sung by Amy Grant is a hauntingly beautiful song.  It just puts Mary’s position in perspective.  It helps that the images in this video is from the movie “Nativity Story”.  Just a warning, this song always makes me cry.

 

A Christmas Prayer

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Impossible!

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?”‘ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;  therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son’;  and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For with God nothing will  be impossible.'” Luke 1:34-37

Mary and Elizabeth were in impossible situations.  Mary, unmarried and bearing a child she couldn’t explain — who would believe this was God’s Son?  Elizabeth, barren for years and now old.  The angel tells Mary with God, all things are possible, and she trusts him.

See the source image

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;  let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38

Most of us, when confronted with what seems to be an impossible difficulty, such as illness, job loss, divorce, etc.. pray for God to simply remove the problem.  “Take it away, Lord!”  we cry.  ” Fix it! I simply can’t go through this suffering!”  Mary didn’t do that.  She was content for God’s will to be done in her life.  God did do the impossible, but in the process Mary was probably often despised, puzzled, hurt and unsettled.  God didn’t take away her pain, but He always provided a way through it, and He used if for good.

This is a part of the Christmas story we all need to remember.  Our faith won’t make life easier.  The Bible tells us we will endure trials and troubles;  but God can and will do the impossible.  He’ll guide us and  stay with us and eventually work all those problems into a beautiful tapestry that reflects His will.  Are you willing to trust Him as Mary did?

God’s Servant

“And Mary said, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

We’ve just started a study of the book of Luke in our weekly Bible study, and right away we have one of the best examples of obedience in the Scripture.  The verse above is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement(it’s called the annunciation) that she will have a very special infant.  The conception will come about through the action of God’s Holy Spirit, without a human father….but wait, that’s a problem!  Mary is a young, unmarried woman.  What will the neighbors think?  Even worse, what will her parents and her fiancé think?  She’ll be disgraced and that special child branded as illegitimate. She might even be stoned.  How can this be good?

If Mary thought any of these things, it seems to have been for a very fleeting moment, because almost instantly she responds by saying she is God’s servant (some versions say handmaiden) and she will do whatever He commands. I wonder how many of us would be so accepting.  I’m pretty sure I’d be begging God to find some other way to accomplish His purpose.  Some way that didn’t cause me difficulty and humiliation.

Thankfully Mary did not try to take the easy way out.  She trusted God and His plan for her and for everybody else.  Remember in one of my previous posts I talked about how what is for our immediate good is not always for our ultimate good?  Here’s a perfect example.

I need to keep this in mind when things are happening that I don’t understand or don’t like.  God’s ways are not mine.  He has a plan.  I am His servant, just like Mary.

The Resurrection is Now

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”…John 11:25-26

This verse came to me this morning and I think it’s significant.  Jesus is speaking with Martha about her brother, Lazarus, who died a few days ago.  Martha knows that Jesus has the power to raise Lazarus, but he’s waited so long she’s not sure if he will. So she questions him about his intentions.  She tells him she knows he could have come earlier and prevented Lazarus from dying;  she also knows that all will be raised from death in the last days.   Notice how Jesus answers her.  He does not say “I will be resurrected” or “I will resurrect Lazarus” or even “Don’t worry, we’ll all be resurrected at some point. He says, I AM the resurrection.”

What does this mean?

I think it’s another one of those indications that the kingdom of God is both now and not yet.  If we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom has already come in our lives.  We are a “new creation” NOW, even as we look forward to the second coming when “every knee will bow” to Christ.

How would we live if we really believed this?  Well, I think we would give God the proper place in our lives (first) NOW; we would stop being anxious and worried NOW;  we would love others as Christ loved us NOW;  we would want to tell everyone how they, too, could experience this new life NOW.

Think about it:  you and I have already been raised from the dead.  We don’t have to live in darkness and fear.  The resurrection is NOW.