Sunday, 10 December 2017

Fear. In spite of faith.

Where did John come from? He came from 'impossibility'....
"A Childless Couple Conceives
During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old."

Zachariah. "He who remembers Jehovah or he who Jehovah remembers..."
Elizabeth. Bearing the name of her forerunner, Aaron's wife. 
Both of priestly families.
Both honourable, loving people.
Both childless.

How deprived did they feel? Was Zachariah resigned: no son to carry out his name, no child to inherit his name....
And Elizabeth? The ultimate disgrace, let alone no son to care for parents in old age.

Time had passed. All chance was gone and now, just old age. 

And yet....
"It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear." Luke 1:5 - 12

This pinnacle of life, the chance to serve God in his holy temple. Aah. This was the culmination of a life's dream, surely outweighing any earthly desires. This is what Zachariah had been born to.

And then an angel came and ruined this holy moment....

Change.

"When you came in and greeted me, the instant I heard your voice, my baby moved in me for joy!" Luke 1:44

The baby. John. He knew.As 

As the Apostle John wrote: "There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light." John 1:6 - 8

John-the-Apostle knew the Scriptures:
" as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”
Malachi 3:1
 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’” Isaiah 40:3


And so John the Baptist appeared..."

John. He, who Jesus said was 'the greatest of all men' - "the greatest messenger you’ll ever hear. He is the messenger Malachi announced when he wrote,
I’m sending my messenger on ahead
To make the road smooth for you.
“Let me lay it out for you as plainly as I can: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer..."

And John, as he preached repentance, said about Jesus: " “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

He WILL change us - from the inside, out. From the inside.

This is what Advent is about. Preparing. Offering ourselves to God, to CHANGE us. From the inside, out.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Recognition. Blessed.

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

She gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is destined for God’s mightiest praise. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me! When you came in and greeted me, the instant I heard your voice, my baby moved in me for joy!  You believed that God would do what he said; that is why he has given you this wonderful blessing.”
Luke 1:41 - 45

Prophetic words. Divine wisdom
showed Elisabeth the unborn child
hidden in a young girl's body.

Blessed was this girl. Blessing. 'To be spoken well of.'
God has given Mary this child,
this reason to be 'spoken well of'.

Blessed was she, as was Jael, renowned for killing
Sisera, Canaanite cruel enemy,
saving her people.

Yet Mary too would be the instrument
bringing salvation.
Through life, not death.

Mary.
'Spoken well of, like Jael.'
Not a saviour in herself. 'Just'
the mother
of The Saviour.

Note: the cross-reference to Luke 1:42 is Judges 5:24, which recounts the story of Jael who killed Sisera, commander of the enemy Canaanite army, by driving a tent peg through his head while he slept, thus saving the Israelites. The word used for 'blessed' seems to be the same in both texts, albeit the NT one is Greek and the OT one Hebrew.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Journeying

Elizabeth with child!  Pregnant! Expecting a baby!

If Mary had thought her own news challenging to believe, so was Elizabeth's. This elderly lady, gone far beyond expectation of conceiving, now awaited a child.
Wonderful.
Mary just HAD to see her.
(Or was it also to escape the prying eyes, the village gossip
of unwed maiden suddenly expecting? Who would believe
crazy stories of angels from a mere girl?)

Luke 1:39 - 40
A few days later Mary hurried to the highlands of Judea to the town where Zacharias lived, to visit Elizabeth.
What a journey.
We are told it would have taken
three to five days
depending on whether she travelled with a caravan
or alone.

in any case
a girl, a young girl, barely pregnant.
Perhaps fourteen years old? Scarcely older
than her son would be
when he chose to stay in His Father's House
after the Passover festival.

Was she used to travel?
Did she, too, journey with her family to Jerusalem
for holy celebration?

Or was this her first time?
Her first, holy, journey?

What about us? Where will we journey to?
Far-off places?
Other homes?
Reconnect with relatives?
Find friends, old and new?
Travel inwards, 
hurrying to revelation, to
reach the inner places of our souls?

Advent. The coming. Where are we going?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Nothing.is.impossible. WITH GOD.

Luke 1: 36 - 38 (The angel continued:) "Furthermore, six months ago your Cousin Elizabeth—‘the barren one,’ they called her—became pregnant in her old age!  For every promise from God shall surely come true.”

Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants. May everything you said come true.” And then the angel disappeared."

Every promise shall come true.

Yet, we, unlike Mary, doubt.
Sarah, Abraham's wife, laughed in disbelief.
Perhaps, we do not laugh
but hidden in our hearts
we ponder: "Can this really be?
Do I deserve it? Surely, this is
'too good to be true'."

Yet Mary did not, Unlike Zechariah
who also had angelic visitation,
and suffered for his incredulity, 
Mary believed.
Mary was willing.
Mary accepted.
Mary desired that God's word WOULD STAND.

For her, no scepticism, doubt, cynicism, suspicion, distrust, mistrust, wariness, chariness...

JUST FAITH.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

With Us.

"Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.
" Luke 1:34 - 35
God knew. All would be well.
But Mary?
Mary, she needed explanation.
Did she recognise herself in Scripture?

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel."  Isaiah 7:14

Yet the angel answered her. Not merely just a messenger, pronouncing, but the mouthpiece of the Living God who loves to talk with Adam's children.

Immanuel. God with us. God with Mary. Not just some-time-in-the-future, not 'only' a  Mighty God, King, Ruler, but also God With US. 

Now. Today. This minute. A heart'sbreath away.

We are not pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but Because of Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in us. HE LIVES! GLORY GLORY HALLELUJAH!


Monday, 4 December 2017

Fear. Not.

"She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
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.”
"  Luke 1:29 - 33

"Mary, don't  be afraid."
How many times has God lovingly whispered these words? "Nothing to fear. Fear not. Don't be frightened. Don't be afraid...."
So many, many times. 
In this story, Mary's story, God's story, we know the end. The glorious, incredible end.
God knew. All would be well.
But Mary?
Mary, she needed explanation.

What was prophesied about the Messiah?
Did Mary recognise the angel's words from Scripture?
Did she know Isaiah 9:6
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Did she stop being afraid, then?


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Beauty in God's eyes.

"God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you. 
"               Luke 1:26 - 28

What a greeting. Angelic visitation.
What did he look  like?
A rush of wind in his wings?
A sudden sense of power, filling the room?
An enormous Presence, a cloud of Heaven's dust?
A whirling, moving, luminous being?

Does it matter?
The words are beyond description. The affirmation
that she, a nobody, is BEAUTIFUL. With GOD'S beauty.
God's favour. Beauty from the inside out.
Beauty of adoration
Beauty of blessedness.
Beauty of character.
Beauty of devotion.

Oh, to be beautiful, to be favoured, for GOD to be glorified in me.



Integrity

Joseph's story.
Oh, not our Egyptian hero, but our Nazarene one.
They whispered about him in the village.
Poor Joseph, trustworthy carpenter
having to father
another Man's Son.

Everyone knew
Mary had betrayed him with another.
Unexplainable.
Joseph was a good, steady, hard-working man.
Mary a good, loving, lovely girl.
Oh, he was a good man, he was.

Indeed.
He paid no heed to gossip, wishing only the best
for the girl he adored.
Preferring to protect her in his pain
he, a law-abiding, law-following-in-simple-obedience man
agonized over the Right Thing to Do.

Joseph
descendant of David,
clung to his forefather's psalms
of praise to their God.
Nothing else could matter
but that God, GOD, should be honoured in this mess.

Painfully
he resolved
to quietly separate himself
from his one love
in his disgrace.

Keeping honour
he thought of her first.
Seeking to do what was right and just
and to do it in the right way.
In love and mercy.

But God stepped in.
GOD STEPPED IN!
There was no mistaking the dream.
Joyfully, though he knew
the way would not be easy
Joseph accepted the message.

Joyfully
angst turned to scarcely unbelievable
Good News. He, a man of royal family
yet humble position
would father
the Saviour..

He could not understand it.
Jesus. Yeshua. Jehovah who saves.
Yes. the boy would bear the name
of Joshua, Israel's mighty captain
but saving his people from their sins?

Only God.
Only GOD can save
through men's humble sacrifices
to the Almighty, All-Powerful One.
Joseph knew the Scriptures.
Dared he believe this child would be The One?

He did.
Joseph, carpenter of Nazareth
woke up. He obeyed the Angel of the Lord
willingly he took Mary
to be his wife after all.
Before all that was to come.

And blessing came.
Their marriage
which he thought was lost forever
would be saved.
They would need to be strong
for what lay ahead.

Matthew 1:18 - 25

Friday, 1 December 2017

Foretold

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel.[d]

Who knew
this Baby was so special?

Prophets
early foretold his coming

counting
hundreds and hundreds of times

scriptures
pointing urgently to Him.

How many?
Three hundred and fifty-three.

The Word's
birth, suffering, death foretold.

We know
He is our true Rescuer.

The One
who Loves us more than others.

Thank God
for Jesus, our Redeemer.

Matthew 1:18 - 25


  1. Isaiah 7:14 The Hebrew is plural.
  2. Isaiah 7:14 Or young woman
  3. Isaiah 7:14 Masoretic Text; Dead Sea Scrolls son, and he or son, and they
  4. Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel means God with us.