It’s the HOLYdays . . . visit your family!

At this time of the year is when most people make time to visit those family members that we haven’t seen in a while. We make long trips, flying across the states, or driving hours for a a few days to visit with loved ones. It’s great to have the conveniences of today to travel so easily and quickly.

About 2000 years ago, Mary journeyed to see Elizabeth. A simple 90 mile, less than 2 hour trek in our day. However, this trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea could easily have taken 3 or more days, even in a hurry.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

If Mary hadn’t believed yet (which I believe she did based on her obedience), she had to have been reassured by Elizabeth’s greeting!

This is the first inclination we receive that Mary not only believed, but now also praised God for His actions:

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

Mary rejoiced that she would become the mother of our Savior and Lord!

What’s even better is that she remembered God’s promises: God has promised to be merciful to us, and has provided a way of ETERNAL Salvation to those who believe. I’m glad that even though I don’t remember all of my promises, that my Lord remembers His! Praise His Holy Name!

And Happy HOLYdays to anyone “politically correct” out there!

How can this be?

Now on to our regularly scheduled program. Last week, I finished recording the birth announcement of John (the Baptist) to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Today, we pick up with the announcement of the birth of Christ to Mary and Joseph.

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:26-30 NKJV)

At this point, I can imagine Mary, after first being a little afraid, she must be thinking: “Hmm, wonder what I’ve done to find favor in God’s eyes. Well, we’ll see; must be something good….”

The angel then continues…

31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:30-38 NKJV)

Interestingly, although many of us would have many more questions for God, our records show that Mary really only had one question during this entire encounter. “How can this be?”

And I love the answer that Gabriel gives her

For with God nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37 NKJV)

What happens next? Mary is obedient. No more questions; instead, she immediately accepts God’s plan for her life, and says “Let it be.”  Wow, I wish I could be so quick to be obedient!

Finish what you started!

I’ve been known to not finish what I start:  from wood projects to dishes (as early as last night – sorry Nana,). For some reason, I easily get distracted and forget what I was doing. And I’ll blame my age for not remembering what I was doing. These are excuses I use use when I don’t do what I was meant to be doing.

In the name of continuing the Christmas story, we must finish what we started:

Zechariah had just finished burning incense, as part of his duty as serving as priest before God:

When his division was on duty and [Zechariah] was serving as priest before God,  it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.  (Luke 1:8-9 HCSB)

During this time, he learned from the angel Gabriel that his wife would concieve a son. Zechariah was filled with disbelief that he and his wife at such an old age:

“How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18 HCSB)

And then Zechariah because of his disbelief, became mute until the birth of his son John

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless.

At this point in the story, I always seem to ask myself “How would I react to such news and event?” Would I run home and tell Kimberly immediately what happened? [obviously not, I would be mute]. The real question is, would I finish what I started?

Zechariah finished what he started:

When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home. (Luke 1:23 HCSB)

Then we find out, as we always do, that the Lord always finishes what He starts!

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:21-25 HCSB)

Isn’t it great to know that the Lord has a plan, He has laid it out before us, and then He always finishes it! I can’t wait for the day when Jesus returns, and finishes what God has planned for us:

7 “Look, I am coming quickly! The one who keeps the prophetic words of this book is blessed.”

. . . Worship God.” 10 He also said to me, “Don’t seal the prophetic words of this book, because the time is near. 11 Let the unrighteous go on in unrighteousness; let the filthy go on being made filthy; let the righteous go on in righteousness; and let the holy go on being made holy.”

12 “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15 Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (Revelation 22: 7, 9-15 HCSB)

What was that?

As someone who has a slight hearing deficit, there are many times that I find myself asking people to repeat their words. In fact, if I’m in a different room than someone else, the likelihood of me hearing what they say is very slim.

This was not the case for Zechariah. It wasn’t that he had a hearing deficit; he merely didn’t understand how what Gabriel said could be true:

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

8 When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” (Luke 1:5-20 HCSB)

 

As we approach the Christmas season, I thought it appropriate to begin reminding us of the Christmas story from beginning to end. This event foreshadows the coming of Jesus, and is the first among a series devoted to remind us of the Christmas/Nativity story. But let’s not forget that throughout the Christmas story (with it’s primary focus around Jesus), there are many lessons that can be learned about our obedience and trust in God. In this case,  Zechariah had to face the consequence of being mute due to his lack of faith in what Gabriel said God would provide.