Sunday, December 25, 2016

Time to Ponder

"But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  (KJV) Luke 2:19

Merry Christmas everyone!  I pray that each and every one of you has enjoyed a wonderful Christmas.  After months of preparation and planning, days of shopping and cleaning and hours upon hours of cooking, it is all over.  As much as I love the preparations of Christmas, it all leads up to this memorable day.  

I have had the incredible privilege over the last many years to share the Christmas Gospel of Luke 2 during our Christmas Eve service.   Each year, our lovely church administrator provides me the reading so that I can ensure I have the words correct.  The words don't change year after year, but each year, a particular part of that wonderful story seems to touch my soul.  This year, I reveled in the scripture chosen for today's blog, "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  I wasn't quite sure why those words were touching me so much, but I believe it God's special way of preparing me for today.

I enjoy the traditions that our family has created over the years - waking up and opening presents while a fire burns in the fireplace, enjoying a bountiful breakfast while Christmas carols play in the background, delighting in watching our dog Duke play with the wrapping paper, going to Mom's to open presents all over again, and end the day with a meal made with much love.  Yet, this year was a special Christmas.  

Many years, my brother and his family make the trek from Virginia to New Hampshire so we can enjoy Christmas together.  In his family, his eldest is heading off to college next year.  We may not have the ability to join together in Christmas much anymore.  Then there are our children who are all getting older.  One lives near Boston, the others are still with us.  Our youngest, Christian, is headed off to the Navy in January.  We don't know what next year will bring - if he will have the opportunity to spend Christmas with us.  That is why this Christmas was special.

I found myself listening to words that the children were sharing a little more intently this year.  Their giggles and hearty laughter made me smile.  Memories of past Christmases that were shared brought a warmth to me.  Small actions and phrases meant the world to me.  I realized what was happening - I was pondering.  I, like Mary, was keeping all these things and pondering them in my heart.  Each thing meant so much to me.  I was creating that special place that I could refer back to when I have those days where I long for my children and nephews.  

As I reflect on this as I write this blog, I'm thinking, "How can I compare my pondering to that of Mary's?  My goodness, she was pondering about Jesus Christ - our Savior!"  Mary and I may not have much in common, but we are both mothers.  I believe that the way she held her baby close to her is the same way I hold my children close to me.  We both have cherished memories that make up our hearts.  We both love our children dearly.  We both know our Heavenly Father is with our children always.  

On this Christmas evening, I'm even closer to Mary.  I'm closer to Bethlehem.  I'm closer to the Christ Child, for I know what it is to ponder about my children.  I pray that you, as well, have had cherished memories from either today or past Christmases.  Keep those memories close to you and ponder them.  Nobody can ever interfere with what we hold close to our hearts - including the little babe born in a manger!

"Dearest Jesus, on this Christmas evening, I thank you for the wonderful words of Luke.  Understanding how Mary listened to all that was going on around her that first Christmas evening, and kept them in her heart, helps me to bring the Christmas story even closer to my home.  Bring the gift of pondering to all, Jesus, that our hearts are filled with joy and love."

Sunday, December 18, 2016

King of Kings is Born

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"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen."  (NIV) 1 Timothy 1:15-17

Our journey with the kings is coming to an end.  Yes, we talked about the three magi and the incredible gifts they brought - one king brought gold - a gift fitting for a king.  One king brought frankincense - a gift fitting for a high priest.  One king brought myrrh - a gift fitting for one who would give his life.  Three telling gifts that would share our Dear Lord's story.

Yet, it was the little baby, the chosen one, who came to this earth from heaven, for us.  It is hard for me to truly understand the full impact of Jesus' arrival.  Yes, there were many reasons for Him to come here.  Let's bring this to each of us, though.  Jesus came for you, Jesus came for me - little old me.  He came to bring ME hope.  He came to bring ME joy.  He came to save ME - yes ME, from all of the horrible sins I commit.

It's hard to fathom that love.  At least I find it difficult to process the type of love Jesus had for me in order to leave his heavenly throne to come to earth only to die for me and become my savior.  Christmas brings us so many wonderful thoughts and joys, so many hopes and dreams.  Let us not disconnect, though, from the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus needed to come here in order to fulfill the great prophecies.  It is through his birth that his death saved us - saved me.  

That Christmas Eve brought all of us the hope that we would never be able to experience unless he came to earth.  That Christmas Eve brought all of us the love that we would never feel from any other person.  That Christmas Eve brought us the joy that we can only feel by knowing we are one of Jesus' children.  That Christmas Eve brought us the salvation that we need in order to live in eternal glory with Jesus.  That Christmas Eve brought us our Jesus!

As we celebrate Christmas this year, may we all look at our nativity scenes with awe and wonder.  May we live with the glory, joy and love that Jesus wants for us.  May we know that through Jesus' birth, the king of kings was born - and by Jesus coming to us, we are able to receive the salvation that only he could bring.  

Below is a link to a Christmas song that brings tears to my eyes each time I hear it.  It was the inspiration for my Advent blog series this year, and so clearly moves forward the hope that Jesus' birth brought to the world.  I pray that you enjoy it as much as I do.

As I close this Advent series, I pray that each of you has a Christmas that is filled with all of the blessings Jesus wants for you.  May you join together in song, prayer, and love for the little baby who became the King of Kings - just for you!  Merry Christmas to all!!

"Heavenly Jesus, I am in such awe that you would leave your heavenly throne, as King of Kings, to come to earth for ME - fulfilling the prophecy to forgive my sins and bring me the greatest hope of all - salvation and life with you.  Every time I think of this, my heart leaps with love - love that is cherished each and every day.  Thank you, Jesus, for coming to all of us so that we can one day come to you.  Amen."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Gift of Myrrh

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"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

Let our wonderful Advent season continue!  I pray that this time continues to be a blessing for all of you.  As we explore the gifts that the kings brought to Jesus, it amazes me how, as with everything else our Dear Lord does for us, each gift has a significant meaning to Jesus and the reason He came down to be with all of us.

As we noted, Gold was brought because these wise men, these kings, knew that gold was a gift fit for a great King.  Frankincense was a gift fit for the highest of priests.  Both of these gifts certainly had great meaning, the greatest of Kings and the greatest of Priests was being born.  How Gaspar and Melchior must have felt as they bowed down to this little baby.

The last, and what I believe is the greatest of gifts, came from Balthazar.  He brought forward the gift that would be the true reason why Jesus was born.  Balthazar brought the Myrrh.  Myrrh, for those of you that may not know, is a perfume that is used put over bodies after they have died.  This certainly seems like an odd gift from a king like Balthazar.  Why would someone bring something like Myrrh to a new baby?

As we know, that gift was to signify the incredible suffering and eventual death our Dear Lord would endure.  I wonder what Mary was feeling as she held he baby.  I wonder if she knew the reason why she would have received such a gift.  Although the gift of Myrrh may have been odd, it certainly was the gift that meant the most.  To look back at the birth of Jesus now and put the pieces of the puzzle together, Myrrh has incredible meaning to our salvation.  Myrrh was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus our Savior.

Knowing that the baby that was born in the most humblest of ways would become the savior of the world brings new meaning to our Advent season.  Balthazar must have known that Myrrh would bring great meaning to the first Christmas - and certainly to our Christmas season today.

Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar - Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  These incredible gifts that were brought from kings/wise men to the greatest of Kings, Jesus.  As those men laid their gifts to Jesus, they didn't just "give" the gifts, they bowed down to the King of Kings.  Everyone who was at that first Christmas had such an important part in the story of Jesus' birth.  The kings provided the symbolic gifts that helped to tell the story.

Next week, we will explore the King who brought the greatest gift!!

Dearest God - it amazes me how you orchestrated this most wonderful story of Jesus' birth.  Every person involved in this miraculous event had such meaning.  This includes the three kings (wise men) that brought the wonderful gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  May we more clearly understand their purpose in the Christmas story - and may we always wonder at the happiness it brings.  Amen

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gift of Frankincense

Image result for Gift of Gold to Jesus
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

Blessings to another wonderful Advent Sunday.  So hard to believe that we are on the 2nd Sunday of Advent already.  What a blessing to have the privilege to prepare for our Savior's birth!  As the days move on and the preparations of Christmas become closer, I cherish this time that I have to sit back and revel in the opportunity to seek Jesus and ask Him to join me in my heart.

We are onto our second wise man - Gaspar.  It is believed that he was the king that brought the frankincense to Jesus.  After last week, I better understand why gold was brought, but now frankincense.  To clarify, frankincense is actually a resin from the bark of a tree that can be burned as incense.  Incense was burned by the holy priests as they prayed for forgiveness for themselves and their people.  As the incense was burning, the priests would continue to pray to God for forgiveness of their sins.  It was considered a special ritual and an important part of the priest's work.

To put it all together, Gaspar knew that this child that was born, Jesus, was the holiest of priests - a priest most high.  Therefore, it is fitting that they presented Jesus with frankincense.  As we now know, as Jesus' ministry took hold, He was seen as the holiest of priests!  Not only would He pray for the forgiveness of people's sins, He would actually be the sacrifice itself to atone for ALL of our sins.  Jesus' role as a high priest is one that we can cherish every day.  Frankincense was a fitting gift for Jesus, Jesus the Highest of Priests.

Last week, we thought about what gifts we could bring to a king.  This week, the question becomes what can we bring to the highest of priests?  As we go about our earthly lives, it is difficult to know what we can bring Jesus.  We spoke of time and talents, but in this case, we can bring our study of the scripture.  In order for us to gain a better relationship with Jesus, the first thing we can do is review the commandments, better understand what our behaviors should look like, and begin living a new life in Jesus.  Let us revere Him the way He should be, with love and humbleness.

As we move through the week ahead, may we take time to go to Jesus in prayer.  Let's ask Him for His help on our journey.  Not every day is easy and so many things can bring distraction away from Jesus during this time of year.  Yet, let us not take our eye off the manger, let us remember the incense that burned for prayer, and let us know that our relationship with Jesus, the high priest, is one of reverence.

"Dearest Jesus, as the wise man brought frankincense to the greatest of priests, may we bring our lives to you.  Help us to pray as you prayed for us.  Help us to behave in a way that magnifies your commandments and help us to study your scripture so that we might enhance our journey towards the manger.  In your gracious name I pray.  Amen."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.