Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A in 2020: Gospel Passage – Knowing who the Messiah is and following him

The next day he [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:29 – 34)

Have you ever seen someone when out and about, and said to yourself, “I think I know that person but I cannot place them right now!” That happened to me the other day – say someone I knew I knew, but could not place where I knew them from because I saw them in a different/unexpected spot – if that makes sense. I could have asked, but did not want to embarrass myself.

John probably knew or knew of Jesus, since John’s mother and Jesus’ mother were cousins. And this being the gospel of John that has a strong theme of Jesus’ mysticism, the writer of the gospel of John is not going to “muddy the waters” with family relationships. We are told in the gospel of Matthew that John knew Jesus and tried to persuade Jesus that he should baptize John, but Jesus demurred and had John baptize him. But the dove, and the voice?! That was completely unexpected.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.” (Verses 35 – 39)

So, you recognize someone in the crowd and you realize this is an important moment. In that moment you have two choices; to let the moment pass, or to seize upon the opportunity and find out where it leads. Follow Jesus and/or the path of Jesus can be like that. You can step forward or you can step back. There have been times in my life when I have seen or felt the Divine call me forward. It is been a rare time when I have not “stepped forward” and the times I did, I have regretted it.

“One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).” (Verses 39 – 42)

It has not always been the Divine that I have seen; sometimes it is a path that is laid in front of me, and I have been beckoned to follow it. It is sometimes hard, very hard, to know what the good thing is to do and the correct path to follow. And I am pretty sure there is not just one correct path or option. That is, if there are two paths or two ways to go and each seems as good as the other – then if you chose one over the other, that does not mean that all is lost. In fact you may find, in looking back, that one path or the other path were equally good and valid.

When however the decision is critical, then you should take time to discern what is best. And even if you make a poor choice, the Divine will work with you and that choice. You are NEVER outside of the Lord God’s plan if your aim is to follow the Godly path. I could say more, but . . . . I digress.

Supposing for instance that Andrew did not bring his brother to Jesus. Peter was destined to be part of Jesus’ ministry, and I am confident that somehow or another that meeting would have happened. Consider Saul who became Paul; you would have thought from the beginning of his story he was never going to meet the Divine. But actually he was on a direct collision course with the Divine!

When you turn over your life to the Lord, you may find your life is opened to learning and opportunities. Opportunities to follow the Lord God and become in an ever deepening relationship. And, beloved reader, if your destiny is tied in with the Divine’s, you will not escape it easily! Praise the Lord, and Selah!

Baptism of the Lord, Year A in 2020: Gospel Passage – A Divine Blessing in a nut shell

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 3:13 – 15)

Imagine if Albert Einstein came to a kindergarten teacher and asked him/her to teach him the numbers and letter. Or if Picasso asked the same to teach him to finger paint. Or if Jessie Owens asked a high school track coach to teach him how to run faster. John the Baptist knew what his role was, and he relished doing it. It was in preparation for Jesus’ coming that John preached and admonished his listeners/followers to be ready for the coming of he who John was not fit tie a sandal for. Or untie. Which ever. Yet Jesus came to John, asking for the outward sign of inner transformation. Jesus told his disciples down the road – he (or she) who would be first must be content to be last, and he (or she) who wished mastery must be a servant. So it makes sense, in the upside down kingdom sort way that Jesus would ask John to baptize him. And John, knowing who Jesus was, followed his Master’s instructions.

“And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Verses 16 – 17)

Being the upstart that I am, I have to wonder and ponder why the Spirit of God was pleased with him. Because Jesus followed protocol by having John baptize him? Because Jesus made the outer pledge and symbol to follow the Lord God? Because he honored John by recognizing John’s authority to confer forgiveness? Because Jesus humbled himself? Because of what Jesus would go on to do? And it opens up even more questions – how distinct and how human was Jesus that the Divine acknowledge Jesus as offspring rather than just a temporarily separated aspect of the Divine? How much free will did the person of Jesus have to act as he saw fit?

The other question (or set of questions) that it raises in my mind is can we, as humans, ever be so blessed by the Lord God? Are we the Divine’s Beloved? And is the Divine pleased with us? Lofty aspirations, beloved reader.

I wish I could convey to you the depth of my desire that committed authentic believers would become worthy of being blessed by the Divine. If Jesus Christ the Messiah (actually duplicated set of descriptive adjectives in that name) would and did humble himself, how can we do any less? To say to the Divine “I am so unworthy of your regard and love, but at the same time I am so assured of Your love and regard for me that I know you sent Jesus the Christ to redeem me in Your Sight and bring me into relationship with You.” To prostrate yourself in front of the Divine, and yet have the conviction that you will be lifted up. To life your life such that Divine would call you “beloved” – that is the goal of the Christian life. To do or be anything less is to disregard the good news. There just isn’t anything else to say after that expect . . . . Shalom & Selah!

Epiphany, Year A in 2020: Gospel, Epistle & Old Testament Passage – Via Another Road

This day, January 6th, is the Day of Epiphany and when we recognize and celebrate that Jesus was revealed as Divine and revealed to the Gentile/non-believers, as well as having prophesied to the Jews. The Gentiles are symbolized by the Magi who were outside of the Jewish tradition. It is also the day I have to, reluctantly, start thinking about taking down Christmas decorations. When you hear/sing the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” that is actually the time between Christmas Day and Epiphany. It is not just a way to keep the Christmas season going. But I also like it for that reason. And as I have said before, I like the part that the Magi play in the Christmas story. So for me it is a good to let the Christmas season extend, and a day to look forward to – even though after that day Christmas themed things grow thin and weary to some.

“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” (Matthew 2:1 – 4)

It is not fair to say “and all Jerusalem with him”; it fact it is very political to say that! It is like saying that the fears and agenda of a ruler should be felt and shared by the people he purports to rule; and we know that should not be try! (And here I am being political! Ah well, let’s move on.)

“They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” (Verses 5 – 9)

I had said above that Jesus was revealed to the Jewish people and to Israel through prophecy. It seems clear that the writer of Matthew, and also the chief priests and scribes, that this prophecy (and most likely others) pointed to a very supreme leader. Also likely was that Herod was worried about a political leader, and maybe the chief priests & scribes; that might be why they did not recognize Jesus & Jesus as Incarnate, and maybe why they started to fear or revile Jesus as a religious/faith leader. It is also why, beloved reader, the revelation of Jesus was such an epiphany.

“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Verses 10 – 11)

I have to wonder and ponder what the Magi saw the baby Jesus as – political leader, religious leader, young god? I could look up (and maybe you beloved reader might) the significance of their gifts. I once or twice did that, but cannot remember clearly enough to tell you here. The point is that Jesus was revealed; and the challenge is for each of us to determine what image or aspect of Jesus was revealed.

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Verse 12)

What we do know for sure is that the path to belief can come by many roads. And we cannot know or predict by which road it might come.

“This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:1 – 4)

Paul came from Jewish background and tradition. He was one of a group of people who felt belief and worship of Jesus Christ was wrong. And in his vehemence he undertook to eradicate those who believed. In a twist of fate Paul was called by the Divine to bring the word of the Lord God to non-believers – most particularly to Gentiles, although Jews were written to and most assuredly by Paul to be part of the children of God. In fact, according to Paul, Jews were first invited to belief in Jesus the Messiah but that Gentiles were second did not mean they were accorded second place but we equal as all have equal welcome and call to faith.

“In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.” (Verses 5 – 12)

Paul is counted as one of the apostles, although he came to faith after the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry and life on earth. Paul came to faith, if you will, via another road. And called down other roads to some comparatively far-flung places. Paul also felt compelled to write to the places and churches that he had visited, and strove to unite the circle of believers through benevolent giving between the groups. This tells us and shows us that ministry can be done in a variety ways, and the good news delivered to a variety of people who early initial believers may not have a lot in comment with – at first. But our faith under the Divine unites us where others may see differences that splinter and divide one group of people from another. But for all, the message is the same.

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” (Isaiah 60:1 – 5)

The writer of Isaiah may emphasis more of the tangible results of the faith spread, but that does not take away from the fact that people coming to faith bring a presence and wealth of belief. Remember too that I am emphasizing this year a belief tradition that is gentle, compassionate, and merciful. That too is sort of a “different road” from what many expect Christian faith to be like. And, we may find that sort of faith comes from unexpected places and people who have come to faith in a favorite of ways. The writer of Isaiah says,

“A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.” (Verse 6)

This harks to the coming of the Magi who represent faith via a different road, and faith spreading out via diverse roads. We may find out way to a common Lord and God, but the paths to that faith are numerous; and the means, ways, and destinations are numerous as well. May you, beloved reader, find your way to the Divine; and as you journey forth may the Presence of the Lord God travel with you. Selah!

Second Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A in 2020: The Gospel Passage – How does the Word come to us?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1 – 5)

As I was thinking and pondering on this passage, I remembered what I had said a few days ago – that I am not suggesting that we believe more strongly or more correctly, but we should believe more gently and with more compassion & mercy. I thought then, and I still think it is a good idea. What I am not sure of is how that approach might be supported by scripture. What I mean is that so often in scripture – both Old & New Testament – there is a vehemence to believe correctly and strongly. That is often the case when a faith tradition is just getting started. There is a push for correct belief, and belief that is unshakable. For instance, the Word of God is correct and unshakable, as was John the Baptist.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” (Verses 6 – 8)

There was nothing gentle about John the Baptist. He came “roaring” in, demanding that people repent and live just righteous lives. Paul was much like him in that respect.

“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (Verses 9 – 13)

The question (or one of the questions) is, is that birthing into new life and new belief a gentle and compassionate one or one that is vehement and overwhelming?

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'”)
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Verses 14 – 17)

“The Word became flesh” – Mary was meek and mild. Jesus said his burden is light and his yoke is easy. Yet childbirth can be fierce and overwhelming. How does one discern the best way to live? I am not talking about theology but life approach. Are we to be brash and brisk – a John the Baptist or Paul? John the Baptist with all his brashness and vehemence doubted near the end of his life that he had (or would) give his life for the correct person, the promised Light. He sent a message to Jesus, remember, asking. Jesus’ answer was to assure him that people were being ministered to and their burdens lifted; that gentleness, compassion, and mercy were being given to them.

Paul asked for relief from the “thorn” in his side, that we image was fierce and overwhelming. He was answered that the Lord God’s grace would see him through. That the violence that tormented him would be met and overcome whatever weakness that Paul felt within himself. That there would be no powerful and sudden healing but grace and compassion extended to Paul.

Jesus was – most of the time – very gentle, compassionate, merciful, and yielding. Jesus was sent – not the only reason however – so that humanity might better know and understand the Divine.

“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (Verse 18)

I might, from time to time, forget or set aside for cause my message of gentle, compassionate, and merciful belief and living out that belief. But it is something I want to be mindful. I pray that the Divine might remind me of that not only as I write this year but as I live out my life this year. Selah!

Holy Name of Jesus Day 2020, Year A: Old Testament, Gospel & Epistle Passages – Naming Names

Today, January 1st, does double duty. Not only as New Year’s Day, but as the Holy Name of Jesus Day.

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22 – 26)

Also today, just a short while ago, I talked about the world going awry because of technology and science leading us from our spiritual roots and learning, and the need to be more attentive to to the needs of others. I said that there are many who are caring and compassionate but who do not necessarily espouse a faith tradition grounded in Christianity. I referenced the passage in Matthew about the sheep who helped and the goats who offered no assistance. The sheep are not necessarily Christians and the goats are not necessarily non-believers. However, today we are also specifically referencing the importance of knowing and honoring the name of Jesus.

“So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” (Verse 27)

Notice though that it is Aaron and his sons that place the name on them. I talk about the called and chosen people often. That means that Yahweh put the Divine’s name on them and instructed them how to live. They did not always do well at it – at times not well at all! The Divine still calls and chooses people; I firmly believe that. But it may also mean that they have not realized they have been called out.

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:15 – 19)

There is a Christmas song that I am hearing more and more this season; it is called “Mary, did you know?” The lyrics ask Jesus’ mother if she knew the full story and impact that her infant son would have on the world. And as the lyrics between entwined in my thinking, I have come to the conclusion that Mary did not know. But, do not fault her for that. Many people still do not know the impact that Jesus had during his ministry, life, death, and resurrection.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Verses 20 – 21)

I feel that I have given you a great deal to ponder, beloved reader, in my two postings for this day. I did a lot of pondering myself as I wrote this. Let me close with what Paul said in the letter to the Philippians. And I wished for you that you would see the hope you believe in, I would also wish that you would see clearly Christ Jesus who was sent by the Divine, making sure that your actions (how ever you name yourself) will bring honor and glory to the Name of the Divine. Selah!

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Gospel Passage – Reassuring Nurturing

Now after they [the Wise Men] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13)

When I was a young child grow up, and growing up in the faith, one of my favorite parts of the story was when the Wise Men came. When I set up the nativity scene (even as a adult) I decided each year where I would place the Wise Men. Sometimes right next to the manager and other times some ways off, as if they were not sure they were in the right place and if they should disturb the “tableau”. I have heard of a tradition that the Wise Men are placed in another part of the room and each day towards Christmas they “journey” towards the manager. I love also the Christmas hymn “We Three Kings of Orient are.” In the church I grew up in, there were a number of good male singers and I looked forward to that part of the Christmas worship service. I also like that the Christmas season can be extended when the nativity story says the Wise Men came later.

“Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Verses 14 – 15)

Men can feel strongly about carrying out a parental role despite the fact that it is not their biological children that are in need of care. In this way mothers are not different than fathers in protecting the young and vulnerable. As I child I liked that Joseph protected baby Jesus, and as an adult I appreciate the fact that Joseph must have known Mary was deeply attached her to child and did not see Jesus as a Divine baby but as her offspring and flesh of her flesh. But as both child and adult I am saddened that Jesus’ birth was the catalyst for the death of so many innocents.

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” (Verses 16 – 18)

The nativity story, beloved reader, is not just fresh hay in a manager and shepherds being called in from peaceably tending their sheep. The birth of Jesus was a messy and painful event that burst into the history of the called and chosen people. Wasn’t the Messiah, they may have thought, to come as a conquering hero to liberate the faithful? What was a “mere” baby supposed to do?

“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” (Verses 19 – 23)

We have been talking for some time about reassurance. When we lay down the ground work of peace, hope, and joy – what we find is a sense of reassurance that all will be well. And while I may bristle a little at simple declarations from prophets major and minor being turned to prophecy, it is reassuring to know that some aspect of Jesus the Messiah’s coming was foreknowledge in the minds of some. Or more correctly, that what had been said in the past became a bridge to the present – that is, Jesus’ time on earth. While the called and chosen people of God may have had a very rough time of it, the sense that the Divine had something good in store and waiting for them is reassuring. Or at least it would be if there was not the nagging sense the past was recast to fit what happened in Jesus’ life.

However, the Lord God did protect baby Jesus. While the Lord God might have sent Jesus into the world as a helpless baby, the Divine did not leave things to chance. Joseph was directed and guided in watching over his adopted son. And Mary was given the strength and wherewithal to guide Jesus from infancy to young adulthood. The Lord God nurtured Jesus through earthly means so that Jesus could bring us into relationship with the Divine. So through Jesus, the Divine was setting up a way to nurture us. Have you, beloved reader, not had people in your life who have nurtured your faith? Has not the Divine set before you a path to get you from where you were to where are today?

Back to my question from earlier, “What was a “mere” baby supposed to do?” Well, baby Jesus did not do much. But he was a model of growing into faith. He did not do it alone, however. His parents did what their faith dictated in raising him up. While Jesus would probably have grown up to be the Messiah anyway, the Lord God picked parents that would be model and exemplars of Christian nurtures.

The growth and development of Jesus tells us and shows us it is okay to start out small and undeveloped in faith. That as Paul says, we go from drinking spiritual milk to chewing spiritual meat. There is questioning and learning of faith (Jesus in the temple as an adolescent boy), accepting faith and the new way of living (Jesus being baptized) and being strengthened and refined in faith (Jesus being tempted in the wilderness).

There is still more to come in the story of Jesus’ infancy. And more to discover in that story. But let us rest for now, and that about what we have learned so far. Selah & Shalom!

Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Gospel Passage – Reassurance comes!

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:1 – 5)

There is an interesting story in our family. It happened like this.

I had just found out I was pregnant, with a boy. We were on our way to family in Pennsylvania when we had car problems – major car problems. The car won’t run problems. A nice state police officer saw us on the side of the road and made a special phone call to get us towed somewhere safe. It took some time because it was (wait for it) Christmas Eve. We and our car were towed to an inn in (wait again) Bethlehem, PA! But our family gathering was a couple of hours away, so we were stuck at the inn . . . . waiting. Christmas eve, pregnant with a boy, stuck at an inn in Bethlehem!

The Lord God protected us that day – that everything went smoothly and there were people there to take care of us and insure our safety. Our car was repaired so we can travel back home. It makes a wonderful story.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Not as dramatic as the Christmas story. No herald of angels! But reassurance came to us. A sense of peace was around us, looking out the window of the motel that was not charging us to stay in the room – warm, dry, and safe. We did not know what to expect after being stuck out on a busy highway. But there was room for us in the Divine’s care. That care and reassurance is something I have felt over and over in the past years, and still feel now.

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Verses 6 – 14)

Fast forward some four years; I am sitting in a worship service and the Divine taps me on my shoulder and says, “I am inviting you to step forward into a deeper relationship with me.” Shades of Mary and the annunciation. I wish I could say I was like Mary and was willing from the first. But I was scared, unsure what this meant, and not sure I was ready. But the Divine did not wait, but gave me a very fast initiation into a deeper spiritual life. And it was, and is wonderful! Reassurance comes quickly when you (finally) say to the Divine, “Yes, I am willing.”
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” (Verses 15 – 18)

And when you have been reassured, it is easy to share that sense of peace and hope to others.

“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Verse 19)

Some things, though, are too deep and wonderful to be spoken out loud. However the heart and spirit praise the Lord God the Divine in silence and wonder.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” (Verse 20)

This Christmas season, beloved reader, I hope and pray you have your own reassurances from the Divine – whatever the circumstances may be. And may you give voice and tell others, in our own way, what the Lord God has done for you. Selah!