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How Close Are You to the Christ Child?

How Close Are You to the Christ Child?

 

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Luke 2:4-5, NIV
 

Map_Holy_LandchelHow far is it from Nazareth to Bethlehem? About 100 miles. Not far by car or tourist bus. Pretty far by foot. Very far if you’re nine months pregnant.

Did you know there’s no biblical evidence that Mary, the mother of Jesus, rode a donkey? Chances are good that she walked. Ever since my first child was born on December 20, I’ve claimed Mary’s trip to Bethlehem ranks as one of the great miracles of the Bible!

In addition to physical barriers, Mary also had to overcome cultural barriers. Nazareth was in Galilee while Bethlehem was in Judea. And travelers to Judea usually went around Samaria to avoid the half-breeds who were detested by the Jews.

Mary had to overcome gender issues. She would have as her “midwife” a man with whom she’d never been intimate. How embarrassing! How frightening, as well. Would she not have welcomed a female companion, especially one who had given birth before?

In her willingness to be God’s servant (Luke 1:38), Mary overcame all of these barriers. She gave birth to the Christ child, heard his cries and coos, and wrapped his little body to keep him warm—for your sake and mine. Then she rested—the King of Kings nestled at her side.

How far are you from the living Christ? What barriers do you have to overcome to keep Him near and dear at your side? What obstacles keep Him away? Perhaps, like me, your degree of closeness to Jesus may have more to do with distractions than physical distance.

Resolve this Christmas Eve to put all else aside and welcome Christ—anew and afresh—into your heart today.

Betty

The Stench and The Stars

 
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” NIV
Matthew 2:10

The Stench and The Stars

 

beamTwo small yet significant memories of my world mission tour are finding a special place in my heart as I draw closer to Christmas. Each in its own way has drawn me closer to Jesus.

First, in Thailand, my team was heading home from a house church meeting and had to drive half an hour through rice fields. We were laughing and singing in the truck bed. My precious Thai sister grabbed my arm mid-song and pointed to the sky. As I looked around and above, the blanket of stars covering us overwhelmed us. Worship bubbled out of us for the rest of our drive through the stars.

When I think back to letting the stars envelope me in Thailand, I imagine the shepherds and the wise men chasing the star that led them to Jesus. I wonder if the glory of the night sent shivers of anticipation through their souls. I wonder if, with every step taken, they felt the presence of God grow stronger.

Second, the animals I was lucky enough to share living space with. Chickens. Cows. Goats. Pigs. Sheep. They’ve poked their heads in the window to wake me up in the morning, they’ve sung me to sleep, and they’ve greeted me in the kitchen at every meal. One thing is for certain: livestock smell. No matter how clean you keep them, they will never have a good-smelling home. They’re dirty. No one wants to live in a pig sty.

When I remember the smells that came with carrying straw bales into the pig sty, I think of Mary and Joseph welcoming a new baby into their lives – a baby that would save their lives. I think of the animals around them and the messiness and the noise having a baby in a stable would create.

For thousands of years, people were stuck in their own filth and brokenness, praying for a salvation that many said would never come. And then one night, the stars changed. Hope showed up in the stables in the form of a newborn baby. God decided the best place to enter the world is in the middle of the stench.

Suddenly, this Good News becomes GREAT news because it shows us that God isn’t put off by our messes. He doesn’t shy away from the stench of our sins. Instead, He inserts himself into the middle of the mess and begins to change the story.

So, here’s to a Christmas of trusting in a hope that meets us in the smelly stables of our lives. Here’s to letting the way God changes the stars lead us to worship at His feet. And here’s to trusting God as He changes the mess into something beautiful.

Chelsey

 

When Your World is Rocked

When Your World is Rocked

 

“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, NASB
 

DDoE_Christmas_2014_mary_and_gabrielWhat do you do when your world is rocked? You know, when something happens and everything, at least for the moment, changes. In that respect, most of us can identify with the young Mary.

Since 2012, I have become quite familiar with unexpected events forcing me to rearrange my life. While on a Zookeepers’ mission trip to Nicaragua this past March, I noticed a dark area in my field of vision. Because we were so busy with ministry activities, I tried not to think about it but prayed for God’s protection and healing.

Upon returning to the states, I immediately scheduled an appointment with my optometrist that day. Long story short, I had a retinal tear necessitating emergency surgery that evening. The realization that I could have lost my sight in that eye compelled me to change my daily routine drastically for the next few weeks.

With Christmas just a few days away, I find myself pondering the immense life changing experience of the young virgin Mary. She was engaged to marry Joseph; I expect her excitement in becoming a wife was like that of most of us.

However, an unexpected visit and a ringing announcement from the angel Gabriel would forever alter Mary’s life. Chosen by God Himself, she was to be the mother of His son, Jesus, the Savior of the world, the Messiah. The conception would be a miracle performed by the Holy Spirit. Wow! Talk about rocking her world!

I can only imagine the anticipation, uncertainty, and ridicule she must have experienced during the next nine months. This young girl had to grow up in a hurry. She not only experienced the joy of pregnancy, but most likely the shameful gossip and unkindness displayed by those not aware of God’s purpose for her life. Yet, according to what we see in the Scriptures, she hung in there, never giving up or losing her faith.

Yes, Mary’s precious Child would be the very One to bring hope, help, and healing in her time of need and chaos, as well as ours. When our world turns upside down, rest assured Jesus is the Rock on which we can stand.

[Digging deeper – Ps. 18:2, 62:2; Matt.1:18-25; Luke 1:30-31, 2:7, 19, 33-35]

Because of Him,

Beverly <><