A Christmas Thought

23 12 2017

From Luke 1:26-45

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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

No doubt that these are familiar verses, and this is a familiar story.  I don’t have any unique perspective, or a new discovery that I’m sharing here.  I’m just sharing a thought that I had in reviewing the story of Jesus.

Ministers have often talked about how scared Mary must have been to be pregnant out of wedlock.  I’ve heard every Christmas season, something about how Mary had a lot to lose by proclaiming the Birth of Jesus Christ, which was in her.  I’ve sat there in the pew and listened to someone preach about how practical Mary is in her response to the news that she’s pregnant.  They love to talk about her around Christmas, because hers is a Christmas message.  And it is a Christmas message.  It’s the Christmas message!  But I see some proclamations here that I would love to share with you, proclamations that I believe have both significance for Mary, but significance for each of us as well.

  1.  The Proclamation to Mary
    1. “You are Highly Favored!”
      I was thinking about it earlier this week, and I was wondering what qualified Mary?  Like what was special about her?  I don’t have much about her life prior to Jesus, so I looked at other times where she was mentioned.  The popular Christmas carol, “Mary Did You Know?” repeatedly asks if she knew the details of Jesus’ life and Jesus’ fate.  (Which, according to scripture, yes, she knew that Jesus was going to be the savior of the world, but that’s another subject for another day.)  Anywho, as we read the story of Jesus, it’s the story of his mother as well.  They say that children are a reflection of their parents and their influence in their lives.  If this is true of Jesus, then Mary raised Jesus to be an upstanding person.  Yes, he was God, but I’m also sure that Mary had to teach him things as well.  And in the final days of Jesus, I know that Mary was filled with dread, because she understood his warnings, because the angel told her that he would be the savior of the world.  I think that when Jesus was just conceived, when she heard the words “you are highly favored” I think that she tried to remember everything that was happening, so she’d never forget.  No doubt that she had been viewed by God to be someone who was trying their best to follow his commandments.  This means that she was growing in her relationship with God.  She was in the temple, worshiping.  She was obedient to the call of God, and God could see fruit in her life.  She didn’t become spiritual just because she was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  She was spiritual because she was Mary, the child of God.
    2. We are Highly Favored
      Just as Mary was highly favored by God, if we are doing the things that we need to do, if we are growing in our walk with God and if we are producing the spiritual fruits that we need to produce because God is moving through us, then we are also highly favored!  God used Mary to produce the son of God and to support his ministry.  And God can use us to produce fruits and live a life of ministry.
  2. The Proclamation of Mary
    1. “I am the Lord’s servant”
      Her first response was a practical response, of how she could be pregnant but never have gotten it on?  Her second was her acceptance of God’s will for her life….and she knew that her life was not her own.  She knew that the purpose of her life was to serve God.  She accepted God’s plan as her plan, and didn’t fight it.  There was really nothing to fight, she was already preggers and she couldn’t do anything about that!  She accepted this, without protest, without responding like a four year old.  She just accepted what God said on faith, and let him figure out the rest of the details.  No doubt, she had worries that she could have said and shared, worries of Joseph and her relationship to him.  Worries of social graces and being cast out of her society.  Worries of where she would go and live, what would happen.  Worries of how she would deal with her baby boy being crucified.  But she accepted them all, and knew that God would take care of her in his own way.
    2. We are the Lord’s servant
      I could stand to learn a few things from Mary.  I could take from her story, the importance of staying faithful to God, no matter what his plan is.  I could also learn my place as well.  I could learn that my life is not my own, and I must accept the plan of God for my life, regardless of what I think or feel about it.  Hopefully I will learn a few things from Mary.  Because ultimately, she immediately accepted the plan that God had for her baby to be the savior of the world, and she obeyed throughout the years.  She was there at each event, she was there when he died.  And she was there when he was resurrected.  When I think about how she could have gone through all of that, I arrive at Mary’s unwavering faith in God.  I arrive at her faithfulness.  When others look at my life, and they wonder how I did it all, I hope that people think of God, and see the power of God in my life.  I hope that they see how God was faithful and how He used me.  I hope that they see God is in me and lives through me.  I hope they see love.

As you go into the Christmas season, may you ponder the words and meaning of Christmas, and may you and yours find lots of love to share!


Unity and Love

22 12 2015

It’s no secret that I am someone who both loves and despises the church from the both double-edged sword.  It’s no secret that I have been hurt by remarks that those people of the church have made.  It’s also no secret that I surround myself with people who also have been hurt by statements that the church has made.  It’s no secret that the church has personally metaphorically stabbed and wounded those that I love.  I see images like this…..


and this….



and it is upsetting.  (Just for the record, I did a public google image search and found these images.)  I see so much hate spewing out of the american church, and I see so much violence being advocated for, and it is hurtful.  I hear and see my friends struggle to be loving and accepting of these awful words.  I talk to people who have been force-fed the doctrine of Christianity by people who are not living a relationship with Christ.  I watch videos and hear things on the news of people proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ but in the same breath, condemning those who don’t look like or act like they do.

For so long, I’v64e1a24e6e9dedca1656322d1b0fd754e used this image, to bring to mind the core tenants of the faith, to justify my feeling of superiority to those who aren’t able to follow this command.  This image portrays the message that Jesus gave, when he gave the command to love thy neighbor.  And the modern American Christian will give all of these objections as reasons not to love “thy neighbor.”  For so long, it seems like we like to define who our neighbor is.  I imagine many times, that Jesus wants to look at us like this:

56868885And the reality is, that he is truly qualified to do so.

I get so angry with people when they don’t follow this simple command that Jesus gave us, and I get so angry when they try to make up all of these excuses for not loving someone, instead of just following the command, because that implies two things:

  1.  That it is perfectly valid that people have to meet certain standards in order to receive grace.
  2. We have the power to decide who is worthy of being loved.

Neither of which is true.

When I entered into a relationship with God, he didn’t require me to change.  He didn’t give me a three point improvement plan.  He didn’t tell me about the ways that my life would have to be gotten in order.  He simply said “I accept you as you are.”  He called to me, wanting a relationship with me, and I responded likewise.  It is through consistent contact and communication, that he makes me more like him.  The things he has changed are not typical.  The glaringly obvious things that you would think he would work on…he hasn’t.  This isn’t to say that he won’t…but he just hasn’t yet.  In that same sense, that is the way in which I should love people.  If I am to embody the love of God, then I love people as they are, and accept them as best as I can, not demanding that they change.  Not pouting and screaming til the tears come down, until someone finally molds to my will and desires.  If I am to be the love of God, the hands and feet and arms and ears of God on this earth, then I am to do just that.  Serve wholeheartedly, go where needed, embrace in love and listen without reserve.  That’s it.  I don’t get to decide who I do and don’t serve.  I don’t get to decide where I do and don’t go.  I don’t get to decide who I do and don’t hug.  I don’t get to decide whose words are worth listening to and whose words aren’t worth listening to.  That decision is not up to me.

But where does that leave me with the American church, as a whole?  It’s very obvious.  My job is to love.  Even when I don’t believe that those beliefs are right, my job is to love.  I am to serve those, even when I disagree with them, I am to serve without reserve, as unto the Lord.  My job is to love.  I am to go, where and when I am needed, no matter what, and be present where I am placed, even if the person I am being present for, has made derogatory remarks that place my friends in a category.  I am to hug, and spread love, and make sure that all I encounter know of the love of God through me, even when I don’t want to do so.  I am to listen, without reserve, and allow their opinion’s value, as an individual to override any of my own beliefs.  If I want to see the American church changed, then I have to be changed myself.  I have to cast aside my self-righteous opinion of being better than the above pictures, and I have to love them.  My job is not to change them but to love them.

And that goes along with the second lie that we try to convince ourselves which is true, the lie that we have the decision to make and decide who is worthy of being loved.  The problem is, it’s not our job.  It’s not my job to decide who I am supposed to love.  I’m supposed to love everybody, no conditions.  I am supposed to love my gay friend who hates when her family speaks words from the Bible at her, condemning her to hell.  I am supposed to love the family that speaks those words at her.  I am supposed to love both the victim and the oppressor.  Does that mean that I allow the oppressor to continue to be oppressing?  No.  That means that I love the victim enough to make the oppressor think of their actions.  Does that mean that I allow the victim to lash out at their oppressor?  No, that means I encourage the victim to step outside of their frame of perspective and into the oppressor, and seek for understanding.

But where does that leave me in the church?  Where does that leave me when I see the majority not conforming to my perspective?  maxresdefault

There’s an old chorus that my church sings quite often, and the words are pictured to the right.  The thing is, we all have the creepy uncle.  We all have the aunt we’d rather not talk about.  We all have the black sheep of our family, and I happen to mostly be the weird one in mine.  But the thing about family is, I cannot change the fact that I have the biological characteristics of my father’s demeanor.  I cannot change that I walk like my grandfather.  I cannot change that my body is shaped like my mother’s   I cannot change that I have blonde hair like her.  Fair skin like my grandfather.  I cannot eliminate the impact that my family has had upon the shaping of who I am.  And, I cannot just simply ignore them, I don’t get to choose who my family is.

And if the church of God is my family.  If all Christians are my brothers and sisters, then even Westboro Baptist Church is my brother and sister.  Even the fearmongerers who hate Obama, they’re my brother and sister.  I can’t decide that they have not received Grace.  I can’t decide that they’re not going to heaven.  That’s not my job.  That’s God’s job.  My job is to love them, and to do so in the best way that I know how.  Does this mean that I unite with them?  Yes.  Does it mean that I agree with them?  No.

What does this mean?

I’ve been revealed that unity is more important than my self-righteous opinions.  Unity is more important than my pride.  Holding back my tongue for the sake of unity is more important than sounding my beliefs like a big brass cymbal.

Instead of making sure that I am heard, and that my opinion is out there, right now, my instruction is to wait, love and expect God to change what needs to be changed.  And lately?  It’s been me more than others.