Accept or Except

clocks

If you ask a comedian, politician, preacher or any public speaker, “What is the most important thing in the delivery of your monologue, speech, sermon or communication, that helps a group of people understand the point you are trying make,” nine times out of ten the answer would be, “TIMING! It’s all in the timing. Timing is everything.” Last Sunday was a perfect example of how “timing is everything” when God made it known to me, through a sermon and the events that followed, how much more work He has to do with the attitude of my heart, even after knowing Jesus for about 40 years. Thanks be to God; He is still working on me and is not finished with me yet!

The Associate Pastor of my church delivered a sermon entitled, “Accept One Another.” Before his sermon, we read two portions of Scripture:

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“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)

“We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: ‘The insults of those who insult You have fallen on Me.’ For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ has accepted you, in order to bring praise to God“(Romans 15:1-7).

me writing

The Old and New Testament Scripture passages above made me think of what Jesus said in John 15:16-17:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in My Name. This is My command: Love each other.”

As brothers and sisters in Christ, God calls us to love one another and accept one another, no matter what our differences or weaknesses or preferences may be. As far as weaknesses are concerned, my Associate Pastor gently reminded us that we all have weaknesses. Though our weaknesses may be different from our brothers and sisters, that does not make us any better or worse than they are. We are all sinners saved by God’s grace. In his Letters to the Romans and to the Philippians, Paul teaches us that true love and acceptance comes from a humble heart:

hands unitedtowel and basin

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance to the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:3-5).

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

In his sermon, the Associate Pastor told us the word for “accept”, in the Greek, means “to welcome someone to come alongside us.” He further explained, to “accept” someone means to put my own personal preferences aside, not talk about others who are different from me in a negative way, and that I am the one who is to change, because Christ did exactly that for me by becoming one of us. Whenever I think of someone who is a Christ-like example, I think of James Hudson Taylor, (1832-1905), an English missionary who founded the China Inland Mission. In order to minister and share Christ with the people of China, he adopted the Chinese way of dress, ate what the Chinese people ate, and even grew his hair into a long “ponytail” as the Chinese men did during that time period. James Hudson Taylor truly became one with the Chinese people. When he first started his mission in China, there were no other missionaries there and no known Christians. At the time of his death, there were 205 mission stations with over 800 missionaries and somewhere around 125,000 Chinese Christians (“Wholesome Words, Christian Biography Resources”). James Hudson Taylor accepted the Chinese culture by becoming one with the people of China. In turn, the Chinese people accepted Jesus, in Whom James Hudson Taylor lived His life for and was a very real example of Christ‘s love and acceptance to the people of China.

clock watch

Last Sunday’s sermon was a good sermon for me to hear and a good reminder of what it means to “ACCEPT” others in Christ, EXCEPT I didn’t know how soon I would have to put what I learned from the sermon into practice. When I got home from church, I was very hungry, so I put together some leftovers and nuked them in the microwave. When I rolled my lunch into the living room on a rolling cart, I noticed a large envelope on my coffee table. My sister must have brought in my mail from Saturday. When I looked at the return address, I discovered it was from a sister in Christ who I don’t cross paths with anymore. She left the church I attend a long time ago. We were friends, but both of us went our own separate ways when she left the church we both attended. It is difficult to keep in touch with everyone who leaves my church to go to another church. Sometimes, people do go in different directions and that‘s not always a bad thing.

BASEBALL CAPS 3baseball wallys 1

This sister in Christ and I were friends, but we were quite different from one another. I don’t think we knew what made the other “tick”, but we had Jesus in common. She was into fashion and loved decorating things, from the Communion Table to store windows. She also collected things, from every church bulletin from every church service she attended to vintage clothing and fancy lady‘s hats. I, on the other hand, disliked clutter, but I do have files of all my Bible studies I attended and taught, and I collected coffee mugs and T-shirts. I currently collect T-shirts and caps of my favorite sports teams (I put my Patriots’ caps away for obvious reasons) and I have a collection of Wally dolls. So, as you can see, we were quite different just by knowing the different things we collected.

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My sister in Christ did come back briefly into my life when she helped care for my mom, but soon disappeared again. I guess that’s how she likes to do things – appear for awhile and then disappear when she feels she needs to. And, when I least expect it, she sends me a large envelope filled with stuff. The last envelope I received from her were newspaper clippings about the RED SOX winning the 2004 World Series Championship, from the same newspapers I already had. But, she didn’t know I had them and it is the thought that counts. This is what made me curious and want to open the envelope right away and not wait until I ate lunch. You might say that one of my many weaknesses is impatience. I carefully put my lunch plate on the small table, in front of my recliner, and proceeded to open the envelope.

cartoon clippings

It was hard to open the envelope, but when I finally did, it was hard to get the folder out of it. When I FINALLY got the pocket folder out, stuff went flying everywhere. The stuff was more newspaper clippings, but this time they were newspaper comic clippings. There must have been more than a hundred of them, from regular paper-sized clippings, with the cartoon and words included, to tiny clippings with only one sentence written on them. I was not a “happy camper” to say the least. Even though there wasn’t the ESPN football pre-game show on TV, I did do a “Mike Ditka” and said out loud, “C’mon Man!” and a “Tommy Heinsohn” and said out loud, “THIS IS REDICULOUS”, even though I was not watching the Celtics. Then, there’s the “Joe Castiglione” (RED SOX radio guy), “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!” There were other things running through my head, but, as the RED SOX Royal Rooters would say, “’NUF SAID.”

cartoon Tannin 2

Somewhere, in the pile of comic clippings Tannin was lying on, there was a handwritten note from my sister in Christ. The note said she was “re-locating” again and found her collection of cartoon clippings, mostly about God, and thought I would “get a kick out of them” and have more “ammunition” for my writing. After looking down at all the clippings and being overwhelmed by them, not knowing where to begin, I lifted my lower jaw from the floor, pulled myself together and had a “God-hitting-me-in-back-of-my-head moment”, in the same way Gibbs hits Dinnozo in back of the head, on NCIS (finally, a non-sports analogy).

God Sees Us as

“What did I just listen to in Church?” God finally got through all my ranting and raving and put me back down to earth. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7). Scripture does not say, “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT when you’re hungry” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT if you’re tired” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT when they do things you don’t understand” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT when you don’t have time” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT when you have nothing in common with them” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT if they go to another church” or “ACCEPT one another, EXCEPT when they are too needy.” Romans 15:7 says, “ACCEPT one another, then, just as CHRIST ACCEPTED YOU [Why? ], IN ORDER TO BRING PRAISE TO GOD.”

me writing 2sunshine

My sister in Christ sent me something she thought I might like and be able to use. She does not know that I am also downsizing and getting rid of stuff too. She doesn’t know that I have to be the one who discovers something in order for me to be inspired to write about it. She doesn’t realize I don’t want to use “ammunition” in my writing, but words of encouragement, comfort and grace. She doesn’t realize that the fine motor skills necessary to sort through the different sized comic clippings would drive me nuts and people would have to make sure to keep their distance. In order to read the small print I would need a magnifying glass, which also would be dangerous to the people and windows around me. All she thought about was I “might get a kick out of them.” And, before I judge something to be weird, some people would think it pretty weird that I turn my living room into “Fenway West”, during baseball season. And who in the world needs all those caps and Wally dolls anyway?

BASEBALL CAPS 1baseball wally 2

I hope I have learned a lesson from all this and I will respond differently when I get an unexpected envelope in the mail with stuff I do not know what to do with. I hope my response will be thankfulness, acceptance and the love that is found in I Corinthians 13:4-8a:

Jesua, heart, sand

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast,
it is not proud. It is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
LOVE NEVER FAILS.”

Does anyone want a large ZIP-LOCK bag of newspaper comic clippings mostly about God? I know where you can get them cheap.

WS AT CHURCH

Just Your Average Church-Goer,

Lydia

Spring is Just Around the Corner!

High School Graduation

(Who is that skinny, tanned kid?)

Back in the days of my youth (I don’t believe I’m actually saying that!), there was a popular song written by “The Byrds” entitled “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season). The first stanza goes like this:

To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

Soon after I became a Christian and began reading the Bible, I discovered that this song came from the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter three, verses 1-8. I can finish the song by quoting Ecclesiastes:

glasses on Bible

“…a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace”
(Ecclesiastes 3:2-8).

The writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to say, “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)

liturgical calendar

During the past few months, we have taken and Advent-ure by following the Christian Liturgical Calendar, which begins with Advent, then Epiphany. During Advent and Epiphany, we saw every emotion and every situation described in the song by “The Byrds” and the writer of Ecclesiastes. We saw people following and obeying God which, in many ways, is not the “easy road” to travel. And we saw people who did not obey God and were only interested in maintaining their control and power over the people under them. We also read about things that were too difficult for us to comprehend. How I wish Herod did not order the murdering of baby boys; yet this is in the Bible (Matthew 2:16-18). Like Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and Magi, I need to trust God with what I don’t understand. What Ecclesiastes says is so true: We “cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end,” but we need to trust that God is good and “be happy and do good while [I] live” and be thankful for my food and drink “and find satisfaction in my toil [God‘s will for me to do]” because “this is the gift of God.”

Fenway truck day

In examining the Christian Liturgical Calendar, I see that nothing much is going on in February, March has Ash Wednesday and Lent, April has Easter (Resurrection Sunday), and Pentecost is on June 8, 2014. After that, there is another lull, during the summer into the fall, until Advent starts again. This can only mean one thing – God is a Baseball Fan and, maybe even a RED SOX Fan! Let me explain:

Jet Blue Park

February is jammed packed with important dates for the “REAL” RED SOX fan. First, on February 2nd, Groundhog’s Day, Punxsutawney Phil tells us when to expect “Baseball Weather” (the same day as the Super Bowl this year) to return. Second, February 8th is “Truck Day” – when the RED SOX equipment truck leaves Fenway “Pauk” for Fort Myers, Florida and Spring Training. Third, February 15th is when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training (after Lincoln’s Birthday and Valentine’s Day), and the first workout is on February 17th (Washington’s Birthday/Presidents Day). The rest of the team arrives on February 18th.There are inter-squad games on February 27th, with Northeastern University and Boston College, and a game with the Twins on February 28th. So, as you can see, February is pretty much booked with very important events for die-hard RED SOX fans.

After the Lenten Season , beginning with Ash Wednesday, on March 5th (spring officially starts for non-RED SOX fans on March 20th), Palm Sunday on April 13th, Good Friday on April 18th, and Easter Sunday on April 20th and Pentecost Sunday on June 8th, and a handful of state and national holidays, the rest of the spring and summer and fall have nothing going on as far as the Protestant Liturgical Calendar and regular calendar are concerned. The spring, summer and fall are when BASEBALL is played by MLB teams all over the U.S. AND Toronto and enjoyed by people like me. Coincidence? I think not.

Fenway's green monster

I have a T-shirt with a little baseball in the front and a BIG baseball in the back with the words, “Life begins when the Season starts!” There is some truth to that – At least the enjoyment of baseball starts when spring officially begins on February 8th, Truck Day (not March 20th). This may seem off the wall (really off the Green Monstah), but I believe Jesus makes life fun. I believe Jesus wants us to share His joy and be happy in all the good things He gives us to enjoy. For me, baseball is one of those good things. Jesus used baseball to get me through my childhood, having to deal with a disability (cerebral palsy). Talking baseball is how I made friends. Watching baseball on TV and listening to ball games on the radio gave me something fun and interesting to do. I believe Jesus had a hand in that. Jesus is not a kill-joy as some people portray Him to be. Jesus is “the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6a) of the party After all, look at His first miracle in John 2:1-11 (a topic for another time). I experience Jesus’ joy in the beauty of spring and the new life He creates in the flowers of every color imaginable, in the new green grass and sprouting leaves on the trees, in the excited chirping of the birds, and also with the sound of the crack of the bat and thump of the catcher’s mitt. Every spring is a new beginning. Spring reminds me of all the good gifts Jesus freely gives for me and you to enjoy and be thankful for. Spring is a reminder that Jesus makes everything new and His forgiveness and grace are always there for me and you to enjoy and receive with thanksgiving and praise. With Jesus everyday is a new beginning – everyday is a spring day, filled with excitement and new beginnings. Yes, spring is just around the corner – when I and all of RED SOX Nation will hear the two words we have waited all winter to hear: “PLAY BALL!”

imagesCA1A2FRPFenway Park

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” -Rogers Hornsby

Tulip& RS hat

(My cat “Tulip” waiting for “Truck Day”)

I don’t exactly do that, but it takes football, hockey, and basketball (college and pro) to fill the void when baseball is over. Think about it.

Welcome to the new “followers” of my blog. This post is a light and fun post because my earlier posts were somewhat serious and dealt with more serious topics. I thought I would write a fun post for a change of pace. If you would like to read my previous blog posts, the link is https://lydslookonlife.wordpress.com .

Go SOX!

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Lydia

“KING ME!” (Conclusion to: Christmas is Finally Making Some “Scents”)

CHECKER GAME

Did you ever play the board game Checkers? The game is a little of like Chess, but a whole lot easier. It’s played by two people – one person has twelve black Checker pieces and the other has twelve red Checker pieces. It’s played on the same kind of board as Chess. The red pieces always go first. The object of the game is to “jump over and capture” the opponent’s Checker pieces. The ordinary pieces may only move forward diagonally, on the black squares. But, if your strategy pays off, and you reach the opponent’s first row (the row nearest to the opponent), you have the pleasure of exclaiming, “KING ME!” Your opponent now has to give back one of your captured pieces and “crown the king” (Put the piece on top of the piece that made it all the way to the other side). Your “King” is now able to go forwards and backwards diagonally, making it easier to execute double and triple jumps, and maybe even clear the board of the opponent’s pieces and WIN THE GAME! My dad and I used to play Checkers all the time when I was a kid. I also played the game with my Uncle Joe when he came to visit from Fitchburg, Massachusetts. It was a fun game, especially as I grew older and won more games than I lost.

crown

“KING ME!” People have been fascinated with kings from the very beginning. Human beings have wanted to be their own kings ever since the beginning of time (See Genesis 3:1-5). Way back in Old Testament times, when Samuel was alive, the Israelites were envious of other countries ruled by kings. They were ruled by judges, appointed by God to save them from the “mess” they would get into by worshiping other gods. During the time of Samuel, their envy caused them to ask Samuel to appoint a king over them, instead of going to God for help:

praying hands

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel…They said to him, ‘You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’ But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel, so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their King” (I Samuel 8:4-7).

Instead of seeking the LORD and trusting Him with their problems, the elders of Israel looked for a “quick fix.” They did not look to God, but looked to other nations and the way kings governed them. The reason why God was displeased was that they did not only forsake Him, but also chose to serve other gods. God did allow Israel to have their own way and have their own kings to rule over them but, from reading the rest of I and II Samuel and the Old Testament Books, the Israelites having their own king turned out to be disastrous. In a way, it reminds me when I first started playing Checkers: I was so in a hurry to get a “KING” that I was letting my opponent wipe-out the rest of my Checker pieces. Only, the results of Israel’s impatience was a bazillion times worse!

mary on donkeyCAMELS AND MAGI

With mankind’s endless fascination over kings and royalty, even to this day (just look at the tabloids’ front pages, with stories about England‘s royal family), it is not surprising that the Magi were mistaken for kings. The Magi came from the Far East and there was something mysterious about them. They were rich, judging by their gifts they brought Jesus. Because they were rich they are often depicted riding camels in paintings, as figurines, in manger scenes, and on Christmas cards. (This is the same reasoning we use when we have Mary riding a donkey: Because Mary and Joseph were considered to be poor peasants, they could only afford a donkey.)

Magi following star

We Three Kings
(By John H. Hopkins, Jr.)

We three Kings of Orient are: Bearing gifts we traverse afar –
Field and fountain, moor and mountain – Following yonder star.

(Refrain)
O star of wonder, star of night, Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding, Guide us to thy perfect light.

Before we throw John H. Hopkins, Jr. and his hymn under the bus, there is a logical reason for him and early church fathers to believe that the Magi were kings. They believe the visit of the Magi was a fulfillment of these Old Testament prophesies:

glasses on Bible

“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel…” (Numbers 24:17a).

“The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to Him; the kings will bow down to Him and all nations will serve Him” (Psalm 72:10-11).

“Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD” (Isaiah 60:6).

me writing 2

On the surface, these Old Testament Scripture can be seen as prophesies fulfilled by the Magi, in Matthew 2:1-12. The only problem is, (Dr. Richard P. Bucher points out) because Matthew is writing to mainly Hebrew people, he makes sure to identify each fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy mentioned in his Gospel (See Matthew 1:22-23; 2:14-15; 2:17-18; 3:3; 4:12-16; 12:15-21; 13:34-35; 21:4-5; 27:9-10), but he does not do not say that the visit of the Magi was a fulfillment of prophesy. This is why many Bible scholars do not believe the Magi were kings. This leads me to believe that the prophesies mentioned in the Book of Numbers and Psalm 72 and Isaiah 60, even though they sound like the Magi’s visit, are prophesies which will be fulfilled at Christ’s Second coming. (But, this is not something I would argue about.)

Who were the Magi who followed the star to find Jesus? This is what Dr. Richard P. Bucher writes in “The Magi/Wise Men FAQ” (www.orlutheran.com/html/magifaq.html):

“From the Jewish historian Josephus, the Greek historian Herodotus, and the writings of Strabo, a clearer picture of the people called the magi appears. The magi first appear in history in about the 7th century B.C. in the Median empire (Herodotus I, ci). It is possible that we see examples of the magi in Daniel 2 and Jeremiah 39. At the birth of Jesus they were an ancient priestly caste dwelling within the Parthian empire the practiced astrology (note: at this time, ‘astrology’ was a hybrid of astronomy). They were adept at interpreting dreams (which we possibly get a flavor of as early as Daniel 2). Also at the time just prior to the birth of our Lord the Magi formed the upper house of the council of the Megistanes, whose duties included the election of the king of the Parthian empire (Strabo, XI, ix, 3). Thus, the Magi at this time were very possibly ‘king makers.’(Sources: D. W. Jayne, “Magi,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 4:31-34; Josephus, Antiquities of The Jews and The Jewish War; Herodotus, The History of Herodotus; A. Homestead, History of the Persian Empire).”

me writing

Why do we call them the “wise men”? Again we go to Dr. Bucher’s paper for the answer:

“”Because, as said above, magi were priests, serving an ancient priesthood, astrologers, interpreters of dreams, and government officials who had the authority to elect the Parthian king. In the context of the times, because they served these roles and had such amazing knowledge of mysteries as these, they were considered to be the scholars of the day.”

Chrismas Magi Figurenes

How many Magi were there? This is what Father William Saunders writes in “The Magi “ (www.catholiceducation.org):

“Traditionally, we think of three Magi…Actually, the earliest tradition is inconsistent as to the number of the Magi. The Eastern tradition favored twelve Magi. In the West, several of the early Church fathers – including Origen, St. Leo the Great and St. Maximus of Turin – accepted three Magi. Early Christian painting in Rome found at the cemetery of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus depicts two Magi and at the cemetery of St. Domitilla, four. Since the seventh century in the Western Church, the Magi have been identified as Casper, Melchior and Balthasar. A work called the Excerpta et Collectanea attributed to St Bede (d. 735) wrote, ‘The Magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an OLD man with white hair and a long BEARD who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Casper by name, YOUNG and BEARDLESS and ruddy complexioned…honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, BLACK-SKINNED and heavily BEARDED, name Balthasar…by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die.”

I can see from the writing above where we get the traditional Three Wise Men for our Manger Scenes and Christmas cards. I can remember, as a little girl, watching my dad take a piece of chalk or wax and print the initials of the Magi’s names above our doors, on the “Feast of the Three Kings” Sunday, on or near January 6th. After reading what Fr. Saunders wrote in the above paragraph, I had an “EPIPHANY” (pun intended), in the middle of the night. Sometimes, I’m slow, but eventually the LIGHT bulb turns on. Even though this comes from early Church tradition and not from biblical accounts, the description given by St. Bede of the Magi has profound biblical Truth. Jesus, our God and Savior and King came to save us all – the OLD and the YOUNG, people who are DARK-SKINNED and LIGHT-SKINNED, BEARDED and BEARDLESS (Red Sox and Yankees). Jesus came to save us all; no matter who we are or where we come from, no matter how able-bodied or disabled we are, no matter how sinful we have been, no matter how small or great our faith is, no matter how rich or poor – Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, loves us all with His everlasting love! How incredibly AWESOME is that?! God’s love is too BIG for us to wrap our minds around. We just have to accepted His love and forgiveness by faith – Trusting that what God says is True and loving God in return.

moon and stars

How did the Magi know that they were following the star which would lead them to the Jewish Messiah? Let’s go back to Dr. Bucher’s paper:

“…But they were Gentiles. How did they know that the new star referred to a foreign-born king? First, we know from the Old Testament that when the Babylonians conquered Judah and Jerusalem, they deported a majority of the population to Babylon (see 2 Kings 24-25). The deported Jews lived as exiles in Babylon for 70 years, until the Medes and Persians conquered the Babylonians. The Persian king (esp. King Cyrus, see Ezra 1:1-4) allowed the Jews to return to Israel to rebuild the temple (see Ezra) and the city of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah) and many returned. However, not all returned. Many Jews continued to live in the Persian empire. Thus, by the time of Christ’s birth centuries later, the Hebrew religion would have long existed in the ‘east.’ Because of this, it is highly likely that the Hebrew Scriptures were also known, Scriptures that foretold the coming of the Messiah… Numbers 24:17 is one possibility. Also, Daniel, who was a famous man in Babylon and among the Medes, has several key Messianic prophesies in his book. This might explain how they had knowledge of the Messiah, the king of the Jews.”

Jesus looking at earth

What kind of star did the Magi follow? I agree with Dr. Bucher:

“[The star] was clearly supernatural. For, according to Matthew 2:9, the star moved ahead of [the Magi] until it was directly over the house where Jesus was and then stopped. No ordinary star does this. Rationalists have long tried to come up with a natural explanation for this star, that it was a comet or the conjunction of two planets, or some other phenomenon. But, first of all, there is no proof for their natural explanations. And second, this star did things that normal stars do not.” I think it literally pains people (ego-wise) to admit that they do not know everything or they cannot figure out everything that God does with human logic and having all the facts. All they need is all the facts. BUT GOD is bigger than everything our human minds can fathom. God can do anything. Believing God and trusting in His justice, mercy and grace is what faith is all about.

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“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible…And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1-2, 6).

I admire the faith of the Magi. Even with all the “hats” they wore, they made seeking the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, “very God of very God” (Nicene Creed) their first priority. Theologians estimate that it took between four months to two years for the Magi to find Jesus. They did not give up until they found Him. And their faith was rewarded. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” That was what the Magi did.

jesus on the throne

When I was a child, I delighted in exclaiming, “KING ME!” to my dad and uncle. Now that I am an adult and have found Jesus, about thirty-some years ago, I delight in exclaiming, “JESUS IS MY KING!”

Lest you think “We Three Kings”, by John H. Hopkins, Jr. is a “bad” hymn and should not be sung ever again, this is not the case. Stanzas 2 through 5 are rich in biblical truth:

CrossWORSHIPjesus arose

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain: Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never Over us all to reign.

Frankincense to offer have I: Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, all men raising, Worship Him, God on High.

Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom –
Sor-rowing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

Glo-rious now behold Him arise: King and God and Sacrifice.
Al – le – lu – ia, Al -le – lu -ia! Earth to heav‘n replies.

Going back to Fr. Saunders, he closes his paper about the Magi with a quote from St. Gregory Anfinsen (d. 389): “Let us remain on in adoration; and to Him, who, in order to save us, humbled Himself to such a degree of poverty, as to receive our body, let us offer not only incense, gold and myrrh…, but also spiritual gifts, more sublime than those which can be seen with the eyes” (Oratio, 19).

This is my prayer for 2014 (A servant puts the needs of others first.):

imagestowel and basin

Make Me a Servant
(By the Maranatha Singers)

Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord, let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayer of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today

Chess Board

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am good at Checkers and terrible at Chess. My sister always beat me at Chess, even after I read a book about it! But, my real game is Scrabble. I am ruthless when I play Scrabble and have this maniacal laugh that always comes out when I take someone’s spot on the board – the same laugh that comes out of me when the Yankees are losing. But, I try to leave all my aggressiveness “on the game board.” I would not be any good at Poker. And I‘m certainly not good at keeping New Year Resolutions [making my blog posts shorter]!) But, I will keep on trying.

Christmas Scrabble

Welcome to all new “followers”! Thank you very much for reading my blog. Please feel free to pass it on.

I will be taking 2 or 3 weeks off, if the Lord lets me. I hope you all have been blessed as much as I have been in my studies of Advent and Epiphany. May the Lord shine His Light on us all during the dark New England winter and always!

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Peace,
Lydia

Christmas is Finally Making Some “Scents” (Part Two)

christmas gifts

Have you recuperated from Christmas yet? An American Christmas can be summed up in two words: SENSORY OVERLOAD! We are bombarded with hundreds upon hundreds of choices to make; presents to buy, food to prepare, places to go. Department stores are loaded with everything imaginable in toys, clothing, and electronic gadgets from a tiny Bluetooth to an eighty-inch (analog, digital, HD) projection, plasma (3D, L.C.D., L.E.D., L.D.) T.V. And the grocery stores have just as many choices for us to make (Did you know there are not one, but many types of cauliflower?). The T.V. also has an unusual number of obnoxious commercials about cars and other high priced items “no one can live without” Although I didn’t see any annoying Chia Pet commercials this year (thankfully). Besides buying STUFF for Christmas gifts and buying FOOD after deciding on a Christmas menu which everyone will eat, there are Christmas parties to attend, Christmas concerts to go listen to, live Nativity scenes to go see, as well as Christmas plays and “Lessons and Carols” and “Candle Light” and other church services (Midnight Mass) to enjoy. There is no way any one person can go to all these special Christmas events. Where is the “peace on earth” we sing about during the Christmas Season? For me, I get my sense of peace from the sense of smell.

christmas hot chocolatechristmas fireplace

How soothing it is to smell the mug of hot chocolate I am about to sip on a cold and snowy wintry day (I use a straw. But, don’t worry; the technique is to put the end of the straw on the very top of the hot chocolate and sip slowly, without making a slurping noise. I have perfected this technique and use it for all my hot drinks.). How comforting it is to smell Christmas cookies, apple pie, Polish ham baking in the oven and traditional Polish cabbage soup being prepared on the stove top (The smells of the sautéing onions and the boiling imported dried gourmet mushrooms that are getting ready to be added into pot of sour kraut and boiled-until-mushy chick peas are out of this world. You don’t have to be Polish to have your mouth watering by the perfectly melding of delicious flavors. Just try it. You might like it.) What a blessing it is to smell the evergreen tree indoors; a reminder that there is still greenery (life) growing, even in the dead of winter, and there is more life on its way. How relaxing it is to sit by the fireplace and smell the fragrance of wood burning and enjoy the warmth that it brings.

christms dinner

Christmas scents is what makes sense out of Christmas. Jesus became one of us on that Christmas so long ago and continues to bring “peace [on earth] to men on whom His favor rests” (Matthew 2:14b). This is why the “Visit of the Magi” makes so much sense to me. The two most important things to focus on, in Matthew 2:1-12 is: 1. The gifts of the Magi, and 2. The Magi were not Jewish, but Gentiles. Before going to other sources, it is important to look at what the Scripture passage tells us. Matthew tells us the Magi came from the east, from another country (2:1). The passage also tells us that they did not come to a stable: “On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary…” Theologians tell us the Magi came after Jesus was dedicated in the temple (Luke 2:22-24), when Jesus was forty-one days old, after the time of purification for Mary and Joseph was finished. Theologians also use Herod’s heinous act when “he gave orders to kill all the boys of Bethlehem and it’s vicinity who are two years old and under” as a timeline for figuring out when the Magi visited Jesus. So, their visit could have been when Jesus was between forty-one days old to two years old.

jesus as kingchrismas gold, incense and myrrh

For me, when the Magi visited Jesus is not as important as what they did: “…they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense [frankincense] and of myrrh” (2:11b). From their gifts, we can safely conclude that the Magi were rich. More importantly for me, we see that two of the gifts were scents – incense and myrrh – and one of them was gold which was often given to a king (historians tell us). Historians and theologians tell us that incense symbolized Jesus as our High Priest and myrrh was used as a burial ointment which foretold of Jesus’ death. The Magi, not the religious leaders of His own country, recognized Jesus as the Messiah (Savior and Lord); our eternal High Priest (Hebrew 4:14-16 and 7:24-28), the One Who was to die and bring peace between God and mankind (Ephesians 2:13-18), and our Everlasting King (Hebrews 1:1-13). The Magi were a sign that Jesus came for all of mankind who would believe and trust in Him for their salvation.

jesus as high priest

jesus as kingCross

“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

What is God telling me through the gifts of the Magi? The Gold tells me that Jesus is my King. I want to honor Him with my life, in all that I say and do and think. The incense tells me that He is my High Priest. I want to thank Him each day for saving me “completely…because He always lives to intercede for [me]” (Hebrews 7:25). The myrrh reminds me of the perfect sacrifice He made for me, by dying of the cross for my sins (Galatians 2:20). I want to thank Him each day for loving me so much that “He gave Himself” (died) for me. As someone with a disability, what gifts can I give Jesus? I am in a wheelchair, I have a brace on my right ankle and a “bum” left knee, my hands don’t work “right” and my speech is slurred (Some of you are hearing violin music right about now.). What can I give Jesus? I can give Him myself, because that is all He wants and that is why He died and that is why He lives. I can give Him myself by treating others as He treats me, with kindness and compassion, with patience and encouragement, with unconditional love; by never giving up on the people in my life and by always being ready to forgive, and by never giving up on myself and accepting Jesus’ forgiveness and grace.

glasses on BibleWS AT CHURCH

(I am giving out candy before church starts to celebrate RED SOX

winning 2013 WS)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a)

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2). [All of Romans 12 talks about giving oneself to Jesus and what that looks like.]

God Sees Us as

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy [set apart] and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13). [See also 14-17]

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John1:9).

angry fist

The above Scriptures are gifts we can give to Jesus, no matter what our abilities or disabilities are. These gifts, however, often go against our human tendencies to “fight for our rights,” “prove people wrong,” “make people pay” and on and on our sinful nature goes. It is only by the power of the Resurrection that any of us can die to self and live for Christ. Living for Christ and giving myself as my gift to Him is my goal in life. How about you?

jesus has risenpraying hands

“I want to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the Resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:10-12).

The following hymn is also my prayer:

Take My Life and Let It Be
By Frances Ridley Havergal
(Stanzas 1, 4, 5, 6)

Take my life and let it be Consecrated,
Lord to Thee; Take my moments and my days – Let them
Flow in ceaseless praise, Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my silver and my gold – Not a mite would
I withhold; Take my intellect and use Ev’ry
Pow’r as Thou shalt choose, Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine – It shall be no
Longer mine; Take my heart – it is Thine own, It shall
Be Thy royal throne, It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love – my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its
Treasure store; Take my self – and I will be Ever,
Only, all for Thee, Ever, only, all for Thee.

me writing

What about those questions: Who were the Magi? Where did they come from? How did they know about a Jewish Messiah and …and…? The “Magi Minutiae” will be covered in my next post. I promise! I just don’t want Christmas to end. (B.T.W. Sometimes, I burn a stick of incense or light a scented candle when I’m writing or just relaxing. I find it very soothing. The incense or candle is on my dining room table and I’m either in my bedroom typing or in my living room relaxing. That way the scent isn’t too strong, for me anyway.)

May the Peace of Christ be with You! image0

Lydia

Christmas is Finally Making “Scents”!

Christmas Nativity

(My dad explaining the Nativity when I was a child)

During these several weeks, I have invited you along on an “Advent-ure” with me through the four Sundays (weeks) of Advent. I have shared my thoughts and readings and my research and studies about the Birth of Christ and what His Birth means to me personally. Advent is a time to celebrate Christ’s Birth and to actively anticipate His Second Coming by living a life worthy of His calling – a life that shines His Light to a needy world filled with darkness.

Jesus, Mary and Baby

At the very beginning of the Christmas Season, we looked at the contrast between the British royalty of today and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with being royalty, with a peasant couple of long ago who were given the awesome responsibility of having God’s Only Begotten Son, the King of kings and Lord of Lord’s, to be born to them and parented by them. What a spectacular (televised) wedding Prince William and Princess Kate had. What humble beginnings Mary and Joseph had, with Mary already pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, and both Mary and Joseph not knowing what this all meant, at first. When Prince William and Princess Kate gave birth to their first son, Prince George, it is for certain that mother and baby had the best of care, in the best hospital in England, and the Royal Family – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and other royal relatives – came to welcome the child who one day may be the King of England. When Jesus was born to Mary, it was in a little town called Bethlehem, in a stable where Mary wrapped the new born Baby Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger for a bed. It was big news when Prince William decided to be in the birthing room with Princess Kate. I was not there to be sure, but I think Joseph was not only there when Jesus was born, but He also delivered the Baby who was already King. Besides Mary, he was the only human being in Mary’s “birthing room.”! Instead of royalty, Jesus was welcomed into the world He created by barn animals, shepherds and “a great company of heavenly host” who did not stay very long (See Luke 2:1-20).

shepherds in the fieldsAngel's with Shepherds

There are four Sundays (weeks”) in Advent which ends on Christmas Eve (December 24th), BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! (as TV “infor-mercials” say). There are the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th (or the Sunday closest to January 6th). The Sunday closest to January 6th is called “Epiphany Sunday.” It is also called “Little Christmas” or “The Feast of the Three Kings” in the Roman Catholic Church. In some Christian cultures, “Little Christmas” is BIGGER than the Christmas celebrated on December 25th. Gifts are exchanged on Epiphany Sunday to mark the time when the Magi came with gifts to the Baby Jesus. “Epiphany” means (among other things): “sudden realization: a sudden leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence” (Bing Dictionary). According to WIKIPEDIA, “The word ‘epiphany’ originally referred to insight through the divine…” Dictionary.com says that Epiphany is “a Christian Festival observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.”

Magi following starmary and jesus house

The Christmas Story (His Story) is making a lot more sense, now that we see kings coming to welcome the King of kings into His world. How could God allow His Only Begotten Son, the Creator of The universe, enter into His Creation without any royal recognition? There must be something more than a stable and shepherds to the story of Jesus’ Birth. And there is! We see “them” as part of every Nativity Scene and we sing about “them” in Christmas Carols and we read about “them” in the Gospel of Matthew in “The Visit of the Magi”:

glasses on Bible

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi [Wise Men] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ [Messiah] was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a Ruler
Who will be the Shepherd of my people Israel.’”
(from Micah 5:2)
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the Child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may worship Him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed [MEGA-JOYED]. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him. So he got up, took the Child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:1-15).

Angel in Joseph's dream

Before we go any further, we need to order the sequence of events concerning Jesus’ birth and what followed: 1. Jesus was born in a stable, in Bethlehem, and shepherds came to visited Him on that night (Luke 2:8-20); 2. When Jesus was eight days old He was circumcised (Luke 2:21); 3. “When their time of purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed [FORTY DAYS, according to Leviticus 12:1ff], Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), in accordance to Exodus 13:2ff and Numbers 3:13, 8:17. (Please excuse the “poetic license” for the title of my last post. “On the fortieth Day of Christmas…” just didn’t sound right.); 4. The Magi inquired about the star to Herod (Matthew 2:1-2); 5. The Magi found Jesus and worshiped Him and gave Him gifts of gold, [frank]incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11); 6. Both the Magi and Joseph were warned in a dream about Herod’s plot to kill Jesus. On that same night, the Magi “returned to their country by another route (Matthew 2:12) and Joseph escaped with Mary and Jesus to Egypt; 7. (One of the most heinous acts in all of Scripture) “Herod gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16b).

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When I see the “Three Kings” in the manger scene, I think, “Finally! Finally, Jesus is getting the recognition He deserves. We sing, “We three kings of Orient are: Bearing gifts we traverse afar – Field and fountain, moor and mountain – Following yonder star” (By John H. Hopkins, Jr.). But, did the Magi visit Jesus at the stable? Were the Magi really kings? Who were they, how many were they and where did the come from? How did they know about a Jewish Messiah? And why did they bring the specific gifts of gold, [frank]incense and myrrh? What is God telling me through the Magi? In order to keep one of my New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll have to wait until next time for the answers to these questions. I will say this one last think: Two of the three gifts, the [frank]incense and myrrh make “scents”. The gold makes sense too. I’ll explain next time.

partrich in pear tree

[A special note: On many websites there is false information on the origins of the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song was not used as a “catechism” song written in code to help young Roman Catholics learn the tenants of their faith, during the time period it was crime to be Catholic (1558-1828). This is what Phil Hamilton, from the Austin Library Research Department, wrote in a response to this false information:

“The Austin Public Library research department found information in the book “Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration and History,” by Leigh Grant, ISBN 0-679-74038-4. It says the words from this song first appeared in a book titled “Mirth without Mischief.” That book came out in 1780 (or 1783) in England. The tune apparently dates back much further and came from France. That 1780 book describes ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ as a ‘memory and forfeits game’ played by children at that time. The leader recites the first verse, the next child recites the second verse, and this continues until someone missed his or her verse and had to pay some kind of penalty in the game. ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ became popular at the “12th-night parties’ that took place in the Christmas season. For more information about the origins of this song and the false information that has been circulating via the internet, you can check out http://www.snopes2.com/.%5D

Have a Very Merry “Little Christmas!” -Lydia image0

“…Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you FREE” (John 8:32).

imagesCAPBEZO8Jesus' Baptism

“On the Eighth Day of Christmas My True Love Sent to Me…”

partrich in pear tree

…My Savior Whom He Promised and I Have Longed to See!” The title of this post came from the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” an English Christmas Carol first published in England in 1780, as a poem and is believed to be French in origin. In 1909, it was made into a song by Frederic Austin; with the tune we are familiar with (See WIKIPEDIA). The first sentence of this post comes from the prophesies of Simeon and Anna, recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Let us go to the source of God’s Truth, the Holy Scriptures, and see what happened on the eighth day of that very first Christmas:

Jesus, Mary and BabySimeon with Baby Jesus

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise Him, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’ Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the Child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as You have promised,
You now dismiss Your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen Your Salvation,
Which You have prepared in the sight of all people,
A Light for revelation to the Gentiles
And for the glory of Your people Israel.’

…There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ashur. She was very old; she lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the Child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:21-32, 36-40).

Anna and Simeon with Baby Jesus

In this passage of Scripture, Luke describes four faithful worshipers of God. Mary and Joseph were a poor peasant couple who were given the unfathomable responsibility of parenting God’s Only Begotten Son. They faithfully carried out what the Lord’s Law required and dedicated Jesus to the Lord when He was eight days old. They probably sacrifices two young pigeons because they were less expensive than doves, which was a provision made in the Lord’s Law and was an acceptable sacrifice for the poor to offer. The sight of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus was not anything out of the ordinary and would not make people stop and take notice. However, two very old people knew better. Simeon knew at first sight that Jesus was the One he waited so long to see. Simeon knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the Light to the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel; the Salvation for all mankind. Simeon could now die in His peace. Anna also knew, a woman older than Simeon, that Salvation entered the temple on that eighth day. Both of them prophesied about Jesus, the Savior and Lord everyone was waiting for.

me writing

But, did anyone pay attention to the poor peasant couple and their new born Son? Did anyone pay attention to the old man and older woman who were mere fixtures, like furniture, in the temple by now? Perhaps the temple goers learned to turn a deaf ear whenever they spoke up and prophesied. I imagine, just as in the case of the shepherds who had no say and could not even be used as reliable witnesses in court, the peasant family and the old man and woman had gone unnoticed by the majority and were brushed aside because they had more “important” matters to attend to. This may have been the case with the people; BUT GOD did notice these faithful worshipers. God bless the peasant family and made them a “Holy Family” – a family “set apart” for Himself. God honored Simeon’s and Anna’s patient endurance and trust that God’s promise would come true in His perfect time. And so it did:

glasses on Bible

“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave [to sin], but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).

My Good Side

If there is one thing I am not good at doing, it is WAITING. I can’t stand waiting. I also can’t stand being IGNORED As a person with cerebral palsy, I have to wait a lot for other people to do things for me. It would be so much better and faster if I could do IT myself. There some well-meaning Christians who tell me I don’t have to wait to be healed, but I just have to attend healing services, be prayed over, and just believe and I will be healed. This does not help me with my problem with waiting. However, God has given me the faith to believe that He is healing me and that, someday, I will be totally healed. I also believe and trust God for my healing in His time. As a person with cerebral palsy, I am also ignored. Some people just don’t want to deal with my slurred speech, so they will either ask the person I’m with about me or just pretend I’m not present. WAITING, HAVING PEOPLE PUT THEIR HANDS ON ME (especially during flu season) and BEING IGNORED makes me want to “SPIT NAILS!”

Jesus, Mary and BabyAnna and Simeon with Baby Jesus

I have a lot to learn from Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna. All four waited patiently for the Lord. Mary and Joseph obeyed God and did what was seemingly impossible to do. They knew “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26b). Simeon and Anna waited a long time for the promised Messiah. They may have been in their nineties or over one hundred years old. Yet, they would go to the temple, day after day, expecting God’s promise to be fulfilled. They were rewarded for their patient endurance. All four faithful followers of God cared more about what God said to them, rather than what man said or thought of them. This is also my desire: to care more about what God says to me than what people think of me. God says that I may call Him “Abba, Daddy” because I am His child.

Crossjesus aroseJesus in the clouds

In some church services the people recite the response, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!” As Christians, followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that Jesus was born of Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit. We know that He lived a perfect life. We know that Jesus died for the sins of the world. We know that Jesus rose again. We know that Jesus is now seated at the Right Hand of God. Finally, we know that Jesus is coming again to “judge the living and the dead” (See Apostles’ Creed). As Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna, I pray that we all will faithfully and faithfully wait for Christ’s Return. Amen.

praying hands

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot change it” (Numbers 23:19-20).

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9)

shacking hands

Battle Hymn of the Republic
By Julia Ward Howe

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword –
His truth is marching on.
(Refrain) Glory! Glory, hallelujah! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps –
His day is marching on.
(Refrain)

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never sound retreat,
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift. My soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
(Refrain)

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on.
(Refrain)
May 2014 be the year we put more of our focus on what is “unseen”, rather on than what is seen. HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL!

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Peace,

Lydia

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is already to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you HAVE NOT SEEN HIM, you love Him; and even though you DO NOT SEE HIM NOW, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls”
(I Peter 1:3-9).

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