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Fall is in the air!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday - The First Week of Advent

I received a mysterious text a few weeks back from our youngest daughter in Oklahoma.  It simply read: “You have a package coming.  Let me know as soon as you get it.”  Well needless to say, that put my expectations into overdrive as I wondered what it could be!  The day finally arrived when the medium sized, fairly heavy package arrived at our door.  My wife’s and my interests were peeked as I carefully opened the box.  It was professionally packaged, so I knew it had to come directly from its source.
After carefully pulling aside the packing paper, I smiled from ear to ear and proudly pulled out JoAnna’s first published book entitled: “Arrows of Destiny.”  In my hands sat the physical manifestation of years of childhood dreams and the culmination of countless hours of work, writing during her initial years in Oklahoma before and during her attendance at Bible School.  (If you’re interested, “Arrows of Destiny” is currently available for $10.67 through Amazon.com)
JoAnn’s authorship reminded me of today’s Advent story when Mary jubilantly declared, “My soul doth magnify the Lord: and my spirit rejoiceth in God the author of my life.” (Luke 1:46-47 – James Murdock New Testament)  Many times we go through seasons in our life where we might not understand where we are going.  I mentioned this thought to my wife as we drove home from church last night.  Going to church without being right in the rush and excitement of ministry leadership is a totally new event for me!  But I rest in the knowledge that God knows exactly what He is doing.  He is the One who is writing this chapter in our lives, and He similar to me, likes a book with a happy ending!
You may be going through a similar place in your life as you enter this Holiday season.  If so, then rest assured in knowing that the author of your life is writing your story and that He is penning a happy ending just for you!

Appreciating Mary
Thursday – the first week of Advent

Today’s Reading:  Luke 1:39-56

In reading through the interactions between Mary and her older cousin Elizabeth when they first met following Mary’s visitation from the angel Gabriel, I was struck with a multitude of questions and thoughts about the special young girl who was called upon to give birth to our Savior.  It is obvious that this get together of the two relatives was planned and anointed by the Lord.  From the moment they met and Mary opened her mouth in greeting, the power of the Holy Ghost fell upon them both.
As the baby leaped within Elizabeth’s womb she spoke out the words that filled her heart and in a matter of a few sentences confirmed, comforted and solidified the recent life changing set of events that had been thrust upon her relative.  It was important for the young girl to be with someone who understood exactly what she must have been going through with her thoughts and emotions.
Mary was overcome with thanksgiving and joy by Elizabeth’s God given encouragement and immediately began to utter the praises and goodness of her heavenly Father.  One of her initial statements after thanking Him for finding favor with her was to announce that “From now on, all people will call me blessed.”  (Luke 1:48  God’s Word ©)  This proclamation was not one that was driven by personal pride in her unique calling but done in awe of God’s greater plan.  John Darby’s Synopsis of the Bible states that: “The marvelous intervention of God humbled her instead of lifting her up.  She saw God in that which had taken place, and not herself… God has too large a place in her thoughts in this matter to leave any room for self-importance.”
So since this statement was not spoken for personal gain, it send me off on a rabbit trail of thoughts concerning how modern day Christians appreciate Mary in her role in God’s plan for our salvation.  Having been raised as an active and devout Catholic, who joined a Baptist Church after getting married and then moved on into the Pentecostal camp, I have personally seen all spectrums of the church’s attitude toward her.  A comment I recently read concerning Mary from a book on Baptist Theology by James Leo Garrett mentions another work entitled “The Mother of Jesus: Her Problems and Her Glory” by AT Robertson. 
This text declares that “The Louisville scholar delineated the life of Mary from the Gospels, partly because the Roman Catholics have ‘deified’ her and protestants ‘have neglected her.’” This statement written in the 1920’s seems to accurately sum up the place of Mary in our understanding of the Gospel.  Though an article I read from AmericanCatholic.com would disagree with Robertson's characterization of the Catholics beliefs.  (For a greater understanding of the Catholics view of Mary check out https://www.americancatholic.org/Features/customs/rosary/mary_worship.asp -  It definitely changed some of my misconceptions!)  It is clear that she was special and unique in God’s eyes and held a very important position in the fulfillment of His plan. 
Mary continued on with her song by magnifying the works of His goodness toward His people in the land of Israel throughout the previous generations.  He simply poured out the praise and honor to God.  Following this, our story relates that she remained with Elizabeth for about three months.  While I have no scripture to justify my thoughts, I can only imagine the joy and enthusiasm that must have filled their hearts as they sat down with a cup of hot tea and talked and hugged each other throughout the wee hours of that first night together.  When they finally parted, I am assured that they were both filled up with Holy Spirit, confident and ready to face the daunting tasks that were set before them.
As you prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s birth this year, I would also encourage you to meditate on our daily scriptures that tell the story of this world changing event that occurred in that tiny village in Israel a few thousand years ago.  Consider Mary and her importance in your celebration.  Think about her role, her devotion to God, and to her obedience to His calling on her life.  Maybe you’ll find some things to pattern your own life after.  Then as she did, lift up your voice and sing out your praises to our Almighty God and allow His goodness and His faithfulness to saturate you in preparation for the upcoming holiday as well as for the New Year ahead!  You might want to jot down some of your thoughts and use them as a basis for your New Year’s resolutions for 2015.  Have a great day.  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What or Whom am I expecting to magnify today?”

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