These last few months have been a whirlwind of activity, faith and thanksgiving! From the process of looking at a variety of houses to purchase, to going under contract with what ended up being the very first house we walked through that miraculously came available to us after being under contract to another potential buyer, to packing, the move and now the patient building daily joy of settling in!
As I walked the fence line of our large backyard last night in the waning moments of daylight with our faithful dog in tow, I stopped at various spots along the way and could not help but thank the Lord for the faithfulness of His long range plans for us. As I stood gazing at the front neighborhood, I could hardly keep the tears from flowing as I silently mouthed the thought that this is everything my wife and I have ever dreamed about in a home! Every day I see things that we had talked about in the past come to fruition in this new home. From “unknowingly” buying the right lawn mower seven years ago so that I could easily trim the hard to get spots on the slopping ditch in the front near the road, to the type of windows, the built in surround sound speakers, the covered front porch and so on!
All these thoughts came to mind this morning as I considered our Advent Calendar blog series that we are starting today. As you read through and experience each of the supernatural events of Christ’s birth and the beginning of Papa God’s plan of salvation, consider just how He painstakingly planned every detail to fit His loving desire to bring each of us into His kingdom! That even though these stories took place thousands of years ago, they are still coming to fruition for each of us in 2015 and beyond.
Think about that for a moment! He still has plans for us that we don’t even know about yet! Romans 8:28 tells us that “all things work together for the good of those who love God-those whom he has called according to his plan.” (God’s Word ©) As you make this Advent Calendar to be a part of your daily Christmas season activities, open up your expectations to dream about all the good things that Papa God started – just for you – within the lines of these stories of Christ and His love for you and me!
Today we begin a journey through the Christmas Story as related to us through the living Word of God. This month long adventure combines the Old Testament prophecies with the New Testament records of the actual events as they occurred over 2000 years ago. Our journey will take the form of an Advent Calendar that will give us daily insights, encouragement, and some ideas for activities to enhance your celebration of the birth of Christ.
If you will recall, the Advent Calendar is a special activity that originated with the 19th century Lutheran’s in Germany and is used to count down the days until Christmas. Each day includes a special event such as a reading, activity, gift or candy that is unveiled to the participants. It is a great family experience, but also can be used as a daily devotional for individuals or for small groups. It is a wonderful opportunity to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. So I would encourage you to let this month’s blog posting become a part of your Christmas tradition! Please feel free to share your thoughts and personal experiences with us all throughout this Holiday Season!
A Puzzling Announcement
Monday, the first week of Advent
Today’s Reading: Mark 1:1-3 / Luke 1:1-25
As I studied the first chapter in the book of Luke verses 1- 25, I was repeatedly amazed at the significance of every little detail of the interactions between Zechariah and the angel Gabriel. It became very evident that our heavenly Father wanted to make sure that every part of His plan for our salvation was accomplished in perfect order, according to the prophecies of old.
From His very selection of Zechariah and Elizabeth with their shared family heritage from the line of Aaron, their having His approval because they chose to live a life that “followed all the Lord’s commands and regulations perfectly” (Luke 1:6 God’s Word ©), to the specific location of the visitation in the temple in Jerusalem, as well as the particular hour that it occurred during the daily time of public prayer. In legal investigation jargon you could say that God wanted to leave a clear and undisputable paper trail that would easily lead the Jews to the correct understanding of the importance to the event that happened on that day.
Another point to consider would be that the angel Gabriel was the same heavenly messenger that prophesied to Daniel some 500 years earlier about the coming of the Messiah. His appearance to Zechariah was the first such visit or prophesy given to the Jews for some 400 years. This was an earth shaking event that should have shook the very foundations of the nation of Israel… but then the human part of the equation came into play!
As a descendant of Aaron according to the division of priests from Eleazar, the eldest son of Aaron, Zechariah was most likely trained in the Holy Scriptures from his earliest childhood years. He had to have been very knowledgeable of the prophesies regarding the coming Messiah, but when the angel appeared to him and presented his glorious message, Zechariah immediately slipped into the natural mode and could only see the impossibilities of his wife’s and his old age! His exhibited no faith, but demanded physical proof before he would consider accepting what had just been told him. That seemingly small oversight caused the potential of a big snag in God’s highly planned series of events that were to begin with the birth of the one who “will prepare the people for their Lord.” (Luke 1:17 God’s Word)
Gabriel though, was a seasoned messenger and probably had a good understanding of the human disposition and quickly remedied the situation by silencing Zechariah so that his unbelief would not stop the plan of God. His inability to clearly explain what had happened with the heavenly visitation to the people who anxiously awaited his over-extended return from the Holy of Holies outside of the temple, just added to the confusion surrounding the event and resulted in the puzzlement of the people. The people knew that something special had occurred, but had to wait another year before they understood the true significance of the event that day.
This story makes me consider all the well laid plans that God has for yours and my life, and the many times we have stepped in trying to understand the plan from a natural point of view. These sense based reactions have a tendency to throw a wrench into God’s directions for us. God knows us, He knows our idiosyncrasies, our personalities, our education, our family backgrounds and our job resumes! When He outlines something for us to do, He has already taken that all into consideration. Zechariah was the perfect choice for this part of God’s plan for the coming of Jesus, but he looked at the natural and panicked! God used him anyway, but I am sure that the time between the announcement of the event and the birth of their son was very difficult and emotional for the old priest. After he had time to consider everything that had happened, I would think that Zachariah wished he had responded differently to the heavenly messenger who approached him on that fateful day while in service in the temple.
This event that occurred at the very beginning of the New Testament is a good place for each of us to take a personal look at ourselves and where we stand when it comes to our faith in the callings that God chooses for us throughout our lifetimes. Like Zechariah, would you have a hard time looking beyond the physical state of things in the situation you face? Would your health, your finances, your education or what your family and friends may think be more influential to you than your personal experience and trust in God? How would you like to live the time between the announcement of God’s plan for you and its fulfillment? Zachariah has given us some insight, and it would probably be a good idea for us to consider it!
This might also be a good conversation starter for you and your family and friends as we begin this year’s Holiday season. Have a great day. Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What Course of Action am I expecting To Take today?”