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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thursday, the first week of Advent


I was pretty ecstatic this morning when I began to pray and realized that I had my voice back!  I’d been fighting a nasty cold for the last few days and completely lost my ability to sound like anything except a squeaky frog that struggled to make sense when I attempted to open my mouth.  (Some might argue that this is normal…) I think I even saw a tiny smile crease Piper’s face when I tried to read to her the other day!
Have you ever thought about how important your voice is?  I finally gave in and answered the phone yesterday and I think the weird sound of my voice frightened whoever was on the other end and they hung up in a hurry!  We convey messages with our voice.  We can bless those around us with it, confuse them (as I did yesterday!) or inflict harm to them.  On the other side of the coin, the lack of hearing your voice can also send some pretty clear signals to those needing to hear a response.
Over the last few years I have come to appreciate all that my wife’s voice has meant to me, our kids and our extended family.  With the advance of Alzheimer’s her words lately have been very few and far between!  To hear the sweet crackle and the loving intonation of her voice is something I greatly long for.  But you know?  She still speaks to me from her heart to mine.  I’ve been shopping lately for furniture and window coverings for our new home and because of our closeness over the years and our intimate knowledge of each other, I still heard her likes and dislikes as we selected a new leather couch and the right color of curtains for the living room windows and the dining room sliding door.
Today’s Advent reading discusses Mary and the importance of her voice in the Christmas story as well as in God’s ultimate plan of salvation.  As you meditate upon it, think about the place that your voice has in the lives of the individuals that you interact with on a daily basis.  Is it positive, negative or absent from the life of someone who really needs to hear it?  Sometimes a voice not spoken nor heard creates a negative impact in another’s life… and believe me, we’ve been on the non-responsive end of multiple attempts at two- way communication… and it’s a tough, confusing, sad and hurtful road to be on!
Our prayer this Christmas Season is that your voice will be the sound of blessing to all that are fortunate enough to hear to it!
 

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 sent 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.  She 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 and were 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 of 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 2016.  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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