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|Posted on December 16, 2015 at 9:50 AM||comments (0)|
The Lord sent an angel to make three very important announcements. Zacharias and his barren wife would conceive the forerunner of the Messiah, John the Baptist. Gabriel informed first Mary, then Joseph about their roles in the birth of the Messiah. These ordinary people were an integral part of God's extraordinary plan of redemption for a lost and fallen world.
Zacharias was a priest serving in the temple, taking his turn (only one in his life) to enter the Holy of Holies. His wife, Elizabeth, was past the age of childbearing and they had no children. God’s messenger shocked and surprised him by appearing in the Holy place and speaking to him.
Luke1:13-17 Messenger: Zacharias, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a son, and you will name him John. 14 He will bring you great joy and happiness—and many will share your joy at John’s birth.
15 This son of yours will be a great man in God’s sight. He will not drink alcohol in any form; instead of alcoholic spirits, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is in his mother’s womb. 16 Here is his mission: he will turn many of the children of Israel around to follow the path to the Lord their God. 17 Do you remember the prophecy about someone to come in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; someone who will turn the hearts of the parents back to their children; someone who will turn the hearts of the disobedient to the mind-set of the just and good? Your son is the one who will fulfill this prophecy: he will be the Lord’s forerunner, the one who will prepare the people and make them ready for God.
This son came to be known as John the Baptist, who would be the one who announced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is significant that Gabriel stated that John would be “filled with the Holy Spirit” even before he was born!
Luke 1:26-29 Six months later in Nazareth, a city in the rural province of Galilee, the heavenly messenger Gabriel made another appearance. This time the messenger was sent by God 27 to meet with a virgin named Mary, who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David himself. 28 The messenger entered her home.
Messenger: Greetings! You are favored, and the Lord is with you! [Among all women on the earth, you have been blessed.]
29 The heavenly messenger’s words baffled Mary, and she wondered what type of greeting this was.
Mary was favored in the sense the God extended grace to her for the assignment of bringing forth the redeemer of the whole world.
Luke 1:30-34 Messenger: 30 Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you are going to become pregnant. You will have a son, and you must name Him “Savior,” or Jesus. 32 Jesus will become the greatest among men. He will be known as the Son of the Highest God. God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David, 33 and He will reign over the covenant family of Jacob forever.
Mary: 34 But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?
Mary, understandably, was astonished at the news that she would be pregnant since she and Joseph were not married yet, and she was a virgin. She must have been terrified and confused. Also, she would have no one to share her troubles with since probably no one would believe her. Keep in mind, this was a private conversation between Mary and Gabriel. Talking to anyone else, surely they would have deemed her crazy. Or worse, stoned her as unfaithful to her betrothed.
Messenger: 35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God. 36 It sounds impossible, but listen—you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. 37 So the impossible is possible with God.
Gabriel answered Mary’s question, and assured her of God’s power to perform this miracle in her by telling her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. I find the statement in verse 37 particularly comforting: "So the impossible is possible with God." AMEN
Mary (deciding in her heart): 38 Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me.
Hearing the angel’s answer to her question, Mary submitted and committed herself to the process of conception, pregnancy, and birth of the Redeemer Jesus in accordance with the Father’s will. She must have known she would be subjecting herself to ridicule, gossip, and even the possibility of stoning or banishment. At the risk of all these things, she humbly submitted anyway.
Luke 1:38b-45 And the heavenly messenger was gone. 39 Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, 40-41 where her cousins Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth (shouting): 42 You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed! 43 And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me! 44 As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me. 45 How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.
Mary quickly took a trip to visit her relatives and see for herself the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary may have needed to avoid prying eyes and whispering lips as her own pregnancy developed. John, who Gabriel foretold would be filled with the Spirit in the womb, leapt when Mary greeted His mother. An UNBORN baby was the first to recognize the Savior while HE was yet UNBORN. This is a strong argument for the fact that an embryo is already the person God is forming inside their mother.
Embryo John’s reaction, caused Elizabeth who was also filled with the Holy Spirit to rejoice as well. Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord,” which says that she already believed Jesus would be the Messiah. The Holy Spirit prompted Elizabeth to honor Mary’s faith in believing the Lord.
Luke 1:46 Mary: My soul lifts up the Lord!
47 My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!
48 For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!
50 From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.
51 God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.
52 The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.
53 The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.
54 To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,
55 As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
Mary broke out rejoicing in song, humbly praising the Lord for all He was doing through her. In the Magnificat, she was announcing prophetic reality that God would bring forth, in the fullness of time, the bringing down of the proud and elevation of the humble. He would fulfill His promise to Abraham to redeem His people. Galatians 4:4-5 (NASB) “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Annunciation to Joseph:
Matthew 1:18 So here, finally, is the story of the birth of Jesus the Anointed (it is quite a remarkable story):
Mary was engaged to marry Joseph, son of David. They hadn’t married. And yet, some time well before their wedding date, Mary learned that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, because he was kind and upstanding and honorable, wanted to spare Mary shame. He did not wish to cause her more embarrassment than necessary.
In the Jewish culture of that day, parents chose a mate for their children, sometimes while they were still quite young. From that point, they were considered engaged. When they came of age, a date was set for the wedding and the man began preparing a place for his bride to live. At this point they were considered “betrothed” and if they decided not to marry, the man would need to divorce his wife. With the assumption that Mary had been unfaithful to her betrothed husband, Joseph could have had her publicly humiliated and even STONED TO DEATH as an adulteress! So Joseph was going to do an extremely kind thing in divorcing her quietly and sending her away from the prying eyes of their home town.
Matthew 1:20 Now when Joseph had decided to act on his instincts, a messenger of the Lord came to him in a dream.
Messenger of the Lord: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to wed Mary and bring her into your home and family as your wife. She did not sneak off and sleep with someone else—rather, she conceived the baby she now carries through the miraculous wonderworking of the Holy Spirit. 21 She will have a son, and you will name Him Jesus, which means “the Lord saves,” because this Jesus is the person who will save all of His people from sin.
God sent an angel to explain the situation to Joseph in a dream. I’m sure Mary had tried to give Joseph an explanation, but he probably found it hard to believe. God sent Gabriel, the angel announcer of Heaven, to let Joseph know not to fear going ahead with the plan to marry Mary because it was part of God’s redemptive plan. He let Joseph in on a bit of the divine masterplan.
Matthew 1:24 Joseph woke up from his dream and did exactly what the messenger had told him to do: he married Mary and brought her into his home as his wife 25 (though he did not consummate their marriage until after her son was born). And when the baby was born, Joseph named Him Jesus, Savior.
Joseph realized this dream was truly from the Lord God and obeyed what the angel told him. Joseph restrained his physical, human desire for intimacy and kept Mary chaste until after Jesus was born. He named the baby Jesus as the angel had instructed him.
Matthew 1:22 Years and years ago, Isaiah, a prophet of Israel, foretold the story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:
23 A virgin will conceive and bear a Son,
and His name will be Immanuel
(which is a Hebrew name that means “God with us”).
This miraculous birth fulfilled one of the many prophecies concerning the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, Jesus. Zachariah and Elizabeth were blessed to be chosen by God to bring forth the forerunner of the Redeemer. Mary and Joseph were given the honor and responsibility of parenting the very Son of God.
APPLY THIS TO YOUR LIFE:
1. Whatever your situation, it is not hopeless. Our God is still mighty. He answered Zachariah's prayer for a son. When you are aligned with His will, He still answers prayer today. Seek His answer to your needs.
2. Mary's response to God's plan for her was humble. When God uses you in a mighty way, remember to give Him all the glory and credit. You are just the vessel to carry His blessings to others.
3. Joseph obeyed the message from the angel immediately and completely. This is true obedience. Ask yourself whether or not you are obeying God wholeheartedly.
|Posted on December 2, 2015 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
Between now and the end of the year, we plan to do some studies on what I like to call "Incarnation Contemplation". As an intro to the topic, I am reposting some thoughts and quotes I put together in the last few years. Come back in a few days for a study on Messianic Prophecy - the foretelling of Jesus' incarnation in the Old Testament.
Following are some of my favorite quotes, scriptures, song lyrics, and my own thoughts on the incarnation – Christ taking on flesh and bone to reach and save me.
“IF YOU WANT to get the hang of it [incarnation], think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” John 1 (NIV)
“You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the fist fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.” From On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius (known for discourses against Arianism)
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:10-14 (NIV)
"He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus: He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.
And so the Light became alive and manna became man.
Eternity stepped into time so we could understand.
From “The Final Word” words & music by Michael Card
Watch Michael Card performing "The Final Word" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUF152hV9o
Michael Card’s lyrics help to write important truths of God on my heart rather than just in my memory. He is not the first lyricist to use the concept of manna becoming man. One of my favorite childhood memories is listening to a Christmas album that was a collection of songs performed by famous artists. I loved the Latin “Panis Angelicus” because of it’s lovely melody and the rich baritone voice of the singer. A couple of years ago I looked up the translation of the lyrics by using the latin dictionary at http://lysy2.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/WORDS.EXE.
Panis angelicus fit panis hominum, Bread of angels became bread of man
Dat panis coelicus figures terminum, Give Bread of heaven limited form.
O res mirabilis manducat Dominum, Oh, astonishing fact! Devour the Lord.
Pauper, pauper, servus et humilis. Poor man, servant and humble.
“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19
“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. Philippians 2:5-7 (AMP)
Philip Yancey gives a great illustration in his book The Jesus I Never Knew. On pages 38 and 39, he describes taking care of the fish in a salt-water aquarium. In spite of all his efforts on their behalf and being to them like a deity, they only feared him. He realized the only way they could ever understand that he would not hurt them would be if he could become a fish and speak their language. Christ became one of us, so we could understand his love.
Play Dough People
By Karen Sue Hale - May 17, 2000
Imagine for a moment that you have the power to make little people, plants, and animals from Play Dough® that really come to life. You create an entire world of these Play Dough® creatures and provide the necessary plant life, water, and oxygen to continue to support their lives in your created world. You have ultimate power over them, provide all their needs, and are, in comparison to them, a giant. Therefore, they worship you as their “god.”
Time passes, but all is not well in Play Dough® World. There are disagreements among the people and even violence at times. Some of them abuse their spouses or children. Some of them are lazy and expect the other Play Dough® people to take care of them even though they do nothing to contribute to society in Play Dough® World. Those who do work to provide for their families complain most of the time. Many of them have forgotten you exist. They not only fail to worship you as “god” but teach their children that you are a myth because, after all, it is irrational to believe in all-powerful giants.
You have a choice. You can either smash them all flat and destroy them as they deserve, or you can choose to become on of them to help them understand you better and then die for them. Would you die for your Play Dough® people?
News Flash! We are the Play Dough® people and our Creator did die for us!
Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.”
Job 10:9 “Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?”
Psalm 24:1-2 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
Psalm 103:13-14 “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Again, Philip Yancey, captures the essence of the Incarnation on page 36 of The Jesus I Never Knew in a section called “Humble”:
Humble. Before Jesus, almost no pagan author had used “humble” as a compliment. Yet the events of Christmas point inescapably to what seems like an oxymoron: a humble God. The God who came to earth, came not in a raging whirlwind nor in a devouring fire. Unimaginably, the Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and re-divide until a fetus took shape, enlarging cell by cell inside a nervous teenager….The God who roared, who could order armies and empires about like pawns on a chessboard, this God emerged in Palestine as a baby who could not speak or eat solid food or control his bladder, who depended on a teenage couple for shelter, food, and love.”
Back to Michael Card from his song “Immanuel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSEqXbnOrQU:
A sign shall be given, a virgin will conceive
A human baby bearing undiminished deity.
The glory of the nations, a light for all to see
And hope for all who will embrace His warm reality.
One more Michael Card song:
To the Mystery http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDi4tMU3Ss8
Words & music by Michael Card
"When the Father longed to show
A love he wanted us to know,
He sent his only Son and so
Became a Holy Embryo.
No fiction as fantastic and wild,
A mother made by her own child.
The helpless Babe who cried
Was God incarnate, man and deified."
With the humility that Christ demonstrated in his incarnation in mind, how then shall I live?
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be fist must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthe2 20:25-28
“Sitting sown, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
“We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, ‘Why did this happen to me?’ unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way.” Philip S. Bernstein
Mindful of Me By Karen Sue Hale
The stars twinkle; the moon glows.
The world is huge, but God knows…
He knows I’m thinking, “I’m so small.
How can God know me at all?”
What is man that God would care?
Yet He numbers every hair.
His universe, vast indeed;
Still He meets my every need.
God’s own Son, as Son of man,
Was sacrificed as Father planned.
That I might live eternally,
Laid down His life, set me free.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
Thoughts While Flying Home from Arizona at Night by Karen Sue Hale
Flying high above it, I realize how really big the world is and how insignificant I am. Yet, in spite of this astounding greatness and vastness, God knows and cares about me as an individual. For He alone understands the spectacle of the universe as well as the tiniest corner of my inmost thought. Not only does He notice the mere particle of life that I am, but He loves me more than anyone else ever could. Because I have given my life to Him, He not only knows where I am; but He is here with me and in me.
As I sit in amazement at the spectacular lights outside my window, I am even more awed by the fact that Jesus dwells in me. I am reassured that Christ continually abides with me, giving me peace and courage. I can face anything because I know He goes before me, leading me and guarding my journey. Life does not frighten me because I know that God is great enough to make life abundantly wonderful. Death presents no fear because the firstborn of the dead, the conqueror of the grave, makes His home in my heart. I praise the Lord that He is magnificent enough to become small enough for me to understand and accept His love!