Today is Friday, the 23rd of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.
It is Christmas Eve Eve. 🙂
May the peace of Christ be with you always!
TWO days until Christmas!
It got down to either 9 or 10 degrees, last night, depending on which app I look at. At one point, the windchill was, close to, if not below -10. It was very windy all day, yesterday. Today will be a little better, eventually. It is currently (at 9:30 AM) 14 degrees, with a windchill of -2. Winds are currently blowing from the NW at 14 mph. It should reach a high of around 25 today (again, depending on which app you look at). The windchill advisory goes until noon today.
I’m not at work, as the City of Hurst gave us this day as a holiday. We were all pretty surprised, as we were expecting Saturday (Christmas Eve) and Monday for Christmas, since Christmas falls on Sunday, this year. But we got today, as well. We are all very glad about that, considering what the weather did.
I would also like to gladly report that our power stayed on all night. Apparently, there were some scattered outages, as I know of one family in Fort Worth whose power went out overnight. I don’t know the cause of it, though.
The only time I plan to leave the house today is to get Sonic drinks, and I don’t have to get out of the car for that. So I shan’t wear anything but pyjamas today. Warm ones.
Time to stop scrolling Facebook and start scrolling Scripture!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (Psalms 119:64 ESV)
Interestingly, when I read that verse, it made me think of an old hymn called “God Is Working His Purpose Out.” It wasn’t ever sung in the church where I grew up, but I learned it many years later.
Lord our God, our Father in heaven and our Father on earth, our Lord and our Ruler, we thank you that to this very day you have guarded and guided us and delivered us from great need. We praise you with hearts full of hope as we continue on our pilgrimage. For Christmas Day is coming with its message of hope that we may somehow bring honor to you in spite of all hindrances, mistakes, and sin, in spite of all death and the horror of dying. We know that you hold us in your hands. With your help we can look ahead, and again and again we may take a small step forward and live to the praise and honor of your name. So be with us now and bless us. Amen.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and in his grace gave us unfailing courage and a firm hope, encourage you and strengthen you to always do and say what is good. 2 Thessalonians 2:16–17, TEV
Today I am grateful:
- for the joy of the season
- for the guidance and guarding of the Lord in our lives
- for the love of God and that, in His grace, He has given us “unfailing courage and a firm hope”
- for the faith and selflessness of Mary
- for the admonition to deny self and engage in the “fast” of God’s choosing, which is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke,” “to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh”
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. (Luke 1:26-56 ESV)
Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:5-11 ESV)
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.
(Romans 8:18 NRSV)
For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9 NRSV)
"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:19-24 NRSV)
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
(2 Corinthians 2:14 NRSV)
Let’s talk about Mary, this morning. (It was morning when I started). There’s something about Mary, to borrow a 1998 movie title.
I’m not Catholic. So I don’t “venerate” Mary, nor do I believe that she was sinless. I don’t believe the Bible tells us that. Jesus was the only person who ever lived a life entirely without sin.
Nevertheless, Mary should hold a very special place in our hearts, and in our “theology.” It is probably that she was barely a teenager when this happened. We really don’t know how old she was, but I have seen estimates of anywhere between 12-16, with the majority being on the lower end of that range.
Teen pregnancy. How would she have been regarded in the twentieth or twenty-first century?
Nevertheless, Mary, when given the news, essentially said, “Okay.” I have visions of Pete Davidson’s “Chad” character on SNL, who, no matter what was said to him, responded with a somewhat nonchalant, “Okay.” Now, I realize that Mary was anything but nonchalant. But she was accepting.
Look at what she said at the end of the angel visit.
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:38 NRSV)
Mary, in that moment, became the “fragrance” of which Paul spoke in that verse in 2 Corinthians. And she was the ultimate spreader of that fragrance.
She had no thought for herself, or her reputation, at least not that we see. She did go spend a few months with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy, as she would give birth to the Baptizer. Side note: It must have been pleasant to be there with Elizabeth during the time when Elizabeth’s husband couldn’t talk.
Mary also became that person of which Jesus speaks when He says that whoever wants to follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. Mary did just that. She denied herself, possibly earlier in life than anyone else in history. Not only did she have no regard for her future or her reputation, she risked disgrace for her future husband, who, had an angel not visited him, would have divorced her even before they were married. And she had to endure watching her son be crucified.
And us? We complain when there are too many cars in the drive thru. Me, I get completely bent out of shape if the Internet quits working, or if the Subway app won’t let me order ahead.
The lesson we all need to learn from Mary is in what she said to the angel. “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Father, I praise You for Mary. I have no idea what place she holds, next to You. I hope she has a place of honor in heaven, though, because of her sacrifice, her willingness to set herself completely aside in order to bring our Savior into the world. I thank You for the example she gave us of complete surrender, of saying, “Let be to me according to your word.”
So, Father, every time something doesn’t go the way I think it should, or if something doesn’t work right, let Your Spirit remind me, sharply, if necessary, of those words of Mary, and how she acted in total surrender and selflessness. Make me to remember the kind of life she had, especially the last few years of the life of Christ. Make me to remember that this adolescent girl wound up having to watch her grown son crucified for the sins of the entire world, for people about whom she knew nothing, and likely cared nothing.
Father, we are so wretchedly spoiled, and I am right there at the top of the heap of spoiledness. I live in a society that is used to getting everything instantly. Even at what I consider to be a “median income,” our household income is more than fifty times the average global income. In short, I literally have nothing to complain about. Help me to remember this, and how blessed we are, here.
You have given us generous hearts, and I love that. Make them even more generous. I haven’t yet gotten to the point of inviting a homeless person into my house, yet. Granted, I don’t have a place for them to stay or sleep, but I could feed them.
At this time of year, two days before Christmas, I pray that You would make us aware of some need that we could meet with the resources we have set aside to do just that. I would love to empty that account before the end of this year.
And Father, let it be to me according to Your Word.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.