So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
If a stranger announced that you were the winner of a giant sweepstakes, would you believe him? It is doubtful. But if the Publishers Clearance House team arrived at your home with an official van, balloons, video cameras, and a huge check, would your reaction be different? Yes, it would — but why? Because when important things happen, there is a need for verification, authenticity, and believability.
Now think about the first Christmas. If a friend told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah … if a stranger told Joseph that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit … if one of the shepherds said to the others, “I think the Messiah was just born in Bethlehem” … if Joseph woke Mary up in the middle of the night and said, “I think we need to go to Egypt” — how believable would any of these scenarios seem? Not very! Instead, in all four instances (and throughout biblical history) God sent angels to declare the message, “This is serious.”
Thank God for “ministering spirits” this Christmas.
The moderate Republican and former senator from Massachusetts headlined a state GOP holiday party in Nashua that drew supporters and protesters, many of them gun-rights activists who take issue with Brown’s position favoring a federal ban on assault weapons,The Boston Globe reports.
“His coming here is calculated disrespect, just as if he went to Saudi Arabia with pork chops in his suitcase,” protester Jay Simkin told Politico. “If he wants gun control, he should stay in Massachusetts.”
Brown, who also is pro-choice, changed course on the gun control debate after last year’ deadly shootings in Newtown, Conn. His move angered Second Amendment purists.
“If it’s Brown, flush it down,” one protester’s sign read. Others featured scrawled slogans such as “Keep New Hampshire Scott Free” and “Brownbagger go home to Mass.”
Brown has a vacation home in the Granite State, where he is relocating full-time, sparking speculation that he plans to run for office from his new state.
Republicans there are looking for someone to challenge incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the former governor elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Brown has been coy about his intentions, but polling data collected before the launch of troubled Obamacare showed him trailing Shaheen by four percentage points, according to USA Today. His chances are thought to have risen since national outrage over policy cancellations and skyrocketing premiums.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. —Luke 1:30
The greatest message of the advent of Christ into this planet are the words “fear not.” Why? Because you have found favor with God.
The God of all creation came to earth with the specific purpose of revealing Himself to you. If you are born again of God, you are on your way to heaven; you have been made righteous in God’s eyes; and favor is part of your covenant right.
The literal translation of the word “favor” is from a Hebrew word meaning “cause for rejoicing, exultation, exuberant joy, and gladness of heart.”
The precious blood of Jesus paid the price for your sin and made God’s heart glad. He sits on His throne and rejoices, because He knows you will be in eternity with Him. Fear not; you have found favor with God.
Jesus, allow me to walk in Your favor,
being fearless and bold for You.
I long only for Your favor
and grace. Amen.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” -Romans 12:12
As we think about the characters from the Christmas story, think about how dark and difficult the Christmas story really is. The magi traveled years from the east on dangerous roads, following a star to find the new Messiah. Shepherds out in the hills, shivering, cold, traveled into town to see the new Messiah. And, especially Joseph and his beloved Mary, a 15-yr-old JewishMiddle Eastern girl having her first baby, and it’s cold. Nobody will give her shelter because all the inns are filled. So, she is allowed, finally, to go literally into a barn, give birth, and put her baby in a feeding trough. Now, that’s tough.
When we, as Christians, celebrate the advent season leading up to Christmas, the word “advent” means “the arrival” or “the coming of the Messiah,” and it’s really the coming of a promise. So the season of advent, is a season for all of us who are journeying through the dark night of the soul, going through difficult times in life. Advent is the season of prayer and waiting that the Christ child would be born in the midst of our darkness. So, many of us are like pilgrims, walking a dangerous, dark road to find Jesus.
Let’s keep Christ before our minds as we travel on this road of life. That will set things right. We keep Christ before our minds so that we can have hope.
Prayer: Lord, as we wait the arrival of Christmas, celebrating the arrival of our Savior, may we keep Christ before our minds so that our hope is renewed every day. Amen.
Reflection: How does keeping your mind on Christ give you hope?
On Christmas Eve, some families follow the routine of setting out a glass of milk and cookies for Santa’s visit, and even remember to provide carrots for his reindeer. Sleep is often hard to find as the little ones anticipate the day to come that is filled with presents, food, family, and friends. But as much fun and joy as these routines bring, that is not the reason why Christmas Day is so special — it’s the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
If there hadn’t been a Christmas, the Bible would be untrue because prophecies of the Old Testament would be left unfulfilled. And if the Bible were untrue, our God would be unknown. If our God is unknown, our sins would be left on the table and our prayers would go unanswered.
But Jesus did come into this world to be our Savior — bringing the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Instead of fixating on the idea of presents during Christmas, make sure you realize what happened on that day when Jesus was born and what it means for your faith.
“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21
We’re given just a little glimpse of Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born. They lived in the hill country of Galilee. Joseph was a religious man. Mary gives every evidence of having a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, even though she was a teenager. The Bible teaches that God was so pleased with her that He chose her to be the mother of Jesus. Mary and Joseph weren’t married, and yet Mary became pregnant.
I’ve often put myself in Joseph’s place—imagined his thoughts, his aspirations about the girl to whom he was engaged. But Joseph decided to break the engagement privately.
While he was thinking about these things, God’s angel appeared to him in a dream to give Joseph an explanation of the situation. All Joseph’s suspicions were put away. He accepted what God had said through the angel, and he was immediately married to Mary.
Both Joseph and Mary followed the call and plan of God, and through their obedience the way was prepared for Christ to come and bless us.
Are you seeking to follow God’s call on your life? Are you actively responding to Him? Tell us on ourFacebook page.
From her encounter with Gabriel to her experience at Pentecost, Mary’s journey parallels that of any woman who pursues God’s promises for her life.
Mary knelt in the shadow of the cross, weeping in anguish as her first-born Son hung above her, naked and bloody. The ominous roar of thunder was crowded out by His agonizing cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
She looked up through her tears. “Why,” she cried out in the deafening silence of her thoughts, “why didn’t You defend Yourself? I saw the raw power of God move through You. At Your word, demons fled, blind eyes were opened, lepers were cleansed. Why didn’t You command the angels to save You?
“You were going to be king of the Jews. It was prophesied; I didn’t make it up. The angel Gabriel visited me, and everything happened as he said. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”
Most of us remember Mary as the 15-year-old girl who rode off on a donkey to facilitate the Christmas story. But her life was so much more. It was a tapestry of mysteries that unraveled gradually across the seasons of her years, bringing her ultimately to this scene at the foot of the cross.
Mary, you see, was on a prophetic journey. And so are you.
On the day of the crucifixion, Mary’s Son was not all that was dying; so were every belief and prophetic promise she’d clung to for 33 years. Perhaps you, too, have had your life turned upside down. You’ve seen your dreams die. The future looks bleak and empty. You need to understand that your prophetic walk with God is a cyclical journey. Like Mary, you will have seasons of prophetic revelation; seasons ofspiritual warfare and wilderness wandering; seasons of ordinary, “ho-hum” life; seasons of effective ministry. All these ultimately lead to the cross and to the death of all things you hold dear.
But the cross is never the end.
Radical Visitation “One night the angel Gabriel came to me. Me–a simple Jewish girl living in poverty in the little town of Nazareth. What did I have to offer anyone, especially almighty God?
“His voice filled the room. ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored among women. The Lord is with you.’ He told me not to fear and that I would give birth to the Messiah. I cried out,’Yes, Lord, let it be unto me according to Your word.'”
Mary was a sovereign vessel chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Yet the Bible doesn’t indicate that she moved in miracles. She simply possessed a heart of devotion and childlike faith. She said, “Yes Lord, let it be done unto me,” and it changed her life forever. That’s why we can all be like Mary.
The Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the new life that was birthed in her womb ushered in the Messianic Age. Do you cry out, “Lord, I want to be like Mary–radically overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, impregnated with your purpose”? Do you want to usher in revival?
Then know that there is a price behind the anointing. There is a stigma. Birthing the things of the Spirit is messy, and revival is controversial. Are you willing to be a humble vessel giving birth to God’s purpose in an untidy stable, or will you say, “There’s no room in the inn”?
Spiritual Warfare “In the middle of the night Joseph shook me violently. He was terrified, crying, ranting about Herod’s wanting Jesus dead. He said we had to leave town–right away. He grabbed Jesus and was out the door before I could understand what was happening. We left everything behind that night, no explanations, no goodbyes. Life as we’d known it was over.”
Satan always goes after a move of God in its infancy, when it’s most vulnerable. King Herod diabolically ordered the slaughter of baby boys. But God gave Joseph and Mary divine strategies to protect their son, telling Joseph in a dream to flee with his family to Egypt.
Are you under attack from the enemy? The greater your call and destiny, the greater the spiritual warfare you will face. The enemy wants to abort your prophetic promises. When the stirrings of revival begin to be birthed in you and around you, challenging the status quo, the demonic realm is aroused. Don’t be afraid; God will be faithful to deliver you out of the enemy’s hand.
The Wilderness “Why didn’t God remove Herod in-stead of us? It hurt so much to leave everyone behind. I kept thinking, If only my family and friends could see Jesus grow up.
“And why Egypt? Why did God send us to the land that represents bondage for our people? Are we going to die here or in the wilderness, like our forefathers?”
Maybe you’ve had incredible, dramatic encounters with God. You’ve had multiple prophetic words recorded on tape and transcribed into notebooks. You’re sure that any minute now your prophetic promises will come to pass.
Mary also received prophetic words: Her Son would be king of the Jews. So why were they banished and suffering in an uncomfortable and foreign land? Mary didn’t realize that the prophetic timetable for the fulfillment of Jesus’ destiny would be a grueling 30 years long. You, too, will spend time in the wilderness; you will experience seasons of barrenness. Are you willing to wait on the Lord’s timing?
An Ordinary Life “Finally, after several years in Egypt, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream. Herod was dead. This time it was I who grabbed Jesus and ran out the door with Joseph trailing behind. We couldn’t get home fast enough.
“Things eventually settled down, but mothering Jesus was always a challenge. Once, when He was 12 years old, and we were returning in a large group from the festival in Jerusalem, I realized He wasn’t with the other children. We frantically returned to the city to look for Him. Finally, we found Him in the temple. You know what He said? He said I should have known He was there! Oy vey! I wanted to ground Him until He was 21!”
Do you feel as if you’re on a shelf, living an ordinary life? Are you changing diapers, cooking dinner and dealing with the neighbors while crying out in your heart: Lord, have you forgotten me? Why don’t people recognize my gifting? Don’t they realize I had a radical visitation back in 1990?
Mary had 30 years of obscurity to develop a hidden testimony–a secret history with God. You, too, have an appointed time to build family, community and greater intimacy with Jesus. In the midst of that time you may feel like crying out, What’s taking so long? By the time my destiny comes, I’ll be pursuing it in a wheel chair! But seasons of preparation are important. These are the times when God works patience, radical passion and deep devotion into your life.
Finally, Ministry Begins “When I was 45 years old, life changed dramatically for Jesus and me. He started bringing home a ragtag bunch of fishermen to dinner. Then, at a wedding, He changed water into wine. From then on He moved in amazing signs and wonders, and a huge crowd followed Him everywhere. The excitement grew daily as Jesus walked among the people, bringing revival. But I still don’t understand what He meant when He said, ‘Who is my mother?'”
Mary had to relinquish control of her life and Jesus’ life in the midst of an outpouring of the Spirit. In your life and ministry, you also have to let go–of your plans, your expectations, your ways. Just as Jesus had to leave His home and follow the Father, you also have to relinquish control of your life and follow the Father, even if it takes you to the cross.
And it will.
The Dark Night “Why God, why? Why have You forsaken Him? Why have You forsaken me? He was supposed to deliver us. He was our salvation, and now He’s gone. If you really love us, why have You allowed this to happen?”
Jesus was in the prime of His life. The countryside was in the midst of a tremendous revival. But now He was dying on the cross–and so was Mary. Overcome by feelings of abandonment and betrayal, she was in the middle of a crisis of faith.
When Jesus chose to go to the cross, Mary was compelled to go there, too. The truth is, the cross is always being worked in our lives–sometimes through the choices of others. Your daughter has an abortion; your son abuses drugs; your husband files for divorce. You never intended to go to that cross, but there you are.
You want to believe the Lord will rescue you at the last moment, but often His plan is to crucify you. Everything dies at the cross: relationships, ministries, agendas, reputations, finances. It’s painful, but it’s necessary. If you cry out to be part of the bride of Christ, then you must be–you will be–identified with the sufferings of the Bridegroom.
Resurrection “He’s alive! I thought I’d cried all my tears on Golgotha, but when our eyes met, it was like a flood. As I ran into His open arms, He scooped me up and spun me around in joyous laughter.
“The times we shared after the resurrection were the most precious of my life. They made it easier to release Him–again. As I watched Him ascend, I prayed again, ‘Lord, let it be unto me according to Your word, for the rest of my life.'”
Out of great death comes great life. Mary’s prophetic promises had been limited by her worldview. In her mind’s eye she had seen Jesus as king over the little nation of Israel for the span of His lifetime. In reality, He was King of kings and Lord of lords for all people and all time.
At the cross, God crucifies our limited view concerning the fulfillment of our prophetic destiny and resurrects it to His eternal view. The Lord revives our broken dreams–when they come to pass, they rarely look as we thought they would.