Advent Day 19 – Promise Maker – Promise Keeper

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people” Luke 1:68.

When our son was born 25+ years ago, my husband and I were thrilled.  We had experienced seven years of infertility and heartache, but God heard our prayers and this little baby boy came bursting into our lives.  But in those seven long years of waiting I watched with an aching heart as my friends became Mamas – I hosted their baby showers and bounced their sweet babies in my arms.  I cried and prayed and cried some more.  I know God heard my prayers and saw my tears, but the time wasn’t right.

The Jewish people lived under the bondage of Roman rule and they cried out for a savior.  The Messiah had been promised for hundreds of years yet they were still oppressed by a cruel and heartless enemy.  Would God ever fulfill His promise?  Would salvation ever come?  Generations of Hebrews prayed the same prayer for relief, yet they went to their grave without ever seeing rescue.  Yet the God of Heaven had not abandoned them or His promise.  He had heard their prayers and saw their tears, but the time wasn’t right.

Until that moment when the angel visited Nazareth and spoke the words every Jewish girl had hoped to hear: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).  Until all of heaven held its breath as the Son of God became the son of a young woman.

That day in the Garden sin came rolling in like a dark cloud of destruction and despair.  The human race was placed under the bondage of evil and death.  Even the planet felt the weight of the curse as it groaned for relief (Romans 8:19-22).  Yet even before man could cry out to God He promised to send Someone who would crush the head of the evil one.  He promised to redeem the world from the curse of sin and death. He promised to save the souls of men and women and break the chains of human bondage.

The first part of that promised was fulfilled in a stable in Bethlehem.  The final fulfillment is yet to come when the Lord Jesus Christ – that baby in the manger – stands on the Mount of Olives and ushers in the end of evil and sin and death.  God kept His promise when Jesus was born.  He will keep His promise of final redemption.  Don’t despair beloved, but keep your eye on the sky.  The God who promised is faithful. It is as good as done.

Read Zechariah 14:3-9

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Advent Day 4 – Right Time, Right Place

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” Micah 5:2

I am “directionally challenged,” in other words, I get lost easily. My husband and I once took a trip to Atlanta to see Stone Mountain.  He drove and I navigated the map, only I was holding it upside down, and while we did get there, I took us all the way around the opposite side of the city.  I did a little better with Mapquest, but still had to pay very close attention for every turn.  I cannot express how grateful I am for a GPS in my car!

Did you know that you are equipped with a GPS – that is a “God Positioning Spirit.”  It is specially designed to get you exactly where God wants you to be at the precise moment He wants you to be there.  The Bible is full of accounts of the Lord ordering people’s lives to put them in places and times according to His perfect plan.  Think of Joseph, Daniel, and Esther just to name a few.

Four hundred after Micah’s prophecy in our key verse, a young woman was startled to learn that she was with child – and not just any child, but the Son of God, the Promised One – the Messiah.  But wait—she is in Nazareth and the prophecy said the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem, some 80 miles away.  Was the prophecy wrong?  Did God make a mistake?  Not at all.  God had a plan and He would use a pagan ruler to fulfill it. Check it out:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” (Luke 2:1-5).

Mary made it to the right place – Bethlehem – at the right time – when her baby was born – and this through the whim of a Roman ruler who probably had no knowledge of the God of Israel.

Beloved, God has a time and place of purpose in His plan for you.  You probably won’t get there via a straight line, He sets many turns in our path.  You may feel you are completely off track, or that God has forgotten all about you.  You’re not sure how you wound up where you are or why.  But be assured that God, who created you with a time and place in mind, is still guiding you.  He knows exactly where you are right now and where He wants you to be and when.  He didn’t fail to fulfill the prophecy of old, and He won’t fail to fulfill the purpose for your life.  Wherever you are today is not the end of the journey.  Trust Him, trust His ways, trust His heart.  He knows the where and the when and the way to get you there.

Read: Micah 5:1-5a

Love Makes Room

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7).

Several years ago, while living in a Florida university town, my family was blessed to serve in college ministry.   I taught the College Sunday School class for a season, but the best part was just having them all around my house. We came to love so many of those precious students, their feet were often under my kitchen table and it was not uncommon for them to crash on my couch for the night.   One night we hosted a bonfire and had 45 young men and women in our backyard, from 9 different countries!  It is one of my sweetest memories.  These kids were—and are—dear to us and many still call us “Mom and Dad.”  Through that time, I came to understand Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (2:8). Like Paul, we made room for others out of love.

Love opens doors to the lonely.  Love puts one more plate on the table.  Love slides over to share the seat with a weary soul.  Love sleeps on the couch so the visitor can have the bed.  Love opens the circle of friendship to add one more person.  Love doesn’t shut others out; love welcomes people in.

In the town of Bethlehem some two-thousand years ago, a baby was born in a dark, damp, smelly stable—little more than a cave hewn out of a hillside—because there was no room for his little family.  They were turned away because there was no love there. Now—think about what Jesus told His disciples just before His death: “In my Father’s house are many rooms . . . I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). Why?

Because love makes room.

Why Bethlehem?

christmas_bethlehem“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea . . . “Matthew 2:1

I had a conversation recently with a friend who is moving away.  She is greeting this transition with both anxiety and excitement.  “It’s all going to be so strange in a new town, but who knows what God has in store there?”  I remembered my own move just a year earlier and that same mix of anticipation and trepidation.  Like my friend, I believed God was behind our relocation, that His will for me is here in this place.  I believe God sets things in motion and orchestrates events so that His will is fulfilled.  The Bible is filled with story after story of God’s hand in the events of human history, and in particular in individual lives.  But sometimes the path He chooses is hard and difficult to understand in the moment.

Joseph had a destiny in Egypt that affected his family, the forthcoming nation of Israel and the entire world.  But God took him through pits and prison on the way.  David would be king of Israel, but by way of the sheep fields and running for his life through the wilderness.  I love the accounts of Paul; God had a purpose for him, to “carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel,” (Acts 9:15).  He declared, “you must testify about me in Rome, (Acts 23:11).  And he did indeed make it to Rome to declare the name of Christ Jesus, but he arrived as a prisoner, through a storm and a shipwreck and a snake (Acts 27-28) .

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfilled a prophecy made hundreds of years before: “Out of you, Bethlehem Ephrathah . . . will come one for me who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).  How did that happen when His mother was in Nazareth, some 100 miles away?  “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  And everyone when to his own town to register,” (Luke 2:1, 3).

Beloved, a life surrendered into the hands of the Lord God Almighty may have twists and surprises, and yes even doubts and struggles, but you can be assured that He is faithful to fulfill His purpose.  Don’t be afraid of these “strange things that are happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  It’s just God at work fulfilling His purpose for you.