Now that I've had four children I look at the Christmas account differently. The reality of the first Christmas was far from the sweet and sentimental, warm and fuzzy feelings that stores and magazines advocate.
Consider the implications of Gabriel's appearance in the life of a godly Jewish woman engaged to marry a godly Jewish man.
His words must have brought excitement to be honored with such a blessing. But how do you tell your parents, neighbors, friends and future husband you're going to have a baby, knowing there's at least a chance some of them won't believe how it came about?
It's often hard to explain the working of God in our life. Who is going to believe that the flower that bloomed in the yard in the dead of fall during the worst week of your year is the sign of God's faithfulness you know it to be? Does anyone else see the significance of your child reciting a Bible passage calling for trust at the very moment you've been doubting?
Now imagine delivering the news that you’ve conceived supernaturally and will be giving birth to the Savior of the world as told to you by an angel. Easy enough, right? Hardly.
Mary must have felt all the things women today who find themselves pregnant and unmarried or in any desperate situation feel: nervous, hesitant, afraid, alone.
Thank God for Elizabeth! Elizabeth was Mary's older relative. Mary went to her when she found out she was pregnant. For three months Mary lived under her roof, enjoying the company of a woman just a few months ahead of her in the pregnancy experience. Elizabeth was supportive, encouraging and kind.
Oh, there would still be plenty of struggles ahead for Mary: a confused fiancé, a long journey, an overcrowded town. But God met each of those struggles with all that was needed at the right time. God spoke to Joseph in a dream, convincing him to take Mary as his wife. God brought Mary through the arduous journey in her last trimester. He provided shelter in a town already bursting at the seams.
Thirty some years later Jesus would teach His disciples to ask their Heavenly Father for their daily bread; for everything they would need to get through each day. This is our comfort through every stage of life. God provides what we need as we need it. He provides through people like Elizabeth who walk beside us to encourage and support. He gives us the strength to get through the hard moments of the journey and to stand when others don't understand what's going on. Sometimes He provides in advance. Other times His provision arrives hour by hour as we need it.
It may not have been a very silent night in Bethlehem. I doubt the streets were still or that radiant beams glowed from anyone's face. But there was something even better. There was a loving Heavenly Father willing to do whatever needed to be done to make sure Jesus came into the world at just the right time and place so His plan of salvation could begin.
Your family may have more dysfunction than function. Whether your situation looks daunting or terrific, a little bit rowdy or a little too still; whether the road ahead looks rough or smooth or you are too weak to look more than a few feet in front of you; whether your house looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens or it’s hard to walk down the hall without tripping over the mess, God sees you and is with you. He will walk you through the storms, the night, the chaos.
We’re told when that first Christmas was over, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She didn’t let the miracles slip by unnoticed or fail to see God’s provision.
I pray you have the same experience this Christmas. May you be filled with wonder as you see all God has done in your life. May you notice the ways He’s provided at just the right time. And may you hold unswervingly onto His promise to be with you whatever comes your way.
With this peace in your own life, help others see the works of God in their lives. Be an encouraging “Elizabeth” to that pregnant relative or that stranger in the checkout line.
Author: Amber Swenson
Amber has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Literature. She has authored four books; two of them (Bible Moms and The Whisper Theory) are in print and two (The Bread of Angels and Ladies of Legacy) are in various stages of publication. Both her Bible studies and her novels are written in an effort to bring single, married, young and older women to a closer relationship with their Savior Jesus Christ. She also authors a weekly blog found on facebook under "Bible Moms" or at "biblemoms.wordpress.com".
Beginning in January, our new client textline will be up and running! Here’s the plan: During the first month, the textline will be operated by a small nucleus of individuals, and then in February our new volunteer textline operators will be in place.This is another way we can be available to people in need of our services, especially abortion-minded clients. The textline will be used mainly for making appointments and answering basic questions. The textline operators will be given standard replies for responding to clients.
Would you like to become a textline operator (TO)? If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a TO, please contact Pat Johnson at 414-727-8176 for more information. Complete training is available. Textliners work from home using their personal computer or smartphone.
Just another way to extend God's love to women in need.
Author: Pat Johnson, Client Services Director
Pat is the part-time Client Services Director at WLFL. She heads up the volunteer training and scheduling, and keeps track of client statistics. She also coordinates our Loving Moms Program and Post-Abortion Support. Pat was one of the original volunteers when WLFL was founded in 1982.
Do you ever feel like you can’t do enough to help in the cause for Life?
Maybe you’ve prayerfully set aside an amount of your very well deserved earnings to donate. Maybe you’ve volunteered some of your spare time to work at a pregnancy center. Maybe you’ve talked to your neighbors, friends, and family. Yet despite any of that, do you still feel your heart yearning to be even more a part of the solution? Whether we’re already active in this cause and looking for more, or we have yet to figure out the way to get started, it can be hard to figure out what that next – or first – step can be.
So here’s a suggestion of a great principle to live by that I’ve heard great leaders speak of, and it goes like this:
Don’t let the things you CAN’T do stop you from doing the things you CAN.
I think this principle can powerfully enable us and encourage us in many areas of life. Very little in life is an all-or-nothing affair. And the truly important causes that we find in life, that tug our heartstrings, haunt our dreams, and spark ambition for being a positive influence, are definitely not all-or-nothing.
An all-or-nothing attitude can leave us paralyzed and inactive. Worse yet, it can leave us feeling defeated. Defeatism can bring awful consequences. As Christians we are reminded that God’s Spirit gives us not timidity, but power, boldness, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
And, better yet, the very famous and well-loved verse of Philippians 4:13 points out that, with God, all things are possible. He is our strength. We usually think of applying that to dire, emergency situations, hoping in God’s strength to cope with trials of life. But what about the more everyday things, or tasks that we want to be able to carry out? If it’s a righteous cause, will the Lord not give us the strength and the ability to get it done?
Take a look at your life – your talents, your available time, your resources and wealth, and your influence – and assess the ways that you can accomplish something just as things are.
Here are a couple practical applications, if you’ve ever found yourself feeling stuck or defeated, yet wanting to do more:
1. Know who is doing the work: What we do in life matters, but it’s God’s power behind our actions that makes the biggest difference.
2. Don’t underestimate prayer: Prayer is powerful (James 5:16), and there can be no such thing as too much of it when you pray for things you know matter to the Lord. Prayer keeps your head and heart in the battle!
3. Never forget the impact of Christian legacy: The impact you can make on a daily basis, with intentional, Jesus-centered, passionate living in the presence of your circles of influence, is profound. And it creates a ripple effect that can last long past your own lifetime.
I think a way to summarize these three points, which can each be unpacked into so much more discussion, is to think of a seed. A seed, you ask? Why something so small?
Exactly. When you get down to it, each of our lifetimes is a speck along history’s timeline. And each day’s actions, words, and ideas are minuscule in comparison. Yet, just as a seed is a tiny thing when it goes into the ground, it can become a sprawling orchard over time. It grows into a plant or tree, and that plant or tree produces more seeds in its blossoms or fruit. Our actions, too, have an exponential impact. God doesn’t usually call us to be earth-movers. But he’s given each of us the chance to plant seeds through our lives.
There’s an old anonymous Greek proverb that says,
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Maybe a better spiritual twist on that could be:
“A nation is blessed when families plant Godly legacies which they know will outlive them.”
So remember, when all else fails, you can still plant a seed. God will do the rest! Do the things you CAN!
“The more concerned we become over the things
we can’t control, the less we will do
with the things we can control.”
- Coach John Wooden
Author: Jeff Ulrich
Jeff is a husband, father, and graduate school student. He attends Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc. Jeff’s background in ministry education and future in the counseling field reflect a heart that loves to serve others and make a difference. He shares his personal or spiritual reflections in his own time at www.missionpossiblejeffulrich.blogspot.com
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