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Fathers of the Bible — Joseph, Jesus’s Earthly Father (Part 5)

8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told.

21 When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus—the name given by the angel before he was conceived. 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord) 24 and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons).

25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,

29 Now, Master,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel.

33 His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary: “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed — 35 and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:8-35

Dear God, when last we left off with Joseph he was sitting in a stable with his fiance and their new child. He was in the middle of some very weird circumstances. How was he to believe any of this? Surely that dream must have been a mistake. Surely he shouldn’t have agreed to take Mary as his wife. There had to have been doubts.

Then you accomplished two things at once. Well, actually several things at once. You sent him and Mary some shepherds with an amazing story. What a great affirmation!! They didn’t only tell Joseph and Mary that God had told them about the baby. They told the new parents that the angel had told them where to find them. They weren’t alone! You knew exactly where they were. In the moments before the shepherds arrived, Mary and Joseph might have felt alone and scared, but what an amazing encouragement this must have been to them.

The reason I say this accomplished several things at once is because I am sure this forever changed those shepherds’ lives too. You were just showing up and encouraging all kinds of people on that holy night.

Then you sent them more encouragement. Simeon. I know this was a big deal because of verse 33: His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. I’m sure the emotional roller coaster of the last several months must have worn them out. Joseph alone when from feeling betrayed by Mary, to relieved after the angel visit, to overwhelmed in a manger, to encouraged by the shepherds, to left in wonder by Simeon. Anna, would come along in a bit and have something to say too.

As I go through my own little roller coaster now, I am reminded that you are the constant. As I type this, our world is in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are dying. People are scared. People have lost jobs. Domestic violence is increasing. At the same time, neighbors are reaching out to neighbors and loving on each other. People are looking for ways to get back together as the church. And on a personal level, you have brought me different encouragements along the way. Encouraging phone calls. Encouraging donations.

Father, help me to stay in the middle of your presence and not swing too wide in enthusiasm or despair. Help me to see all of this with your eyes. Of course, I will never be able to know what you know–nor should I be able to–but I can surely see in the moment at least a little of what you see. Give me the serenity, the courage and the wisdom I need to get through this day.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2020 in Fathers of the Bible, Luke

 

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What if God had done Christmas our way?

Dear God, several years ago, I had a thought. It started with the Christmas story and the shepherds. I wondered what would have happened if, instead of going to the shepherds in the fields with the angel chorus, you had gone to the church leaders or governmental leaders. What if you had gone to the private businessmen who were prominent in the church and announced to them that a savior was born that night? Had I overlooked how strategically important it was that you had chosen shepherds?

Then I started to think about Mary and Joseph, probably living outside of town in a tent or something while they were in Bethlehem for the census. All of a sudden, she goes into labor and has to go to a stable because they can’t find a room to rent for the night in which she can deliver the baby. But did the shepherds know of the pregnant couple visiting Bethlehem? Had they seen Mary and Joseph?

So now my mind was really clicking as I thought about these things. What if? What if? What if?

I suppose it starts with what our human wisdom would have done to bring about the Messiah. What if you had brought the idea to the temple’s leadership and asked them to submit plans for bringing your son into the world. I can see a few options they probably would have put on the table.

  • He should be born to a righteous priest and his wife. They would probably first ask, “Do we have any priests who are descendants of David?” Then the boy should be raised in the church and taught all of the doctrine that had been handed down over the years. He will ultimately become the leader of the church and will evolve into the leader of a great army that will topple Rome and bring about the revival of Israel. Yes, that is how it should happen.
  • He should be born to a prominent family where the father is a descendant of David. Like Samuel, his family will ensure that he is brought to the temple be raised. He will be taught all of the doctrine that had been handed down over the years. He will ultimately become the leader of the church and will evolve into the leader of a great army that will topple Rome and bring about the revival of Israel. Yes, that is how it should happen.
  • Another group would probably questions why he should be born at all. Let him appear among us. God’s Messiah will come to us straight from Heaven. He will ultimately become the leader of the church and will evolve into the leader of a great army that will topple Rome and bring about the revival of Israel. Yes, that is how it should happen.

The ideas would flow for a while and then you would say, “No, no. You don’t understand…

  • If he has an earthly father, he will not have my DNA. You don’t realize this can happen, but his mother will need to be impregnated by the Holy Spirit. He is my son, not yours. Yes, we will be playing a little loosely with the line of David part, but we can get a woman who is married to someone from David’s lineage. That will be close enough. Of course, in order to prove it’s my child, the mother will need to be a virgin until after he is born, but I can do that. No problem.
  • If he is born into a priestly family, he is going to be raised in the box of the religion that you’ve created over the past three thousand years. No, no priests. Maybe we can give him a cousin from a priestly family. That will be close enough.
  • If he is born into a family of wealth, he won’t understand suffering. He will expect privilege. Additionally, a prominent earthly father will feel the pressure to leave him in the church and then I’m right back where I started with him growing up in the box of religion. Also, you don’t realize it, but this kid will spend the first few years of his life on the run. I need a family that is willing to be flexible.”

“No,” you’ll continue, “here’s what I have in mind…

  • First, I’ve known all along what I’m going to do. I just wanted to see what y’all would come up with. When they look back on his time on Earth, some people will look back and think that things were orchestrated intentionally to fulfill the prophecies about him, but the truth is that I’ve been planning this all along and I gave prophets of the past insights into the future so that after it happened, all of you would know that I know exactly what’s going on and what I’m doing.
  • To that end, the first priority is that I need him to be raised by good people. I mean REALLY good people. I need people who love me and will do anything for me. I need people who are willing to do the right thing at any given moment, whether it makes sense or not. I’ve got a guy picked out that you won’t believe. And the woman–well, she’s exactly who I need.
  • On the night he is born, I need a way to affirm his parents and to let people know that this was real. There’s going to have to be an announcement, but I need to pick my audience carefully. What I’m going to do is announce it to the shepherds out in the fields. I can’t have the angels show up singing over the stable and if I send them to the people in town then they might try to take the baby from the parents. If that happens, the plan is dead. But the shepherds will go and find the parents. They will tell them what they saw and it will encourage this sweet young couple that I’m with them.
  • You don’t realize this, but it will be important that he is raised poor. He will see suffering. He will see sickness. He will see prostitution. He will be an immigrant, living in a foreign land for his formative years. He will know what it’s like to be an outsider and have his feelings hurt. He will know what it’s like to know Egyptians and people from other nations and love them. He will know that I’ve sent him to be the Messiah for everyone, not just the Jews.
  • I also need to keep him poor and obscure while he is younger because I’ve got to keep the kings of the time from killing him out of jealousy and fear. I have no intention of taking away the thrones I’ve given them, but they don’t know that. I’m actually sending him to save them too.

“So here’s my plan. I’ve got this couple picked out. You wouldn’t know it to look at them, but they are perfect. I can’t tell you who they are yet because if I do you won’t be able to keep yourselves from messing everything up with your wisdom. They will end up having to move around a lot his first few years because his life will be in danger. In fact, a lot of innocent children are going to die at the hand of a jealous king. I’ve already seen it. But they will be in my arms.

“He is going to grow up and keep a low profile until he is about 30. Then he will take everything he’s learned through the experiences he’s had and the DNA he has as my child and preach truth. It’s going to surprise you. He’s going to tear down some of the things that religion has built over the last 3,000 years. He’s going to reveal my heart for all of mankind to you.

“Now this part is going to surprise you, but he is ultimately going to die. There will be no wars. No armies. No overthrowing of Rome. See, you don’t need a man to lead you to victory. You need a lamb that will be your salvation. In fact, it will be the very church that you wanted to raise him that will kill him. In the end, the Romans won’t want to do it, but the church will insist that they do. It will be the church’s jealousy and insecurity, not Rome’s, that will take his life. But that’s what you need. You just don’t realize it.

“Finally, because he is my son, and because I am God and I am capable of doing so much more than you could ever have imagined for this plan, I am going to raise him from the dead. After this happens, history will completely shift. You’ll be amazed.”

Father, I’m a Gentile, sitting here on this Christmas Eve roughly 2,000 years after you put your plan into action. It worked. I have chills as I type this. You are my God. Thank you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2018 in Musings and Stories, Uncategorized

 

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Emails to God – Counting myself as a shepherd (Luke 2:8-20)

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Dear God, this was the passage on which the pastor preached on Sunday. The story of the shepherds has touched me over the last few years. There are a few things I realize now that I didn’t realize before:

  1. It is possible that the shepherds either knew or knew of Joseph and Mary. Verse 6 says, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born.” While they were there. We always get this image of Mary and Joseph coming into town and Mary instantly going into labor. But that isn’t the case. And these are not people who could have afforded to stay in a motel every night. They were likely camping outside of town. They might have met the shepherds. They might have been familiar with the stable where she gave birth, and thought of it at the last minute as an option. In fact, I wonder just how many children were born in similar situations during those days.
  2. The shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…” They didn’t just show up, meet Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and then leave. They couldn’t contain their excitement over what was going on. They were pumped and they went out to “spread the word.”

The pastor made the point, which I think is a good one, that we are the shepherds in this story. The Holy Spirit has taught us about Jesus (through others and/or directly into our own souls), and we have embraced Him as our God. Now, what will we do? Will we just enjoy the view and leave, or will we “spread the word” concerning what we have learned about this Jesus, our God?

Father, I am not much of an evangelist. Part of it is apathy. Part of it is fear. Part of it is being shy. But I know that you have put people in my life over whom I have influence. They include  coworkers, volunteers, patients, friends, and family members. Help me to share your news with them. Help me to live out your power and grace in my life and to spread the word to them about what your power and grace can do for them. Help me to embrace the role of a shepherd so that others might be “amazed at what [I] said to them.”

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Luke

 

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