When There is No Baby Jesus...

Friday, December 19, 2014

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 2:7

No room for Jesus.  We all know the story, but what if Jesus had never shown up? What if there had been no need to even look for a place in an inn?  Like the Nativity scene that I saw in a store last year...with no Jesus.  Yes, you read right...selling a Nativity set at a $50 discount because it didn't have a baby Jesus. At first I laughed about it.  The idea is ludicrous. Then the questions started rolling through my head.  Who stole the baby? Why even try to sell a No-Jesus Nativity? Will anyone really buy it without the Star (and I don't mean the one up in the sky that lead the Wise Men!)   What is a Nativity scene without Jesus?  The whole thing just seemed so wrong on so many levels.  It's true.  So much wrong on so many levels.  A reason for Jesus to show up on the scene because "our scene" so needs Him...

-We are sick and need a Doctor.
-We are broken and need a Repairman.
-We are stuck in sin and need a Rescuer.
-We damage others and need a Builder to re-construct our relationships.
-We are lost and need a Shepherd to help us find our way.
-We are forever separated from God and need a Bridge.

So much wrong on so many levels.  That is why a Nativity...a Christmas without Jesus won't do.  Even if it saves you money...even if it is less to dust on the mantle...

A Christmas without Jesus is no Christmas at all!

When Christmas Gets Crazy

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3 NIV)

It is easy to get crazy at ChristmasOur schedules run a muck. We overextend and overspend. Because instead of wrapping our hearts around the One Gift that really matters we get wrapped up in paper and tinsel and parties. Herod and all of Jerusalem went a bit crazy, too, after that first Christmas. Herod is historically known for his mental illness. Crazy enough to kill toddlers (Matthew 2:16). They were all "disturbed". Why?  One of the reasons?  They weren't wise men. 

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11 NIV)

There were Wise Men, however, that didn't go nuts...that weren't disturbed by the young King. Ones that worshiped the Child. Ones that brought gifts instead of getting wrapped up in themselves. Maybe the key to not going crazy at Christmas is in the worship. In the giving of our hearts to Christ. 

True worship wraps a heart around the One Gift we need the most. Will you worship the One the Wise Men exalted? Because no one goes crazy at Christmas when Christ is in the middle of it all.

Of Snakes and Saviors

Monday, December 15, 2014

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14, 15 NIV)

Christmas started at the beginning. In a garden. In the form of a promise that someone's head would be crushed and Someone's heel would be struck. From head to heel God had redemption covered. Heaven would come down and crush the serpent's head. Heaven would come down and deliver hope to the helpless when a Baby Boy was delivered. 

Christmas was always a part of the plan. God caught off guard never happened. He knew all along how He would save me and you. The sin of the serpent would only bring fury to his head. Sure, he would nip at the heel of that Baby Boy. But a mere snake is a no match for a Savior. 

So Christmas? It is more dramatic than we think. It isn't just about a King being born. It isn't about a young teen laying her Child in a manger. It is about the final plot twist.  It is about a snake and the Savior who crushed him. 

{Many thanks for my dad, Harlan Humphrey, for the use of his photography.  For more beautiful photos see Wild Scenic Nature.}

An Invitation to All Outcasts

Friday, December 12, 2014

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

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

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.”  

Luke 2:8-15

God doesn't call kings.  At least not when The King shows up on the scene.  The birth announcement of a baby born in a manager go out to the people at the bottom of the social ladder.  To call the lowly.  To call the outcasts. To announce to the underdogs that care for mere sheep.  That is what our God does. He calls shepherds to The Shepherd.  They get the grand announcement.  They get singing angels.  No kings get a personal invitation.  Sure, they see a star and follow it.  But the personal announcement comes to the lowest of the low.

What a God we serve!  One that isn't worried about status.  One that reaches out to those that are empty, not full of themselves.  Because those full of themselves can't be filled with God.  It is in the emptiness.  It is in the dark hours of the night that God shows up to invite us to the celebration.  The party of the entrance of Emmanuel.  God with us. God with shepherds.  God who would become the Shepherd.

Because God isn't concerned about our position in society...he is concerned with our hearts. Because a Shepherd isn't concerned about the prestige of His sheep...but that they follow Him.  That they are with Him.  Emmanuel.

A Family of Failures

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Because even Jesus struggled with His family...a letter to my boys and a reminder that God can use anyone...

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
14 Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Eliud,
15 Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.  Matthew 1:1-16

Dear Zach and Noah-

You are probably wondering why in the world I would share Jesus' genealogy with you.  They don't seem like very inspiring verses, now do they?  But look closely at Jesus' family...you will find a liar or two (Abraham and Isaac), a man that sold his brother into slavery (Judah), a prostitute (Rahab), an adulterer and a murderer (David), and a few bad kings.  And that is only the list for those that we know about!  I used to think that I lived in a perfect family.  Through the years I began to realize that no family is perfect.  Even Jesus had issues with his family!!  We live in a world of sin, therefore all families are dysfunctional on some level.  I am praying that we have broken the cycle of dysfunction for the most part and not passed in on to you.  But I know the reality.  The reality of Jesus' family.  The reality of every family.  We will pass it on to you. We already have.  It's called the sin nature. So I pray and hope that through the dysfunction you will see Jesus...because after all isn't that what this genealogy is all about?  To see Jesus at the end of it all.

With Love,

Of Barrenness and Babies

Monday, December 8, 2014

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.  Luke 1:6-7

Sometimes God doesn't make a lot of sense to the human brain.  Like leaving a righteous couple childless.  Why does He allow suffering?  Why doesn't He not bless those that follow after Him?  Or does He?

The only reason Elizabeth doesn't have a child at this point in the plot is because of her son, John! He needed to show up at precisely the right time.  He needed  to make his appearance in a miraculous way.  I have two sons, and neither of their births were foretold by an angel.  My husband wasn't made mute because he didn't believe an angel  came to him one day at church to tell him a son was to show up on the scene soon.  Yet, this was the experience of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  God left them childless to show His glory.  Their son would point to the arrival of the Son. God had allowed the childlessness to bring about a greater story.  Who wouldn't want to give birth to the one who would precede the Christ?  Would a little old age and childless years make up for the privilege of being related to the Righteous One?

In God's plot there is always more to come.  It is that which is to come that makes all the difference.  Can we wait for Him to work out the details?  To bring forth His Son?

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 Want to read an absolutely amazing story of barrenness? Check out Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet.  A story not to be missed that shows that sometimes what we lack in life becomes a better story.

Her Own Child is another story of childless that is not to be missed! Take a few moments to read this one and marvel at a God that works out all the details!!  Because that which is to come is  greater than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Five on the Fifth {December}

Friday, December 5, 2014

Last month on the fifth I shared some of my favorite blog posts that I had read.  Here are five more that I have read since then...

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{1} I am currently reading Les Miserables and LOVING it!  Yes, it is about 1,500 pages. Yes, there are times it drags a bit when Hugo gets into a lot of background information, but the story is not to be missed.  I really enjoyed this post from Beth that includes her review and a plethora of quotes from the book.

{2} I never really celebrated Advent growing up because I was raised Southern Baptist.  However, as an adult Advent has become a precious time for me.  Candace over at His Mercy is New has a great post that really explains the tradition well. She also offers a list of resources to celebrate the season!

{3} Have you ever felt lonely? I have over the past few years gone through a tremendous season of loneliness. It is/was hard, but honestly there have been so many blessings that have come from it.   My relationship with God has grown by leaps and bounds. Lysa TerKeurst's post on loneliness really resonated with me.

{4} In the next few weeks I am going to order a Journaling Bible  as I have been journaling more these days in response to God's Word. This is a great post about the process!

{5} Right before Thanksgiving I read Bonnie Gray's post on gratitude. I loved what she had to say about how brokenness and gratitude can mix. Brokenness doesn't mean that we can't be thankful.  We may experience sadness and thankfulness all at the same time.

So what have you been reading on the web lately?

Linking up at Ben and Me...  

5 on the Fifth