Christmas Week – The Cast: Mary

My mind could barely grasp

the words I was hearing

 

An angel of God, Gabriel,

stood before me!

 

his presence overwhelming

bold

and beautiful

 

His words were like liquid gold

flowing,

 

“Greetings, you who are highly favored!

The Lord is with you.”

 

I struggled with his declaration

and I was troubled deep

 

But the heavenly being assured me

and calmed my fears

 

And then

the words I will never forget,

 

“You will conceive

and give birth

to a son

and you are to call Him

Jesus…”

 

Such confusion filled my head

but I knew in my inmost being

that this was from God

 

“He will be great

and will be called

the Son of the Most High.

The Lord God

will give Him the throne

of His father David,

and He will reign

over Jacob’s descendants

forever;

His kingdom will never

end.”

 

So many thoughts

but only one question,

simple and to the point

 

“How will this be

since I am a virgin?”

 

Without hesitation

the angel replied,

 

“The Holy Spirit will come on you,

and the power of the Most High

will overshadow you.

So the Holy One to be born

will be called

the Son of God.”

 

My Son

would be God’s Son?

 

I did not understand

but I knew God could be trusted

 

and I trusted

 

Gabriel’s parting words were,

“No word from God will ever fail.”

 

And with a heart full of joy

and a womb blessed,

I replied,

 

“May your word to me be fulfilled.”

 

I rushed to my cousin’s home

in the hill country of Judea

 

for the angel told me my aged relative

had conceived as well!

 

As I greeted Elizabeth

we both felt pure joy

and a knowing

 

that this moment

was profound

 

Baby John leaped in his mother’s womb

as the presence my Jesus was felt

 

And Elizabeth, too, was filled

with Holy Spirit fire!

 

The first of many

to worship my Divine

God-conceived

Son

 

My heart and mind

treasured the moment

 

Elizabeth shouted these words,

“Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the child

you will bear!”

 

She knew!

Without a word from me

 

and I was humbled

by the exclamation

 

Elizabeth told me

I was blessed

 

for I had believed the Lord would fulfill

His promises to me

 

and I pondered what was said

and hoped

 

that all women would believe

the Lord’s promises

 

My spirit soared

and I spoke these words,

 

“My soul glorifies the Lord

and my spirit rejoices

in God my Savior,

for He has been mindful

of the humble state

of His servant.

From now on all generations

will call me blessed,

for the Mighty One

has done great things for me –

holy is His Name.

His mercy extends

to those who fear Him,

from generation

to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds

with His arm;

He has scattered

those who are proud

in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers

from their thrones,

but has lifted up

the humble.

He has filled the hungry

with good things

but has sent the rich away

empty.

He has helped His servant Israel,

remembering to be merciful

to Abraham and His descendants

forever,

just as He promised

our ancestors.”

 

I was at peace

with God’s plan for me

 

and I stayed with my sweet cousin

for three months

 

for that support of my relative

would help strengthen my heart

 

for what was to come

when I returned home…

 

the ridicule

the scorn

the gossip

the pain…

 

My betrothed,

so loving and kind,

couldn’t bear the news

that I was with child

 

without him…

 

He planned to cut ties with me privately

so as not to disgrace me publicly

 

But the Lord’s eye never left me

and an angel visited Joseph as well

 

to confirm the promises made to me

 

and we became man and wife,

my beloved and I

 

I treasured the days

of my Son growing inside me

 

singing lullabies

to God

 

I rejoiced at my cousin giving birth

to John, my Son’s forerunner and prophet

 

A census was required

and so

Joseph and I traveled to Bethlehem

 

the journey long and difficult

 

While we were there

it came time for our boy to be born

 

We searched everywhere

for just one room

 

but there was none

 

We were ushered into a place

meant for animals

 

It was unfathomable to me

that God’s Son might be born

in these circumstances

 

but there was no room

for us anywhere but here

 

So there,

in humble surroundings,

my child

and God’s child

was born

 

The pain

the blood spilt

the miracle

 

I had never seen anyone

so beautiful

 

I wrapped Him tightly

in clothes

 

and because there was no bed

I laid Him in an trough for animals

 

He, nonetheless, radiated light

and joy and glory

 

yet humility….

 

I could scarce take it all in

 

My mother’s heart treasured every moment

even as I lay exhausted from labor

 

My first experience

with the miracle of birth

was a holy moment

 

and I looked to the future with my God-Child,

unknowing of what that might look like

 

yet trusting God knew,

and I was His

 

– Susie Stewart

 

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for He has been mindful
    of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is His name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
    from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm;
    He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as He promised our ancestors.”

 

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

…In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of 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. 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 guest room available for them.

– Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-17 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Week – The Cast: Magi

I am considered wise

and knowledgeable

 

My life has been spent learning,

and handing out advice

 

I am one of many wise men

who traveled from the east

 

to see the One born

King of the Jews

 

We were compelled to see Him,

to worship Him

 

for a star rose in the sky

and we knew we must follow it

 

We traveled far,

the weightiness of our mission spurring us on

 

In time, we were intercepted

by a jealous king

 

Herod and his people

were afraid and disturbed because of the unkown

 

We, on the other hand, were filled with joy

and discovery curiosity

 

King Herod brought together

Jewish priests and teachers

 

and asked them where

this Messiah was to be born

 

Bethlehem of course

for that is prophecy’s place

 

for Messiah’s birth

 

Summoned then, by this jealous king,

we were asked when the star appeared in the sky

 

and he sent us on our way

to find this one-of-a-kind child

 

We did not believe Herod when he said

he wanted to also worship this Messiah

 

for we could see it in his eyes

that he did not believe in the child’s purpose

 

My joy grew as I saw the star once again in the sky

and we all knew to follow it

 

each step anticipating

Immanuel

 

And there He was in His home

with His mother Mary

 

I, and the other magi, lay prostrate

before the King of Kings so small

 

We worshiped Him

 

And we laid our treasures

at His feet

 

Gold

Frankincense

Myrrh

 

Earthly riches

Heavenly child

 

And we returned to our homes in the east

filled and satisfied

with having witnessed

 

the Son of God

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship Him.”

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
    are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
    who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find Him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship Him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

– Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Week – The Cast: Gabriel

I stand

in the very presence of God

 

and my appearance

is light,

overwhelming light

 

I know heaven

and I know earth

 

I fight battles unseen

and I bring messages of truth

 

All tremble at my appearing

for I stand

in the presence of God

 

Daniel, Zechariah, and Mary

all recorded as God followers who heard my voice

 

I came with good news

and I came with challenging words

 

messages from the Maker of heaven and earth!

 

who I revere

who I adore

who I obey

in whose presence I stand

 

I am Gabriel

and God is my strength

 

I do only what He directs

and I am given authority in the spiritual realm

 

by His gracious hand

 

I am Gabriel

and I spoke tenderly with the mother of my Lord

 

I told her of the conception immaculate

and the beautiful name to be given her son

 

Jesus

 

He is great and is called the Son of the most High!

His reign and kingdom will have no end!

 

My eyes

which have seen God

look deep into her

 

and she who is highly favored

bows to God’s words

 

She is to be the mother of the Messiah

 

I am otherworldly and intimidating

but God’s mother listens intently

 

and she does not doubt

 

I, Gabriel, stand in the presence of God

and I go to earth to speak His words

 

to those who also

will stand in His presence

 

because of Messiah

 

– Susie Stewart

 

Then the angel said [to Zechariah], “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was He who sent me to bring you this good news! 

– Luke 1:19 (NLT)

 

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name Him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. 33 And He will reign over Israel forever; His Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and He will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

– Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

 

As I, Daniel, was trying to understand the meaning of this vision, someone who looked like a man stood in front of me. And I heard a human voice calling out from the Ulai River, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of his vision.”

As Gabriel approached the place where I was standing, I became so terrified that I fell with my face to the ground. “Son of man,” he said, “you must understand that the events you have seen in your vision relate to the time of the end.”

While he was speaking, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground. But Gabriel roused me with a touch and helped me to my feet.

Then he said, “I am here to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath. What you have seen pertains to the very end of time.

– Daniel 8:15-19 (NLT)

 

The biblical meaning of Gabriel is “God is my strength”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willing To Risk

David walked right out

to meet the giant man

 

Paul faced persecution head on

in each town he entered

 

Mary bowed her will

and bravely carried God’s Son

 

Noah stepped into the unknown

in the face of ridicule and stares

 

and

 

My Jesus resolutely chose to die

for this world of people we live in

 

So,

will I be a person

willing to risk it all

when God speaks?

 

Will I bow my will to His?

 

Will I live my life differently

because of my life in Him?

 

I will,

by His power

 

And I am able to step out in faith

because I serve a faithful

God

 

– Susie Stewart

 

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”

– 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NIV)

 

The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

– Acts 23:10 (NIV)

 

The angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. See! You are to become a mother and have a Son. You are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the place where His early father David sat. He will be King over the family of Jacob forever and His nation will have no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen? I have never had a man.” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you. The power of the Most High will cover you. The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God.

“See, your cousin Elizabeth, as old as she is, is going to give birth to a child. She was not able to have children before, but now she is in her sixth month. For God can do all things.” Then Mary said, “I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel went away from her.

– Luke 1:30-38 (NIV)

 

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

– Genesis 6:22 (NIV)

 

 Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.”

Going a little farther, He fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

– Matthew 26:36-39 (NIV)

 

Photo by Andy Stewart in the Garden of Gethsemane