Christmas Week – The Cast: JESUS

He was

and is

and is to come

 

Always God,

never began

 

Infinitely wise

 

He,

Father

Son

Holy Spirit

 

– One together –

chose us

 

before the beginning of the world

 

And He knew of the sacrifice

before He even made us

 

The selfless

and the painful

sacrifice

 

for we would need rescuing

before all was said and done

 

And, God,

in relationship with Himself

 

gave us His Son

and told us He would be called Jesus

 

for He would be the Salvation

everyone would need

 

He would save us all

from our sins

 

And we would not hold Him

in high esteem

 

nor love Him like we should

 

He would be introduced into this world

in the humblest way

 

for that is His nature,

humble of spirit

 

And the angels who have always known Him

marveled that He would

 

do this thing

for those such as us

 

The angels would praise

and glorify

and announce the King who was a child!

 

And prepare those closest

to this infant

 

so they would know the gravity

of the appearance of God

 

But non could have fathomed

the greatness

and boundless love

 

of this One and only God

made flesh

 

Before time, His was the earth

as His footstool

 

His was heaven beautiful

and pure

 

His was the universe

and everything in it

 

and yet…

 

He became nothing,

poured out for all

 

And so,

He is Jesus

 

The greatest of The Cast

in this true story

 

Tiny baby human

completely Divine

 

But, hear this!

 

The next cast member

is you!

 

for you are part of this story as well

the story of humanity in time

 

seen by an infinite God

 

What will you do with this Savior

of all mankind?

 

There is no neutral,

for He came for all

 

You must choose to accept

or your choice is already made

 

Choose Jesus’ love,

dear friend

 

Choose the One

who came for you

 

 

– Susie Stewart

 

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.

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.”

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

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

– Luke 2:1-21 (NIV)

 

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

– Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

 

For to us a child is born,
    to us a Son is given,
    and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

– Isaiah 9:6,7 (NIV)

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

– John 3:16 (NIV)

 

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    He humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place
    and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

– Philippians 2:6-11 (NIV)

 

 

He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.

– Isaiah 53:3 (NIV)

 

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.

– Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

 

 

 

 

 

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: Joseph

We were pledged to one other,

Mary and I

 

and we longed for the day

when we would be man and wife

 

I loved her,

this young girl with dark eyes

 

and a heart full of God

 

Mary was my faithful betrothed,

she was the one I could trust

 

until one day…

 

She came to me

and, with trembling voice,

told me she was with child

 

and my heart broke in two

 

It was beyond my comprehension

that she would make this choice

 

this choice with so many consequences…

 

but my love for her

eclipsed my anger and disappointment

 

I planned to break our engagement,

a divorce of sorts,

 

so as not to embarrass

or shame the woman I loved

 

But God has a way

of stopping us just in time,

sometimes

 

and I heard from Him

in an unimaginable way!

 

One of God’s magnificent angels

visited me in a dream!

 

He told me not to be afraid

to take Mary as my wife

 

and that the baby growing in her

was placed there by the Holy Spirit!

 

The angel said that it would be a boy

and that I was to name Him Jesus!

 

because He would save His people

from their sins

 

As soon as I awoke

I was on my way

 

I ran immediately to my betrothed

and shared with her my love

 

and the beautiful message

she already knew in her heart

 

We would endure

the ridicule

the scorn

the gossip

the accusations

 

TOGETHER

 

for we knew that no matter what,

God was for us

 

I committed to her, and to God,

that we would not truly become husband and wife

 

in every sense of the word

until our son was born

 

But to everyone else

she became my wife

 

We traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem,

for I was of the house of David

 

and there our son was born,

ours and God’s

 

I wanted so much more for my small family

but because of the census, so many people flocked to this town

 

and my precious son was born

and laid in an animal’s trough

 

for there was no space for us

in a decent room

 

Surroundings aside,

I could not take my eyes off of this miracle child

 

and I could not have been more joyful

or more proud of this boy

 

who was not of my seed,

for God was with us

 

And I would dedicate myself

to raise this Divine Son along with His siblings

 

in a way honoring

the deity He was

and is

and is to come

 

– Susie Stewart

 

 

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement  quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

 

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

 
– Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

– Luke 2:1-7 (NLT)