Sunday, December 23, 2007


One of the things that has stood out for me in the story of Christ's birth this year is the description of each of its main characters, and the condition of their hearts.

First in the book of Luke we have barren ELIZABETH and her husband ZACHARIAS, a temple priest. They were a Jewish couple who loved God, were righteous in His sight, and were humble and obedient.

" They were both righteous in the sight of God,
walking blamelessly
in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord."
Luke 1:6

Verse 14 of the same chapter says that the angel told Zacharias that his prayer had been heard; Zacharias was a praying man, revealing his devotion to God. He exhibited faith and the trust that God heard his prayer. This led to the miracle of the birth of John the Baptist.

Next comes the angel's appearance to MARY. The first thing Gabriel tells her is that she is favoured by God and that God is with her, blessing her among women. A little later he tells her again that she has found favour with God. When I noticed the second mention of this I wondered what would cause God to favour her. I believe the answer is given in verse 38, which says:

"And Mary said, Behold the bondslave of the Lord;
be it unto me according to thy word."

Mary was a willing and devoted servant, completely open to God using her as He would choose, to accomplish His plans and purposes, and in spite of the initial shock and fear she experienced at the angelic encounter.

Then later on in verses 46-55 in Mary's song ~

And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
"For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
"For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
"He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
"He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
"He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever."

What a rich expression of joy and faith ~ Mary is filled with joy because God has noticed her humility and allowed her to take part in the fulfillment of prophecy regarding His Son. She understands that God's mercy comes to those who fear Him; those who place their relationship with Him above all else, and have a deep reverence for Him. Mary did not take God's grace for granted and treat it lightly even though it filled her with joy. She also states that those who are proud in the thoughts of their heart are scattered; that He fills those who are spiritually hungry. This reminds me of the verses from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 in which Jesus blesses the pure in heart, stating that they will see God, and that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.

JOSEPH is described as a righteous man in Matthew chapter 1, who wanted to spare Mary any disgrace and possibly from death, as that was a possible consequence for an unmarried pregnant woman in those days. His plan was to send her away quietly and his main concern was to spare Mary the pain she would suffer when she was found to be pregnant and unmarried. Following a visit by an angel he was faced with another solution, to continue with the marriage and keep her a virgin until the birth of Jesus took place.

"And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him,
and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son;
and he called His name Jesus."
Matthew 1:24-25

Next on the scene are the SHEPHERDS tending sheep in the fields outside of Bethlehem. When they received the good news given by an angel of the holy birth they hurried to see the newborn Son of God, spread the news of His arrival, glorifying and praising God as they returned to their flocks. They were simple people, nobodies on the political and spiritual scene in those days. And yet they simply believed and rejoiced at the great revelation God had entrusted them with, demonstrating the simplicity of the good news and God's love and attention given to those with a simple faith and trust.

Nothing is said of the position of SIMEON, only that he was a righteous and devout man, filled with the Holy Spirit and looking for the appearance of the Messiah to Jew and Gentile alike:

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;
and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel;
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus,
to carry out for Him the custom of the Law;
then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
And the glory of Your people Israel."

And His father and mother were amazed
at the things which were being said about Him.
And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
Luke 2:25-35

And finally, there is ANNA, an eighty-four year old widow, a prophetess, a proclaimer of truth.

"...She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.
At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God,
and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking
for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Luke 2:37b-38


As I think about these biblical characters I have been reminded and challenged to examine the condition of my own heart in this season of the celebration of His birth. God revealed the inner workings of His plan to those who were humble, righteous, devout, obedient and looking for His appearance. They weren't interested in fanfare or high positions in society. They just quietly went about the business at hand while humbly following God and seeking His face. It was the condition of their hearts that God noticed and the reason he revealed Himself to them.

So few expected the Messiah to arrive on the scene when He did. A tiny infant born to a virgin who was espoused to a carpenter. Could there have been two more unlikely people to whom this revelation would come? And the same goes for Elizabeth, Zacharias, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna. To most people they were nobody important. To God they were the ones He chose to reveal the greatest truths on earth. Thinking about this reminded me of part of one of my favorite Psalms of David.

To You, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in You I trust,
Do not let me be ashamed;

Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed;
Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.

Make me know Your ways, O LORD;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day.

Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses,
For they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
According to Your lovingkindness remember me,
For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

Good and upright is the LORD;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth
To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.

For Your name’s sake, O LORD,
Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

Who is the man who fears the LORD?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
His soul will abide in prosperity,
And his descendants will inherit the land.
The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.
Psalm 25:1-14


Are you seeking for meaning in this season? If so, I urge you to humbly seek God, who is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

" ...without faith it is impossible to please him:
for he that cometh to God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:16

Like the wise men described in the story of Christ's birth, look for Him and worship Him today and every day throughout the coming year.

"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth
that He may strongly support those whose heart is
completely His.
2 Chronicles 16:9a

It is my prayer that you will have a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with His goodness. May you look forward to His second coming even more than His first!

Sincerely, Bonnie

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