Monday, December 30, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Anna


[Photo of Anna]

 “Coming up to them at that very moment,
[Anna] gave thanks to God and spoke
about the child to all who were looking
forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
 —Luke 2:38

The Bible only mentions her once, but the memory of her lives through the ages. Dr. Luke says Anna was a Prophetess. But, some have said she may not have foretold the future like Simeon did at the same meeting with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus—they had come to Jerusalem, to the temple, to fulfill the requirements of the law to present Jesus to the Lord with an offering for sacrifice.

Anna, whether she foretold the future or not, certainly knew her way around the temple and the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Luke speaks of her love for the place where the Holy of Holies resided and where pilgrims from all over Israel came several times a year for the Jewish festivals. He tells that this octogenarian never left the temple but worshiped day and night.

Anna must have enjoyed special favors from the priests in order to live within the temple walls along with other temple servants. No doubt she had plenty to share about her knowledge of the sacred texts.

Of one thing I am fully persuaded. Anna not only knew the text of Psalm 122, she actually lived it!

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
4 That is where the tribes go up—
the tribes of the Lord—
to praise the name of the Lord
according to the statute given to Israel.
5 There stand the thrones for judgment,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
7 May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
8 For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

Anna watched the tribes “go up” to Jerusalem, year after year. Perhaps on former journeys, Mary and Joseph had even seen this old woman in the temple.

She rejoiced over this Holy City, praised God for it, and prayed for its peace, just as the Psalmist instructs.

Anna saw Jesus as the Hope for her city, her temple, her people, and her world. She had given her life in devotion to that Hope. She spent it there in the temple serving the Lord.

I suppose the nuns of the Roman Catholic church could be likened to Anna in their life-long devotion to service. But, I’m thinking that Protestant women, too, can dedicate themselves to the Lord in service to their church in this modern age.

I challenge myself and you, my Christian sisters, to make a vow like Anna before God that, in the new year of 2014, we will dedicate ourselves to the study of the Scriptures, to prayer, and to the work of God through the church.

God expects us, as serious disciples, to give more than a single hour of time in worship each week. He wants us, as much as it is possible, to give our lives, like He did, to the work of His Kingdom through the church.

We should love Him and His church. We should serve Christ’s church with a heart like Anna’s—even to our eighty-fourth year!



Monday, December 23, 2013

In the Darkness, Light!


[Photo of the sun rising over the dark mountains]

 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
 —Isaiah 9:2

The dresser’s edge just seemed to appear out of nowhere and my toe felt it! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!

You’ve probably experienced the same surprise in the dark. Even with our eyes “adjusted” for the darkness, objects emerge we forgot were there. Yet, this verse speaks of people walking in darkness, and others who live in the land of the shadow of death. Seemingly, they have never truly seen illumination, and they walk with the handicap of blindness.

Speaking of “walking in darkness,” some creatures can effectively see in the dark:

“…nocturnal animals, masters at this, have sacrificed visual acuity in order to hunt at night. They must get by with somewhat fuzzy, unfocused images. Only by greatly exaggerating the size of their eyes (and therefore the retinal image), can dark-adapted animals develop reasonable resolution to their images. They see mostly crude shapes, outlines and no color, but it is enough for them to hunt, feed and survive in the dark of night.” 1

I think people become so comfortable in the darkness, too, that they learn to modify their lives to accommodate it. Their lives have a fuzzy, unfocused image of what God wants for them. They may be able to feed and survive, but they walk about seeing mostly crude shapes with no color. This kind of darkness has become normal for them.

When the Lord spoke to Isaiah almost 700 years before the birth of Christ, He saw His people in this condition. He foretold the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, and in so doing Isaiah gave the answer to the blinded condition of the sinful people of Earth. When Jesus came, His Light dawned on anyone who wanted new eyes to see.

Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, this darkness has fallen on us all. And now, as individuals who stumble around with vulnerable spiritual toes, we can turn from darknes and receive the Light of the World in our lives to turn on the clarity we need to walk well, see the colorful insights God wants to give us, and to reflect His Light for others.

Do you know a situation so dark that nothing can illuminate it, or a heart that seems dark and hopeless? Go toward the Light of the World. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and bask in the Light He gives—through His Word, through His church, through His people. Rejoice this Christmas in the gift of Light given in the Babe of the manger.


1 from an on-line article courtesy of BioMEDIA ASSOCIATES, LLC: “How Do Animals See in the Dark?” by Molly Kirk and David Denning. Copyright © All Rights Reserved.



Monday, December 16, 2013

The Royals


[Photo of Kate and Prince George at his christening]

 “ Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world …
my kingdom is from another place.’”
 —John 18:36

It doesn’t take much time searching on the internet to find all kinds of details about the new Prince George and his royal family. The tabloids and British magazines have written about every detail they can of this new future king of England. Here are a few I spotted in a quick look:

  • “Who does little George resemble?”

  • “Prince George’s playmates…”

About the christening you can find:

  • An interview with the royal cakebaker…

  • The gift of a rugby shirt for the little tyke…

  • George’s christening dress: a replica of an 1841 outfit worn by Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter…

…and much more. Attention has been on the parents, too:

  • “Kate spotted shopping at…”

  • “See pictures of Prince William and Kate as kids.”

  • “Kate accessorized with her citrine drop Kiki earrings.”

But what of a Baby born so many years ago as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? The parents, Joseph and Mary, blended in with the other peasants in the town of Bethlehem to register for the census. Their poverty showed in Mary’s homespun gown and in Joseph’s road-weary donkey. Can you imagine a royal couple in these 21st century days having to beg for a place to hide out of the weather so that their baby could be born?

What a stark difference between the values of a modern kingdom gone mad for glitz and glamour and a kingdom which—as Scripture states in John 18:36—is “not of this world.” Yet, we as citizens of this Kingdom should remember our King and pay Him allegiance as our Sovereign. We should remember that God’s ways are not man’s ways.

The appearance of angels, the message to poor shepherds, the Magi’s long trip to see the One foretold by their study of the stars, and the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus certainly were “not of this world” either. And, as a King, Jesus requires our loyalty and our homage. Not only should we bow before Him, we should give our lives in obedience to Him.

Consider the text of an old liturgy from the 5th century:

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
and with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of Lords, in human vesture,
in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful
his own self for heav’nly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
as the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six-winged seraph,
cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
as with ceaseless voice they cry,
‘Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High!’”



Monday, December 9, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Mary


[Photo of old postcards and a magnifying glass]

 “My soul doth magnify the Lord.”
 —Luke 1:46 (KJV)

Mary’s Song, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-55, offers us something worthy to study during Advent. What beautiful language from a young girl in the midst of a startling and newly revealed sacred responsibility—to give birth to the Messiah.

The first sentence captures my imagination. I love to read it from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, as stated at the beginning of the blog post.

Other translations use the words, “glorify” or “exalt,” but for me, the word “Magnify” has a richer image. Even the Latin “Magnificat” comes from the same root word.

We think of magnifying glasses for people who have lost the ability to see small print. They need to magnify the text to understand it. We know that students often use magnifying glasses when they observe tiny animals or plants to better see the details.

To magnify something makes it appear bigger, brings it closer, allows us to know things we might miss otherwise. How did Mary magnify the Lord? She went on to praise Him and worship Him for doing wonderful things.

This wonderful Song of Mary includes fifteen quotes from the Old Testament in which other believers magnified the Lord before her. They expounded on the blessings He had given, the merits of His grace, the wonder of His working. In doing so, they witnessed to others the greatness of their God, and ours.

Several other passages in Scripture speak of magnifying the Lord. Again in the King James Version—Psalm 34:3:

“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

And, speaking of the miracles that God performed through the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts 19:17:

“Fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

As believers, our lives either magnify Him or diminish Him. How can we magnify our Lord and bring others to the place where they will take a closer look at Him?

When others watch our lives, do they see Him in a clearer way? When we gather to exalt Him in worship, do we make Him more understandable, more attractive, more able for others to long for His Presence in their lives?

I pray that the Lord will show all of us during this Advent and Christmas season how we can magnify His goodness, His power, His works, His holiness, His mercy, His grace, and His love.

May those around us see Him through our lives and desire to take another look at Him!



Monday, December 2, 2013

The Women of Christmas: Elizabeth


[Photo of Elizabeth]

 “‘The Lord has done this for me,’ she said. ‘In these days he has shown
his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.’”
 —Luke 1:25

Elizabeth often gets overlooked in the Christmas story. In fact, she had probably been overlooked all her adult life. Though the Bible says that she and her husband, Zechariah, were “upright people, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly,” people must have always wondered what she might have done to deserve a punishment like barrenness. She may have wondered the same thing herself.

In the Luke account, Elizabeth was “well along in years.” In our time, she might have been considered middle-aged—in her 40’s or 50’s—but well past her child-bearing years.

During a “once in a lifetime” duty as priest a few weeks before, an angel had come to Zechariah and had promised a child would be born to him and Elizabeth. Though the angel did not even come to her, she soon knew that the message the angel had brought was true.

It was during the days that followed, in the early months of the pregnancy that she became fully aware that the Lord was blessing her with a child.

Elizabeth and Zechariah must have been overjoyed. No longer would they carry the burden of childlessness. Not only that, the angel had promised that their baby would be filled with the Holy Spirit for a special duty, as recorded in Luke 1:17:

“…to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Yet, Elizabeth must have had to grow in her faith and her trust in God during this strange and fearful period. She needed to trust what her husband shared with her, and have confidence in her God, though she didn’t understand His ways.

Then one day, Elizabeth received a visit from her relative, Mary. Mary had questions and fears even greater than those of Elizabeth. She too was pregnant, had been visited by an angel, and promised a son. As Luke 1:42 records, when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s body moved in her womb, which caused Elizabeth to proclaim loudly:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”

How wonderful for Mary and Elizabeth that God had uniquely scheduled these pregnancies of two women connected by family and during the same period of time. How they must have rejoiced, and prayed, and wondered about what God was doing with them and through them for His purposes.

I surmise that Mary must have returned home a different person. She left as a frightened and unsure teenager, and came home a blessed and trusting young woman. God had used Elizabeth in her life. And, the mutual encounter had been by divine appointment.

Consider how God wants to use you in another woman’s life. Has He strategically placed you together with someone He wants to bless? Perhaps He has placed you with someone in unusual, but similar, circumstances?

Look beyond your own age group. Rejoice that God engineers such encounters for you. He is the same God who arranged the blessing and strengthening of two of His choice servants. He can do the same for you!