Posted in advent, Advent devotions, Devotions

Bonus Christmas devotion: A heart full of treasures

A bonus “Live and in person” Advent devotion for December 25, 2020. Read Luke 2:1-20 and Psalm 148

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

After the shepherds find Mary and Joseph the the baby lying the manger, they shared just why they were there. They had a quite the story to share about the angel’s announcement and the multitude of angels’ wonderful praises that night. Once they left, Mary had plenty of things to ponder. What a night!

We all have memories that we treasure. We store away special places we’ve been and people we’ve met. Photo albums and scrapbooks are filled with treasured moments from our lives. Certain songs or smells or sights bring those moments to mind as well. The music played at your wedding. The aroma of the cookies your mom always baked. The sight of an ornament that you’ve hung on your Christmas tree every year you’ve celebrated.

A ceramic nativity my wife made during her first pregnancy brings back the memories of our firstborn son. A set of nesting Santas we received as a gift in Des Moines brings back memories of playing “hide the baby Santa” with our children and grandchildren. Christmas poems I’ve written for my wife over the years remind us of what was going on at that time in our lives. And how we love to retell the stories – so many stories – of celebrations with our family in different places and in different ways.

I don’t know how often Mary talked about that night. After all, her pregnancy would have been a bit of a scandal. Her explanation a little fantastical for the average listener. At some point, she must have shared it with Luke, or someone Luke got to know. He wanted to be sure he got the story straight when he wrote his gospel about the Christ.

She would have a lot of time to reflect upon this night and what it really meant to be a servant of the Lord. She wouldn’t get much sleep until Jesus began sleeping through the night. She would have a lot of time to ponder while feeding him, rocking him and just simply watching him sleep. She had no idea what was coming. No parent does. Each day is a new page in the story of a baby’s life.

I hope you have a little time to ponder this Christmas. Hopefully, you’ve had some fun, joy and food with family and perhaps some good friends. But if you have a moment, just listen to your heart. What memories of the past are treasured up there? What questions about the future does it ask?

Chances are you’ve heard Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth within the past twenty-four hours. How did you feel as you heard those words? Tuck them away in your heart, think about them often, marvel at this good news of great joy that will be for all the people, and hum whatever carol comes to mind.

Thank you, Lord, for the many memories we store up in our hearts that always bring us back to the good news of Christmas. Amen.

Posted in Advent devotions

The Cast of Advent: December 10 – Mary

Photo by David Straight on Unsplash

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)

One day, Mary learns that she had landed a starring role in God’s plan of salvation. She is going to be the mother of the Son of God! This is not a part she auditioned for. This is not a job she applied for. She did not volunteer for this mission. She has no experience in being a mother. Why in the world would God choose her?

The word favor must have something to do with it. The angel said, “You have found favor with God.” Favor is pretty much the same as grace. Mary discovered God’s grace. Grace of course has nothing to do with who we are or what we’ve done. It is God’s undeserved goodness toward us. Mary scored front row seats to God’s amazing gracious plan of salvation for his people.

There are others in the Bible who are “favored.” Noah, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, and Samuel are just a few who discovered that God was gracious and worked through them to save his people.

As those saved by grace through faith, we’re among those whom God “favors.” You and I have great seats from which to see God’s plan of salvation continue to change hearts and lead people to faith. You see, we too get to carry Jesus into this world as we show mercy, forgive those who wrong us, and talk about what the Christ has done for us.

Don’t ever forget that you are one of God’s “favorites” too!

Thank you, Lord, for Mary’s faith and willingness to be your servant. And thanks for your favor in my life. too. Amen.