Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Conversations (part V)

In the fullness of time, God sent forth his son, born of a virgin, born under the law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 Gabriel flew over to Michael, "This just isn't right is it, Michael? He needs more honor, more notice, more, more...for goodness sakes it's Christ the King!" "Easy, Michael." The archangel had a calming effect on his younger friend. "Our Father knows what He is doing. The world will know soon enough. Now go tell those shepherds down there what's going on. Take the choir with you." "Shepherds! Are you kidding me, Michael? They are dirty, no count scoundrels, at least that is what I've heard." "No one gets left out of this Kingdom by this King if they chose to believe. Tell them. Tell them to go and see their King." So Gabe departed and found the shepherds and told them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the city of David, a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find him wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger." So the shepherds heard a choir of angels and went into Bethlehem and found the baby... "Joachim, some shepherds are here and want to see the baby," Eli whispered this news to the beaming grandfather. "Shepherds! There's no way I'm letting shepherds get near that child." "Joachim, take it easy. At least see them and inquire how they even knew," Joseph mildly corrected his father-in-law. "All right....Shepherds! What brings you here? How do you know of this birth?" "An angel told us..." "Angel, an angel?" bellowed Joachim and stirred the baby. "Why does he even appear to shepherds and not to me? Everyone is seeing angels but the grandpapa. What is going on...oh, come on. This angel hasn't been wrong yet...." "Why look! It's just a baby! "Well, what didja expect?! That big angel said, 'today, a saviour has been born to you." "Yeah, but I just weren't expecting no baby." "Well, what didja expect?" "I don't know, not a baby, I guess. The angel said a saviour and I didn't expect a saviour to be no baby." "He'll grow. He'll grow up and be a fine saviour, I just bet he will." "I don't know. I don't know of any saviour being born in a stable." "Well, tell me, what saviour do you know about being born anywhere?" "Ow, you know I don't know any saviour more than you. I guess with all them angels, I expected something, well something more like, like royalty or kings, not some old stable in a cave. Why them parents is nearly as pore as we are. I just don't see "messiah" in any of this. It's just a baby... "I know, I know. But we heard them angels sing. We heard that glowing one talk to us and tell us wheer to find this baby. It was all just like he said. And he said this was the Christ, the saviour, even if he don't look like it now." "What's a saviour suppose to look like anyway? Maybe its not just what he looks like or how he starts. Maybe its where he finishes that counts, too. That's what I believe. He is the Christ. Let's go tell some folks......" And so it came to pass that later that night, after everyone was finally able to fall asleep, Joachim was roused by a soft glowing in his corner of the cave... "Joachim, Joachim, wake up, wake up..." It was the angel... "Wha.. what is...what is happening...oh, my, are you, are you an angel?" "Yes, a messenger from God, by His grace." "Frankly Angel, with all the sightings to everyone it seemed but me, I thought God may have been displeased with me." "No, Joachim, God is very pleased. He sent me to everyone who needed to see and hear me. You had faith to believe without seeing, the best kind of faith. You heard the truth and believed and acted on that faith. You possess the kind of faith that can bless others. " "Then why now? After all the the excitement? After the birth?" "Now starts many wondrous and some very hard things to come. Be prepared, your kind of faith will be needed more than ever, Joachim. You behold the infinite God in the infant; the creator of the universe now struggles to grasp the finger of his mother; He, who had the vision to see salvation for all through the forgiveness of sin, can now as a babe only see things in a blur. So keep believing, keep trusting. Help others to see in the coming years that the Saviour has been born. There will be harder lessons of faith but you can help others to see that Jesus is the Christ..." With those words, the angel departed but Joachim's faith didn't. It only grew. Merry Christmas 2010, Cos

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Conversations (part IV)

* Dear Readers (all seven of you),
Historical points to ponder before you read this installment...
  -there is no innkeeper mentioned in scripture
  -there are two Greek words used in Luke's gospel for "inn." one word used in the good Samaritan story of Luke 10, is used to convey the idea of an inn more to our modern understanding. It was often in the first century no more than a camping place with tents or tarps on poles provided. "Guests" provided their own bedding, the innkeeper would provide access to water, a fire for warming or cooking, and in the "five star" inns of the day possibly morning breakfast breads. In the larger "inns" there were occasionally rooms nearby or attached to the courtyard "inn." The other word translated "inn" in Luke is used in the story of Mary and Joseph and often means guestroom. With many people, many relatives of Mary and Joseph coming to Bethlehem to register, the guestroom at a relatives houses may have already been taken. With the crowd of people whether in a house or a courtyard "inn," it was obviously not a good place to birth a baby.
  -at this time in Palestine, the "stables" were often attached to or actually another room in the home where the domesticated animals for milk and hauling were housed in winter weather. Because the "shepherds" were camping out in the fields at night may indicate that the time of Jesus' birth was a warmer time  of the year. The Dec. 25 date was worked out between 273 and 336 AD by the Roman church leaders and finalized with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. The actual date of Jesus' birth is unknown.
  -Bethlehem's geography added another possibility to the story of Jesus' birth--caves. The area is dotted with caves in the hillsides that were used as stables and sometimes residences. Many scholars believe Jesus' birth in a stable was in one of these caves which would have provided a quieter place, more comfortable, more private place for the birth. Also, scripture doesn't mention if Jesus was born on M & J's first night in Bethlehem or the third or fifth.
-with these historical and geographical thoughts in place here is part IV of  Christmas Conversations with   grandparents included.

"We are going with you! There is no discussion," insisted Joachim. "We all have to be registered, we all have to go to Bethlehem. It only makes sense. We go together."
"I don't want to trouble you. And besides, there is already talk about Mary's pregnancy," whispered Joseph.
"All the more reason to get away for a few days --together."
"Well, I know Mary will appreciate the help her mother could be. And truthfully, I'm frightened. What if she has the baby while we are on the trip?"
"That may not be a bad thing, Joseph. The gossip, the looks...I wish that angel everybody saw would show himself to the townspeople.That would shut them up!"
"I guess we'd better pack then. Tomorrow at sunrise?''

"I know I slowed you down. I'm sorry." Mary was kind but tired as they arrived in Bethlehem.
"We made great time! It's my old bones that kept our pace slower. Anyway, we are here."
"Anna, would you tend to Mary? I'm going to take Joachim and find some of our relatives. Between the two clans with God's grace we will find a good place to stay." Joseph was grateful for the company, especially now since Joachim's presence doubled their chances of finding room. They both had actually met several relatives on pilgrimage to Jerusalem through the years. Maybe they will remember...

"Oh it is good to see you Eli. But I must confess you are the fourth relative we've contacted and we've found no place to stay. Have you any room? We are in a precarious situation, too. My wife Mary is with me and is about to give birth."
"Joseph,  I didn't know you had married. That's great! Our guest room is full, has been for weeks, with the census...we could probably move some around. Wait, I've got an idea. I'll move some of the older children out to our stable. We have a great cave for a stable. It's pretty clean since the animals aren't going in too much this time of the year. We will sweep it out a bit and put them down there and you and, and, what's your wife's name, in their place in the house."
"Mary. Her name is Mary. Eli, could we see the stable. I, too, have an idea...
 "I'm thinking the same thing Joseph," Joachim allowed. "This may be great news."

Eli led them out the side of the house and down a path to a cave, fashioned with a little corral into a stable.
"This is perfect, Eli. Let Mary, Anna, Joachim and I stay here. It's more peaceful. It's protected and if Mary has the baby more private. In fact, if you will let me arrange the hay it will be more comfortable for Mary than a pallet on the floor."
"It's yours, Joseph. I'll get some extra blankets and candles. Noami will come clean it out a little better. She won't like the idea at first-- a new in-law, pregnant, and staying in the stable, but I see your point. With all that bloated, belching and bellowing bunch in the house I may come down here myself."

 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 room in the inn.  (Luke 2:6-7)

And thus as the earth gave life to the first man when God breathed life into the dusty clay, so now from the womb-like cave the earth brings forth a Savior who breathes earth's air into his lungs that he might breathe God's breath of redemption into mankind.

Imaginings between the lines,

(part V on Christmas eve)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Conversations (part I)

"Momma, where's Papa? I need to speak with him?" Mary showed a combination of emotions on her face her mother had never seen before. Anna couldn't be sure but Mary seemed to be both with fear and with peace at the same time. How could this be? Anna wasn't sure but instinctively knew that Mary needed Joachim and spoke nothing else to her daughter but to say "Your Papa is coming up the path from the garden, go to him." Mary ran outside and down the path to meet her Papa. How do I tell him I saw an angel who told me I was pregnant? "Papa, we need to talk?" The tears were welling in the corners of her eyes, she was unable to form words. "We talk all the time, what makes this talk different?" Joachim tried to inject some tenderness in his voice. His daughter was in some turmoil, struggling for words. "Something has happened,Papa, but I'm not sure how to tell you. If I tell what happened, you won't believe me. If I tell you what's going to happen, you will think I'm a liar who made it all up just to protect myself." "Come child, you know I've never thought like that about any of you children. You tell me what's bothering you and then we'll sort it out." They had walked quite a bit in silence. Mary stopped to lean on a corner post of a sheep pen. The sun was setting low and bathed the evening with a golden glow. "Papa, I'm going to have a child." The silence pierced Mary's heart. Joachim's heart broke. "I never would have thought....I didn't think you and Joseph..." "No Papa, its not like that. It's not Joseph's.. "What?!!? Who has done this... "No, no Papa, listen. It's not any body's I, I, mean I've known no man, but "Then how are you, how are you, I, I can't even speak the word... how are you... "Papa, listen. I've seen an angel. He told me I was going to have a baby and that the Holy Spirit would come over me and I would give birth to the holy one who is the Son of God. Messiah is coming through me." "Don't blaspheme child! This is no joking matter!" "Oh Papa, please, why would I make this up? You know who I am, where I've been, who I have been with. I've known no man. Please listen, please believe. I know what I saw, I know what I heard, I know what I feel. You of all people who taught us to love God, believe God and listen for Him, you've got to understand." Her words subdued him. His mind raced. No words came for a few moments. "I'll try, Mary, I'll try. What else did this 'angel' say?" "He said the baby's name would be Jesus. He would be great and God would give Him David's throne. He also said my kinswoman Elizabeth is expecting and is six months along. He also said nothing is impossible with God." "Elizabeth? She's old and she and Zachariah can't have children. God has closed her womb." "Like Abraham and Sarah?" Joachim crumpled down on the ground. "This is too much to take in. I can't believe what I'm hearing and yet I'm hearing it from someone who never lies to me and who truly believes." "Maybe I'll ask God to let the angel visit you, too," offered Mary. But I wish you'd believe me, just me. I'm not lying Papa. An angel really appeared to me. I told him I was the Lord's servant and may it be to me as you have said. Then he left me." "I believe, help my unbelief." No angel appeared to Joachim but an almost palpable sense of peace swept over him. He looked at Mary. "This is hard to accept, but God's ways are not always easy and do not conform to us, we conform to Him. Have you told Joseph or your mother?" "I've told no one but you." "Alright then, here's what we'll do. I'll tell Joseph and we'll tell your mother when we walk back to the house. Then, we will send you to Zack and Liz's house to confirm what the angel said to you about her. If it is true she will need some help since their home is empty and she is old. I don't know how this will work out, especially in the family or the synagogue or the town, but if it is of God, then He has a plan and we must follow it." "Thank-you, Papa. You do believe me." "Well, I've always felt you were a gift from God, my child. I always sensed that God would use you. I never imagined this, I'm not sure I still can but we will walk in faith and see what God does." Joachim and Mary were back at the house now. He took a deep breath, stood tall and expanded his chest. "You let me talk to your mother. I think I know how to start." "What have you two been talking about. It's not fair to keep secrets from me. I'm the mother, you know." "Now Anna, wait a moment and we'll tell you everything. Sit down, you are about to hear some strange and wonderful things. Now, first, we are going to be grandparents, -God's grandparents....." Imaginings between the Lines Luke 1 Cos