From the monthly archives:

December 2010

Merry Christmas, Jesus!

December 24, 2010

When God became Like Me
What did the angels say
when you stripped away Your glory?
Did they turn away in shame?
Did they recognize You?
Did some stare in horror
as God became like…me?
It was not enough though, was it,
for you to become like me.
You who lived before eternity
and walked the heavens
and held the constellations in Your hand
were reduced to a clump of cells
tucked into the womb of a child.
For me.
And that, dearest Lord, I do not understand.
Marvelous are Thy works.

The baby Jesus was born sometime in the night on a hillside outside of Bethlehem, the same hillsides that provided the choicest grazing in all Israel.  It was on those hillsides that the lambs were raised that would be used in the Temple sacrifices.  Most likely, the “stable’ in which Jesus was born was part of a series of caves dug from the hillside that kept the sheep and other livestock in the small town.  The lamb of God, born in the very pens that kept the sheep used for the Temple sacrifices.  How like God to do such a thing.

There is no mention of anyone who ventured out to help or assist.  Surely if there had been, Mary would have noted their names or descriptions to the Gospel writers.  But no one came. And in majestic irony, God appointed the heavenly birth choir to sing to a group of shepherds keeping their flocks at night.  Surely they, of all people would recognize the spotless Lamb of God.

I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when the scraggly unkept shepherds showed up to marvel at the child!  Were they to be evicted now from the stable?  Did Joseph stand up to defend his family against the intruders?  Did he understand their rough dialect as they described the scene of angels who had appeared to them?

I wonder what it must have been like.

Over the course of the next several days, Joseph registered his little family with the Roman tax collectors.  He had to find decent lodging, or maybe just make the stable more tolerable until he found work.  They would stay in Bethlehem for a year or so until an angel would give Joseph instructions to flee from Herod’s sword.

It would be years before they would see their beloved Galilee again.  Those years were spent by Joseph and Mary faithfully protecting the baby Jesus from the serpent.

Jesus knew the same hardships of any other child who is homeless, poor, and an outcast of society.  He was the son of an unmarried teenage girl and born into an ethnic group that was only several generations away from complete slavery.  He was like us.  Then again, He was not like us at all, because He chose to identify with the worst our world could offer.  He chose to be the least of men so that no man would have reason to reject Him.

And that is why we worship Him this day.  Merry  Christmas, Jesus.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”


Christmas Eve… the Sixth Day

December 24, 2010

The Innkeeper’s Wife

“No, there’s no room for the likes of you,
and yes, I can see your wife.
Now get from the door, let the others by,
don’t trouble me with your life.

Besides the fact, have you no sense
to bring her so close to time?
Why in God’s name would you have a child,
there’s quite enough of your kind!

If you must there’s a cave, a place for sheep,
out back on the hillside near.
Go out there, don’t bother to pay,
just don’t let my husband hear.”

And so it was that God’s cruel plan
to enter our broken estate,
was greeted with the best we had
and that, almost too late.

God’s precious Lamb, spotless and pure,
born in a barn out of sight.
For no room in the hearts of lost mankind
could be found that silent night.

Jericho had been kind to the young travelers.  An elderly shopkeeper and his wife took pity on the couple as they watered the donkeys in the town square.  A good meal and a soft bed was all Mary needed to be fast asleep in a matter of moments.

The old shopkeeper took Joseph aside after Mary was settled.  “Now Joseph, as you leave Jericho, don’t stop until you reach Jerusalem!  It’s a treacherous road filled with robbers all along the way.  Try to band together with other pilgrims, and stick to the main road.  No shortcuts, Joseph!  They’re sure to mean disaster.”

Before the sun was up, Joseph had the donkeys ready and loaded.  The old couple sent them on their way with dried fish and matzoh cakes.  Fortunately, a number of other travelers had also waited till first light, making a sizable group with whom the two could travel.  The others would spend the Sabbath in Jerusalem, but Joseph knew that Mary’s time had run out.  He had to reach Bethlehem by nightfall.

The shofar horn, beginning the Sabbath, sounded as the two reached the city gates of Bethlehem.  “Joseph what now?” asked Mary.  Her breathing was labored.  Her face smeared with the dust of many bone jarring miles on the back of the donkey.  Joseph could sense that the labor pains had begun once again.

“We need to find an inn that will keep us, Mary.  Let’s try over there.”

Making their way past the city gates, they joined the crowds of people who had come to register for Caesar’s tax.  Everyone, it seemed, had come to register.  From one door to the next, the two asked for lodging.  But it was obvious.  No one wanted to board the dirty peasants from Galilee.  One look at their dress and that was all it took to say no.

The last door presented the same story.  An old lady, the matron of the inn, greeted them with the same indifference as the others.  “Yes, I can see for myself that your wife is about to have a baby, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have no room.  Now get along with you!”

Tears welled up in Mary’s eyes.  The pain, weariness, and loneliness was too much.  Her first child would be born on a street corner and not survive the night.  Joseph was panicking.  Oh God, he thought, please don’t abandon us now!  Turning to go, Joseph looked into Mary’s pain-filled face. He didn’t have any more answers to give.

“Wait a minute, you two.”

The faintest tone of compassion came from the doorway.  Joseph turned to face the woman who quickly glanced over her shoulder before she spoke.  “There’s some old sheep pens out behind the inn.  You’re welcome to stay up there if you want.  Go around back, and I’ll show you the trail.  Well, do you want it or not?”

Before Joseph had time to speak, Mary cried out a response.  “No time left.  Hurry, please let’s just go.”

Around the back and up the trail, a wide cave was dug out of the hillside.  Joseph lifted Mary from the donkey and placed her on a quickly made bed of straw.  Soon, he had built a little fire to ward off the chill of the evening.  The pains were quickening.  There was no time left to find a midwife.  The stars sparkled over the beautiful Judean hillside as Joseph held Mary’s hand and listened as she told him what to do when the baby finally came.

And so a poor, young carpenter and his child bride cried alone in the night waiting for God to appear.


The Fifth Day

December 23, 2010

Wee Little Mary Wee little Mary who all thought good believed the angel’s word, but what thought those who with her stood when of her blessed womb they heard? There was much joy in the camp along the road to Bethlehem that night.  Mary’s mother never left her side.  Her father, Heli, continually doted over […]

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The Fifth Day

December 22, 2010

Wee Little Mary Wee little Mary who all thought good believed the angel’s word, but what thought those who with her stood when of her blessed womb they heard? There was much joy in the camp along the road to Bethlehem that night.  Mary’s mother never left her side.  Her father, Heli, continually doted over […]

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The Fourth Day

December 21, 2010

God’s Mysterious Ways Have you ever thought how strange of Him to introduce His Son with the appearance of sin? Mary could not take much more.  Joseph feared for her… over the days her voice was tinged more and more with pain.  And he feared for the baby.  Would Mary have the strength left when […]

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The Third Day

December 20, 2010

Mary’s Lullaby Hidden in my womb so deep Safe beneath my heart, Be still, Little One, for very soon Your life from me will part. Who will You be O Son of mine Is it true what the angels say? I care not, as long as soon in my arms You safely lay. The valley […]

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The Second Day

December 19, 2010

Little Donkey Clip Clop, Clip Clop is all my donkey speaks, his little feet so close to mine my pace he humbly keeps. Clip Clop, Clip Clop do you know the one you keep? It is the Creator of all the world His Majesty so meek. Mary was exhausted. Her first night’s stay in the […]

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In the Fullness of Time… Day 1

December 18, 2010

A Brief Introduction … Some of my earliest memories of Christmas are of an old wooden manger and the ceramic figurines that would be carefully placed in it throughout the week before Christmas.  Finally, on Christmas Eve, the baby Jesus would be placed front and center.  The shepherds, who had been patiently waiting all week, […]

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It Started in a Manger

December 16, 2010

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth… For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace.  John 1:14&17 The greatest writers in history cannot match the Holy Spirit’s simple description of when Heaven […]

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He Left His Place to Come to My Place

December 9, 2010

I was sitting outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia engaged in a conversation with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader.  “We may have different views about small issues,” one of them said, “but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” They asked me what I thought.  I […]

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