The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Lack of Status The Shepherds

Lesson Verse Luke 2:8-20

Introduction

On the night Jesus was born, the angel appeared to one of the most under appreciated groups in the community. The angel had appeared first to Zechariah, a priest. Then to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Then to Joseph, husband of Mary and father on Earth of Jesus. The three of them are held in high regard. We understand why the angel appeared to all of them, why the angel had a message for them. Why did God send His angel to the shepherds? For me, this is the most important appearance of all.

Key Points

  • The shepherds were considered unclean
  • They lived on the fringe of society
  • The shepherds were welcomed at the stable

The shepherds were considered unclean

The shepherds lived outside of town, staying with their sheep. They lived and worked with animals so the shepherds were considered unclean. They were not allowed to associate with other people in the community because they were unclean. If they touched someone else, it would make that person unclean, a condition that could only be corrected through a cleansing ritual. Therefore, the shepherds kept to themselves.

They lived on the fringe of society

Like most people who are scorned and held in low regard, the shepherds lived on the fringe of society. They stayed with their sheep, keeping them safe from harm. Living on the fringe, the shepherds might not have known much about their faith. We don’t know what their background might be. Did they come from a family of shepherds? Did they have no family? Did their family stay with them? Shepherds didn’t seem to associate with the people in the cities. They stayed out in the wilderness where their sheep could find food and water. The shepherds never left their sheep, allowing them to protect their flock from any harm.

The shepherds were welcomed at the stable

I imagine the shepherds hesitated to go into town. The angel, however, told them where they would find this very special child so they went to see Him. If there had been room at the Inn, if Mary had given birth to the baby in a room there, the shepherds might not have felt comfortable going inside. They might nave been stopped from entering. The baby was born in a stable, though, as place the shepherds felt very comfortable in. Not only did they feel comfortable entering the stable, they found they were welcomed by Mary and Joseph.

Even as a new born child, Jesus was able to reach out to the lowest in society and the highest, with the Kings. Everyone was welcome into the presence of the Child.

Faith Vs Fear

All of us find ourselves in situations where we feel intimidated. Your fear in the situation, the people may overcome your faith in yourself. You might have a strong desire to simply stay home. I’m sure some of the shepherds hesitated to seek the newborn child. They found comfort in the hills with their sheep. Then they took a breath and stepped out to see this baby for themselves. And what a wise decision that turned out to be? Who knows how their lives were impacted by their encounter with the Christ Child.

Like the shepherds, you have no idea what you might encounter when you step out of your comfort zone this Holiday season. Even if you don’t have a life changing moment like the shepherds, you may experience something you never imagined happening. None of us know what awaits us on the other side of the door, the other side of our comfort zone. Like the shepherds, you need to step out in faith, having confidence in, if not yourself, then the Lord who only wants the best for you.

For Today

The shepherds were outsiders yet God, through the angels, invited them to be among the first to see the Christ Child. Leaving the safety and comfort of the fields, they took a bold step and went to find the Child.

You may find God calling you to go somewhere outside your comfort zone or to do something that makes you uncertain. Time to take a breath and step out boldly!

The lives of the shepherds had to have been changed by their encounter with Jesus. Such a small act had such a deep impact on our society. Even as an infant, Jesus was in the company of everyone in society, even those seen as outcasts or those on the fringe.

Your life may be changed by stepping out into the world and going where God leads. This doesn’t mean He is going to send you anywhere dangerous just somewhere outside your comfort zone. Perhaps a women’s group in another church or working at a shelter. Wherever it might be, you can rest assured you never go alone. Just like the shepherds, wherever God leads you, you always find Jesus there!

The Third Saturday in Advent

How Much Are You Worth to God?

I mean it. How much do you think you are worth to God? Yes, it’s easy to recite the verse above that tells you that God takes care of the needs of sparrows and you are worth more than them so He will take care of you. Reciting the verse, knowing the verse, however, is not the same as believing the verse.

The Lord sees to the needs of every creature on Earth and this includes YOU! You are made in His image. His Son died for YOU! Why would you think for a moment that there is ANYTHING He wouldn’t do for you, as long as it was in keeping with His rules?

No parent wants to see one of their children suffering. This is true for God as well. He doesn’t want to see you suffer. He doesn’t like to see so much stress in your life. He wants to help you ease your stress, to help you enjoy the season. Remember the sparrows and know that He cares for you even more than He does them.

The Third Friday in Advent

Lord Grant Me Peace!

You may find yourself saying this, or some version of this statement, throughout the Holiday season. You must remember that you already have His peace within you. In the Gospel of John, during the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples that He was leaving them 3 things: A Helper, in the form of the Holy Spirit, His joy, and His peace, which He told us He was giving us but not as the world gives.

When someone gives you something, they hand it to you. It exists outside of you, in the physical world. Jesus gives you His peace, not outside of you but within you. You already have the peace of Christ within you, waiting to serve you in a way that “transcends all understanding,” guarding your heart and mind.

Unfortunately, you may be fighting against this peace. You let the chaos of the world affect your life rather than allowing the peace of Christ to guide you, comfort you. It’s time for you to get control of your life and feelings. When things seem out of control, find a quiet place. Yes, I know it is difficult but there must be SOMEWHERE you can hide or go where no one else wants to follow. Take deep breaths. Feel yourself relax and the stress leave your body. Then allow the peace that lives, all the time deep within you, come to the surface, allowing you to focus and continue with your Holiday and regular activities.

The Third Thursday in Advent

May I Serve You?

I assume your friends and family aren’t enemies. And if they were, you probably wouldn’t spend much time with them. I do know, however, that families can be trying. Even more so when we’re tired from all the rush of the Holidays. People push us, just a bit and we are ready to go to war! Not good!

Today’s verse tells us that the Lord wants to rescue us from our enemies. He wants to help us remain strong in the presence of those that attack us. Unfortunately, that includes family. Too often, during family gatherings, you find yourself on the receiving end of criticism or “helpful” advice.

If your extended family causes you stress, you need to spend time in prayer before you meet with them. Ask the Lord to deliver you from the stress family causes you. Ask Him to eliminate the fear you may feel when you are around them. Ask for His protection during family celebrations so you are able to enjoy the season, serving your family with joy and the Lord with praise and thanksgiving.

The Third Wednesday in Advent

The Sky Is Falling

I don’t know about you but if the earth gave way, the mountains fell, and everything else mentioned in today’s verse were to happened, I’d be at least a little bit afraid! Let’s, however, look at this in terms of Christmas stress. 🙂

Moms have so much to do on a normal day and at Christmas, our to-do list seems to grow like bread rising! It’s just crazy! Shopping for gifts, shopping for food, decorating, mailing cards, attending parties and concerts, church, not to mention all the normal tasks we do everyday of the year. I remember one year when I completely forgot to cook dinner because I was so focused on everything I had to do to get ready for Christmas. It’s easy to see why we might feel as if the waters are roaring and foaming and the mountains quake with their surging.

We must focus on the first line of the verse. No matter how crazy things get, even if it seems as if the sky is crashing down around us, we needn’t fear because God is always with us. He offers us protection, saving us when things fall apart. He gives us strength and focus when we need it most. And, with the Spirit and Jesus, He offers us peace and comfort. So, celebrate with joy and fear not!

The Third Tuesday in Advent

Nearer My God to Me!

Our God is not simply a distant being that never interacts with us. Not only does He interact, He cares enough for all of us to come to us when we are afraid and He reassures us.

There are so many things that frighten us during the Christmas season. We think we feel guilty but I believe that feeling is not guilt but fear. We are afraid we won’t get everything done. We’re afraid someone will be disappointed or angry. We’re afraid what they might think, what they might say, how we might react. Fortunately, we not only have God drawing near when we call out to Him. We have Jesus within us to bring us peace and we have the Spirit within to keep us strong.

Rather than letting the things on the outside scare us so much, we need to quietly listen to the Father tell us not to be afraid and then feel what Jesus and the Spirit are saying to us. Be still and know that they are all God.

The Third Monday in Advent

Surrounded

As moms, we often find ourselves surrounded. Spouses, kids, bosses, friends, school, organizations, and more. During the Holiday season, we have even more people surrounding us: church, extended family, and more. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, stressed and even scared. We worry we will be unable to meet the needs of everyone wanting something from us.

Today’s verse reminds us that we have nothing to fear no matter how many people are tugging on our sleeve. God is there for us, protecting us from all those demanding, or even asking, for something from us. We also have the Holy Spirit to keep us strong and joyful from within.

Never let anyone suck the joy out of you during Christmas. Rely on the strength and love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. Tackle your tasks as you are able. Rest so you remain well. And celebrate the birth of our Savior with joy.

The Third Sunday in Advent

Lack of Faith Joseph

Lesson Verse Matthew 1:18-25

Introduction

Joseph is often the forgotten person in the Christmas story. Yet, he played a very important part. From the beginning, Joseph was the figure in the background yet he had an impact on Mary’s life and on Jesus’. In the birth story, Joseph shows us what an incredibly faithful man he was. He was ready to stand by Mary in unusual circumstances even before the angel came to him in a dream. Joseph had faith even when everything told him to believe otherwise. Joseph cared for Mary during her pregnancy and then for her and the baby, keeping them safe and moving them away from harmful situations. To understand the importance of Joseph to the birth of Jesus, you must look at three aspects of the story:

Key Points

  • Joseph had no legal obligation to Mary
  • Mary would have been stoned if Joseph had denounced her
  • The angel came to Joseph in a dream (He came to Mary when she was awake)

Joseph had no legal obligation to Mary

Joseph was not yet married to Mary. They were only betrothed. As a betrothed woman, Mary was not under the protection of her father or her future husband. She was in limbo, with no one to speak for her, to defend her. Joseph cared for Mary and was considering his different options that would not cause Mary any harm.

Mary would have been stoned if Joseph had denounced her

Under Hebrew Law, Mary would have been stoned to death if it was found she had sex with a man other than Joseph. If Joseph was the father of the child, he would have been compelled to marry her. Joseph knew he was not the father because he had not had sex with Mary yet. He could have walked away and let the law deal with Mary. Instead, he was going to quietly break their engagement and send her to live with relatives in another town so Mary would not be shamed.

The angel came to Joseph in a dream (He came to Mary when she was awake)

I have always been fascinated by the fact the angel appeared to Mary when she was awake but to Joseph in a dream. I believe God wanted Mary to know beyond a doubt that an angel had appeared to her and what his message had been. In Joseph’s case, however, there had to be room for doubt. God need Joseph to decide for himself if he believed the angel and the message was real or only his imagination. Joseph could have awakened, only to decide the dream was just part of his overactive imagination. Instead, when he awoke, Joseph accepted the message as the Word of the Lord. He married Mary and prepared for their life together.

Faith Vs Fear

Joseph had to be concerned about the situation with Mary. He knew she was expecting a child that wasn’t his. He cared for Mary and wanted to handle the situation in a way that did her no harm. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream.

Scripture says when Joseph woke up, he married Mary. It makes it sound as if he got up the next morning and immediately got married. Perhaps they did however, I believe Joseph needed to think a bit more about all that had happened. It’s easy for us to sit here now and think Joseph should have been ready and willing to marry Mary after the angel appeared in his dream. This was such an unusual situation, though, I can’t help but feel Joseph had to think a bit more. He need some time to process all that he had heard. He may even have needed time to consider whether or not he was prepared to raise the Son of God.

Joseph had to be afraid. This was a tremendous responsibility he was being asked to take on. I can see where he might need some time to think. Whether he needed a few days to mull over all these things or just a few hours, Joseph had enough faith to not only go ahead and marry Mary but also raise the Son of God as his own. What an incredible man!

For Today

Joseph could have walked away from his betrothal to Mary without any recourse. Joseph could have quietly sent Mary away to keep her from harm but she still would have been an unmarried woman with a child. Instead, Joseph married Mary and raised the child as his own.

You may find yourself in situations when it would be easy to walk away. You tell yourself, “it’s not my problem.” or “it’s not my place.” No one would criticize you. After all, why is it your problem?

It may not be your problem and you might have every right not to become involved. Yet, like Joseph, God may be asking you to step up anyway, to take control of a situation in a way only you are able.

Joseph may have had no idea how he ended up in the situation in which he found himself. Yet, stepping up turned out to be the greatest thing Joseph did in his life. You never know the outcome of any situation when God calls you. You may think the situation is one of the worst things that ever happened to you. It may only be years later that you are able to see how God turned it into one of the greatest things you every did!

Are there tasks God has called you to do and you felt it wasn’t your problem? How do you overcome that fear?

What is an area in your life where God is calling you but you hesitate to answer because you think it’s not your responsibility?

The Second Saturday in Advent

All by Myself

Some days, it feels like everyone is against us. We can’t seem to do anything right. Add to that the pressure of the Christmas season and it’s enough to drive us to bed, pull the covers over our head, and stay there until after the first of the year. When we feel everyone is against is, we become not only frustrated but frightened. It is scary when we are made to feel all alone even when we are surrounded by others.

Today’s Scripture verse reminds us that it doesn’t matter who is against us because God is ALWAYS with us, no exception. Even if everyone we know is against us, if God is for us, He overcomes the opposition of everyone else. When God is for us, we are never alone, we have no need to be afraid.

We also may gather strength knowing Jesus is not only FOR us, He has lived among us. He understands how tough life can be some days. I’m sure Jesus got frustrated. I know there came a time when the majority of people were against Him. Jesus overcame all of that and came out victorious. He is always with us. Jesus is always on our side.

The Second Friday in Advent

Can’t Hurt Me

I talk about fear a lot. I’m not going to give a detailed breakdown on my message however, I want you to understand my feelings on guilt and fear. So often women, especially moms, talk about how guilty they feel about something. I don’t believe the problem is guilt. I think it’s fear. We just think that feeling is guilt. Now, let’s look at this verse!

Fear may be a big part of your life during the Holidays. You’re afraid you won’t get everything done. You’re afraid things won’t be right. You’re afraid what other people, especially extended family members, might think or say about you and the way you do things. It’s hard to remain confident when you are always concerned that others, especially other women are going to criticize you.

In the last few devotions, I’ve discussed not being afraid because the Lord is with you. He is never going to desert you. Not ever. This verse takes that reassurance a step farther. If you are taking time to listen to the Lord to help you stay focused during Christmastime. When you stay close to Him, when you listen to what He is telling you, when you follow His leading, then He is with you. He is definitely and completely with you. Not just close to you. He is on your side.

Now tell me, if God is on your side, if He is supporting you, if He is the one leading you, then what can people do to you? Sure, they can still criticize but you have the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing. Does this mean you can quickly point out to others that they are wrong because God told you what to do? Well, I wouldn’t advise doing that if I were you. No, you can just have the satisfaction that the Lord is pleased with you, He is with you. That is enough.