December 7 “Mary”

Mary

Of course she was pretty, the flower of the village of Nazareth.
Mothers of sons had long had their eyes on her for a daughter in law. Young men of the village were in awe of her so they left her alone. Other girls wanted to be her friend. She was bright and thoughtful with a ready laugh. That tireless young carpenter, Joseph, always made time for her. They seemed to go together as if made for each other and no one was surprised when they announced their engagement. There was a sense of pride in Nazareth that their little town could produce such a fine couple. Their joy in each other radiated through the village. No one could see the clouds gathering and the storm that was just ahead.

A Disturbance of the Peace
Alone in her room late at night Mary was still awake, too happy to sleep! Her candle-lit room was suddenly invaded by a light the likes of which she had never seen. She shrank back but the light filled the room and there was no place to hide. In the center of the light a figure slowly emerged, a man, taller than any she had ever seen, and as imposing as the light was blinding. If there had been someplace to run, Mary would not have, for she was as fascinated as she was afraid. Music was sounding, distant but distinct, strange harmonies and melodies. From the center of the music came a voice, deep and thrilling, almost singing with the music.

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

The light, the music, the voice, the tall figure, it was more than Mary could process. “The Lord is with you…” was the part that lodged in her brain and it sent a shock of fear through her.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

“Favor with God.” What could that mean? The answer was not long in coming.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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.”

Mary thought of Joseph. She protested her innocence.

“How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

The words of the angel were specific and enigmatic at the same time.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

Overshadowed!

He went on to tell her of her elderly cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy and ended his message this way:

“For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Mary could only whisper but all of heaven heard her:

“Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

He faded from view, the light and the lingering music dying away until the room was left untouched as if nothing at all had happened. But something indeed had happened. Mary suddenly inhaled a deep breath and held it. Her brown eyes were wide with wonder.

Overshadowed, she thought as she whispered, “For with God nothing is impossible.”

Scriptures:
Isaiah 7:14-15 NKJV
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Luke 1:26-38
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, Your ways are higher than our ways. They are past finding out. Your plans for us are always only partially given; there are details that You alone can see. While these unseen things surprise us when they occur, You are never surprised. Help me learn from Mary. She kept herself from evil so that when Your plan for her was revealed she was able to receive it. She was guided by Your encounter with her; You changed her life. I have encountered You in prayer, in corporate worship, in Your Word, and in the holy fellowship of friends who follow You. Guide me, Lord. Help me be overshadowed by Your Spirit so that I might bear You to my world in my life. With You this is not impossible. Amen and Amen.

Song:
Into My Heart
Traditional Chorus

Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my Heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today. Come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

The Jesus Story devotions can also be found at Kingdomwinds.com.

September 3 “Flesh”

Flesh

John does not tell the Christmas story.
Instead he provides a brief meditation on the meaning of the Incarnation, the fundamental mystery of the Jesus Story. The world is always ready to hear another story about a fine young man ahead of his times, misunderstood by his contemporaries, and cut down in his prime by the ignorant, uncaring mob. That is not the Jesus Story. This story is one of intentionality. Jesus was on a mission to save the world. So much entertainment today concerns itself with superheroes who save an imaginary, computer-generated movie world. Forget that nonsense. This story is real. This eternal Word, present and active at Creation and ruling from the Throne of Heaven, had come to do both a cosmic and personal work:

  • Jesus will personally defeat the powers of evil.
  • Jesus will provide true forgiveness for our sins and open up a “new and living way” for us to walk with God in the power of the Holy Spirit.

John’s description here. and a few verses later, brings these lofty concepts into real life.

“The Word Became Flesh”
Oh, the wonder of this, the mystery of the Incarnation! It wasn’t enough for God to raise up another prophet. This mission was more than even the highest angels could achieve. This required the Second Person of the Godhead, eternally existent with the Father and the Spirit, to travel across the impossible divide between heaven and earth, between the human and the Divine. Only Jesus could do this. We can taste John’s wonder at this in his words.

“…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John’s testimony towers above the other remarkable, amazing confessions found in the Jesus Story.

  • John the Baptist would proclaim that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
  • Peter would confess that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
  • Only John the Beloved called Him the Word, and not just the Word, remote and mysterious, to be believed but not understood, but the Word made flesh and dwelling among us

These testimonies are not academic conclusions drawn from careful observation or from the obedient study of accepted scholars. These accounts are the very breath of God, the same breath that God breathed into Adam to give mankind life. This is real, spiritual, invisible yet full of power and effect.

The Nativity
Even without the narrative of Christ’s birth, John tells us more about Christmas than any of the other evangelists. When the old, old story unfolds before us,

  • We wonder at the plan of God with Mary and Joseph,
  • We hear the angel choir singing over the shepherds, and
  • We join the Wise Men in their journey of adoration,

Yet all the while, this is the wonder that draws us in—the Incarnation—the Eternal Word made flesh and dwelling among us.

  • The Eternal One entered into Time.
  • The Omniscient One emptied Himself of all knowledge except what an infant knows.
  • The Omnipotent One, laid aside His divine power to depend on the Holy Spirit.
  • The Omnipresent One, abandoned heaven to dwell in the earth, to be only there and only then.

John the Baptist declared that grace and truth came into the world through Jesus and it is so. May we never lose the wonder of Jesus, the Living Word, who was and is and is to come. If the details of my description of the Incarnation differ from yours, that is all right. We are made to ponder this, not to break down.

Scriptures:
John 1: 14-18

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'” And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Hebrews 10:19-25
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 8:10-12 NKJV
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
Colossians 2:13-15 NKJV
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I am so amazed at Your journey from eternity to time, from heaven to earth, from omnipotence to infantile weakness, from omnipresence to a manger in Bethlehem, and from the source of all knowledge to the dim light of a baby’s knowledge, emotions, and feelings alone. May I never lose the wonder of the Incarnation. May I never confuse it with tinsel or twinkling lights or sugar cookies. This journey is the real “Joy to the World!” Amen and amen.

Song:
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne

Words: E. S. Elliot; Music: Timothy R. Mattews

1. Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

2. Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

3. The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

4. Thou camest, O Lord, with the living word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

5.  When the heavens shall ring, and the angels sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.