The World of Lu

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Archive for the category “Mary Christmas”

Imagine Christmas: Blessed Assurance (part 1)

Mother-Mary-and-Baby-Jesus

As·sur·ance [ ə shoorənss ]
  • the state of being assured: as security: a being certain in the mind: a confidence of mind or manner
  • pledge or promise: a declaration that inspires or is intended to inspire confidence
  • certainty: freedom from uncertainty

The Scriptures ask us to believe that Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant and that this was a miraculous work of God.  We are told that it was communicated to her by an angel, not just any angel but an angel with a name, Gabriel who dates back to the time of the Babylonian Captivity and the prophet Daniel and long before that time.  When your angel comes with a name and noteriety you should pay very, very close attention!

Not only that but we are asked to believe that this soon coming child was Jesus the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us, the promised Savior. And Joseph is asked to believe this too. And yes Mary also!

The Bible does not mince words and presents the incarnation, God come in the flesh as fact.  However God recognizes our own internal needs for proofs and reassurance when it comes to miraculous and supernatual things. Especially ones of such enormous consequence.

So the Scriptures (mainly through Matthew and Luke) provide us additional testimony and events to bring assurance to us that all this is trustworthy and true.

As I have looked at the Biblical accounts I am fascinated with all the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. And the longer I have pondered them the more I am convinced that these assurances were first and foremost for Mary’s sake.  It would seem odd that Mary would need any further assurance after the angel came.

But notice that right after the announcement the angel in essence says “Go visit Elizabeth, no one in your town knows about the miracle she’s carrying but she who was barren all her life and was written off as too old to have children is pregnant.” Boom!

I think Mary might need a bit more encouraging assurance than even we 21st century readers.  She does not know the middle or the end of this story for she is starting from the beginning.  She would need these prophetic faith-builders as she is actually living out this amazing adventure in “real-time” not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Our assurance will come as we hear of her assurances. Shepherds, Simon and Anna, Magi… These signs and assurances will build and sustain faith.  Let us ponder and treasure God’s interaction in the life of Mary and Joseph.

The wonderful and amazing thing is that God has not stopped confirming His word in the lives of His people today.  Are you looking to God to intervene supernaturally in your life? He’s still in the business of bringing assurance… blessed assurance!

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Mary’s Christmas: “That You May Have Certainty”

Before starting our Mary’s Christmas journey it will do us good to look at the first four verses of Luke 1.  The story of Mary and the birth of Christ are loaded with the miraculous and prophetic references.  Many people of our day have a hard time when they encounter supernatural events as those we will be looking at in the Bible.

The 21st century seeker is more apt to discount the occurrence of miracles citing that scientific processes have been identified that were initially thought to have had some supernatural or extraordinary origin.  If pushed, the benefit of the doubt would definitely lean towards a natural explanation.

I believe the author of the gospel of Luke anticipates some push back even though in his time spiritual and even mystical explanations were not out of the question.  Luke will start right in with some extraordinary happenings.  Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary headline chapter 1’s phenomenal events.  But first his four intro verses! How will Luke prepare the reader at the starts of his gospel, of his Good News?

SaintLuke02Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

“Certain of the Truth”

In verse 4 Luke states the intent of his compilation, that you may have certainty…” .  Certainty in what? “concerning the things you have been taught? In the NASB translation the phrase isso that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught“.

The Living Translation says it this way… so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”

It’s worth reading once more but this time in the “Amplified” version…

[My purpose is] that you may know the full truth and understand with certainty and security against error the accounts (histories) and doctrines of the faith of which you have been informed and in which you have been orally instructed.

Orderly Account

In addition to certainty Luke says that he has set out to write an orderly account.  Others have set out to compile the information but Luke wants to investigate all the reports in close detail (The Message).  He’s determined to put all the facts together with clarity and conciseness.

The Testimony of Eyewitnesses

Not only that but the veracity of his compilation will be based on testimonies of eyewitnesses that have been in their midst and who will be significant source material.  Luke will cite the testimony of people who saw and heard the events he shares,  “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses”.

There is good reason to believe that Luke was a companion of Paul on his travels as evidenced by various passages in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles of which Luke is also the author. Paul mentions him several times. Luke would have had time and opportunity to discuss the historical accounts of the life of Jesus and his disciples.

Luke, The Physician

StLukePhysician

In the Epistle to the Colossians Paul calls Luke the good physician. He is also mentioned by Paul in II Timothy and in Philemon.

Written in Greek (as are all the gospels) Luke’s style is the most literary of all these books. Graham Stanton evaluates the opening of the Gospel of Luke as “the most finely composed sentence in the whole of post-Classical Greek literature.”  That to say that Luke is not a country bumpkin!

You would think being listed as doctor would add credibility to a document. However being listed a 1st century physician is not exactly a vote of confidence for some. Many would have you believe that a first century doctor was akin to a voodoo shaman or a snake oil salesman or a downright fraud.

This distrust I believe is ill placed as the seeking of knowledge and truth is a life long pursuit for a true physician.  To prescribe treatment based on whim and superstition is not the approach of such a doctor as Luke.

Does modern medicine discount a lot of past procedures as being based on ill-founded information?  Surely… but I am reminded of a funny scene in one of the Star Trek movies where the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to our century.  Running through a modern-day hospital the doctor from the future, Bones as he is affectionately known, stares at a dialysis patient and exclaims, “Good God, Jim, do you see what they are doing?!?  How barbaric!”

You get my point.  Though there are still more arguments about authorship, dating and other minutia I am confident in the author’s intention and veracity with regard to the Gospel of Luke’s research.  An credible truth-seeker, a learned man, an eyewitness, a doctor. I look forward to exploring the amazing events of Mary’s Christmas knowing that our good doctor, Luke has done his best investigative work for us!

Friday Review: 3 Songs 4 Christmas!

The-Nativity-Story

I have three great contemporary songs for Christmas to share with you.  I love them all and two of them are wonderful not only to listen to you but also to sing in a Christmas worship service.

Maybe you have heard of them.  They are “In The First Light”; “Breath of Heaven” and “Immanuel (From the Squalor Of A Borrowed Stable)”.

1. “IN THE FIRST LIGHT” by Bob Kauflin

bob_kauflinIn the First Light” was written by Bob Kauflin and originally recorded by Glad on the A cappella Project CD.  This song is awesome.  I encourage worship leaders to use this during the Christmas Season.  Not just about the birth of Jesus but communicates the gospel clearly. It covers the time from the Coming of Christ through his Triumphant Return.

In addition to Glad, Point of Grace, Adam Lambert and Todd Agnew have recorded it.  The YouTube link is to the Todd Agnew/Christy Nockels version.  They add a nice brief “Do You Hear What I Hear?” interlude at the end before the last line’s climax.  Here’s the first verse as a sample. For complete lyrics click this link In The First Light Lyrics

“In the first light of a new day
No one knew he had arrived
Things continued as they had been
While a newborn softly cried
But the heavens wrapped in wonder
Knew the meaning of his birth
In the weakness of a baby
They knew God had come to Earth”

Todd Agnew’s In The First Light 

2. “BREATH OF HEAVEN” by Amy Grant

“Breath of Heaven” was written by Amy Grant & Chris Eaton.  It’s often subtitled as “Mary’s Song”.  It’s a beautifully written slowamy-grant-09 song and Amy Grant’s voice on the original is brilliant.  Something about Amy and Christmas songs!

The song is sung from Mary’s point of view and portrays her as a person who is amazed at what has happened to her and battles anxious thoughts for being chosen for such a holy and profound purpose.  Yet she calls out to God using the phrase Breath of Heaven, aka the Holy Spirit.

The theme of holiness is strong in the song.  Being holy comes with the idea of being separated and set apart for a God-given purpose.

Outside of the words the arrangement, melody and Amy voice make this a special song.  The version I have linked is to a more recent live rendition.  Though Amy has lost a bit of her top range this live version does it justice.  This song is definitely worth buying or at least adding to your Christmas playlist on Spotify!

Verse 1
I have travelled – many moonless nights,
Cold and weary – with a babe inside.
And I wonder what I’ve done.
Holy Father, You have come
and chosen me now
To carry Your Son.

Verse 2
I am waiting – in a silent prayer,
I am frightened – by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this – path a-lone?
Be with me now,
Be with me now.

Chorus
Breath of Heaven, hold me together, be forever near me,
Breath of Heaven.
Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness, pour over me Your holiness
For You are holy.
Breath of Heaven.

Here are the full Lyrics of Breath of Heaven

Here is the live version Audio of Breath of Heaven

3. “IMMANUEL (FROM THE SQUALOR OF A BORROWED STABLE)”  by Stuart Townend

Much like Bob Kauflin’s “In The First Light”  Stuart Townend’s “From the Squalor” tells the story of Jesus from birth to stuart-townendtriumphant return.  Both have a modern hymn-like quality in common.  Stuart is the author of the very popular “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” both fabulous worship songs.  Townend continues to bring us worship songs that are fresh, creative and scriptural that press us into the presence of God.  Most are slow but his writing is profound and the melodies beautiful.

At the church I was at a few years ago we did the song every Christmas adding a delightful original penny whistle instrumental section before each verse.  This song does not have the notoriety of the first two but it is no less highly recommended.

YouTube has a wonderful recording of Immanuel (From the Squalor)

Worship Together has a recording plus From the Squalor Lyrics  Here’s verse 1:

Verse 1
From the squalor of a borrowed stable
By the Spirit and a virgin’s faith
To the anguish and the shame of scandal
Came the Savior of the human race
But the skies were filled
With the praise of heav’n
Shepherds listen as the angels tell
Of the gift of God come down to man
At the dawning of Immanuel

1999 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Stuart Townend’s From The Squalor of a Borrowed Stable

Mary’s Christmas & The Supernatural God

Whenever I read stories in the Bible I like to take time to reflect on the circumstances, thoughts and emotions of the characters in the stories.  I ask myself, “What was it like back then?”  “What was it like to face those kind of challenges and crises?” “Can I identify with how they responded?””How might I have responded given only what they knew?” “What was it like for them to encounter Jesus, to have the response of faith or doubt or confusion?” And what was it like to experience the amazing events the Bible so often describes?”  Many times these ordinary folks did not have a clue how everything would turn out yet followed God trusting he would lead the way.

mary-and-baby-jesus_l1

Christmas is an amazing time of year and the story of Jesus birth is filled with many  amazing people.  There’s Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna, the Shepherds and the Magi, all with wonderful stories connected to them.

During this season I hope to jot down some of my reflections, most of which will be viewed from Mary’s perspective as the central character.  I’ll call these musings Mary’s Christmas. 

What fascinates me most is being able to watch the supernatural interaction of God with Mary and the people whose lives become intertwined with hers.  It’s as if God has summoned all these characters on her behalf for the central purpose of reassuring her that all will be fine.  Her faith is not misplaced.

As I read about a young girl being told she is pregnant with the Messiah I marvel.  She had great faith.  But God knew that for any human to stay in their right mind during this whole process spiritual confirmations would be definitely in order.  In that I see God’s love and care for his creatures who are at times weak and fragile.  He does not put on us more than we can handle.   He is always there to encourage and strengthen us. At times with supernatural signs and divine encounters, at times with a relative or a close friend or even a stranger.

A glance at the beginning of the Christmas narrative in Luke 1 and immediately we see God preparing an important part for the first of what I call “prophetic encounters or confirmations”.  The story of Zacharias in the temple is all about one person’s response to the supernatural initiative of God which will later be seen as a contrast to Mary’s response. But also it is the beginning of the story of a barren woman who God will supernaturally touch with new life.  This woman, Elizabeth is being prepared for a later prophetic encounter and confirmation for the further assurance of young Mary’s faith.

I hope you will join me on what I hope will be an amazing Advent journey.  May all the marvelous events of this season come alive for you and may they bring you joy and confidence in our great God.

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