Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unspeakable Joy!

As a backdrop to the birth of Christ, there was a woman, His cousin, named Elizabeth. Finally her prayer has been answered.

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."  -- Luke 1:24-25

Unspeakable joy!  The Lord blessed Elizabeth with a child in her old age. For many years she was unable to conceive, a heart-ache today, but an utter failure and disgrace in Elizabeth's time.

But Elizabeth hid herself for five months.  Why?  Was it the custom of the day?  Was she afraid her joy would show before she could bear to speak of it?  Before it was safe?  What if she miscarried?  Today, being pregnant, our assumption is there will be a healthy child born.  No so in Elizabeth's day.

But he was, her baby, healthy, strong and many would rejoice in his birth, especially Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah.  Baby John was an answer to prayer and to the prophesy, as soon she would discover when she met her cousin Mary.  It was too wonderful to be true!  But there it was.

Likewise is Christmas.  God Himself leaving heaven to come and rescue us.  Not because we are good and deserving.  No, we are all on the "naughty list!"  Jesus did not come because we were good little girls or boys, but because He is good and loved us.

But yes, unspeakable joy, it is true.  He came for us, Jesus as a baby, born to a poor woman, hiding Himself in plain sight for 30 years.  In the end, as John was, the truth became manifest.  Jesus is the answer to prayer and to prophesy.

Jesus is our unspeakable joy!

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." -- Luke 1:13-15

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

First Thought Wrong

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  ~ Matthew 1:18-21

I first heard this term, first thought wrong, in Philip Yancey's book, What Good Is God?  In his chapter entitled Why I Wish I Was an Alcoholic, Philip talks about an alcoholic in recovery who figures out that most first thoughts and impulses he has were wrong..."I need a drink---No you don't you know where that leads." Recovery for him was finding friends who taught him to have better second thoughts, and for him to stop to choose these better second thoughts.

That struck a chord with me.  How often my first thoughts are wrong!  Here I found in reading the Christmas story, that even for Joseph, his first thought, although it was one filled with mercy and integrity, was wrong.  It wasn't what God wanted.  God had a bigger thought.  A far better thought. Joseph "considered this" and the Lord was faithful to speak to him in a dream.

How often I want to think I have "arrived."  I have learned better and can go with my impulses, my first thoughts.  But no, over and over again I find my first thoughts are still wrong.  Even if they are not wrong, how much better to stop and consider and pray to God to ask if He has a better, bigger thought.  Yancey points out that alcoholics have a step up on us because they understand they are only one drink away from falling.  So they know they must be diligent, stay close to God and to their community, where they find continued mercy for failures and strength to carry on.  And tough love when they need it.

I need this too.  I need to take every thought captive, every time. I need stop and ask God for a second thought, a better thought.  His thoughts, that are always greater than my thoughts.

Father help me never think of myself "too recovered" to consider my first thought is wrong!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5