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She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. Luke 2:38 (NLT)

God’s message of hope never changes. God’s message of hope never grows old. Just as God’s message of hope never loses its effectiveness, neither do his messengers. Religion tends to hold on to tradition and thus lose its voice in society, or adapts to a changing society and loses its message of hope.

The prophetess, Anna, is a perfect example of the fact that age never disqualifies you from ministry. Nor does age rob you of the ability to minister effectively. Scholars disagree somewhat on Anna’s age. Some think she was 84, some think she was a widow for 84 years. Either way it’s safe to assume Anna was…OLD!

Even so, her age never kept her from seeking God. She was always in the temple. Some think she may have even been employed there. At any rate she was in the temple worshipping, praying, fasting and seeking God.

While her age may have kept her from performing some of the duties of the temple, it didn’t stop her from the most important part of the believer’s life. She prayed often and spoke to others about God’s love, forgiveness and hope.

She no doubt gave courage to the fearful, words of encouragement to those in desperate times; wisdom to those facing uncertain futures; offered praises to God when people found victory in their faith.

It’s interesting that when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to offer sacrifice and to dedicate him to the Lord the baby was seen as nothing special. No fanfare greeted the new parents. No public announcement of the baby born in a manger.

The only ones to ‘see’ the couple and the baby on that busy temple day were two elderly people who had spent a life time seeking after God. Anna never lost her desire to serve. She never lost her focus on what was important: Prayer, worship, testifying to the hope we have in God’s provision of forgiveness and hope.

I’m thankful today for the Anna’s of our world. To those dear saints who haven’t let their age detract from their ministry. To those who may not understand all the ‘new things’ in the world, but embrace them and use them to further the Kingdom. Age is never an excuse for lack of effectiveness for God.

As the old hymn states so well:

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, Lord Jesus, ’tis now.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for those who have grown old in you yet young in spirit and in faith. I ask that you would encourage them with your spirit and that those of us who are younger would not lose sight of their usefulness to you and to us. Amen.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. Luke 2:25

So many times in the Bible we read of people who come on stage for one short scene and then are gone. Simeon was one of those people. Historians and theologians have speculated about who he might have been, the son of Hillel, a great teacher in Jerusalem, a member of the Sanhedrin, etc. But we really don’t know who he was and it’s probably not important we know. If it was, God would have revealed that to us.

Simeon reminds us that God works through the common people; through those who have just a few lines in the drama of life. We look for the big parts. We all want to be stars, but reality is, God’s best work is done through the ‘also ran’s’. It’s not the size of the part we play that is important, but our actions when we are on stage that count.

Just like us, Simeon lived in a very dark time in the life of the nation Israel. They lived under the control of a godless government. They were being taxed without hope of relief. Those that were paying attention saw the signs of something on the horizon, something good, the consolation of Israel.

Most of us don’t have any idea what it’s like to live as captives in your own land, but the Jews did. They sought freedom. They sought comfort. Those who were aware of the downward spiral of their society eagerly waited for the Messiah to relieve their pain.

When Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with their new baby he was immediately recognized by Simeon. Simeon praised God for the arrival of the infant. His life was complete. He’d checked off the final item on his list. He could die in peace now because the Messiah had come.

What allowed Simeon to recognize the Messiah is available to each of us. First of all, he was continually watching the signs in anticipation of Messiah. It’s so easy for us to be distracted by world events and miss the main event. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by that Simeon didn’t look for Jesus.

Secondly, Simeon didn’t allow himself to be affected by the godless society in which he lived. He focused on his relationship with God, not on the religious and political issues of the day. His lifestyle allowed him to live with integrity. He was esteemed my men and pleased God.

Lastly, Simeon lived in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. During his time on earth, the Holy Spirit came upon people for a time and would leave. Today we have the privilege of having the very Spirit of the living God indwell us from the moment we accept Christ. His Spirit gives us power to live in integrity, comfort in the midst of pain, and the ability to see Jesus when he comes to us.

As followers of Jesus Christ, our responsibility isn’t to be thrown about by every doctrine, every fear, every prognostication of ‘world experts.’ Ours is to wait, watch and worship.

PRAYER: Father God, empower me with your Spirit to walk as Simeon did. Give me patience to wait for your coming, wisdom to discern the signs and a passionate worship of Jesus. Amen.

The time came for Mary and Joseph to do what the Law of Moses says a mother is supposed to do after her baby is born. They took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the Lord, Luke 2:22 (CEV)

Plain and simple reality of it is, church can be boring. Depending on the style of worship, many churches do the same thing at the same time, and, at times, for reasons unknown.

It’s really no wonder that the younger generations question why we do the things we do and why we do them. It’s a sad reflection on the body of Christ that entire church families have been split because some wanted to things done differently and others wanted to protect the ‘status quo.’

Things haven’t changed much of course. During the time Jesus walked on earth the worship in the ‘church’ was pretty much the same as it had been for hundreds of years. Offering sacrifice, celebrating feasts, making pilgrimages were all a well orchestrated process with little room for deviation.

The key to true worship then, just as now, was attitude. I wonder what was going through Joseph and Mary’s head as they entered the temple that day! They had no doubt witnessed many dedications of children in their lives. They’d seen the ceremony, watched the sacrifices, and perhaps joined in the celebration.

The Law of Moses demanded that each child be dedicated to the Lord. Boys were dedicated about 40 days after their birth, girls a bit later. But each child was taken to the temple and sacrifices offered to the Lord.

There can be many ‘theological’ opinions on the method and the process of the dedication, but the reason for this activity was to present the child before the Heavenly Father, the one who formed him/her in the womb. The earthly parents come before the Heavenly Parent to give back to him what he’s given to them.

The main player in the process was God, not the parents.

Do you think Mary and Joseph were a bit more aware of that fact as they entered the Temple than other parents? They both had conversations with angels. They’d heard the report of the shepherds. They’d seen prophecy fulfilled before their very eyes. And it wasn’t done yet!

While none of us as parents have had angelic visits proclaiming our children to be the ‘Messiah’, we all have the same responsibility that Mary and Joseph did. We all need to realize that our children are not our own. They are on loan to us from the Father who created them. Our responsibility is to nurture them throughout their lives in a way that glorifies their creator, not our tradition.

The dedication of a child to the Lord (regardless of the method) is much more than a ritual. It’s much more than a one-time occurrence. Dedication of our children to the Lord is the beginning of a process, not the end. The responsibility of teaching Gods’ ways falls on the parents, not the church (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

Dedication of our children to the Lord is much more than a ritual and lasts a lifetime.

PRAYER: Father I pray for our families. I pray that parents will rely on you for the wisdom to teach their children in your way. I pray for children, that they may find the freedom in Christ to live fulfilled lives. In Jesus name, Amen.

A Story of Mary and Joseph

(Following is a story of what might have happened in the life of a young couple whose future was dramatically changed by the visit of an angel)

#5 Angel visit (1)The world is full of great love stories such as Romeo and Juliet, Love Story and many more.  Stories in which boy meets girl, adversity comes and is overcome, and the couple lives happily ever after.

Mary and Joseph could be such a couple. They were the perfect couple.  When you saw them walking down the street, they would naturally get your attention.

Joseph was a rugged carpenter. His dark complexion and broad shoulders gave him a look of toughness. His hands were rough from hours of working with wood in his carpenter shop. His dark hair and eyes gave him a look of fierceness when you first saw him. As you got to know him though, you began to see in those very eyes a man of tenderness and quietness.

While he could make a piece of wood do exactly what he wanted, life was different. Under the strong muscles lay a soft and tender heart.  He knew wood, but he knew people better and this knowledge of people led him to sensitivity to God.  He had a keen awareness of the letter of the law. But beyond the letter of the Law was the purpose of the Law which showed God’s mercy and compassion.

He had a cunning awareness of society’s expectations and demands. He was a man of justice. Those that lived reckless lives needed to be held accountable for their actions.

He was also a man of mercy. He was well aware of the fact that there were those who put the laws and opinions of man above the intention of God. When he looked at a criminal, he didn’t just see the crime but the person behind the crime.  He walked a mile in his brother’s shoes.

Mary was tender and kind woman. Actually, she was just a girl, but she had wisdom beyond her years that was evident in a strong spirit. Women weren’t educated like they are today, but her wisdom far surpassed the academic knowledge of men of her day.

She enjoyed life. She could laugh at a good joke. Cry with a hurting friend. Comfort a child. She was industrious. Even though her frame was small, it contained a strong resolve to do what needed to get done.

She was a people person. She not only offered sympathy to the hurting, she felt their pain. Perhaps it was because of her own poverty, she always seemed to reach out to the down and outers of society.

Mary also believed in God. Her life revolved around the temple worship. She saw the empty religion of the Pharisees and earnestly desired the coming Messiah.

She was a busy woman, yet never so busy that she couldn’t help Joseph with a project or listen to a neighbor, or play with the neighborhood children.

How they met is a mystery. We have no record of their families, or their past.  Both of them had royalty in their blood, being descendants of David. But, that was far removed from where they found themselves now.

The hamlet they lived in was a little village of perhaps 200 called Nazareth. Nazareth got no respect. The rampant violence and immorality, along with its size gave Nazareth a poor reputation. Along with that, the Roman soldiers stationed outside of town usually had “their way” with many of the village girls. No one could be trusted in Nazareth. Nothing good ever came from this dusty little town.

Mary and Joseph were a bright light in this dark part of the world. Both were God-fearing quiet types who followed God’s law as best they could. Soon they would be married officially. For now, during this time of betrothal they would remain as faithful as any husband and wife might be before God…That is until the visit.

He found out about it on one of their walks through the countryside. He still remembers the pain in his stomach as she told him her story. He looked into those eyes of love and saw the girl of his dreams, the one who meant more to him than the world itself, except of course for

God. One thing was for sure. The Law was on his side. No one would fault him for prosecution to the fullest extent of God’s Law. From the time of Moses it had been in writing. Adultery was wrong and punishable by stoning.

But what if her story was true?  Even if it were true, what would his family say? To continue on with the marriage would be admitting that the child was his. That made him as guilty before God and man as she was.  She said she was leaving soon, to visit her cousin Elizabeth. When she got back, he would have an answer.

She’d never seen a real angel before. She’d heard stories of them from the times of the prophets. But it had been almost 400 years since anyone had heard any direct message from God. The angel said his name was Gabriel. He called her ‘the favored one of God.’ Even in the pain she felt now, she smiled at that phrase. Imagine, her, Mary, a chosen one of God! She looked at the poverty that surrounded her. It was hardly the surroundings of someone chosen of God.

Then the angel told her she was going to have a baby. She was only 14 years old! Other girls her age had gotten pregnant. Some were stoned to death as adulterers. Others were married in arranged marriages which little had to do with love, and much had to do with the dowry available.

Joseph was such a kind and loving man. She would be honored to have his baby. Then she heard the angel again say she was going to have a baby…now.  But how? She was a virgin. She had never, nor would ever be with a man outside of marriage. It was against God’s law. It was against the way she was brought up. People would never understand.  How would she tell Joseph? What would be his reaction?

The angel told Mary that her cousin, Elizabeth, was also with child. Suddenly she realized a need to talk to Elizabeth. She would go at once. But first, she had to tell Joseph. That’s why they were on this walk.  They’d often taken walks before to discuss the wedding, to pray, to discuss the prophets, to worship together. No walk would be harder than this one.

She swallowed hard. She felt like all of her insides would spill onto the ground if she opened her mouth. What would he say? Maybe she shouldn’t tell him until after. Then she heard her voice:

“Joseph, I’m pregnant. I saw an angel Joseph. He told me that it was from God. I’ve never been with another man Joseph. I love you, you only. Please believe me.”

She saw the hurt. He was quiet. She’d never known Joseph to speak quickly or rashly. They walked on in silence for what seemed like miles. Finally, it was time for her to go. She looked on more time into his eyes of love mixed with hurt.

“I love you Joseph. I’ll be back in three months. Will you wait for me?”

He bit his bottom lip, and nodded slightly. Then, she was gone.  That night, on his bed he prayed and cried. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. Joseph struggled with his options.

Mary was pregnant. He knew it was not his child. Was it the child of God? Who would believe a story like that? Over the weeks that followed, he mulled over his options. He could legally take the dowry and have Mary stoned. He could just take the dowry and let her go quietly. He could go ahead with the marriage and deal later with the ridicule and possible punishment he would receive for not prosecuting this woman caught in sin. Should he exercise his legal rights and ignore her pain, or should he think of her feelings and go against the law?

After days of struggling, he finally came to his decision. When she returned from Elizabeth’s he would divorce her quietly. No dowry, no public disgrace, only a release from the marriage contract. It didn’t feel right, but it would have to be that way. In spite of his love for Mary, he would have to do what he felt was right in the eyes of God.

Then, suddenly, he saw it. It stood right before him in bright white robes. Light seems to emanate from its entire being. It was an angel!

“Joseph! Don’t be afraid. Mary’s story is true. The child within her is from the Holy Spirit of God. She will give birth to a son that you will name Jesus.”

So, her story was true. He lay back on his bed. His faith restored. He couldn’t wait for Mary to get back from Elizabeth’s.


infant-jesus-born-01But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Mom’s amaze me. Sit and listen sometime to a group of mother’s talking about their ‘babies’. They compare their pregnancies, the stages of development of the child, whose member of the family they resemble the most. I love the “She has her daddy’s [nose, eyes, ears, hair]. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but I never could figure that one out.

It must have been an incredible scene in the stable that night. Mary, a young, unwed mom. She was in the hometown of her husband, miles from anyone she knew; having just endured what must have been a grueling donkey ride, especially being nine months pregnant! Scared, uncertain, alone, even though she was in the presence of the man she loved.

Joseph. A young carpenter. The last thing he thought he’d be doing is marrying a pregnant woman. The last place he thought he’d be was a stable in the middle of the night, playing mid-wife to his soon-to-be bride!

Yet there they were. Confused, yet in awe. Can you imagine the journey to Bethlehem? Discussing over and over again the conversations they’d had with their respective angels? Wondering what all this would mean? What would happen if the baby were born in Bethlehem, or on the way!

Then the shepherds showed up. Mary’s first visitors. A bunch of smelly, rough, simple shepherds with an angel story of their own. I would guess they were a little apprehensive to tell their angel story until they found out that Mary and Joseph understood all too well about angel visits in the middle of the night!

But all that activity paled in comparison to the gift that night. The gift of a tiny infant that symbolized the great love the Father has for his children. God with us. God among us. God as one of us.

The angels proclaimed it above the dark hillsides of Bethlehem. Glory to God! Glory to him in the highest, who was and is and is to come. The king has come in the form of a pauper to lead us to new life in him. It was an amazing proclamation of worship and praise.

In the stable, Mary worshipped as well. One little phrase that we attribute to the manger scene, but as with any mom, it was a phrase that would follow her entire life: “Mary pondered all these things in her heart.”

Ponder: To reflect, to remember, to keep near you, to consider quietly, deeply in your mind.

Some of the gifts we’ve been given will be broken, used up or forgotten before the tinsel is down and the lights are put away for another year. But the most important gift of all, the baby in the manger is one that should be a ‘pondering place’ throughout the year.

The angels worshipped God in an awesome display of light and song. Mary worshipped in the quiet solitude of her heart. Worship involves both expression and introspection; revealing itself over time and depth as our relationship grows with the Father.

PRAYER: Creator God, I am in awe of your love for me. I am amazed that you left your throne and became one of us so we could find life in you. Amen.

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December 2012
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