Waiting for the Delivery of a Child

In this Christmas theme of waiting, I can think of nothing better to say to sum up all I’ve been saying this week, but a special reading from The Mosaic Bible.  Imagine the world waiting thousands of years for the coming of Messiah.  Imagine Mary waiting all those months for her child to be delivered.  Imagine children in need groaning for deliverance.  Imagine “the whole creation…groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan(ing) inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  Romans 8:22-23

Here is the reading entitled “Anticipation and Preparation,” by Elizabeth Honeycutt:

The time between the conception and the delivery of a child are possibly the longest nine months of any new parent’s life.  When I was expecting my two children, the closer the days drew to the due date, the more anxious I became to meet my baby.  I washed, sorted, and put away all the newborn clothes.  I installed the car seat and tried to catch up on sleep.  I laid aside the toys and equipment for when the baby was a bit bigger.  Though I couldn’t do anything to make the baby come and I didn’t know when that happy day would be, I did what I could to avoid being caught unprepared.

As a Christian, I’m supposed to long for Jesus Christ’s return.  And when the world’s injustice, pain and senselessness bear down on me, I so long for that day.  I find myself wondering, How long can you wait, Lord?  How can you let us keep going in this mess?  I already know the answer.  It’s his grace again…giving me time to get my rooms in order, to get my mind and heart on track so that when he comes, I won’t have to regret it. So while part of me cries out, “Come, Jesus!”  the other part says, “But don’t rush!  There is so much to be done before you’re here!”

Advent is a time of remembering how the world waited–and prepared–and despaired for the Savior to come.  One day, he came.  The world has never been the same.  Advent is also a time of looking forward to his second coming, of waiting–and preparing–and never despairing.  What the angels told the disciples on the Mount of Olives so long ago they say to us today:  “This same Jesus will come back!”

How can I prepare for the Lord’s second coming?  After speaking to the Corinthians about the next advent, Paul concluded:  “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless” (I Corinthians 15:58).  I can prepare for Jesus’ coming by committing myself to do his work.  Even the smallest act is not in vain.

The months of waiting for my babies were forgotten when I first held each child.  These were Aha! moments as I met the person to whom I had already committed my body, heart, and soul.  When the Lord comes again, “in a moment, in the blink of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52), the long-anticipated, prepared-for day will no longer be someday, but today.  It’s only a dull picture of the divine magnificence, but, like the babe in my womb whom I knew and loved and yet had never seen, I also finally will see my Lord face to face.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!  May I be found prepared, even if you come tonight!

–The Mosaic Bible, pg. m36

Merry Christmas!  We’ve been given the greatest gift of all — Messiah!

Waiting for Messiah

Several years ago someone brought up the idea of asking God to reveal something new about Christmas every year.  I have done this most years since, although this year I wondered if there was anything new to ponder about Christmas.

But it didn’t take long to find my new insight.  I was reading The Mosaic Bible and this quote caught my attention:

Generations waited for what we look back and celebrate.

— E. John Walford, Mosaic Bible, pg. m20

I had never thought about this before.  But think of the thousands of years that people waited for the Messiah to come.  People waited expectantly for Him to come at any moment, generation after generation.  Children were told that some day the Messiah, the Christ, would come.

I was thinking about this idea, and that Sunday we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at church and the worship leader mentioned, again, that people had been awaiting the Messiah for thousands of years:  “Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”  Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

I knew I had something new to ponder about this year.  I’ve been thinking about all the things we wait for — to grow up, to finish school, to be married, to have children and grandchildren, to travel, celebrate holidays, or have family come home.  It seems that we all do a lot of waiting — at stop signs, in parking lots, in doctors’ offices, in airport terminals, in grocery lines.

But just think about it — Israel, as a nation, waited for thousand of years for the Savior to arrive.  And nobody waited as patiently , perhaps as Anna and Simeon:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  — Luke 2:25-26 (ESV)

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.  — Luke 2:36-38 (ESV)

What are you waiting for?

Keep Trusting

I am still recording quotes that use my word of the year — Trust — in a notebook from time to time.  This has been so meaningful and enlightening for me this year.  Here are some of the latest examples:

In fact, one of the great temptations in the desert was for Jesus to use his power to turn stones into bread and feed the starving.  But he insists on trusting the body of Christ to provide “this day our daily bread.”  [The author goes on to explain that this was seen in a CBS mini-series on the life of Christ]:  The part about the desert temptation entails a starving little girl pleading with Jesus to turn stones into bread and He says to the Tempter, “I will trust my church.” -Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution, pg. 177

God connects salvation with believing, trusting, knowing, remembering.  Yet the salvation is not in our act of believing, trusting, knowing or remembering; it is in the thing or person believed on, trusted, known, remembered.  — Horatio Bonar (Scotland/ 1808-1889), Mosaic Bible, pg. 294

She was trusting that an event would be changed rather than trusting a Person to be her strength and guide…Is it wrong to pray specifically then?  No!  Biblical faith prays for specific concerns and makes specific requests, but it leaves the results to God because it trusts in God’s character…Jesus was not praying out of human expectations (Mark 14:36), but out of deep trust in God’s character and love.  And as a result, he yielded to God’s plan rather than being disappointed that God was not doing things his way.  — Dudley Hall, Grace Works, pg. 98-99

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  — Romans 15:13

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and over comes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.  — Luke 11:21-23

Trust me and live and breathe in my love.  — Anita, Missionary in South America, editor Beth Moore, Voices of the Faithful, pg. 334

My dear son, I hope now to go before you:  follow me thus as much as you value your soul, for besides this there shall be found no other way to salvation.  Thus, I will now commend you to the Lord; may he keep you.  I trust the Lord; may he keep you.  — Maeyken Wens, just before being burned at the stake in Antwerp, Oct. b, 1573

Great Quotes — Eleven

It’s time to share some of the best quotes I’ve come across lately.

I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning.  And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.  –Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, pg. 114

I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.  –Ibid, pg. 113

It is such a strange joy to feel myself getting smaller, weaker and more insignificant, and then realize that it is the weak that the Father almost always uses to conquer the darkness and spread His glory.  –Dustin, West Africa; Voices of the Faithful (Beth Moore), pg. 303

Ezekiel showed them.  He showed them that God was and would be at work in the wreckage and rubble, sovereignly using the disaster to create a new people of God.  –Eugene H. Peterson, The Invitation, pg. 117

If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.  –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mosaic Bible, pg. 256

Calcuttas are everywhere if only we have eyes to see.  Find your Calcutta. –Mother Teresa; Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution, pg. 89

Namaste=I honor the Holy One who lives in you.  –Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution, pg. 80

Humility is about knowing and acknowledging and revelling in your place under God…Does my approach with people match Christ’s or would others say I’m in it for myself?  –Mark Hanlon, Senior Vice President, Compassion International

No one man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true. –Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosaic Bible, pg. 247

Then He said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel:  ‘It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s armies.  Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him!  …  Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”  — Zechariah 4:6-10 (NLT)

Life and Breath

One Wednesday night at prayer meeting a couple of weeks ago, our pastor mentioned the coming new year, and it was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  New Year!?!  Oh no!  Which Bible will I read in 2011?  What devotions will I study each morning?  What will be my new word of the year?  I felt so unsettled.  This year, I’ve been reading a very special Bible and writing notes in it to give to Sarah for Christmas.  She was very pleased and surprised when she unwrapped this gift.  She had seen me reading it throughout the year, not knowing it would be hers.

I told her not to worry about missing a day every once in a while, but to just keep reading the daily sections, even if it takes 2-3 years instead of one.  A person should never feel “guilty” for missing a Bible reading — just keep going another day; never quit, because God has so much to say to you.

For a devotional, I went to the Bible book store and ordered a book I knew I wanted to read  — Beth Moore’s book, Voices of the Faithful. It’s wonderful!  The writings are from various missionaries around the world and are very thought-provoking.  Thirdly, on my cellphone, I have a devotional reading program and will be reading The One Year Book of Christian History, by Michael and Sharon Rusten.  I’ve read this before, in the regular format, and I know I will enjoy it again.

I wanted to start reading through a Bible to give to Chris next Christmas, but we are waiting to get the one he wants me to read.  I had purchased The Mosaic Bible for him with this in mind, but he had just finished reading the NLT and would like a different translation.  So I’m still going to read the Mosaic Bible this year, one day per week, on Sundays (it’s arranged in the liturgical year so has readings for each week rather than each day).  I’m loving it!  The writings come from all continents, all the Christian centuries, and all races.  I am really enjoying it so far.  He will receive this Bible back when I’m finished with it, but we have ordered an ESV Study Bible for him that I  hope to http://www.amazon.com/Study-Larger-TruTone-Walnut-Design/dp/1433523930 soon.  For that reading, I will follow either a chronological daily reading plan or one from the American Bible Society that skips around through the scriptures.

Finally, I needed a new word for the year.  On that Wednesday night several days ago, I began praying for God to give me a new word and the one that came so strongly to me was “Trust.”  I purchased a new blank notebook and began writing down scriptures and quotes that use this word (even before the new year, while keeping up the 2010 notebook on the word “ways.”  I know, it’s sort of like cheating, but the verses were coming at me quickly!).  These “words of the year” have been so meaningful to me that they are with me every day.  I am constantly aware of the ways God is using them to teach me more about Himself.  I almost choke up when I hear one of my words; they have been so vital to my growth in Christ.

After God gave me my word for 2011, I went to church to play the piano for the service and there on the piano was this reminder of my word.  I have no idea who placed it there (I hadn’t shared my word with a soul yet), but you can be sure I will be keeping it close in my sight while I worship in music this year at the keyboard.  God is so good!

I can’t begin to tell you how much all these devotions mean to me.  No matter where I’m reading, it will always be exactly what I need that day.  Topics agree in the various books I’m reading.  God speaks clearly.  For instance, on days that I’ve been particularly discouraged or concerned for our kids, He will give me the same scripture over and over — year after year — no matter what day or book or translation I’m in at the time.  He always comes back to me with that same scripture that He has encouraged me with for 24 years now (sorry, but I hold this verse too close to my heart so share it with you).  But He’s real.  He’s close.  I can’t live without Him.  He’s my life and breath.  I wouldn’t miss my mornings with the Lord for anything.

This is life for me, and I love it.