Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Double Portion

The spicy aroma greeted him as he burst through the door. Eager to find its source, he hurriedly dismissed his books and papers, leaving them to be scattered about the entryway as he rushed into the kitchen. What delectable treat would he find today…strawberry cupcakes or maybe even chocolate chip cookies? Oh the anticipation! Squealing with delight, he could not contain his joy when there on the counter he saw, not one, but two little men fashioned from dough, smelling of ginger and dressed for the holidays in icing of green and red.

Impatiently he watched his mother wrap the fragile figures, careful not to injure a tiny arm or leg. Already the thought had come; it would never do to enjoy such a treat alone, he must find someone to share in his good fortune! Gently he placed the treasure in his pocket, savoring the moment he would taste of its sweetness.

Late afternoon sunlight was still attempting to warm the frozen landscape as he scampered back outdoors. Passing the neighborhood playground, he hesitated a moment, scanning the crowd. Yes, there was some who looked familiar, but none worthy to share in his great wealth. With quickening steps he walked and soon arrived at his destination, the now deserted schoolyard. It was here his friends would always meet, here they would shout and laugh as they engaged one another in a game of basketball or a race around the building. It was here they had shared so many wonderful moments together. But today it was quiet, no sound of footsteps echoed in the empty corridors as he sat waiting on the slide.

The last rays of sunlight danced across the empty swings and jungle gym, no longer could he remain idle. Caught up in the imagination of the young, he spent the waning minutes of the day as a conquering hero in some far off land, scaling castle walls as he fought off fire breathing dragons. It was only when darkness brought with it an urgency to start for home that he remembered the quest that brought him there to the playground. Now he must hurry home, his mother would be watching for him.

Across the field he ran, jumping the irrigation canal, scooting under the hedge, quickly hopping the neighbor’s fence until at last he came upon the street that led to his home. Pausing to catch his breath, he was hit with a keen sense of disappointment; his mission had failed, he had found no one to share in the wonderful treasure still tucked away in his coat. Still, tomorrow was another day, and with renewed enthusiasm he stopped to unwrap the small parcel, to gaze once again at his precious gingerbread boys, only to discover where once two faces full of promise had smiled back in return, all that remained were crumbled pieces of a gift that would never be shared.

If you look closely, you may find an area of your life where God has blessed you with a double portion. Too many times we safely tuck away that which we consider to be ours, intending to share it someday, even as we become entangled in a world that consumes our every thought and action. It may be your time, your talents or your resources, but the day will come when you arrive home and your Father will ask how you have shared that which He so freely gave. Oh that we may hear His words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fear Not

The announcement was made, the details explained and without hesitation, the young woman responded with a courage that causes me to pause and marvel, “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” With those few, simple words , Mary humbly accepted all that God had promised to fulfill in and through her as she would be the chosen vessel to bear the King of King and Lord of Lords.

I have often wondered when, and if, the first wave of fear and panic filled her heart. Did she cling to the words the angel had spoken, “Fear not, for thou has found favor with God”, even as her thoughts raced with the implications of what she now must do. Was it with excitement or hesitation she sought out her beloved Joseph, eager yet so hesitant to tell him of all that had transpired. How exactly does one explain that which is inexplicable, all the while knowing it has been given from the very hand of God.

Such questions I can only ponder, but this I do know. Joseph was told and then, with haste, Mary did what any woman would be wise to consider; she gave God room to work in the life of the one she held so dear. Leaving her little village of Nazareth, Mary arose and travelled to Juda, a journey of several days, to be with her cousin Elizabeth. There she would spend the next three months without email, without phones, without ever contacting Joseph, all the while wondering, what did the future hold?

Such patience seems archaic in our instant society. We want decisions and we want them now. We want information and communication that we might have some indication of what is taking place. Oh that we might learn from the example of this handmaiden of the Lord. What God has promised, God WILL perform.

Patiently Mary waited, not prodding or pouting, but rather praying to the One who alone could bring Godly wisdom and understanding to the heart and mind of her beloved Joseph. Hear her words as she reflects upon the One who has seemingly turned her world upside down, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Patient and praying, she proceeded to put her hands to the task at hand, that of practically helping her cousin Elizabeth, who, in her VERY old age, was heavy with child. For three long months Mary remained, tending to the needs of Elizabeth, helping with the housework and the cooking, lifting the load that Zacharias might otherwise have had to bear. Once THEIR promised child, John, was born, Mary knew, it was time….time to go home and learn what decision Joseph had made.

Joseph, surely such a Godly man must have agonized over his choices, petitioning the Lord for an answer to the seemingly unanswerable question, “What should I do?”

The law said she should be stoned, he had the right to demand it, but his love would not allow it. He could quietly divorce her, but that would cause her to bear the brunt of shame and disgrace that would surely be heaped upon her. Or he could marry her, knowing full well the whispers that would follow, the scorn that would be heaped upon them, even, perhaps, by their own family and closest friends.

Like Jacob of old he must have wrestled.....and then it happened. Perhaps even as Mary was slipping back into the village under the cover of night, perhaps it was at that very moment that the angel appeared unto Joseph with the answer, not only for Joseph but for all humanity, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and THOU SHALT CALL HIS NAME JESUS: FOR HE SHALL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”

And then Joseph did that which every wise man would find it well to do, he obeyed the Lord. As the dawn broke he rushed to take Mary as his wife; cherishing until the day he died the one who had patiently waited and prayed for him, trusting that God does all things well.