Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Doubt? or Wonder?

Well, this is the blog that took a long time for me to write!  I thought it would be easy.  I know a lot about Mary- don't we talk about her every year at Christmas.  Yet, I couldn't formulate what I might 'write' about her this week.  Sometimes it feels like when Leisha died- so did everything I ever knew.  I'm a new learner at so many things that it seems should be old knowledge for me.  But in many ways, that's not all bad.  I'm enjoying digging in and learning  

Thursday, I read through Luke 1 several times, pondering what it must have been like to behold Gabriel, to hear his message and to try to wrap her head around all that Gabe was telling Mary.

Friday, the book I am using through advent presented me with the story of Joseph hearing the news himself and his response to Mary.  You know, it's one thing to deal with your own emotions about something like this- but to deal with the emotions of the man you are to marry- when you are carrying a child that is not his!  Wow!  I wonder if she thought what Joseph's response would be when she humbly said to Gabriel that night "may it be to me as you have said."

Saturday and Sunday, I was on the worship team at church.  It's amazing how clearly God speaks through a service when you hear it three times.  And I sat in the service all three times because they wanted the instruments to stay in position.  So I'm pretty much sitting in the music and Barb's message thoroughly engrossed in what God was saying to me in it.  And it was totally focused on Mary!

So ... I've been pondering a couple of thoughts since then.

When Gabriel said to Mary "Hail Favored One!" she was only 12-14 years old.  A true nobody in that culture. When I think being 12-14 year olds, I realized that I was just becoming aware of things beyond myself about then.  I watched my girls make some significant decisions about what what important to them about that time.  I'm sure Mary's parents had spoken to her about life issues that she would be experiencing in the next few years.  She was already engaged to Joseph, so I can imagine that Mary was beginning to 'grow up' in many ways about this time. But could she really have imagined something like Gabriel happening just now.  How does a parent prepare a child for that?  How does a child know how to respond in such a moment?

It's not like she didn't know how babies were born- she did.  She even says, "but I haven't been with a man."  It's a response similar to Zechariah's and yet...! Zechariah had years of being aware of God at work, that God is and does what He says He is and does. Yet in his moment in the Holy place, even then he asks for proof that God could do this.  "How can I be sure...?"

Mary's question was the honest, simple response of young woman just becoming aware of God's ability to work in her own life, and not just in her parent's. It wasn't 'doubt' as much as it was 'wonder'!  How will this happen?

The other thought that was spurred by Barb's message this weekend was that Mary could have said NO!  She could have become so afraid that she ran and hide from Gabriel and from what God was going to do.  She could have freaked out that something like this would make her 'look bad' and refused to have anything to do with it. She could have CLOSED herself to His work in her life.

If she had, would God have chosen another young girl for this important role?  Or did God chose her because her heart was already open to Him.  I know that I, sometimes, sense God putting a message in my life over and over, in one way and another.  And it seems He is preparing me for something that comes later.  Did He prepare her in other ways before this moment?  We don't know, scripture doesn't tell us about her before this moment.

At first she was afraid- wouldn't you be?  No matter how old you are- an angel appearing before you is bound to make your blood pressure rise. But her response was simple, child like.  "I am the Lord's servant (bondslave)."  Was this a culmination of messages that she had heard in her soul that resulted in her immediate, "may it be to me as you have said.?"

I guess any further speculation would be just that- speculation.  But like Mary, the questions are there for my life and yours.

What is God saying to you?
What is He preparing you for?
Are you open to hearing from Him?
Are you open to responding to Him, immediately, not doubt, but in wonder?
Are you willing to live life in the 'messy' if that's what God asks of you?

The music from the weekend worship gathering was powerful in my life this week.  But one song in particular really stood out as I asked myself those same questions. I include it here!

May He BE BORN IN ME today!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's in a Question?

So I've been pondering yesterday's blog, or rather the stories of Luke, chapter 1.  More specifically, I've been curious about Gabriel's different responses to Zechariah & Mary.  Why did Gabriel take the voice of Zech when he treated Mary with compassion and further details?  What made one of them 'punishable', and the other not?

So I pulled out my Study Bible and a commentary, pulled up and went to it.  Amazing what discoveries can be made.

One of the first things that I was struck by is the timing of Gabriel's appearance to Zechariah.  This was not just an ordinary thing that Zech was doing on this day.  As a priest, Zechariah served at the temple for two one-week periods a year.  He was a member of one of twenty-four divisions in the priesthood of the first century, one of approximately 18,000 priests.  A priest only got to assist in the daily offering by going into the holy place ONCE IN HIS LIFE!   And he got that honor by being chosen by lot- meaning, they 'drew straws' sort of.  So it is that kind of moment that you train for all your life, but it only lasts for a little while.  And as is often the case, you don't know actually when it will happen.

His job was to offer incense which is a picture of intercession rising to God.   At the moment he places the incense on the alter, Gabriel appears.  How appropriate to pick a moment of worship and a time when people recognized their need for cleansing  from sin to announce this child, who would grow up to be the 'announcer' of the ONE who would take sin away from the world.

Gabriel tells Zechariah quite a bit about his son. 
The first thing was his name- John. Can you imagine being named by God? That must mean something special.

He will be a source of joy and delight for Zechariahand Elizabeth.  He will be great before GodHe will live a very strict, disciplined life.  I suppose that meant that Zechariah would need to pay close attention to that in raising his son also.   More importantly, the child will be 'empowered by the Spirit even from birth'.  Hmmm!  Too many times today parents refer to their kids as 'little devils'. What would it be like to have a child empowered by the Spirit from the time they were born?

Gabriel says that the child will be a prophet.  That he will call people to repent.  
    "He will turn Israel back to the Lord" 
    "He will turn the hearts of parent to their children"
John will be part of redirecting those who listen to his message to walk with God. He's making people ready for the Lord.

That' when we come to the question.  After being told all of this, even though he was a priest experiencing the ONCE IN A LIFETIME event, he doesn't just accept that a miracle of having a child will occur.  In his humanness, he sees a very natural objection.  He's old!  His wife is old!  He knew how it worked and it wasn't working anymore.

But this was Gabriel talking- not his neighbor down the road.  God sent Gabriel here at this moment, at this place, to give this message.  Zech had to know that given where he was and what he was doing.  Wouldn't the fear that Zech had when he first saw Gabriel keep him of 'second guessing' Gab's words now.

It seems not!  How many times is that true of me too?  Or of you?  Something extraordinary takes place and we receive  a wonderful word that must be from God and what do we do?  We step back and say 'well wait a minute, I'm not sure we can really do that- it's not the way things work.' But it was working that way.  God was speaking through Gabriel directly to him.

Zech needed to learn a lesson I need to learn as well.  God does His things in His time in His way.  If he says He will do it- it's done.  Simple as that!  It may not look like we think it will, or it should but HE WILL DO IT.

So here are my questions for this Advent Season.
What is He saying to you during this Advent Season?  
Are you listening?  
Are you even aware that He is talking to you?  
It may not be through Gabriel, but He is there using something in your life to speak what He wants to do in you.

When Zechariah didn't believe the angels words, he was actually doubting God.  That was why Gabriel responded by taking away Zech's voice.
What's your response?  
Are you believing what God is saying, or are you making excuses for how it won't work.  
Remember, this is God at work!  

Hmmm!  Much to ponder.
So how does this compare to Mary's response?
Well, I think I'll leave that for tomorrow!
See you then!