Christmas Devotions: Remembering …The Neon Sign

Originally posted on December 19, 2011

Maps just aren’t enough for me.  I need some curious combination of maps plus highly specific step-by-step directions plus landmarks to get me anywhere.

I’m a hopeless case of lostness, the kind of girl who gets turned around in parking lots and shopping malls.  My life would be far simpler if my destinations were always marked with large neon red signs flashing, “This is it!  Turn here!!”

The prophet Isaiah knew that some day we would all see the flashing neon sign saying, “This is the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ.” He said:  “In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation’” (Isaiah 25:9).

Indeed a day will come when “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” at the very mention of Jesus’ name (Philippians 2:10).

We’re not there yet.  Many believe; many do not.

Even John the Baptist had a moment of questioning.

Years before, he had so confidently announced to a crowd around the Jordan River that Jesus was the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

But when John sat in prison, awaiting execution at the hands of a vengeful king and his devious wife, he sent his own disciples to Jesus with a question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20).

Scripture tells us:

At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor”  (Luke 7:21-23).

How could John know that Jesus was indeed the Savior?  Because Jesus’ presence had made a difference.

Jesus’ answer to John’s question was a landmark.  It was the neon sign John needed to be comforted and reassured.  Yes, Jesus was the Messiah that Isaiah had foretold would come:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3).

He wasn’t a Messiah who came just to be, to exist, to occupy earthly space for a time and then fulfill a checklist of requirements before returning to a heavenly throne.  He wasn’t punching some divine time clock and then zooming out the door at quitting time.

Isaiah had promised and Jesus fulfilled.  He came to kneel in the dirt, to touch lepers and heal them, to eat with sinners and to extend a hand of grace to a woman about to be stoned for adultery.  He challenged the legalism of the religious elite, called simple fishermen and tax collectors to be His closest followers, and told a crowd of listeners that the meek, the peacemakers, and the poor in spirit are the ones who will see God and inherit the earth.

And He came to die.  Not the painless and peaceful slipping away after a long life and a fulfilled old age.  He died the gross and horridly painful death of crucifixion and felt the full separation from God His Father as this perfect Lamb assumed all of the sins of mankind  . . . ever.

He lived. He died.  He rose again.  All because He loved us.  Because He loved you.  You and me, sinners steeped in sin, deserve a punishment that He endured on our behalf.  He did it because on our own, our goodness and morality could never achieve the perfection needed to enter into heaven.  We just can’t be good enough.

So, we head for destruction until the one day it gets personal for us.  It’s not just the angels and the shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and wise men from the East who bow down low and proclaim, “We have our savior.”

It’s us.

And we know it’s true because Jesus’ presence in our lives makes a difference.  At salvation and beyond, our encounters with Him change us.  His revolutionary impact on our hearts and minds transforms us bit by bit into His reflection.

We submit our lives to the Lordship of this Savior and allow Him to change us, totally and without reservation, because Jesus’ presence in our lives should still be making a difference.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Walk: Party Planning and A Christmas Verse

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday celebration with friends from school.  She’s almost a Christmas baby, so we decided to plan something simple for a small group of friends earlier in December, and she was determined that it be at our house.

So, all week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it acleaninggain on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the party on Saturday morning.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation.  The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

Our Christmas verse for the week reminds us that God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Weekend Rerun: Christmas Verse

Originally posted on December 17, 2011

Mary.

She’s been on my mind this week as I wrap presents, plan to see The Nutcracker, listen to Christmas tunes, bake cookies and prepare fruit trays for class Christmas parties. She’s all wrapped up in the middle of this Christmas story.

I’ve been thinking about her even more when I complain to God about what He’s doing in my life (or sometimes not doing), or when I prepare my end-of-the-year prayer list for God and realize how much it’s beginning to sound like a Dear Santa letter.

Mary received the greatest blessing from God without asking or seeking, just by walking in obedience and purity of heart in her everyday life.

Mary’s on my mind because the angel called her, “you who are highly favored!” and told her, “The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28, NIV 1984).

So often, I feel thoroughly humbled and honored that God gave me the care of my three precious daughters. Imagine how Mary felt to be asked to mother the Messiah.

She had found favor with God.  Isn’t that what we desire?  Not the accolades or rewards.  Certainly God isn’t looking for another Savior’s mom.  We do, however, long to please God and to bring Him joy.  I want Him to peer into the deepest parts of my heart and rejoice in what He finds there, just as He did with a teenage girl named Mary long ago.

I love Mary’s sweet innocence as she stood amazed that she would miraculously be with child.  Yet, the angel assured her, “nothing is impossible with God” and that was enough for her to believe (Luke 1:37).

If God wanted to stir up miraculous and impossible events in my life, I’d question and wonder, doubt, try hard to believe, believe for a moment, then feel incredulous again.  It’d be a see-saw of faith and doubt.

But Mary believed the promise.  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  I want to believe that God can do the impossible this year.

Then there’s Mary’s submission to all that God wanted to do in her life.  What the angel was asking wasn’t easy.  We think of the honor of being mother to the Promised Messiah, and yet it was entangled with pregnancy, labor, loss of a girlish figure, potential conflict with her betrothed, and societal shame.

It was messy and hard and disruptive.

Sometimes that’s what God asks us to do, skip out on the easy and step up to the difficult.  Mary was willing .Am I?  Are you?

My memory verse for this week shows her heart:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:38)

I’ll be praying this week for a Mary heart in preparation for Christmas and for a new year.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King