Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: December 2021

Mary, What Did You Know?

Mark Lowry, according to his own words, has one hit song, “Mary Did You Know?” The song has been covered by several mainstream artists. It is a Christmas standard, and will no doubt endure time.

It was only a matter of time before music / lyric critics analyzed the song. On social media, one can read statements like, “yes, Mary did know.”

This isn’t news, but the holiday season is filled with inaccurate accounts of our savior’s nativity. Ask my wife. She will tell you that for years that I have displaced the magi from the manger scene, to a separate table, marked “two years later.”

This doesn’t go well, as one can imagine.

Mary didn’t ride a donkey to Bethlehem. The innkeeper isn’t named, and there is no record of him/her being grouchy. We have no idea how many wisemen there were. The king isn’t asking for peace, he’s trying to kill Jesus. There is no little drummer boy.

All of that doesn’t ruin the Christmas story!

What Mary knew or didn’t know doesn’t change the miracle of Christ coming to earth. Still, it begs the question, what did Mary know?

  1. Mary knew that she was a virgin, engaged to married. It wasn’t the angel’s announcement that made her a virgin, or the text that would be scrutinized for centuries; she knew. A woman knows if she’s a virgin! Mary testified (Luke 1:34) “how can this be, since I do not know a man?” Believe it or not, this one issue has been one of the most argued over parts of the Christmas story. Certain translations of the Bible read “a young woman.” I would submit that Joseph was a virgin as well, because the gospel of Matthew testifies that he didn’t have sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus was born, (Matthew 1:25).

Why is this important? Prophetically speaking, it means that what Isaiah said, came to pass! “A virgin shall conceive…” (Isaiah 7:14). Practically, it means that two persons committed themselves to a holy lifestyle. I suppose that it seems antiquated, but God is still looking for holy and set apart people to work through.

2. Mary knew that she was going to bear the Son of God. The Jewish people of that day longed for Messiah / Christ to come, (the Jewish people of today long for the same!). When the angel announced the specifics of the birth of Jesus, Mary received the information as it related to the coming of Messiah. It was after her inquiry, “how can this be?”, that the angel continued to inform her that Jesus would be “the holy one…the son of God.” A few verses later, Mary says, “let it be, as you have said.”

What does it mean, that we would spiritually respond in kind? God is still looking for vessels to incarnate himself into. Her will was the key. Our will is the key.

3. Mary knew that life would not be normal for her. When Jesus was taken to the temple for circumcision, two prophets were there. Mary was told that her soul would be pierced. Mary “treasured these things in her heart.” As Jesus grew, she began to realize the difference; from when Jesus remained behind to discuss Torah, to when she insisted that He perform a miracle, to when she and Jesus’ half brothers & sisters showed up to take Jesus back home.

Historically speaking, when God reveals Himself to anyone, no one has the full understanding. Faith is believing what God said, accepting what He reveals, and moving forward into it. Did Mary know? Yes and no. The God of revelation performed a miracle through her, and now, as Mary testified, “all generations will call me [her] blessed.”

Amen, Mary. We are blessed.

My Worst Christmas Ever

During the War Between the States, Henry Woodsworth Longfellow wrote “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” For Longfellow, the war was very personal. He was an abolitionist, and despite this, his son Charley joined the Union Army. Merely a year before, Longfellow had lost his wife in a tragic fire; she had accidently lit herself on fire. Now with his son in the war, before Christmas of 1863, Charley lost his leg in battle. Longfellow’s testimony in the poem was that hearing the bells of the church that day transformed him from despair to hope.

In 1990 Faith and I lived in Ft.Riley, Kansas. I was a Sergeant in the Signal Battalion. Desert Shield was already engaged, and Desert Storm was on the horizon. On December 22 of that year, we were deployed to the Persian Gulf. We arrived in Saudi Arabia on 25 DEC 1990.

There were no bells on Christmas Day. As Dorothy said, “we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Back in Kansas, families were unsettled. Hundreds moved in with loved ones, as did my wife and three young children. Our youngest was less than six months old.

I remember having to correct my son over some small infraction just before we loaded up on the bus to leave Ft.Riley. Two months later I spoke to him on the phone. He said, “I’ll be good, daddy.” He thought I had left because he misbehaved!

Getting off the plane, I was now in the cradle of civilization. Abraham had walked this land. Our savior was born, due west, about 1,000 miles.

So, this Christmas there would be no time with the family, no special dinner, no visions of wide eyed wonder in my children’s eyes. Daddy was called away for a mission.

When I consider that winter away from my family, it becomes a stark reminder of what the mission of Jesus was.

Philippians 2 describes how that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled himself and became a man. “…who, although He existed in the form and unchanging essence of God [as one with Him, possessing the fulness of all the divine attributes – the entire nature of deity], did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped or asserted [as if He did not already possess it, or was afraid of losing it]; but emptied Himself, [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of diving equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man]. Amplified Version.

He set aside his glory, and became a human. He left the splendor and glory of heaven to be  incubated in His own creation, (the womb of Miriam his earthly mother). He went on to live a life of self denial, rejection, and ultimately to suffer at the hands of angry people, and even to die the worst kind of death; torture and crucifixion… and all to accomplish the mission!

The passage in Philippians goes on to say that “because he stooped so low… God has highly exalted Him.”  The mission was accomplished. Hallelujah.

May I encourage you, this season? Perhaps it will be the first Christmas without family, or without your spouse. Perhaps 2020, 2021 have been rough for you, more than others. It may be that even harder times are ahead.

Take courage. God never wastes a hurt or an anxiety or any of life’s disappointments.

You and I can be “incarnated” like Mary/Miriam was with the wonderful word of God. This gives us great hope, that no matter what life may throw at us, He is WITH us, (Immanuel). He is IN us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” He is FOR us, “if God be for us, who can be against us?”

No matter how low it may go…God will exalt you in due time.

I came home in late April of 1991. My wife kissed me. My kids clung to me. We had a grand reunion, and many to come!

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