It’s an old saying, but can we really have writing on our heart? When we were young and preparing the small gifts for our classmates on Valentine’s Day, we carefully chose just the right candy to place in each bag. And it was the special people who received the little candy hearts with the messages written on them in red – the pink ones, yellow ones, and blue ones. And there was that special person who received the little heart that read “be my valentine.” We certainly didn’t want to send the wrong message to the wrong person!
As things touch our lives, specifically our hearts, they leave a mark on them; our first puppy, our favorite memory of our grandparents, or the moment we first laid eyes on our future spouse. There was no way we could erase those indelible writings on our heart, nor did we want to.
Joseph was no different. When he first saw Mary, he must have had the same moment all men have when they lay eyes on their future bride! The marks were so deep, he told his father he had found his future bride. He probably even bragged to his friends he would be the one to marry the beautiful Mary.
As Joseph prepared a place for his future bride, I’m probably certain his carpentry skills suffered. He didn’t exactly have precise wood-working on his mind. Just like all smitten men, his beautiful bride-to-be had written some indelible deep on his heart.
Imagine how his heart must felt when he heard the news his fiancé was pregnant. He hadn’t seen her since he paid the dowry and returned to his home to prepare a place for her, in true Jewish fashion. How could she have done this to him? He was heartbroken.
Joseph knew the law and knew what he had to do. He had to give his future bride a writ of divorce and dissolve the marriage contract. But he loved her so much and respected her family, Joseph decided to put her away privately. The writing on his heart by Mary was just too deep to publicly embarrass her or her family.
It was only when an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife did he begin to listen to his heart instead of his head. The law said one thing, but God was telling him differently. God reminded Joseph what was written on his heart – a writing of God’s plan for all the world.
During the Christmas season, lead with your heart in all matters. Treat people with the love shown to us by God. He sent his only son, to be born to loving parents, and to live the life of a lowly carpenter. Eventually, Jesus would show the same love to everyone who would accept him; the same love His earthly father taught him. Trust in God and His eternal plans!
How many times have you heard the following come out of a little child’s mouth: “I don’t want to and you can’t make me!” Young children are notorious for digging their heels in when they don’t want to do something, go somewhere, or take much needed medicine! It wasn’t their idea in the first place, and frankly it’s a way youngsters show they have decision-making power over the matter at hand (even though they really don’t!!!). We as parents then calmly explain the advantage of carrying through with our wishes, and most probably the outcome if they don’t – it’s called parenting.
All of this reminds me of the old Life cereal commercial where all the boys sitting around the table have decided they do not like a cereal they’ve never tried, just because it’s good for them. Then they say, “Let’s get Mikey [to try it], He hates everything.” Much to their dismay, Mikey loves the healthy cereal. In their effort to validate their position of resistance, the boys instead make their parent’s point for them.
Before we laugh at such events on TV and in our homes involving children, we as adults to the same thing. We are resistant to doing some things because it wasn’t our idea, or we don’t see the advantage of fulfilling the request of another. Our military is based on this premise. Today we have an all-volunteer military. It seems when people want to join instead of being drafted, they tend to have a greater willingness to succeed – a willingness to serve.
The mother of Jesus had this same attitude. The prophecy was the king of the nation of Israel would come through the tribe of Judah. Judah, translated from the Hebrew word “yadah” means praise. Therefore, Judah was known as the tribe praise. Mary found favor with God. Even though she was devout, knew the laws and the prophetic writing, she was mostly available. She was chosen out of thousands of young women in Judah to give birth to the “Son of the Most High.”
When the Archangel Gabriel brought her the news from God that she would give birth to a son, a descendant of David, and will His kingdom will never end, Mary’s response is not that of a child’s – I don’t want to and you can’t make me!!! Her response was quite the opposite. She tells Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s willingness and availability changed the world forever.
What can you do for your city, state, nation, or this world if only you made yourself available? How can you serve? How can you volunteer? How can you advance the kingdom of God? Mary could not accomplish what she did on her own. God accomplished it through her, because of her willing heart. God is ready to do some mighty things through you, but He is waiting on your willing heart. What an easy starting point for us to have! Amen!!
Well here we are, as one of my past sermons is titled “Between the Turkey and the Tree.” When Fall arrives, the shorter days seem to trigger a need inside us of adding blankets to the bed, stocking up on firewood, and dragging out the heavy afghan for cozy TV watching. And with all this preparation for the impending winter, our thoughts turn to the holidays.
Many of us plan great gatherings for a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends. We cook too much, eat too much, and afterward find Grandpa sleeping in the recliner even in the midst of the traditional Thanksgiving Day NFL game blaring on TV. Maybe it’s because of that sleepy stuff in the turkey. Which leads me to wonder if that’s why turkeys walk everywhere they go – they are just too sleepy to fly! But I digress.
As soon as the tablecloths are laundered and folded, and all the nice china is placed back in its safe place for a few weeks, our thoughts quickly turn to Christmas. It’s natural for us to do this as we’ve done it from a young age. I remember tearing through the Sear’s Roebuck Christmas catalog when it arrived in the mail, “dog-earing” the pages that had the great toys! Well, that never worked out well then, and it’s hard to “dog-ear” the pages of the catalogs on my I-pad! But why do we leave a holiday so quickly behind that has “thankfulness” in its title?
Colossians 3:15 says to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” In reading this, it almost seems as if the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Colossae tacks on the encouragement as an afterthought, as if to say “Oh! And by the way, don’t forget to be thankful!”
If we closely examine this and the surrounding verses, Paul reminds the members of the church as well as us today to be more like Christ every day in compassion, forgiveness, love, and yes – thankfulness. If you take any one of these attributes out of the equation, the rest will fail. But I believe thankfulness is not the last attribute we should have, but the first.
When we are not thankful, it’s hard to be compassionate, forgiving, and loving. But when we are thankful for everything God has given us and done for us through His Son, the other attributes flow from our hearts like a waterfall after a heavy rain. The cool midst of this outpouring touches all we encounter with the love of Christ.
So as we find ourselves between the Turkey and the Tree, let’s not forget the thankfulness of the holiday past, but carry it in our hearts and minds through the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and into the next year. We can truly make 2020 a “year of thanks” indeed!
Somewhere in the top of one of your closets or on the top shelf of your garage where appliances go to die you might have an old VHS player. Remember the tapes you used to rent from the movie store – the one with the sign on the wall “be kind, please rewind?” Yes, this is the “Video Home System” (bet you didn’t know that one) we used to play movies on, rent tapes from the stores, and even record our favorite sitcom when we were away from our homes.
The VHS system didn’t replace going to the movies, but it had certain advantages. It wasn’t as expensive as actually going to the theaters, and we could wear anything we wanted in the comfort of our own home. If you were to ask people what their favorite feature of the VHS over the theaters was, you’d probably get the answer of “I can hit pause and go to the bathroom!” We could hit the pause button, go the kitchen, go to the bathroom, or even answer the phone. No matter the interruption, hitting the pause button would allow us to not miss a single second of our movie.
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to hit the pause button. Even if we could, most of us get very anxious when things come to a stand-still and we didn’t choose the paused moment. Take for example sitting in stopped traffic on the interstate. We have a destination and a preplanned time of arrival, and sitting paused on the interstate didn’t fit in our plan. Our heart rate increases as does our blood pressure. But in those “paused” instances, have you ever seized the moment to notice things you’ve never seen before?
Look out of your window and down. What seems to be a very smooth surface as your racing down the interstate is really quite rough and, in some places grooved. An on even on one such occasion, I noticed very short grass growing in the expansion cracks of the roadway. I pondered how even in the face of adversity, with thousands and thousands of tires rolling down the interstate every day; this little sign of God’s creation is growing. Even in the midst of man’s concrete creation, God reminds us He is here.
As we come up on the Thanksgiving holiday in a few days and progress into the Advent season, I invite you to hit the pause button as often as you are able. Even if you didn’t choose the paused moment, look around and see the reminders God is with you even in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the season. Take the time to thank Him for the joy in the signs of His presence. I assure you, hitting the pause button for these “God moments” will not cause you to miss a single moment of this movie we all star in – the gift of living in God’s presence.
It was this time of year when I was a young boy when hope flowed more so than the rest of the year. The Christmas catalogs began to populate the mailbox, and the hardware store began to put up decorations in the store windows. Even the little town where I spent much of my childhood began to put decorations on the lamp poles lining main street. It was a sign of the fast-approaching holidays and all the celebrations and parades to come.
I remember one Christmas season vividly. Christmas day had come and gone, and the family was standing in the airport. The mood of the family matched the cold, rainy, and dreary weather outside. My father was about to board a plane for his first deployment to Viet Nam. As the oldest son, he pulled me aside away from my siblings and charged me with taking care of my mother , my brother and sister. It was a heavy responsibility for a ten-year-old boy. But my father whispered words to me that I’ll never forget; he said, “I’ll be back son.” They rang in my ears day after day, week after week, and month after month until his return a year later. His words gave a young man hope.
It seems there are very few sources of hope these days, with all the turmoil in our nation and even around the world. We recently celebrated Veterans Day, a day in which pride and admiration abound to those who are and have served. But we need a sense of hope daily in our lives.
Pets sit patiently in windows, waiting on the return of their owners. And when they see the car pull into the driveway or hear their voice, excitement fills their entire bodies! They even have hope in an event; one over which they have no control. We can take a big lesson from our pets.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, scripture says two men in white appeared beside the apostles. The apostles stood and watched as Jesus rose from the earth and disappeared into the clouds, no doubt with the mouths wide open! These two men asked them a very pointed question – “”Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”
After all they had been through in recent weeks and months, their hearts had to filled with hope. They had been on a roller coaster of emotions, but they stood there witnessing a physical act of their Savior ascending into the clouds. The words of these two angels gave them hope.
Jesus is coming soon. His words should give us all hope, a hope in glory. Revelation 22:20 Jesus said, “Yes, I am coming soon.” We need to prepare daily for this promise to be fulfilled!