Mark 16:1-8 – The Empty Tomb

Read Mark 16:1-8

When is an ending not the end? When death ends in a victorious resurrection! The tomb was empty! Jesus is alive!

You also noticed that Mark’s gospel abruptly ends (in most ancient manuscripts) with verse 8. The sentences that follow here are thought to have been added to help bring a better closure to this climatic ending.

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Zechariah 4:1-14 – A Lampstand and Two Olive Trees

Read Zechariah 4:1-14

You’re not alone if this fifth vision of Zechariah left you perplexed. It’s not only strange but hard to understand. I’m hoping we can unpack it a little and let the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts the intended message for our reflection. Even the angel’s explanation left me scratching my head.

It helps to remember that this section of the book is focusing on who is leading those exiled people now returning to Jerusalem. This vision points to the new governor, and kingly descendent, Zerubbabel. You may recall Haggai mentions Zerubbabel—now it’s Zechariah’s turn to shine the light on the leader God had chosen.

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December 22 🌟 Mary’s Visitor (Luke 1:26-38)

Read Luke 1:26-38

An angel visiting Mary

In a moment, Mary learned from her visitor (the angel) how her life, and ours, would be changed forever. As we prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming, both his birth and return, this passage will always be pivotal and precious.

Imagine a young bride-to-be caught up in the excitement of planning a wedding and starting a new life with the man of her dreams. Now in Mary’s time and culture, it’s not necessarily a given that she would be head over heels in love with her husband to be. But in my imagination of the scene, she was feeling a bit giddy for the big day. This visit from the angel would have been quite a game changer, leaving Mary with so much to ponder.

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Luke 1:26-38 – Favor With God

Read Luke 1:26-38

Now it’s Mary’s turn to be visited by an angel with some unbelievable news. I imagine she is happy to be engaged, looking forward to her new life with Joseph as her husband. Perhaps there are wedding preparations underway. Weddings in those days  and in that culture were quite different, sometimes lasting for days. There would be a lot of people attending, sometimes the whole village.

But now, an angel appears and turns these plans upside down. But don’t we all long to hear these words, “for you have found favor with God!” That had to stop Mary in her tracks. As unbelievable as it sounded, she seemed much more willing and accepting of the message than Zechariah had of his own message in the last reading.

After trying to clarify how exactly a virgin could give birth, Mary was at peace. I love her words, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”  She was indeed the Lord’s servant. She was going to give him all she had – her body, her future, her trust. How willing are we to do the same?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Mary, Did You Know?  Click here for song. The words are so beautiful. Having been pregnant myself, I know the joy of having a baby growing inside. But how different it would be to know the baby was God?! At each thought, there had to be a extra jolt of joy, coupled with fear.

As young moms, we already fear the responsibility. We already fear that we will fail our children. Imagine if your child was God himself. God chose to come to earth as one of us so that he could feel what we feel. While he created us, to truly understand our weaknesses, he had to become one of us.

I really respect Mary and her bravery. She understood her culture and what this would do to her reputation. From this reading however, it is clear that all she could do was thank God and surrender to him. We should take this good example and be ready to surrender ourselves. Are you holding yourself back from a full surrender to God?

What job has God given you to do? What do you think your purpose is for God’s kingdom? While we have all been gifted something, we don’t all use those gifts. Our purpose is to use the gifts God has given us to help those around us, to further his kingdom here on earth, and to make a difference. We are God’s hands and feet,  and we should be ready to do his will and serve others as he would serve.

Let’s pray. Father God, I thank you for the gifts you have given me. The joy and peace I feel when I use them for your glory is astounding. My wish for everyone is that they would experience this true joy. Don’t let me ignore your voice. I want to serve you, help others, and make this world a better place. Soften the hearts of those who resist. Provide understanding to those who aren’t following you. Draw me closer to your heart, oh God. Let me, too, find favor with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Luke 1:1-25 – Are You Serious?

Read Luke 1:1-25

As we embark on the Book of Luke, we are just a week away from Christmas. I realize you may be reading this post sometime in the future, not necessarily in December, and that’s okay. The Bible is always alive, and we can be “certain of the truth.” The message is always fresh and new.

Luke’s perspective of the birth of Jesus comes from Mary’s perspective, wherein Matthew’s account is from Joseph’s perspective. Today we see how God’s plan for bringing his son into the world actually started with Mary’s relatives, Elizabeth and Zechariah. God wanted someone (John) on the ground, setting the stage, to prepare the way for his son, the Messiah.

John’s parents were righteous and without children. We are told they were very old. I love when God uses the faithful, especially when it would be unexpected. We get a glimpse here of how priests did their work in those days. Was it by chance that Zechariah was chosen that day to enter the sanctuary? Or, had God been waiting to use that opportunity to make his move?

What was Zechariah’s response? He was “shaken and overwhelmed with fear.” I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing my response would have been much the same. We just don’t see angels every day. While we might hope for an angelic visit and a prophetic word from God, if it actually happened we might be a little afraid. At least a little.

What a message Zechariah heard. Quite unbelievable, I would say. What was running through Zechariah’s head? I’m sure his prayers for a son had ended long ago as they were now old. Now, to hear from God himself that the child you had longed for would be “great in the eyes of the Lord…filled with the Holy Spirit…a man with the spirit and power of Elijah,” all to prepare the people for the coming Lord. What a message! 

I can understand his moment of unbelief. It was all too good to be true. But his hesitation and doubt led to his not being able to speak…for months! That miracle is also incredulous, don’t you think? But what a bold statement God makes here.

God wants us to trust him and his word to be true, too. We should not question it. Even though we may not understand it, the message is from God, and that should be enough. What doubts are you struggling with today?

God can use us all for his purposes. Don’t we have the same assignment John did, to prepare the way for Jesus? It might look a little different, only because Jesus has lived, died and been risen again. Our story has even more dimensions than John’s would of at the time. Are you keeping it to yourself?

We must now prepare people for Jesus’ return. We don’t know when that will be, but we do know we need to be ready. That is what the season of Advent is all about. It’s placed before Christmas in the church liturgical year, but it is really something we should be proclaiming year round.

Advent means “coming” in Latin, so in church circles it is the coming of Christ. He has already come, and we wait for his second coming. I’ve also heard it said Jesus has come three times, once in Bethlehem, once into our hearts, and the last when he returns. Jesus does lives in us through his Holy Spirit, and we are empowered by the Spirit to do great things.

What are you doing for Jesus this day?

Let’s pray. Father, thank you for including me in your story of love and redemption. I marvel at how your plans are always so perfectly orchestrated. May I give you free reign in my life so that you work miracles through me. I don’t know what you have in store for me, but I look forward to each new day with anticipation and expectation. I pray for my children as they walk through life, that they will come to know you and appreciate all that you have done for them. May the wonder of the miracle of Christmas continue to grow in my heart this Christmas season. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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