THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"

Luke 15:4-6

December 17, 2008

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

I remember how excited all of my sister were when each of their children were born. They all lived away when their babies were born, so I was never able to go to the hospital and see the babies right after their birth. The only exception I can think of is the birth of one nephew; but I was under age twelve, and hospital regulations at that time prohibited me from being able to go into rooms and visit. But I remember all of my sisters calling shortly after each child's birth to make the announcement that their family had an additional member.

They would be excited and their voice filled with joy as they would give all the details about their new son or daughter. Listening to them, I too would become excited. I could hardly wait to see my new niece or nephew and hold them in my arms. Even though we were separated by miles, my heart shared in the joy of my sister and brother-in-law.

Now I'm a great-aunt, several times over, and I'm too far down the line of extended relatives to get the calls from the new parents. But whichever sister is the new grandma will call and share the news.

There is something exciting about a baby being born, which causes you to immediately want to share the news with other people. Throughout the years, whenever I've received word that another tiny member has been added to our family, I always think, "Okay, who can I call or email and tell this news to?" I don't want to take away from the new parent's or grandparent's excitement of telling others, so try to think of individuals whom they will not think to call and tell. There is something very special and miraculous about a child coming into the world, which makes people want to spread the word.

I remember when my sisters had a baby and would come back "home" to visit that first time after the birth. They wanted to show their child off to everyone. They were anxious for family and friends to "ooh" and "ah" over their little one; and enjoyed attending the church they grew up in so that even more people could see their little bundle of joy. Parents want others to share in their happiness and admire their newborn.

Now, whenever I see cousins whom I haven't seen in quite some time, they want to show off their grandkids, so will pull out pictures that they "just happen" to be carrying in their purse or pocket. They are proud of their precious grandbabies and want everyone to see their pictures. That's okay, and I'm glad to look at them (at least for a while). But I also find it a little humorous. Most of my sisters and female cousins are all grandmothers now, so when any of them get together they'll visit for a few minutes, then before you know it... here come the pictures. If any of them forget to bring pictures with them, they'll make up for it by telling stories. They all think that their grandkids are the cutest and smartest, and you can hear the pride in their voices as they talk about them.

I was reading about the birth of Christ in Luke chapter two, and began thinking about this. Mary was engaged to Joseph, when an angel appeared to her and announced that she was to be the birth mother of the Messiah. I wonder if during her pregnancy, Mary assumed that she would be surrounded by the support of her family and friends when the birth took place. She was young, and had more than likely lived in Nazareth all of her life and was acquainted with all of the people who lived around her. Mary felt very honored to be chosen to carry the Holy Child in her womb. But like most young women, she also may have wanted to have her mother or a special aunt or midwife there with her when she went into labor. She may have thought about the birth of this special baby, and dreamed of sharing that moment with those closest to her. But that was not to be.

Shortly before her delivery date, a decree went out that all the world should be registered for tax purposes. In order to do that, everyone had to go register in their own city. Joseph was from the lineage of King David, so he was required to travel from Nazareth in Galilee, into Judea to the city of Bethlehem. Mary had to go with him in order to be registered. After their arrival, the days of her pregnancy were completed and it was time for the birth of Jesus.

Bethlehem was crowded, due to the influx of people there to register. I'm sure that Joseph did everything he could think of, trying to find a room for Mary; but there were no vacancies anywhere. Finally, he found a stable where they were allowed to stay. Was Mary frightened when she realized that, not only was she going to have her first baby alone, away from all her family and friends, but she was going to give birth in a dirty stable? This was probably not how she had envisioned the birth of the Messiah.

Recently, I heard a pastor talk about the stable in Bethlehem. He and his wife have been there, and were able to see the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem is built into the side of a hill, and the stables there were not the wood structures that we see in the nativity scenes or imagine in our minds. There is now a church built over the stable where Jesus was likely born. The stable was just a small cave that was in the hillside. Like most caves, I'm sure it was dark and dirty. And since animals were kept there, it probably didn't smell very good.

Joseph was a carpenter, and I can see him looking around the stable with a creative eye, trying to figure out how to make Mary more comfortable. Perhaps he found some straw or leaves and fashioned a small bed for her to lie upon. I can imagine my husband in that situation doing everything within his power to make me as comfortable as possible, and creatively coming up with ideas of how to afford me as much privacy and comfort as he possibly could. While Mary was in labor, I can picture Joseph looking around for something to use as a cradle in which to lay the baby after the birth. He found a manger from which the animals ate. I'm sure he carefully cleaned it and ran his hands across the wood to make sure there were no splinters that would hurt the newborn baby. Then he probably got some fresh straw and carefully filled the manger to try and make it as soft as possible. Perhaps they had a blanket or cloth with them, or he took his own robe and gently laid it over the straw so that the baby would be warm and safe. Joseph knew that Mary was giving birth to the Messiah, the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. This baby was given into his care by God. He must have felt a strong sense of responsibility. I'm sure he felt helpless when he couldn't find a room in an inn where Mary would be more comfortable.

Although Joseph was the earthly father who loved, protected, cared for, and raised Jesus; he was not the biological father. Mary was a virgin and Jesus was placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Although Joseph was given the responsibility of being Jesus' earthly father, the true Father of Jesus was God. It's an amazing thought that God, the Creator of all mankind, formed and shaped His Only Son when He was in Mary's womb.

When the birth occurred, God was excited and wanted everyone to know that His Son had made His arrival onto the earth! I can just imagine, as He looked down from heaven into that manger, His heart swelling with love for His Son. He couldn't let this event go by quietly. God sent some angels on a very special mission. There were some shepherds in a field, watching over their sheep. God gave instructions for the angels to go announce the good news of the birth of His Son -- the Messiah. I can see these shepherds all gathered around a fire, talking about their families and things that had happened out in the field that day. Perhaps some of them had dozed off. Suddenly a bright light shone around them and an angel appeared. Needless to say, they were terrified!

The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Then the angels returned back to heaven.

The shepherds said to one another, "Hey, let's go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."

The birth of the Messiah didn't occur in the splendor and grandeur that many expected. He experienced a very lowly birth. And who better to make the announcement to, then to a group of lowly shepherds. What an honor it was, to be chosen by God to be the ones to receive the greatest message the world has ever received! God had sent His Son to earth; go see this Child and rejoice!

After seeing the Christ child, the shepherds spread the word which was told them by the angel concerning this Child. They just couldn't keep the good news of this birth to themselves, but told everyone who would listen; much like we do today when there is a newborn baby in our family. All that heard the news, marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. And then those people began telling everyone that they saw, and on and on.

Much like today, all it takes is one announcement to be made by the new parents that their child has been born, and by nightfall the news has been far spread. The new mommy and daddy tell the grandparents, who tell the uncles and aunts, who pass it on to other family and friends. Good news, such as a birth, spreads very quickly.

God sent His angels to make the announcement about His Son's birth to a group of shepherds, who began to spread the word as soon as they had seen the child. Those whom they told began to spread the word to those whom they knew or met, and on and on the word about the birth of the Christ Child was widespread. I'm sure by the time that Mary and Joseph left Bethlehem, all their family and friends had already heard about the birth. Perhaps others who had come to register heard the glad tidings, and as they journeyed back to their hometown, they told all those they passed on the road and spread the word in all the villages they passed through.

Although it has been a few thousand years since the birth of the Christ Child, each year on December 25th, we still celebrate His arrival on earth. Although it has been a long time since Jesus walked upon this earth, may we never forget this great Gift that God sent to mankind. Not only one day a year, but every day, may we each be filled with excitement at the good news that the Messiah has come and made a way for us to receive salvation. May we joyfully declare that Jesus has come and made a way for us to spend eternity with Him. I pray that the story of Jesus never becomes boring or insignificant to us. But just as the shepherds ran to see the Christ and proclaim the news of His birth, may we each be filled with joy and excitement as we tell others about Jesus.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

We all know how excited children get waiting for Christmas. Mostly, they are excited about what they will receive in gifts. Older kids and adults also get excited about giving. The anticipation can be too much for many people. My wife, for one, insists that we open at least a few gifts one night early.

The jews when Jesus was born had anticipated the birth of their Savior, the Christ, the Messiah. Once they found out He was born, they were more excited than if they had a dozen colorful boxes under a tree.

We get to look forward to Jesus returning, too. He will come back. He is coming to take His people home. Jesus told his disciples, "There shall be two women grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. There shall be two men in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left." (Luke 17:35-6) This is what is often called the Rapture.

The dictionary may describe rapture as an intense pleasure. But it comes from the latin word for 'seizing'. It first meant being taken in a spiritual sense. Later, it came to mean being overtaken with emotion.

There is a little debate about when the Rapture will take place. In particular, will it be before, during, or after the Tribulation? It's hard to go by The Revelation since it seems to go back and forth through time. But the most compelling reason I have to believe the Rapture will come before the Tribulation is that The Revelation mentions the believers who die during the Tribulation and those who survive to the end. And those two groups seem to be different from those taken to Heaven in the Rapture.

We have the same difficulty with looking forward to Jesus' return as the Jews had waiting for Him to be born. We don't have much clue when it will be! But that doesn't have to slow us down. I can hardly wait.

ON THE MENEWE:

** I will admit that I'm not a big fan of divinity; actually I personally don't particularly care for it. But I know that a lot of people really like it, so here are a couple of different recipes for divinity. These are from the church cookbook, where I grew up. I know that the lady who put both of these recipes in is an excellent cook, so I'm sure they are both very good -- if you like divinity.

Raspberry Divinity

3 c. sugar

2 egg whites

¾ c. light corn syrup

1 (3 oz.) pkg. Raspberry gelatin

1/2 c. hot water

1 c. chopped nuts

Cook sugar, syrup and water together over medium heat until it reaches the hard ball stage (250 degrees by candy thermometer), stirring often. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy, then add the gelatin and continue beating until egg whites stand in peaks. Slowly beat in the hot syrup mixture; continue beating until a test spoonful will hold its shape. Add nuts and drop quickly onto waxed paper or pour out into a greased dish or pan and cut into pieces.

Pretty Holiday Divinity

3 c. sugar

2 egg whites

¾ c. light corn syrup

1 pkg. Red or green gelatin

¾ c. hot water

1 c. chopped nuts

¼ tsp. Salt

1/2 c. flaked coconut

Butter sides of heavy 2 quart saucepan and in it combine first 4 ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, till sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Cook to hard-ball stage (250 degrees) without stirring. Remove from heat. In a bowl, beat egg whites till soft peaks form; gradually beat in gelatin till stiff peaks form. Pour hot syrup slowly over egg white mixture, beating constantly with mixer at high speed till soft peaks form and mixture starts to lose its gloss. Stir in nuts and coconut. Drop by spoonful on waxed paper.

LAMB TALES:

Here is a picture that I recently ran across of my sisters and me taken one Christmas -- probably around thirty-eight years ago. The back row left to right is: Shirley, Joyce, Linda, and the front row is Janie and me. I'm of course, the littlest one. I was looking at our pitiful looking tree. It is a real tree, and the star on top looks homemade out of gold foil. There is a hole in the center where you could put a bulb from your Christmas lights through (that's back when the bulbs were bigger and not the mini-lights you see today). We only have that one little rope of silver tinsel that wrapped around the tree one time. The tree is looking pretty sparse and dry and seems to have lost a lot of needles around the top, so this may have been taken after the tree had been up for several days. Even thought the tree may not be very pretty, we girls seemed to be happy and smiling. I'm sure I was more interested in what was under the tree and not the tree itself!

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

"And all those who heard it [about the birth of Jesus] marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:18, 19)

Why do you supposed Mary did so?

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

Only one more week until Christmas! And this week, it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Temperatures have dropped and we've had sleet and icy roads. If we have to have bad weather, I'd prefer the beauty of snow.

During all the shopping and planning and running to and fro, take a moment and remember the true reason why we celebrate Christmas. It would be a shame to celebrate the birth of Christ by ignoring Him.

We love you!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read our newsletter. We appreciate you very much.

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org