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 21, 2011

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

In recent years angels have become so common place that perhaps we've lost sight of how significant they really are. A few years ago there was a fad where people collected angels, decorated with angels, had a guardian angel ornament hanging from car rearview mirrors, and put bumper stickers with various angel sayings on their vehicle. Its as if some people began to worship angels and made a religion out of it. Psalm 91:11 says that "He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep [guard] you in all your ways." But those guardian angels are rarely seen. Although there have been rare reports of people seeing angels, that is not an every day occurrence and I daresay that most of us will never have that experience.

I think sometimes we tend to think that angelic visitations in Bible times is something that many people experienced. But in reality, angels were sent to give a special message from God. In the story of the birth of Jesus there were several times that angels appeared. God sending His Only Son to earth was the greatest gift He has ever given to mankind, and He wanted to make sure everyone knew that this was the Promised Messiah and not just another baby. So God enlisted His most trusted heavenly messengers to go speak on His behalf.

Leading into the birth of Jesus, the first angelic visit is found in Luke 1:11-20, when Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, who was a priest. Zacharias and his wife, Elizabeth, were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord (Luke 1:6), but they had no child. Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. It was Zacharias' duty as priest to burn incense when he went into the temple. A multitude of people were praying outside at the hour of incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias. When Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. I think that would be a typical reaction of most people.

But the angel of the Lord said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. You will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God."

Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years." Sound somewhat familiar? Abraham basically had this same conversation several hundred years before this, when he was told that he and Sarah would have a son. "We're too old, Lord! Surely, You're wrong!"

The angel answered to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."

As soon as the days of his service were completed, he departed to his own house. After that, his wife conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, "The Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

Six months later, Gabriel made yet another appearance. Luke 1:26 says, "Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!' But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest...." Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know a man?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.' Then Mary said, 'Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.' The angel departed from her. Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and returned to her house. Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.

Meanwhile, Joseph received an angelic visit. (Matthew 1:18-25) After Joseph and Mary were betrothed, Mary was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought of these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took to him Mary as his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Joseph and Mary had to make the journey to Bethlehem in order to be registered in a census, ordered by Caesar Augustus. While there, Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Shepherds were watching their flocks that night when an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid. Then 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 Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be sign to you; you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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."

Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem approximately two years. Wise men came seeking Jesus, bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After they departed, and angel of the Lord once again appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." So Joseph arose and immediately obeyed the words of the angel. When Herod saw that he was deceived by the wise men, he was exceedingly angry, for he had ordered them to return to him after finding the child to let him know where Jesus was located. Herod sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

When Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared one more time in a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead."

Joseph arose and took Jesus and Mary to Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth.

The birth of Jesus was extraordinary. It's hard for me to comprehend God sending His only Son to this earth, in human form, knowing the purpose that He would be required to fulfill. The beginning of Jesus' life was spectacular and miraculous. Mary is the one and only virgin to ever conceive a child by the Holy Spirit coming upon her and placing the seed of God within her womb. God sent His heavenly messenger to go give Mary the great news. God sent His angel to go give Joseph the news of what was going on with his betrothed, and instructions on what he needed to do. God sent a whole host of angels to go sing, "Glory to God in the highest," to those shepherds out on that hillside watching their sheep, the night that Jesus was born. Then Joseph had an angelic visitation in his dream to tell him to leave Bethlehem and travel to Egypt to save the life of Jesus, when Herod sought to destroy and kill Him. Then two more times, scripture records angels speaking to Joseph in his dreams to tell him when it was safe to leave Egypt, then to turn aside and reside in Nazareth.

On a side note, I don't know the significance of this, but I find it interesting that God sent Gabriel to both Zacharias and Mary to give them the news of the upcoming births of John and Jesus. Then a whole heavenly host of angels appeared to the shepherds to proclaim the birth of Jesus. But the four times that the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph, it was always through a dream.

The birth of our Savior was no ordinary birth. God sent His one and only Son to earth to take on the human form of man. But He knew when Jesus was born that morning, what the future had in store for Him. God looked down upon His Son, knowing that He would be rejected, abused, spat upon, and crucified. Why? Because of His great love for us. Because of the sin of mankind, He knew that the only way for us to have eternal life and not perish was for Jesus to die in our place. Salvation is the greatest gift that God offers us. It's not health, wealth, comfort, happiness, material possessions, or a great family; although those things make our life on earth easier and richer. But the greatest gift we can ever accept from God is forgiveness of our sins and the hope of eternity in heaven. Christmas and Easter go hand in hand, for you really can't have one without the other. You can't celebrate the birth of Jesus, without also realizing that because He came and died and rose again from the grave, we are promised forgiveness of our sins if we but ask.

So this Christmas take a moment and stop to thank Jesus for being willing to come to this earth to live and die for our sins. Celebrate His birth; but also celebrate His life and resurrection and that blessed hope of spending eternity in heaven with Him!!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

I wonder about odd things sometimes. For example, I wonder about the life Mary went through in the nine months she was expecting. She had three months with Elizabeth. It's good to have family to stay with. But her fiance was considering how best to call off the wedding, till an angel told him to marry her. She was probably nervous, especially when she started to show. What would people think? Surely they knew she wasn't married, yet.

Mary knew that she was going along with God's will. She knew she'd done the right thing. But how many people would judge her and condemn her without understanding (or believing) the facts? We can go through similar on a smaller scale, too. God may push us to witness to someone, or to take a stand, or to talk with a stranger. We wouldn't do something so profound as carry the Son of God, but we don't want to risk what others might think.

ON THE MENEWE:

Christmas Wassail

3 quarts apple cider

2 tsp. lemon rind (don't have to use)

2 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks

5 cups pineapple juice

1/4 tsp. Nutmeg

2 large oranges

1/2 cup honey

Cloves

1/3 cup lemon juice

Push cloves into 2 large oranges about 1/2 inch apart. Place in baking pan with water. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. Heat cinnamon sticks and cider in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 5 more minutes. Pour into punch bowl and float spiced oranges on top. Can use cinnamon sticks for stirring. Makes 40 cups. Can reheat, if needed.

LAMB TALES:

A few days ago my sister received an unexpected "gift" - her first ever speeding ticket. The funny part about the whole thing happened as they were driving away. Devin, her 9-year old deaf son, was in the back seat and turned around and gave the officer a thumbs up. The officer kindly gave him a thumbs up in return. I'm sure Devin thought it was cool to be pulled over with those flashing lights behind them, so was thanking the officer for the thrill being stopped.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org