Make Room For Him

 

“There was no room for them in the inn”
( Luke 2:7)

Reflection:
In an age when there were no telephones, emails or ordinary mail services Joseph and Mary took their chances with accommodation. And, when they reached their destination of Bethlehem, they found that all the available places had already been taken. There was nothing suitable to be had for a heavily pregnant mother bearing the Son of God and Saviour of the world.

Right from the beginning both Mary and Joseph learned that a close association with the Lord might have many blessings and privileges – but comfort was not necessarily one of them. They had suffered both social and emotional pain and now were met with not only physical discomfort but what might have felt like rejection and a lack of understanding from God.

Jesus confirmed this during His ministry when He told a would-be follower,

“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
(Matthew 8:20)

John the Baptist’s role was ‘to prepare the way for the Lord’ amongst the people to whom He would come. Jesus role was to seek out and save the lost. It was only as He prepared to return to the Father that He spoke of preparing a place for us. Until we reach that place we are on a journey with the Lord – it will not be all ease and comfort.

However there is a key point we need constantly to have at the forefront of our minds. Is there room in my mind, my heart and my spirit, and in my everyday life and living, for the Lord Jesus  – or is He pushed out by the affairs of the world?

Response:
We prepare a place for the Lord whilst He prepares a place for us with the Father.

Prayer:

Lord God, please help me to keep my eyes and attention on You and not just on my own affairs, comforts and pleasures. Amen.

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And so to Bethlehem

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
 that a census should be taken
of the entire Roman world”
(Luke 2:1)

Reflection:
Caesar Augustus reigned over the Roman empire from 30 BC to AD 14. He decided that a census should be taken throughout his empire. This was not a regular occurrence but the first of its kind – and taxation was probably the reason behind it. The consequence was that people travelled to their own town to register, and this involved Joseph going to Bethlehem, ‘because he was of the house and line of David.’

Joseph did not need to take Mary with him but he obviously decided or agreed to do so. We know that she was in the advanced stages of her pregnancy and he may not have wanted to leave her behind in view of the Lord’s commission to him.

These two men were both involved in Mary’s being in Bethlehem when Jesus was born there – just as the prophet had foretold.

  • But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2)

Caesar, who would not have known of the prophecy or of Mary and Joseph, issued a decree that had to be obeyed. Joseph, as a husband, took the decision that Mary should accompany him. In this way the prophecy was fulfilled and God’s will achieved.

In just such seemingly unrelated and small details is the hand of God at times to be revealed. He is indeed able to direct the thoughts and decisions of people in order to achieve His will, and He is able to work in all things to the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Question:
Can I discern the Lord’s working in my life?

Response:
Trust God to guide and lead you in the way that you should go (Psalm 32:8)

Prayer:

Lord please have Your hand on my life so that whether I am aware of it or not I will live and act as You wish, Amen.

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Mary and Elizabeth

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
(Luke 1:39-41)

Reflection:
God had begun this new part of His salvation plan with two mighty acts – both of which involved women in a special way.

Elizabeth, who had mourned the fact that she could not have a child, and had suffered the social indignity as a result, was delighted to be pregnant – even in her old age. And her son would be the great and promised forerunner of the Lord – one of whom Jesus would say,

“This is the one about whom it is written: “`I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John;”
(Luke 7:27-28)

Elizabeth also had the privilege of meeting the Saviour’s mother, and knowing it at the time. It must have been a very special time that they enjoyed together, after Elizabeth had greeted her,

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary was obviously conscious of the great honour that had been bestowed upon her, even although she could not at the time have realised what would be involved, or the pain that she would have to bear when Jesus was into His ministry. The Holy Spirit was clearly inspiring her when she exclaimed,

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name”

(Luke 1:46-49)

Our lives can seem very ordinary to us at times, and we may feel that we are stuck in a physical or social backwater, where some of the blessings that others appear to enjoy have passed us by. We never know when God may come to us, or use us to fulfil a special purpose of His. Our names may, or may not, go down in history as did those of Elizabeth and Mary – but even the smallest stone in a Temple is of great importance, both  to the whole and to the other stones around it. Each is hand-picked by God! – and with a specific purpose in mind.

Response:
Allow God to choose how to use you, and thank Him that He does.

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You do know the hearts and longings of Your people, and that You do, indeed, have a special purpose and plan for each one of us. May Your will be done in me also. Amen.

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Mary and Gabriel

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,
a town in Galilee,
to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph,
a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary”

(Luke 1:26-27)

Reflection:
After four hundred years of silence God spoke twice within the space of a few months. The first was to Zechariah and the second to Mary. In both cases the message was delivered not by a prophet but by the angel Gabriel – underlining its huge importance and implication. They both concerned the birth of a child – firstly John the Baptist and then Jesus.

The message to Mary contained three important elements.  Firstly ‘you are to give Him the name Jesus’ – which indicated that His mission would be to save.

Secondly, ‘He will be great’ – for He would also be called ‘the Son of the Most High.’ – This was an acknowledged messianic title and Mary would have understood it that way.

Thirdly, ‘He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.’ –  Here was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Gabriel painted for Mary a picture of a child who would be Saviour, Son of God and King – three stunning titles. Mary was both ‘greatly troubled’ and obviously mystified by the message that Gabriel delivered – and would have been overawed when He explained further,

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God … For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37)

Both from the message and the manner of His conception Mary would have known that this would be no normal child.

We can only imagine what it must have been like for her to come through such an experience, to face up to telling Joseph – her husband to be – and see his initial hurting reaction , and to inform her family as well. And then, when she had the time to let it sink in and  to reflect on it all, to come to terms with the growing realisation and understanding that for all eternity she would be the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The challenge to us to not just to believe in this marvellous happening some two thousand years ago. It is also to realise that as Jesus was born through Mary into her world by the Holy Spirit, so He should be born through us into our own worlds by that same Holy Spirit. Our ministry is to allow Him to make Himself real through us.

Question:
Can I give the same answer that Mary gave?

Response:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38)

Prayer:

Lord You have chosen to come and live within me. Please help me to believe and know that reality – and to allow You to shine through me into the world in which I live. Amen.

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Set free

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”
(Luke 22:62 MSG)

Reflection:
This has to be one of the most heart-rending moments in Scripture.

The big, bold and impulsive Peter had boasted of loving the Lord enough to die for Him. And now merely a few hours later, when Jesus was alone and could have done with a friend, he had denied knowing Him three times. After the third occasion Jesus turned and looked at him and Peter knew that the Lord was aware of what had happened, just as He had foretold it.

In that terrible moment Peter would have felt the full impact of His betrayal. He had broken relationship with his beloved Lord and Master, he had turned away from the Messiah, the Son of God, and therefore from God Himself. He was worse than Adam, worse even than Judas, for he had no excuse to offer. In his mind he would have revealed himself to himself and others as a nothing, a loud-mouthed imposter with whom no one would wish to associate. He had lost his self-respect, dignity and privileged position of leadership – in fact he had lost everything. There was no turning back, so in self-loathing he wept in despairing desolation.

“He went out and cried and cried and cried”

I am reminded of King David’s great cry of anguish to the Lord as he looked into himself and saw the horror of the sin of which he was guilty – and knew that he could not live with it.

  • “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4)
  • “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2)
  • “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

And God does. He forgave and cleansed David and still referred to him as a man after His own heart. And although Peter did not then know it Jesus was to forgive and heal him, and was to restore him to his position of leadership in the Church.

God forgives because He loves us enough to want to – not because He is unwilling. Let Him forgive you too.

Response:
No sin is too desperate for Him to forgive and cleanse.

Prayer:

Lord please help me to bring my sin and despair to You and not to hold on to them. Amen.

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(Photo (c) Catherine Bondonno)

Come in!

“Put out into deep water,
and let down the nets for a catch.”
(Luke 5:4)

Reflections:

Jesus had been teaching the people from Simon’s boat. When He had finished He told Simon to move it into deeper water for a catch of fish. The reason was quite simple – you don’t net large schools of big fish in shallow water.

So many people exist in the shallows of life. However Jesus lived a different type of life and called His disciples to follow Him into it.

He promised to grow them in new ways – “I will make you..” (Matthew 4:19); He gave them the life-changing empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2);  and He provided them with special gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Clearly they were not going to spend their time ankle-deep in life – in fact they would all ‘walk on water’ many times. He also has a grand purpose and great plans for each of us,

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The key is the call of Jesus. He always meets us where we are and then calls us to follow Him into a new way of living, and a better one.  We are not all expected to be great public figures, but we are all intended to be involved in blessing someone’s world and in bringing change and healing into some situations. The more we follow Him the more we will notice Him at work – and the deeper we allow Him to take us the greater the acts of God that we will see. Jesus is establishing His Kingdom.

There is no greater satisfaction, when you look back over your life, than knowing that you have been allowed to invest it in something significant – and in ways that has been a blessing to others. To catch a glimpse of how the Lord has been at work in, through, around (and in spite of !) us is humbling and wonderful. What a privilege, what a blessing and what an experience. Praise God indeed!

Response:
Where is Jesus calling you to go deeper with Him? Ask Him.

Prayer:

Thank You Lord Jesus for calling me into Your life and purpose. Please help me to follow You and not to linger in the passing shallows of the world. Amen.

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Home Awaits

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him:
 Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you”
(Luke 15:18)

 

Reflection:
We may call Jesus Saviour and Lord but that does not mean that all areas of our lives are in submission to Him. This becomes a process that takes place over time as we journey with Him. We may be aware of some of these areas whilst others may appear on the way and take us by surprise. As long as they remain independent they will hinder our life with the Lord and prevent us from enjoying the fullness of the life that He has for us.

The prodigal son’s whole life had imploded on him and this is what eventually brought him to his senses. In his spiritual shame and isolation he did the only thing left open to him – he went home. There to his astonishment and delight he was welcomed, embraced and celebrated. The healing had begun.

When we realise that there are parts of our own lives that are distant from the Lord the most important response is for us to pick them up and take them back to God. This is where they belong and this is where the healing and restoration can happen. The longer we try and cope or fix them by ourselves the more difficult it may become.  As we take them to God we meet His love, His acceptance of us, His embracing and supporting arms, and His strength and help.

It might happen that in parts of our lives we keep wandering off again – pursuing some pleasure or giving in to some weakness. If this is the case and as soon as we are aware of it we need to go back with it to the Lord and ask Him for His forgiveness, healing and strength. Keep going home until you never leave again. This is not an invitation to become casual in our life with the Lord but an acknowledgement that some battles are harder and longer than others, for a whole variety of reasons.

Your home is in the Lord. Your forgiveness and healing is in the Lord. Your life and fulfilment is in the Lord. Bring all of yourself to Him all of the time – He will never reject you.

And now realise too that you are surrounded by people whose lives, or a part of whose lives, are distant from God. Some of them will feel isolated from Him whilst others will have no sense of Him at all. Inside each one of them somewhere is a lonely son or daughter who also needs love and encouragement as well as help. It might be that you are their only link at this time. Ask God to point out to you the one/s He wishes to reach and start by holding them faithfully in your prayers – asking for God’s light and blessing in their lives.

Response:
Have I any desert areas? Take them to the Lord now.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus I come to You as I am and ask You particularly to forgive, heal and set me free in these  areas of my life ……  Please accept them and bring them under Your Lordship and authority, for Your glory.  Amen.

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