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Peter & Shannyn – Monday, Dec 16
Fireside Story – Joseph’s Letter Home (From JoyfulHeart.com)
We’re still in Bethlehem–Mary and I and little Jesus.
There were lots of things I couldn’t talk to you about last summer. You wouldn’t have believed me then, but maybe I can tell you now. I hope you can understand.
You know, Mom, I’ve always loved Mary. You and dad used to tease me about her when she was still a girl. She and her brothers used to play on our street. Our families got together for supper. But the hardest day of my life came scarcely a year ago when I was twenty and she only fifteen. You remember that day, don’t you?
The trouble started after we were betrothed and signed the marriage agreement at our engagement. That same spring Mary had left abruptly to visit her old cousin Elizabeth in Judea. She was gone three whole months. After she got back, people started wondering out loud if she were pregnant.
It was cloudy the day when I finally confronted her with the gossip. “Mary,” I asked at last, “are you going to have a baby?”
Her clear brown eyes met mine. She nodded.
I didn’t know what to say. “Who?” I finally stammered.
Mom, Mary and I had never acted improperly–even after we were betrothed.
Mary looked down. “Joseph,” she said. “There’s no way I can explain. You couldn’t understand. But I want you to know I’ve never cared for anyone but you.” She got up, gently took my hands in hers, kissed each of them as if it were the last time she would ever do that again, and then turned towards home. She must have been dying inside. I know I was.
The rest of the day I stumbled through my chores. It’s a wonder I didn’t hurt myself in the woodshop. At first I was angry and pounded out my frustrations on the doorframe I was making. My thoughts whirled so fast I could hardly keep my mind on my work. At last I decided just to end the marriage contract with a quiet divorce. I loved her too much to make a public scene.
I couldn’t talk to you. Or anyone, for that matter. I went to bed early and tried to sleep. Her words came to me over and over. “I’ve never cared for anyone but you…. I’ve never cared for anyone but you….” How I wished I could believe her!
I don’t know when I finally fell asleep. Mom, I had a dream from God. An angel of the Lord came to me. His words pulsated through my mind so intensely I can remember them as if it were yesterday.
“Joseph, son of David,” he thundered, “do not fear to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
I couldn’t believe my ears, Mom. This was the answer! The angel continued, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
The angel gripped my shoulders with his huge hands. For a long moment his gaze pierced deep within me. Just as he turned to go, I think I saw a smile on his shining face.
I sat bolt upright in bed. No sleep after that! I tossed about for a while, going over the words in my mind. Then I got up and dressed quietly so I wouldn’t wake you.
I must have walked for miles beneath the moonless sky. Stars pricked the blackness like a thousand tiny pinpoints. A warm breeze blew on my face.
I sang to the Lord, Mom. Yes, me, singing, if you can imagine that. I couldn’t contain my joy. I told Him that I would take Mary and care for her. I told Him I would watch over her–and the child–no matter what anyone said.
I got back just as the sun kissed the hilltops. I don’t know if you still recall that morning, Mom. I can see it in my mind’s eye as if it were yesterday. You were feeding the chickens, surprised to see me out. Remember?
“Sit down,” I said to you. “I’ve got to tell you something.” I took your arm and helped you find a seat on the big rock out back. “Mom,” I said, “I’m going to bring Mary home as my wife. Can you help make a place for her things?”
You were silent a long time. “You do know what they’re saying, don’t you, son?” you said at last, your eyes glistening.
“Yes, Mom, I know.”
Your voice started to rise. “If your father were still alive, he’d have some words, I’ll tell you. Going about like that before you are married. Disgracing the family and all. You… you and Mary ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”
You’d never have believed me if I’d tried to explain, so I didn’t. Unless the angel had spoken to you, you’d have laughed me to scorn.
“Mom, this is the right thing to do,” I said.
And then I started talking to you as if I were the head of the house. “When she comes I don’t want one word to her about it,” I sputtered. “She’s your daughter-in-law, you’ll respect her. She’ll need your help if she’s to bear the neighbors’ wagging tongues!”
I’m sorry, Mom. You didn’t deserve that. You started to get up in a huff.
“Mom,” I murmured, “I need you.” You took my hand and got to your feet, but the fire was gone from your eyes.
“You can count on me, Joseph,” you told me with a long hug. And you meant it. I never heard another word. No bride could hope for a better mother-in-law than you those next few months.
Mom, after I left you I went up the road to Mary’s house and knocked. Her mother glared at me as she opened the door. Loudly, harshly she called into the house, “It’s Joseph!” almost spitting out my name as she said it.
My little Mary came out cringing, as if she expected me give her the back of my hand, I suppose. Her eyes were red and puffy. I can just imagine what her parents had said.
We walked a few steps from the house. She looked so young and afraid. “Pack your things, Mary,” I told her gently. “I’m taking you home to be my wife.”
“Joseph!” She hugged me as tight as she could. Mom, I didn’t realize she was so strong.
I told her what I’d been planning. “We’ll go to Rabbi Ben-Ezer’s house this week and have him perform the ceremony.”
I know it was awfully sudden, Mom, but I figured the sooner we got married the better it would be for her, and me, and the baby.
“Mary, even if our friends don’t come, at least you and I can pledge our love before God.” I paused. “I think my Mom will be there. And maybe your friend Rebecca would come if her dad will let her. How about your parents?”
I could feel Mary’s tiny frame shuddering as she sobbed quietly.
“Mary,” I said. I could feel myself speaking more boldly. “No matter what anyone says about you, I’m proud you’re going to be my wife. I’m going to take good care of you. I’ve promised God that.”
She looked up.
I lowered my voice. “I had a dream last night, Mary. I saw an angel. I know.”
The anguish which had gripped her face vanished. She was radiant as we turned away from the house and began to walk up the hill together.
Just then her mother ran out into the yard. “Wait,” she called. She must have been listening from behind the door. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
“I’ll get your father,” she called, almost giddy with emotion. “We,” she cried as she gathered up her skirts. “We,” she shouted as she began to run to find her husband. “We … are going to have a wedding!”
That’s how it was, Mom. Thanks for being there for us. I’ll write again soon.
Peter & Shannyn – Tuesday, Dec 17
Fireside Story – The Perfect Christmas Pageant by M.L. Lindvall
Peter & Shannyn – Wednesday, Dec 18
This morning in our It’s News To Us segment we told you about the Mimi Foundation, which is helping cancer patients to rediscover what it means to be carefree through their project If Only For A Second. To watch the video click here.
Fireside Story – The Lord of the Messy Manger by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
If you think your life is an utter disaster, that God could never use a life as messed up as yours, think again. Let me point you to some familiar Bible stories.
- Joseph’s brothers hate him so much that they sell him as a slave and make their father believe he has been devoured by animals, but “but God meant it for good” to save thousands from starvation.1
- Sampson lusts after a Philistine girl — not the nice Jewish girl his parents wanted for him. But the Bible says, “his father and mother did not know that this was from the Lord.”2
- King Solomon’s son makes a disastrous decision that loses him half the kingdom. What a mess! But God says, “This thing is from me.”3
- Jacob is a liar and a cheat and has to flee for his life. He sleeps out in the open with only a rock for a pillow. But when he wakes with a vision of angels, he says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”4
Your life may appear well-ordered on the surface, but underneath there may be disarray. Brokenness, pain, shame. Things you seem utterly incapable of fixing.
The good news, my friend, is that God is bigger than your messy life. He is not impotent. He is not confined by your boundaries. He is God! And he is unafraid of working in messy situations. In fact, he gets a kick out of surprising us with his amazing grace.
What are your points of pain? What is the mess that you are struggling with? Maybe, just maybe, God is able to take your mess, and out of it bring blessing.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
How bad can it get? A girl gets pregnant. Her parents are utterly shamed. Her fiancé — not the father — is ready to dump her. And then he is told, “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”5
How bad can it get? The girl is in labor, far from home with only a cave-barn where she can lie down and have her baby. The only place to put her newborn is a manger. A cattle trough. We imagine it with fresh, fragrant straw plucked from a bale of hay. But I doubt that the cave was stocked with neat bales stacked against the wall. The straw that night was neither fresh nor fragrant. Life was a mess — but God was in it.
God sees Mary with her tiny infant and sends a host of angels to announce the birth.
“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day
in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in a manger.”6
The messy manger is itself a sign from God. Is your life a mess? Then let this be a sign to you.
Your very good news is that the God of the messy manger, the resurrected Christ of the cruel cross, and the Holy Spirit, in whom you live and move and have your being, are able to break through in your life, begin to clean up your mess, bless you too. And that — like the messy manger — will be a wonder all its own.
Peter & Shannyn – Thursday, December 19
This morning in our It’s News To Us segment, we told you about the Christmas story audio-version from Faith Comes By Hearing. To listen click here.
Fireside Story – The Peasant Princess by Lynette Brooks
God had been silent for a long time…or so it seemed to the people of Judea. The prophets had said centuries ago that God would send a leader, a king, a Messiah who would restore the glory of King David’s throne.
The only ones that spoke about the prophets now were the priests, and that was because it was their job to do so. The Pharisees paid more attention to the Law and to the traditions. They were too busy attempting perfection in rules and regulations and measurements to be concerned about mysterious promises. The Sadducees (being the practical realists that they were) had decided that the old writings were a collection of pretty stories that had no real impact on day-to-day living. No. No one thought about those strange old prophets and their odd messages. Except…except, a faithful few scattered throughout Judea and the world. Hidden in various walks of life; they thought about them. They wondered. They believed.
A young peasant woman in Nazareth believed. Well, not exactly a peasant. After all, she and her fiancé could both claim King David himself as one of their ancient ancestors. But it had been centuries since a descendant of David had sat on a throne. There was no king in Judea now except Herod, the cruel puppet king sent by Rome. The world saw her as a peasant…..but God knew that she was a princess. God had known this young peasant princess before she had developed in her mother’s womb. Perhaps He had spoken her name before the foundations of the earth were laid. God knew her. She was one of God’s favorites, because she had given Him what He finds so precious; a yielded heart, an obedient spirit and a trusting mind.
The peasant princess and her fiancé were betrothed. More than engaged…more like partly married. Breaking a betrothal involved much more than canceling the caterer. It was a very serious matter. In fact, she could legally be put to death as an adulteress if she were found to be unfaithful to her betrothed. But that would never happen to her! All Nazareth knew her as an honorable young woman.
Then came the shock of her life. The SHOCK of all our lives, the Cosmic Disruption that all of time and eternity hang upon. She had a visitor with a message from God. She would miraculously become pregnant. She would give birth to a Son, the Messiah, and the One that would save His people from their sins. And despite all that it could mean in terms of her future and her happiness, she says, “Yes.” God knows what it will cost her and He smiles upon His peasant princess. But it is a sad smile…because God KNOWS what it will cost her.
The peasant princess gives the message to her fiancé. He is heartbroken and bewildered. Some men would have gone into a jealous rage and would have dragged her before the village. They would have poured out their pain by publicly humiliating her before having her stoned to death. That’s what the Law says to do with an adulteress; who would blame him? But he loves her. And while he also knows and loves God’s Law, he also seeks God’s Mercy.
God knows his pain and confusion and grants the reassurance that he needs. He may take the peasant princess as a wife. He is given the honor and the tremendous task of being stepfather to God’s Own Son. He is given The Name to bestow upon the Son that is to come.
The village reacts much as you would have expected it to, the whispers and the stares, the snickering and the cold shoulders, the hurt of the families from the dishonor, and the help from those that truly love them. So when the decree came from Rome that they must go to Bethlehem to be taxed…perhaps they welcomed the opportunity and made plans to move. Perhaps the young husband planned to find work there; he was a good carpenter. Perhaps that’s why he took the peasant princess with him on such a long journey when she was so near to the time to give birth. He took her with him, and she would have no mother or other female relative to guide her through that most womanly experience.
They made the long journey to Bethlehem and it was difficult for both of them. She was uncomfortable and tired. Her body was cumbersome. She could not find a comfortable position on the donkey’s back as they traveled several miles a day. He was worried and tired, worried about the dangers of traveling, worried about her well being, worried about the dangers of childbirth. The angel had promised a Son…not necessarily an easy birth. They were relieved when they finally reached Bethlehem, but not for long.
Bethlehem was bursting at the seams. There was no room to be had, anywhere. No home opened to hem, no bed made available. An innkeeper allowed them to stay in his barn. Did he charge them for it? Did other poor travelers also share the animals’ beds?
And the appointed time came; exactly when God knew it would happen, exactly as He had always planned. Incarnate God was born in a barn. The Word made flesh was wrapped in rags and laid in an animal’s feed box. And they gave Him the Name that had been given to the husband, the NAME whereby you must be saved. He was a newborn with tiny fingers and tiny toes. The peasant princess held Him and counted His tiny fingers and tiny toes, the ritual of new mothers throughout the ages. Exhausted and exultant she held the promised Infant.
But now there were shepherds, come to tell them of a marvelous tale. Angels had appeared to them. Angels had sung, “Glory to God”. Angels had told them where to find the baby. Shepherds came to gaze upon the Promise; not priests, not Pharisee, not Sadducee, not king, not ANYONE that we might have expected. But the peasant princess and the husband hadn’t expected anyone. They were amazed by the reports the shepherds gave them. The bewildered couple knew where the baby came from and what to name Him. They even knew a little of why He had come. But they hadn’t expected anyone else to know and so they marveled with the shepherds. And the peasant princess remembered all this.
After some time the husband and the peasant princess found somewhere to stay with the Baby. We do not know how long they stayed in Bethlehem. The Baby grew. Perhaps He was toddling when some strange visitors came, bringing costly and extravagant gifts. The visitors had first gone to Jerusalem expecting to find there the One that the sky had led them to seek. Jealous Herod was alarmed by their visit. He had killed children before, to retain his throne. No threat, no matter how small, was to be taken lightly. “Find the child and then tell me where to find Him. I want to worship too,” was Herod’s clever plan. But God knew Herod’s heart and warned the visitors and the husband. The visitors did not return to Herod. The husband took the peasant princess and the Child and fled to Egypt, that land that He had led His people from more than centuries ago. Pharaoh once again unwittingly shelters God’s Promise. And Herod, insane with rage, or coldly wicked, orders the death of baby boys. Mosaic history repeating itself in Bethlehem—just as Moses was saved but many died—just as the firstborn among the Egyptians died but the Hebrews were Passed Over—so many died now and the Child had His own Passover. Prophecy was fulfilled, as it always is. And yet again, mothers grieved for their children.
Herod failed to kill the little King. The Child grew in Egypt. And when after some time, God told the husband that Herod was dead, they returned to Nazareth. Perhaps some wounds had healed. Maybe hard hearts had softened and once again they could go home. But there would always be those who pointed fingers. There would always be those who wouldn’t understand and those who refused to see. And the peasant princess kept all of these things in her heart. And the Child grew and became a carpenter like the husband. Until it was His time…..
Peter & Shannyn – Friday, Dec 20
Fireside Story – Angels We Have Heard On High by John Duckworth (Stories That Sneak Up On You)