Tag Archives: Mary

Do You Believe Jesus is Enough to Meet Your Hopes and Fears?

The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds packs a powerful punch.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Their good news communicated the fulfillment of a long anticipated promise.

But. somewhere in the midst of hope lies fear. What if that which we expect doesn’t unfold according to our expectations?

The narratives surrounding the account of Christ’s birth reveal the common human struggle with hope and fear. 

These Jewish “chosen ones” longed for the promised Messiah. The hope had been passed down to them just as it had been through previous generations. The prophecies began to flesh out the vision. But did they understand how chosen they were? And there was a cost.

Hope became infused with fear.

Shepherds: ordinary folk from Bethlehem. As men, they were well steeped in knowledge of Jewish theology. The prophecies created a rough draft as to how the Messiah would be made manifest.

Micah 5:2-3[a] But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,

Hope grew in their hearts.

And then the angels visit. They are chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are staggering. Who will believe them? How will they manage their sheep if they leave? Do they believe Jesus is enough to meet their hopes and fears?

Mary: Poor Jewish teen. Yet, from the line of David. She is aware of Isaiah’s words  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14)

Hope grows in her heart.

And then the angel visits. She is chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are life threatening. She could be stoned for appearing to break her engagement vows.

Does she believe Jesus is enough to meet her hopes and fears?

Joseph: A carpenter’s son-not a significant identity in terms of social and economic status. Yet, from the line of David. He, too was schooled in the hope of a Messiah. One who would transform the status quo. Perhaps he clung to these words spoken through Isaiah:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Hope grew in his heart.

And then the angel visits. He is chosen to do a hard thing. His reputation is at stake as well as his love for his fiancee. In addition, he and Mary could both be killed for their alleged violation of Jewish law. Does he believe Jesus will be enough to meet his hopes and fears?

Trusting God with what we can’t grasp is hard. Story after story throughout scripture bear witness to it. It’s a human problem.

Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times!

The angels recognize our humanity which is why their first words are:“Do not be afraid!”

The exhortation itself was nothing new. God’s word to them and us spoken through Isaiah is this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “ Isaiah 41:10

But the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and to the world was different. Because this time God wasn’t just telling us no not be afraid. He was coming to earth to transform their fears.

Upon the official announcement of Jesus’ birth, something happens that the shepherds would have recognized but we may not.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2)

A host of angels appears here. This is significant. The Greek work for “host” is a military term. These are not cute little angels playing harps. An angel army descended to earth to signify that Satan no longer rules it.  They are operating at the command of the infant Jesus.

Heaven intersected Earth.

Jesus is enough.

Enough to meet our hopes and fears: for

health, power, relationship, provision, purpose….

“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” (From the hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem”)

Our fears are transformed into hope when we surrender them to Jesus. 

Do you believe Jesus is enough to meet your hopes and fears? What can you leave in the manger?

*this post originated as a message given by me on Christmas Eve 2017 at Hope Covenant Church. You can listen here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cloversites.com/21/215af0c3-7d17-4960-a142-642d26ec8048/documents/xmaseve.mp3

 

 

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Overcoming Restlessness on Those Long Detours: Learning From Mary

Several years ago, my preschool son drew a picture of Mary and Joseph. Not just any picture, mind you. Usually, the manger scene as represented through the eyes of a child wielding a crayon finds its place on a paper canvas.  But Eli’s mind captured a different scene in the narrative. He captured what he believed to be Mary’s perspective on a long journey.

mary

 

“Are we there yet?”

Long journeys arouse restlessness in my youngest. He tends to be very organized and finds comfort in checking off lists. Oh, he loves adventure and even surprises but he’d prefer them to unfold in a brief, orderly process. His eye is fixed on a goal and arriving there according to his timeline and expectations of the journey. Imagining Mary on a long trek to anywhere brought empathy from him.

Little did he realize that traveling to Bethlehem signified a very small milestone on the road leading to God’s purposes for her.

Only nine months earlier, this teen found herself ordained to a new purpose. Unexpected, Holy. Scandalous. Sometimes new paths entice us with a sense of exciting adventure.  Although Mary offered praise to God for this new calling (Luke 1:46-55), I’m not sure even she fully understood the earthly ramifications of such a journey.

How do we respond to those seasons in our own lives when we suddenly find that the familiar path we are accustomed to trodding is closed off?

A detour sign emerges-signaling that the better route is the new, unfamiliar one. Reluctantly we begin; not knowing where it will take us. Unaware of what we may encounter along the way. Often, it seems, the detour takes way longer to arrive at the destination than had we taken the shorter, familiar one. At least that’s what we believe. But….the detour sign was there for a reason.

Are we there yet?

As the detour continues longer than anticipated, we grow weary. Surrendering ourselves to the One who plots our course can take us to places we’d rather not visit. The physical, emotional and spiritual compressing takes its toll on our earthly selves. Haven’t I walked far enough? Is there something else of which I need to let go? 

 Nearly nine months into her pregnancy, she and Joseph were required to register for the census in their hometown. Not convenient for this couple. Three grueling days is the estimated time span of traveling by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Ninety miles were spent navigating a rugged terrain and daunting hills. In addition, the chilly weather, dense forests of the Jordan Valley, and hidden predators made the trip particularly dangerous.

However, it was not as dangerous as the place that exists outside of the will of God. Mary, in her praises to God, acknowledges the accounts of God’s character displayed through His people. Merciful. Strong. Provider. Creator. Sustainer. Holy.  With those narratives alive in her mind, she kept walking.

Are we there yet?

The detour continued. Did Mary wonder if her detour culminated with Jesus’ birth? Is that “there?” As she feels the baby wiggling, does she ponder where along this road, the promised King living inside her would make his debut?  “There” may have appeared as a foggy destination.

Henri Nouwen writes, “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction.” (“The Spirituality of Waiting”)

Mary trusted that God was weaving a narrative far beyond her own imagining. And that is why she kept walking. To “There.”

As I ponder Mary’s journey, I am reminded of my own detours. Some I have embraced. Others have been met with protest. The new journeys took me into unfamiliar territory. Some treks I would prefer not to take again. Yet, God walked with me. And molded me. And loved me. And assured me that I had nothing to fear.

Because no matter my destination, or where I think it may be, God is with me. Always.

When I question the unexpected turns, God is with me.

When I stagger because my body is worn from fighting evil forces preying on my soul along the way, God is with me.

God is with us. Immanuel.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Because of Him we have hope. We have no need to fear wherever life takes us. Like Mary, we can keep walking.

 

 

As My Child Enters His Senior Year, I’m Finding Peace in the Midst of Unmet Expectations

Four years ago, I wrote a post about the struggle I experienced as I acknowledged that my oldest child was about to enter high school. https://stephaniejthompson.com/2012/07/13/as-my-child-grows-i-am-learning-to-surrender-control/  Disappointment surfaced as I began to realize that all of the dreams I had for him before he graduated from high school may not come to fruition… at least not in the tangible ways I had envisioned.  The Grand Canyon, Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Niagara Falls, Mt. Rushmore, mission trips, and experiencing other countries all held spots on my dream destination list for him. How could he have reached this milestone already?

The “Ifs” quickly pressed on me: “If we would have had more money”, “if we hadn’t faced health issues”, “If……..”  I felt like time was trekking forward and I was grieving the loss of expectations. My expectations.  And while I wish some of those items on the list could have been checked off, I am aware that God’s hand at work in his life far exceeds any of my expectations.     

 Today, he entered his last year of high school.   And you know what?  I was not the mess that I thought I would become on this day. In fact, I embraced it.  And I prayed God’s blessings on it. This summer, he had a ton of fun. Amusement parks, movies, lazy hot days drinking cold beverages, family gatherings, a life-changing, church youth group event all grabbed a spot in his life.  And throughout those weeks, I noticed something: he’s ready for a new season-in life.

Gone are the days of finding joy in a trek to the park, splashing in the sprinkler, a ride in the wagon(he wouldn’t fit in it anyway). It’s as it should be. Scripture bears witness to Jesus’s life as a boy: And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people” (Luke 2:52 MSG).

Present are days of spontaneous, thought provoking discussions, seeing his maturity unfold in various moments of life, watching his identity as a follower of Christ affect his choices and questions about the future, and experiencing new journeys together.

Seasons of life are ordained by God. 


It’s been said of those early days of child rearing that the days are long and the years are short. I don’t know if he would agree with that quote but, as a parent, it rings oh so true. In those “short” years, I have seen God’s hand at work in answers to my hopes and prayers for him.  Sometimes, those answers came through “big” moments such as his decision to be baptized, receiving awards for musical skills or grades.  Often, my blessings came through the witness of his resilience and hope through challenging moments, words of wisdom or clarity, the revelation of character strengths which unfold in ordinary moments of life.  All of which point to the big picture that is being weaved; of which these past 18 years are just a small part.

I find comfort in knowing that many parents have traveled this journey before me.  I’m not referring just to the sisterhood of moms that I know, but sisters of long ago that had to let go of their kids and let God navigate their lives.  Sisters like Hannah (mother of Samuel), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), Mary and Eunice (mother of Timothy).  Each of them came to a spot when they had to acknowledge that their children ultimately belonged to their God.

 I’ve realized that this year is just as significant as any other year of his life with us. Yes, it is his Senior year and there will be unique milestones to mark. But, God will continue to be at work just like in previous years. He will “mature, grow up in both body and Spirit, and be blessed by both God and people.”

And, like Mary, I will “treasure these things in my heart (Luke 2:52).”