My friend, D, has been missing lately from my church life. Her precious brand-new baby is keeping her busy and I do miss her, but surely, I understand.
So, since you couldn't be there last night (and I don't have to work tomorrow, I run well on low fuel - only for a time - and decided to pull an all-nighter to catch up on all things computer,) I thought I'd recap for you and anyone needin' a little Jesus, cuz we all do.
We read Luke 1:26-38... (my Bible is the New Century Version, so it'll read a little different than the KJV)
~ During Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, "Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you."
But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end."
Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen since I am a virgin?"
The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God. Now, Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old. Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. God can do anything!"
Mary said, "I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!" Then the angel went away. ~
...and Luke 2:1-20...
~ At that time, Augustus Caesar sent an order that all people in the countries under Roman rule must list their names in a register. This was the first registration; it was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to their own towns to be registered.
So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David. Joseph went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant. While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a manger (a box where animals are fed.)
That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your savior was born in pieces of cloth and lying in a manger."
Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying "Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God."
When the angels left them and went back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem. Let's see this thing that has happened which the Lord has told us about."
So the shepherds went quickly and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in a manger. When they had seen him, they told what the angels had said about this child. Everyone was amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured these things and continued to think about them. Then the shepherds went back to their sheep, praising God and thanking him for everything they had seen and heard. It had been just as the angel had told them. ~
So, we talked about how God's timing is always perfect. How He has a plan in everything. How Mary and Joseph were the keepers of the greatest secret ever. About how Mary made the decision to trust in the Lord and submit to Him and how she placed her trust in Him. How incredible!
Imagine how her life changed in that very instant when Gabriel told her she would become pregnant. Can you even begin to fathom that? Here she was, an ordinary girl, a virgin at that, not married - visualize back in those days, the kind of criticism she would endure being pregnant and unwed - and then, to give birth to the son of God Almighty! Put yourself in her shoes - I, personally, would've freaked! How could you even start to think about how you would raise that child, the Son of Man! Makes my head spin just thinking about it.
But read Isaiah 26:3 - "You, Lord give true peace to those who depend on you." Mary found peace, almost from the get go. She was a little nervous there for a moment and then, she realized, this is God we're talking about here, there's absolutely no reason for me to worry. Psalm 34:7 reads, "The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear God, and he saves them." Wow! Picture that, you're just walking around, being a child of God and he sends you a beautiful, glowing, stealthy angel with a sword of fire to watch over you. Awesome! God is just awesome! So, my point being, Mary never had the need to worry. And she knew it. (We talked about peace some more, reading Philippians 4:4-9 and also John 14:27.)
Lastly, in those days, shepherds were considered unclean and dirty. Why? Well, because they were! Imagine, you're a shepherd, you're camping out in the fields for days and days on end, tending to your sheep. You haven't had a real bath in quite some time and it's really a blue-collar kinda job. You know, one where you gotta in there, get your hands dirty, you're working with animals. So, you're really not seen as being very high up on the totem pole. But get this! God chose to tell the shepherds of the birth of Jesus before anyone else knew! He sent the angel to tell some of the lowest of the people. And do you suppose that maybe some of those sheep were on their way to being sacrifices for Him? Hmm, perhaps so.
Now, this one threw me for a loop and the tears swelled. I can't conceive what it was like to be the first ones to hear of the greatest news the world would ever hear, and there they stood just little ol' shepherds. Wow. That's all I can say is wow.