A Christmas Reflection

We’ve all heard lots of stories of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, their journey to Bethlehem, and their sudden flight into Egypt. It all seems so familiar—maybe too familiar–to us.

As I was reflecting on this attitude in my own life, I paused to carefully consider what some of these things must have been like for the Holy Family.  So, I closed my eyes and took a ‘journey’ with them. I invite you to imagine yourself with them also as they go to Bethlehem, as Mary births Jesus, the coming of the shepherds, and the visit of the Magi.

It is daybreak on the last day of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem to register for the census. Breakfast is over, the donkey is ready, and Mary climbs on the donkey’s back. Joseph walks on ahead, gently leading the donkey. The way is rocky and rough. Joseph’s feet are sore and maybe a little bloody from the journey. He doesn’t say anything to Mary because he doesn’t want her to worry. She has enough on her mind!  She is heavy with child and weary. She perhaps even wishes they were already in Bethlehem so she can rest before she begins labor. The Christ Child would soon arrive! However, Mary doesn’t complain; she doesn’t want to worry Joseph.

They journey as purposefully as they can, both of them knowing Mary’s ‘time’ is growing close. The donkey too must feel tired and thirsty. Joseph finds some water for the donkey near a stream and the animal drinks his fill of the fresh, cool water. He also gives Mary and himself a drink.

They travel for hours towards Bethlehem. As evening draws near, they enter the city, hoping for a restful place to stay. However, they find no place to lodge. All the lodging places are already filled with other travelers, and the innkeeper is only able to offer a stable for their bed. Joseph and Mary reluctantly but gratefully accept. They enter the stable quickly for Mary is beginning her labor pains. Joseph quickly and tenderly lifts Mary from the donkey and gently lays her down to prepare for the birth. He prepares a trough for the baby Jesus—this manger where animals feed will soon be where the newborn Savior will lay His sweet head. His mattress will consist of hay. This just doesn’t seem befitting a divine king, but nothing else is available.

Mary cries aloud in pain as she gives birth. Joseph waits, ever caring, ever concerned, and his big strong hands prepare to catch Jesus when he appears from Mary’s virgin womb. What an intimate and emotional moment for both of them! The baby Jesus cries briefly, and Joseph gently cleans Him and lays Him on His mother’s lap. This son, the angel announced to Mary, was here.

I wonder what Joseph and Mary said to each other concerning this holy child? What questions did they speak of or hold in their hearts? They could not have known that some 33 years later He would again be covered with blood and water. This son would heal, console, preach, bless, teach and challenge others and perhaps even them. But how could they possibly know all this? They knew He would be mighty, but what did that look like?  How would it all take place?

Meanwhile, out in the fields, as the shepherds watched their flocks, they were startled by a great noise in the sky. There appeared angels with trumpets announcing a birth. The shepherds were no doubt quaking with fright at the sight and the noise. The angels, aware of their fear, calmed them and shared the Good News of their Savior’s birth. The shepherds must have wondered how they got invited to this glorious event. Curiously but joyfully they went along with their flocks to see the newborn baby.

Mary and Joseph were enjoying the Christ Child as He cooed and gurgled. They played and talked with Him and each other. Soon, the shepherds came with their flocks to see the baby. Joseph and Mary looked up when they heard the noise. Funny, they weren’t expecting visitors. How did the shepherds know?

The shepherds came, unshaven, uncleansed, with their smelly flocks, their animals making their hot, steamy smells along the way. Mary and Joseph welcomed them while baby Jesus looked at the visitors with soft brown eyes. Perhaps He laughed as the animals said hello in their God-given way. Did a part of Him know these shepherds and animals were all a part of His divine creation? A part of His plan for a welcoming party? One has to wonder. They all knelt in wonder and worship.

Meanwhile, visitors from the East were arriving by camel with treasure for our little savior. They got off their camels and knelt in worship. What? More visitors? Gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh? Wow!They were gifts befitting a king. But why these gifts in particular? Surely it meant something very profound. How did all these people know about His birth? There were no written announcements–only shepherds and Magi prompted by angels and the stars. Our savior wanted a humble crowd, and that’s what He got. What wonderful gifts Jesus got on His birthday—shepherds, magi, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No cake. No candles, but the best light of all—the star announcing His birth. And we are gifted by the best light of all—for Jesus is the light of the world.

Copyright © 2007 Theresa M. Williams

Advertisements

What is Entombment?

I wrote a blog post back in April 2015 entitled “What is Entombing Me?” about Jesus and Lazarus and their being in a tomb. It talked about how the Father called Jesus forth from His tomb. I also described how I underwent a meditation about pretending I was Lazarus in a tomb where it was cold and damp. As Jesus called to Lazarus ‘come out,’ so we can ask His help to come out of our tombs. When we meditate on these scriptures about Jesus and Lazarus, I hope we can start to see how all of the wounds and baggage that we carry can entomb us and hold us back from living as Jesus wants us to, to be free of what entombs us.

Entombment means being bound up, confined by, enslaved by, under duress, or emotionally imprisoned by something. It is being overwhelmed by it to the point that it seriously limits us in our ability to feel joy, interact with others, and even go about our daily routine. Depression is one kind of entombment, but so is unresolved anger (whether at God or others).

What do we do about it? Once we recognize this state of entombment in ourselves:
First of all, we pray. We ask for wisdom and enlightenment to see the situation for what it truly is. Then we pray for guidance on how to handle it. One of the options is to seek out a reputable source of help, whether it is a Christian counselor, a spiritual director or mentor, or—last but not least—the Bible. Of utmost importance, particularly when we feel afflicted, is to talk to God even more often than we already do. If you don’t talk to God (or pray), then it’s a good time to start. God is available 24/7 (all the time), you won’t get a busy signal, and He has a toll-free number!

The Bible has many passages that are useful for meditation. One of my favorites is Psalm 23: “The Lord is My Shepherd. I shall not want.” Please see my meditations on this Psalm from February 2015. You can find it fairly quickly if you go to the right sidebar and scroll down until you see “Older Posts” and select the month. NOTE: You may find more entombment posts under April 2015.

Another good one is Psalm 139 taken from the New Revised Standard Version. It has a very intimate account of God’s nearness:

13 For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

I may do a separate post in the future with a list of Bible verses for help with entombment.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

“He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:3 NRSV)

    he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

As the sheep start the day, each takes a particular place in line and stays in the same position all day. However, sometime during the day, each sheep leaves its position and goes over to the shepherd. The shepherd gently touches the sheep, scratches its ears, and whispers in the ear of the sheep. The sheep, reassured and encouraged, resumes its place in line. They are restored.

Our spirits can run down. We can lose our motivation, our zest for life. We can feel unenthusiastic, even cold and hopeless. But the Good Shepherd can also renew us if we go to Him. He can heal us and breathe new life in us and restore our soul.

Sheep have poor eyesight. They cannot see very far in front of them and have no sense of direction. There are narrow paths, but there are also green pastures and still waters. If the sheep follow the shepherd, they will take the right path and be safe. We, too, must follow the (Good) Shepherd. He will give us strength and walk with us on our journey if we but allow Him to.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

He makes me lie down (Psalm 23:2 NRSV)

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;” (NRSV)

Now, I could explain in detail about sheep and why the shepherd makes them lie down, but it has to do with digestion.  The shepherd leads the sheep beside still waters because the sheep will not drink from swiftly moving water. It is afraid of it. The sheep are poor swimmers, and the sheep’s wool would cause it to drown.

This passage is a reminder that we must take time to rest and get away from the hurriedness of our lives. The idea is similar to the phrase “Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10 (NRSV). Just like the shepherd knows the sheep’s limitations, Jesus the Good Shepherd knows our limitations and our weaknesses. He doesn’t condemn us for that. God never demands of us more than our strength and abilities can handle. Jesus understands the loads on our shoulders and where the places of nourishment and refreshment are for us. Let’s trust Him to lead us to those, especially in this time of Lent.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1 NRSV)

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

The idea of Christ as shepherd is nothing new to us. In our choir room is a beautiful pencil sketch of Christ the Good Shepherd with a lamb in His arms. I swear I think the lamb is smiling! It’s neat to imagine myself in His arms, resting, letting Him hold me safely. It’s a comforting thought in the midst of our chaotic world.


“I shall not want.”

The Lord answers all our needs. There are so many things we think of as “needs.” I think we confuse ‘wants’ with ‘needs’ sometimes. I’m quite sure that I do. Food, clothing, and shelter are physical needs. Love is a spiritual need, especially Christ’s love. Lent is a good time to sort out our wants versus our needs.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams