Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Ancient Paths


Photo taken at the Hermitage "The Return of The Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt 


I've been willing myself to think of New Year's resolutions, but something's not working.

Then, I happened to think of the words "ancient path" which I remember reading in a verse a while ago. Strange, I thought, why would I think of the word ANCIENT, when I should be thinking NEW?


It suddenly came together for me this morning as I read these two verses:

Job 12:12
With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.

Proverbs 22:28
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.


It's not always about new. Sometimes old is better. In fact many times old is best. The best advice comes from those who have been around the block a few times. And it also comes from Scripture, which has been around even longer.

So, this year, I will let Scripture be my guide. I will read books from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s that have the audacity to talk about the 'right way' to do things; about morals, and precepts and commands and laws. Have we forgotten?

"Stay between the lines. . .the lines are our friends."

I need a few more friends on the straight and narrow road this year. How about you?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Threat: King Herod



Image from "The Nativity Story" ©2006 New Line Cinema
     Herod was livid.  The wise men had promised to return from Bethlehem and report their findings, but God had warned them in a dream to journey home another way.  The Magi never returned to Jerusalem.  They did not trust Herod, nor his desire to "worship the young child." Truly, the sages were relieved.

     But not Herod. This lit a fire in his being which began a horrendous event that would be remembered by Jewish mothers throughout the ages. "Brutus, gather the army IMMEDIATELY," ordered the king.  "Make haste; search for this threat to my kingdom and destroy it!  If you cannot find him, kill every male child in the village from two years and younger.  He must not live.  Go...NOW!"

     Brutus obeyed.  It was this very army Joseph caught sight of on their way out of Bethlehem.  The thundering sound of hooves awakened the townspeople.   Little did they know, although it was prophesied, that soon their young sons would be ripped from their arms and slaughtered.

     Screaming. Chaos. Moaning. Confusion. Sobbing. The night was full of sounds and turbulence.  Of bedlam.  There was no mercy, no time for contesting.  Doors were broken down, torches swung into the still dark rooms of sleepy households.  Babes grabbed unmercifully from mother's arms.  Grabbed from the place where they laid asleep just minutes ago, dreaming in peace.  Woe to the male child, who was identified as such, dragged screaming from the abode, and slaughtered in the street.  

     The blood ran first with a trickle, and then with what seemed to be a stream.  Running down towards the valley, where the sheep lay quietly grazing, unaware of the turmoil above them. Then the words of the prophet Jeremiah came to be: "In Ramah was there were voices of lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning. Rachel was weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they had perished."

    Many years from now, blood from another lamb, the precious "Lamb of God" would trickle down a wooden cross.  But this time, the flow would save, and not destroy those in its path.  Fathers lost their only sons this night, but one day, God would not only lose, but offer up, His son for the salvation of all the world.

     Receive the Gift. . .
                                  not only the Christ Child in the manger, but the Son of God on the cross. He came to save and not destroy those who come to Him.





"For God SO loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16




Saturday, December 27, 2014

Flight into Egypt: Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child



Image from "The Nativity Story" New Line Cinema ©2006



The family was exhausted after the unexpected visit of the Magi.  They slept soundly that night, reliving the day's event in their dreams.  But the night would be cut short, for a voice pierced Joseph's dream.

 "Arise, Joseph!" 

Joseph stirred in his sleep. He was accustomed to being awakened by the Child some nights.  But his dream was arrested by a figure in white. It seemed to be speaking to him. It was insistent.  

"Joseph, arise...quickly!"  

He was attentive, even as he dreamed.

"Take Mary and Jesus," 

the stranger ordered, 

"and flee to Egypt.  Stay there until I bring you further word. Herod is even now on his way to destroy the Child."
Joseph rose with a start.  This was no dream...it was a word from God!  Immediately he began to awaken Mary.  Shaking her, he urged, 

"Mary, quickly, you must get up!" 
"Joseph, what is it?  Is it the Child?" 

She rubbed her eyes and sat up.
"An angel, Mary...an angel disrupted my dreams with a warning. We must flee immediately to Egypt..."
"E-gypt??" 

Mary interrupted, raising her voice. She was now wide awake. 

"Why..what..."
"Herod is seeking to destroy our Son.  He is threatened by his mere existence, and wants no other king, present or future, to ruin his reign."
By now, Mary was up, hastily gathering what few provisions they had to sustain them on their long journey.  Jesus began to stir.  Joseph gazed at him, his brows furrowed with worry.  

"Father God, protect your Son.  Lead us to your chosen place.  Reveal your plan." 

A smile began to form on the earthly father's face as he watched his son in peaceful sleep. It was then he realized,

 "Yes, you will be with us, won't you, Father?  You ARE with us...Emmanuel!
"The gifts, Joseph. We can't forget the gifts.  They will provide what we need for the journey."  

Mary lifted them from a high shelf where they had placed them the night before, so young fingers could not play with the precious contents.  

'How could the Magi have known..."  

Mary pondered the providence of her heavenly Abba.
The donkey packed, Mary was quickly seated on the burdened beast. The Child, still sleeping, was placed in his mother's arms. Mary adjusted her position to accommodate the growing boy.
Joseph, with a rapid pace, lead the tiny family through the dark winding streets, and out into the open fields.  His eyes scanned the countryside, looking for anything or anyone that might be a threat.  He spotted a small army advancing from between the northern hills, bearing their torches.

His pace quickened, and soon they were headed south, down towards En-Gedi, the arid land where David hid from Saul.  He pondered the irony of the situation. Another century, another wicked king, pursuing the one who would be King.

"History does repeat," thought Joseph, "Just as King David was saved from his enemies, I know God our Father will protect Jesus from His adversaries."


Scripture does not record their journey or the emotions felt during this unstable time for the Christ Child and his earthly parents. The uncertainty of their destination, and the political situation threatening to destroy God's people brought fear into their hearts. The identity of the child in Mary's arms, revealed by the Magi, Angels and Prophets of old brought wonder.

What were Mary's thoughts that night as they journeyed into the unknown? It very well might have been a prayer . . . 

               -from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012


A Mother's Prayer

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know

Let this be our prayer
When we lose our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe

I pray we'll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

A world where pain and sorrow will be ended
And every heart that's broken will be mended
And we'll remember we are all God's children
Reaching our to touch you
Reaching to the stars

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

Songwriters

SAGER, CAROLE BAYER/FOSTER, DAVID

Published by
Lyrics ©Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. Universal Music Publishing Group


Friday, December 26, 2014

The Magi: Relentless Searchers



New LineCinema ©2006

      Galumph galumph, galumph...the Magi had been traveling for weeks. Nothing but sand under their feet, and stars in the sky above.  Though the heavens were scattered with twinkling stars, one stood out amongst them all.  THE star.  The largest and brightest in the sky.  The one leading them to the King of the Jews.  The Magi had done their work, pouring over the ancient manuscripts, studying the astronomical charts, surveying/exploring the night sky.  And their work lead to one conclusion...follow the star.  They must find the prophesied one.

      And when they did, they must bring gifts.  He, the writings revealed, was destined to be a great leader.  What gifts would befit a king?  "Gold, of course," confirmed one.  "We must pay the homage due him," suggested another. "Frankincense would honor his purity." A third observed, "Great power brings great responsibility...and suffering.  It is troublesome to be a ruler.  Myrrh would sweeten his reign."

      So, it was settled.  The Magi were on their way, pursuing the mysterious star that had appeared many months before.  Soon, it lead them to Jerusalem.  They stopped to inquire. "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  We have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him." These strange men on camels, packed with belongings, dressed in fine silks and jewels...who were they?

      Word came quickly to Herod and his court.  Another King?  Of the Jews?  This was trouble....trouble indeed. Immediately he gathered the chief priests and scribes to question them. "Where do the ancient writings say this CHILD is to be born?" A sneer formed on his face as he said the word.  The Jewish religious leaders answered immediately, "In Bethlehem of Judea! The prophets foretold, 'And out of you, Bethlehem, of Judah, the smallest of towns, will come a Governor, who will rule my people, Israel.'"

      A servant was summoned to bring the Magi to the palace.  By this time, their bellies were crying for food. Herod's offer of exotic delicacies pleased them, but his ingratiating tone did not. "You have come a long way.  Please, sit down...take your fill of our fine food," pressed Herod politely.  He went on to another subject.  "Tell me, at what time did you first see the star?"

      The oldest Magi spoke first, "It was many months ago when we first laid eyes on this wonder in the Heavens.  We followed, and it faithfully lead us here.

      "I wish to see this child who was prophesied long ago, but my duties are many.  Go to Bethlehem and search for the babe, and when you have found Him, come back to report.  I, too, desire to worship this King of the Jews."

      The Magi glanced at each other, not sure of Herod's intentions, but they bowed politely, and quickly went on their way.

      By now the sky had darkened, and the guiding star, brighter in contrast, directed them south and west.  Slowly they advanced, until the rays focused on a humble abode on the outskirts of the town.  Cautiously, they alighted from their camels, and taking their costly cargo, made their way to the entrance. Joseph, hearing the commotion, went to investigate.  His visage change from concern to puzzlement, and finally, wonder, as he invited them inside. 

      The child, asleep on his mother's shoulders, soon awakened, and with wide-eyed expression, watched the Magi humbly bow before Him, presenting their gifts: Myrrh, the panacea for human suffering, gold, identifying the "worth" of the child, and frankincense, the High Priest's fragrant offering to the Most High God.

      Mary and Joseph were poor folk.  They had never seen such an array of fine gifts.  The awe and reverence of the wise men were just as astonishing as their offerings.  By why should the couple be amazed?  Did not the Messenger of God come to Mary, announcing the fulfillment of the long awaited prophecy? "...He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest...and of his kingdom there shall be no end."  The wonder surrounding the event was still present.  Truly, Mary and Joseph would be in awe for the remainder of their lives, as they watched God's promises unfold for this young child.

      For a few minutes, the room was filled with an unmistakeable radiance.  All present felt the power of this scene.  Slowly, the Magi rose from their knees, bowed to the Christ child, nodded in gratitude to his parents, and stepped quietly out the door and into the night.


               - From "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012



Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Wish Fulfilled: Simeon

Image from "The Nativity Story" ©2006 New Line Cinema

     Not only would the shepherds experience the awe and wonder of the new arrival. For years, Simeon had know about the coming of the Christ child.  

     And he had waited...for years. Years of faithfully serving His Lord, believing in the Holy Spirit's promise that he would not see death until his eyes beheld the Savior of the world.  But this devout man was aging.  His body was worn out, his eyes dim.  He wondered if he would survive to see this long anticipated event.  How would the child Christ appear?  As a normal infant, brown and bellowing? Or would a glow surround His body to reveal His identity?  Surely He would be born of a wealthy family... These thoughts lingered in his mind, rising again each time a young family would come to dedicate their precious offspring to the Lord.

     The day dawned as usual, and Simeon headed to the temple to pray.  This day, he felt a certain urgency. Instead of stopping to talk with the Teachers of the Law, as was his habit, Simeon's feet propelled him forward, as though they had a mission.

     As he entered the Temple, Simeon noticed a young couple, dressed in ragged clothing, conversing with the priest. The babe in arms, and two caged turtle doves in hand revealed their purpose: to dedicate their firstborn to the Lord.  It was a familiar scene, but this time, something was different.  Simeon drew closer. A celestial force, a spirit too strong to resist urged him onward. 

In an instant, the words of the prophets came to him: "...and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of  Peace."  What did he know of the child's future, other than the voices of the prophets of old?  

     Simeon was now standing alongside the mother, who gazed up at him with questioning eyes.  The old man couldn't resist.  He reached down to touch the babe, sleeping peacefully in his mother's protective arms. She, in response, raised Jesus to Simeon's hands.  In one motion, this tiny being made in God's image, was lifted to Heaven. Words spilled from Simeon's lips as he blessed the most High God. "Now let me depart in peace, Lord, for my eyes have seen your Salvation, which you have prepared for all mankind. A light for the Gentiles, and the glory of your people, Israel."

     In wonder, Joseph and his wife, Mary, took in the words.  What could this mean?  Simeon continued the blessing; this time, for the couple,  "This child is appointed to be the rise and fall of many in Israel." He stopped, and looked directly at Mary. "Yes, a sword will pierce your own soul, and this will all happen so the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

     The family of three left the Temple, bathed in the glow of Simeon's blessing.  For many years afterwards, Mary in particular, would ponder his words.  Simeon beamed as well, with the knowledge that he, Simeon, had held and beheld the precious, foretold Son of God. He was not sure he wished to see the words fulfilled. 

     Weary but peaceful, Simeon trudged home, his pace heavy, but his heart light.  He laid his aching body down, never to rise again in this world.

                    -from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Surprised by the Light: The Shepherds

Image from "The Nativity Story" ©2006 New Line Cinema


     While Mary was in wonder over this miracle of God, the shepherds were in the fields below Bethlehem, watching their flocks that night. Nothing extraordinary happened to shepherds.  Nothing.  Day after day, night after night, the same old routine.  Out to pasture, then, in to the folds for safety at night.  Listening for the cry of a lost or wounded sheep, or a wolf on the prowl.  No matter the day or season, the days were predictable and unremarkable.  But, not this night...no, not tonight.

     Gazing at the night sky, as they were wont to do, the shepherds noticed a dot of light growing in size and brilliance.  They called out to one another as it soon became apparent that this was no ordinary celestial body.  Spending the time they did outdoors, they knew the sky as they did their sheep.  This star was like no other!  "FEAR NOT!" a voice suddenly filled the air.  "For Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people," the invisible voice announced.  "For unto YOU is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!  

     The proclamation echoed throughout the evening heavens, as the shepherds stood in wonder at this awesome news.  Here, right in their own town?  Could it be?  Even a lonely shepherd had heard of the prophecy telling of a Messiah who would come to bring peace into this uncertain world. Just as they were pondering this most amazing announcement, the sky became alive with a host of heavenly beings thundering their praise, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to men!"

     We must go!  We MUST go and see this baby.  And they did, with great haste. The star had spread its rays, leading the way towards Bethlehem town.  And, just as the sheep would follow their shepherds, tonight, the shepherds followed the star.  With full trust, and without wavering.  They recognized the voice of God...and they followed.

                       - from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Birth

Image from "Nativity Story" ©2006 New Line Cinema


     The weary travelers settled in to the stable with the cows, sheep, goats and chickens.  Thankfully, most were asleep.  Mary wished she could sleep, but it evaded her tonight.  Joseph hung the lamp from a wooden beam above, and made a fresh bed of hay for Mary so she could rest.  


     "Joooseph!" 

     "What is it Mary?" In an instant, he was at her side.


     "The pain...ooooh...the pain.  It is too much for me to bear!"

     For the next few hours, Mary labored to give birth to this holy child, prophesied by Isaiah and others.  Blood, pain, cries, bearing down: it seemed the child was being ripped from her womb.


     By morning, the blessed event had occurred.  Mary held baby Jesus in her arms, with Joseph embracing them both.  A miracle...could it be? The new father had cut the umbilical cord, separating life from the life source.  Jesus cut off from Mary's life giving womb.  Jesus the Son of God, leaving Heaven to come to humble and sinful earth.  For us...for mankind!
     
                 -from "Christmas Musings" by Jarm Del Boccio ©2012 


Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel