No Room for Them

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – (Luke 2:4-7, NIV)

 

This portion of the Christmas story seemed to strike a new chord within my heart this past week, as my pastor pointed out the scandal and outrage that would have been associated with an unwed woman expecting a child who was engaged to a man with whom she had no intimate relations. Joseph came from the house of David. His heritage was quite significant, and his family name was likely known. Everyone was expected to return to the place of their familial ties for the census, so it is quite conceivable that Joseph had numerous relatives who were also traveling to Bethlehem at the same time. Under normal circumstances, a family would have traveled and stayed together, yet Mary and Joseph made the journey alone. Their isolation leads me to believe that they were being shunned by the family, and left to their own devices to survive. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they were unable to find a proper place to stay. What I found intriguing is that each version of scripture that I read, says that “there was no room for them. This leads me to believe that perhaps there was room, but they were turned away because of societal standards, and left stranded and a bit desperate. Who was the inn keeper who did at last show some compassion, and at least allow the pair shelter as the time drew near for Mary to give birth? It is both incredible and admirable to think of Mary and Joseph and all that they must have gone though, just to get to the stable birth. Additionally, the thought of the two of them having to deliver the Son of God in their surroundings is overwhelming. She was quite young and he was a carpenter; nothing in their life experience had likely prepared them for what they endured, other than the very presence of God with them. May we continue to ponder with awe and wonder, the miracle of God with us, this most holy season.

 

Hard was the journey, No Room for Them

To travel alone;

This chosen couple,

So far from their home.

Upon arrival,

No room granted them;

Just a small stable,

In old Bethlehem.

The time had arrived,

For the babe be born;

Courage delivered,

Wrapped Him in cloths torn.

No isolation,

Could stand in God’s way;

Strength to them granted,

Right there in the hay.

Though they’d been alone,

It did not last long;

For angelic hosts,

Announced this with song.

The shepherds they came,

They followed the light;

In awe and wonder,

On that holy night.

The baby swaddled,

God’s very own Son;

The faith of this pair,

God’s will had been done.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the miracle and wonder that surrounds the story of You sending Your Son to us as a baby, in humble beginnings, to make Him approachable to all. Thank You for showing us Your faithfulness through the hearts of the people that were part of Your story, and modeled what it is to trust in You. Forgive us for forgetting the depth of Your love that sent Your Only Son to us so that we could have life in You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would pause and ponder in wonder, the miracle and the majesty of all that You have done. Show us how to love those around us in a way that gives insight and understanding to Your goodness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we allow Your story to fill our hearts and minds this Christmas. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3

The Heart of a Shepherd

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. – (Luke 2:16-18, NIV)

 

I am continuing to revisit and ponder the story of the shepherds and the role that God called them to play when Jesus was born. Not only were they the first people to witness the miracle of His birth, but they were also the first to share the good news of His long-awaited arrival. These “lowly” shepherds understood the significance of Who was lying in the manger before them, so they went out and shared with others, the awe and wonder that they had just beheld. Rather than being repelled by these shepherds, people were amazed at what they heard. What had been foretold so long ago, had finally come to pass. I imagine it was the hope that had been missing, finally being spoken aloud. Today, it is no different. For so many, hope is absent, and the need to know about or be reminded of the arrival and the reason for the season, is critical. People who normally would be repelled by an invitation to hear, are receptive and willing to partake in candlelight services and “traditional” Christmas activities where the truth about Christmas is told. May we each have the heart of a shepherd and embrace the hope that we know, so that we too are eager to share this hope with those who need it most.

 

The shepherds who watched, The Heart of a Shepherd

Their flocks through the night;

Were by God chosen,

To see first His light.

The angel declared,

What they could go see;

As God had come down,

For you and for me.

The shepherds, they ran,

To find as they’d heard;

In awe and wonder,

They witnessed God’s word.

This amazing sight,

The glory beheld;

Led them to go out,

And of this news tell.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You show the least of us Your glory in incredible ways, and give us the grace to share with others, the beauty of Your goodness and grace. Thank You that You came down and made Yourself approachable and tangible to ordinary people. Forgive us for thinking that we have to be anything other than ourselves to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would depend on You to show us how to love as You love each of us. Help us to make You accessible to many through our words and deeds. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we celebrate in awe and wonder, the incredible gift You gave us through Your Son. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

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. – Isaiah 9:6

 

 

Faithful the Shepherds

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” – (Luke 2:8-10, NIV)

 

For many of us, this is a very familiar passage in scripture. Every Christmas, for as far back as I can remember, I have heard this passage in Luke, and imagined the angel appearing to the shepherds at night, and then the shepherds making their way to see the newborn Jesus after standing in the splendor of the choir of heavenly hosts. However, I had never really wondered why the shepherd? Yesterday, my pastor unpacked the history of this passage in a way that made me ponder the message long beyond the time seated in service. Why would God make such an important announcement to those whom society considered the lowly and unclean? Additionally, how intriguing that the space where our Savior lay, was familiar and comfortable to the shepherds, rather than some palace or huge house that they would be too intimidated to approach… God does not call the equipped, but rather He equips the called. The shepherds were faithful and fearless to do the job in their fields at night, so why not use those very same traits for more? There is so much more to the story, and I am barely scratching the surface. (Click here for the link to the podcast) My greatest take-away was the gift of more – a glimpse at more of the story, more insight, more understanding, and even more to be grateful for as we celebrate this most holy season. May the God of all peace reveal more of Himself to us all this blessed Christmas season.

 

Faithful the shepherds, Faithful the Shepherds

Watching flocks by night;

When an angel showed,

Gave them a good fright.

The first words spoken,

“Do not be afraid,

For good news I bring;

Of where Jesus lay.”

The babe long promised,

Had at last arrived;

Hope for all people,

Salvation alive.

Faithful the shepherds,

Who went on their way;

To see this baby,

In a manger lay.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You do not call the equipped, but rather You equip the called. Thank You that You use the most unlikely of us to do incredible things, simply because we are willing. Thank You for Your goodness and grace. Forgive us for our fearfulness and stubbornness when things before us seem impossible. Teach us to trust You more, as You are God and we are not. Show us how to love those around us in a way that shines Your goodness and grace in a way that makes love tangible. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we praise You and thank You for the greatest gift ever given. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. – 2 Corinthians 3:5

A Christmas Prayer

I pray that God, the Source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. – (Romans 15:13, NLT)

I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace as you trust in Him. Then you will have more and more hope, and it will flow out of you by the power of the Holy Spirit. – (Romans 15:13, ERV)

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in Him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with His super-abundance until you radiate with hope! – (Romans 15:13, TPT)

 

Christmas is a season that reminds us of the hope that we hold in our hearts, and grants opportunities to be refreshed in joy and peace as dear ones gather to celebrate. For many, peace is elusive and joy seems hard to find. Too often the weight of the world rests on the shoulders of those whom were never meant to bear it, and the burdens of life create a barrier to the hope they once held dear. Our charge, as those who are holding fast to this hope, is to allow His joy and peace to flow from us to all whom we meet. It is in each encounter where joy and peace are shared, that glimpses of hope are given, and often reignited in the hearts of those who have lost sight of what they once knew. May we go forth in perfect peace as we trust our Provider, and spread joy because of the hope that we hold close in our hearts.

 

This Christmas I pray, A Christmas Prayer

That the God of peace;

Will renew all hope,

And fresh joy, release.

As we choose to trust,

He comes alongside;

Fills those completely,

Who in Him abide.

Let us draw nearer,

His power receive;

Hope shall overflow,

In all who believe.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You alone are our Source of hope, and You fill us with Your joy and peace when we trust in You. Thank You that these things You give to us are not only for us, but You fill us to overflowing, so that those around us may find hope, joy and peace as well. Forgive us for not trusting You completely when our circumstances seem hopeless. Teach us to trust You in all things and at all times, as You are the Overcoming One, who is our hope, no matter what we see. Show us how to love those around us in a way that spreads joy and peace, and extends hope where hope has grown dim. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we trust You to be our Hope and grant us Your joy and peace. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you.” – Exodus 33:19

Strength that Endures with Joy

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy. – (Colossians 1:11, NLT)

We pray that God will strengthen you with His own great power, so that you will be patient and not give up when troubles come. Then you will be happy. – (Colossians 1:11, ERV)

We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul – not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy. – (Colossians 1:11, MSG)

 

As I gear up for the final week before Christmas break, I find much comfort in this verse from Colossians. I am reminded again of from Whom my strength comes, and that there is joy as we press on with patience along our journey. My job already requires more patience than I could ever muster on my own, yet God, in His great power, will provide more as it is needed. He will give us strength that goes beyond grit, and His eyes to see the good that comes from seeking His help as we go. May we seek the Lord for His strength and endurance, so that we walk through this season in joy.

 

The God of all strength, Joy to the World

Will give what we need;

His love and His grace,

In joy, they will lead.

So seek the good Lord,

Patience to endure;

He’s ever faithful,

Our hope is secure.

As we go in grace,

And strength He employs;

We’re able to rise,

And go forth with joy.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your strength and grace that supply the endurance and patience that we need to navigate whatever comes our way. Thank You that as we seek You, You hear us and answer in Your love. Forgive us for not relying on You for what we need, and trying to gut out the trials rather than seeking You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would come to You for all that we need, recognizing that You alone are our true Source. Show us how to love others well, so that we may extend patience, grace and kindness in a way that fills hearts with Your joy. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we go forth in Your strength and embrace the joy that You supply along our journey. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filed with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. – Psalm 28:7

Working On Our Why

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. – (Colossians 3:23, NLT)

Whatever you do, do it from the heart for the Lord and not for people. – (Colossians 3:23, CEB)

Put your heart and soul into every activity you do, as though you are doing it for the Lord Himself and not merely for others. – (Colossians 3:23, TPT)

 

What a perfect reminder on a Monday following a long, holiday weekend. This final push prior to Christmas, takes some serious digging deep. However, it is so good to remember Who we are ultimately working for – in all things, all that we do should be unto the Lord. If we keep that in proper perspective, there is an urgency in our call to action as we rise and return to work this morning. Whatever our job or position, we are called with purpose, and have things to accomplish unto Him. No matter what we do, we can work as unto the Lord. If it is teaching, be it with kindness and grace; if it is serving or helping or leading, let patience and goodness reign – in all things, whatever we do, may His love be evident as we commit ourselves to working as unto Him.

 

May we choose to work, Generous Giving

In all that we do;

As unto the Lord,

So His love shines through.

When heart and soul,

Are in what we do;

Our best is put forth,

And grace is renewed.

In everything,

Our best for the Lord;

So His love light shines,

And peace is outpoured.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the reminders of truth that You give us in Your word. Thank You that ultimately, we are not working for people, but rather unto You. Forgive us for approaching anything that we do with an attitude that is less than our best. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would do all things as unto You. Show us how to love those around us as You love us. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we do all that we do, unto You, giving our very best. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

The Treasures of Christmas

But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. – (Luke 2:19, NLT)

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. – (Luke 2:19, NIV)

 

Mary, the one whom God chose to bear the Savior of the world, experienced wonders and miracles both before Jesus was born, and throughout His lifetime. I love how Luke points out that Mary made a point to treasure each event in her heart and remember what the Lord had done, as this is how a mama’s heart is wired. As my own children have transitioned from baby, to toddler, to children and now into teenagers, I too, have treasured the moments of significance in my heart, and likewise, I think of the moments and movements of God often. Christmas is the gift of God with us. Heaven came to earth so that we would know the wonder of Christ’s nearness, rather that God out there. Though we may not all be mamas, we all have moments and miracles to keep in our hearts and think about often. May we take time today to celebrate God with us, and the glorious gift that came to us so that we could have life everlasting as we remember the reason for this sacred season. Merry Christmas, and may your heart ponder the treasures He has given and continues to give.

 

When Love made way down,

O Holy Night

image by Rick Larson

From heaven to earth;

Such glory beheld,

In Christ’s sacred birth.

Though in modest scene,

No crib for a bed;

Jesus came to save,

And peace and love spread.

Just as His mother,

Held dear in her heart;

May we hold moments,

Of Love from the start.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son so that Love could come close. Thank You that Mary modeled the importance of keeping close to our hearts, all that You have done in us and for us and through us. Forgive us for not paying attention or for not recognizing the significance of all that You do. Teach us how to treasure each moment that You give us. Show us how every movement and moment matters to You. Help us to love as You love, so that people may see Your heart through the way that we love. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we treasure all that You have done, and think about these things often. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

Shout aloud and sing for joy. – Isaiah 12:6

Christ in Christmas

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – (Isaiah 9:6, NLT)

 

This is the night where the world takes pause to remember the most sacred occasion where heaven came to earth in the form of a baby boy. Born in a stable, not fit for the Savior of the world, yet God gave incredible assurance that this was indeed the way Mary and Joseph were meant to walk as they brought this blessed bundle forth in a stable surrounded by animals. Angelic visitations had announced that He would be born, heavenly hosts proclaimed His arrival – flooding the night sky over the heads of shepherds as they watched their flocks by night, and a bright star shone on His behalf to lead the way for those who were meant to find Him. Though not necessarily the beginning we might envision for the One who saves the world from sin and shame, Jesus’ arrival changed everything. Because He came, grew, walked in obedience, willingly laid down His life in our place, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father, we have way to be restored to right relationship with God. May we stop the activity on this day long enough to really recognize the significance of this most holy night that we celebrate. Jesus is the gift, and the reason we can give. Our Counselor, our God, our Father, and our Peace – these are the reasons we have light and life and love. Joy to the world, the Savior has come!

 

For a child was born,The story of Christmas metaphor represented by a manger and crown of thorns.

A Son was given;

The weight of the world,

He has forgiven.

The great Counselor,

Most mighty our God;

The Father who lasts,

Let our hearts applaud.

For He is our peace,

Born so we might live;

May we honor Him,

Through gifts that we give.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your only Son into the world so that we might be restored to right relationship with You. Thank You that You love us so much that You willingly laid down Your life for ours. Forgive us for not having our priorities in place and for forgetting the real reason for this most sacred season. Teach us to fix our eyes and hearts on You, so that all that we do is a reflection of You. Show us how to love and give as You do, so that our words and deeds are Your heart being made known to those around us. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as so many take the time to gather with family and friends to celebrate. Let Christ be lifted high this Christmas. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. – Psalm 145:8

I Look Up

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. – (Psalm 121:1-2, NIV)

I look up to the hills, but where will my help really come from? My help will come from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth. – (Psalm 121:1-2, ERV)

 

For me, there is nothing like getting out in nature to regain perspective as to who God is, and how awesome His power and might. All it takes is a glimpse of the crashing waves of the ocean or the mighty peaks that rise before me, to realize how great He is and how small I am. This morning, I have the opportunity to go and reset. In the midst of the madness of Christmas shoppers and chaos all around the city, some dear friends and I are going to escape for a few hours to hike in the snowy woods. Fresh air and the beauty of God’s creation await. I cannot think of a better way to spend my morning on this wonderful Wednesday before Christmas. May you all have an opportunity to find rest and reset amidst the madness, and recognize how great our God is, and from where our help is found.

 

As I lift my eyes,i-look-up

What is it I see?

The glory of God,

Created for me.

The very same hands,

That made earth and sea;

Are ready to help,

All who choose seek Thee.

Our help comes from Him,

The Lord above all;

Who loves us to life,

And lifts when we fall.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the glorious gift of Your creation. Thank You that the very same hands that hung the stars in the sky are willing to come close and hold our hearts. Forgive us for not looking to You to be our help, or for neglecting to recognize the majesty of all that You have made. Teach us to see You and Your creation with a holy perspective, so that we would recognize how great and mighty You are. Show us how to love fiercely, so that others too, will be led to look to You as their Source of help and hope. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we look up to You to be our help in all things. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. – James 5:11

Where Strength is Reborn

Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – (Matthew 11:28, NLT)

“Come to Me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest.” – (Matthew 11:28, ERV)

 

After a good, but seemingly extraordinarily long day, I did not realize just how weary I had become. For whatever reason, when I returned home from work, I jumped right into cleaning and laundry mode without really pausing to take a break. From there, I went to my kettlebell training session, and then onto a Christmas gathering with dear friends. Despite the joy in seeing everyone, I felt like I needed to head home to check on one of my sweet sons who had been sick and missed school. Once home, all was well, the boys were resting and content, so I went to my room to lay down for a few minutes. Of course once cozy and warm, the few minutes became many hours. I woke at 2am, and had already slept five hours. Surprisingly, I merely turned off my bedroom light and went back to sleep until a more reasonable hour this morning. Nearly nine hours of sleep later, I am better rested than I have been since summer. God knew what I needed, and rest was granted beyond what I would have sought for myself. The Lord provides where we are lacking, and longs for us to seek Him to find rest. May we remember to seek the Lord in this sacred season, and allow Him to take our burdens as He is the One who will grant us rest.

 

Come all you weary,where-strength-is-reborn

Unto Christ the Lord;

He takes our burdens,

As rest He affords.

The Lord knows our need,

And lovingly gives;

Help to the seeking,

In grace, He forgives.

Bring all your burdens,

You weary and worn;

His rest is ready,

In Him, strength’s reborn.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that we can come to You when we are weary and weighed down, and You will give us rest. Thank You that at times, You provide the rest we don’t even realize we so desperately need. Forgive us for trying to gut things out in our weariness, and help us to seek You for strength. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would bring our burdens before You, as You are our Source and Supply. Show us how to love those around us well, and where we can help bear the burdens of those around us through practical help and support. May many come to know You as their Savior this season as they see Your heart through the actions and encouragement that You place around them. Be glorified O God, as we come to You when we are weary and worn, and receive the rest that You so graciously give so that we may go and do likewise. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. – Job 8:21