That Precious Baby

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about Him. – (Luke 2:33, NLT)

Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. – (Luke 2:33, MSG)

Mary and Joseph stood there, awestruck over what was being said about their baby. – (Luke 2:33, TPT)

 

It is difficult to fathom being in Mary and Joseph’s shoes. Though they had both been visited by an angel that told them that she would be with child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and then they were visited just after Jesus was born by shepherds who worshiped this newborn baby because of an angelic announcement, the significance of their Son likely began to hit home a bit more as Simeon unpacked what God had promised about Him. As parents, we always have great hopes for our children from the moment we know that they have been conceived. For most, we can only imagine and dream of who they might become, and pray that they will grow and live well, according to God’s design. For Mary and Joseph, that design was astounding. Their Son was to be the Savior of the world. However, His position would not be without a painful price. I wonder if the two of them could even fully process the prophetic promise presented before them, as they held their eight-day-old baby boy. What a wonder indeed. Jesus grew and was faithful to fulfill all that to which He had been called. His sacrifice is our salvation. May we ponder in wonder and awe, the incredible sacrifice and willing obedience displayed by Mary and Joseph while Jesus was so young, and the faithfulness of God forever.

 

Imagine hearing, Majesty Moved from the Cradle to the Cross

Such uncertain words;

Both saving and pain,

The gist of that heard.

A precious baby,

Innocent and new;

Would bear such a weight,

For me and for you.

That precious baby,

Grew into a man;

Who helped, healed and saved,

Faithful to God’s plan.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Mary and Joseph, as parents who were willing to faithfully follow what God asked of them, no matter the cost. Thank You for sending You one and only Son to save us and restore us to right relationship with You. Forgive us for not embracing the mercy and grace that You freely give, if only we choose to come before You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would be willing to walk wherever You lead, no matter what risk is required. Show us how to love those around us in a way that demonstrates Your mercy and grace in tangible ways. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we praise You for Your faithfulness forever, and trust You to lead us wherever You call us to go. Amen.

 

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

 

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

Blanketed in Peace

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – (Luke 2:14, NLT)

“Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors.” – (Luke 2:14, CEB)

“Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons of men.” – (Luke 2:14, TPT)

 

Just as the host of angels sang these words after the one had brought the glorious announcement to the shepherds in their fields at night so many years ago, we are reminded of the very same peace and glory today. Last evening as our candlelight service ended, snow began falling and blanketing the earth around us. To me, there is nothing quite so serene, peaceful and beautiful as a scene freshly blanketed in snow. It reminds me that we are made new, and restores hope that the things that seem chaotic will become calm, and that which is broken or fractured can be made new. Peace on earth, goodwill to all, for the Light of the world has come to bring hope to us through the baby born in a stable so long ago. That baby grew and lived and loved with His very life, so that we could know life everlasting. May we take pause in awe and wonder, and marvel at the peace and good hope that has come to us, as gently as freshly fallen snow.

 

Just as fresh snow falls,

Blanketed in Peace

photo credit: Flickr by pixelmama

And blankets the earth;

We’re reminded of,

Our dear Savior’s birth.

For on that dark night,

A long time ago;

The angels appeared,

To shepherds below.

With heavenly voice,

They lifted a song;

All glory to God,

May peace carry on.

Great hope is granted,

To those who believe;

Who trust in the Lord,

With this He is pleased.

So, gaze and the snow,

Take in its pure light;

Remember the peace,

That came on that night.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the precious gift of Your Son and the hope and peace that is found in Him. Thank You for the beauty of Your creation, and the tangible reminder of how we are made clean and new in You, just as the earth appears in a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Forgive us for not recognizing the reminders of Your peace and hope that You present all around us. Teach us to trust You more, so that we are acutely aware of Your presence and Your peace, even in the places where it does not make sense. Show us how to be ambassadors of peace and hope to a world in need, as we love as we are loved by You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we celebrate the peace that came to us through the precious gift of Your Son. Amen.

 

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

 

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ. – Ephesians 2:4-5

Ponder the Treasure

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

Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. – (Luke 2:19, ERV)

Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. – (Luke 2:19, CEB)

Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart. – (Luke 2:19, VOICE)

 

The chain of events leading to and surrounding the birth of Jesus, must have been more than enough to keep Mary’s mind on constant overload. Angelic visits and prophecies, miraculous pregnancies, having to travel by donkey in the desert, arriving only to be turned away at all of the possible places to stay, giving birth in a stable, having shepherds show up… Mary was now mother to the Son of God. I imagine she vacillated back and forth between bewilderment and amazement at the role that she had been called to fill. Her faithfulness and trust in God was apparent, as she said “yes” to that which she had been called to do by God. Each of these events to treasure, were likely the things that gave her courage and strength in times of uncertainty as Jesus grew. Today, as many of us participate in candlelight services, may we ponder all of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, and treasure them in our hearts, so that we too, will find courage and strength in times of uncertainty.

 

Joining to gather, Ponder the Treasure

In candlelight glow;

Sing of our Savior,

Arrival we know.

Born in a stable,

Such a humble birth;

Path for us to know,

The depth of our worth.

For God sent His Son,

To show love to all;

Let us each embrace,

Grace to which we’re called.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You show us how to stop in awe and wonder of all that took place surrounding the birth of Jesus through the example of Mary. Thank You that You did not call the equipped, but rather You equipped the called. Thank You that You used ordinary people to do the extraordinary to change the course of history forever; a young girl, a carpenter, some shepherds, an inn keeper with a bit of compassion – each with a role that led us to why we celebrate this most holy season. Forgive us for breezing through the day as if it is just another holiday. Teach us to stop and ponder the magnitude of what You have done for us, so that we will treasure it all in our hearts. Show us how to love those around us with a love that is tangible and worth treasuring. May many come into a lasting relationship with You, as they are introduced or reminded of Who You are and all that You have done through the glorious gift of Your Son. Be glorified O God, as we ponder and treasure the reason for the season. Amen.

 

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

 

Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. – James 5:13

 

 

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

Anna’s Answer

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fasting and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up and broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem. – (Luke 2:36-38, MSG)

 

Though Matthew does not reveal to us whether or not Anna had been promised to see the Messiah before the end of her life, I imagine that her presence in the Temple was no accident nor coincidence, as Mary and Joseph brought Jesus on the eighth day after his birth. It is difficult to fathom the life of Anna. Widowed, likely at a very young age, she chose to remain in the Temple area day in and day out, for decades. Matthew describes her has a prophet, and her heart was clearly connected to God as she worshiped and prayed day and night. Likely, one of her often prayed prayers was for the Savior to come to rescue Israel, as had been foretold in scripture. Incredibly, after all of her faithful time spent serving and honoring God, she suddenly found herself standing in the presence of a promise coming to fruition. Immanuel, God with us, came near in a tangible way to Anna, who had waited nearly a lifetime to behold the very One who was held before her. May we worship with the same sort of wonder and celebration as those first few whom God blessed with the opportunity to be in the presence of our Savior. The glory of the first Christmas remains the same, as we celebrate God with us, now and forevermore.

 

Remarkable the faith, Annas Answer

And hope she held dear;

Faithful for ages,

Prayers that God come near.

In awe and wonder,

Her eyes did behold;

The promised Savior,

Scriptures had foretold.

She could not help speak,

To all others tell;

This most holy news,

Rejoice! It is well.

The hope she had held,

Was found in the eyes;

Eight-day-old baby,

Future realized.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to save us. Thank You that Jesus made the way for us to be in right relationship with You, despite our shortcomings. Forgive us for forgetting all that Jesus went through to not only redeem us, but to know and understand our struggles and pain. Teach us to trust You with a relentless faith like Anna. Help us to faithfully pray and worship You, regardless of what we see. Show us how to love those around us in a way that offers hope where there is none, so they too may look to You. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we thank You and praise You for all that You have done through the precious gift of Your Son. Amen.

 

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

 

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy. – Hebrews 4:16

Simeon’s Story

A man named Simeon lived in Jerusalem. He was a good man who was devoted to God. He was waiting for the time when God would come to help Israel. The Holy Spirit was with him. The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he saw the Messiah from the Lord. The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. So he was there when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to do what the Jewish law said they must do. Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God: “Now, Lord, You can let me, your servant, die in peace as You said. I have seen with my own eyes how You will save Your people. Now all people can see Your plan. He is a light to show Your way to the other nations. And He will bring honor to Your people Israel.” Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon said about Him. – (Luke 2:25-33, ERV)

 

There are so many side stories interwoven within the story of the birth of Jesus. Simeon was a man whom had devoted his whole life to God, and was holding both the hope and the promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. I imagine him to have been an older man, wise in his many years, overwhelmed with both joy and awe to behold this baby, as he recognized exactly Whom he was holding in his very own arms. Additionally, I picture Mary and Joseph, who had been visited by angels multiple times over the previous many months, full of wonder as they are now receiving further insight to the role their son will grow to fulfill. Despite the promised pain, Mary and Joseph took their parental roles seriously, and loved and lead their son, the very Son of God, according to what had been asked of them. May we pause and ponder the intricacies of God’s story, as we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth. May the magnitude of the sacrifice made on our behalf, resonate in a fresh way as we celebrate this most holy season.

 

Told in a promise, simeons-story.jpg

His own eyes would see;

Coming Messiah,

The Holy baby.

On the chosen day,

When Jesus arrived;

Simeon beheld,

Promise realized.

Imagine the joy,

Awe and wonder too;

This promise fulfilled,

His hope proving true.

May we too behold,

The wonder and awe;

At our Savior’s birth,

That Simeon saw.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that we have the privilege of knowing some of the side stories that occurred around the birth of Jesus. Thank You for showing us the hearts that had long held the hope of seeing the Messiah, and actually saw Him with their own eyes. Thank You that though we did not witness His birth, we have the blessing of Your Holy Spirit with us, always. Forgive us for not taking time to ponder the magnitude of what began in the manger. Teach us to seek You for wisdom and insight, and reveal more and more to us as we study Your word. Show us how to love those around us so that we can make Your love tangible to all. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we celebrate the wonder of Christmas, and all that unfolded surrounding Jesus’ birth. Amen.

 

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

 

When times are good, be happy. – Ecclesiastes 7:14

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

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

The Gift of Growth

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – (Luke 2:52)

This verse in Luke speaks of the early life of Jesus, prior to His launch into ministry. He, from a young age, pursued understanding and insight, as He spent time in the temple courts among the teachers, listening and asking questions. Jesus, God made man, chose humility as He allowed God to prepare Him for what was yet to come.

Every day we live is a priceless gift of God, loaded with possibilities to learn something new, to gain fresh insight. – (Dale Evans Rogers)

God gives us the gift of time; be it days, months, years or decades. Each morning we wake, we ought to count as a gift from God, asking Him how we might learn and grow in Him. He provides new insight as we pursue Him, and new possibilities as we are willing to walk in His way. May we make the most of each new day, and rise, ready to walk in pursuit of Him.

It is through seeking,Courage for Change

that we learn and grow;

by pursuing God,

we shall come to know.

He shows us His heart,

and makes plain the way;

grants us new insight,

to follow, obey.

For life is a gift,

that God grants to us;

so help us love well,

like Your Son, Jesus.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the priceless gift of each new day that we have in You. Thank You for the possibilities and the promises that You provide. Thank You that as we pursue You, we gain fresh wisdom and insight so that we can more clearly navigate the road on which You lead us. Forgive us for failing to seek You for wisdom and insight when that is the very thing that we need most. Teach us to trust You more, so that we will seek You first in all things and at all times. Grow us in wisdom and favor with You and with men, so that we may access those who need Your love most, and love as You love us. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be exalted O God, as we praise You for our present day of possibilities, and pursue new learning and insight in You as we go. Amen.

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

When times are good, be happy. – Ecclesiastes 7:14