Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent 2017 #18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is roughly 100 miles. We don't know whether Joseph and Mary, who was nearing term in her pregnancy, traveled by foot, cart, or astride a donkey, but the trip likely took a week, if not longer. 

There were no air-conditioned vehicles, only fresh air, hot sun, cool nights, and dusty roads. They ate what they could carry with them or purchase along the way.

By the time they reached Bethlehem, Mary's labor had probably already started. They accepted the only shelter available to them, in a stable. This wasn't a wooden barn like we have in the United States. In Israel, it was most likely a cave, so there was no door to close out the night. The "manger" was probably a stone trough with a hollowed-out area to hold feed. 

There were no epidurals or pain medications, no padded mattresses. Mary had none of the comforts to which we've become accustomed. After the delivery, she had none of the privacy we might want, either. 

Mary was undoubtedly exhausted from the long journey, followed by the delivery of her first child, but, before she could rest, the shepherds showed up.

I wouldn't have felt hospitable. I might have told Joseph to have them come back later, after I'd had time for a nap, but not Mary. She welcomed the shepherds, listened to their story about the angels singing, and treasured every word.

Mary harvested the sweet in the midst of the hard and cherished it like gold. Her remarkable attitude wasn't birthed with baby Jesus. It began long before. When the angel arrived with the news that would change her life forever, she rejoiced at the path God had chosen for her and praised Him, despite the consequences she surely knew would come.

She chose joy, even when life was difficult, and gave thanks for whatever came her way. Her faith, coupled with her sweet attitude, found favor with God. 

I don't always choose joy. Do you? It's easier for us to grumble about trials than rejoice in them. That's not the way to please God, though. His desire is to see the fruit of the Spirit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those good qualities don't happen automatically. We must choose to allow the Spirit to work in us and transform us. 

This Advent season, let's prepare to celebrate the birth of our King by allowing God to create in us a Mary-heart that chooses joy and thanksgiving. Let's harvest the sweetness in the midst of our difficult times, welcome those God sends our way, and keep our eyes on the One who came as a baby to set us free.

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19 nasb 
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#17: Church and the Mattress Set

Here are links to other posts in this series: #16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait#14 When Decorating the Tree Was Almost Too Hard to DoWhen Christmas Changes for the Better#12 The Snuggling Savior#11 The Heavenly Rejoicing Party #10 When Peace is Fleeting but Jesus is Still Our Joy#9: God's Love Language#8: The Love that Saves Us from the Maggot Bed#7: Finding the Safe Place in a Crazy World#6: The Preparation of God's Love, #5: When Joy Flowed Forth and Splashed Into My Heart , #4 The King Who Will Not Let Us Down., #3 Preparing for Transformation#2 Preparing for the King with an Humble Heart, and #1 Getting Ready for Jesus.


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