Advent 2019 – Week 4

Introduction:  During this year’s Advent season, I am writing a weekly blog post with a story from the Bible, followed by a few thoughts and questions to contemplate / think about during the week.  May this be a blessing to you throughout your time leading up to Christmas.

Here is the link to Week 1:  Advent 2019 – Week 1
Here is the link to Week 2:  Advent 2019 – Week 2
Here is the link to Week 3:  Advent 2019 – Week 3

Week 3 Readings:

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
(Matthew 1:20-23 NIV)

20 One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”

Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs.21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
(Luke 17:20-21 NIV)

The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that Messiah would come; they thought He would come as a political and religious ruler to throw off the oppression of the Romans and re-establish His reign over the nation of Israel.

In Matthew’s Gospel, the angel told Joseph that the baby in Mary’s womb was indeed God Himself, coming in the form of a baby, both fully God and fully human.

Think of this for a moment – God, the Creator, coming to inhabit His creation.

And yet, fast forward 30 years, when Jesus is in the midst of His ministry here on earth, the Luke passage above tells us that the Pharisees ignored the possibility that Jesus could be Messiah, and asked when God’s kingdom would be ushered in.

Jesus confounded them by telling them not to look for visible signs of the Kingdom (what they were expecting to see); rather, Jesus said that the Kingdom was already in their midst.  When the King is present, the Kingdom is with Him!

Some thoughts to ponder this week:

  • What are your expectations about God and His interaction in your life?  Do you expect Him to show up or handle matters in a certain way?  If your expectations are not met, does that change your relationship with God?
  • What do you believe about God’s Presence?  Is He “out there”, or is He “right here”?
  • If the Kingdom of God is already present (because Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to indwell us), what implications does that have to live our lives on a day-to-day basis?


Advent 2019 – Week 3

Introduction:  During this year’s Advent season, I am writing a weekly blog post with a story from the Bible, followed by a few thoughts and questions to contemplate / think about during the week.  May this be a blessing to you throughout your time leading up to Christmas.

Here is the link to Week 1:  Advent 2019 – Week 1
Here is the link to Week 2:  Advent 2019 – Week 2

Week 3 Reading:  Matthew 1:18-25

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
(Matthew 1:18-25 NLT)

Let’s spend some time this week with Joseph, the step-father of Jesus.

Verse 19 tells us Joseph was a righteous man – he had integrity and virtue, and purposed to live his life so as to honor God in all ways.   The idea here is that God was nodding with pleasure and agreement about the way Joseph was living his life.

We see this kindness and character in Joseph when he found out Mary was pregnant.  Rather than publicly shaming her, he chose to break off their engagement quietly.  He knew she would have enough humiliation without his heaping disgrace on her as well.

While Joseph had one plan, God had another.  The angel appeared and told Joseph to take Mary to be his wife.  Instead of quietly walking away from the disgrace, God asked Joseph to join Mary as an innocent man, bearing under the disgrace and looks and murmurs on everyday life as step-father to God Incarnate, God with us.

And what was Joseph’s response?  When he woke up from the dream, he obeyed and took Mary as his wife, and kept her a virgin until after Jesus was born.

Some thoughts to ponder this week:

  • Sometimes God asks us to stand in the gap for others, to share their burden… sometimes that’s messy and we get dirt on us in the process, as Joseph did for Mary.  Are you willing to do so, or are you more concerned about how other people see you and what they say about you?
  • When God speaks to you (through His Word, through dreams, or otherwise), what is your response?  To tell others about the encounter, or to obey?
  • Even after Joseph took Mary as his wife, he kept Mary a virgin until after Jesus was born.  What does a life of integrity and righteousness look like in your life, when no one else is looking or watching?  What is holding you back from living that life?


Advent 2019 – Week 2

Introduction:  During this year’s Advent season, I am writing a weekly blog post with a story from the Bible, followed by a few thoughts and questions to contemplate / think about during the week.  May this be a blessing to you throughout your time leading up to Christmas.

Here is the link to Week 1:  Advent 2019 – Week 1


Week 2 Reading:  Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
(Luke 1:26-38 NIV)

As we ponder the encounter between Mary and the angel, we see Emmanuel – God with us – at a whole new level.  As a young, engaged woman, the angel tells her that she is going to have a baby, and not just any baby – she is going to have the Son of God living inside her.

In her child-like faith, she doesn’t understand how this can be.  When the angel explains that it’s an outrageous miracle from God, she humbly submits herself  and accepts her assignment, knowing full well that it will not be understood by most everyone, and she will likely be unjustly labeled and condemned for what others don’t understand.

In her humble response to the angel, Mary said, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  Martin Luther, in his writings on this passage, beautifully paraphrases Mary’s words to be, “I am only the workshop in which God operates.”

Some thoughts to ponder this week:

  • Mary was asked to do something completely out of character for her, and she chose to submit to the Lord.  Has there been a time in your life when God has asked you to do something that was shocking, completely outrageous by the world’s values?  Did you submit to His leading?  How hard was it to submit?  What was the outcome?
  • Mary had Christ living in her, both physically and spiritually.  As followers of Christ, we have Christ living spiritually in us.  Mary endured the shame of being labeled an unwed mother, and she knew the pain would carry over to the child living in her as well.  As a carrier of Christ in you, have you endured the pain of association with Christ, of being falsely accused of things that are not true?  How have you handled that pain and rejection?
  • God’s grace was at work in Mary long before she was given this assignment of carrying Christ in her.  Her humble offer to be God’s workshop in which He operates exemplifies God’s grace coupled with Mary’s faith in God’s goodness.  Can you and I offer ourselves as God’s workshop in which He operates, and let God form Christ in us?
  • The old hymn “O To be Like Thee” captures the essence of letting God make us more like Jesus.  Here is the first verse and chorus (emphases mine):

Verse 1:
O to be like Thee! blessed Redeemer;
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Here is the link to all the verses and the tune if you’re interested: O To Be Like Thee


Advent 2019 – Week 1

Introduction:  During this year’s Advent season, I am writing a weekly blog post with a story from the Bible, followed by a few thoughts and questions to contemplate / think about during the week.  May this be a blessing to you throughout your time leading up to Christmas.  Feel free to share your comments.

Week 1 Reading:  Luke 1:5-25

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
(Luke 1:5-25 NIV)

In ancient times, being childless was often considered a social disgrace and a sign of God’s judgment on the couple.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were very familiar with waiting.  As the years passed, their hopes of ever having their dream fulfilled dimmed, flickered, then died.  While their hope of having a child went away, their devotion to the Lord did not.  As we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, we see that this social stigma was a wrong assumption about them, as they had lived and were living righteously in the sight of God (Luke 1:6).

After Elizabeth became pregnant, she went into seclusion for five months, praising God and rejoicing in God’s grace and love (vv. 24-25).

Some thoughts to ponder this week:

  • How would you describe your response to waiting?  Doing everything humanly possible to change your situation?  Give up, resigned to the idea that your situation is permanent?  Or looking forward to see what God will do during this time?
  • What does your response to waiting reveal about your relationship to God?
  • What is the one thing you are waiting for?  What value might there be in seeking solitude (as Elizabeth did) and sit with God during this waiting period?  Where, in your busy schedule, can you intentionally carve out some blocks of time for you and God to have some quiet and solitude together?


Five Senses – Taste

For a little change of pace, we’ve taken a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus Reinstates Peter

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
(John 21:4-19 NIV)

It was hard to choose a Scripture passage for this one.  There are many passages in the four Gospels where Jesus shared a meal with others.  In Jesus’ day, hospitality and food were such a rich part of their culture.

After much prayer and several false starts on my part, I landed on this passage of Jesus fixing a shore breakfast for His disciples.

At this point, as John points out, Jesus had been crucified, had died, and was resurrected from the dead.  This was the third time that Jesus had revealed His resurrected self to His disciples.

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, John Chapter 20 tells us that the disciples had sequestered themselves into a house and had locked the door for fear of the Jewish leaders also coming after them.  However, Jesus had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for Him to give them further instructions.

In the beginning of John Chapter 21, Peter announces that he’s going fishing.  For a guy that is used to being outside and able to go anywhere he wishes, a week inside a locked house likely made Peter feel like a caged animal yearning to break out.

Let’s step into the scene for a few moments.  Peter had denied Jesus 3 times while Jesus was on trial.  Then the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered Jesus’ words to him. Peter went out and wept bitterly after he realized what he had done.

Peter likely replayed his denial of Jesus over and over in his heart and mind.  Peter felt he had failed the Lord, and was now a broken man.  Even thought Jesus had appeared to the disciples twice since His resurrection, Peter and the other disciples were unsure of their calling and worth.  Not knowing what else to do, Peter resorted to what he knew – back to his “happy place” – fishing.

After a fruitless night casting their nets, the early morning hours began with someone on shore inquiring about the catch.  John realizes that it’s Jesus, and Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.

Jesus has fixed a shore breakfast for the disciples – some fish cooked over a fire, and some bread.  The disciples had likely eaten this breakfast many times, but I can imagine this breakfast was particularly special.

After breakfast, Jesus spent some time talking to Peter.  Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times, the same number of times Peter had denied Jesus.

Jesus asked Peter the first time: “Do you love Me more than these?”  By “these”, Jesus was referring to the boat, the nets, the fish, and Peter’s successful fishing career.  Remember that Jesus had called Peter to follow Him in a very similar situation – and Peter had left everything behind to follow Jesus before.  Now Jesus was re-issuing His original call to Peter.

Jesus asked Peter two more times, “Do you love me?”  And Peter’s answer was yes both times.  Notice Jesus’ commands to Peter after Peter affirmed his love and friendship to Jesus:

“Take care of my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”

Once again, by example, Jesus had given Peter and the other disciples a taste of a life lived for Him – caring for others, feeding them, loving them unconditionally through good times and bad.

Decades later, as Peter penned a letter to the churches in Asia Minor, reminding them to remain steadfast in the Lord, I can imagine Peter recalling the shore breakfast with Jesus that morning, being restored and re-commissioned, and the new calling and purpose that gave to his life.  I can imagine that Peter then wrote verse 3:

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
(1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV)

That shore breakfast with Jesus still tasted so good after all those years ago:

  • physically, to a bone-weary fisherman who had been up all night
  • emotionally, to a man who had denied even knowing Jesus, and was forgiven
  • spiritually, to a broken man who thought he had destroyed his testimony and ministry, and was now restored and one of the leaders of the new movement

As the ancient psalmist wrote:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.
(Psalm 34:8 NIV)

May we do the same today.


Five Senses – Hearing

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
(Matthew 8:5-13 NIV)

When you think about Jesus’ emotional responses, what do you think of first?

  • His love toward so many, including children, outcasts, and misfits?
  • His empathy, when He wept over the death of His friend Lazarus?
  • His sorrow, when He was praying in Gethsemane before His arrest?
  • His righteous anger, when he cleared the temple of the money changers?
  • His compassion, when He healed many everywhere He went?
  • His joy, when He attended the wedding and turned water into fine wine?

Obviously, the list could go on and on as we read the pages of Scripture.

When we consider Jesus’ emotional responses, today’s passage is not typically one that is top of mind.

As we step into this story, we smile as we read the happy ending – the centurion’s beloved servant is restored to health and Jesus has another teachable moment with His followers.

However, like many of the stories in the four Gospel accounts, this story has multiple layers, additional narratives that are easy to name but are often glossed over.

For instance, another layer that is fairly obvious is this centurion’s faith.  Jesus offered to come to the centurion’s house and heal the boy.  The centurion, however, let Jesus know that a home visit (and all the social implications of a Jewish person entering into a non-Jewish home) was not necessary.  The centurion simply asked Jesus to heal him by saying the word (by saying so).

The larger narrative that I find captivating is Jesus’ response to the centurion’s answer.  Verse 10 says that when Jesus heard the centurion’s reply, He was amazed.

Think about that for a moment.

Jesus, the Son of God, who existed from before the beginning of time, the same One who created all things and knows all things, is surprised by something, by anything!

Yes, when Jesus heard the centurion’s reply, He was surprised, amazed, marveled at and admired the man’s answer.

So what would your response be if you were standing there?  What would you say or do, or would you have any words at all?

Jesus, always being present in the moment, was not dumbfounded or lacking words.  His response to hearing the centurion was to turn to those following Him and use it as a teachable moment about faith in God.

Jesus said that He had never found anyone in Israel with such great faith as this Gentile, this Roman man, this leader of Roman soldiers.  The Israelites were to be the great people of faith, the living examples of the kindness and goodness and dependability and trustworthiness of the One True God.

And yet, this humble soldier’s faith in Jesus outshone them all.

May our deep conviction of who Jesus is and His readiness to walk with us through all of life’s journeys cause us to put our faith and trust in Him like this Roman centurion did.

And may we be surprised by the joy of walking in deep faith with Jesus, as much as Jesus was amazed by the centurion’s faith.


Five Senses – Smell

For a little change of pace, we’re taking a few sessions to see how Jesus used his body, specifically his five senses, in his ministry.

Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”
(John 12:1-8 NIV)

Today’s passage picks up the same main cast of characters as John Chapter 11:  Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead in Chapter 11; after a brief time away from Bethany, Jesus was back in town and spending time with his friends.

Jesus knew His time was short; in less than a week, He would be dead.  Trying to stay away from the crowds, Jesus attended a private dinner given in His honor.  Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were there, among others.  Lazarus was at the table with Jesus, no doubt thankful to be alive and basking in Jesus’ presence.  Martha was showing her love for Jesus by doing, by serving Him.  And Mary was there, showing her love for Jesus by abiding, by being with Him.  Mary had been brokenhearted over her brother’s death; now she was overjoyed at what Jesus had done for them and hung on His every word.

Then Mary does something quite uncharacteristic for what we know of her.  She takes out a jar of expensive perfume and starts pouring it on Jesus’ feet.  And not only that, but she lets down her hair (which was NOT something proper Jewish women did in public, especially in the presence of other men) and uses her hair like a cloth to wipe Jesus’ feet.

John records that this perfume was a pint jar of nard, which was a rare herb grown in the high pasture lands of India and China, likely in the foothills of the Himalayas.  This perfume was then put into alabaster jars and sealed for transport.  The caravan traders would then load these jars and other spices on their camels and begin the months-long trek back to the Middle East.

John also records the value of the perfume, as known by Judas.  This was a year’s wages in their day; using our minimum wage calculation for the United States in 2019, it would amount to somewhere around $15,000 to $20,000.  Even in our modern-day economy, that’s a LOT of money!

In verse 3, John tells us that as Mary applied the perfume on Jesus’ feet, the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  The earthy musk permeated the air, the house furnishings, and everyone’s clothes, hair, and skin with its wonderful essence.

When Judas complained about Mary not selling the perfume and giving the money to the poor, Jesus stopped him and reminded everyone that He would not always be physically present with them.  Mary was doing a really good thing by honoring Him before His death.

Mary’s extravagance toward Jesus was her way of showing her love to Him.  This was likely a nest egg that she had, her life savings all contained in one pint jar.  And she willingly, humbly, and quietly gave it all to her Lord.  And Jesus loved her heart and actions, calling off the naysayers, telling them to leave her alone and let her finish what she was doing because it was her way of honoring Him:

  • Mary gave the Best her best from a deep heart of love and gratitude
  • Mary gave the Best her best humbly, and without regard to her critics
  • Mary gave the Best her best willingly, without prompting, reluctance, or hesitation

Can you remember a time when someone did something that they didn’t have to do… and you will never forget it?

  • Someone from across the country showed up to be with you in your pain and anguish, just because they cared about you?
  • You witnessed a husband or wife sit beside their spouse in the hospital for days and nights on end, just to be with them and comfort them?
  • You received a card with a hand-written note that touched your soul?
  • You witnessed an impossible need met by a person or group or community?
  • Someone was able to experience a dream for which they had given up hope, because of the goodness of others?

The essence of those times and memories stick with us for a lifetime like Mary’s perfume, don’t they?

May we love God extravagantly in the here and now like Mary, breaking open and pouring out the best of ourselves for Him, not because we expect anything in return, but because He has already given His Best to us in His Son Jesus.

And may we also learn to love others extravagantly and without regard to the critics, carrying with us the wonderful aroma of Christ everywhere we go, just as Mary’s perfume infused everyone and everything that special night.

The apostle Paul uses this same imagery of smell to express a life lived fully for Christ:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NIV

May the essence of our life be the pleasing, pervasive aroma of Christ for all.