Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

“Behold” is sort of an old-fashioned word; we don’t use it much. And it is a word that needs some sort of explanation. If you tell someone to “behold”, they are going to ask you, “Behold what”? Same if we were to say “Look”. We’d have to tell the person what to look at or where to look or when. If not using language, you’d just point at the object or direction they are to look.

To me, “Behold” is more dramatic than “Look”. It’s like it is saying, “This is important. Pay attention.”

This Christmas season I heard a whole message on “Behold”. It is used in Luke 2:10  – the story of the angels announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. “And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people…”(Luke 2:10 KJV)

When someone tells you not to be afraid they usually add some sort of explanation as to why you shouldn’t fear. In this case the angel said it was because the angel had good news – great news for everyone – no one was going to be left out. Then the angel said what the good news was: a savior was born that very day in Bethlehem. Not just any savior but “a savior who is Christ the Lord.”

The country of Judea, where Bethlehem was, was an occupied land – the Romans were hard and often brutal in their rule of the little country and its Jewish people. The Jews had been looking for a savior for centuries – always hoping God would rescue them. They prayed for it. God had promised the Messiah. They had listened to the prophets but it had been 400 years since the last prophet – had God forgotten? Were they truly abandoned by God? But the prayers and hopes continued.

On an ordinary night as the shepherds guarded their sheep a very extraordinary, startling thing happened. An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared – just one angel. But with it came the brilliant, dazzling, shining of the glory of God. This was the Shechinah glory, “the visible token of the presence of the eternal”. It was God’s glory. Any time it appeared the natural response was awe and fear. (Moses at the burning bush, the Hebrews traveling in the desert, in the tabernacle…)

These shepherds were simple, hard-working, ordinary people; they were held in low esteem, not necessarily thought to be important enough for any honor or recognition much less a visit from an angel. The Talmud says that the sacrificial sheep were pastured in Bethlehem so these sheep were probably ones intended for the daily sacrifices in the temple.

The Good News of a savior – at last  –  was given first to ordinary, hard-working men who showed up faithfully to do their job tending the sacrificial sheep. They weren’t special. They didn’t earn it. They simply showed up for work that night. And their lives were forever changed.

God shows up in the ordinary, mundane-ness of life.

It was overwhelming, unexpected, frightening. The angel knew and anticipated their fear so the angel said “Do not be afraid.” before he said anything else. (God knows our penchant for fear.) And said “behold” then told them why they need not fear – he was bringing good news of joy for everyone – not just a select few – everyone, all peoples. And the joy was going to be in the fact that that very night a Savior was born. He was right at that very moment, indeed, lying in a manger wrapped in rags.

Then suddenly heaven opened and a host of angels were praising God. That’s a whole bunch of angels!! Not just a church choir. Not even the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir – much, much larger.

These shepherds tended the sheep of the sacrifices. They knew what the law required – a blood sacrifice. No doubt, they knew some of the prophecies and perhaps had even heard the whispers of a promised, coming Messiah. After the host of angels went back into heaven they wanted to see what the angel talked about. They didn’t wait. They didn’t take a vote. They didn’t discuss the theological ramifications. They went. They moved their feet “in haste”.

What they discovered was the angel told the truth! This extraordinary thing was not a dream or hallucination – it was real – they saw Mary and Joseph and the baby. The Messiah!

What a thing to behold!

 

 

 

 

Perhaps you have seen and heard the U.S. Postal Service’s cute advertisement about the little girl who obviously has asked for a hippopotamus for Christmas. The catchy tune plays over and over in the background. Her parents have looked and researched for one online and it is delivered just in time for Christmas by the USPS. Then on Christmas morning she opens it up, is excited but…out of the corner of her eye she sees through her window a deer in her snow-covered yard and reaches toward the window longingly. Her parents notice her longing and their happy faces become crest-fallen knowing another “want” has just been created!

Such is the dilemma of our commercial driven culture. We are not satisfied. Madison Avenue, Hallmark, Target, Toys R Us and a host of others know just which buttons to push to get us to “want” other stuff.

However, that is not my drumbeat today!

The tune, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is catchy and I find it goes round and round in my head during the day – not “Silent Night” or “Joy to the World” but “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”! (At least I have learned to spell it!) And I bet that just reading this makes the tune start in your head!!

Well…one morning as I was reading my Bible my eye was caught by a note in the margins with the word “hippopotamus”. Was a hippopotamus mentioned in the Bible?! Yes. (Job 40:15) The word actually is “behemoth”. But it means hippopotamus.

How’s that for Biblical trivia?!

Just an extra gift to you at this wonderful time of year!

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and those gathered around your table.

I love this holiday – so far they haven’t really found a way to over-commercialize it. It is simply family and friends getting together to share big bird, time-loved dishes from grandmother, football, conversation sprinkled with arguments all hemmed with nostalgia.

“They” are trying to encroach on the holiday by opening stores in the late afternoon or early evening. (In recent past, my youngest daughter ventured out to the stores and enjoyed the chaos. The older I get the less I like chaos.

All three of my children will be with me! And 6 of my grandchildren. I’ll share photos.

But I am sure each of you are preparing for the days with anticipation just like I do. All families are alike. All are dysfunctional. So don’t beat yourself up over some unpleasantness that occurs. Just don’t you be unpleasant!

And do take the time to thank God for His many blessings. In this country we are blessed with peace, bounty, beauty and diversity which adds color and texture to this amazing tapestry. I am blessed in my family with a father who is still living and has 4 great-great grandchildren and 4 siblings still living and in good health. I came through two successful surgeries this fall. My children are well and employed!

Sometimes I look around me and just thank God for the blessing of heat, a dry bed, actress to healthcare, a bed at night – not to mention that I can get out of bed on my own, can smell and see and hear. So often I just take it for granted…But it is all God’s blessing on my life.

It could be gone tonight…but He is still God and He still blesses me with His presence and love. Nothing can separate me from His unconditional love. Nothing can separate you for His unconditional love.

That is a blessing worth celebrating this Thanksgiving Day!

(And everyday!)

 

I have been away for a couple of weeks due to back surgery. After some snags, I am on the way to healing. It’s been harder than I imagined and I hope to make up for lost time.

Before I went to the hospital I made sure to put up meals and have them in the freezer. I changed my sheets, polished silver, put my pots and pans within reach so I would not have to bend down to get them. I bought loose fitting clothes – nothing binding. I did my laundry, stocked up on groceries…did all I could to prepare so I wouldn’t have to bend, twist or lean. I prepared. Because I live alone, I may have over-done it; I just didn’t want to be caught unprepared.

While recovering, I watched the Presidential debate. Or I should say, I watched part of it. To me it seemed like and exercise in immaturity, name-calling and lack of depth. I got weary of it and knew the next morning all the pundits would tell me what was said. And they did. I was better off getting some sleep.

It appeared to me Mrs. Clinton was well-prepared. She knew the issues and was calm, well-spoken – even if she was incorrect she came across as in control. Mr. Trump, on the other hand, did not appear to be prepared. He seemed to shoot from the hip. He would make all sorts of statements and follow them up with “Believe me”.

Why should we believe him – or Mrs. Clinton? Their history is not impressive in the area of truth.

I am not making a political statement nor do I endorse any candidate. Yes, I will be prepared to vote but, this time, it is incredibly difficult.

Being prepared is the subject of this blog – not politics.

We prepare for all sorts of thing: exams, Christmas, childbirth, old age, buying  a home…all sorts of things. Are we prepared to die? The death rate for every generation is 100%. All of us will die. Are you prepared?

How do we prepare for death? Make a will? Maybe buy a cemetery plot? Maybe some of us work harder at being good to earn points with God. Talk to our children. Make amends with those we don’t get along with. We could work really hard or throw up our hands and give up. We are so afraid we’ll be caught short – left out.

There really is nothing we can do to earn place in Heaven. Nothing. We can’t earn it at all. So are we left on our own – unprepared?

What a grim subject for a blog! But there is Good News! We have been given a simple way to prepare for Heaven. It is guaranteed.  No-fail.

It is a gift from God. All we have to do is to acknowledge we are sinners – and we all are. That we are sorry for our sins and ask God to forgive us and take control of our lives. Simple. So simple people think it’s too easy and they try to make it more complicated. It isn’t.

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

And you will be prepared to go to Heaven and meet God face to face as He open His arms wide to welcome you – His precious child.