Vessel

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In this third week of devotionals using the word Advent as an acrostic, the letter is V, for “vessel”.

 

 

 

The seaside park blossoms with booths and tents showcasing the richly diverse talents of artisans and craftspeople. My favorites are the potter’s works; earthenware, stoneware, ceramics and porcelain made for beauty as well as functionality. I like to carefully handle the pieces that interest me, feeling where the potter pressed his thumb into the wet clay on a mug handle, or used her hands to narrow the neck of a vase formed on a potter’s wheel. Simply put, they make vessels, hollow containers for holding something, but it is obvious that their creations are so much more.

In the nativity story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a human vessel to receive the Spirit of God. In His infinite, mysterious wisdom God chose this poor peasant girl to carry His beloved Son in her womb. She asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 NIV) It is a question pondered by many since. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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.” (Luke 1:35)

What qualities did God look for in a human vessel for His Son? Did He lovingly hold His creation, Mary, in His hands, turning her this way and that, looking into her soul for those certain attributes only He knew would suit His purpose? What set her apart from all other young women of her time who could have borne the Son of God? I cannot fathom the answer to these questions but I can rest in the certainty that He chose the perfect vessel.

God chose a vessel, first of all, who was pure. In order for His Son to be born a sinless man, He could not be conceived in sin, but would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah prophesied centuries before, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, God with us.” (Isa. 7:14b)

Mary was highly favored by God, according to the angel, so the purity He required in the mother of His holy Son was not only physical but spiritual. In her simple faith Mary exhibited qualities which pleased God, such as trust, faithfulness, humility and obedience. All these traits are evident in the telling of Mary’s story in the first chapter of Luke. Most noticeable is her unerring faith and willingness to believe that what the Lord had said to her would be accomplished. “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (Luke 1:38)

Not only was she a willing vessel to carry the Son of God, she also would have realized that judgement and condemnation would come with her role. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph but they were not yet man and wife, so her pregnancy would bring with it shame and reproach from those who knew her. No one would believe in her purity, except Joseph, who had it revealed to him by an angel of the Lord. She graciously accepted the damage to her reputation for the singular privilege of bearing God’s Son.

A vessel is open at the top to receive the contents intended for it. I picture Mary’s spiritual posture as open, receptive to whatever her Lord would pour in to her willing heart. I have much to learn from the mother of my Savior by her servant attitude and humility. The treasure of God’s Spirit is contained in this body of mine, this earthen vessel, so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from me. (2 Cor. 4:7) My supreme privilege is to be poured out for Him.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Missing the Messiah

IMG_0286Mary and Joseph recognized the exceptional child they were given to raise because His identity was revealed to them by angels.

Elizabeth and her unborn son recognized Him when His pregnant mother spoke words of greeting.

Shepherds recognized Him by a glorious announcement made by a host of heavenly angels appearing in their lowly fields.

Magi from afar recognized His star in the east, guiding their way to His birthplace in Bethlehem, as the prophecy foretold.

At Jerusalem’s temple Simeon and Anna recognized Him as a baby distinct from many brought for consecration, through revelation by the Holy Spirit.

So why do so many not recognize Him today, not even on the holiday which celebrates His birth? God’s greatest gift to all people gets lost in obscurity amidst the glitter and tinsel now cluttering up Christmas. Not only do people fail to recognize Christ for who He is; Emmanuel, God with us, they fail to recognize His very existence.

This is not just a contemporary failure. Missing the Messiah began long before His birth and continued during His earthly life. Not long before His death Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He knew the destruction it would soon suffer. “Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too because you did not recognize the day when God’s Anointed One visited you.” (Luke 19:44 The Voice)

Even though moments earlier a whole crowd of followers spread their cloaks on the road before Jesus and shouted praises for the miracles they had seen, they did not truly recognize it was God riding on a colt in their midst. Because of their rejection of Him, their eyes were blinded. Because they would not see Him as its source, they could not receive the peace He offered.

I confess, I’ve not recognized the Messiah more often than I care to admit. I miss Him when the world lures me aside with its siren call. I miss Him when I recognize only myself and my own desires. And I miss Him when I neglect precious time alone to commune with Him, not recognizing how much He wants to speak to me.

So this Christmas my desirous prayer is that I would more fully recognize the wonder of God’s sojourn to this humble earth. I will never comprehend what it took for Almighty God to become a man, but I will forever praise Him that He did. It was a supreme act of love, a visitation which changed the course of history and thus, the direction of my own life. He can change the direction of many lives, if only He is recognized for who is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Along the Road

EmmausTravel has a way of drawing out internal things. As the body is engaged in getting to a destination, the mind has time to ponder and explore, away from daily routine. On a seven mile journey by foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His disciples discussed the internal things closest to their hearts.

Shoulders slumped, feet scuffing the dusty road, faces sad and perplexed, their demeanor spoke their discouragement. They had put their hope in Jesus of Nazareth as the one who was going to redeem Israel, but he had been arrested, crucified and buried, and his body probably stolen, for his tomb was now empty. With the road stretching before them, their conversation was tinged with sorrow and confusion.

In the aftermath of a life-shattering event, we want to study it from all angles, dissect the details, try to figure out the why and how and now what? Somehow it gives us a sense of control to analyze the facts and search for some answers, preferably with someone who can commiserate with us.

Processing a traumatic event turns the focus inward. The two walking to Emmaus were so absorbed in their discussion, they probably did not notice a fellow traveler until he came alongside them. Wrapped in a robe, dusty and windblown, like themselves, they did not recognize Jesus. Even though it was Jesus they were discussing, seeing Him in person was the farthest thought from their minds. Although He had spoken of it often, His resurrection was outside their realm of possibility.

When we are caught up in our own problems, trying to cope with an imperfect reality, we can miss Jesus walking beside us. Life narrows our vision to focus on looming bills, a serious medical diagnosis, a fractured relationship. Even when we fail to recognize Him, He is beside us through all the difficulties because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

Still disguised, Jesus gently chided the two on the road for being foolish and slow of heart. In modern terms, He admonished them to “look at the big picture”. Then painting the big picture in words, “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 NIV) And they still were not aware it was Him.

When all I can see are the problems right in front of me, the best thing I can do is adjust my spiritual lens, go wide angle and take in all of who Jesus is, what He has accomplished and what He has promised for the future. His story is woven throughout the Bible from the first word to the last. Reading it reminds me of the providence of God so clearly demonstrated in the life of His son Jesus, so I can trust Him for my life too.

The two travelers warmed to their wise companion as they walked. They strongly urged him to stay with them and have a meal. “He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31)

This part of the story touches my heart, because it was in the act of thanksgiving and sharing bread that Jesus revealed Himself. And He will continue to reveal Himself as we practice thanksgiving, focusing on the One who has given us all things. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:17). Thanksgiving points us to Jesus, our true north, who guides us into all truth.

Finally they put the two together. Jesus, the man who walked to Emmaus with them, once dead and now alive, was the Messiah. fulfilling all the prophecies in Scripture. Their hearts burned within them with this revolutionary knowledge.

The story of the two on the road to Emmaus is our story too. Often blind to the presence of Jesus right beside us, we listen to His story in Scripture, but until we thank Him for His body broken and His blood poured out for us, we cannot see who He really is. When we finally recognize our constant companion, our hearts will burn within us — with love, with gratitude and with worship.