Advent Week 3 ~ V for Vessel

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Entering week 3 using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of devotionals, my prayer for each reader is for God to fashion you as well, into a willing vessel for His glory.

The seaside park blossoms with booths and tents showcasing the richly diverse talents of artisans and craftspeople. My favourites 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 into 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.

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.

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Beauty Poured Out

pour outI wish I had an alabaster jar. A precious vessel full of extravagantly expensive perfume to pour upon the head of the One I love and worship. I would gladly sacrifice a year’s wages and much more to hear Him say, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  

When I put myself inside the head of the woman who did this to Jesus in Matthew 26, the stately scripture story takes on an emotional passion. This is a woman who has spent time with Jesus, sitting at His feet, soaking in His words, receiving His loving gaze. Her heart is full of devotion for the One who has opened her eyes to the beauty of the Kingdom. Impetuously throwing off social propriety, she breaks into an all-male dinner party to lavishly anoint the head of Jesus with carefully conserved perfume costing a whole year’s earnings. The shock and indignation of the other guests does not deter her. Their negative reaction will not keep her from expressing her heart to her most treasured friend.

In the midst of the sombre events leading up to the crucifixion, this story brings a shaft of light to looming shadows. It is as if she can not help herself, this woman whose spontaneous act of worship pushes aside all protocol to demonstrate a full measure of love in the only way she knows how.

From out of the shadows she slips up behind Jesus as he reclines at the table, breaks the flask open and pours perfume over his head. Immediately the room is suffused with the sweet, heady fragrance of exotic nard. Then dribbling the remaining drops of scent on his feet, she kneels and wipes them with her unbound hair. (John 12:3)

Conversation comes to an abrupt halt. There is an embarrassed silence in the presence of such unbridled devotion, then the accusations fly. She is called wasteful by the disciples, derided for using something better spent to help the poor. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  He sees her heart, her intense desire to make a sacrifice for him. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

It is doubtful she knows of Jesus’ approaching death or at least how close it is. But her heart has been moved by God to perform this symbolic act of consecration without knowing its full significance. What she has done to him will be remembered down through history, declares Jesus himself. Just as His coming act of love for her will never loose its power throughout time.

I ask myself, am I as full of passionate devotion towards Jesus as this woman? Are there times when I abandon all social conservatism to pour out the abundance of my love ? What beautiful thing can I do to express what is in my heart for Him?

There is no one objective answer to these personal questions, but they lead my thoughts to times of unrestrained worship; those “shining moments”, as I call them, when my heart overflows with love and gratitude to my Savior and Lord. My soul is an alabaster jar, a precious vessel broken open so all that is fragrant within streams out in worship to the lover of my soul, who says, “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

May my prayer be like special perfume before You. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening gift given on the altar in worship. – Psalm 141:2  New Life Version