That Girl

We don’t know much about Mary.  From the history of the time we can get some idea of what she was going through when she became pregnant with Jesus.  Mary was probably about 13.  Her marriage was arranged and she was betrothed a 20-30 year old Joseph whom she knew from being in the same village and community.  While waiting the 6-12 months until the wedding transition she was learning skills to bring to her new family’s house.  She was creating linens, drying herbs, learning to cook with her mom.  Part of the agreement for her to be married was that she would be a benefit to her husband’s family, a God-fearing, helpful, congenial, virgin girl.  She needed to be baggage free.

Debby pic - pondering

Then it happened.  She’s pregnant!  The baggage store delivered the biggest baggage EVER!  We know what happens after this – Elizabeth, Joseph, the stable, Jesus.  But, what about Mary before the story we know and love?  What was it about this girl?  My niece is 13.  I asked her how she’d react if tonight an angel came to tell her she was pregnant with Jesus.

“I’d be really scared.

“I don’t want to have a kid now.

“But, if the angel said God wanted me to have to do it, I’d do it.”

Not much different from Mary’s conversation with the angel, is it?

The angel tells her to not be afraid.  He tells her that nothing is impossible with God, even for an innocent girl knowing the potential struggles ahead for her not-yet marriage.  He tells her all that will be involved and how it will happen.  He assures her that God has found favor in her and that she is the right one for this job.  And Mary’s response, “I’m the Lord’s servant; let it be according to me as you said.”

Not much different from our conversations with God either.

God knows our hearts and meets us there.  Jesus answers our hesitations before we can even acknowledge they exist.  The Spirit guides our steps through the blessings and the storms.  He removes our baggage.  Because of Jesus, God finds favor in us.

“And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
  for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
  for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.”

Matthew 2:46-49

Debby Sutton


Have I Known Jesus?

My generation is used to having everything at our fingertips.  Movies on demand, texts delivered instantly, cities on the other side of the world just hours away.  Waiting is not really in our DNA.  We idolize people like Mark Zuckerburg, Tim O’Shaughnessy, and David Karp (founders of Facebook, LivingSocial, and Tumblr) – all of whom have achieved wild success well before their 30th birthday.  Standing in my place, firmly in the middle of 30 and 40, it’s easy to look back and wonder why I haven’t made my mark like those guys.  It doesn’t help that I also grew up in the days when everybody got a trophy and mediocrity was rewarded with a certificate of achievement.  Why, if I was so special and received all those trophies and awards, have I not continued that success by starting a world-changing company or inventing a life-saving product?  It’s easy to let the angst set in.

But then I read in the Christmas story about Simeon – a man who spent his entire life in obscurity, at least from the Bible’s perspective.  He waited an entire lifetime for his one moment, which comes in Luke 2:25-35, when he speaks a blessing over Jesus and prophesies to Mary.  And that’s it – his moment comes, he speaks his two sentences, and then presumably he dies soon after.

I also read about Mary, who experiences a meteoric rise that would make any young tech god jealous.  By her mid-teens she had reached the pinnacle of her life.  She gave birth to the Son of God – an accomplishment so profound that all generations from that point on would call her blessed.  She had the rest of her life to live, knowing that she would never do anything as profound as that again.

What is it about these two that gives me so much comfort in the midst of my angst?  It’s the fact that they are important not because of how much they accomplished in life, but because of their connection to Jesus.  Our significance as humans comes not from what we accomplish, but from knowing Jesus.  For Simeon, Jesus was worth waiting a lifetime for.  For Mary, he was worth giving the best of her youth for.  For me, it doesn’t matter whether I accomplished much in my 20s, or how much I do between now and 40.  The only question that matters is “Have I known Jesus?”

Dan Passerelli

Tis So Sweet

What a wonderful Christmas song!  As I sit listening to the beautiful acoustic arrangement with the advent season quickly approaching, I’m filled with seemingly conflicting emotions.

The holidays can be painful for so many.  My heart aches for a friend who should be retiring with her husband instead of watching their business crumble into financial ruin.  A neighbor has recently lost a mother and a mentor, and now faces her father’s failing health.  A couple approaching years that our bodies stop bearing children, remain childless.   A dear brother lies in a hospital bed, physically shattered. While shopping for lunch, news broadcasts in the background, and I hear the devastated cries of my Filipino brothers and sisters.  Our world is broken.

At the same time, I’m rejoicing with my friends who have survived a tough year of adoption and are finding themselves a new family. Neighbors are delighting in the birth of a new grand baby. I just celebrated as my dear friend got married to a man who adores her. We are entering a season filled with celebration.

I’ll never forget when I first discovered that heartbreak and joy could live together, and that in the heart of a believer – they do.

Today, I am thankful that I am free to experience grief and celebration at the same time. Today, I honor those who are in the midst of overwhelming pain and pray with them, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”   Today, I rest in joy that we have a Victor, Redeemer, Friend, Brother, and Intercessor that humbled himself and took on the form of man to make all things new.

Naomi Moseley

Christmas Madness

First PageEach year I enter into the madness that is Christmas, the crazy rush, music, TV specials and decorum that come with the season (all of which I love, by the way), and also because out of my need for direction for that year’s Advent messages.  The process is both maddening and intoxicating.

It begins with prayer and reading through the entire Christmas narrative, both in prophecy as well as the actual events, along with extensive note taking, and with no idea where God will lead.  I do so in the hope that He will bring fresh insights into the Nativity.  It all ends on Christmas Eve.

God has never disappointed.

This year’s Advent series is entitled, ‘They will Dwell Secure’ and throughout the month I hope we will discover what this means, but for now I want to encourage you to wrestle with the story as a whole, and to fight the natural tendency to let it all get past you as ‘yet another season.’  It isn’t.

To be clear, a resolve to wrestle with the story of God is sheer madness and threatens everything we think we are, with no idea where it will all lead.  But my challenge is that you enter into the madness, and discover as I do every Advent, that He never disappoints.

What good news.


Advent Series

 Mike Khandjian