God’s Presence

God’s Presence

Isaiah 63:7-9 & Matthew 2:13-23

First Presbyterian Valdosta

Jane Shelton; December 29, 2019

 

I am Mary, the mother of the Jesus.

I’m sure you have heard of me.

I am the young girl to be wed to Joseph who is of the lineage of David.

Joseph who was visited by an angel of the Lord who told him “I” was the one chosen to carry the one to come…. the Messiah…. the child of God.

I still do not understand all that has happened.  My head still spins, yet on faith, I have accepted what has been handed to me by my God.  My God whose presence is always near me, and whose presence carries me day to day.

 

My husband, Joseph, ….. a righteous man….has been wonderful and supportive.  After hearing the words spoken to him by the angel in his dream, he had faith to still marry me.

Now, months later,… here beside me in this manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes lies our baby, Jesus, given to us by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, the name Joseph said we were to name him as he was instructed in a dream by an angel.

Joseph said the angel told him our son, Jesus, was to save his people from their sins.  But exactly what does that mean?!

The prophets tell us that his people are the people of Israel.  It is more than I can conceive as I watch my new baby in his manger.

Why we look at Jesus and can hardly believe that he has arrived!

As we watch him coo with wonder, it brings us such joy!

He lies gurgling with such a peaceful glow, a glow so bright….well, it’s as if he’s the light of the world!

We know that Jesus must be special because we have been visited by wise men.  They came from many miles far away, following a star to see our baby, Jesus, here in Bethlehem of Judea.

They even knelt before him paying him homage!

Then to our surprise, they opened their treasure chests and offered our baby, Jesus, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh!

We could only stare in amazement of this event unfolding before our very eyes.

Soon after they left, Joseph comes to me to tell me that we must leave.

“But, why?!”  I ask.

“I’m still recovering from our last journey here to Bethlehem, and I’m enjoying my time with him these last few months, must we go now?!”

I pleaded with him.  But my husband insisted.

Joseph tells me that an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, and we must go for our safety before something horrible happens.  Before Jesus is destroyed!

Jesus destroyed?!  I can barely consider the words.

Swiftly, I gather up our things, secure Jesus close to my body, and we begin our journey traveling in the night to Egypt, once more fleeing for safety.

 

Over the next few days, we begin to hear rumors that hundreds of children are being murdered in and around Bethlehem by the order of King Herod!

Why is this happening?  Just when we were beginning to settle down with our young son?!

Why must these evil things happen around us?  Is this what we are to expect in our new life with our new child?

So we remained in Egypt until King Herod died, and then… once again… in a dream Joseph was directed to take us to the land of Israel.

But Joseph heard that King Herod’s son was now ruling over Judea, and Joseph became afraid to go into Israel.

As my husband prayed what we should do, he received a warning in a dream and took us to the district of Galilee instead.

There, we made our home in a town called Nazareth.

 

Doesn’t that story just make your heart race?!

Confusion and fear, fleeing and going…and yet in the midst is joy…a new light.

 

We have just celebrated a season of Thanksgiving.  A season of the birth of Christ.  It’s the time of year where we look back at the resolutions we made in January and reflect on goals we had set for this year.

Did we uphold our resolutions?  Did we meet our goals?

Maybe some yes, and maybe some no.

Maybe we have ended up in a new direction in life without even remembering those resolutions and goals we made in January of 2019.

So here we are again, a few days from making our new resolutions for the new year of 2020.  Are you ready?

Will God be a part of our New Year’s resolutions?

Like Mary and Joseph, and the prophets before them, will we listen and watch for the presence of God to direct us for the coming year?

Will we await for the angel of the Lord to speak to us in the quiet of the night?

When life becomes difficult for us to understand, and our burdens become heavy, will we act when God speaks to us the way Mary and Joseph did?

Will the work and love of Jesus be continued through us?

Who will we find in need in 2020?  Who might we meet on our journey in life that we can help, that we can offer a hand up?

Someone that we might pray for?

Someone we can be there for when they are alone and in need of safety?

Will we keep faith that God’s plan will be fulfilled through us as a congregataion, and will we allow ourselves to act when we hear where we are to go and what we are to do in the name of Jesus?

Will we dream dreams of signs and wonders, and through God’s presence, find direction in our lives for 2020?

Or will we fill our heads with our own follies while once again putting Jesus ministry on the back burner?

I would say to you that as we have seen in our scripture this morning, God has a plan for his beloved.  A plan of love and protection for all his children.

Mary and Joseph certainly did not live a “happily ever after” life.

Yet, they did live a life in the presence of God.  A life constantly being given  direction by God.

Mary and Joseph are proof that their lives were far from easy, yet God’s presence was always there, always watching over them, leading them, directing them again and again.

Certainly, we can recognize that no matter what trials we face, whatever evil lurks around us, God’s plan will be fulfilled.

Will you find time from day to day to know what that plan is for you?

Will you listen to your heart and wait for where God sends you, just like he sent Mary and Joseph with Jesus to safety.

At this year’s end, may we be ever grateful that Mary and Joseph listened and acted when God gave them direction.  May we be grateful that God was present and ever watching over them, just like God watches over you today.

May we all acknowledge God’s presence in our lives each hour of every day, and may we get up and go when we feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit calling us to act.

God’s plan will be fulfilled as God provides for his beloved according to the abundance of his steadfast love.  It is God’s presence that saves us over and over again.  He will lift us up and carry us all our days.

 

What will be your New Year’s Resolution?

God’s resolution is love and protection for you,…. all of you.

*Cover Art: Stushie Art, used by subscription