Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bethlehem's Baby Visits! Spend Christmas with Sheila Deeth and Others Wishing You God's Love...

One day Mary was praying among the storage jars in her bedroom, which was really the store room in her parents’ home. She asked God to look after Joseph and help him build the house. She asked God to look after her parents and keep them healthy and strong. She asked God to look after her friends and give them happy children, and to look after her country and send a Messiah. Then she asked God to teach her to be a perfect wife and mother. “Amen,” she said. 
And suddenly there was an angel standing next to her. Mary jumped back and almost fell over a jar of fruit by the door. Her heart beat as fast as if she’d just run all through the valley to Cana and back. “Who are you?” she asked. “And how did you get in here?” 
“Don’t be scared, Mary,” said the stranger. “God is with you and he’s sent me to you. God has blessed you and you’re going to have a baby.” Mary guessed the stranger must be an angel. Maybe there was light shining all around him, or flames like wings on his back, or a halo over his head—she never said and nobody ever asked. But Mary listened and stared at the angel and whispered, 
“I don’t understand.” She couldn’t possibly have a baby. She wasn’t even married. So maybe the message was meant for one of her friends. But the angel said, “No, Mary, God’s sent me to you. God’s going to give you a baby son. If you say yes, you’ll be the mother of the Messiah.” 
“Wow!” thought Mary. But what would her mother say? Her father? Her fiancĂ©? What would her friends and the villagers say when they found out Mary was pregnant before she was married? Couldn’t God wait a bit? Still, Mary smiled and nodded her head, trusting God to have the timing right and make it all work out. She felt scared, excited, calm, trusting, relaxed, and terrified, all at the same time, which was really quite confusing. And she said to the angel, “Yes, okay, if that’s what God says, then that’s exactly what I’ll do.” Which is what we all should say in our prayers I suppose.

Bethlehem's Baby
By Sheila Deeth

What better way to spend Christmas than to read stories from Sheila Deeth's Bethlehem's Baby! 

If you haven't read any of her Five-Minute Bible Story Series, this is a perfect one to begin... Not only because of the season, but because many of you will know some of the names mentioned and, still, may find you are reading with total understanding and identification of who these people are in relation to others, and, specifically, in this case, Jesus...

Aunts, Uncles, Grandfather and Grandmother--do you know the name of, for instance, Mary's father? Don't be surprised or ashamed to say you don't. 

There was once a man called Joachim whose wife sent him on a long journey. “Take our daughter to visit my sister Elizabeth,” she said, as if she were just talking about walking down the street, maybe stopping for a quick mug of beer and a sandwich before going home again. 
But Cousin Elizabeth didn’t just live down the street. She lived miles and miles away in the hills near Bethlehem. Joachim and Mary would have to travel on rotten Roman roads, with rotten Roman soldiers shouting and marching, and passers-by complaining. They might even get attacked by bandits too. 
But Joachim didn’t say any of this to his wife. All he said was, “Yes Dear. When shall we leave?” 

Deeth's use of POV and redundancy, plus the very important translation into everyday words, sometimes adding a little humor, to tell us stories that some of us may have heard all our life. But just by changing the character, we now have the opportunity to see Joachim take Mary's hand and guide her to safety. Hearing Gabriel's story, of telling Mary is different so that we look at it more closely--from a different perspective:

Six months later, God sent Gabriel with another message, this time to a tiny little nowhere place called Nazareth, to see a teenage girl. Gabriel just knew this job was going to go badly. After all, everyone knows teenagers never listen, don’t believe what they’re told, and are totally incapable of obeying anyone. Still, Gabriel went to Nazareth because angels always listen, always believe what God tells them, and are totally incapable of disobeying God. 
“Hello Mary,” Gabriel said as he appeared in the teenage girl’s bedroom while the girl was praying. Then the teenager, whose name was Mary, hid her face in her hands and trembled with fear. “Don’t be afraid,” said Gabriel. “God’s sent me with a special message for you.” 
Mary peeked out between her fingers and said, “Okay?” “God says he’s sending your people a Messiah and you’re going to be the Messiah’s mother.”
“You mean I’m going to have a baby?” Mary looked even more frightened now and asked how, since she wasn’t married yet. So Gabriel explained that nothing’s impossible for God. Then Mary asked, “Why me?” since she didn’t think she was important enough to be the Messiah’s mother. And Gabriel explained that God had called her blessed. “Okay,” said Mary, standing up straight and tall, though she was really rather small. “If that’s what God wants, then that’s what will happen, and I’ll do just what God tells me.” 
Gabriel smiled at her. This visit had gone really well after all.

When Baby Jesus was born in a manger, his mother and father had nowhere to stay so they lived in a stable with him. Joseph made a door across the entrance to keep out the wind, but the cave was still cold. Joseph’s family gave Mary and her baby woolen shawls to wrap themselves in. And Mary cuddled her child, peeking under the covers where she sniffed his newborn smell of warm milk and honey. 
Jesus’ tiny fist was bunched just beneath his chin, his thumb still damp and his lips still puckered into a tiny oh as he blew milky bubbles. Mary smiled, feeling warm all over with love for her child. 
Upstairs, in the house above the stable, footsteps stirred. Voices murmured. Someone called out, “Good night and be blessed,” while someone else said, “Shush. We’re sleeping.” Mary felt very blessed indeed as she fell asleep as well. 
Then something startled her awake. Ragged voices whispered outside the stable door. Heavy feet scraped and scratched in the sandy soil. And a sheep began to bleat. But sheep should really be up on the hills with the shepherds, not trying to get back into the stable. Mary poked her face out from the blankets and wondered if she was dreaming. 
Next to her, Joseph crawled over a pile of hay, muttering, “Who’s there?” Knuckles rapped against the wooden door—rat-tat-tat—and Joseph struggled to his feet. He stumbled through the dark toward where the door should be and groaned loudly when he stubbed his toe on the big stone manger. “Just a minute. Just a minute,” he called. 
Then white light flooded into the room as Joseph pulled open the door. Was it morning already? Mary stared at shapes of people and buildings brightly outlined in the street. It was neither moonlight nor sunshine that she could see. Instead the light seemed to flow from a single bright star overhead. She wondered what it meant. Then strange men crowded into the room. “We’ve come to see the baby,” said an excited little boy. “Angels came and told us. Up on the hill.” The child jumped up and down as he spoke, making Mary feel quite ill. “Please. Please. Where’s the baby?”

God Bless Us One and All... Merry Christmas!

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