Category Archives: Frightful

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Joseph • Devotion #1: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Katrina Young | Nursery & Pre-K Director

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year.  Our family always got together and celebrated even when there were struggles, pain, and hardships in our lives.  My mom was the most enthusiastic about Christmas, and nothing was going to steal her joy. She would always say to us, “Whatever it is, it will wait until tomorrow, tomorrow it will look different and then you can decide how to handle it.” Whatever the crisis was, big or small, it had to wait. I did not realize the wisdom in her words then, but now I cherish them.

When I read the story of Jesus’ birth and that very first Christmas, I have to wonder what Joseph must have been experiencing. What he had planned for his life had now taken a drastic turn, the woman that he is betrothed to was “….with child from the Holy Spirit.”  At a time when they must have been planning their wedding ceremony, he is now faced with making a decision while in the midst of a crisis that he did not see coming.  Joseph gives us a perfect example of what to do in an impossible situation. He pondered his decision, and he listened to the direction that was given by the angel sent by God; little did he know that God had something better in mind.

Matthew 1:22-23 says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ — which means, ‘God with us.’”

We are all faced with life changes that we did not expect, things happen that are not within our plan, and we have to decide how to move forward.  Joseph and Mary were right in what seemed to be an impossible situation.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Both Mary and Joseph questioned what they could not explain but trusted God and found themselves in the middle of His plan and the fulfillment of prophecy.  They were entrusted with the very first Christmas gift, the birth of our Savior. 

Whatever the circumstances life has thrown at you this Christmas, ponder and wait on direction from your Heavenly Father, the greatest present to receive is ‘His Presence.’

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”


Mary • Devotion #6: Treasured
Sierra Combs | Women’s Ministry Director

My dear mother is extremely sentimental. Growing up, her motto was always, “Let’s make a memory!” It did not matter how grand or basic the moment, she wanted to remember it. It was silly to me then, but now that I have my children, I get it. I too want to savor every precious second with my family, taking mental pictures and storing them up in my memory bank. I vividly remember my first Christmas as a mother, with the sweetest baby boy in my arms and overflowing joy in my heart! I TREASURE those moments. I relive them in my head over and over because I never want to forget them.

It seems I am not the first to cling dearly to precious Christmas memories; it has been happening to mothers everywhere since the very first Christmas, starting with the mother of Jesus herself. Luke 2:8-19 tells us about some local shepherds watching over their sheep in nearby fields when they are suddenly visited by an angel, bringing “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” And if that was not enough, they were then joined by a whole crew of angels “praising God, and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest!’” They could not contain their excitement and ran to town to find their Messiah, a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

If there was ever anything that should be treasured, it was this! What a whirlwind everything must have been for Mary! A young unmarried Jewish girl living an ordinary life until an angel appears and tells her that God has chosen her to carry and give birth to the Messiah. She immediately submits to God’s plan, despite the scandal of it all, despite having no idea of the future. She delivers her baby, the King of Kings, God in the flesh, and lays Him in a manger. But Mary did not just treasure everything that had happened. Verse 19 says she also “pondered them in her heart.” She thought about them. She stored them away in her inmost being. While the shepherds were excitedly telling everyone in town about the new Messiah, Mary quietly treasured and pondered everything she had seen and heard, remembering and reliving every detail that she could. Little did she know how important this would be. Soon there would be a time where her Son would not be lying safe and snug in her arms. Soon she would see Him ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and bruised. Soon she would see the absolute worst thing a mother could ever see, her precious Son hanging on a cross, dying for her sins and the sins of the world. It would be in those times that she would need to pull out those treasured thoughts she had stored in her heart. She would need to remember the words of the angel when he told her that her Son “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” and that “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). She would need to remember that the God who miraculously made her a mother was a God who keeps His promises. He is so faithful. That is surely something to be treasured!

The Powerful Birth Story

Mary • Devotion #5: The Powerful Birth Story
Chris Cain

Have you ever noticed that when you are in the presence of a group of women, and one of them is pregnant, the bulk of the conversation surrounds one’s birth experience?  Details of due dates, choice of hospital, the method of induction, labor, and dilation are just some of the topics and stories being shared.  Some women will write down their birth story, while others will blog or scrapbook all about the experience.

I was asked to contribute to this book just two days after my third grandchild was born. My son and daughter-in-law had just experienced first-hand, one of life’s most powerful experiences.  It is a memory they have captured and will tell for many years to come.

Luke 2:1-7 says, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

I read Luke 2:1-7 in several different Bible translations and most translations have titled this passage as, “The Birth of Christ” yet there were not many facts that made it much of a story. I wanted details. How did pregnant Mary survive the 60 plus mile donkey ride?  Did her water break?  How long did she labor?  Luke does not awe us with stories of booming fireworks in the sky and does not make mention of God’s mighty hand at work. Instead, he seems to share more on the Emperor and the governor of Syria. It is basically the powerful showing off their power while Joseph and Mary appear to be left quite powerless. But let us not miss the significance and power of Luke’s account.  What we think is a frightful and sad birth story is truly a delightful and humble circumstance of God’s powerful redemption plan.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

John 1:12-13 adds, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

If you have been born again, you have a birth story to share.  Do not underestimate the power of your story that can point people to God’s bigger story; the story of the Gospel of Christ which is the greatest and most powerful story ever told.

MAGNIFY!… Wait… What?

Mary • Devotion #4: MAGNIFY!…wait…what?
Holly Wells | Assistant to Pastor Jim

When was the last time an angel appeared before you and prophesied over your life? Yeah, me neither. It has never happened. But, imagine for a moment that it has. Imagine this: you are in your early teens, going about a simple life, after all, you live in a peasant’s town in a poor area. You are pretty common, plain, and unassuming, and you are engaged to a working-class fiancé, a carpenter. One day as you are going about your business, an angel appears before you and says that you are favored and that “the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Just at that mere greeting, I think I would have instantly passed out! You? Although Mary thankfully kept it together, the Bible says she was “greatly troubled” and tried to figure out what this meant (verse 29). Gabriel told her not to be afraid because, with this favor from God, she would conceive and bear a son named Jesus. He told her that He would be great; He would “be called the Son of the Most High” (verse 32). Gabriel told this young Jewish girl that her Son would be given the throne of David, He would reign over the house of Jacob forever, and there would be no end to His kingdom. (Now, if I was somehow still coherent at this point, I am confident I would not be able to speak let alone begin dialoguing as Mary did with Gabriel.) He continued to share how it would all happen, about how she would be the mother to the Son of God. This was f-a-r from an ordinary day!

What would have been your response? Maybe one of shock and disbelief? What about worrying how your reputation would be ruined when word got out of this unexplainable pregnancy since you are engaged? How would you explain this to your fiancé? Would you fret that “this was not a part of the plan!” I believe Mary’s response reflected the exact reason she was chosen, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).

Mary soon traveled to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John (as in the Baptist) and when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting as she came into her house, the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth knew at that moment that Mary was the mother of the Lord (verse 39-45). And Mary’s response? It was not one of gossip or recounting the details of her encounter with the angel Gabriel. It was not filled with “what if…,” “why…,” or “how come?” Mary’s response was yet again one that was firmly anchored in the Lord. Mary’s response was a song of praise.

Luke 1:46-55 is referred to as ‘The Magnificat’ which is the Latin word for ‘magnifies.’ Mary’s soul magnified the Lord and rejoiced in God, her Savior. As I read through this section, a few things stood out. First, notice that Mary knew the Lord before the angel appeared to her. The relationship she had with the Lord was the reason He chose her for something great, to become the mother of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And though Mary was most extraordinary, we must also be careful not to elevate her beyond what Scripture teaches. She was human, a woman who was a recipient of God’s blessing, but she is not who we appeal to for blessing. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 states, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” Mary fully knew this. Next, because her heart and mind were already saturated with the Word of God, she submitted herself unconditionally to the Lord without worry of her reputation or fret of the future (verse 38). Rather, she instantly and humbly praised Him for His glory and majesty. Because Mary intimately knew God as her Savior, she was able to rejoice in His holiness and faithfulness, glory, and strength. She worshiped Him for His mercy and power while taking no credit for anything good in herself. Mary joyfully confessed God as the one who did great things for her.

Let us be exhorted and encouraged through Mary’s example by taking personal inventory. Are your mind and heart continually being saturated with the Word of God? How is your relationship with Him growing ‘daily’ so that you may know the Lord and experience a sweet intimacy with Him like no other? What is your response when He calls you to something greater or something crazy that may tarnish your reputation? What is the song in your heart? How do you magnify the Lord?

How Can It Be?

Mary • Devotion #3: How Can It Be?
Debbie Gabbara | Assistant to the Gathering Pastor

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, ‘God with us’).”  Matthew 1:23

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’  And the angel departed from her.”  Luke 1:38

Mary sat alone thinking to herself, “How can it be?  Was he really an angel?  Am I really going to have a baby?  How can it be?  I have never known a man, yet,

I believe that nothing is impossible with God.  I know His Word is true.  He has done great and mighty things.  But, why me?  I am an ordinary girl.  How can it be?”

That was months ago, and now she was great with child. As they made their way toward Bethlehem, Mary’s mind wandered, “I am so far from home. Where will I deliver the child?  He is not just a child; this baby is the Son of God. How can it be?”

There was no room in the inn, but the innkeeper allowed her and Joseph to stay in the stable.  There, Mary delivered her baby.  As the angel had instructed, they would call him JESUS.  Mary whispered his name, “Jesus” as she looked into His beautiful face.  He was extraordinary, He was her child, yet the angel said, “He would be great and would be called the Son of the Most High.” And, “the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.” I am just a girl; how can it be?

The shepherds came in the night.  An angel told them where to find the baby who would be swaddled in cloths and lying in a manger.   They said there was a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying, “‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’   Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  She wondered still, how can it be?

Mary held her sweet baby and remembered her prayer, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.”    She whispered in her heart, “I am your servant, and you are God!  That is how it can be!”

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”   Isaiah 9:6

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