Mary 5

John 15:12-13

The other evening we watched an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” One in particular featured a toddler who was arguing with his grandmother. The little boy could not say very many words, but his nonsensical babbling conveyed the frustration and anger.
What struck me was how unfortunate it is that this child had learned to argue, even though he didn’t know the words. And he is not alone. Others, especially children, learn how to speak and how to act by the examples we present.
Jesus condensed much of his ministry into one command. What is it? What is the ultimate expression of love?
As we celebrate the gift of Christmas, which is the gift of love, let us remember the command of Jesus. This love that came down from heaven is not a gift we should hold within ourselves, a gift to be hoarded. Instead, we are to share this gift with others.
“Love each other,” Jesus has commanded. But he adds to his instruction – “as I have loved you.” We are to express love to everyone the way Jesus did. We are to give freely, give sacrificially, and in abundance. We are to give love to all, not just a select few.
And the love of Jesus was demonstrated to be the greatest love of all because he did indeed lay down his life for his friend. Jesus laid down his life for you and me.
Christmas may not seem like the time to think about the crucifixion of Jesus, but we can remember the attitude of Christ’s love. This attitude of sacrificial, all encompassing love began with the birth of the baby. And it is that love we should share now, at Christmas, and throughout the year.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you love someone else “as Christ has loved you?”

Mary 4

Psalm 72:12-14

In the game of golf, when all players have reached the green, the player furthest from the hole gets to play first. The idea is that the one who is farthest from reaching the goal, the one with the greatest need, is put before the others.

Psalm 72 is one of those passages in the Old Testament that speaks of the Messiah. In verse 1 “the king” is also referred to as God’s “royal son.” Who will this royal son deliver? What will he do for the needy? Why will he do this?

The gift of the Messiah was a unique gift that many people could not comprehend. Many people then and now consider God’s love and graciousness to be intended for those who are worthy of Him. Yet, Jesus came for everyone – not the powerful, not the good, but for all people. He came not just for the poor, but especially for the needy.

The birth, life and sacrifice of Jesus was all an act of love for everyone. This is good news, particularly for the needy, the weak, the afflicted, and the oppressed. Jesus came for all, but especially for those who are furthest from the goal – the goal of perfection. But in reality we are all far from the goal. We have all fallen short of where we should be.

We are all the needy. We all need deliverance and the promise of eternal life. We all need love from God.

But this is not a time to despair. Instead, we should celebrate the precious gift of Jesus and all that he has to offer us in love. Each of us are precious in the sight of God, and each of us can receive the wondrous gift of God’s love through Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Read Psalm 72 and determine how God’s love is shown by what is foretold.

Mary 3

Luke 1:26-38

Simple things can mean a great deal. Receiving a card from someone, a card of encouragement or appreciation, especially one with a hand-written note can mean so much. A simple card with a few words can really lift my spirits.

Today’s passage is a lengthy one but one that involves simple responses from Mary, the young woman God selected to bear His wonderful gift. Where is Mary? How does Gabriel greet her? What does Gabriel say to explain his greeting?

How does Gabriel answer Mary’s question? What evidence does he offer as proof that God can do anything? How does Mary answer?

“May it be to me as you have said.” Mary’s response to all she has been told is a simple response. She gives no long dissertation on why she is accepting the will of God, and offers no commentary on what it will all mean to her. She simply agrees to be part of this tremendous plan of God’s.

And those words mean a great deal. Mary’s response to what she has heard is an act of love – love for the child she will bear, love for God and love for the world.

By confessing herself as God’s servant, by saying that she will be part of this miraculous story, she is agreeing to be the mother of the baby Jesus. She is agreeing to show love and protection to this helpless child that she will help bring into the world.

Her words also show love for the Lord. She will not argue or resist the Lord, but trusts in what God has planned. Her willingness to serve God in this way is an expression of her love for God.

She is also showing love to all mankind, to you and me. Allowing God to work through her and taking on the responsibility of parenthood means she will be providing all humanity with a Savior, the Messiah. Because of her willingness to serve God we have the promise of eternal life through Christ.

We have all received the gift of love expressed in the simple words of Mary.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you show great love in a simple way?

Mary 2

John 3:16

It is a nightly ritual between my wife and I to say “I love you” before we go to sleep. We try to say it to our children as often as we can so they will know, without question, that we indeed love them. But words can become empty, especially when they are said almost out of habit.

We try to show love too, not with words, but with actions, by caring and providing for each other, and by sacrificing our time and efforts for each other.

“I love you.” Three simple words that can mean so much to so many people. Three simple words that can also have no meaning if no emotion is behind them.

But God has said “I love you” to all of us. And today’s passage is an expression of that love. What did God do to show He loved us? What benefit is there for those who believe in Jesus?

The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of love. The birth of Jesus Christ is a gift from God. It was an expression of God’s love to all humanity.

He gave His son, Jesus, to the earth. He gave Jesus so that he could show the way for all of us to have that eternal life in heaven.

The sin of mankind – the wrong thoughts and wrong actions we can all fall into – has broken the relationship between man and God. Because of that brokenness we cannot be in the presence of God. But God showed love by making a way for us to be forgiven, for us to have eternal life.

God’s love is expressed not in empty words that have lost meaning, but in the act of giving His son. His love is expressed in the action that was the life, teaching, sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And for all who believe in who Jesus was, all that he taught, and those who believe in the sacrifice that he made to redeem us from our life of sin, the promise of eternal life is given.

That also is a gift of love from God. Jesus was the embodiment of the active good will of God to all humanity. To receive it we simply need to accept and believe. We need to have faith that God is with us and live the life that Jesus exemplified while he was on earth.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Accept the gift of love from God by confessing the sins you have committed, receiving the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice, and believing in the Savior.

Mary 1

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

We rarely watch "COPS," but it seems like any time I've seen the show, there is some woman who is a victim of domestic abuse and her reason for not prosecuting? "But he loves me."

The concept of love has been misconstrued and twisted throughout history. But Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, describes love with perfect accuracy. What words are used to describe love? What does love NOT do? What does love do?

Love has been described as “active good will for another person.” Looking over this section of the famous “Love Chapter” shows me that love is outwardly focused, and not inwardly focused.

Patience and kindness are outward acts. Refusing pride, envy and rude behavior are acts of self-denial, which is a form of outward focus. Rejoicing in the truth, protecting, persevering, hoping and trusting are outward acts.
To love someone is to deny the self and focus outwardly, on the other person. Jesus was love in the flesh. His ministry, his teaching, his sacrifice, his very being was all outwardly focused – centering not on himself at all, but shining God’s compassion on everyone else.

The same is true of Mary. Her willingness to be used by God to bring His Son into the world was an outward act of love. She trusted and obeyed God. She provided life and nurturing to the person of Jesus. And through her life and actions, through her faith, she shared God’s love with all mankind.

Saying the words is not always a true expression of love. Saying “But he loves me” means nothing when the actions are not outwardly focused and are not actions of good will to others.

God showed love through the gift of Jesus. Jesus showed love through the gift of himself. Mary showed love by what she did. We need to receive the love of God, in Christ, and pass that love on by being outwardly focused to other people.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What action can you do to show God’s love to others?