I do something rather unglamorous.

I do something unglamorous.

And honestly, I love every minute of it.

At my church, I am part of a program that works to provides aide and help for kids with disabilities, while also creating a safe and inclusive space for them to learn and grow.  I have been a part of this group for at least three years.  And for the duration of those years, I have been a one-on-one to a little girl with Down Syndrome.  (I will be calling her PG throughout this post, as PG stands for “pretty girl”, which is my nickname for her.)

When I started with her, I had little to no experience working with kids with special needs.  I had babysat a group of kids several times prior, with one of the children being on the Autism Spectrum, but that was it.  PG used mostly ASL, had poor use of words,  used braces on her feet, and was honestly a challenge for me when I started.  She will be in first grade this coming school year, and my goodness, how she was grown.  She uses little to no sign, her word usage is incredible, she can write her name and her hand writing is beautiful, and her manners are improving everyday.

Working with kids with special needs is a very unglamorous job.  My hands, arms, and sometimes my legs, have been covered in marker.  My clothes sometimes get covered in drool and bits of chewed food.  Most recently, I had a white shirt get covered in Oreo slobber.  I have had my hair pulled, my fingers bent back the wrong way, and I’ve been pinched and kicked.  I have even had things thrown at me, or I’ve had to block things that were thrown. I have been (very unintentionally) choked, and at times I become a human jungle gym.  There was a period of time where PG liked to bang her head against my chest, if she was sitting in my lap.  And more often than not, working with kids with special needs is a full contact sport.  There are a few kids at my church that don’t like touch, but the vast majority of kids in the program do.  And more often than not, physical touch is used help restrain.  PG is a runner, so I spend time running after her, restraining her, and physically bringing her back to the task at hand.

The past three days were VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church.  On one of the evenings, PG had diarrhea very early on in the evening.  (It was due to something she ate, and her parents were fine that she stay for the rest of the evening.). However, she got a little in her underpants, and for the rest of the evening, she kept trying to put her hands in her pants.  And though I washed my hands many times with soap and water, by the end of the evening, I smelled like diarrhea.

And all of the parents of the kids in this program, and all of the volunteers who work with the kids, undoubtedly have similar stories to tell.

I want it to be noted, though, that a lot, if not all, of the unglamorous traits of helping kids with disabilities, are simply traits of working with kids.  Working with kids really, of any age group and in any capacity, is beautifully messy.  Working with kids with special needs simply adds another layer of messy beauty.  Kids with special needs are still kids, dealing with the normal issues and challenges of being a kid, but with additional (and oftentimes individualized) traits that come with their diagnosis.

Working with kids with special needs is so unglamorous and frustrating and exhausting and messy and challenging and at times, exceedingly overwhelming.  It is even often a thankless job.  But.  It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and could ever do.

I love my PG.  She may not quite know my name, but she knows she is safe with me.  She knows my face and my voice, and she knows I am here to help her.  She knows she can have fun with me.  In fact, one of my most favorite things is when I can get her to belly laugh.  I love when she hears what I ask her to do and she does it.  I love when she can say “sorry” or “thank you” or “please” without prompting.  She loves to sing and dance, and I love when she sings along, or does the accompanying motions.  I love when she grabs my hand or sits in my lap spontaneously.  She loves to read, and will often “read” me a story, which I simply love. She loves big, gives great hugs, and will walk up to complete strangers and say “hi”.  She knows Jesus, and that makes me so happy.

In the hallway in the lower level of our church, we have a painting of Jesus, surrounded by the kids from our congregation that have passed away.  It’s a beautiful painting, and last night at VBS, PG stopped to look at it.  She pointed to Jesus, and said, “That’s Jesus.  He died.”. I was a bit taken back, but I said “Yes, you’re right.  But He’s not dead anymore, right?  He’s in Heaven.”.  She continued to look at the painting, nodded her head, and said “Yes.  That’s Jesus.”.  Then she grabbed my hand, and walked away.  That moment made my heart all kinds of happy.

And my most favorite story to tell about PG happened when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and stressed.  It was before she was in Kindergarten, so she was part of a class that had kids ages 3 to 5.  On this particular Sunday, there were four kids with disabilities; PG, her younger brother with intellectual disabilities, and identical twins with Autism, but with complete opposite preferences in terms of physical touch.  I was the only trained volunteer (for kids with disabilities) in the room at the time, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There was another helper, who is absolutely incredible.  In a moment when the twins got angry and upset, this amazing helper was right beside me, trying to figure out which twin needed physical touch to calm down, and which didn’t.  It was also in this moment that PG‘s younger brother was stepping on kids and taking toys.  I began to get worried that PG would have a issue, and thus causing this helper and I to put a child under each arm, and get out of the room.  But as I stood up to make sure there weren’t any more issues, PG caught my eye, smiled really big, and started to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.  My heart pretty much overflowed.

Working with kids with special needs is hard. There are times I find myself frustrated and exasperated.  There are times I look for help, and I am learning it is totally okay to say “I need help right now; I can’t do this by myself”.  I make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes I make them a lot.  But I learn something new about PG everyday, and I learn new ways of helping her.  I have loved watching her grow and learn and blossom into the beautiful soul she is.

I do something unglamorous.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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Let go and embrace His plan.

Hey guys, sorry its been a it.  I promise I am working on several posts; most notably the results from my survey.  But right now, I’m feeling really happy, and I don’t want to work on those posts.

Some of the major details I’d like to keep secret for awhile longer.  I’m feeling incredible happy, and my soul is singing, and I don’t want to do anything that could potentially ruin this.  But I am learning some really important things, and like all things, I wanted to share it with you.

I am learning, that in order to fully embrace what God is going to do in your life, you have to let go of certain expectations and plans you may place on Him. 

Let me explain.  I’ve been single for three-wish years. (I did date someone at the beginning of the year for two-ish months.  And because of that short duration, I consider it simply a tiny blimp on my “single” timeline.). And I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m beginning to think about my future and getting married.  So it would seem natural that I would be looking for a relationship, right?

Last year, when I applied for a summer position at a Christian camp, I thought for sure that I would meet the man of my dreams at the camp, and the rest would be history.  I began to place that desire on God, and I expected Him to follow through with it.  However, when I wasn’t offered a position, I thought God wasn’t keeping His promise.  I think I was more hurt by the fact that I wasn’t going to meet Godly men, and the future I had built before me involving a Godly man from camp wasn’t going to happen, than I was with the actual rejection.

When this past fall semester started, I had the same mentality; The man I am supposed to meet will be in one of my classes.  He wasn’t.  Then spring semester started.  Same thing.  Then I started a new job.  Still, I had the same mentality.  And as of right now, the same result.  I was beginning to think this illusive man would be at this college I’m transferring to in the fall.

But, well, all I’ll say, is sometimes, maybe, God has a different plan.

What I’m learning, is if I continue to place that expectation of meeting my Prince Charming at a certain place at a certain time on God, I may be missing out on His true plan for me.  I need to stop trying to confine God to what I think He should do, and when I think He should do it.  “I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned”, so why should I try to think I do?

I am also learning that nothing I do could ever screw up God’s plan for me.  Ever.  I am not that powerful.

I used to be so worried that the right guy would come along while I was in a relationship.  That while I was with one guy, the “right” guy would catch my eye.  I used to be so worried I would get stuck in between my timing and God’s timing.  I used think I had the ability to royally screw up God’s plan for me.  And I used to think anything I did in one relationship could directly affect my chances of meeting Mr. Right.

But I’m learning I am not a god, and therefore, I do not have the power, nor ability, to screw anything up.  I do not have the power to override God’s plan for me.  Nothing I do could ever cause God to change His mind about what He’s planned for me.  Everything I have ever done, and every relationship I have ever been in, or will be in, fits perfectly into God’s design for my life.  There is something so freeing in realizing that.

I am truly very happy.  I woke upon this morning in a wonderful mood, and have pretty much been smiling ever since.  And, I feel closer to God than I have in a long time.

Let go of any and all expectations you have of God, regarding your future, and embrace His plan.  I promise you, it is beautiful and better than anything you could ever imagine.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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Religion.

This wasn’t the post I had planned for this morning.  I was actually going to write something very different.

But before settling down to write, I stumbled upon a video by SoulPancake.  Those of you that have been with me for awhile know I really like this organization, and I often look to their book for prompt ideas.  This particular video is titled “Do we need religion?”, and well, it made me happy.

As a Christian, I believe it is important to hear other people’s perspective on religion.  I think it is important to understand why they believe what they believe.

Do we need religion?

You know, I think human beings, in their very essence, desire something to put their faith into.  People put faith in science, in reason, in other people, even in the human race, and in god-like deities.  And its from that faith that religion is born.  I understand religion to be the act living out that faith, and doing life with other people with the same faith.

I am not a Christian because my parents are, or because my grandparents are.  I’m not a Christian because I’ve been going to a church my whole life.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that Jesus Christ is who He says He is.  I am a Christian because I, myself, have faith that the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God.  And I am a Christian because I, myself, believe in God.

Like many of the people in the video, I believe that religion helps people make sense of their world, and it adds meaning to their life.  And I believe that religions helps anchor people.  My life has felt rather messy and out-of-control at times, and other people can be really quite mean about religion (particular Christianity).  And when I question and doubt, sometimes seriously, there is always some indescribable thing that calms my mind and heart, and guides me back.  My faith in God and living out my Christian religion always seems to re-balance and re-settle me.

And I am sure that is the same for every other religion.

The conversation of religion always opens the door for “right” and “wrong” labeling.  I know some Christians who are content to adamantly claim other religions (or lack thereof) are wrong, and are more than willing to say so.  This is not meant to be a theological discussion, or a lesson on evangelism.  But no one wants to be told what they believe is wrong; they stop listening to what you have to say.

Yes, as a Christian, I believe my faith is “right”, and I believe that there is ample enough proof, outside of the Bible.  But Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, even Agnostics and Atheists believe their faith (or ideologies) are “right”.  If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t have faith in it, right?

I believe in God, and at my former job, I have a friend who believes there is no God.  We know each other’s beliefs, but we are still friends.  I think this is so important, because at the end of the day, we are just trying to understand our world, all the horrible, tragic, and good.

In Christian teachings, we are supposed to bring unbelievers to God, but we are supposed to do it through love.  We believe our faith has eternal consequences, and if we ask you to come to church with us, it isn’t (mainly) because we think what you believe is wrong.  We ask you because we love you and care about you, and we want to spend eternity with you.  We pray for you, because we love you.  We do life with you, because we care about you.  And we share our faith with you because we want you to experience Heaven with us.

Do we need religion?

I think so.  I think religion gives us hope.  It gives us something to look to when life gets hard and bad things seem to press in from every side.  It gives us something to put our trust in when people do bad things.

I think we need religion because we need faith.

What do you think?

Ciao for now,

Julia

(P.S. I apologized this felt rather unstructured.  These are my unfiltered thoughts.  Plus, the more I wrote, the more I realized I could probably split this topic into a few other posts.  We’ll see what happens.)

 

 

In Honor of Holy Week.

For Christians, this week is one of the most important times of the year.  Easter is the time we remember Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, and what His resurrection truly means.

This week, I am surrounding myself with religious songs and placing myself in the proper state of mind for Easter Sunday.  So, to respect that, and to focus as much as possible on Jesus’ sacrifice, my only other posts this week will be prevalent to Easter.  I am beginning to feel like Jesus is getting pushed to the side a bit in my life right now, and I want to re-focused myself on Him.

In honor of Holy Week, I want to leave you with this song.  We sang it in church yesterday, and it struck right at the heart.

Ciao for now,

Julia

What happened to sin?

In church this morning, my pastor referenced a book titled Whatever became of sin? by Sean Fagan.  That title really caught my attention.  Coming hot off my Morality Problem post, with all that research still buzzing through my head, I was a tad caught off guard.  I wanted to say, “But Pastor Jerry, our culture is so sinful!”.  But then I listened to what he was truly saying.

He was saying that sin is more prevalent than ever, but it’s no longer called “sin”.  It’s reasoned away and labeled as something less negative.  Lying is evident on every stage and level, but hardly ever publicly punished.  Sexual immorality is now acceptable promiscuity (i.e. see modern music).  Lust is now Fifty Shades of Grey.  Adultery (i.e. cheating) is seen in popular movies, heard in popular songs, but not socially condemned.  Abortion, though never outright labeled as a sin, goes directly against God’s teachings, but many Christians continue to condone this practice.  And, because I am a Christian and believe the Bible is God’s living breathing Word, I believe homosexuality is a sin.  And, in modern culture, it is accepted and boldly broadcast.

What happened to sin? Modern culture’s desire not to offend anyone, or make anyone feel bad for their actions, that’s what.

Sin was big enough to turn the young world on it’s head, but today, we insist on minimizing it into a label for actions.  But the thing is, when we minimize sin, we minimize God and the incredible power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

And the sad thing is, people today seem so focused on themselves and other people.  This even includes Christians.  They want to seem like “good” people, and “good” Christians.  They want to fight for equality, justice, tolerance, love, and a whole host of other (wonderful) things.  But being a Christian isn’t about the world, or the world’s problems.  Yes, as Christians, we are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).  We are supposed to love our earthly brothers and sisters as our own flesh.  But in terms of the Great Commandments, this is only second.  The greatest and most important commandment of all is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:29-31)Being a Christian is about God. Plain and simple.  It’s about loving Him, praising Him, adoring Him, and desiring to please Him.  And the biggest thing that separates us from God is …. wait for it …. sin. 

How can we form a relationship with God, if we can’t acknowledge our sins, if we don’t know what they are?  As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to come up with examples of sins that non-Christians would understand, besides the obvious “Don’t kill”, Don’t steal”, etc.  Why is this?  Is it because sin truly isn’t talked about?  And if that’s the case, why doesn’t that shake us to our God-loving souls?

What happened to sin?  What happened to our world that sin became explainable?  What happened to us that we let sin get this way?

Sin, as ironic as it is, is so crucial to our relationship with God.  It is because of sin that we need God’s overwhelming grace.  And it’s because of sin that Jesus died for us.  Without sin, suddenly, Jesus’ sacrifice becomes nothing.  And as I’m typing that out, I suddenly feel like crying, because His sacrifice is everything.

In order for us know God and love Him, we need to admit we have sinned and “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  As Christians, we need to admit we have sinned.  But that is so hard, and all but impossible, when sin is apart of mainstream culture.

And because we are called to “be fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20), and bring our friends here on earth to God, we need to be able to point out sins.  We need to be able to tell someone (gently, of course) that what they’ve done is wrong.  It’s like guiding a child’s behavior; you have to point out their bad behavior so they can learn and grow.  If we reason away every type of behavior and not tell anyone that they’ve done anything wrong, how does anyone learn and grow?  And if we don’t equip anyone with the abilities to recognize that behavior in the future, what stops them from repeating it again?

The thing is, there is no salvation if there is no condemnation.  There is no good without bad.  There is no redemptive grace without sin.  So what happened to sin?

Churches, why don’t you talk about sin anymore?  Yes, I know it’s talk about it in Sunday School classes and you mention it in the services and sermons.  But can everyone that attends your church provide an explanation/example of sin?  Christians, why don’t we acknowledge sin anymore?  Why are we so quick to thank God and to praise Him, but less quick to admit our sins?  And Christians, why are we so hesitant to stand up against sins in our world?  Or rather, why are we so quick to explain it away?

And sometimes, Christians, standing against sin means standing against other people and telling them they are wrong.  Sometimes, fighting against sin means, maybe, being seen as intolerant or unfair or unloving.  But that’s when we have to weigh what is more important to us.  Because we can’t be Christians without sin, and we can’t fight for Christ if we aren’t willing to stand against sin.  Because Christianity isn’t “love-centered”, “people-centered”, or “world-centered”; Christianity is “God-centered”.

The existence of sin is a daily reminder of how much we need God.  We are a fallen people, fallen from the blameless, Garden of Eden existence, and fallen into a world of actions and desires that upset God.  It all makes full circle here, because being a Christian is about desiring to please God, and sin displeases God, so we should desire not to sin, right?  Obviously, yes.  But what is sin?  How does it apply to culture and society?  And now we’re back to the beginning with asking what happened to sin. 

I have several friends who are atheist/agnostic.  How am I to invite them to church and explain what sin is, if it’s become a part of modern culture, and modern Christian culture just brushes over it like it’s no big deal?

I think it’s time that Christians stop being afraid of coming across as “unfeeling”, “xenophobic”, “intolerant”, “unjust”, “hateful”, etc. I think it’s time to start talking about sin again.  I don’t want to whittle my God down anymore.  He is so incredibly big, and I think it’s time we re-acknowledge that sin is too.

What happened to sin? I don’t know, but I’m ready to see the conversation change.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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(P.S. For one of my classes this semester, I am required to conduct a research experiment/study.  My study is focused on the relationship between politics and religion.  I think it would be really cool to have you guys be a part of my research (but please do not feel obligated!).  If you are interested, the only stipulation is that you be an American citizen (sorry, but my topic is relevant to Americans).  So, if this is something you are interested in, you can find the survey here: Politics and Religion.  Thanks!! 🙂 )

 

 

God Thoughts

Hey guys, happy New Year! How’s everyone? I took some time away from the Internet and social media over Christmas, then I was in Atlanta, Georgia for a conference New Year’s Day.  And then this past weekend, my family and I explored Washington D.C.  The beginning of my year has been busy, but very wonderful.  I have quite a lot of wonderful, and challenging, things to share with you, so get ready! It’s going to be epic!

Right off the bat, I want to share with you some of the things that really touched my heart while at the conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  This conference is called Passionand is a gathering of 18-25 year old students from all over the place.  This year, there were over 55,000 college students, from various states and countries, packed into the Georgia Dome, with thousands of others streaming online.  It was intense, and just a small glimpse of Heaven.

We heard from some incredible speakers: Christine Caine, John Piper, Louie Giglio, Levi Lusko, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Katherine and Jay Wolf.  We got to worship with incredible bands: Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, Chris Tomlin, Passion band, and Crowder (who was at one point joined by Carrie Underwood!).

So tonight, I just wanted to share some thoughts from each speaker.  They’re pretty powerful, and have pretty heavily shaken up my heart for the new year.

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  • “We, as followers of Jesus Christ, do not need to grow weary or faint-hearted, because Jesus already endured it all for us.”
  • God is not in Heaven freaking out about anything.  Nothing surprises Him.
  • You don’t build endurance through the path of least resistance.
  • Is the race that is set before us, enough for us?
  • Don’t obsess over where I’m going.  Just follow Jesus.
  • Where you start, and how you start, determines where, and how, you end.
  • Stop looking at the world–LOOK UP.

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  • Until you know, see, understand, and hate the evil in your own heart and in the world, you are dumbing down and minimizing the power and majesty of God, the triumph of Christ, and the glory of your own life.
  • The essence of every temptation is the belief that God is withholding something wonderful and exciting.  We don’t want to be denied what we want more than God Himself.
  • If you see “commandment following” as good and “commandment breaking” as bad, you will never know why you do what you do.
  • God turned “delighting in His character” as a commandment, so thusly, it is right to delight in God’s character above everything else, even obedience to commandments.
  • The battle I need to be fighting is one focused on what I desire, not the one focused on what I do.
  • Can you call anything “good” if it’s stripped from God?

Beth Moorebeth-circle

  • Will I be willing to follow the plan of the Living God?
  • Jesus Christ alone is my calling.
  • I know the one in whom I’ve placed my trust.  But I will by my biggest betrayer.
  • The Devil is ultimately after my faith, and he will use everything else to get to that.

Francis Chan1

  • Amazing things happen when we speak to God.
  • If I truly knew the hope into which I have been called, nothing, ever, could get me down.
  • The highest thought I have of myself, is nowhere close to God’s lowest thought about me.  His thoughts are so much higher than I could ever even fathom.
  • Stop listening to yourself and trust God.

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  • God doesn’t want us to just be 40% or 50% Christian.  He wants us to be 100% in love with Him.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it is the only place where dead people come alive.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it cancels out shame.
  • The cross is a devastating power.
  • You know God loves you based on Jesus’ circumstances, not by your circumstances.
  • The cross is devastatingly beautiful because it ends one story, and begins another.

Levi Lusko

  • It takes endurance to be the fragrance of Christ.  And to make a fragrance, you have levi-lusko-aboutto take something precious, and crush it.
  • Courage is contagious.
  • Fear is faith in the enemy.
  • Jeremiah was destined for impact, and so am I.
  • I was saved, not just to be freed from my sins, but to shake up Hell, and to embrace my inheritance in Heaven.
  • You cannot be surprised for the calling God has prepared you for.
  • God’s favorite math is multiplication.  But in order to multiply, He must first break.
  • Don’t rely on willpower, because we have God’s power.
  • Far too many Christians come only through Calvary, and not through Pentecost, so they end as butterflies, instead of the eagles God called them to be.

I pray that something here has touched your heart, and is propels you back into God this year.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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Here are the full sermons:

Christine Caine (Please checkout her newest book.  It’s powerful.)

John Piper

Beth Moore

Katherine and Jay Wolf (Please check out their book.  It made me cry.)

Francis Chan

Louie Giglio

Levi Lusko (Please check out his book. It’s so good.)

Days of Cheer: The Christmas Story

As a Christian, Christmas is not complete without reading the Biblical Christmas.  Regardless of how many times we read it prior, my family does not open any presents until we read the story Christmas Day.  And as I’m getting older and learning how to study the Bible, I love seeing all of the cool things that are revealed.  Plus, the older I get, and the more studying and research I do, the more and more of a real story it becomes.  And I love it.

I think this incredible story all begins with John the Baptist:

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn[c] of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit[d]; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Luke 1:8-80

Then, the birth of Jesus:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Luke 2:1-21

And the cool thing in all of this, is the fact that this story was foretold many and many years before it even happened.

the-nativity

Ciao for now,

Julia

Merry Christmas! Xx