Little Thoughts: Acknowledging Modesty

Thank you for not dressing to reveal yourself to the world.

My boyfriend said this to me yesterday.  We were at a local amusement park for the day, and in front of us in line, was a young-ish girl (maybe 16 or 17) wearing a shirt that revealed her entire bra.  I was actually rather taken back by how many women and girls were scantily dressed.  I saw more bras, cleavage, butt cheeks, and body parts yesterday, than I did my entire high school career.

I was wearing a college t-shirt, jean capris, and sneakers.  And even when we were in the water park, my body was covered. While we were in line, with this girl and her boyfriend (who couldn’t keep his hands off her, I might add) in front of us, my boyfriend pulled me close, and whispered that in my ear.

I grinned like a freaking fool.

See, here’s the thing; I dress modestly.  I know I have the choice to dress however I want, but I know that what makes me attractive and appealing, isn’t how much skin I reveal. I know my body is attractive to men, simply because I am a woman.  I know men are visual creatures, and I know I want to respect men and not put them in awkward or uncomfortable positions.  There have been times when I’ve worn a shirt not thinking anything of it, and my brothers or other guys I trust, have told me that the shirt was making them uncomfortable.  And guess what? I have incredible respect and appreciation for men that do that, because it makes me aware of the consequences of the clothing I choose to wear.

My boyfriend tells me all the time not only how beautiful how I am, but how smart he thinks I am.  He compliments my writing, and engages in my philosophical ideas.  He encourages my adventurous spirit and he challenges my relationship with God.  He doesn’t make me feel like I need to reveal myself to him, to be worthy of his attention.  And, the cool thing is, he acknowledges my modesty.  He acknowledges how I dress, and by doing so, he’s showing me how much he cares about me.  He knows I could dress however I wanted, but it makes my heart happy to know he appreciates my modesty.

My question to you is this: when did we stop caring about modesty? When did we stop caring about how the other sex reacts to exposed skin?  When did we stop respecting each other, and acknowledging that how we dress and what we choose to expose, has an effect on our primal instincts?  And, when did we stop imparting the importance of modesty on the younger generations?

Personally, I think modesty is hand in hand with respect.  I dress modestly, because I respect and acknowledge the undeniable fact that men are visual beings.  I dress modestly because I respect myself, and I don’t need body parts hanging out to feel good about myself, or to think I am attractive.

Also, and this could easily become another post, but to put it plainly – ladies, if you don’t want to be lusted after, put some clothes on.  Naked girls tend to end up in Playboy.  And, really, guys?  Girls are visual too, so if you don’t want to be lusted after, put some clothes on.  Naked guys tend to end up in Cosmopolitan. 

But I guess, to tie this all up, modesty goes a long way.  You don’t need to show off your body to be attractive.  Guys (and girls) do appreciate modesty.  And there’s something really cool, when people you deeply care about, acknowledge your modesty.

Ciao for now,

Julia

Survey: Modesty

I’ve created another survey!  This time, I am interested in examining how modesty has an impact on single or unmarried men, predominately Christian men.  All answers are kept completely anonymous, I promise!  I do ask, though, as there is space to explain each answer, that you do so.  I’d like this post to be a collection of responses, not just statistics. If this interests you, please follow this link: Modesty.

Thank you all very much!!

P.S. If possible, could you pass this on to your friends? That would be great too!Survey

 

Religion and Politics: Survey Results

*I want to dedicate this post to every single person who completed my survey.  Your responses helped me test my hypotheses, and understand the relationship between religion and politics.  I am forever grateful to every single one of you.  Thank you.*

I started this study with the aim to analyze the connection between religious beliefs and political beliefs.  I was interested to see if the strength of one set of beliefs influenced the strength of the other.  This was my main hypothesis.  However, as I began compiling my survey, I became curious of other variables, and their effects.  Did age play a role?  What about gender?  If someone isn’t religious, does that impact which political party they most agree with?  Does different religious beliefs affect politics?  Does religious beliefs influence more conservative or more liberal beliefs?  And finally, does the amount of time one set of beliefs was held, impact the other?

I believed these variables would be statistically significant (important, statistically unique, different than normal).  I thought the stronger someone believed one set of beliefs, the stronger the other set of beliefs would be.  For example, I thought that if a Christian held very strong beliefs, they would also be a very strong, conservative Republican.  (This was based on prior observations and patterns.).  I thought age and gender played a role in each set of beliefs, but I was unsure to that role.  I thought the type of religious belief, be it religious or non-religious, would have an impact, but I was unsure what that was.  And I thought people that had beliefs from their family for one belief, would hold the other for the same reason.

Several prior studies influenced my knowledge prior to analyzing the results.  For example, a study conducted by Driskell, Embry, and Lyon (2008) suggested that religious beliefs about an involved God and many world issues are significantly related to political participation on a national scale (Driskell, Embry & Lyon).  Another study conducted by Evans (2014) concluded that religious people tend to disagree in terms of political policies, but they have the tendency to agree with the process of reaching those policies (Evans).  Friesen and Ksiazkiewicz (2015) concluded that society functions the best when people follow traditional values, and also was able to conclude that individuals tend to interpret religion as an important guide for one’s life (Friesen and Ksiazkiewicz).  Fitzgerald and Wickwire (2012) were able to conclude that people of specific religious and political groups tend to favor, or express more trust towards others of the same groups (Fitzgerald and Wickwire).  Finally, Meyer, Tope, and Price (2008) concluded that nations of people who tend to be strongly religious are less favorable towards democracy (Meyer, Top & Price).

A total of 193 people responded to my survey.  However, of the responses, 20 responses were discarded.  These responses did not meet all the criteria, such as being 18 or older, or not providing all information.  (All the surveys were completed.  However, 18 of the 20 responses chose not to specify their religious affiliation.  This was an optional spot, but was a factor I was interested in examining.). I chose 18 as the minimal age, because in America, that is the age when teenagers are allowed to vote.  The vast majority of participants were female and between the ages of 18-30.

Of the participants who identified as religious, the vast majority specified their beliefs as “Christian” (non-denominational/ denominational).  However, I also received responses such as “Catholic”, “Spiritual”, “Norse”, “Methodist”, “Mennonite”, “Christo-pagan”, “Baptist”, “Lutheran”, “Jewish”, “Former Mormon”, and even “Catholic with Celtic beliefs”.  Of those that identified as non-religious, the most common responses were “Agnostic” and “Atheist”.

Politically, I asked participants which political party they most aligned with, and then asked them to place themselves on a conservative/liberal scale.  I was interested to see if religious beliefs affected that ranking.

When gathering the responses, I was really focused on not getting a biased sample, such as too many millennials, or too many Christians, or too many Republicans, etc.  (Given where I live, those would have been the most likely biases.). So, I placed my survey on my Facebook page, and thus it was shared by many of my friends.  I also linked it in several of my blog posts.  Finally, I asked one of my previous professors to pass it out to his students.  The responses were kept completely anonymous, apart from asking for age and gender.

I was expecting my sample to slightly biased, with more Republican Christians.  However, I was surprised to find that the split between Republican and Democrat beliefs to be rather equal.

When I had finished analyzing my results, I was disappointed to find my hypotheses were generally not statistically significant. *I’ll apologize here: I seem to have deleted the file with all my graphs and whatnot.  So, unfortunately, I am unable to share with you any of the visual data.*. The strength between religious beliefs and political beliefs was not statistically significant. (For those of you interested, r=-.087.). This was fascinating to me, as I could see participants of similar religious beliefs rating the strength of that belief very high, but then ranking their political beliefs differently and opposite ends of the spectrum.  Also, I saw many responses where on set of beliefs was ranked high, and the other was ranked low.

The effects between “religious and political beliefs” and “gender” were not statistically significant, and neither was the interaction between them.  This was interesting, because based on previous patterns and observations, I expected females to be more religious, but also slightly more liberal.

When I analyzed the interaction between “religious beliefs”, “political beliefs”, and “age”, the interaction was not statistically significant.  However, when I analyzed the main effect of “religious beliefs” on “age”, this was statistically significant.  (For those interested, F (4, 170)= 2.76, p = .03, and h2 = 0.024.).

Finally, I analyzed the relationship between “religious beliefs” and “political beliefs”.  This correlation was mildly statistically significant (r = .19 at p = .013).  This was interesting, because it demonstrated there is indeed a relationship between “religious beliefs” and “political beliefs”.

*Unfortunately, I did not quite get the chance to analyze all the varied variables I wanted to, such as the different types of beliefs against political beliefs, or how long those beliefs were held against the strength of the beliefs.  If I have the chance to re-do this study, I would fine tune the variables I want to explore.  I made the mistake of adding more and more “variables” as my study went on.  I didn’t start with a strict set of things to investigate, and I think that is why so many of potentially interesting insights were ignored.  I ran out of time, and to a degree, resources, thus negatively effecting the validity of my results.*

I think, overall, this study brings some really interesting things to light.  For example, I began to understand that the interpretation of religious texts is often more impactful than just the religious beliefs.  There were participants who were nearly identical in religious beliefs and in their belief strength (sometimes even in age and gender), but completely opposite in terms of political beliefs and conservative/liberal ranking.  (I may even be so bold as to say that it is this split in interpretation that is leading to the split in Christians today …… corresponding blog post to come …..)

Also, it is also possible that race, economic status, and living environment (rural, city, urban, etc.) further impact the relationship between religious and political beliefs.

———————

I had quite a lot of fun organizing this study, analyzing the results, and understanding real life applications.  It has opened the door to many other questions I would like to pursue, and may at some point.

I’d love to know your thoughts about these results.  Do you think there is a bigger connection between religious beliefs and political beliefs?  Or do you think it’s smaller?


 

religion-in-politics

Ciao for now,

Julia

P.S. I am interested in do a post on modesty, but from guys’ perspectives.  If you are a single, or yet unmarried Christian guy, I’d be honored if you’d fill out this short questionnaire.  Please pass it around to your friends! I will be giving credit where credit is due! Thank you!

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.)

 

 

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

what-is-sin

(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.

Christine Caine christine-1

  • “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.

John Piper98667a57-d3d1-4335-98da-93188b645796-jpg-_cb522772874__sl300__

  • 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.

Louie Gigliopassion-20172

  • 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

2017-01-16-23-10-05

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