COME, EXPECTED ONE

By Sarah Langness

Come, Thou long expected Jesus; Born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne. 

My favorite part of the Christmas story isn’t found in what we typically think of as “the Christmas story”. My favorite part doesn’t involve mangers, magi or Mary. It doesn’t involve shepherds, angels, or inns.

 My favorite part of the Christmas story involves a priest, a prayer, and a promise:

“In the days of Herod . . . there was a priest named Zacharias . . . and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.

Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias,for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. For you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord . . . it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.‘” – Luke 1:5-17, NASB (emphasis mine) 

Zacharias’ prayer in the temple was not, as we may believe based on how the text reads, a prayer for a son. He was not standing before the Lord on behalf of himself and Elizabeth, begging God to open her womb. Zacharias was standing before the Lord on behalf of the nation of Israel, begging God to send the Redeemer. His prayer was the priestly prayer for the redemption of Israel.

 So when Gabriel comes to him and says “Your prayer has been answered”, Gabriel is saying, “The Lord God has heard your prayers and the prayers of others before you. He will send the Redeemer. The time has come. And you are going to play a part.”

 Next to being Mary herself, I cannot think of anything more humbling, more awe-striking, more fear-inducing.

 From the beginning, from the fall of man, God has promised a Savior. A Redeemer. A Messiah. The prayers of the nation of Israel was, “Come!” The Lord heard those prayers. And He answered them. In His timing.

As we celebrate His coming, His humble birth and wondrous love, may we anxiously await His return. May the prayer of every believer’s heart echo that of the Israelites, “Come!”. The Lord will hear those prayers. And in His time, He will answer them.

 

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All I Want for Christmas

 By Jonni Sliver

Almost exactly 1 year ago a precious little girl came in to our lives. Emily was two years old, a simply adorable little lady who was terrified of everyone and everything. For days the only time she wasn’t crying was when she was sleeping. Bit by bit we won her over. First it was Odette and Neyde, who spent the most time with her, feeding her, bathing her, comforting her wounded heart. Next came two other house moms, and before long all of the Miriam Home family entered her list of people she trusted.

It was pure joy to see Emily grow. We discovered that she is a very bright little girl, with a wonderful sense of humor and an enormous heart. During this last year we saw God restoring Emily’s ability to trust and causing her confidence to grow.

About a month ago I began to hear “the” question being asked of the children in the Miriam Home –“what do you want for Christmas?” It is the same question asked all over the world, and I am guessing most of the answers are pretty similar – a toy, a game, jeans, tennis, music or even (can you imagine) books. But some of the answers are different.  When one of our staff asked Emily what she wanted for Christmas she said “ a mommy and daddy and home of my own”.  She had just turned 3 years old and I thought that was a pretty deep thought for such a little girl! Even though we have known that Emily would eventually go up for adoption, she wasn’t available for adoption yet, and we didn’t know when she would be.

Just two weeks later the judge advised us that he had put Emily on the list available to families waiting for children. A week later we were told that a couple was coming to visit the Miriam Home, to get to know Emily. During the visit they didn’t tell the children why they were there, they just visited with all of the little ones. They came back a few days later, for another visit. This time they asked Emily if she would like to visit them over the week-end. Emily said yes! This precious little lady, who just a year earlier was terrified of everyone, went with this couple for a week-end all by herself!

Emily returned Monday morning telling us she had a wonderful time with her mommy and daddy. She was happy to be back with the people she loves in the Miriam Home but she reminded us daily that this week-end she would be going to her mommy and daddy’s house, and she did. She will be staying for a month with this lovely couple, and the judge will then officially ask if they want to adopt her. The couple has waited five years to adopt. They are in their early 30’s, love the Lord and want a child to complete their family.

Seeing God’s faithfulness in restoring this sweet little girl and answering her prayers may be the best gift I have received all year!

GIVING GOOD GIFTS

By Sarah Langness

Our son loves tractors. Well, to be honest, he loves trucks and cars and machines with a motor of any kind. But tractors are definitely on the top five list of coolest things he’s ever seen. So the other day, when I was flipping through the Shopko ad and came to the “TOY SALE: Buy one Get one Half Off!” page, it was no surprise when Ezekiel instantly spotted the “green tractor!”. There were many other toys sprawled across these two pages of magazine, but Zeke only had eyes for that tractor.

And to be honest, I really wanted to buy it for him. Because I know how much he loves tractors. And how that tractor (which was pulling a trailer!) would bring him joy.

But I didn’t. Because we have plenty of other tractors, trucks and cars in our house. Because I don’t want our son to think that he can have everything he wants and/or sees. Because Christmas is a little over two weeks away and I am confident there are a couple of Grandma’s who probably bought our little man some new trucks. So Zeke kept the magazine for a couple of days, looked at the tractor, and when we went to Shopko to get gifts for the Angel Tree, we made a mad dash through that toy aisle.

As I thought about this desire I had to buy Ezekiel that new tractor, I couldn’t help but think of these words from Jesus:

“‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him?'” – Matthew 7:7-11, NASB (emphasis mine)

Our God is good. We need look no further than a manger in Bethlehem and a cross on Calvary and an empty tomb to remember that.

He knows our needs. He knows the desires of our heart. And He knows what is best for us. Just because He withholds does not mean He is absent, deaf, or unloving. Our Father is simply doing what is best for us.

Teaching us as we wait upon Him. Learning to be content with what we have. Leaning upon Him for strength. Looking to Him to provide grace for the moment. Trusting Him to meet our needs.

“Every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” – James 1:17, NASB (emphasis mine)