Labor of Love

Traditional orthodox icon of Mother Mary
The Icon a Mother of God (Mary) and child (Jesus Christ)

When I was in labor with my first child, it was very difficult.  I had to be induced and the pangs were very strong and close together as if I was in the last stages, but I was only 1 centimeter dilated. I had a picture of the Blessed Mother that had been in my husband’s room as a child. I focused on her beautiful face and the common experience of women since the beginning of time. I felt that universality again as I nursed my child for the first time.

I felt very angry inside when I heard that Church teaches that Mary didn’t have any labor pains. I felt cheated of my mother.  We didn’t have that common bond.  They said that since she was conceived without sin, and labor was a punishment for sin, therefore she didn’t have it.

Inside I argued, but Jesus was without sin and He suffered under the curse.  Does not the Church teach about redemptive nature of the innocent suffering?  I knew it was nothing that she would shrink from, and that God certainly did not seem to spare that woman any suffering in her life.

There was a scriptural basis for that belief. The early church fathers pointed to Isaiah, “Before she was in labor she gave birth, before her pain came upon her she was delivered of a son.” As I have tremendous respect for the early Church Fathers and the teaching of the Church. I accepted it but took it to the Lord in prayer as to why it had to be this way.

The answer that I got was that it was not to spare His mother but to preserve us from error on both sides.  Those who are opposed to Mary would have pointed to those pains as proof of her being sinner.  Whereas God preserved her from sin so that Jesus might inherit our flesh without inheriting our sinful nature.

Those who love Mary might have erred in thinking that her pains redeemed us from Eve’s curse.  No amount of suffering on Mary’s part, no matter how pure, could provide the necessary reconciliation with God.  Only the sacrifice of Christ could do that.  Indeed, Jesus described His Passion as His hour.  When He foretold His own suffering and that of His disciples it was compared to a woman in labor who forgets all the pain once the child is born.  Jesus’ side was opened and blood and water flowed out much like a woman giving birth.  Jesus side was opened  like Adam’s side was opened when Eve was created.  So the Church was formed from that blood and water at the Cross.

His Passion and Death were Jesus’ labor of love and Mary shared in it intensely.  She would have gladly exchanged a few hours of labor for watching Jesus being tortured, holding her dead son, and placing Him in the tomb.  Mary’s suffering and our own suffering only when it is joined to the suffering of Jesus can it be redemptive for the rest of the Body of Christ.

Christ’s physical body suffered enough to redeem us all in every generation. But like Lazarus coming out of the tomb, the members of the Body of Christ here on earth are still bound by the trappings of death.  Jesus told His followers to unbind Lazarus.  When we unite our suffering to that of Christ’s, it helps others become spiritually unbound.

#trcot #tcot #Mary’s Labor #Redemptive suffering

Related scripture: Isa 66:7, John 11:44, John 12:27, John 16:21, Col 1:24

Bethlehem-House of Bread

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

Bethlehem means House of Bread in Hebrew.  What a fitting place for the Bread of Life to be born! Jesus from His very birth associated Himself with bread as He lay in a manger filled with grains for the animals to eat.

In John 6, He called Himself the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. Moses had given the people manna, but they died. The Father was giving to us the true bread from heaven–Jesus’ very flesh and blood.  Christ said that my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats of it will never die.

John 6:66 tells of the people leaving Him because they could not handle His teaching.  Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to go too.  Their response sounded a little conflicted.  Where else could they go? Only He had the words of eternal life.

Jesus did not elaborate further until they got to the Last Supper. Where He lifted up the bread and said “This is my body,” and lifted up the cup of  wine and said, “This is my blood”.  Finally, it was clear! We were to eat His body and drink His blood through bread and wine changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then let His body be put through the same process wheat goes through. At that time, wheat was first harvested then brought to the threshing floor.  There it was beaten with flails to break the wheat from the chaff. A flail was a wooden stick with a number of other wooden sticks attached to the end.  It looks visually very similar to the cat-o-nine-tails which was used to scourge Jesus.

Then everything was lifted high in the air on a windy hilltop where the chaff would blow away and the heavier wheat would fall to the ground.  Much like Jesus was lifted up from the earth on the cross.  The one man cursed God until he died, and the good thief came to repentance. The spiritual wheat and chaff were separated there.

The wheat was then ground into flour by millstones.  They would have big wooden beams that would extend outward and oxen would be attached to the beam. They would walk in a circle while they ground the wheat.  The Philistines attached Samson to the wooden beam which he carried on his shoulders as he trudged.  Visually that was very similar to Jesus carrying His cross up the hill.

Jesus Himself said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus died and was buried just like that grain of wheat.

From His birth, through His teaching, through His Passion, Death and Burial, Jesus associated Himself with Bread.  At Christmas, see Him there lying in a grain-filled manger at a place called the House of Bread.

#Eucharist #Bethlehem #trcot #tcot #House of Bread

 

Immanuel – God with Us

Traditional orthodox icon of Mother Mary
The Icon a Mother of God (Mary) and child (Jesus Christ)

The Fall not only separated us from God, but God from us.  The Creator and the created lived in harmony in Eden for a time.  Then our first parents chose to walk away from God. They rejected the light and in doing so found themselves in the land of darkness.

The Old Testament is a walk through God’s efforts to reconnect with us, but He was always outside of us.  So God used nature and physical realities to speak to His people of spiritual matters yet to come.  He wrote His law on tablets of stone. His Ark was made of wood and gold.  His people’s spiritual battles played out in flesh and blood.

First, God spoke to one man Abraham, then through Moses, then through His law.  The Tabernacle went from outside the camp to the middle of the camp.  Finally, God’s house, the Temple, was built in the center of Jerusalem.  God was among His people yet still separated by physical barriers because of our sin.  Eventually, the people ended up defiling the Temple with false gods, and God’s spirit left the Temple and the Ark of the Covenant was lost. Our ancestors had fallen again.

Isaiah spoke of the coming of Immanuel which means God with us.  Jesus was God in the flesh.  No longer speaking through plagues and laws written on stone.  Jesus was the Word of God in the flesh and He spoke directly to us.  Mary’s body was the Ark of the Covenant made in flesh.  God was with us, walking among us.  Teaching us directly. Healing us. Delivering us from the Evil One.  But still there was this separation.  Jesus could only sit beside two people at a time.

There was a greater level of intimacy that God desired.  At the Last Supper Jesus spoke of the coming of Holy Spirit.  How we could be one with Him and He with us.  The coming of the Holy Spirit was God within us! God’s word is written on our hearts! St. Paul says that our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We fight not against flesh and blood  but against spiritual hosts of wickedness!  Now there is no more waiting in the hot son for hours for the hope of catching a glimpse of Jesus.  He dwells within us.  Yet there is still a separation.

Everything in the Bible progresses toward the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, where there will be no more separation.  The “God within us” stage will yield to “Unity with God”. This week we sing “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” but in our hearts and spirits is the Revelations cry, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus Come.”

#trcot #tcot #Immanuel #Maranatha

Related scripture: Isaiah 7:14, 1 Cor. 6:19, Eph. 6:12

Son of David

Michelangelo's David Statue, Italian Art Symbol

There are more connections between Jesus and David than being a distant descendant born in the same city as David. Even many unchurched people know the basics of the story of David and Goliath but there is so much more to his story.

David was a young lad who watched over the sheep.  He took the job very seriously. Sometimes wild animals would try to attack his flock. Even though he was young, he did not run, nor did he let the lion or the bear have the sheep.  He attacked the lion and the bear to defend his sheep.  The sheep were more important to him than a risk to his own life. When Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, David and his heroics should come to mind.

King Saul was the first king over Israel but his heart was not fully with the Lord.  He would adapt God’s orders to what he wanted to do. In a crisis he relied on himself instead of the Lord.  So God ended up taking the kingship away from Saul and giving it David.  Now Saul was still alive and king but the blessing had left him.  This compares to the time of transition between the Old Covenant which people were fulfilling imperfectly and the New Covenant of Jesus which had yet to be brought to fulfillment.

The Philistines attacked Israel. Their leader was a man named Goliath who was giant man. All of Israel, including David’s older brothers were afraid of him.  When David was sent by his father to bring his brothers food he heard Goliath’s insults and taunts. David was very angry for the sake of the Lord. So he went to Saul and begged him to let him fight.  The Lord, who had delivered over to him lions and bears, would defeat Goliath as well. He refused any armor taking with him only a slingshot and five stones. David sais to Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied.” David defeated Goliath with the name of the Lord, the stone was the instrument that brought it about. In the same way, Jesus went into the desert and took on Satan one-on-one.  He defeated Satan using nothing but the word of God.

David went about fighting the Philistines throughout the land.  When Saul saw that David was more popular than he was. He got very jealous and tried to kill him.  Jesus went throughout the land curing people of their diseases and casting out demons.  When the religious authorities of the day saw that Jesus was becoming popular with the people.  They tried to discredit him and kill him.

David had a group of loyal men who followed him around throughout the countryside fighting his battles for Israel.  They correspond to Jesus’ apostles and disciples who shared in His work.

David became king and made his capital Jerusalem. It was there is Jesus was dressed in purple and crowned with thorns.  He was presented to the people as the King of the Jews and they rejected him.

There came a time when during David’s kingship when he was betrayed by his own son. As he left Jerusalem, David went to the Garden of Olives.  There he wept and prayed to God.  Jesus too was betrayed by one of his apostles.  It was there in the same Garden of Olives where He wept and prayed. God allowed David to escape and later return to Israel to rule again after his enemies were defeated.  God allowed Jesus to be captured in that garden. He too will come again to rule forever!

#Son of David #David and Goliath #trcot #tcot

For more on David read 1 Sam. 16- 2 Sam 24

 

City of David

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

The original prophecy regarding a coming redeemer goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  When Adam and Eve were receiving the consequences of their sins, God also cursed the serpent.  He said that woman and her seed would crush the serpent’s head.

Later on the prophecy became more in focus with God’s promise to David that from his body shall come forth a king that will rule forever. That God would be a father to him, and he would be his son.

Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would conceive a child and would call his name Immanuel.  Finally, the place where the Messiah was to be born was prophesied by Micah – a small town of Bethlehem. David’s home when he was a child.

People wonder how much did Mary and Joseph know.  They knew. Gabriel had told Mary that her son Jesus would be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord will give to him the throne of his father David. Those words tie directly into God’s promise to David.

Joseph in his dream was called Joseph, son of David. He was not called Joseph son of Jacob who was his actual father but David.  Joseph heard that and knew that the promised line was through him. He was then told that Mary was virgin and had conceived through the Holy Spirit.  He knew.

They did not try to fulfill that last part of the prophecies on their own part.  They waited on the Lord, and it was Rome that sent them to Bethlehem.  They knew that Jesus would be born there.

When the Three Kings asked where the Messiah was to be born.  The scribes knew it was Bethlehem.  God through his Holy Spirit was fulfilling all those prophecies right before Mary and Joseph’s eyes.  They might not have understood why it had to be in a stable, but they knew their son was the promised Messiah.

#trcot #tcot #City of David #Bethlehem

Referenced scriptures

Gen. 3:15,  2 Sam. 7:12-16, Isa 7:14 Micah 5:1-4

 

No Room at the Inn

Signboard with text No Vacancy near hotel
Signboard with text No Vacancy near hotel

There were no Holiday Inns in Bethlehem. I’ve read that the word used is actually translated better as “guest chamber”.  Homes would have a guest chambers where one might stay. This was so much more than a hotel clerk saying everything’s full.

All of Joseph’s close family and extended family were in town for the Census.  Nobody would let them stay with them, or share a room with them. They were either selfish, or they viewed Mary’s pregnancy as something shameful. They were given a place in a stable with the animals.

There was no compassion for a woman in labor, only rejection. In a tribal society, family and your position in it was everything. Jesus came into this world rejected by man. He was born outside of the city in a place of shame.

Jesus would die outside of the city after being rejected by the Jewish people.  First they chose Barabbas over Jesus, then they chose Caesar over the King of the Jews and finally they chose death over life as they yelled “Crucify him!”  Three times they rejected Him. Then he was led outside the city to die a shameful death.

St. John says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.  He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.”

Our hearts have a guest chamber that is meant to be filled with God.  Sometimes it is so full of our possessions or our need for worldly approval, that there is no room for him. All those things are fleeting. At Christ’s birth, the Holy Family had none of those things.  Ponder this as you read Jesus’ message to those in Laodicea from the Book of Revelations.

I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door. I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Is there room in the guest chamber of your heart for Christ?

Scriptures referenced: John 1:11-12, Revelations 3:15-20

#trcot #tcot #No Room at the Inn #Advent #Laodicea

Chaos Amongst the World Powers Sends Jesus Exactly Where He is Supposed to Be

Gaius Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. Useful for leadership concepts.

The history of the world leaders at the time of Jesus’ birth puts soap operas to shame. Before Herod, two Maccabean brothers were at absolute war with each other as to who would rule Israel and one of them invited Rome into the fight. That is what brought Rome to Israel.  They were asked.

Herod from Idumea and son of an ally of one of the brothers married Mariamne the granddaughter of both of the warring brothers.  But then one of the warring brothers teamed up with the Parthians who kicked out his brother, the Romans and Herod.

Herod went to Egypt where he teamed up with Anthony and Cleopatra. Anthony then convinced Rome to make Herod king and take back the land.  Cleopatra had just wanted Herod to be her general and then she had it out for him. She instigated his neighbor to attack him, hoping he’d be killed.

Herod killed Mariamne’s grandfather because he had a better right to be king then he did.  Mariamne now hated Herod but Herod’s mother and sister  couldn’t convince him of it. So they told him that she had a nude painting made of herself and sent it to Anthony.  Herod flew into a jealous rage and killed her, but then went insane mourning her.  A free-for-all ensued amongst his children by his four wives as to who would be his successor.  Herod ended up killing some of them too.

After Julius Caesar was killed and there is a major power struggle to find his successor with Anthony and Cleopatra on one side and Caesar’s nephew on the other.  Herod’s old alliance with Anthony had soured. So, Herod went to the Julius’s nephew and told him that Anthony used to be a great guy but Cleopatra had ruined him.  He was throwing in with him.  The nephew became Caesar Augustus and he wanted to make sure Herod’s territory was actually loyal. So he called for a census where people had to pledge their loyalty to him.

All of this chaos, backstabbing, murder and intrigue led to a census that took the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem where the prophets foretold the Messiah would be born. The powers that be think they rule the world and they do what they will, but God uses all of their plotting and planning to bring about His own plan.

At His passion, the power struggles between the Jewish leaders who are jealous of Jesus and the Roman curator who only wanted to keep the peace brought about the death of Jesus exactly as was prophesied.

Remember this when the world seems to be going insane and out of control. God’s will shall be done.  Rome sent Jesus to His place of birth and to His place of death.

#Herod #Census #trcot #tcot

Most historical information is from The War of the Jews by Flavius Josephus