Our tree is mostly decorated, and it is SO incredibly beautiful to me! I love it so much! The decorations we have are mostly old-fashioned blown glass, including a lot of Santas, snowmen, and other Christmas images. We have angels, bells, crystal shapes, snowflakes and icicles. The lights are colored and glow brightly from within the tree, and each time I look at it, my heart gets warm and so very happy. Some people love to have trees with all white lights, and one or two colors of ornaments, and this is wonderful, but I had that for many years. The vibrant lights, and multi-colored ornaments all tell a story – from the annual ornaments my husband I get to commemorate each year, and ornaments we find that just make us happy. I’ll share a picture when we have it all done, but this is a bigger tree than normal and honestly, it’s taking longer to decorate than we anticipated. I am hoping tonight it will be finished.
Verse of the Day
December 2, 2019
O LORD, … be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Thoughts on the Verse of the Day
God sometimes seems to be distant and not to be listening to us. Think of the hundreds of years Israel was in bondage praying for God’s promised Deliverer. “Isn’t God listening?” they must have repeatedly wondered. Yet at the right time, God sent his Son and brought deliverance. Thankfully, God doesn’t ask us to pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t. He filled the Psalms with cries for deliverance and help. You may find yourself in a position where these words are yours. If you are, realize that thousands of Today’s Verse participants are praying today for God’s immediate and powerful deliverance of you.
Today I want to talk about Mary, the mother of Jesus. In all the Biblical accounts of her, they cover the outline of what happened, but I want to think about what this amazing and blessed young woman went through emotionally. Let’s think about the culture in her region at that time in history and create a picture in our minds and hearts of her story.
Mary was betrothed to Joseph. The Bible doesn’t state specifically how old she was when she was given the blessing of carrying Jesus, but we must assume that, because of cultural norms at the time, that she was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old. At that time, when a couple was engaged to be married, their promises to each other were as binding as an actual marriage, and as unbalanced and unfair as it was, if the woman in the couple were to cheat on her betrothed, the punishment could easily have been the death penalty in the form of being stoned to death. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term except in the context of recreational drugs – this means that the community gathered around and threw rocks at the accused until they died; a horrible, cruel and painful death) So here we have a young teenage girl, innocent and pure, from a poor family and engaged to marry a local carpenter. Mary was raised learning the prophecies and knew that God was going to send a blessing to His people, that He was going to save them with a Messiah, so when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary to let her know that she was going to conceive the Son of God, she was terrified, but the purity of her faith opened her heart and mind to the blessing being given to her. In the cold light of day though, what did she go through?
She was unmarried, betrothed to Joseph . . . and she was pregnant. Unmarried pregnant girls are common today, so much so that nobody really gives them a second thought, but at THAT time, this was a HUGE scandal! HUGE! Everyone, justifiably, assumed she’d either cheated on Joseph, or she and Joseph had jumped the gun and consummated their relationship before their marriage – both a big no-no. Joseph was publicly humiliated and had a big decision to make. Was he going to break it off with Mary, effectively divorcing her and condemning her to a life of being unmarriageable, was he going have her killed, or was he going to just deal with it, marry her anyway and live a life with people thinking he was a fool to marry a woman carrying someone else’s child? What to do? I’m sure his family and friends were giving him all sorts of advice, and that the public condemnation of Mary was loud and perhaps even vicious. “Good” people would have crossed to the other side of the street and she would have been ostracized. It got so bad she went to live with her relatives for awhile. Joseph in the meantime was visited by an angel as well, and being a man of faith who was in love with Mary, he accepted the responsibility God gave him, and he stayed with Mary, with the intention of being the earthly father to the Son of God. Heavy responsibility! This likely gave the impression that the child was his, which would have – maybe – slightly alleviated the scorn, since they WERE betrothed anyway. What a LONG nine months this had to have been!
The time came for Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem to report for the census. This census was required by the Romans, and no excuses were acceptable, which is why Mary found herself traveling about 70 miles on foot and by donkey, to Bethlehem. I don’t know about you, but for me, when I was that far along, there is absolutely NOTHING that would have felt worse than that trip when I was so close to delivering. She had to have been miserable! I’m sure her back ached, her feet were puffy, she was short of breath and every little bit she had to stop to do her business behind a rock somewhere. It was a LONG, difficult, miserable trip. When they arrived in town, it was packed to the rafters with people who were ALSO there to report. Every available space was full of travelers. Think about how cram packed cities are when the Olympics are in town, or Super Bowl! You have to make reservation months, even years in advance, just to insure you have a place to stay. They didn’t have this option back at that time, so it was first come first serve, and since traveling was slow with a woman in the end stages of pregnancy, by the time Joseph and Mary arrived it was too late to find an inn. I’m sure Joseph knocked on many, many doors trying to find space and he had to have been feeling desperate. Mary was in labor – had to have been to have given birth so soon after arriving – which means her contractions had started and she needed to lie down as soon as possible.
Finally, after what was a really long search, they found an innkeeper who would allow them to stay in the stable with the animals. A humble place, to be sure, but think about it. It was warm and staying with animals wasn’t a big stretch in those days. People’s farm animals meant the difference between life and death for them. They took care of them and spent a lot of time with them. So here they were, in a warm barn, heated with the body heat of the animals staying there, and in this humble space, Mary delivers Jesus, the Son of God, Savior to the world, with the help of her husband, Joseph. They wrapped the baby in strips of cloth that Mary would have packed to bring with her, knowing that she was so close to delivering. These swaddling-cloths were something that mothers have used for hundreds of years, snuggling the baby up where he was warm and would feel secure. She was exhausted from her trip and from giving birth, so Jesus was laid in the manger – a feeding trough essentially – so she could rest. We see traditional nativity scenes showing the manger as a wooden box type object, but if you look at structures of those times, it was likely a cut out stone indentation in the wall of the stone stable. Either way, it was a humble place for the Son of God to lay His head in the first hours of His life. However, this difficult pregnancy, the trek to Bethlehem and the basic nature of their lodging, all worked together to fulfill the prophesies and bringing to us, the world, the Savior . . . The Messiah. I am grateful that God chose such a wonderful young woman to raise His Son, and I am humbled by her graciousness, her sweet spirit of acceptance and her strength. Would that we all could give ourselves over to God in such a way . . . the world would not be in the place it is today.
This video from The Nativity Story, with the song Breath of Heaven, sung by Amy Grant always touches my heart. Please, if you have a few minutes, contemplate Mary and what she went through so she could fulfill the purpose God gave to her.
Cider Monday (1st Monday after Thanksgiving) – This is a pretty fun way for independent businesses to combat Cyber Monday. It started with the staff at New Hampshire bookstores, Toadstool Bookshops, and caught on. The staff proposed starting a new tradition to encourage people to stop by one of their three stores for a free cup of cider made from “squished Microsoft apple products” and to see some real people and have fun seeing what was in the stores. The idea caught on with various bookstores, and is growing, some even adding apple cider doughnuts to their goodies to draw people in. Honestly, whether you celebrate this one in place of Cyber Monday or not, enjoying a cup of hot cider sounds like a really good idea!
Cyber Monday (First Monday after Thanksgiving) – This day is basically on-line retailers answer to Black Friday sales. Since I do a great deal of my shopping online anyway, this day really is a great thing since I can get extra special deals doing what I already do – without ever battling a crowd or wasting any fuel. Today I will be taking advantage of an awesome deal that the market I love so much is offering. I can get a $100 food gift card for $75, and since I shop there all the time anyway, this is an awesome deal. It’s free food! The deals are out there for the taking, and I’m all about saving money, aren’t you?
National Mutt Day – Mixed breed dogs fill shelters around the nation and today was set up to raise awareness of their plight. They are desperately waiting for new forever homes, but so many people are determined to buy a purebred dog, without stopping to think of the benefits of a mixed breed. Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier and better behaved. They live longer and are just as able to perform the duties of purebred dogs. They can be bomb and drug sniffing dogs, search and rescue dogs, and they can guide the blind. There are millions of loving, healthy mixed breed dogs sitting in shelters, waiting, possibly for you! Please, if you have the ability to do so, if you have a place in your heart and home, please adopt a new best friend this month. If you can’t, then could you consider donating to your local animal shelter? They are always short on funds and need to buy food and provide medical are for the wonderful animals in their care.
Safety Razor Day – In 1901 King Camp Gillette and William Emery Nickerson invented the world’s first disposal razor. Up until that time shaving was done with a wedge-shaped heavy metal forged blade on top of a handle. When it was dull, the wedge was stropped by hand until it couldn’t keep a sharp edge any longer. Gillette thought of the idea of a disposable blade in 1895. Metallurgists of the day said that it wasn’t economically feasible to mass produce such thin pieces of sharpened metal. Not long after that he met W.E. Nickerson and they worked for 6 years to invent the equipment necessary to produce the first disposable blade. They patented their invention in 1901, starting the American Safety Razor Company, which was re-named the Gillette Safety Razor Company in 1904. The safety razor was a huge success and my 1910 King Gillette was a millionaire. My husband uses one of the safety razors that use a single blade that is changed out when it gets dull, same kind my dad used when I was growing up. I don’t care how many blades new razors may have on them, my hubby swears that this razor gives the best shave he has ever had. He gave my son a set to use, and now he agrees that his shave is better with the old-fashioned razor. Some things just can’t be improved upon, no matter how much you try.
Special Education Day – Today we celebrate the anniversary of the nation’s first federal special education law, passed on December 2, in 1975. Since the time that President Gerald Ford signed the ground-breaking legislation, we have come a long way, and now provide access to education for all children, including children with disabilities. Today, take the day to honor progress and celebrate students with disabilities, their parents, teachers and their schools. All children deserve to get and education, so this day is indeed special and worthy of being celebrated.
Food Celebration of the Day –
Feast of Saint Bibiana – This one showed up on the food celebration list on www.foodimentary.com but I am confused by it. I looked up Saint Bibiana, and her history is interesting, and I’ll be glad to tell you about it. That isn’t the confusing part – the confusing part is that this is her feast day, but I cannot find ANY information on if any feasting actually happens and if so, what the feast would be! Why not? It is a big secret? WHAT DO YOU EAT ON A SAINT’S FEAST DAY? Seriously, if anyone has an answer to that question, I’d love to hear it. In the meantime, here’s a little information about Saint Bibiana. She is the patron Saint against Epilepsy, hangovers headaches, insanity, mental illness of the Diocese of Los Angeles CA (and I had to laugh at this since I consider so many in Los Angeles to fit into the mentally ill category based upon their ridiculous politics), single laywomen (?) and torture victims. That’s a lot of responsibility for one saint! So how did she become a saint? Well, her parents were very zealous Roman Christians who, like so many during that time, were persecuted for their faith. Her father was branded on the face with a hot iron and banished. He died from his wounds a few days later. Her mother was beheaded. This left Bibiana (also known as Vivian) an orphan. The court sent Bibiana to live in a brothel, but she refused to participate in the sin of their line of work to earn her keep. Because of her rebellion, the judge ordered her to be tied to a pillar and beaten with a lead whip until she died. Her body was left to the dogs for disposal, but the dogs wouldn’t touch her (smart dogs), so after a couple of days, hidden by darkness of night, a priest buried her body. The legend says that after she was buried some mysterious and magical herbs grew up around her grave and that it was these herbs that worked miracles. A church was built over her grave in Rome. During the middle ages, pilgrims went to the holy site of her burial and would scrape the dust from its columns and eat it, saying that it worked the same magic as the herbs did. None of this tells me anything about a feast though – so I’d still like to know – IS there any feasting done on these feast days?
Fritter Day – Aren’t we all lucky that this special day has finally arrived!? Before you can celebrate this one though, you need to know what a fritter is. Apparently not everyone knows! A fritter is a fried cake or dough with fruit or meats inside. The Spanish came up with this fried food technique, but today almost every culture has its own version of fritters. Sometimes they are sweet, and sometimes they are savory.
Have a blessed Monday, for those of you shopping online today, I hope you find some good deals. As for me, I’m heading for work. It is going to be a busy day. God bless you and I’ll see you tomorrow.
Celebration list sources: