Monday, December 11, 2017

Mary's Story Pt. 2

I read an article this week on information trends. In medical school, they tell you half of what you are about to learn won’t be relevant when you graduate — they just don’t know which half. A procedure will be replaced, new medications will be discovered, causes and treatment of diseases will be reevaluated and changed. Diseases not in the books today will be the new threat for health tomorrow.

We’ve seen it in a drug claiming to be safe a few years ago and now is listed as a bad drug subject to lawsuits. Substances that are dangerous now will become acceptable in the future and things we trust now will be untrustworthy before long.

A few years back eating eggs was harmful, today eggs are good for you. Sugar substitutes were considered safe, now they are a hazard. Cigarettes were harmless and asbestos was a safe product. Once Brussel sprouts were bad…and they’re still bad.

In every field of knowledge, most of what is true today will one day be updated by better information.

This is what the author called “the half-life of facts.”  The premise that for every category of knowledge, the facts that knowledge was built on will slowly be overturned, changed, and replaced. In medicine, the rate of that overturning is high enough that you never really complete your education. For a doctor, Medical school is an on-going process.

In physics, about half of all research findings will be discredited within 13 years. In psychology, information changes about every seven.

Some of that change is due to revision. The field of History is being tampered with continuously as people want to sanitize the ugly out of what went on, or rewrite events to twist the truth to fit a political or social agenda. Simply throwing in a lie or two or leaving out key information to unsuspecting students can change the whole impact of an event.

Kids are used to beliefs being taken away from them. One of our families told me of the discussion about the reality of Santa Clause with their grandson. They went ahead and used that moment to clear up other myths—tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, Great Pumpkin. The grandson thought about it and asked: what about God? Is God a myth, too?

With so much information changing, will there be a day that our belief in God will be replaced by some History Channel exposé that in a manuscript found in a mayonnaise jar in a cave in Western Kentucky says: I don’t exist, signed God. Will that be the silver bullet Atheists are looking for?

So in a culture where change is the rule and nothing lasts forever, where truth is flexible and can be spun, twisted or stretched as needed, how can we believe what the Bible says is true?

  1. Inability to disprove it. Men who have tried ended up surrendering their lives to what it says: C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel
  2. Continuity of the story. It is one story of Redemption from start to finish. Over 40 different writers, written over a period of 1500 years, one message.
  3. Historical accuracy of its details. Archeology has reinforced the Bible not disproven it.
  4. The compelling affect upon those who believe it. Seeking lives have always been transformed.
  5. It is based on eyewitness’s accounts. Strongest testimony is a first person story.

Ultimately, we believe the Bible is true because we believe in God. Scripture says God breathed the very words into existence. We believe that God, who cannot lie, presented us truth through men He chose to write His words. Luke being one of those men.

But what makes Luke’s version of the story of Jesus’ life correct? Well, even if you take out the effect of inspiration and just made it a deposition of facts, what Luke wrote came from the people who experienced the stories. They were told to him by the people who were there. Luke also wrote the Books of Acts where he made 46 historical references. Every reference has proven accurate. He seems quite trustworthy as a historian.

He started his gospel with: Luke 1:3  it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; Luke 1:4  so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

Exact truth is different from relative truth. What we think about what he wrote is immaterial. Whether we believe what he wrote doesn’t matter. Truth remains true. His accounts are true because he extracted from those who were there what they saw, heard and felt relative to Jesus’ life. That intersection of their lives with Jesus was their testimony of what happened. The lasting effect of Jesus in their lives was indisputable.

I’d like to take you back to that interview Luke had with Mary. Remember, he never met Jesus and didn’t know all the backstory. All he knew was what he had been told. In this moment, he’s trying to fill in the gaps of his understanding by asking Mary to share her story.

Okay, so Mary, I believe I’ve got the things about Elizabeth and John, let’s shift over to the story of Jesus’ birth.

Well, we were planning for the birth in Nazareth but then a Roman soldier came to town and announced the census from Caesar Augustus. It meant Joseph would have to go to Bethlehem right when the baby would be born.

Now, which census was this? I know there was one in celebration of Caesar’s victory over Marc Antony…

No, this was the first one, about 12 years before that one. Quirinius was governor then.
But I didn’t think Quirinius was governor until later than that.

Actually, he was governor twice, during the first census before Herod died and then reaagain during the second census.

From what I know, most censuses take place at your home city? Why did Joseph have to go to Bethlehem? You guys were from Nazareth. Shouldn’t he have been registered there?

This wasn’t like most censuses. This one had something to do with a man’s ancestral roots. It was like a reverse migration back home to be counted. Since Joseph’s family traces back through David, he had to go to Bethlehem.

But the Romans didn’t count women in their censuses. Why did you go?

Well, you remember, when I got back from Elizabeth’s, I was already three months pregnant? Well, we were married right away. But being pregnant that soon would make people think we had been together before we got married, so we kept it a secret. Flowing dresses helped and I stayed home a lot.

You know I never realized you would have had a full-term baby in only six month. I can only imagine the shaming by your family and friends and even the people in town. So, you were actually married when Jesus was born?

Yes, but since we never consummated our vows before the birth, I guess we were technically still betrothed. And, of course, I was still a virgin.

And fear of the shaming made you go with him to Bethlehem?

That, and I didn’t want to be alone having the baby with Joseph so far away, so I went with him. And we planned to stay away for a while.

Oh, I get it. That’s why you stayed in Bethlehem after the census was over.

No one questioned us when we came back to Nazareth with a child like they would have if we came back with a baby.

That makes sense.
We thought so.

Ok, so, back to the birth.

Well, it was time for the baby to be born so I found some cloth strips to wrap around him then used a manger for a cradle.

Why cloth strips and not a blanket?

We didn’t have a blanket and the cloth strips were already there in the corner.

And why a manger?

We had to stay in a stable.

Okay, why in a stable?

Because there were so many people in town for the census there were no rooms available at the inn.
So you weren’t all alone?

No, there were others around. In fact, some shepherds came in from the fields.

Wait, Bethlehem…that was where they tended the sacrificial sheep for the Temple?

Yes. They told us a fantastic story of angels and lights. They said our baby was the Savior. They said the angels spoke to them and said: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men.”

They spoke? I would have thought angels would have sung.

The shepherds were very nervous, but they clearly said the angels spoke.


Yes, I even had to tell them not to be afraid. They said that was the same thing the angels told them. Apparently all of this had been pretty unnerving: Angels, lights and now the Savior.

Did they stay long?

No, they were only there for a few minutes. They said a blessing over our baby then went back to their fields. But they left praising God.

So what impressed you most about the shepherds coming?

That everything was exactly like the Angel said. They told them they would find our baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger and that would be the sign from God that Jesus was the right One—Christ the Lord.

Amazing. So strangers coming in, telling you how special your baby was. How did that make you feel?

Emotionally overloaded. Flooded by such precious thoughts. All I could do was try to take in as much as I could and let it settle in my heart.

What kinds of things were you thinking about?

Oh, all kinds. What’s going to happen, how is everything the angel told me going to work out, who this baby will become and how that will affect me.

Mary…did you know? Did you have any idea what this baby would become?

How could I? I was a young girl who had just become a mother. My life was now His life. My future was right then, in that moment. Tomorrow was a million miles away. All I knew was…I loved Him more than I ever loved anything in my life. (pause) And I still do.


Luke 2:1  Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

1.       When God is at work He leaves no dangling loose ends.
2.      He accomplishes everything that concerns us.
3.      Even in completing the big picture He takes care of the smallest details.
4.      Nothing is considered insignificant to Him.
5.      You and your concerns matter greatly to Him.

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