I Heard the Bells

    As the year 2012 is coming to a close, I can’t help but think back over the 365 days it has held. Life appeared to be in a rhythm for us the first six months. The very first day of the next six months, drums were beating all over the place and it seemed that no rhythm was to be found. Christmas has had me thinking of several folks in the Bible who had to move in a rush as we did, yet under much different circumstances.
     God brought us deliverance this year from unsteady employment. That is why we moved. He brought us to a great full time job with benefits for my husband.  Our prayers from the past two and a half years were answered by a call out of the blue offering him the position that moved us here. God provided every need for us during those long years and he also comforted us by letting us know that the season we were in would not last forever.   Two and a half years of feeling oppressed by the uncertainties of paychecks, God sent deliverance. I must say, though, that despite the wonderful circumstances we were moving to, I grumbled quite a bit along the way.
     Grumbling. That rings a bell. Remember the Israelites? After much oppression from Pharaoh and the Egyptians, God suddenly delivered them. He did it quickly and it was through a change of location. Just shortly after Pharaoh and his people begged the Hebrews to get out of town so their own people stop dying and having so many issues, God shuffled the feet of an entire nation of people across the dry ground He miraculously created in the middle of the Red Sea. The oppressors that chased them were engulfed by the waters He had held back and they were on the nation of Israel was on their way to deliverance. Just shortly after their moving process began, the Egyptians grumbled as they questioned Moses’ leadership and what God was trying to do for them. They even thought about going back to the land where they had experienced so much oppression. After they left the walls of water they had just tread through, the people began to whine about being thirsty and hungry. Of course they were hungry and thirsty. But God already knew that. There was no need for them to have a spirit of complaining-especially against the One who had delivered them.  Nevertheless God provided them with water and He also provided Manna and Quail every day.  I’m confident that there must have still been complaining after that because they ate the same thing every day for forty years. But eventually, God got them to their promised land.
     Well, Noah and his family, Abraham and Sarah, and many others moved quickly as well to experience deliverance from the Lord. But there’s one move in particular that ushered in deliverance for us all…the move of Mary and Joseph to a little town called Bethlehem. Life must have been in rhythm for Mary and Joseph earlier that year. Things were going so wonderfully. They were going to be married and start a family of their own. But one day, their plans were altered. Mary was pregnant with someone else’s child and they were not married. Talk your life being thrown out of every day rhythm. On top of it all, they had to pick up and move to Bethlehem at the whim of King Herod’s orders.  Yet, the Angel of the Lord told them both not to be afraid because God had it all under control. The rest of their days were filled with a new rhythm…the kind that comes from the drum of someone ushering in a king. Though sudden and treacherous, their move welcomed the exodus for all of mankind…the emancipation from sin and death.  Jesus was born. Deliverance was born.
     You would think after all that that Mary and Joseph could just stay put and let Jesus do His thing. But no, they moved suddenly again. Once again it was because of something to do with Herod- only this time it was because he was ordering that all boys under the age of two be killed. This time, they were fleeing back to the land that the Israelites had fled from: Egypt.  Just like the Hebrew Nation, though, Deliverance was with them all along. Eventually they did move again- to Nazareth. All sorts of prophecies were fulfilled along each move. And eventually, they got to their promised land where God the Father’s vow of salvation to all mankind, including the one who carried His Son in her womb was fulfilled. The Angels proclaimed that Deliverance had finally arrived, “ Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)
     Isn’t it ironic that He saved His entire people once by leading them out of Egypt and then went back to Egypt when He came in the flesh? Perhaps it was to point us to the purpose that He entered our world in the first place: to deliver us.  What a brilliant and magnificent author The Word who became flesh is. “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)  Hundreds of years later, another message of deliverance was proclaimed to Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
     Do not be afraid. I tried to force myself to be reminded of this when I wore a bracelet the whole month of July this year that some dear friends had given me as a graduation present years ago. It has the words of Hebrews 13:5 inscribed upon it, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Deliverance lives in my heart but sometimes I blank out about that.  That’s probably why even though He has given me my own form of manna every day to remind me of His provision for all of my needs that I had such a difficult time leaving the location where we experienced the oppression of lack of employment for two and a half years.  He offers such grace when I am forgetful, though, and reminds me again that I needn’t be afraid. Throughout my entire journey, each time my heart has been troubled, He has reminded me of His presence. Sometimes He has to do it more frequently than others, just as He did for the Israelites and then at each move for Mary and Joseph, but He has promised each of us that He will be with us and whatever move we make at His leadership is for His glory and over all plan, which is good. All that manna we’ve been given that seems so bland and mundane leaves a taste of something delicious once we pick up and move to our own exoduses through His deliverance.
     As we eagerly await next Tuesday, let us not forget that the bells which rang the very first Christmas day were the sound of Deliverance Himself crying out to a world full of oppression that freedom had come to save the day.

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