Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beneath the Shadow of the Cross

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2: 19

For the first time in several years I’m actually putting up a Christmas tree! Now before you call me a Grinch, let me tell you that as an empty-nester, while married to a great guy, he is not a fan of decorating a tree. I honestly was just overwhelmed by the thought of doing it all myself and opted to not make myself any more frantic by not putting up a tree! But this year my son and his wife will be here for the holiday and I will have help with this great, but time-consuming, chore. I must be honest though and tell you that I really have not missed the extra work in the decorating for these last few years. For me, Christmas is truly about spending time with people I love.

For my spiritual nourishment however, I spend a lot of time pondering what life must have been like for Mary, Jesus’ mother. First, there is a visit from an angel telling her that she will have a baby…and not just any baby, But the Son of the most High God! Then she has to tell Joseph, her fiancĂ©, that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In His mercy, the Lord confirms Mary’s pregnancy to Joseph and Joseph marries her as planned.

Then they are ordered to report to their town of origin to be counted for a census. Joseph and Mary must travel to the town of Bethlehem to be counted. In that late stage of pregnancy, I can’t imagine having to travel any great distance by foot or on a donkey. I mean really, have you ever ridden a donkey? It’s not the most comfortable form of transportation.

Then there is the delivery of a baby in a barn with no one but Joseph with her. Mary’s probably only around fifteen years old, so that had to be frightening. Next there is this brilliant star hanging over the barn and angels are singing and then the shepherds show up to worship this child! How overwhelming for this “child” (in my mind) who has just delivered a child herself!

Yet we are told that she is pondering all that is taking place. She’s thinking about it, meditating on all that has happened. How many times has she thought about the visit by the angel Gabriel? How about the fear she must have felt in telling Joseph that she was carrying a child by the Holy Spirit? How about the mocking of the people in her village? How did that land on her? And finally, did she have any idea of how the life of this child would be sacrificed for us? Was she aware of the shadow that would be ever present, a shadow of a cross? What follows are my thoughts about that “shadow”.

Beneath the Shadow of the Cross


Gayle E. Dunphy

Precious babe, of virgin born; unique child, both God and man;

Newborn crying, early morn; epic pinnacle of God’s plan;

Placed within the manger dross in the shadow of the cross.

Angels singing, star so bright; cattle lowing, donkeys bray

Shepherds awestruck at the sight; Messiah’s coming, prophets prayed

Ours the gain, His Father’s loss, from the shadow of the cross.

Freedom for the captive gained; No more death, eternal life;

Lord the victory obtained; no more sorrow, no more strife!

Our hearts redeemed for such a cost, beneath the shadow of the cross.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Words and Actions

“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” 2 Cor. 1:12

I have long been impacted by the word “integrity”. It is defined as: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. As a little child I can remember my father saying the words, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say!” And even as a child, I recognized the hypocrisy of those words and I reacted with anger and frustration. And I was sure that I would never do that to my children because those words were a beacon in my brain of how NOT to parent my children. However, parenting is a plethora of humbling experiences and I failed miserably in this particular aspect. My children were a primary motivation to conquer a terrible temper, an unruly tongue, and many other sins because I desired them to be adults of integrity. I tried to ask my children’s forgiveness for each offense and made my best attempt to live my testimony consistently. I was convicted that the greatest gift I could give them, next to sharing Christ, was to model integrity in such a way that my words and actions matched. The sobering truth is our children will model themselves after us. While we can talk about integrity until we are blue in the face, they will DO what we DO!

Regardless of whether we are parents or not, I believe that our Creator has commanded the same behavior from all of us. Paul is very clear in this passage that our testimony is proven in how we live out our ordinary lives. If we are calling ourselves Christians, people are watching us to see if our words and actions are matching. If the words and actions match then people will believe we are trustworthy and may give us opportunity to share Christ with them. However, when our words and actions are not matching, people will rightly proclaim us as hypocrites and our trustworthiness is questionable. I’ve heard it said that integrity is what one does when no one is watching. Personally, I believe that living daily with integrity is probably the most profound testimony of a life transformed by Jesus Christ.