Wingspread Prison Ministries
P.O. Box 411
Prairie Grove, Ar 72753
December, 2003 Volume XXXVII No. XII
For Unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given.
A CHRISTMAS STORY
By Billie Marie Zal
“And the angel said unto her, Fear not Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:30-31)
This mysterious announcement of Gabriel was a frightening thing! Yet Mary’s sweet nature immediately manifested itself when she replied in girlish bewilderment, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”
“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,” Gabriel explained, “and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
I suspect that all of the hosts of Heaven must have breathlessly awaited Mary’s decision. And then they burst into songs of angelic praise for the Child that was to be, as in quiet submission to the will of God--she replied, “Be it unto me according to thy Word.”
The penalty for adultery was death by stoning, but God’s mercy came down upon Mary’s husband-to-be and he was told that she had never known a man, and that he must marry her and become a foster father to “that holy thing.” Imagine!!! Our minds can never comprehend the scope of that experience which gave all of us a Savior who is Christ the Lord. But Joseph obeyed God and did not put Mary away. The first attempt of Satan to kill the Savior of the world was now nullified.
As the time for Jesus’ birth drew near, Mary and Joseph were compelled by Caesar Augustus to journey to Bethlehem where they would pay their taxes. God Almighty was setting the stage for the greatest event the world was ever to know. And Bethlehem was the chosen place, in accordance with prophesy, for the Christ Child to be born.
Those of us who know and love Mary can feel what she must have felt on that journey.
She was “great with child” and there would have to be discomfort and pain. She had been told, also, that her Baby would be a King. But when they arrived in Bethlehem, all the inns were occupied and there was nowhere to go. How could this be? Her Baby was to inherit the throne of King David, so said the Angel Gabriel. Where was the Palace of a King? Where were the attendants who await with joy the birth of a King? Her perplexity surely must have mounted by the moment.
At last, however, a place was found for her. It was only a cave where animals were kept, but there was a manger with sweet smelling hay, a soft bed for her little one. And she would be away from the crowds who had jostled them through the busy streets as they sought a place to have this wonderful child. God had not forgotten her after all!
Then Christ was born!!! The Lamb of God---born in a manger!! And never was a Child so sweet, so fair. This was her Son; and yet there was indeed something unusual about the little fellow. I can see her now, in my mind’s eye, looking down with adoration at her baby, seeing into the eyes that would “run to and fro throughout the whole earth” knowing who would love him.
Suddenly there was the sound of excited shepherds outside the cave. They had seen a great Light, and angels who sang glorious songs of praise to God who, they said, told them that Jesus would be found “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!” They had found the Christ Child.
It is recorded that when the shepherds beheld the Baby, they fell upon their faces before Him. Surely Mary’s eyes opened wide with amazement as these simple men recounted the heavenly vision of the angels.
Tears of relief stole softly down Mary’s cheeks. Her Son was a king! She had not just imagined it. He was a King.
And then the Magi came! Like the shepherds, they knelt solemnly before the Babe, offering Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Mary had never seen such riches before, and her heart filled with awe. These wise men were telling her of a great star that they had followed for a long time and it had led them to this very place! The star, they said, was a sign that a great King was to be born. They had found Him whom they had sought, and now they would return to their land and tell others. This was a second witness to the birth of a King! God’s Word was complete.
Once these men left, however, I can feel how she must have felt---in the midst of the praises and glory, a stab of fear struck at her heart. The words of the great prophet Isaiah penetrated her consciousness:
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5)
. “Despised . . . rejected of men . . . a man of sorrows . . . acquainted with grief . . . wounded . . . bruised . . . stripes . . .” Could these words apply to her Son? To this precious Baby who lay so quiet within her arms? Once more, that stab of pain thrust itself through her heart. Soon she was to hear the words of old Simeon when she went to the Temple to present Jesus to the Lord: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.” Panic brought beads of perspiration to her lovely brow as she “pondered all these things.”
Then--in one great moment of divine illumination she saw the agony, the cross, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. The meaning of it all now because crystal clear to her.
She sat motionless for a long while. Then, rising slowly to her feet, she walked to her Son’s crib of hay and gently placed Him in it. Stepping back a few paces, she turned toward Him and bowed very, very low--her face pressed into the earthen floor of the cave.
Once again, she repeated what she had spoken to the great Gabriel.
This time, however, she directed these words not to
Gabriel, nor to herself, but to her blessed Son who lay so quietly in the manger:
“Be it unto me according to Thy Word.”
And so it is Christmas.!!!!
For: David Ash at Dixon, Illinois. He needs a place live and support after he is released in May of 2004. Pray that we’ll find a solution and that his needs will be met.
For: Cantrell Watts at Granite, Oklahoma. He asks us to pray that he’ll be find the capacity to forgive. He wants to forgive those who have wronged him and leave all vengeance to God.
For: Judy Oakley who is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments. Also pray for her husband, Steve.
For: For Jerry Brock’s health, and for his wife Colleen, their daughter, Sandra, and the entire family.
For: Anthony Grayson at Fallsburg, New York. Anthony is seeking habeas corpus relief in the federal courts and wants us to pray that he will receive some type of relief through these efforts.
For: Bethany Browne Memorial United Methodist Church in Jersey City, New Jersey........They are starting a new prison ministry council there. They want to have a prison ministry through their Church which will minister to prisoners on an individual basis. They need our support and prayers.
For: Ted Ricks at McAlester, Oklahoma. Pray that God will heal his heart and give him joy. Also he wants someone to come into his life who will understand his past and not hold it against him. And also, pray that Ted might be reunited with his children.
For: Tony Collier at Dixon, Illinois, who just wants prayer for his family to be healthy, safe and blessed.
For: William McAlester at Danville, Illinois; his sister-in-law, Carolyn has a daughter named Tamika Rounds who has been in a coma for four weeks. Pray for the baby, the Mother, and for William.
For: Tommy Hayes at the Robertson Unit in Abilene, Texas. Tommy asks that everyone pray for all the prisoners there at the Robertson Unit.
For: Marcos Zavala at Lubbuck, Texas..........He has pain and numbness in his leg and hip and hasn’t found out yet what is causing this.
For: Francis Nolan Holland at Tucker, Arkansas, who will soon be reviewed for clemency.
For: Robert Crowder at Taylorville, Illinois. He wants to do God’s will and asks that God might allow him to go home so that he can take care of his Mother. He also asks that we pray that he might be reunited with his daughter.
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