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 became 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.!!!!

From Margaret:

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, as you can see from the pictures. Gail has a real talent for decorating, cooking and making a lovely home. Brian has always been a good host and he made his usual freshly ground coffee.
     Rodney made his ďspecialĒ stuffing and I baked the turkey. Shirley baked a wonderful cake. I was glad to see everyone enjoy themselves.
     And believe me, none of us take such a day for granted. There has been trials of every kind this year. So when God blesses with a good day itís something that we are thankful for.
     Iím aware that there are people who have never had a good holiday and have no good memories of family. Itís not Godís fault, just the results of what satan has brought into this world. He was determined to ruin Godís creation and he has pretty well succeeded.
     Soon it will be Christmas. We donít know the exact date of Christís birth. But it doesnít really matter when it was; whatís important is taking the time to thank Him for coming. Had He not been born into that cold, uncomfortable world He could not have taken our place before God. He sits there now at the right hand of the Father. And when satan comes with his accusations against us God points to His Son who was punished for our sake and died, that we might have life. ďTherefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Ē Romans 5:1
     I know that this is a season when many people feel lonely. I found something good in A.W. Tozerís Pulpit series where Doctor Tozer said: ďThat is exactly the thing that keeps a Christian separated - knowing that his citizenship is not on earth at all but in Heaven above, and that he looks for the Saviour to come. Who is there that can look more earnestly for the coming of the Lord Jesus than one who feels that he is a lonely person in the middle of a lonely world?Ē
     So to our friends in prison all over the country - look up! Jesus is coming again. And this time it will be as a King, not as a baby.
     Rodney and I thank those of you who remembered our birthdays last month. Itís doubly appreciated because we know how hard it is to come by cards and postage in the prisons. All of us here wish you all a happy peaceful Christmas season.

Thanksgiving, 2005 - Ed & Shirley (bottom) Top- left to right: Margaret & Rodney, Jay, Brian & Gail

Prayer Requests for December, 2005
For Francis Nolan Hollandís Dad who is in the hospital again. He is very sick. Pray for Nolan and his family.
For my Mom, for her feet to stop hurting so she can go to Church.
For Willie Clarkís son who is in jail for the next six months.
For Ronald Pearson at McAlester, that heíll get his GED.
For Michael Whitmill at McAlester, that his relationship with his family will be ďintensified by love.Ē
For Dennis Martinís brother-in-law who just suffered a stroke.
For Cantrell Watts at McAlester, for his legal efforts.
For Marshall Ellisí family, that they will come to know Christ.
For Robert Heffernan at Tucker, Arkansas, who is having short term memory loss. Also pray for his arthritis.
For Bobby and Robert at Iowa Park, Texas, that all their needs will be met.
For David L. Painter, Amarillo, Texas, for parole in December.
For Leon Wright at Lexington, Oklahoma, for parole.
For Sister Ann and the nuns in Little Rock.
For Wingspread

What is a Friend?

What is a friend? Iíll tell you.
It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself.
Your soul can go naked with him.
He seems to ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you really are.
When you are with him, you do not have to be on your guard.
You can say what you think, so long as it is genuinely you.
He understands those contradictions in your nature that cause others to misjudge you.
With him you breathe freely - you can allow your little vanities and envies and absurdities and in opening them up to him they are dissolved on the white ocean of his loyalty.
He understands. You can weep with him, laugh with him, pray with him - through and underneath it all he sees, knows and loves you.
A Friend - I repeat - is one with whom you dare to be yourself.


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