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OUT OUR WAY: "Cowboy up for Christmas"

Luke 1:26-38

 

December 8, 2017

Out our way, we have a phrase, "Cowboy Up." When I got tossed by Goliath, sprained some ribs, not to mention had the wind knocked out of me, getting back up on my feet and then stepping back up into the saddle seemed a pretty hard thing to do. But sometimes you have to "cowboy up" and just overcome the fear and dread.

Now, Goliath is a pretty big fellow, 16 1/2 hands and weighing at 1200-plus pounds. Yet, as many of you know, that little black culvert up there on the nature trail in Beaver Creek terrifies him. He also gets somewhat skittish about loading into my trailer when I take him out for a ride in the hills. But with patience and constant encouragement, he "cowboys up" and loads and eventually crosses over that culvert. Courage is not about the lack of fear - it is about being able to "cowboy up" and overcome it.

Now, neither Goliath nor I are what one might call "brave" or "heroic" - and the fears we have overcome along the way are pretty minor compared to what other folks have faced. And some of the bravest people in history have been terrified of far greater things that we have faced - but cowboyed up and did what was necessary.

One of the bravest heros I know was a young teenage girl named "Miriam." We translate that name into English as Mary - and what we celebrate this coming Christmas is not just the birth of a baby in Bethlehem, but the incredible courage of this young girl who cowboyed up at the critical moment in history and allowed the miracle we call Christmas happen.

Now, Goliath and I have faced a mountain lion and I can tell you it made us both pretty nervous - but it was nothing compared to what Mary must have felt when an angel suddenly appeared to her and called her by name. she might have screamed in terror at the sight or wanted to run away - but she did not. She cowboyed up and stood her ground.

Now, that in itself is pretty amazing - but what happened afterwards is where the real courage of this young woman shows itself. Like most Jewish girls, she had likely often heard the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) of the virgin who will conceive and bear a son who will be called Emmanuel ("God is with us") But who would have thought that little Mary would be that chosen woman? Not Mary. But here it was in her face and she had to cowboy up and deal with it.

But there is more, if you think of it. A pregnant unmarried woman was a disgrace to her family, her community and her faith. Who would believe the idea that the Holy Spirit would cause the pregnancy? Her fiance Joseph certainly would not - and did not until he too had a visit from the angel (Matthew 1:18-25). And what of her family? Her own mother and father? Her friends? What were they going to think, say and do? And what about the rabbis and the elders of the village? In some cases women were cast out and even stoned to death for such an offense.

Mary knew all this and had to be terrified of the consequences. But God had chosen Mary because of who she was. God saw her heart and her courage - and though a frightened teenage girl faced with a terrifying burden from God, she cowboyed up and said, "Let it be as You will, Lord." That is courage!

And then the birth itself - not at home cared for by her mother and female relatives, but after a long and painful journey to the other end of the country, to an obscure village called Bethlehem where she and Joseph were strangers. The journey was exhausting and decidedly uncomfortable - and when they go there, they had no place to go. You couldn't make reservations at the Best Western in those days. You sought shelter when you got there and took what you could get. In their case, the stable where the animals were kept. Not exactly a place likely to win the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

So here she is, frightened, surrounded by strangers, giving birth to her first baby in a stable, and, in those days, Joseph would not have likely been allowed to be with her. Talk about terror, loneliness, and misery. But she cowboyed up and Christ was born. No wonder the heavens shouted in glory at the birth, not only for the Child, but also for brave Mary who was willing to cowboy up for God and for the world.

She could have said, "no," and I believe God would have honored that if she had. Mary had plenty of valid reasons to refuse and say, "No thanks." But she did not. She cowboyed up and accepted God's plans - from Bethlehem to Calvary and eventually to Easter. Now that is courage. She may not have the hat, but Mary cowboyed up and is revered in heaven and on earth for it. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!"

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Goliath and John Bruington serve the Havre community with many other pastors - and we all want to share the blessings of the season with you. Whatever your House of Worship, be there to celebrate the miracle of Christmas this year. And for those who have no regular church home, cowboy up and come celebrate with us.

 

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