Today’s blog post is by Theresa Pierce. Theresa is a contributor to our book Room at the Table: Encouraging Stories from Special Needs Families, where Theresa writes about living with her brother.
My favorite Christmas memory was being part of a living nativity scene at Spilman Baptist Church in Kinston, North Carolina. The living nativity of Spilman Baptist Church was epic! Everyone in town rode slowly by and many families filled the churchyard to take a closer look. That is what they told us, but to tell you the truth, I was always in the spotlight and could not see the record crowds. Every year, for as long as I could remember, I was an angel, literally.
An Angel in the Living Nativity
I was an angel next to Mary, the mother of Jesus. One year, I remember trying not to laugh as the donkey kept trying to eat my momma’s scarf while my dad swatted his efforts. They tried not to laugh. Eventually, they promoted me to the roof, where we crawled precarious ladders to position ourselves as angels who appeared to hover over the lowly manger. When the Halleluiah melody belted out, it was our angelic responsibility to raise our arms for the entire chorus. It felt like an eternity. Our arms ached, but we did not dare to let them drop. We took our duty seriously. Even our Sunday School teachers reminded us that our ministry mattered. And it did!
I was fortunate to grow up across the street from the church, what I believe to be divine intervention. My best friend and I got to watch the church men build the nativity set from the ground up. We watched farmers deliver sheep and a live donkey. I must admit there was slight disdain on our part because the portrayal of Christ’s birth took up the space where we usually played kickball for two weeks. We were children with limited space for our daily play. I know God understood our childlike innocence.
We worked in thirty-minute shifts as angels and shepherds. When our hands felt like they might freeze, we changed places with opposing actors. Just when our hands thawed, they offered us hot chocolate and cookies. The chocolate burned our tongues, but the marshmallows had to be eaten before they lost their foam. We traded burned tongues for frozen hands for about three hours and loved every minute of it.
I vividly remember how the wise men rotated bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The shepherds knelt with their sheep. My big brother wore a bathrobe and headdress. The manger was in the spotlight, and I remember worshipping in my own childlike way. “And He shall reign forever and ever.” At such an impressionable age, it was a privilege to portray one of the angels who witnessed the birth of Jesus.
Theresa Parker Pierce lives in Historic Salisbury, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has thirty-five years of experience teaching reading and history. She has a Master’s degree in education and is National Board-certified. two-time Rowan Salisbury Teacher of the Year, Theresa enjoys storytelling about her childhood in eastern North Carolina and the history of life in Rowan County.
Her manuscript, Up Dunn’s Mountain, won first place for Young Adult Literature at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in 2020. The sequel, Miss Clairmont’s Christmas, won third place for Novellas in 2022. Most recently, her poem Mrs. Claus Bakes was published in Christmas Spirit. The sales of this collection will benefit Samaritan’s Purse.
Theresa is a member of Word Weavers International, Blue Ridge Christian Writers, Room at the Table, and the 540 Club. She writes monthly for Senior Savvy magazine. She shares her volunteer time between the North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer and the Rowan Museum in Salisbury.
My German shepherd was starving to death, and we didn’t know what to do. Sophie got twelve, yes 12 cups of food a day and at a year old, she was only forty pounds. After many tests, the vet diagnosed her with a pancreatic problem, called EPI, which kept her from digesting her food. As a result, whatever she ate went through her system without nourishing or feeding her body. With the help of pancreatic enzymes, Sophie is now thriving.
Why aren’t we Thriving?
As a culture, America is starving, and so are some of her churches. Why? Because we want milk, not meat. We are not feeding on the one thing we need most, the Word. God made us to have intimacy with him through his Holy Spirit, prayer, and Scripture. Without the catalyst of God’s Word, we won’t thrive spiritually.
However, we need to digest the Word before we can absorb it and do what it says. But, if we barely open the Book how will that happen?
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) says, “For
the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing to the division of soul and spirit…”
The Living Word
The word living means God’s words are alive, and they give life. Active is the Greek word energes which resembles the English word energy. God’s Word and words are full of life and energy. God’s words are to achieve something in our hearts and lives. More than ever, Scripture needs to become more than head knowledge. God’s Word shouldn’t just go in one ear and out the other. Once in the heart, it will be absorbed and nourish our very soul.
God’s word is sharper than a sword, able to pierce through the soul and spirit. The word pierce means to penetrate or get through. This may be one reason we may not care to read the Bible. Unless the Word penetrates our hearts, we will not grow and change.
Our soul is our mind, will, and emotions, and our spirit is what the Creator breathed into us. They are often at war with one another. Our spirit communes with God through the Holy Spirit while our soul is everything that makes us who we are.
Soul and Spirit
So, why would the Word divide the soul and spirit? God wants us to be Spirit-driven, not soul-driven. The Spirit is love, peace, truth, patient, gentle, kind, self-controlled, faithful, and joy. This is how God wants us to function.
The soul can be moody,
self-centered, turbulent, depressed, thoughtless, self-driven, lacking
self-control, and deceitful. Satan influences our soul, by manipulating our thoughts. If we are not in the Word of
Truth, under the perfect power of the
Spirit of Truth, we get off track.
God wants us to be Spirit-led and Word-led. One without the other is only half the equation. Unfortunately, many overdo one or the other. We become so Spirit-led we assume everything we think is of the Holy Spirit and will act and speak out without the guidelines of Scripture. However, being overly Word-lead can stifle or quench the Holy Spirit so we can no longer hear him because everything becomes an intellectual experience. There needs to be a balance.
What is Dull of Hearing?
In Hebrews 5:11-12, the author rebukes his readers for
becoming dull of hearing. He says, “For though by this time you ought to be
teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the
oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food.”
The Greek word for dull
refers to “a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents
spiritual development.”  Isn’t
that how we can feel, too?
Studying Scripture takes time and effort.
God does not think less of us if we are not in his Word.
But, have you ever thought how it must sadden him to see the time we invest in things having no Heavenly value?
Do we spend too much time on our phones, iPads or binge-watching our favorite shows on Netflix? Yes. Do we need to improve? Yes. Am I preaching to myself? Yes.
The answer lies in
putting those things away for a set time each day and getting out our Bibles to
let the Holy Spirit guide us through the Word one verse at a time. Don’t set
unrealistic goals. Reading one verse and letting God speak to you through it is
better than reading one chapter or an entire book just so we can say we did it.
If you are a parent, can you imagine letting your ten or fifteen-year-old still drink from a sippy cup or a bottle for each meal? Unfortunately, that is the state of a lot of churches in our country. We need more than milk–we need solid food. We need to get back to reading, discussing, and studying God’s Word. Our spiritual health depends on it.
W. W. 1996, c1989. The Bible exposition commentary