Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 3 - You're Not Alone

Who we are is not nearly as important as Who We will become. We are not living today without a sense of our past, but it is not the past that "must" frame our lives - as if to say that we have "always been such and such" therefore we will always continue to be that.
One of the beautiful things about being a Christian is that I believe God is present in my world, and that he "manifests" that presence from time to time, just to make it clear that I am not alone.

In Advent, we see that very clearly. Take the story at the beginning in Luke's gospel: Luke 1:1-7 (NIV)
1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us,
2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.
7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Zechariah appears to be a rather "hidden" priest in Israel's history. Scripture records the name Zechariah over 30 times, so his name doesn't stand out. But his name means something = "Yahweh Remembers". The beginning of Advent is with God... Remembering...Zechariah...Insignificant...Elizabeth...a wife...Both of them good people of faith...but unable to have a child.
The scripture has several stories of impossible situations like this. Perhaps the most amazing is Abraham, who at 99 years of age hears the word from God, "...and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Genesis 12:3
It's God's way of saying to Abraham, "You have no idea of what I can do through a person, even if they don't think they are anything at all."
Zechariah and Elizabeth begin the story of Christmas in Luke's gospel. They appear to be no-bodies, unnoticed...maybe even looked down upon because they couldn't, seemingly, have a child. But God knew, and God remembered, and God entered in...and when God is involved that changes everything.

So, on this Advent day, let's remind ourselves: "I am not alone". No matter where my life is at, no matter how difficult the days may be, and there will always be times of great concern and struggle, even suffering...I am not alone!

"Lord, remind me today of your presence. Help me to see you in my life, and in the lives of others. I am concerned this day for ___________________. Please help me/help them. Yet, I will say today...I trust you Lord. I love that you are a God of goodness and grace, and that my life counts before you...thank you Lord, Amen."

ACTION: I just saw a Christmas Movie (yeah, I'm a sucker for Christmas movies) about a guy in the military who receives a Christmas Card from someone he doesn't know, who writes just to say "thank you" for serving our country and for making a difference over there. This morning I ran across an article that Linda showed me and think it's a great Advent idea. It's a story about Amy Grant, who is a spokesperson for the Red Cross' Holiday Mail for Heroes program, which distributes holiday letters and cards to troops and wounded veterans all over the world. The link to the site is at: http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.53fabf6cc033f17a2b1ecfbf43181aa0/?vgnextoid=3f8dab0de3d64210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD
The address is on that site and it's a great way of reminding the guys and gals overseas serving our country in the military that they are not alone either.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Where We Are From!

Matthew 1:1-16 (NLT)
1:1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Perez was the father of Hezron. Hezron was the father of Ram.
4 Ram was the father of Amminadab. Amminadab was the father of Nahshon. Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab). Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth). Obed was the father of Jesse.
6 Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the father of Abijah. Abijah was the father of Asa.
8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram. Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham. Jotham was the father of Ahaz. Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh. Manasseh was the father of Amon. Amon was the father of Josiah.
11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
12 After the Babylonian exile: Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud. Abiud was the father of Eliakim. Eliakim was the father of Azor.
14 Azor was the father of Zadok. Zadok was the father of Akim. Akim was the father of Eliud.
15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob.
16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

When I read this passage this morning I started thinking about how complete the record is. I don't have anything to recall past a few generations. I am the son of Lyle, who is the son of William, who is the son of ???, who is the son of ???
My grandfather's family came here from Germany in the 1860's. He, supposedly, was born in 1872. No one has the date for certain, but it was somewhere's in that time. He was born in America, the first in his family if I got the story correct. My father was born in 1913, and my mother in 1915. I was born the 6th (ok, my twin brother was 5th and I was right behind as 6th) out of a family of 7 kids.

I can remember the modern record, but I don't have the generations in reverse...not like Matthew did for Jesus' line. There are 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Exile, and 14 from the return from Exile to Jesus...impressive!

The people in Jesus' day longed for a Messiah, one who would relieve them of their bondage under the Romans. They wanted someone who would make them proud of who they were and reclaim the dignity of God's chosen people. Don't we all want to know and feel that relationship connection?
We don't get it by genealogical backtracking to see where we came from. It's fascinating to discover, but not essential to faith in Christ. It is enough to be linked by faith to our "birth in Christ".

Matthew said "Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham." Didn't Matthew know that Abraham came before David? Of course, but his purpose is to say Jesus is the King, who's glory lies in the promise to Abraham: "Genesis 12:3b (NIV)
"...and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

It's Paul who writes later: Galatians 3:16 (NIV)
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ.

SO, this Advent day #2, let us stop and give thanks for our heritage. Our physical heritage of family, and our spiritual heritage of Christ. In Jesus we see God's purpose - a bring all of the families of the earth together into his Kingdom, and for his Son to reign as King. We are children of the King! That is where we are from.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Preparing For Christmas - Advent 2010

As a Christian, I am a follower of Jesus. Technically, the word for a follower is a "disciple". A disciple is a learner, one who is committed to allowing Jesus to be more than Savior, but also a teacher. What does he teach? Simply the scripture says that Jesus told his disciples to make disciples by "teaching them all things whatsoever I have commanded you". What have we done in the name of Christ these days? We have raised up a generation of "church people"...people who have become members and affiliated with a denomination; but we have misplaced the real purpose of raising up followers of Jesus - disciples.

Perhaps Advent can call us back to his purpose for our lives, for the church as a whole. Perhaps we can prepare our hearts over the next four weeks to "receive our King".

Advent comes from the Latin, "Adventus", which in Greek was "parousia" and means "coming or arrival". The church has celebrated Advent for almost 1700 years, give or take a few years. Catholic?, I don't think so. It has an appeal that goes way beyond one denomination. It has appealed to my spirit and soul for over 25 years. I remember Christmas as a "season" not a day. I remember as a child that Christmas was a time of "anticipation", waiting, watching, looking for the surprise around each day. One day it would be cookies baking; the next a new decoration; the next memorization of a bible verse for the church's program; the next a festive gathering....every day something new and something that reminded me that I had entered a "magical" time (see C. S. Lewis) and I hoped it would never end.

On this first day of Advent I would only "plead": Please come along and journey alongside of me as we "prepare our hearts" and proclaim every day, "joy to the world, the Lord has come".

Today Read: Isaiah 11:1-3

What to do? Look for someone to share the miracle of Advent with and ask them to come along..."It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Come back tomorrow as we journey through Advent!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Psalm of Life

It's just a few days left before we start Advent 2010. I look forward to this celebration every year. But, before that we come to Thanksgiving...and yes we need that as much as anything in life. I ran across this poem in an article and thought it worth passing along. It's not so much thanksgiving as it embraces the spirit of a man who wants to take life on and live it positively, and wholly!

A Psalm of Life, By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What the heart of the young man said to the psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.