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Showing posts from December, 2010

Merry Christmas

Luke 1:26-33 (NIV)
1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)
2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord…

Christmas Eve

The Christmas Story needs know explanation: Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the an…

Identity

The Christmas story is the beginning of a new covenant. It was Jeremiah who spoke of "the New Covenant" in Jeremiah 31. I'll not rehearse here, because what is on my mind is the way in which God's pronouncement of his son's coming heralds (there's a word we don't use real often) a new identity. AND, what we perceive our identity to be, makes all the difference in the world in how we live.

The words in Luke 2:1-21 (NIV) are worth meditating on:
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6 While they were th…

The House of Bread

I awoke this morning to the smell of fresh toasted Cinnamon Raisin bread...ummmm. I was reading this morning in the passage in Matthew 2 again, and the reading and the bread came together.

Matthew 2:1-6 (NIV)
2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.
5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:
6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"

The Biblical story of Bethlehem i…

Who Were These Guys?

I just finished reading a new book this last week - Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem by Brent Landau. It was an interesting read if for no other reasons that it introduces a number of different elements into the traditional story of these strange unknown visitors scripture in written in Greek calls "magos", which of course we've translated as Magi.

Here's the scripture: Matthew 2:1-12 (NASB)
2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
5 They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been wri…

Joy to the World

Christmas is a great season for singing some great carols. While there are many to choose from, one of the most famous is "Joy to the World". It's a song based after the Gospel account: Luke 2:8-17 (NIV)
2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the sheph…

GO to Worship

Occasionally someone will offer up the encouraging words: "Let's get into the spirit of the season." There is something to this, but it usually falls on deaf ears. People are busy, shopping is never seemingly done, the last minute "I forgot" so and so hits us in the morning, etc...

I will go to the place where our fellowship meets this morning and on this last Sunday of Advent I want the time spent with others to reflect our worship together, an island of celebration of Christ Jesus in the midst of the "other" things we'll be doing.

Read this passage with me:

Luke 2:8-20 (NIV)
2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior h…

The Promise of Christmas

The story of Christmas is a story of the BEGINNING of the fulfilling of God's promise. Luke 2:1-14 (NIV)
2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone aro…

Immanuel means "with" us

Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
1:23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."

We use the word "with" in many favorable ways. "Will you go with me?" Whether it's the store, a football game, a party, or much bigger than all of that... through life, it still represents the partnership, shared space, journeying together or alongside that makes it so appealing.

Then the angel of the Lord comes along and says to Joseph - and by extension to all of us - "they will call him Immanuel - which means God with us."

Not because we're good...or deserve it...or only when we are at worship...or when you're giving...or when you're nice, polite, etc...

Simply, I'll be WITH you.

God sent Prophets, Kings, Apostles, Poets, even Farmers and Fishermen...all proclaimed messages, and some did miracles...but none of that is equivalent to, or nearly as needed, as "Im…

The Gift

I remember the Christmas as if it were yesterday; but in fact it was 1963. December of 1963, I was 14 years old.

John F Kennedy was our president up until Nov. 22nd of that year, and then he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. I remember that day even now in my 60+ years. I sat in 9th grade Science and Mr. Rehburn (not sure of the spelling) was our teacher. He came in after lunch and had the saddest look on his face, and then the speakers in the classroom notified all of us that the President had been killed and school was cancelled. For three days we stood mesmerized by TV's coverage and I cried when the casket on the horse drawn wagon went passed his son, John, and the little boy saluted his daddy's casket.

A couple of weeks later, December 6, just 19 days until Christmas, I walked into our house after delivering my morning paper route and, there in the kitchen, my mother stood crying and told me that my Grandma had died that morning, and I can still remember dropping my…

Let's Not Overly Romanticize Christmas

This morning I found myself "musing" about the Christmas story, not in ways that romanticize it, but as a story about real difficulties in life. It's always good to see the "end" of something and know that God was at work in shaping the outcomes, and the lessons we learn from it. I am of the opinion that we are better if we approach life's difficulties with Faith in God, and a desire to learn what he has for us to learn. Yet, sometimes life's pains and agonies are very real when we're in the midst of them.

Take Joseph: Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a…

Joseph the Righteous One

Scripture tells the story of Joseph in brief. He appears for a bit of time in the birth story of Jesus and then disappears. So, what kind of a man would God choose to raise his son?

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)
1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23 "The virgin will…

Joseph, Man of God's Favor, Man of Faith

I am now 61 years of age, and I cannot live apart from the notion that God is the center of all of life. I wished I could say I've known that and operated that way "all" of my life; but in actuality, this is a "growing" thing inside of me, and I expect it will continue to grow however many years of life I live.

The word "favor" in the title isn't written without thought. I wouldn't say I could recognize "God's favor" in everyday life - usually. BUT, I know I'm surrounded by it, day in and day out. God has shown us favor, shown me favor, in the sending of his Son, our Savior, Jesus, to redeem us from our sins. God has shown us favor in giving us His Holy Spirit, to shape our communities of faith, to live and breath his life and light into our darkness. God has given us favor in everyday life with the nature we are surrounded with, with friends and family, with food and shelter. It's a good word, but it's not al…

What was it like?

It is always difficult to think of what it must have like for Mary? By all accounts she is a young girl - 16? - maybe older, but maybe younger too. We don't know. We don't know a lot about her family situation, but there is no mention of dialog with Mother and Father, just her cousin, Elizabeth. Yet here she is, and what she says yes to is not the sort of thing we can brush off as "sure, why not?"

Luke 1:38 (NIV)
1:38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

We get a hint of her character, and the depth of her soul in her "song", Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)
1:46 And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me-- holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, fro…

The Little Boy Waiting for his Dad

Luke 1:31 (NIV)
1:31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
Matthew 11:25 (NIV)
11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Yesterday I had the great delight of driving three hours to pick up my daughter, son-in-law, and twin one year old grandchildren from Ohare. Lindsay, Pete along with twins Raewyn and Theo flew some 8 hours from England to arrive for a three week Christmas stay. I am a happy Dad and Grandpa this morning.

While at the airport I had one of those Advent moments. Waiting at the terminal where passengers come through the doors after clearing customs are all sorts of people. Most are very quiet until their loved one, or friend, or business colleague comes through the door. If it's a loved one or friend, there's the hub, sometimes kiss, or some other show of affection. T…

Son of David

Luke 1:26-33 (NIV)
1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Who is this messiah? What will he be? What is it that will be born among us?
The very first words about Jesus announce that he is the fulfillment of an ancient proclamation - the fulfill…

"May it Be to Me As You Have Said"

In the Christmas story of Luke's gospel everything begins with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. Mary's encounter with the angel Gabriel is brief, but makes clear her response is one that chooses to believe.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his king…

Christmas Kingdom

I read in Luke's gospel the continuing story as it unfolds with the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary:
Luke 1:26-33 (NIV)
1:26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,
27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.
31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

Christmas is about many things: decorations, lights, candy and cookies, gatherin…

It's St. Nicholas Day

December 6 is a memorable day in the Advent Season. When our children were growing up we hung stockings out and filled them with treats on St. Nicholas Day. It is St. Nicholas of course that serves as the model of Santa Claus in America, or Father Christmas in places like England, or for my Dutch friends, Sinterklass.

Some Christians struggle with including Santa Claus in their Christmas celebrations, but if we embraced who this man was, we would see how he served as an example of what celebrating Christmas is all about. St. Nicholas was an early church Bishop from a place called Myra in what is now modern day Turkey. He lived during a time of persecution and was imprisoned and persecuted for his faith. He died on Dec. 6, somewhere near 350 A.D.

Tradition has it that he was the "Children's Bishop". He cared deeply for children and there are many stories, probably most are myths, of his exploits on behalf of children. As the successive generations of the church fol…

JOY

This morning I get to celebrate the Second Sunday in Advent with my brothers and sisters at New Life Fellowship. We who celebrate Christ's Advent get to seize the Joy of this season. Joy isn't about happiness - for happiness depends upon happenings. Joy is that settled confidence that God is in charge...all is going to be ok.

Scripture: Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)
2:10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

I love the way the Prophet Isaiah explained it - Isaiah 51:11 (NIV)
51:11 The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.


The famous Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life" captures the essence of this passage - a ransomed Joyful overtakin…

Husband and Wife - Faith Partners

As I thought ("mused") on the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I couldn't help but wonder how the two of them "together" came to this place of "settled faith". What I mean is that their togetherness speaks loudly about a husband and wife being convinced as one, the way the scripture defines a marriage, about what God wants to do in their lives.
Here's the passage again, read it aloud and slowly, catch the togetherness:

Luke 1:57-66 (NIV)
1:57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.
58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,
60 but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."
61 They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name."
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out w…

Elizabeth's Quiet Faith

The Christmas story in Luke begins with the priest Zechariah, and before the first chapter ends, Mary is pregnant with Jesus. In between there is Elizabeth.
Luke tells little about her.

Luke 1:5-7 (NIV)
1:5 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 has his visitation in the temple service by the angel Gabriel...and he walks out without the ability to talk - not so much a punishment, but a divine sign that something happened to him in the temple, and perhaps his lack of affirmation was God's way of saying, "Then just watch".

Zechariah comes home to Elizabeth...and he isn't talking. More than one wife can relate to that,…

The Christmas Lights

Our trees - yes trees - one inside we cut last weekend, and the one outside that stands large and tall in the front yard are both lit, and as well, there are also lights around the house. We love Christmas decorations, especially the Christmas lights. A couple of nights ago I saw the lighting of the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree on TV.
It was Martin Luther almost 500 years ago that came up with the idea of lights in the Christmas tree. He was walking in the dark near his home and noticed the stars twinkling through the evergreen branches. He felt as if the hand of God had touched his soul and he came up with the idea of putting candles on the tree inside of his home. For centuries to follow candles were developed with special holders to place on Christmas trees. This made for two things: 1) It created beauty in developing decorations for Christmas; and 2) extreme fire hazards as every year not only trees, but houses would catch on fire. It was an employee of Thomas …

Listening - An Art

We began to decorate our home two weeks ago. This last weekend, the best Christmas tree we've ever had (and I say that every year) went up in our living room. We've decorated the rest of the house the way we wanted to over the last few days...why? Because decorating our home is an external action of our internal desire. NOW, don't get me wrong, I don't think that people who do minimalist decorating only have a little desire. I just mean that our decorating is a part of the season we are celebrating - Advent, a preparing for our King.

But, what if we're not preparing? What if we've come to that place in life where it seems week in and week out not much changes. It's the same old, same old. Life chugs along and there is no expectation of God being involved in anything in my life?

I would urge a less hectic rushing around, and a more deliberate "slowing", "listening", "watching", because there we will more likely encounter G…