Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas "YOU"

Luke 2:11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

A wish for a Very Merry Christmas to YOU.

At the end of this Advent season, it's important to hear those words YOU.
You have journeyed through Advent with me.
You have read because something in your soul wanted more from the Christmas season than the traditional holiday fare.
You have a heart that beats with a desire to know Christ, and to be known by Him.

It is to YOU that this day comes...born to US, YOU, in the city of David is a Savior, Christ the Lord.
Who were these original "YOU" people.
Shepherds...
Commoners...
Every day workers...
Night Shift workers...
Seemingly nobodies.

Sometimes that's what each of us feels like.
We're nobodies in a mass of a few billion people.
Are we known?  Do we matter?

It is to YOU that this day comes with a Savior.
We are not insignificant nobodies.
We matter to God and he proved it by sending his Son into the world for us.

Merry Christmas...YOU!

Peace

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

O Holy Night

It’s Christmas Eve today and with it, Advent is nearly over.  I feel a sense of satisfaction in my soul, but also a sadness that the season comes to a close and waits again for another 11 months to begin anew.  I love the Advent season…I love what it does to me…I love what it does in me.

Luke 2:1-7 
1  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

I’ve been saying those words since I was a little boy growing up in the small town Lutheran church my family went to.  I remember the Christmas eve service where all of us as kids recited our parts in front of a congregation of families.  

No one knew how to pronounce Quirinius, much less where Syria was. 

Why did Joseph “go up” to Jerusalem when Nazareth was to the south? (It all has to do with geography and elevation).

AND, the event…Mary full with child.  Many of us have seen it…a woman at nine months is “full with child”.  And then the event of all eternity.  Immanuel, God is with us.  The birth ends the stranglehold of sin…the weary world can rejoice…and we worship the Savior who has come to our house and changed it all.  

We’re never the same…never will be what we were…it is a Holy Night.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Re-Gifts That Must Be Shared

Luke 2:8-20 
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 shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  


Giving gifts, receiving gifts, sending gifts, buying gifts...we use the phrases at this time of the year often.  We sent our gifts through the mail, ordered them on Amazon, had them shipped to our house, sent overseas, across the country...gifts moving seems very normal at this time of the year.

That first Christmas, the gift of God came without fanfare.  Jesus was born to Mary in a manger stall...and no one but Joseph witnessed the birth - that is, until God decided he wanted some others to see what was happening.
Contact Herod's court?
Send an Angel to the Pharisees and High Priest?
Make sure the mayor knows?
Well, at least the Innkeeper and his wife can see?

No, it's to ordinary laborers...shepherds...
the minimum wage earners of the first century.
Jews who were drop outs,
not very smart,
couldn't figure out a better job,
poor
without a lot of training...

Shepherds who had the least "witness believability" of anyone in that society.  Anyone else...a governing authority, a priest, a religious leader, a shop owner, or tradesman...would have had a hearing among the people of the area...but not Shepherds.

Nobodies...
We might as well hear the voice through the drive up loud speaker saying, "Do you want fries with that?"
You hear it, but you don't relate it to a person and you don't really care to know anything more about them.

Shepherds...WHY?

It hits me that two significant things are related by Luke:
1.  Amazed, startled, even afraid, they are still willing to go and see.
Luke 2:15  When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." 


2.  Even more important, they returned to their work...changed...willing to share the good news...entering into Heaven's hall of fame as the first human ones to declare Immanuel - God is with us.
Luke 2:17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 

We don't need to have a PhD, be a Pastor, get a Seminary degree, have a Masters on the wall...or, if I might say so boldly, even graduate from High School...to be a person God can shows things to, and ask to tell them to the world around them.

You and I are people who have been Gifted...here's one place where it's quite fine to "Re-Gift".

Peace


Friday, December 20, 2013

Simple Folk, Simple Faith

I love the story of the Shepherds in Luke 2...

Luke 2:8-20 
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 shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  


Yesterday I had the privilege of witnessing my son-in-law's thesis proposal for his PhD before a panel of peers and professors from his field and department.  He did brilliantly, and even though I didn't understand a lot of what he is proposing to do his research in, I could rejoice in the confidence he projected and the ability to engage people who I would be intimidated by in a conversation in their field of expertise.
It's been a few years since I've hung around PdDs...and I had to remind myself that beneath the surface are human beings who ache for "being" and for intimacy - just like me.

What I have become over the last few years is one of the "simple folk".  I don't have a desire to be known for intelligence - although intelligence is not to be overlooked.  I don't have a desire to be called a great "thinker", although thinking is prized.
What I desire more than anything is to be a person God wants to use - to be called by Him to make a witness to those around me of what He is doing, and what He has done - for me, for the world.

Simple folk go about their work every day without fanfare, accolade, or notice.
Simple folk can be people of faith who live it out without the need for other's approval, or opinion.
Simple folk are like these shepherds on the hillside that first Christmas evening.
Going about their work
Interrupted by God
Willing to Seek God out
Sharing what they have seen and heard.

The old Shaker Hymn is good to remember:
"Tis a gift to be simple,
Tis a gift to be free..."

peace

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Journey of Eternity

Luke 2:4-7 
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.


Think about this, the plans of God are timeless, therefore eternal.  We live in time.  We order our lives around time.
Today, four years ago, my wife and I were surprised by the birth of three Grandchildren, all on this same day - Dec. 18.
Twins came to our Lindsay & Pete in England - Raewyn and Theo.
Our Chris and Sarah surprise us with a middle of the night phone call that Leo was born.
It was not a surprise that the three were coming, it was a surprise that all three came on the same day.

Time...we live by it, and we order our lives around it.

Doctor appointment - Wed. at 4:00
Oil Change - Friday at 9:00
Daily Blog - In the morning
Taxes - before April 15
Church - Sunday at 9:30
Christmas Eve Service - 7:30 pm, Dec. 24

We live by time, we complain about time - delays, waiting, late, early...etc.
The fact is Time is Not In Our Hands...It is God's.
Most of us have heard the saying, "You want to make God laugh, tell him your plans".

Our lives are lived with interruptions and hopefully they are good ones - like today's three grandchildren's birthdays.
But sometimes it's not.  There are those days, the time is interrupted, and something happens we were not ready for - not preparing for - not wanting.

Here is where our faith kicks in.  Do we believe that time is God's?
Can we focus our attention on God then?
Can we believe He is good, merciful, kind, gracious, loving and all-knowing?

Mary knew she was going to have a baby.  Joseph knew they were going to have a baby.  The innkeeper saw that she was going to have a baby.
God chooses this "time" and makes "holy" the time as His Son comes into the world of humans.

May God "interrupt" our times so that we might see Him over and over again.

Peace



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The House of Bread

Luke 2:1-4 1  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  


Most of us know the famous poem:  "Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house."  
This passage is the before Christmas time.  It's interesting how Luke makes things so clear in terms of history and geography.  
Names:  Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, Joseph, David
Geography:  Syria, Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem...

On the night before Christmas there was quiet movements of people towards the place God was going to choose to enter the world of humanity as a child.

Bethlehem - the House of Bread!  That's what the name means, "the house of bread".

In the Old Testament were introduced to Bethlehem as the place Jacob buries his wife Rachel.

In the book of Ruth, Ruth, a Moabite woman meets her husband-to-be, Boaz in Bethlehem.  They were married there and she joined the ancestral line that would lead to King David and onward to Jesus.

David is a shepherd on a hillside outside of Bethlehem when the prophet Samuel calls him to his knees and pouring oil over his head, anoints him to be King of Israel.

Centuries later the prophet Micah proclaims that God was going to do something spectacular from Bethlehem -
Micah 5:2  
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.


Twas the night before Christmas...and God was coming to the house of bread...He who one day proclaim, 
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

Peace

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Cosmic Christmas

Most of what we read concerning the Christmas story is recorded in Old Testament Prophecy and New Testament's Matthew and Luke.  Beyond that there's little references to the birth of Jesus in scripture - Except, the narrative in Revelation.

This is a view of the first Advent written from the viewpoint of the heavenlies, and it isn't soft and sweet with angelic chorus', etc...it's full of imagery that is tense like a suspense thriller.  This is a reading of the Christmas story you may have never read before...but it's worth our reading because it reminds us that God sending His Son into the world was not just a sweet thing to do, but was a declaration of war on Satan's domain.

Revelation 12:1-17 
1  And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
2  She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
3  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.
4  His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.
5  She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
6  and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
7
 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
8  but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
9  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10  And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
11  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
12  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

13  And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
14  But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
15  The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.
16  But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.
17  Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.
 


Here's a vision of Christmas that is amazing...

  • A woman clothed with the sun.
  • A birth that stirs a dragon to attack the mother and child
  • War begins in the heavens with Michael and his Angels fighting against the dragon and his angels.
  • Satan is defeated and the declaration is made...
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
11  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
12  Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” 

Biblically, theologically, we call this Spiritual Warfare.  

"The World in solemn stillness lay...?"

Advent reminds us that two parallel things are happening - one on earth, and one in the heavenlies.

In Advent God has invaded the earth with his Son leading the way, and His Kingdom planted on the earth.
Jesus' birth is surrounded with awe...a virgin, a husband who does the right thing because God speaks to him, an innkeeper, a manger, angels and shepherds...

But it's the beginning of a war.  It's a reminder to us that God is going to redeem the earth - it's important to Him.  

"The Hopes and Fears of all the years,
are met in thee tonight."

Peace

Friday, December 13, 2013

Surprised By Hope

I am a Gentile...I am that because simply put, I'm not a Jewish person.  The story of Advent comes about through God's covenant with Israel, which is the story of the Old Testament.  God's purpose for Israel was for His people to be a Kingdom of Priests - people who demonstrated the purposes of God to the nations - to the Gentiles.
That did not happen.
Israel became a nation, but not one that reached out to the nations.  Why?  There are far too many reasons to be written here.  But, the important thing to realize is that God had purposed the nation to be priests to the Gentile world.
That helps us understand the first Advent.  Jesus was born to grow up in a Jewish family, to call alongside of himself Jewish people, and be arrested and tried by Jewish rulers.  Turned over to a Gentile ruler, Jesus is crucified, dies, and is buried...but resurrected and exalted to God's right hand.
The Church begins Jewish, but soon discovers God's purposes haven't changed - to reach the Gentiles.
Jesus had made this clear while still upon the earth.

Matthew 12:15-21 15  Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all
16  and ordered them not to make him known.
17  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
18  “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19  He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20  a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory;
21  and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”


"In HIS NAME the Gentiles will hope."
God had never given up on calling the nations to His Kingdom.  The Gentile were considered to be outside of the covenant.


Romans 15:8-13 8  For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
9  and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

10  And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11  And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.”

12  And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
 


Here's what I want us to "muse" on today - God has purposed in Jesus Christ a Hope, that leads to Joy, that leads to Peace, and brings us back to more Hope.

I saw this in a family recently who had walked through a valley of suffering and great difficulties.  They prayed, trusted, waited, and in their own human way, Hoped.  Yet things dragged on for months and months and very little changed.  Repeatedly the news was not good and things seemed to keep going in a negative direction.
Still, they prayed, they trusted, they hoped.
And then it happened.
A good doctor's report...a new prognosis...a change and there it happened - SURPRISED BY HOPE.

Hope is that quality of faith that comes from maintaining trust in God, no matter what!

Where are you on the Hope meter?  Do you realize that God is the God of Hope.
It doesn't mean we always get what we want, but rather that each of us matters to God.  Each of us counts.
Think about it, God never gave up on the idea of including the Gentiles - you and me - in His Kingdom plans.
He wanted, and persevered, and made a way for Hope to occur...no matter what!

Peace

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The first Advent came with Messy Problems

Matthew 1:18-21 
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.
"  


This year for our Advent teachings at New Life (where I serve as Pastor), I wanted to look at Advent differently than I had before.  I was struck by the "under-side" of Advent as I came to call it.  I've looked at Advent over the years from various angles and loved the different facets of each.  Advent seems like a diamond...turn it around and around and look at it from different points of views, and each has its own beauty.

This Advent my focus has been very "human"...as I said, the "under-side" of Advent where the narrative in scripture speaks of the human reactions - in my view, the human mess that Advent brought about.
Most of us are not use to thinking that with God's intervention in life that a "Mess" is created, but it happens...probably more frequently than were comfortable with.

The story from Matthew illustrates that mess.  Mary is "pledged"...literally "betrothed" to Joseph.  Betrothals were not merely engagements.  In our culture and engagement is a pledge to be married, but we all know that from time to time a person will break an engagement and the wedding is "off".  That could not happen in Joseph and Mary's day.  
Mary was a young virgin - probably between 12-15 years of age.  Her marriage was an arrangement between her family and Joseph's family.  Joseph is probably somewhere between 16-18 years old.  They lived in a small village, so both families knew each other and probably talked about their children marrying for a couple of years or more before it actually came about.  Did Mary and Joseph have a say...it's hard to know for certain.  Usually children had little say in the actual arrangement.
Not only was the marriage arranged, the betrothal served as a contract...a legal agreement that would have been known to the Elders, Rabbi, and others.  Betrothals were the time period between that agreement and the actual wedding.  In Israel marriage was two specific things:  The Covenant of the Agreement and the Consummation of the couple after their public wedding.  In between was this Betrothal period.  The only way a Betrothal could be broken was if infidelity (or death) of one of the two took place - and if by infidelity, a public declaration was made to the elders and Rabbi followed by an official grant of Divorce.  

In other words...Mary's situation presented a MESS...As far as Joseph and any other person - Mary's parents, Joseph's parents and their families, the people who were their neighbors and perhaps most of the community - knew was that Mary had committed infidelity.  There's no other explanation for how a young virgin girl gets pregnant - is there?

From the human side - the under-side that cannot see God at work, Mary's account of what was going on must have seemed preposterous to Joseph - a sort of "how dumb do you think I am?", or "you've got to be kidding to think I'll believe that".  Joseph - as other husbands to be have been - is blind-sided.  He is devastated and hurt, but his character is intact and it is his character and relationship with God that surfaces in the Mess.  


It is always our character that comes forth in the Messy problems of life.

Joseph - scripture tells us - vs19  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.
Character:  Truth and Love
Character:  Care about God and care about others
Character:  Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and your (nearby one) neighbor as yourself.
Character:  Full of Grace and Truth
Joseph's character is one of real godly character.  He will not overlook the laws requirements, but he does not want to shame Mary in a public way.  He chooses to do what needs to be done, quietly.

In an age that glamorizes and publishes all discretions we can learn much from Joseph.

Yet, this speaks much more of just how to handle Messy Problems...We all have them.  OR, We all WILL have them.
Think about it...this is not the plan Joseph had in mind when he an Mary were pledged to be married.
Joseph just didn't embrace the Mess...he would live with the Mess throughout his lifetime.  God came to him in a dream and showed him what was going on...so Joseph stepped into a place of faithful trust in taking Mary as his wife, and becoming the earthly Father of Jesus.  But Joseph and Mary were the only ones who knew - no one else was privy to God's work at this time.  The gossip, finger pointing, talking behind their backs, etc...that kind of Mess would not ever go away.

Embrace God and most assuredly the human mess will follow.

This is not the family Joseph imagined.

Then again, all of us who are married can testify that the family that followed us into our marriage was not necessarily the family life we envisioned.

Life is a Messy Problem and the only sure thing, the only secure thing, and the only promised thing is that God said, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you."

Advent came with Messy Problems

Peace

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Gift of the Overflowing Heart

2 Corinthians 9:15  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 

2 Corinthians 8:5  and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 

I read my daughter's facebook account and both smiled and felt someone saddened.  She went into a store to purchase something and found the clerk rude, impatient, and unwilling to help...as she said, "Uugghhh".  She left and made her own inner statement - not going back...and then re-thought and realized that one clerk, one day, one unknown "why", is not enough to make her quit on a place.  Good for her.  I wrote her back to say, I remember when my wife Linda worked at a bank - now some 20 years ago - and she told me one year how she hated it when Christmas came.  The two to three weeks leading up to Christmas was filled with grumpy, impatient, and angry for having to take money out of a bank account to pay for presents that they didn't want to buy for people they didn't want to buy for, but felt obligated to do.  Yes, that is how some approach the Christmas season - obligations, duty, musts, got-to, etc...

Then there are the gifts that come from love, generosity, an overflowing heart of affections and desire...gifts that inspire awe!  I don't think these are often "planned"....they happen.  They occur because the posture of the gift giver isn't to try to amaze, but to give because they want to give and they don't count it as a duty or obligation to do so.

One of my Pollasch "adages" in life was learned from a friend many years ago:  "Be aware that if you do not have the freedom to say 'No", you ought to be very careful about saying 'Yes'."
I DO NOT HAVE TO do many things.  I want to do some things.
Like Love My Wife.
Like Love My Children, their Spouses, and my Grandchildren.
Like Love My Friends well.
Like Love the People God puts into my Life.

1 Thessalonians 3:12  May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

God's gifts to us come from an overflowing heart of love.  Where do our gifts come from.
I was struck by that as I thought this morning about why I would buy and give presents.  I do love to give.
I don't give out of a sense of duty, but out of a desire to bless and because there's an "overflow".

We've all heard the saying, "Is your cup half-empty, or half-full."
I prefer to say my cup is overflowing.  I like that...and God is more than like that.
His grace and love, His mercy and forgiveness, His wonder and power....all overflow into our lives.

I walk (almost) every morning in the country with my dog.  As I walk I'm often struck by the beauty of creation.  The clouds, wind, sky, weather, etc...they are not commonplace - for when God is present there is no commonplaces.
He created...but he didn't do it to be functional alone.  He created beauty.
He gave songs to birds and water that flows.
He puts long trunks on elephants and humps on camels.
He wraps creation in splendor...why?

Why do you give gifts?  You look online, walk in malls...looking for THAT gift...why?

Because of Love.
That's why God does it to.
That's why God DID it in Advent the first time...It did it because of LOVE.

The next time you are caught in the ecstasy of worship, a carol of Christmas, a card from a far away friend, the beauty of creation...listen as the wind whispers..."I hope you like it, I did it for you."

Peace

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Waiting in Joy by Faith

Luke 1:26-38 
26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 
27  to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 
28  And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." 
29  But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 
30  The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 
31  "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 
32  "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 
33  and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." 
34  Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" 
35  The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 
36  "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 
37  "For nothing will be impossible with God." 
38  And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her
.  

"Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day." - Henri Nouwen.


Joy to the world...we sing without thinking what it meant, or what it cost.  For Mary it was an angel-visitation that asked her to say yes to what must have seemed ludicrous to anyone other than Mary.

A Virgin Birth?

Lots of modern day unbelieving critics have written to say that it is all a myth created by the Apostles and early church believers to deify Jesus - that Jesus was just a human being who was a zealous Jewish preacher who wanted to reform Judaism and that his followers made up the deity parts in order to make  him their god and create a religion around him.

BAH, HUMBUG...Modern cynics don't have the ability to look beyond their own two feet and see a universe full of mystery and wonder.  Children have more insight in observing their world than they do.  They are stuck in their atheistic, agnostic pseudo-wise mindset where anything that is not observable with their eyes and tested in a laboratory cannot be wisdom and therefore cannot be true.  BAH, HUMBUG...

I'll stick with faith...because in Faith, obedience comes forth, and from obedience comes JOY...real Joy in seeing what God can do.

Henri Nouwen is correct...
Joy doesn't HAPPEN to us...we Choose Joy...every time we say Yes to God.
And then we keep choosing it day by in trust, in believing, in walking out our lives with faith, love and hope in the living God.

Peace


Monday, December 9, 2013

God's Kiss

Philippians 2:5-7 5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.


Luke 1:26-28 26  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
28  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!


Yesterday I taught out of Matthew 1 and tried to put a human face to the Christmas story.  Scripture tells us the story of Christ's first Advent from the perspective of both the human and the divine.  My problem is that for so many years all I did was focus on the divine aspect - which is fine and important to do.  Yet, God comes to humans and there is in this a human response.

Over and over in the Christmas stories of Matthew and Luke, various divine beings are saying to various human beings, "Do not be afraid".  
As a father who raised four kids there are many things that can cause fear.  Saying to my children, "do not be afraid", is first of all admitting that they are afraid.  
When the angels speak the words, "do not be afraid", one can sense that they realize they've just intruded onto a world that does not know what to do with their presence. 
In heaven the heavenly space is filled with angelic beings...but so is the earth...we just don't see them (at least most people don't).  When angels break into our presence to be seen, there is something that happens both "in" us and "to" us.  It's not always a good beginning...Mary is a good example of that.

Luke 1:29-30 
29  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary..., 


Mary is at first troubled, and then the angel (Gabriel) acknowledges to her what is going on "in" her - "do not be afraid..."

Why?  "...
for you have found favor with God. "

The angelic intrusion is to give a message - Mary is graced...found favor.  Luke chooses the greek word, charis, which is translated "grace", although sometimes can be seen as "kindness" and "blessing".
I had to memorize Greek words in Seminary and one trick of memorization was to associate a word with an idea, or a picture.
Charis, which is grace, favor, kindness, blessing... is "God's Kiss".

The angel Gabriel comes to Mary to say, "Mary, God loves you and he wants you to know that among all the women who have ever lived, you are the one he wants to choose to bear His son".

It is God's Kiss to be graced...and we who have put our faith in Jesus Christ have all be kissed by God.

Peace

Friday, December 6, 2013

God of the Possible

 It's one of my favorite Advent passages to "muse" on.  I have read this passage for years and each time I'm captivated in my imagination, thoughts and faith as I read the Angel Gabriel's visit to an aged priest named Zechariah.

Luke 1:5-20 5  In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6  And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.
7  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
8  Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty,
9  according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
10  And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
11  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12  And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.
13  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15  for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,
17  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18  And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
19  And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
20  And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”  


Most of us can relate to Zechariah.  We're totally unprepared for the supernatural to appear anywhere in our lives, much less our day.  Then when a word from God does come, we're bound to say "What did you say?" 

Think about the words from the angel - "your prayer has been heard".  I can imagine Zechariah looking back with furrowed brows and saying, "What prayer?"
If you are at all like me, you've prayed hundreds of prayers.  Unless it was an immediate one, we don't have any ability to see that God records them all and they all mean something...every prayer since we first began as a little kid perhaps.  

The whole scene puts a smile on my face - even Gabriel's response, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 
20  And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 

I get the image of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings as Bilbo hesitates to give him the ring because it has these magical powers that make ordinary individuals become obsessed with it.  As Bilbo turns on Gandalf, the camera shows a gigantic Gandalf - towering over Bilbo and proclaiming with a loud voice:  "Bilbo Baggins, do not take me as a conjuring of cheap tricks, I'm not trying to rob you..." (and the large dark scene gets light) "...I'm trying to help you."  

It's a great scene that takes place with Gabriel and Zechariah.  The angel Gabriel has come to help, but Zechariah can't get past the "impossible" part of the message.

Do we make a place in our hearts, our minds, for the possible of God?

I read the story recently of a teacher in her second grade classroom asking what her students wanted to be when they grow up.
"A football player", "A doctor", "A Mom", "A Fireman", and on and on it went.
She noticed that one little boy had not replied, so she walked near to him and said, "Timmy, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Timmy said, "Possible".
"Possible?", she asked.
"Yes, possible", he said again.
"Timmy what do you mean?"
Timmy looked at her and said, "Well, my Mom is always telling me I'm impossible, so when I grow up I want to be possible!"

Advent reminds us that God is the God of possibles.  Is there a place where your prayers have gone unheard? Where you have walled off God from entering in - you've become a Zechariah?  
I know I have at times...probably we all have.

It's time to put faith, God, all things possible back into our hearts and minds.

Peace

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Giving and Receiving

2 Corinthians 8:9  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 

Tis the season for gift giving.  We give and receive from all sorts of places.  A week ago a letter arrive in the post which contained two artful and scribbled drawings from two four year old grandchildren.  Along with the two we received in California from our two grandchildren there, the four have made their way to the refrigerator - the art gallery of all homes.

These gifts won't replace a Picasso or a Renoir, but they will stay proudly displayed because they came from little hearts as gifts of love.

Advent reminds us that it is in the little things that gifts are given.

I read recently of some lavish gifts that are for sale to be given...thousands of dollars, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I won't judge the person who would give gifts like that because I wouldn't know their hearts in giving what they can.  Perhaps they have the money and delight in giving such things.  Perhaps if I were in the same shoes I might be looking at lavish gift catalogs also.

But God delights in simple gifts that come from joy, love, the heart.  That is why he chose to send His Son into the world as a baby - born in a stable - of two poor young Jewish people - in a small village on the outskirts of the metropolis - with Shepherds as the first visitors.  We get the point.  It's not the extravagance of the gift, it's where the gift came from in the heart of the person who gives.

Several Christmas' ago our daughter and son-in-law - who live in England - came home for Christmas.  Along with our other children and their families we celebrated Christmas as we often do with music, games, laughter, food, and gifts.  That year our daughter gave each of us something very personal - the gift of her own making - music.
For me a recording of a lovely piece on a violin - something she knows I love listening to.  For her mother, a beautiful solo recording of a lovely hymn.  It brought each of us to tears to listen to the music, but mostly to know that it was from the heart.  Years later the gift still keeps on giving.

This is the Advent message - God gives from the heart and the gift keeps on giving.

Romans 3:21-24   But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—
22  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24  and [we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  


And also

Ephesians 2:5-8,  
even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
6  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,


Think about it - God gave US salvation as a gift,  and gave US to His Son as a gift.  May all of our gifts be so generous and from the heart.

Peace

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Gifts - What Jesus Wants

I remember as a child growing up in Fox Lake, Wis.,  the highlight of each Autumn was the arrival of the J.C. Penney's Christmas catalog.   Now, in deference to Sears, they also had a great catalog.
 Still it was the Penney's catalog that provided hours and hours of dreaming, wishing, pointing things out to parents, arguing with my brother why this gun and holster was better than the one on the other side of the page!

In the Christmas movie, "A Christmas Story", Ralphie dreams of a Red Ryder BB gun.  Ralphie's problem was every boys problem - how to convince your parents that the dream gift will be good...i.e., "you'll shoot your eyes out" - which I actually remember hearing from my Mom.  I know my sisters looked through the catalogs too; but it was the hours of work that my brother and I poured over each page in order to prioritize a  list of "I want this..."  What appeared as a need on page 45 got bumped to last place by page 355.  It was pure fun and I have fond memories of those wish list "this is what I want for Christmas".

I wondered about what Jesus would want for Christmas.

I think I stumbled upon the answer...it's found in His own words as he prays in John 17.  Let me set the scene.  John's gospel give us more insight into the last night of Jesus' physical life upon the earth than any of the rest of the gospels.  Beginning John 11, the final day arrives.  In John 13, the final dinner - a Passover seder occurs with his disciples.  In John 14 he walks with them to the temple and talks of when he goes to the Father he will build a place for his followers and send the Holy Spirit to us.  In John 15 he stands before the stately columns in front of the temple and looks up at the Vines hanging from the entrance and reminds them and us that "I am the Vine and you are the branches.  In John 16 he tells them that their sadness and suffering because of Him will lead them to be overcomers because of the Holy Spirit within them.  Then the 17th chapter.

Jesus brings his disciples to a place of prayer, and he prays.  He prays so that they may hear the words, and yet his prayer, like all prayers should be, is addressed to His Father.

It is His Christmas wish list.  I won't post all of the verses, so you may want to go back and read the entire text.  But for our sake here, I point out some of the key things he said to the Father in prayer.

John 17:1-5,   
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 
 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.
 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.


His prayer begins with a request - glorify me so that I may glorify you.  He has glorified the Father with his work on earth because the work he was sent to do is about to be finished (remember that when you think about the words of Jesus on the cross "It is finished").  Why does he pray for himself to be glorified?  Because Philippians 2 reminds us that Jesus "emptied himself" when he came to the earth...he set aside the rights of deity and the glory of God that goes with that.

Then Jesus begins to pray for his disciples and all the others who had become followers:  John 17:6  “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

In this he prays for specific things:
John 17:11  And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.  
To be protected, and be unified.

John 17:13  But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. and, verse 15  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
To experience His Joy within.

John 17:17  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
To be sanctified is to be "set apart for a special purpose".  My toothbrush is sanctified...it has one singular purpose.  Jesus prayed that the disciples be set apart to declare the truth of God's word.

NOW, up to this point, all of his prayers are centered around Himself and the disciples.  This is his Christmas wish list to the Father.  Here is where I am delighted to read that Jesus included us also in his Christmas wish list.  Read and savor the words with intentionality....

John 17:20-26 20  “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
21  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,
23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
24  Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
26  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”


What does he ask the Father for?  For US. And in specific ways similar to what he has prayed before.
  • For unity so that the world might see Jesus in us.
  • For His glory to be manifested in us... Wow, think about that.
  • To enter into His glory...enter into Heaven and witness the beauty of His glory which is based on the Father's love.
  • That love, which the Father has for Jesus, he wants all of us to experience it also.
This is not the Christmas list I came up with as a kid, nor the one that is commercialized in our culture.  This is a God-oriented Christmas list.  This list isn't based on "who got the better" gift.  It is based on his desire for the glory of His Father...the Glory he is about to receive all over again...the Glory that manifest the presence and power of God in our own midst...the Immanuel, "God is with us" type of glory.  Think about it, Jesus says we are meant to display that glory.  
We manifest His glory in every prayer for healing and wholeness and fullness and unity for all that is around us.  
We will always have Christmas gift lists.  We, as we turn and trust in Him, are Christ's gift to the Father and the Father's gift to His Son.

Peace



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent, Day 3, What Does Jesus Say About The Christmas Story?

There are all sorts of ways to approach the Christmas story.  It is a story set in scripture with a cast of Characters that allows each to share its own perspective.
There is the story from Zechariah
And, a similar account from his wife Elizabeth
There is Mary and her story, and
Joseph has his perspective.
There is the story from the shepherds on the hillside,
And the story written by the Innkeeper.
There is the story from the Magi as they saw the star, and
Even a story from the vile King Herod.
There is the story from the aged Simeon and Anna,
And the story from Jesus' cousin, John - called the Baptist.

Stories are written from the perspective of the writer.  They are sometimes written with first-hand knowledge, and sometimes they are written from afar, after interviewing and reading others.  Luke says, as he begins his gospel, that he wrote...

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 
2  just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,
3  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,  
[
Luke 1:1-3]

The one person who has little to say about the birth of Jesus - is Jesus himself.  He doesn't spend time reminding anyone of the miraculous nature of all that took place.
Some have argued (incorrectly I think) that the lack of reference on Jesus' part to his own birth means that the disciples, and others, created the stories on their own after his death.  "Bah, Humbug".

I was born in 1949 - a twin.  My brother Ed is two hours older than me, and I've heard I was breech... but that is all I know.  Most of us have scan awareness of the record of our birth...and most certainly, don't have any record of our conception!  [That is what we would say - TMI - too much information].

Having said that, Jesus' birth is the celebration of Immanuel - God with Us.  The notion that God would come to his creation and BECOME one of them is not an easy thing to wrap our heads around.  Yet, that is exactly what the scripture says he did. 

WHY?
Aaahhh...here's where we get to what Jesus said about the Christmas story.  Centuries before Jesus was born in the flesh, 

Psalm 40:6-8 
6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
7  Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8  I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

The Psalmist is writing, but the words are fulfilled in Jesus.  How do we know this?  The writer of Hebrews, writing some one thousand years later, makes it clear:  

Hebrews 10:4-10 
4  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5  Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;

6  in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

7  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

8  When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),
9  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.
10  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

Here is the Advent story from Jesus' perspective.  The law, the sacrifices... Performing your way to God, trying to be acceptable by being good, working your way to heaven...All are destined to fail.  Yet in Jesus, the message is clear. 
 "Here's why I came."  
"To come to do God's will".
"To come to be the eternal sacrifice."
"To come so that all who come to God through Jesus might be sanctified through His work...once and for all."

The Christmas story from Heaven's perspective is fulfilled through all of the characters above, but it's purpose is proclaimed a thousand years before.  God's plan was long in coming, but clear in purpose.

And now, we get to stand in the "ONCE AND FOR ALL" work of Christ.

Peace

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent - the second day - The Vulnerable God

Philippians 2:1-8 1  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
2  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
3  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Advent means "Coming", "Arrival", and it has to do with the anticipation that God is going to "show up"... he's going to come to his people.
Christians are not unique to the anticipation of God coming.
Jewish faithful in the first century were waiting in anticipation for God to come too.  
They were anticipating God coming in power to overthrow the heathen and to establish his absolute reign upon the earth where faith would be exalted...
and God would be in charge and God's justice would be established upon the earth.  
They were waiting for righteousness to reign.
They were waiting for sin to be done away with.
They were waiting for the Kingdom of Heaven where the lion would lie down with the lamb.
They were waiting for a King who would rule over all of the earth because God had established his Kingdom.
They were waiting for exalted power and authority.

AND, they were waiting for the wrong thing.

In Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us...we have Vulnerability.

Instead of God in power...
Jesus empties himself of his position of Deity...
Jesus becomes a servant that washes feet and mixes with the poor and feeds the masses.
Jesus becomes a human being...not a divine powerful King.

He lives from the bottom up, not the top down.
He's vulnerable...without strength, or position of influence.
AND,
He's Immanuel, God with us.

Peace

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Psalm 116:12-19 12  What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
13  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

14  I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

16  O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.

17  I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

18  I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

19  in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!


I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons.
It's a celebration of Family.
It's a celebration without much commercialism - ok, except Food - lots of food!
It's a celebration of a Grace Act - to be Thankful.

Yet the Psalmist reminds us that it is at times a "sacrifice".

One of the young couples in our church this last weekend lost her father to a heart attack.
A guy in our church has been without work for a number of months.
A young couple I know struggle with finances and debt.
Someone I know goes through their first holiday season divorced.

Death, Disease, Divorce, Debt
Finances, Family tensions, Questioning Faith.

Sometimes we celebrate thanksgiving as a sacrifice.

The Psalmist says "I will lift up the cup of salvation..."

It's his way of saying "I will toast the Lord for his Salvation"...

Not because all is good, but because God is good.

My wish is that your Thanksgiving will be filled with Joy, laughter, family and fun...and if it is saddened by loss, then my prayer is that God will fill you up with His Peace and Presence.

Peace to you and Happy Thanksgiving