Christmas doesn't come within a void but within a season, the end of Advent. Outside the church, Christmas music starts in November, but in the church Christmas music doesn't come until Christmas Eve. Some people come to church on Christmas Eve and Easter only, missing out on the season of Advent. Yet it is so important. It is not just the time we prepare ourselves for Christmas morning; but the season in which the church looks within ourselves. How well have we been keeping up the Spirit of Christ? How well have we been preparing the way not only for Christ to work within our own lives but in the lives of others?
On the first Sunday of Advent, with the prophets we asked the question: "Is this time?" Is it time for the Messiah? The prophetic voice we hear is the signs so that we will know that indeed it is time. For us today, we ask "Is this time for me?" "Can I make the time for God in my life?"
On the second Sunday of Advent we meet with John the Baptist who is telling off some religious leaders and we are left with "Is this good fruit we bear?" Do we spread goodness around? Do we share God's love wherever we go? Do we truly live into our relationship with God or do we spread anger and hate? This are the tough questions as we are asked to look into ourselves. We are asked to not just live into the Christmas spirit once a year but all year around spread the goods of great joy to the world.
On the third Sunday of Advent, still with John, we are left with "Is this him? the one?" John has sent some of his disciples to scoop Jesus out and see if this is indeed the Messiah. This is something we must ask ourselves. Living in a society of multiple faiths, we are left with the ability to choose. Yet, choice is something interesting for it is a must. Simply living "open" or "spiritual but not religious" is in a way a choice to reject and yet to accept nothing. We are called to make a choice; we are called to live into that choice by living into a full relationship with God. John knows the answer to this question, on the third Sunday John is sending out his own disciples to help them figure it out for themselves. Once they witness all that Jesus has done we are left with the understanding that they choose to follow. We are reminded this day, that we must choose.***
On the fourth Sunday in Advent we hear from Joseph and Mary. We see the struggles to understand and the understand the "messiness" of life. Yet we also hear the faithfulness of the two young people who because of their strong faith listen to God. Live into what God is asking of them. We are left with the question "Is this worth it?" Certainly they answered "yes" or they would not have continued on as Jesus parents. Today it is worth it for those who believe. Jesus works within and through our lives to bless us at moments we need it most. I can personally affirm, it is worth it to have faith! Don't believe me, look at science: people with faith recover better. People with faith are less depressed, people with faith live longer. People who have faith communities pray for them heal!
On Christmas Eve we hear Luke's words tell the amazing story of Jesus birth. We hear the angel speak to the shepherd and the choir of angels sings the goriest song. And we are left pondering "Is this real?" Pretty sure that angels appeared to more then one shepherd for if only one experienced it, they wouldn't have believed what happened to them was real. After hearing from the angel they go out and search for this baby, perhaps to test to see if it was for real. They look and find Jesus, just as it was foretold, lying in a manager. At that moment they knew this was for real. Hopefully you too have had a moment in which you knew God was real. A moment in which you felt the Divine working. If you haven't had that moment, it will come. The shepherds heard the angels words and went out looking for the sign; they didn't just sit back down in the field and say "oh well if it is real it will come to us!" God extends invitations for us to experience the Divine around us daily; but we must be open to accepting that invite.
On Christmas morning, we open presents under the tree and we are surrounded by family. Jesus doesn't get mentioned much as Santa and Reindeer are the big deals. But in the quiet of the Naivety the infant Jesus lay in a manager. The question that gets asked is: Is this for us? You see Immanuel God with us is more then just a King born in the line of David to rule Israel. Jesus, God humbly walking among us, line of David, came not to usher in a new Israel for people 2000 years ago, but instead came to usher in a New Kingdom. A Kingdom not of this world but for this world. A Kingdom in Heaven not for one group of people at one time but for all people for all time. Jesus that baby is not just born for Mary and Joseph, for the disciples or Paul but for you and me. Jesus was born for Salvation to all who believe, who trust and who say "Indeed this is for me!"
God's love for the world abounds around us and in us. God's love for the world manifested as Christ and offered Salvation to all - of every time and place - of every race and gender. We are reminded this day that indeed it is the one who has come to save us, who has made us all worthy of salvation and who in the fullness of God's grace offers us all new hope in Kingdom everlasting.
*** by making a choice to accept Jesus as the One, the Messiah you are not thus suggesting that all must do so. By accepting Jesus we are not rejecting or disrespecting others faiths. This is simply about your own relationship with God and how you are going to express it.
Cyber Sabbath's goal is to begin to mend the division between Christ and the world (society) that Church has created through reflections, sermons and devotionals
Cyber Sabbath is a place for the stifled Christian voice to be heard. Media gives way to much time to the extremist - over looking the theologically educated and/or the moderates in favor of what sells their view point. Here, politics aside, a pastor reflects on God's voice in every day life.
Cyber Sabbath is a place for the stifled Christian voice to be heard. Media gives way to much time to the extremist - over looking the theologically educated and/or the moderates in favor of what sells their view point. Here, politics aside, a pastor reflects on God's voice in every day life.
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Advent Devotional Week 4
Where is God? This is a question that gets asked all the time; even in Biblical times we hear this question echo. This is the reason many “deflected” from God, for they cannot find an answer. We as humans need an answer for everything. This week we are reminded that God is in our love.
Prepare and do not be afraid
With excitement we know the wait is almost over
For those who have lived in darkness, great light will shine
In Holy silence we sit
God’s glory will soon be known
Revel to us, O Lord, your plans
Good news of love is here
We are prepared to accept and give the love of Christ
7 days until Christmas:
Matthew 1: 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.”
Joseph and Mary are to be married. In fact they are in a period of time that according to Hebrew law although their marriage is final they would still need to ‘divorce’ if they decided to go separate ways and it would be a scandal. So here they are: Mary has informed Joseph that she is with child; Joseph knows he is not the father. He has decided to discretely divorce her, end the betrothal. He does not want to cause her shame, there is still love there; he just cannot understand what is happening. He feels anger and betrayed. Just like any ordinary person would. Yet God asks Joseph to do something pretty extraordinary – to trust and to raise this child. Joseph is being asked to stay with Mary even though he is anger and to believe in something bigger than himself. And so are we. Christmas is bigger than us! Our Savior’s love is bigger than we can imagine. Yet we are called to believe, we are called to spread and more importantly we are called to join in that love.
6 Days until Christmas:
Galatians 4: 8-9 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. ×
References for Galatians 4:8
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forcesa ? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Powerful words for us today. How are we changed by the fact that we have God? How does the birth of Christ, the Savior with us changed our lives? It should change yours. Having God in your life should change you. You should be willing and able to spread love, grace and most importantly God. It seem pretty easy to speak bad about others; it seems pretty easy to be anger when someone has done you wrong; and it is easy to hold onto hurt. Yet we are called to let it go. We are called to turn our back to the negative forces and freely follow Christ. If there is anything holding you back today, lift it up to God. Give it God and looking to the Divine see if your life can’t change.
5 Days until Christmas:
Matthew 1: 17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah
Do you ever feel like you can’t escape your past? Do you ever feel that you are paying for the sins of your family? That is how the Hebrews felt. In fact, in Biblical times you were responsible for the sins of your ancestors. Yet Jesus ended all that. Through his life and death he released us from our sins. This human divinity has offered salvation to all and for all! And it is important that Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus was not just any man who walked on Earth but was God humbly walking amongst us. It took the humanity in Jesus dying on the cross to offer salvation to us all. This passage reminds us of the humanity of Christ – the generations of people who waited for the birth of a Messiah. The many who willed and waited for a King, as King David, to return. Although Jesus didn’t turn out to restore the Kingdom of Israel, he has offered us a Kingdom far better – the Kingdom of Heaven. Rejoice!
4 Days Until Christmas:
Luke 1: 48-49 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, ×
References for Luke 1:48
for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
Holy is his name! These are Mary’s words as she accepts with joy and no doubt a bit of worry the news of her pregnancy. This is not a small task that she is called upon for and yet she proclaims the great that is God. This is not a simple task she is accepting, she is accepting the birth of not just any baby but a special child – Jesus Christ! No matter the difficult moments she will face, she stands here calling herself blessed and rejoicing in the Lord God. What a faithful servant. Boy did God pick the right person. Would you have that in you, or would you be less than gracious? As we come to the Holy Christmas Season we must remember to be gracious for all that is around us. We must remember to be joyful with a full heart to our Lord and spread God’s love. Even when things are prefect, even when we meet difficult moments, we are called to spread God’s love and to stay in love with God.
3 days Until Christmas:
Isaiah 9: 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
I am always stumbling in the dark: sometimes it is simply in trying to get to the bathroom, sometimes I am trying to avoid waking other’s up, sometimes I just can’t find the light. Whatever the reason, I know better. Usually these don’t end well, I stub my toe; I trip; I wake people up anyway; the list could continue. Living with the light of Christ brings something to our lives; something that can’t be explained easily. Something that without we feel lost, as if we are stumbling in the dark. There is however a difference in having the light of a candle to holding a spot light in your path. Having a relationship with God isn’t always having a spot light; sometimes it is the flicker of a candle in the darkest of places. As our relationship grows with God, so too does our light. Pray today for more knowledge, for more hope, for more joy, more peace, more love but most of all for a greater light!
2 days Until Christmas:
Isaiah 9: 6 For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Eve of Jesus’ birth. Most churches will light the candle of light – or the Jesus’ candle – and celebrate the songs that illumine the birth story. My favorite part of Christ’s birth story, is however, the names given to our Savior. Jesus is not simple Jesus; nor is he simple Christ; nor is he simply non as “son of Joseph.” In fact Jesus has so many names given to him that it is hard to list them all. That is because it is hard to put one name to Jesus for he is grandeur than a name; grandeur than a language. He truly is God with us – God walking amongst us and God in our presence. POWERFUL. With all the names attributed to Christ this also offers us a realization that there is not just one way to come to Christ or one right way to believe, for each of us our relationship with God is unique and special. What is your favorite title for Jesus? Think about that this day and try to understand why. How does your favorite name reflect your own relationship with the Divine?
Luke 2: 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord
To some lonely shepherds tending a field, doing their job, an angel proclaimed the news that not only changed their night but most probably their life. On Christmas Eve we celebrate this amazing news and what it means not only for us but the world. We know the end of the story, we know the true gift that came to us as baby Jesus. Let us celebrate that today. Celebrate the best present we can get on Christmas morning – not one found in the tree or wrapped all pretty – the infant Christ. For through this humble beginning God with us humbly walked amongst us to celebrate with us, to understand us and most of all to save us! It was not the most important, but ordinary people that shared in this humble birth. As ordinary people we can be called to witness extraordinary things.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
Advent Devotional Week 3
This week we celebrate in Joy the coming of the Lord. We are reminded of the joy in anticipation; the joy of the baby Mary was carrying; the joy of a messiah. We are also reminded of the joy in the Advent season. Although Advent can be filled with loneliness or we can get caught up in the yester-years; we are reminded each Advent of the joy still around us and the joy in our hearts. Let us embrace that joy this week for soon it will be Christmas morning!! This passages might seem mixed up or that maybe I just played Bible rootlet but I assure you that they are all out of the lectionary readings for each of the days. Granted, from the lectionary I did play a bit pick and choose, you maybe go on to any lectionary site and find them.
Prepare for the joy of a birth
We await, as Noah waited for the dove to return with signs of solid ground – in quiet excitement
God’s promise to us will be fulfilled
Our shepherd has lead us thus far
God’s glory will soon be known
Revel to us, O Lord, the joy you have instore
Good news of joy is here
We are prepared to be filled with joy and receive the promise
Day 15: Isaiah 35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom
‘Rejoice’ and ‘blossom’ are beautiful words of joy here. Not only will the people be glad but the whole of the land – all of creation will find joy in the Messiah. The parched land will be glad – the dessert will be restored to life. A metaphor to our lives and a reminder that no matter how desperate life can be there will be joy in lived life. We can feel the anticipation for the day to come when the lands will be glad. When all of creation will rejoice in the Messiah; when all the world will know Christ’s name. This universality of the birth of Christ rings true even today; when we need as society to know the compassion of God. When we as people’s need to believe in the Christ who offers so much more than people expect and brings a joy like no other. The world is dry of the Word; the world is in the wilderness walking aimlessly away from God and yet we celebrate this season the birth of Christ. This and every Advent/ Christmas season we bring the message of joy to all those who will hear – and so many will hear! At this time of year we rejoice and our faith blossoms anew. Share the joy that comes with your relationship Christ. Share the Good News!
Day 16: Isaiah 29: 23-24 When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction.”
When we see the works of God’s hands we will stand in awe. Those who are doubtful will know and others will trust. Powerful! Jesus reminds us that blessed are those who believe who have not seen and yet in this passage of Isaiah, we are told that those who see will acknowledge the holiness. So, do you have to see to believe? Do you have to see to know or to bend in awe of God? Children do not see Santa and yet they believe. They are able to believe in Santa, even when there are problems with the whole story-line: one guy can go around the whole earth in one night? Yet they believe. Perhaps it is pretend things such as Santa and the Easter bunny that ruin our faith in God, in the things we cannot see, touch and experience. Yet, we do experience God. Remember a time in your life you were sure God was present. Maybe it was through prayer or an action; perhaps it was a feeling or a brief moment you heard God’s voice. Reflect on those real times you might not have seen God but your other senses knew God was there. Think about the awe and wonder you had for the Holy in that moment. Reflect on the joy it brought to your heart; knowing and trusting that in that moment God was there. We might not have to see to know something exists but we do have to trust no matter what our senses are that the Holy is communicating. Many people saw Jesus, many people saw the miracles he performed and yet still not believe. Trust in the joy and wonder of the Divine.
Imagine there is this amazing present under the tree, beautifully wrapped and has your name on it. Now imagine you begin to unwrap that gift, slowly and with excitement you realize that there is another package within the one you just opened. And again, another package; in fact there are many layers before you get to the final package. Meaning while, your anticipation builds and you more so then when you started what to know what is in this package. You get to the very last box and you open it – joy fills your heart!
This is what a relationship with God is all about and what our Psalmist is saying in this passage. As we grow in our relationship with God it leaves us wanting more, looking for more. As we learn more and hear more; as we dive into our relationship with the Divine, we are left longing for more. Longing for a relationship with God that fills our hearts. The Good News is that we can achieve it!
Matthew 8 14-15 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. ×
References for Matthew 8:14
He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
Jesus heals again! There is such power and joy in the many miracle passages. Not only did Peter’s mother-in-law recover, she recovered enough to begin waiting on them! We have all been sick in bed and know what it feels like to recover; it is a pretty slow process. What a joyful moment when she was able to regain her strength and be healed. In her moment of joy, she served. She selflessly offered food to Jesus and all he needed. How do we spread the joy of the grace of God? How do we serve Jesus in our lives? Our we grateful? Spiteful? Joyful?
Galatians 3: So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Faith is pretty complicated and yet children have a way of making the complicated seem simple. They do not let the details get in the way of believing. This time of year we celebrate in the believing of Santa. We have an entire storyline that fills in gaps for those who are close to knowing the truth about Santa. Yet what seems complicated: like making it around the earth in one night or the thousands of fake Santa’s around at the holiday times it pretty simple to a kid. Even the latest “elf” craze has not ceased children from their beliefs.
Having faith and finding joy in that faith, is not just grown up stuff. In fact, when we set out in faith with only the grown up hat on we are told we miss out. Children allow themselves to feel joy, to know wonder, to trust and most of all to accept the complicated. Rejoice today in the Joy that comes with Christmas. The joy that comes not with Santa but with Christ. The joy that begins with an infant baby and ends with a Kingdom for all.
Galatian 4: 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
You are no longer a slave! Words of joy if I ever heard them. What are we no longer a slave too? Well simple: sin. Through the birth of Christ, Christ life and the death of Christ for those who trust, who believe, our sins are forgiven. Yup, we are no longer slave to our sins but instead we are free do love, free to feel joy, free to serve Jesus, free to offer forgiveness and free to live in the Kingdom. What joy! Through the proclamation of Christ in your life you are now a child of God. This is truly an amazing gift and yet it can be hard to accept. Many allow the pain, guilt, fear, anger and sadness to run their lives. Those who cannot accept fully the forgiveness offered through Christ; do not live free but instead as a slave not only to emotions but to the actions behind those emotions. (I am not talking about people who suffer with real mental illness here; I am talking about people who cannot amend past mistakes). We are called to live free. We are called to not only forgive others but more importantly forgive ourselves and allow God’s love to be in our hearts.
Sometimes we meet someone and we just know they are special. Their light shines bright. We are called as followers of Christ to allow God’s light to shine through us and around us. We are called to do this. Moses comes down from the mountain and his face is bright. In this Psalm passage we are reminded of the light of God shining in our lives. That this Psalmist wants God’s light to shine and to feel God’s warmth in the author’s life. That is what we all want. To feel special not only in this world by those we love but also by God. And we are! God loves each one of us, not even allowing one of us to go astray! With the Holiday spirit around us, it is pretty easy to feel God’s love shining. Try to be the light of God for someone else this holiday. Shine bring the light inside you so that your light may shine on someone else, teaching them about the true Salvation of this season, baby Jesus!Day 21: Pslam 80 19 Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved
Sometimes we meet someone and we just know they are special. Their light shines bright. We are called as followers of Christ to allow God’s light to shine through us and around us. We are called to do this. Moses comes down from the mountain and his face is bright. In this Psalm passage we are reminded of the light of God shining in our lives. That this Psalmist wants God’s light to shine and to feel God’s warmth in the author’s life. That is what we all want. To feel special not only in this world by those we love but also by God. And we are! God loves each one of us, not even allowing one of us to go astray! With the Holiday spirit around us, it is pretty easy to feel God’s love shining. Try to be the light of God for someone else this holiday. Shine bring the light inside you so that your light may shine on someone else, teaching them about the true Salvation of this season, baby Jesus!
Sunday, December 4, 2016
Every year in church we light an Advent wreath to “count down” the weeks until Christmas. There are two common ways to celebrate each candle: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Light. We are reminded when we light them of what the Baby Jesus brought into the world, into our relationship with the Divine. Here are the words for this second week, Peace:
Prepare for Jesus comes to save
In Jesus we are all children of God
As Jesus cured the sick, so too will we be offered healing
Our souls long for Christ’s salvation
God’s glory will soon be known
Reveal to us, O Lord, Christ and set us free
Good News of peace waitsWe are prepared for the wonders of peace
Matthew 3: 8: Bear fruit worthy of repentance
Today we mark Peace in our Advent journey (hope, peace, joy, love, light) and what better way to begin that discussion then in Matthew 3, before this statement by John the Baptist, John is calling the Pharisees and Sadducees out with some harsh words. And he gives this warning: Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Throughout our Gospels we hear about bearing fruit – we are called to bear good fruit. To bear good fruit we must live with intent. We don’t have to be perfect, God isn’t asking that. John doesn’t warn: bear good fruit always and never have a bad grape! No, John says bear fruit worthy of repentance. According to Strong “repentance” here means “a change of mind of something one has done.” Bear fruit worthy of repentance. We are being called out by John here to not only live our life with intent and responsibility but live it showing to others that when we do make mistakes we learn from them and change. We do this by making amends and righting our wrongs. Let us remember that we are called not just to change in our hearts but for all to see. To let our relationship with the Divine change us. Think Mr. Scrooge.
Day 9 Psalm 21: 13 Be exalted in your strength, LORD; we will sing and praise your might.
Indeed we are called to sing God praise. We are asked to worship God. God has indeed asked this of us. In this passage, the psalmist is asking God for something “be exalted in your strength;” another way to say it would be “rise up in might.” They are in the psalm encouraging God to deliver a King and thus they will offer sing and praises. Here it is a give and take: I will worship you if you show your worthiness to the world. What an interesting thought. The psalms are full of interesting thoughts. But haven’t we all been there? Oh God please do this…and I will forever do that… A common bargain tool we use. Yet our relationship with God isn’t a bargain or a give or take. Our relationship with God is meant to be a foundation, one in which we are held accountable, not in which God is held accountable. But that is why we love the psalms, the go places that only humans can go; they show us the vastness of human emotion and selfishness. Today let us praise God’s might for all that God has already done in our lives – asked and not asked. Let us look at our relationships with humans and see if there is someone who we have treated this way – only cared for them when they did for us or perhaps we feel they only care for us when we do for them – let us pray differently today for that person and that relationship. Let us take a moment to pray to God that more come from that.
Romans 15: 17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God (NIV)
In another translation this reads: I have reason to boast for my work for God (NRSV). This is not simply Paul giving himself credit for all the good he is doing but instead he is giving credit to God. Not taking credit ourselves is hard but remember to give credit to God is harder. One church I knew spent a good portion of their time working hard out in the community but they didn’t tell anyone who they were with or where they were from. Once they started wearing a logo shirt with the churches name on it, people started talking. Why were they not glorifying God in all that they did? Think about it, most people are simply good people; that doesn’t make you a Christian. What makes you a Christian is that when you do these works, you do them in the glory of Christ Jesus.
Matthew 12: 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
Yup we are back on fruit. For a tree is recognized by its fruit. If you were walking down the street and found two apples on the ground and looked up and saw three apple trees you would compare the fruits still on the other trees to find the tree the apples came from. What type of fruit we produce matters in the world; if we are doing good or bad people can tell. Yes we are called not to judge one another; but we are reminded throughout the Bible that God will judge. Focus on doing good in the world and spreading that good in all you do and you will bear good fruit. God isn’t asking each of us to change the world or do something grand; God is simply asking you to be the good in your own world, your own community, the people no matter how many that you greet every day.
Psalm 146: Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. ×
References for Psalms 146:5
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. ×
References for Psalms 146:6
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free
What words of comfort for us. Blessed are we who seek the Lord. Blessed are we who ask for help from our God. For God sets us free! Our hope is in our Sustainer. WOW. This is the season we seek comfort: through food and clothes; through family and familiarity; and yet this is also the time of year in which comfort escapes us. That is because comfort is not found in the earthly; but in the Godly. We are offered assurance in our faith that no matter what around us changes, God’s love remains the same and constant. We find God because God is the familiar, God remains faithful forever. This Advent, as you prepare for the birth of Christ for this familiar holiday in which family traditions remain strong think on your familiarity with God. What ways do you see and feel God’s comfort around you? What are your traditions in meeting God?
Day 13: Psalm 146 8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. ×
References for Psalms 146:8
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked
Another passage of comfort; but as we reflect on peace this day I would like to point out the theological impact of this passage. The Lord loves the righteous is one line pretty much no one would debate. In this passage we hear this idea that despite human inadequacy we should trust God. That all are welcome to trust God, even those outside the “norms” of society. People who were blind or widow were in Biblical times seen as outsiders. They often were left to beg on the streets or at outside the city gates. Yet, in this passage they are lifted up and invited to trust in God. Further it states the Lord will sustain those who are “less than” in society even the foreigners! Such a big statement for a Hebrew; and for us! Here we are at a point in our nation that we are questioning the “values” of our country and pointing fingers at those we deem as “others.” We are defining people as “outside the norms” or “outside our society.” We are often doing this with undertones of Christianity. Yet, that is not what our Bible asks us to do. Instead countless times, OK 5 times in the Psalms alone, we hear the words “justice for the oppressed/ food for the hungry.” God is calling us to doing better by others, God isn’t asking us to judge them but instead trust our Lord and allow all those who trust to have a relationship. All are worthy of a relationship with the Divine.
Day 14: Luke 3: 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
This is the season of giving. As we approach Christmas we see advertisements to give all around us. There are trees with names of Children in need; there are Salvation Army pots with ringers encouraging everyone to drop a few cents; there are churches pushes stewardship and of course there are stores asking you to “add a dollar” or “round up your bill” to give to whatever charity they are working with. Although many of this might seem like ways to exploit you and the Scrooge in you may want to take hold, we are reminded in this passage why we give. As Christians we are called to give, although not just once a year. We are called to be aware of the people around us who may not have and do for them. We are called to care for one another. Although a relationship with God is personal. Many passages in our NT call us into community with our Christians to care for each other. This season we are reminded of those communities we belong to and are encouraged to care.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Use this this week to celebrate Advent and the upcoming Birth of Christ. Below is a devotional and at the beginning is the Advent Candle lighting words for this week.
Prepare to glorify the Lord
Blessed are those whose hope is in the Lord’s
John the Baptist said “anyone who has 2 shirts should share with one who has one.”
In generosity we glorify God’s name
God’s glory will soon be known
Reveal to us, O Lord, the world that knows you
Good news of Hope waits
We are prepared for all to feel God’s hope
Joshua 24: 15. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.
With the secularism of the Christmas season into a “holiday” season let us pledge ourselves to the service of the Lord. Let us step back from the secular and find the sacred of these moments and the Christmas season. Let us devote ourselves to the Christ child that is to be born. I recently read on Facebook that there are 29 Holidays celebrated during the “Christmas season” and that is why we say “happy holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.” That might be fine and I always advocate for respecting others but as we await Christ’s birth we are asked to make space for Christ in our life. We are meant to examine the space we leave in our lives for God and more importantly for the love that God has for us through the gift of Christ and our salvation. Soon, our Savior is born. Soon we will be reminded of the God that humbly walked amongst us. Soon, we celebrate this joyous moment when God’s love for the world came to life. Being a Christian is not always easy. Setting ourselves outside the secular world and acknowledge our Lord and Savior are an important part of our Salvation. We are called to not just live ordinary lives but as followers of Christ wherever that leads. Let us this Advent season be reminded that, as Joshua did in our passage above, we must declare who are Lord is. We must not get lost in the secular world to the point that the birth of Christ is nothing more than a holiday we celebrate. For this is a gift beyond our imagine, beyond our understandings. This is the greatest gift of our Creator’s love - the Christ child!
First Sunday in Advent:
Isaiah 2: 5 Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord
Where do you draw the line between the Holy and the secular? What does it mean to walk in the light of the Lord?? Today open yourself up to the light around you, God’s light. Let God’s light shine in places you usually keep dark; perhaps work, school, a restaurant, your car - find God in someplace new and let the light of God shine. Walk in the light of God means to allow God’s light to shine all around you, in you and through you. It means that God is a part of all that you do. Open yourself up to let this happen.
Day 2: Genesis 8:10-11
Genesis 8:10-11 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.
What a relief that olive branch was. It didn’t mean it was over, it would still be several months before they got out of that ark; but the end was in sight. Relief was on its way, it was coming. God sends us olive leaves throughout our life; signs that all will be well. Jesus is just that, humbly arriving as a baby. Jesus is a sign and reminder that often we must wait for great things but that they do come - in their own way and in their own time. That great things come to those who wait. This advent we wait once more, for the birth of our savior. What is it in your life that you await relief from? Has God already sent you a olive leaf? Then rejoice.
Day 3: Genesis 9: 13
Genesis 9: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
The best part about a rainbow is that it has perfect timing. Rainbows only show up when the right amount of rain and sun are together; too much sunlight and it gone or too much rain clouds and no rainbow. They are sign of hope after the rain. This holiday, recall a moment that a rainbow, a sign of hope, appeared. Perhaps a time when you knew all would be well thanks to a sign from God. Christmas season is a time for us to not only celebrate the hope that comes through our faith but to share that hope with others. It is a time for us to spread the love of God and to reminded everyone of the hope that comes with Christ’s birth. Think about how you can bring a rainbow moment to someone else this season. It doesn’t have to be expensive or big, sometimes hope comes in the smallest packages.
Day 4: Isaiah 54: 10
Isaiah 54:10 10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
There are moments when we think “why God why?” Especially as we enter Advent which is in December we are reminded of tragic national events like D-day or Sandy Creek. We are also reminded of our own personal lost that has happened throughout our lifetime during this season of hope. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen in joyus moments and at happy times. Bad things happen. Too often when bad things we question God. Too often when bad things happen our faith wavers. Yet it is when bad things happen we must turn to God. It is in turning to our faith that compassion is found. The answers aren’t always there. The bad things have still happened. Yet compassion and love can be felt. God’s hope can be a light in the darkness and a reminder that our mountains can be shaken but not God’s love for us. This season of wait we are reminded that although we might wait for knowledge and answers for things we just don’t understand we can accept God’s compassion and love for us. For God so loved the world that our God sent Jesus to humbly walk among us.
Day 5: Isaiah 4: 5-6
Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glorya will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain
God is our refuge. What a wonderful thought. That God will create a hiding place for us and offer us protection. Yet, we often take it upon ourselves to do everything for us don’t we? We worry about money; we worry about all the things in life that create instability and yet we are called throughout our Bible to trust in God’s protection. As we anticipate this Advent, we are reminded that God’s gift didn’t come as everyone expected the Messiah to but the reward was even better than anyone imagined. We might not know what is going to happen when we trust God and things might not turn out as we planned but we are promised that for those who trust, refuge can be found. This Advent season, trust and through that trust open yourself up to the miracles that await.
Day 6: Isaiah 30: 26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the LORD binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
The Light of God is all around us. The light of Christ shines in and through our lives every day. During Advent and the time leading up to Christmas there are movies, musicals, newspaper articles, personal stories all around us of different “Christmas miracles.” Of God’s light shining in the world. But Christmas is not the only time Jesus appears. But during Christmas it feels 7x brighter for everyone - every day Christians to not-so-much believers - is in the Spirit. Let us this holiday help that light shine brighter. Give a little more. Find the hope that lives within your life and share your story of hope with someone. Allow the light of this holiday to fill you up, don’t be a Scrooge.
Day 7: Isaiah 40: 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
God is our shepherd. During the Advent season of hope there can be darkness. We remember the holidays of “old.” We remember the “good old days” and all the people who are no longer here to celebrate. Our families have changed, children have aged and nothing is like how it used to be. Except God. God has always been our Shepherd. From the Old to the New Testaments, God is our Shepherd. God keeps us, tends to us and in this passage we hear God carries us close to the Holy’s heart. How powerful to know that. Nothing in our life is the same year to year and even day to day; one happening can change that all. But God doesn’t change. Our relationship with God is always here. Think about the stability that provides you and the comfort in knowing that you are in the Holy’s heart!