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The Journey

Updated: 2017-12-14T08:00:07.249-06:00


Dec. 14...they told everyone


“After the shepherds had seen Jesus, they told everyone around what the angel had said. All who heard were amazed. The shepherds returned to their sheep, praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:17-18

Heavenly Father, 
After the shepherds found the baby, they told everyone about what they had seen. They didn’t keep it a secret or just ignore it, they told everyone.

 When I see the baby and hear the angels do I spread the “good news”? Jesus isn’t meant to be a secret. He came for all. He wants to save everyone. He wants us all to believe in him. The shepherds also returned to their work, “praising God for all they had heard and seen.” 

Finding Jesus and hearing the good news of the Savior of all mankind, should lead us to praise and worship. As we leave the Christmas season and get back to our ordinary lives, the sights and sounds should remain in our hearts and minds and bring us into your presence with thanksgiving and praise.

“Glory to God in the highest!” 
“Joy to the world the Lord is come!” .....unto us a child is given, unto us a Savior born. 
He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, 
Almighty God, 
Everlasting Father,
 Prince of Peace!

Dec. 13....Let's go to Bethlehem and see


(image) “When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager.” Luke 2:15-16
 Heavenly Father,
 The shepherds reacted as we all should......they rushed off immediately to find the baby the angels told them about. They didn’t say.....”Let’s wait until morning” or “Were those really angels?” or even just stand around discussing it. They believed and then they acted. 
We too, must believe and act. The baby is there waiting, we’ve been told the good news, now it’s up to us. If we believe the story than we need to rush to the manager to see the Christ child. We must seek him and see him for ourselves. 
I’m sitting here in my living room surrounded by nativity sets.....all very different yet all with the same elements....and at the center of each is the Christ Child lying in the manager with everyone clustered around. Jesus is never off to the side or in the back.....he’s always “front and center” of the grouping, the center of attraction. That’s where he belongs for all of us....right in the center of all we do.
 The shepherds were busy men doing their job, but they dropped everything to find the Savior. We must make sure that we aren’t too busy to stop and find the Savior, too. It’s the most important thing we’ll ever do. Lord, let my heart seek you always and always be willing to drop whatever I’m doing when the angles bring me the "good news". I do believe and I wish to seek him with all my heart. You promise us in scripture that if we do this....we will find you. amen

Dec. 12....a heavenly choir


(image) Suddenly a great assembly of angels from heaven appeared with the first angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to men with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:13
Heavenly Father, 
The shepherds were already frightened and amazed by just one angel shining with your glory, they must have trembled and hid when the whole night sky lit up with a multitude of angels! What a glorious sight and sound it must have been to see and hear the angels sing, just as they sing to you in heaven..... ”Glory to the highest heaven......and on earth peace to men with whom God is pleased.” 
Was the sound nearly unbearable for human ears? Was it sweet and perfect and harmonized? Was there music of harps and lyres? To hear an angel choir must be amazing! I guess in a way this was like a proud father passing out cigars......”This is my Son! Come see him!” Glory to God indeed! The greatest event in creation has just begun. The only Son of God is born! There can’t be enough angels to sing “glory” for that event! amen

Dec 11....this will be a sign to you


(image) “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
Heavenly Father,
 “This will be a sign to you.....” The angels gave the shepherds all the details they would need to verify their message. They weren’t looking for just any baby.....this baby would be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The shepherds probably understood the clues in the message better than us.......Where would a baby be if it was in a manger? a stable, or cave that the animals used. Why is the baby in a manger? Why not the inn? Big crowd in town for the census. Check the stables in town, especially the one at the inn. 
This baby will stand out....the only one just born lying in a stable. From birth to death Jesus was “different”, special, extraordinary. The details of his life at birth and death are remembered because they were dramatic. The early part of his life is almost totally unknown because it wasn’t important. Drama for the important events, silence for the rest.
The shepherds understood the signs because the angel made it plain to them and at the same time dramatic. When you want my attention for important things, you use the same method.....I don’t hear angels, but you make it dramatic and memorable if I’m paying attention. Just like the shepherds I need to be awake and watching if I want you to speak to me. May the events of this Advent season stand out and get my attention for the details that I need to know. Point me to the Christ Child and give me a sign. Amen

Dec. 10....I bring you good news


“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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

 Heavenly Father, 
Out of your shining glory, the angel speaks the words....” I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” The “gospel” , the good news.......and it is only the beginning of the story. 

The truth is all there, even at this starting point.....”a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord.” Later we will know more details....this is a Savior who loves all of us enough to die for us. This is a Savior who will forgive our sins. This is a Savior who will wash us clean and make us new in your sight. This is a Savior who will reconcile us, justify us, sanctify us, redeem us, make us righteous, bear our burdens, lead us to you, send a counselor to remain with us and in us,.......the list goes on and on.

 But on that night the “good news” is just that the promised Messiah is here at last! The Lord of lords, King of kings, Prince of Peace. God incarnate! God come down among us to be our Savior. The shepherds, who lived under Roman rule didn’t need to know any more than that. The Savior had come at last! Hallelujah!

 Their idea of a Savior and what Jesus really came to do, may not have been exactly the same, but they understood the “good news” that the angel brought. Today we still may not always understand every detail and the “whys and wherefores”, but we too can understand this much....Jesus came to earth that night, Jesus is our Savior, and Jesus is Christ the Lord!..........Good News indeed. Hallelujah! amen

Dec. 9....and there were shepherds


"Shepherds living out in the fields nearby were keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:8-9  Heavenly Father,  The shepherds were minding their own business caring for the sheep on a peaceful night out in the fields. Suddenly they are blinded by your glory!.....”the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Whenever your great glory suddenly shines into our lives, we hide our faces in terror. Scripture always describes your glory, your presence, as a great light. It must be like suddenly starring into the sun!  Why shepherds? Because they symbolize what Jesus would be.....the Good Shepherd? Or do they symbolize that Jesus came for all men, no matter who they are?   Or were they just handy?   Simple men living out simple everyday lives.....suddenly scared out of their wits by blinding light and angel voices!  It certainly must have made a lasting impact on them.....a story they would tell for the rest of their lives. Ahhhh! That helps explain things.....Jesus is the story we should all tell for the rest of our lives, so what better way to first announce his birth. Being terrified certainly is a good way to insure remembrance.  A little baby in a manager would attract little attention on his own. Now that you have the shepherds full attention, the story can begin to unfold for the salvation of mankind. Please, Heavenly Father, blind me with your glory and get my attention that I might also hear the Good News and tell others. Shine into the lives of all mankind this Christmas and touch hearts anew and bring us peace. “Shine, Jesus, Shine!” ******* WATCHING  Shepherds waiting on the hillside,  resting and watching the sheep in their care,  Never dreaming that they would be chosen  to first hear the message the angels would share.  Not kings and princes, not scribes or rich men,  just simple poor men alone in the night,  Chosen to hear the Good News sent to all men---  the Babe has been born to bring all men Light!  We too, are chosen to hear of the Savior.  No matter who or where we are.  God's message is there to be spread to the nations---  We too are chosen to follow His star.  God incarnate born in a manger,  God's great Word, lies in the stall!  Wait! and listen-----the angels are speaking----  "Peace on earth", good news for all! (Mary Freeman 12-1997) [...]

Dec. room in the inn


“She wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7 Heavenly Father,  We always assign the line “there was no room for them in the inn” to the innkeeper and sort of make him seem a heartless figure who turns the weary travelers away despite Mary’s pregnancy. But the innkeeper was apparently kind enough to let them stay in his safe warm stable.  And the “no room” part is a terrific metaphor for us today to remind us that we too have trouble making room for Jesus is our hearts. We tuck him away in a small back corner and don’t allow him the freedom of our whole heart. Jesus was born and thrived and even greeted visitors from that unimportant stable....that “back room”, out-of-the-way place in Bethlehem, so he can make himself at home in whatever part of our hearts we give him, too.....if we just let him in.  Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful gift and make my heart big enough and safe enough to nurture you as you grow inside me. amen MAKE MY HEART A MANGER Make my heart a manger  As I wait for the Christ Child’s birth....  A place to hold the baby  when he comes to live on earth.  He’ll need a warm place to sleep,  A place where this new life can start,  A welcoming place to enfold him....  So prepare a place in my heart.  When the Child is safe inside me  I must nurture him and let him grow.  His presence will change my life  In ways that I can’t yet know.  He won’t remain a small baby.  No, the Child must become the man.  So my heart can’t stay the same  It must be willing to expand.  The manger is just a beginning  It doesn’t end with the birth.  I must be ready to follow him  Through his journey here on earth.  I must let him be such a part of me  That when he dies on the cross  I’ll be willing to die beside him  And never count the cost.  When he dies to bring me salvation  My heart will be crucified, too.  The old sinful me will be gone  And at last I’ll be born anew.  It’s a long way from birth to death  And from death to a brand new start,  So let me begin today, LORD... Make a manger out of my heart. (Mary Freeman 12-2000) [...]

Dec. 7....the baby is born


“While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, the time came for the baby to be born, and Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” Luke 2:6

Heavenly Father, 
The Sunday that I wrote this, our minister preached on “joy”. In our Advent Book we read of the baby being born in the stable.....Mary and Joseph’s firstborn, a son. There is usually joy when a baby is born. Smiles and hugs and excitement all around! Picking a name, counting little fingers and toes, intently staring at this tiny little miniature human. 

Even in a stable, in the hay, with the animals, the excitement for Mary and Joseph of seeing their newborn son would have brought them great joy. I doubt that they even complained about the accommodations, but were thankful to have somewhere safe and warm and to have their perfect baby that God had promised. How often do we dampen our joy by looking at the flaws....the stable, no doctor, the inconvenience, the dirt and animals.....rather then seeking out the joy?

 Everything about Jesus should lead us to joy. He came to save us! He came to love us! He came to forgive us! He came to give us Light and Bread and Life! Jesus is joy! The joy of loving, sharing, serving, kindness, caring, sacrifice. Jesus is the joy of the Father God, incarnate and among us.

“Joy to the World The Lord is come! Let Earth receive Her King!” 

Dec. 6....heading to Bethlehem


“At that time, a decree said everyone had to go to his family’s town to register. Joseph was from the family of David, so he and Mary went to Bethlehem, which was David’s home.” Luke 2:1

Heavenly Father, 
The Journey to Bethlehem begins. How awful for a woman 9 months pregnant to have to travel away from home....and on a donkey, no less! Why did you plan it that way? Of course, this journey was probably a lot more normal for Mary and Joseph then it seems to us. This was travel they were used to. They were obeying the law. This whole census thing not only actually can be tied to recorded history, but it accents the fact that Joseph was a descendant of David and fulfills the promise of the Savior being David’s kinsman and coming from Bethlehem.

 What seems a puzzle to us, falls in place when seen in hindsight. The most memorable, remarkable parts of the “Christmas Story” are remembered precisely because they seem odd and extraordinary. The story has elements that every child and grown-up who hears it will remember precisely because they have such drama. 

No matter how many times you hear the story or sing the songs or see the nativity scene it seems wonderful and perfect. You truly are a wondrous God and really know how to build excitement and wonder and love into a story that is 2000 years old and seems new and perfect every year. Thank you! amen

Dec. 5....Joseph, just an ordinary man?


“Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph. But before they came together, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel told him that Mary was to have a baby from God. Joseph was to name the baby Jesus because he would save his people from their sins. He would also be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Matthew 1:20-21

 Heavenly Father, 
Tonight is Joseph’s entry into the story. I’ve been listening to my Michael Crawford Christmas CD so much that I immediately think of the song that has the line, “Why me? I’m just a simple man of trade....”. 

An ordinary that what Joseph felt? Bewilderment at being chosen as the earthly father who would raise the Christ Child? Was he overwhelmed to suddenly find his betrothed wife pregnant, and angels invading his dreams? Did he worry about what others would think about all this? We are only told that he was a “good man” who didn’t want to cause Mary any trouble. He must have loved her. Before the angel even told him whose child she bore and who the child would be, he cared enough to not want to disgrace her. 

Obviously, Joseph was not an “ordinary man”......he was extraordinary enough for God to choose him for this difficult job. He was kind, wise, obedient, and loving. He never balked at the angel’s directions, but did as God instructed him. Yes, a very extraordinary man of God! 

Though Jesus is God he is also a human, a man. Joseph would be the one to raise him and teach him about being a man. His job was just as important as Mary’s.....perhaps more so because a boy learns to be like his father. Jesus had the best of both worlds....a perfect heavenly Father and a perfect human father. 

Thank you Lord, for Joseph and his part in raising baby Jesus and keeping him safe until he was grown to fulfill his mission on earth. Jesus is part Joseph as well as part Mary. amen

Dec. 4...Elizabeth filled with the Spirit....


“Mary hurried to visit her relative Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, the baby inside Elizabeth jumped for joy. Elizabeth told Mary that she was blessed because she believed that what the Lord, said to her would really happen.” Luke 1:39, 41, 45  Heavenly Father,  What little we know of Elizabeth is interesting. The scriptures tell us that she and Zacharias were “truly religious and blameless”. Elizabeth praised the Lord because he took away her barrenness and blessed her with a child. but the fact that stands out to me is her reaction to Mary’s visit and greeting. Mary has just been told she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but at this point the baby is barely more than a “thought and a promise”, yet when she enters Elizabeth’s home and greets her, Elizabeth is “filled with the Holy Spirit and her own child kicks for the first time. Elizabeth, praises God, praises Mary and seems to know immediately why Mary is there and what has happened to her.  The Holy Spirit flows through all of this......He impregnates Mary, fills Elizabeth, and also her child. Two blessed women, two blessed children! Every year we anxiously await the Christ Child’s birth, but think how much more eagerly these two women must have waited! Elizabeth who thought she would never have a child, but who now awaits a special child, a great prophet like Elijah, “filled with the Holy Spirit from birth”. And now her cousin Mary expects THE baby, the Messiah, the Christ who Jews have awaited for 100’s of years.......and he is conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit to a virgin!  Wow! How those months must have flown by and the excitement built up! Mary and Elizabeth must have been great comfort to each other.....and reassurance that “yes, this is really happening!” Elizabeth shows no sign of jealously that Mary’s child will be the greater.....only joy that Mary has been blessed in this way. These two women are right at the heart of the gospel and the first to receive the Holy Spirit within.  Each one of us needs to feel their excitement and wonder and be filled with their thanks and praise to God, Most High. All women are blessed through the experience of these two women. As a mother I know the joy of giving birth and raising children. I can share that bond in my mind and imagine what they are going through as they wait. All mothers understand waiting.  Fill me with wonder and praise this Christmas season as I think about these women and wait with them for the Christ child’s birth. Bless all women who wait on you, Lord, and fill us with Your Holy Spirit. amen [...]

Dec. 3....I am the Lord's servant...


“The angel also said, “The holy one to be born to you will be God’s Son. Even your cousin Elizabeth is going to have a child in her old age. Nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant, “ Mary answered. “May everything you have said come true.” Then the angel left her” Lk.1:36-38 Heavenly  Father, Tonight the door opens on astonishment and obedience. Mary must have been amazed that the angel said her son would be God’s Son, not Joseph’s!......and that her aged cousin Elizabeth who was barren, was also pregnant! Impossible things for mankind, possible for You, the Almighty God! With all this wonder and such amazing things, Mary declared herself your servant and gave her obedience to your will for these things to be done. All you ever really ask of us, is obedience. You don’t expect us to do great things for you or to do the impossible, but just to allow You to use us to work through. You have the power! You can do the impossible! We need only have the faith to allow You to do it through us when necessary. We need to be open and ready, like Mary, to say, “I am Your servant, do as You will.” We need to be ready to imagine the impossible and in faith expect You to be able to do it.  Fill me with Mary’s faith and willingness to be used by you. Show me that with You, all things are possible. Keep my heart and mind open and ready to serve. Give me trust, hope, and wonder as I seek to know Your will and to expect the “unexpected”. No human would dream of sending salvation in the form of a helpless baby, but You did, and we still feel the wonder and excitement every year as we celebrate that bit of the “unexpected” and impossible. “I am Your servant, may everything You've said come true.” Amen A Servant's Heart Mary was blessed with a servant's heart Trusting, O Lord, in your perfect will. Chosen to bear the Light of the World, She acquiesced, obedient and still. How fitting it is for a servant's heart To have nurtured the One, to be Servant for all! Mary's obedience set the example As her son came to manhood, straight and tall. For Jesus needed a servant's heart To die for the sins of all the world. With a servant's heart, obeying his Father.... The Suffering Servant, salvation unfurled. (Mary Freeman 10-18-07) [...]

Dec 2...You will give birth to a son....


“You will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be 
called the Son of the Most High and will reign forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31 

  Heavenly Father,
Tonight we opened the second door, and the angel’s message to Mary continues: “You will give birth to a son, and will name him Jesus. He will be called Son of the Most High and will reign forever, his kingdom will never end.” I’m sure Mary was proud to know her son would be Jesus....Savior....and that he would reign. I don’t see how the full meaning of this could have been understood by her at this time. What could she possibly have made of the statement: “He will be called Son of the Most High, or that he would reign forever? We don’t measure earthly time in “forever's”. Something that never ends is beyond our human perceptions. I’m sure like most of us she just sort of ignored the parts she didn’t understand and accepted what she could understand......”you will have a son”.

 Faith sometimes has to be accepted like that, a little bit at a time. Start simple and wait for God to show you more. My sister, Dorothy said something to me in an e-mail message along the lines of : “faith can change reality.” Mary’s reality was obeying God, having a son, naming him Jesus. Faith made possible the rest.....he would be God’s son, reigning forever.

 If Mary hadn't believed, hadn't accepted the role God gave her to play, would things have been the same? Would Christ have come at that point and time? Would the Savior have been born and saved the world? God works through us and in us, and our faith works with his will. God’s perfect will, our obedience. Mary obeyed and God’s will was accomplished.

 Let me be more obedient to Your will this advent season. Let me await eagerly my chance to join faith and obedience to Your holy will and watch and see what happens. Thanks and praise forevermore, amen.

Dec. 1: The journey begins...the angel speaks to Mary...


“God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, in the village of Nazareth. The angel said, “Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you.” Luke 1:28   Heavenly Father, We opened the Advent book tonight and I opened the first door. How exciting! The story begins to unfold. Appropriately, for me, it begins with Mary, since I share her name. The angel tells Mary that you have blessed her and are with her. How great that must have been and how much it must have meant to her. Earlier in the evening I was listening to the hauntingly lovely song, “Mary Did You Know?” The words touch my heart every time I hear them. Did she truly know and understand, Lord? When the angel told her she had been blessed and found favor with God, and would bear your son, what multitude of thoughts must have rushed through her mind and heart! Wonder? Awe? Fear? Confusion? How could this be? What did it really mean ? The words of the song ask many questions of hindsight....”Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?”.....”did you know he would save our sons and daughters?”. Mary must have trembled with fear as well as wonder, if she had any inkling of what was to come. She probably didn’t understand at that point of beginning that her son would not rule on earth, but instead die a cruel death, but rise again to rule on high. The most reassuring words the angel spoke to her were, “The Lord is with you”. She need not be afraid because God was with her at that moment and would be with her through every moment to come, every step of the way.  One of my favorite lines in the song is: “Mary did you know....when you kissed your little baby that you kissed the face of God?” We all long to see the face of God, to kiss it, to know a relationship so close to God and so intimate! Did Mary know she held you in her arms? Did she feel the power of God in her tiny baby? Her mother’s love was a holy love encompassing a holy child. Maybe that is what all love is. Every time we kiss our babies or any human being we, “kiss the face of God”. That is part of what you came to teach us......”Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Love is what the baby was all about. Embracing others with the love a mother feels for her baby is a perfect image of God’s love for us that we are to show to others. Love, came to earth. Love was born on Christmas morn. It all begins with Mary and her willingness to accept God’s will in her life. Her reward? She was blessed with a tiny baby, who was......”the great I AM!” We too can be blessed with your greatness, Lord, when we open our hearts to your love and let the baby, Jesus come inside and change our lives forever. Help me to open my heart to you and allow you to grow there and shine forth to others. “Come, O come, Immanuel....God with us, God within us.....”O Holy Night! amen [...]

Advent is about to begin....


ADVENT  Await my soul in glad anticipation-- the Savior is coming! Be still my heart! Dance and sing in wild jubilation!  The King is coming, His grace to impart. Veiled in wonder, God incarnate,  Mystery to ponder, wisdom and love. Echo the angels, sing Hallelujah!  Peace on earth, sent from above! Night of darkness banished forever,  Son of God, Love's pure Light! Tell the nations, spread the glad tidings.  Joy came down to earth that night! I wrote this poem 10+ years ago, but always think of it when Advent begins. Advent is the time of waiting. A time to anticipate the birth of Jesus Christ.  I discovered a wonderful book several years ago, called simply "The Advent Book" by Jack and Kathy Stockman. This book was their family's way to 'journey to Bethlehem'. For each day in December there is a door to be opened and part of the story from scripture told for that day.  I thought it was not only a beautiful book to look at, but a wonderful way to pass the time waiting for the Christ Child. So that year I sat down and each night as I opened the doors, I wrote my own meditations for the scriptures, as a way to travel towards Bethlehem and Jesus. It was a meaningful time for me, and last year I shared these writings with a few friends and relatives.  This year, I thought I would put them in a Blog and add some suitable pictures (since you can't see the doors as I open them) and let whoever wants to read my insights, to do so. This is my journey, my waiting time. It may be different for you. Each one of us has to make the journey on our own, reading the scriptures, and seeing what God says to us in them. I hope you will make your own journey and not just rely on mine.  I will start the story when "The Advent Book" starts, on December 1st and continue through until the end. I always write my meditations in the form of prayers, so keep in mind that I'm addressing God throughout. These are my thoughts and insights and you might not agree with all of them. Any poetry is mine and not to be copied or used elsewhere without my permission. [...]

When Jesus asks questions.....


(Quotations from the book "for this day" by J.B. Phillips.) My reading in the Phillips devotional today is about Jesus' habit of asking questions of his hearers rather then always giving a statement in answer.  Two examples to think about that Phillips suggests: 1. "Why are ye so afraid? (Mark 4:40) Phillips: "To answer that question properly takes us to the very root of our being, to the fundamental relationship between ourselves and God." We all have fears and anxieties.  Jesus knew that and addresses it on several occasions.  What does it say about our relationship with God when we are fearful?  What does it say about our "image" or knowledge of God?  If we believe he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and much more, than why is our faith and trust so weak? We want to see "signs and wonders" to reassure us, but those things never left a real lasting impression or strengthening of faith on many who did see them first hand.  Humans are weak and our faith is often weak as well.  We are up one minute and down the next.  We let our daily circumstances determine our faith rather then the character of God. We forget about the miracles we have seen and forget about God's faithfulness each day.  Our fears are man-made and spurred on by Satan.  We give into them rather then seek God's face and run to his presence.  We let an uncertain future dictate our present and forget the mercies we have received in the past. God is good!  God is faithful!  God is love!  We must examine each of our fears in his presence and allow him to remove them from us.  But letting go of them is our part.  He won't "pry our hands loose" if we insist on hanging on to them. 2. Phillips:  "On another occasion Jesus said to his enemies, "Why are you trying to kill me? (John 7:19) This one cuts to everyone's heart.  We each must examine our own heart motives in relationship to Jesus Christ.  We think that we would never desire to "kill" Jesus, but in some ways we all do.  Like Peter's denial and Judas' betrayal, We don't know what lurks in our hearts.  But God does.  We must confess all of our murderous motives, all of our rejections, all of our deep-seated sin.  We must examine our hearts honestly, and this time of Lent, of Holy Week is a good time to do it.   Where would we have been that last week?  Would we have been part of the unruly crowd that yelled "Crucify him!"?  Or would we have been home in bed asleep in complete apathy?  Or watching in confusion?  Or hiding in fear?  Which side would we have been on?---the safe known side of the religious leaders?  sitting on the fence undecided?  on the side willing to question and wonder just who this man really was?  Would we leave our comfort zone to follow him? "Create in me a clean heart, O LORD, and renew a right spirit within me."  Psalm 51:10 [...]

Looking for signs....


 Numbers 24:17  I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near

Matt. 16:2-3  You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given except the sign of Jonah.

Heavenly Father,
Looking for signs, failing to see them.  The old Testament was full of prophesies pertaining to the Messiah who would come in the future.  I think the fact that the Jewish people failed to recognize the Messiah when he came is very indicative of how little "signs and wonders" really mean to us.  When you wait for something "great" but "vague" in a future time of no date, it is easy to begin to not really expect it to ever happen.  It is also easy to dress that vague image up in your own expectations and miss it if it looks differently.

  Any time faith is involved---something we have to trust God for---we become afraid of seeing too much in an event or too little.  The Jews had waited 100's of years for their Messiah.  In their minds he would surely be like Moses, a great leader to take them out of captivity and free them from the Romans.  He would be a king like David since he was promised from the royal line!   Instead a humble unknown carpenter shows up with a rag-tag group of disciples---fishermen!  tax collectors!  women!

 The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted Jesus to "show them a sign from heaven".  Prove to their satisfaction, beyond any shadow of a doubt who he was.  What possible sign do you think they would have accepted?  If they had stood on the Mt. of Transfiguration and seen Moses and Elijah, would they have believed?  If they had heard the voice of God thunder, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him!", would they have listened?  Would it have prevented the cross---the very thing that had to happen?

We too, look for signs and wonders to ease our doubts.  How often do we say, "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near."?  Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, Bright Morning Star---he is here, he is now!  Why do we wait and question the very Light of Life that has come to save us?  Thank you, Bright Morning Star!  amen.

Bright Morning Star.....


 Matthew 2: 1-2  "We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Rev. 22:16  "I am.....the Bright Morning Star."

Heavenly Father,
"We have seen his star.....and have come to worship him."  Everyone who sees the great light of Jesus Christ comes to worship him.  His light stands out brightly in whatever dark circumstances we know.  Nothing in our life is too dark for the Light of Jesus Christ to dispel that darkness forever.  When we allow his Light of Life to shine on us, we see how dark it has been and never want to go back.

  In Ann Spangler's book, "Immanuel: Praying the Names of God through the Christmas Season", she refers to light therapy and how light boxes are used to dispel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which causes depression in those who are sensitive to the need for light in the winter months.  The whole world is suffering from a spiritual form of this disease.  We live in darkness brought on by sin and its resulting death.  We may function in this darkness, but in each of us there is a spirit/soul that craves light.  We were designed to long for the peace and harmony found in our Father God, who is also depicted as Light in scripture.  We need that light to light us up from the inside out.

 The world's darkness causes stress, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, unease, depression, restlessness, a constant sense of "what's next?....isn't there more then this?"  The most contented people I know still show signs of this feeling that this life is not enough---"I'm not really satisfied".  Christians know that the Light is there to save them.  Christians are drawn to the great Light of the world.  Our feelings of dissatisfaction have a cure and we know it is coming.  We live on hope and feel blessed because our darkness has an answer---the Bright Morning Star is coming!  Jesus saves!  Immanuel, God with us!  From the first moment we follow the Star and come to worship him, the Light shines within us and brings peace. Thank you , Light of the world!  Shine, Jesus shine!  amen.

Dec. 25: for God so loved the world....


(image) “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will live forever.” John 3:16
 Heavenly Father, 
I wondered how the Advent Book would end the story on Christmas Day. John appropriate! Not usually thought of as a Christmas scripture, but surely the most important in the Bible. 
The Good News all summed up in one sentence. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.” This is what the Christmas story is all about. Your love for us. Your plan of salvation. Your presence in our lives. Your solution to the problem of human sin. Your eternally wide open arms welcoming the prodigal sons home. Our “second chance”.....our only chance, but made so simple. Just believe on the One who came and lived for us and died for us. Just trust his grace and let all the rest go.
Peace on earth!



Dec. 24: I have seen the Savior...


(image) “Simeon said, “I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. He is the Light that will show God to the nations. And he will be the glory of your people.”
Heavenly Father, 
Tonight the wait is over in our yearly celebration. Tonight we go to church and sing the Christmas songs and light the candles, and hear the scriptures read. The music swells and so do our hearts! We are full of good cheer and great joy and “peace on earth, good will to men”! A night to celebrate! 
A night to look to heaven and wish we too could see the angels and hear them sing. In our hearts, we do hear them. In our hearts the child has arrived and is settling in snugly.
 Simeon says, “I have seen the Savior you have given the world”! I’m sure the shepherds were spreading the same message after their visit to the manager. The wise men carried the message to far lands. Now our turn has come. Have we seen the Christ? Who will we tell? where will we spread the light that has come into the world? The “good news” is for all and we must help send the light everywhere there is darkness. 
Something to think about now that Christmas is almost over for another year. Do we put Christ away with the mangers and trees and trimmings, or do we keep him close by and let his light shine through us? Thank you, Heavenly Father, for this greatest of gifts and for once again challenging me to help spread the Good News whenever I can and especially to those who are closest to my heart. amen

Dec. 23: Simeon took Jesus in his arms....


“That day a godly man named Simeon was in the temple. The Holy Spirit had told him he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God for keeping his promise.” Luke 2:27-28  Heavenly Father,  The scriptures of advent are almost done. The journey has been interesting and once again new and different. Tonight we meet a “godly man”, Simeon.  Simeon represents all the faithful who waited and hoped and obeyed. Simeon was promised that he would see the Christ child before he died. Did he spend his whole life in eager anticipation wondering.....”is this going to be the day?” He waited in your presence, in the temple. We all should wait in your presence for the Christ, the one who comes to save.  In my youth I memorized Simeon’s song, that he sang when he saw the baby: “Now let Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”  Simeon knew he needed no more than this baby. His salvation had come and he could leave this world behind. Jesus, the one who saves! Jesus, a light to the Gentiles and the Jews and all the earth! A Light shining in the darkness and dispelling the gloom. Peace on earth and peace in heaven.  Time to depart and go “home”, home in heaven with you.....complete, forgiven, accepted, fulfilled, made righteous! All in that tiny baby that he had waited for, for so long. Our wait can be over, too! The Christ child is here! Welcome him! Hallelujah! amen [...]

Dec. 22: Jesus presented at the temple...


“Soon after his birth, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem, in keeping with the Jewish law.” Luke 2:22 Heavenly Father,  Today’s scripture is one that we tend to skip over at Christmas. Mary and Joseph follow the law and take Jesus to the temple and “present him to the Lord”......they take him and dedicate him to you, his Father! You gave him to them and they give him back, like all good Jewish parents. He is to be one of your people.  How strange and convoluted it all is when you try to analyze it. You came to earth as a baby. You are both father and son. You are the giver and the given. You are the giver and the gift! You came to save us, but had to use Mary and Joseph to save yourself as an infant from Herod. How to imagine the Eternal God of the Universe as a helpless baby!??  It seems so crazy and yet it seems so right. I’ve been listening to a Christmas CD that has a song with the line, “What a strange way to save the world!” To us very strange and incomprehensible. To us a mystery, a paradox, a puzzle. but once the puzzle is accepted and believed it doesn’t seem to matter any more if we understand it.  We accept the baby, we accept the man/Savior, we accept the gift of grace and our hearts swell with thanks and love. Jesus is ours now. Jesus is here in our hearts. We are his temple and he has been “presented” there to you, Lord. He is the lifeblood running through us. He is our connection to you forever more. The “man” in him is forever connected to our humanity. The Lord and Savior in him is forever connected to his Father and to our hearts and minds and souls.  Thank you, Lord, that you are all wise and powerful and knew how to reach us and connect with us to make us new! Praise and thanks forever more. amen [...]

Dec. 21: the LORD warned Joseph...


 “God warned the Wise Men in a dream not to go back to King Herod. So they returned home another way. The Lord also warned Joseph in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to escape King Herod. They stayed in Egypt until Herod died.” Matthew 2:12, 15  Heavenly Father,  You sent your son to die for us, but you are the one who will choose the time and place, not Herod! Your angels intervene and send the holy family to Egypt and safety. The child must grow and become fully man, as well as fully God. Until he experiences all that being human is, he can’t take the burden of human sin and dispose of it.  There is much that we cannot fully understand about Christ and his life as both Son of God and Son of Man. What must it be like to be both God and Man? I would think it would be like having a war going on inside you every day!  Joseph and the wise men obeyed the angels without a second thought......Go! now!......away from Herod, away from danger. They trusted God’s word, given through the angels. They trusted a God who had already proven trustworthy, who had guided them every step of the way. We too, trust in a God who has never failed us. We trust a God who guides us every step of the way. We trust a God who sent a baby to change our lives! We trust a God who sent a man/God to die for us and save us. We trust a God who is wiser than we can ever understand, but whose wisdom never fails.  May the angels bring the message once more into our hearts as we hear them singing, “Glory in Excelsis Deo”! Glory to God in the highest! Tell the nations! Tell the world! Sometimes we too may have to take the baby and flee from unfriendly, unreceptive surroundings, but the key is to keep the Christ child with us wherever we go and hold him fast. God will not allow him to die! God will protect him and all who hold him fast in their hearts. Thank you, O LORD, Most High! amen [...]

Dec. 20: They bowed down and worshiped him...


(image) “At the house, the Wise Men saw Jesus with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshipped him and gave him gifts of gold and incense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 
Heavenly Father, 
The wise men “bowed down and worshiped” the Christ child. Even though they were “kings”, they recognized one greater then themselves and paid homage to him.“King of Kings”! Lord of Lords! Names we call him by to show his place in the world.......on top, best of the best, greatest of the great.
 He inspired men like Herod to want to kill him, because Herod couldn't stand the thought of someone more important, more powerful. He inspired the simple shepherds to praise God and tell others. He inspired the wise men to “bow down and worship”. Everyone who meets Jesus must choose a reaction.....worship or hatred, praise or fear, joy or indifference. Part of celebrating the Christ child’s birthday should be a time of rededication, reawakening of commitment, rediscovery of joy, repositioning Jesus in our lives.

“Come let us worship and bow down, 
Let us kneel before the Lord, our God, our Maker.”

 Make us new! Make us clean! Make us whole! Jesus is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace! amen

Dec. 19: The star...


“The star the wise men had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Matthew 2:9  Heavenly Father,  The star was a nice touch to the story! Especially now that the word “star” to many means a famous person of great charisma and talent. Jesus truly was “THE STAR” of Bethlehem that night! “A star, a star, shining in the night, He will bring us goodness and light....”  The wise men were thrilled to see the star. It meant a great king! It meant a savior, long expected and awaited. When they saw it, they were “overjoyed”. What a neat word.....not just joy, but overjoy! More joy! Extra joy! Above and beyond joy!  Are we overjoyed by the star? Do we see Jesus light up our lives and dispel the darkness and light the way? Look for the star! See him shine! Let him illuminate every corner of your life forever more. Jesus is the Light of the World! No more, need men walk in darkness. Thank you, Star of Bethlehem! Thank you, Jesus! amen ****** LIGHT  Lord send us your Light!  Shine in the hearts of folks everywhere  Shut out the darkness of gloom and despair!  Shine past the lights on our Christmas trees  The outdoor displays for all to see  The lights in the stores, and the churches, and malls  The only true Light came from the stall. The Light from the manger banishes gloom!  The Light from the baby fills every room!  The Light from Jesus brings peace and love!  The Light from our Savior brings hope from above!  Let us carry the Light in our hearts every day  Jesus the Truth, the Light, and the Way.  (Mary Freeman 1998) [...]