Thursday, December 26, 2013


A story for all times

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.— Isaiah 9: 6

Okay, who can read that verse without immediately hearing it belted out in the Hallelujah Chorus? I know I can’t. It’s been years since we have been to a performance of Handel's Messiah. Thanks to the wonders of the internet this morning I got to listen to it performed by the Royal Choral Society of London. It brought me to tears. King of kings, Lord of Lords, he reigns forever and ever. When I feel anything but joyful at this time of year, all I need do is remember what we celebrate – a humble yet royal birth, and who we celebrate ­– Christ born of Mary, Savior and Redeemer.
Jesus is the center of Christmas, but he is so much more. His birth, life, death and resurrection are beyond reason and outside the realm of our understanding. Think about it. God so loved insane, pig-headed, selfish humanity so much he gave himself in a most mind-boggling way. We are his. He made sure of our redemption by becoming as we are, human and subject to human frailty, and yet he was divine, able to give us a vision of ourselves we could never have imagined: we can be compassionate, merciful, loving, selfless and giving. We can never achieve Christ’s perfection, but we aren’t required to. All we are asked is to believe and live in keeping with God’s will. Christ in the manager was also Christ on the Cross. The significance of each is God’s compelling love, outside our understanding, beyond our imagination, ours not because of who we are, but because God loves us, just as we are.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2:1, 4-5 NIV
It had to take a lot of courage and faith to make a long journey with a pregnant woman, one who carried a child not of your seed, but of your heart because you were following your instructions from of all things, an angel. None of us can understand Joseph’s heart and mind as he made this trip and we can only guess at Mary’s discomfort and maybe even fear; fear for her unborn child, fear for herself, and fear for her future. And yet this couple visited by angels telling them of a common event – the birth of a child – made the trek, unaware the birth would have uncommon consequences: awe and celebration of the shepherds; terror in the heart of despotic king. The Christ child changed lives, and he changed the world. And it's still happening.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:11-14
The greatest story ever told isn’t simply a story; it is a truth that sustains us in all of life. We have been given a great gift. It is a living reminder that in all of life we have hope. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. We are God’s. He loved us so much he gave us his Son, the incarnate Christ, to live among us, teach us and open us up to grace unimaginable. We are God’s children, and brothers and sisters of the child born of Mary. Living in families. Struggling with unexpected news. Living in faith. Growing in trust. We are blessed because of the blessed birth; we are redeemed by the Redeemer. Even when we do not know the questions, we know the answer.
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32 NIV
Our future is assured, not because of anything we can do, but because of the babe in the manger and his place at God’s side. He gave up his place of perfection to live as we live, to see the corruption of the times and not be swayed, to teach and touch those in need of a new vision, a redeemer and healer. He made no claims he could not substantiate and listened without condemnation to those who would bring him down. “Not my will but thy will,” he prayed in his final hours of freedom. Now as we head into the New Year we can be assured that the Christmas spirit is not simply one of generosity nor is it seasonal, it is one freedom, freedom to live in joy knowing our future is assured – not to mean perfect, but in the hands of one who loves us so much he gave us is son.
Live in joy. Believe the promise: "Be strong, banish fear and doubt. Remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Saturday, December 14, 2013


 Grace beyond words

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Among the chosen. How awesome is that? God in his glory, fully realized in every sense of the word, powerful beyond imagining, greater than anything human minds can conceive, creator and author of all of life, in all of the cosmos, God has chosen to love me. I am struck speechless at the idea of it, knowing full well I haven’t deserved this love and have at times forgotten that it is there, holding me up, protecting me in the storms of life, taking it as my due. God’s love for me is singular. It is based on his infinite love for his creation: me. The thing is that although it is singular to me, it is also singular to every person who calls upon his name. His choice. His love revealed in the form of a wee babe. Amazing grace beyond words.

Friday, December 13, 2013


The Bread of Life

"Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 NIV

Not a holiday, a holy day. Christmas has become a crazy time of excess on many levels. We find ourselves caught up in activities that drain our spirits and make us irritable. All that should be joyous becomes a part of what drags us down. The Christmas Spirit become the Christmas sprint, and whatever you do, don’t make too big a deal about Christ. Christmas as we know it hasn’t been around all that long, but its development as a commercial venture has exploded along with online shopping and deals to buy, buy, buy. Jesus has been pushed aside in favor of Santa Claus. Jesus is not an icon of commercialism. Maybe that's why he is tucked inside nativity scenes and promptly forgotten. His messages of peace and tolerance, self-discipline and faith don't coincide with the Black Friday mentality. In truth he was a man who was God, and God who was a man. On this earth he lived as humanly as any of us. In the end he was not permanently bound to the Christmas story as fictionalized by pop culture. He said he is the bread of life, and that hasn’t changed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


The Light of the world: A promise kept

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1-3
A restless night filled with fears named and unnamed. Horrifying moments of desperation. We all experience those times when answers don’t come easily and solutions seem impossible. Psalm 30:5 reads, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” This verse reminds us that ultimately God is in charge. Our night terrors are of our making. Our times of worry put us in a state of fretfulness and confusion. The morning sun shines light into our lives just at the Son of God brought light into the world. We can’t do a single thing at night to solve our problems, yet we pick away at them swelling our minds with disaster after disaster. Morning light brings relief. Faith is the morning light that can and will shine 24/7. We can trust in the Lord to lift us and carry us through. When we fret we forget God. When we have faith we are filled with his illuminating presence, revealed so beautifully in the Christ child.

Monday, December 2, 2013


The First Noel

I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Psalm 146: 2

I love Christmas carols. There is a purity to them that is moving and joyous. The melodies are gently harmonious and the words uplifting. You cannot listen to a Christmas carol without smiling or feeling your heart swell or your eyes tear up with joy, at least I can’t.
Christmas carols emphasize the hope that came into the world with the birth of Christ. They paint vivid pictures of the magnificence of God’s love and his ability to touch the lowborn and the highborn.
Everyone can relate to the Christ child, from the first wondrous moment when a baby sees a candle flicker on Christmas night to the oldster who is lighting it as a symbol of Jesus, the light of the world.
It is easy to get caught up in the ritual of Christmas and in the secular buying craze that goes on. We put emphasis on giving and getting rather than celebrating the lowly birth that would forever change the world.
Christmas carols call us back and remind us that angels proclaimed the coming of the Lord and told shepherds where to find the babe. Kings traveled for weeks in foreign lands to reach the humble place of Christ’s birth. Carols remind us of the true meaning of the holiday.