Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Relections - December 19



Joy 
 
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:9-11

Reflection

The star that led the wise men to Jesus was unusual. It was brighter and more spectacular than any other. In fact, some historians believe that it could have been an alignment of  planets, a comet or possibly a supernova. Either way, it event occurred through God’s perfect divine providence and appeared to announce the birth of Christ for those that were watching and waiting. From all practical perspectives, everyone should have noticed the splendor of this unusual event. But scripture and other historical sources tell us that this was unfortunately not the case. Only a few educated philosophers and astronomers were able to interpret this glorious birth announcement, three of which are revealed in our passage for today. They knew that they were witnessing something extraordinary. An event was taking place that was beyond the traditional and often narrow view of the world, and they wanted to be a part of it. 

Sometimes we allow tradition to cloud our perspective of the extraordinary things that God is doing in the world. We get so consumed with our narrow view of faith that we forget that his view encompasses so much more. Especially during the Christmas holidays, it’s easy for us to get sidetracked. It’s easy to slip into a complacent mindset that misses the big picture. When this happens, peace tends to elude us and joy becomes a rare commodity. Just as many missed the coming of the Messiah, we miss the unusually bright star in our lives as well, because we fail to look up.

As we move into the last week of Advent, let us commit ourselves to look up and see things from God’s perspective. Let us not miss the “bright morning star”. Let us keep our eyes upon the “light of the world”. As He guides us toward Christmas, let our perspective be clear, and our view broad.        

Prayer

Gracious God, we confess that sometimes we allow ourselves to be consumed by the culture around us. With our eyes focused on the world, we miss the miraculous things that you do in our lives. Help us, Lord to keep our eyes focused upon you and not miss the guiding stars that you place before us.  

 Amen 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent Reflections: December 18


Joy 

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2:13-14 



Reflection

In the Christmas favorite, A Charlie Brown Christmas, a disenchanted Charlie Brown finds himself frustrated with the over commercialization of the Christmas season. Encouraged by his opportunity to direct the school Christmas play, he does his best to instill the true meaning of Christmas in his seemingly clueless group of friends. When his final attempt to restore the Christmas spirit by purchasing a miserable and dying little Christmas Tree fails, Charlie finally reaches his breaking point! He's had enough! In a heart-felt cry that encapsulates all of his holiday angst and frustration, he utters the now familiar words, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” It’s at this point that his loyal friend Linus, wise beyond his years, walks up to the stage microphone and eloquently recites the words of Luke 2:8-14.


 "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

Amen, Linus! Thank you!
  

Prayer


Lord, as we read these words, words that encourage such joy for all mankind, let us remember the true meaning of Christmas. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 
Amen


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Reflections: December 17

Joy 

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 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.”
 Luke 2:9-12

Reflection

Fear of the unknown is a very common these days. As our world continues to change, unknown factors of life increase as well. Our lives are filled with many uncertainties, all of which contain a litany of various unfamiliar aspects and results. When faced with the unfamiliar, many of us find ourselves reacting with every emotion from uneasiness to shear panic. Basically, most us just don’t like to face the unknown.

But with every unknown situation, there is the opportunity for joy to transcend our fears. Sometimes facing the unknown is the only way that God can reveal what he truly wants to do in our lives. Unfortunately, fear is one of the greatest factors that hold many of us back from accomplishing the extraordinary things that God can use us for. But think about this for a moment. Is it not usually true that when we take that critical step of faith, trusting in God even while consumed with fear, that the overwhelming joy we experience overshadows previous fears? Is it not usually worth the risk?  

As the Angel of the Lord appeared to the Shepherds, and the manifestation of the glory of God surrounded them, they were afraid. Who wouldn't be? In the presence of the unknown, fear overshadowed the joy that God was about to proclaim. By the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid”, the Good News of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, and the unknown became known. Fear became joy. Truth transcended uncertainty.          
                      
Prayer

Lord, we face many uncertainties in this world and confess that the unknown causes great fear. But in your declaration of truth, through your son, all fears are transcended to joy. Allow the essential truth that was declared to the shepherds to be the same joy that finds us today. 

Amen 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent Reflections: December 16


Joy

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 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. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:18-21


Reflection

There are times in life's journey when occasions that usually should bring joy do anything but. Two people are married for the wrong reasons. A promotion is accepted, but requires too much time away from home. A new home is purchased, but the debt is overwhelming. A child is born when the pregnancy was unplanned. Most of us do our best to make good choices in life, but we all make mistakes, don't we? When those mistakes become realities, we hope and pray with all of our heart that God will transform our circumstances and forgive us in our failures. And sometimes we see that our circumstances, although not anticipated or planned for, turn out to be the greatest blessings from a loving God.


Joseph certainly did not anticipate Mary becoming pregnant before they were married. The Bible tells us that he was a righteous man, most likely making good decisions for most of his young life. But yet here he was, facing the possible ending of his relationship with Mary and the ramifications that would affect both of them for the rest of their lives. But being a man of God and knowing what the stakes were, Joseph made the best decision that his human mind could make: he would divorce Mary with as much dignity possible. After all, from his perspective, she had been unfaithful.

It was only then that God stepped in to reveal to Joseph that this blessed occasion would not be a burden after all, but an event that would change the world. Joseph made the wrong decision based on his limited knowledge. God revealed that this was not his choice to make, and regardless of the unexpected circumstances, joy would rise from the birth of this unexpected child.

Prayer

Lord, in the midst of our mistakes, bad decisions, our failures and unexpected situations in life, help us to see the joy in all that you do through us. Help us to see that while our circumstances may be unexpected, joy can always come through our trust in you.
Amen

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Reflections: December 15


Joy

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud, Elihud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. 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. 
Matthew 1:1-17  

Reflection

As you catch your breath from reading this extensive list of names, some too difficult to pronounce, you're probably wondering why God would include such a detailed and repetitious passage in the Bible. And you're probably also wondering why this has been included as part of our Advent journey. What could we possibly learn from this ancient and exhaustive family tree? How can we possibly meditate on these words and allow them in intertwine with our celebration of Christmas? Well, allow me to explain.

In the days of Jesus’ birth, the culture was rife with expectations of the Messiah coming into the world. Discussions of who it would be and where he would come from were very common, although not all of them correct. In fact, some Jews expected two different Messiahs to come on the scene. It was a time of great speculation. So that there would be no confusion, God spoke through the ancient prophets, who set forth unmistakable prophecies so that no other person born into this world could claim true that which Christ fulfilled. One unmistakable characteristic was that the Messiah would come from the line of King David. 

With intricate beauty, God details a family line that descends from Abraham, the Father of the Jewish people, divinely travels through the time of King David and quietly rests upon Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.” Such perfection. Such loving detail. We see in this passage the words of a God that wanted nothing more than for the world to know his Son. Can you imagine the joy that filled the land as this truth slowly became realized?  

Prayer

Lord, as we meditate on these words that seem repetitious and mundane, let us see that nothing could be further from the truth. Through these words, let us realize your great love for us and be overwhelmed by the inexpressible joy that comes from you. 
Amen