Saturday, December 8, 2012


Christmas is not only an event in history; it is also an expression of our hope for the future. It is a time of the year we welcome as a season of general good will. People give more to charity at Christmas than any other time of year. More families come together to celebrate and share. We are enriched by the art and music that has enshrined the birth of Christ over the last nineteen hundred plus years.

Christmas means much more than an annual glance backward in the midst of secular festivals. Christmas is also a long look forward into the future. Christmas is a promise of hope for all people yet to come. It is a time when we sense for a brief season that the world can be better and that people can be nicer. A small child in a manger gives us hope that we can be closer to God. That child was the great gift of God to a sinful world and he is our blessing.

Christmas is an event that takes place in our souls and it is an ongoing renewal that gets a gentle shove once a year. More than a single day in history Christmas is the light for today that shows us the promise of tomorrow.

During this Advent season give some thought to the Christmas in your future. Remember that first Christmas, celebrate this Christmas, and pray about the future of Christmas

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dec 7th 71 years later:

Many people over the age of eighty will ask each other, “Do you remember where you were this day in 1941?” It is like aour asking about where we were on 9-11.  There are many who do remember when they heard the news of the bombing of our naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. They can recall the shock and anger of neighbors and remember hearing the broadcast of President’s Roosevelt’s speech before Congress the following day, asking for a declaration of war against Japan. He said it was a day that would live in infamy and now the US and Japan are best friends and the date is hardly noticed. In time it will be just a note in history that our grandchildren will have to remember for a history test.

I knew a couple whose wedding anniversary was December 7, 1941.  The wedding was scheduled for that evening. Andy was in the Army, so when the news broke, they knew he would be going overseas. Their parents wanted them to wait, but the couple decided to go ahead with the ceremony. Their marriage lasted 45 years, ending only at his wife’s death.  Andy reflected, “We just knew it was the right time. We believed that the war would end and we could create a good home and life together.” They did just that.

This is truly a word of hope in desperate, trying times. A thoughtful reading of history uncovers many periods when people believed that the times were so evil that the world must soon come to an end. Something had to happen—a change big enough and bold enough to stop the destruction and make new beginnings possible.   

In a letter to the Galatian Christians, Paul wrote, “When the right time finally came, God sent His Son, born of a woman…”  Just think:  when the world was in terrible straits, God sent…a baby!  This birth is a sign of help and hope in a vulnerable human form.

Yet, isn’t that how hope comes:  in a stirring of confidence, a glimpse of possibility here or there,  a flicker of something new and different.  And then it grows, slowly at first so we can comprehend and embrace we can understand how hope can become a reality.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Gift to:_______?

Almost every advertisement this time of year is also focused on giving gifts. TV, radio, newspapers, e-mail, flyers in the mail all remind us that there are only so many shopping days till Christmas. We have gifts to buy, wrap, mail or carry to give to friends and family.

I am remembering the tag we find on Christmas gifts, you know with To:____ and From: ____ with blanks to be filled in. Well we do need to know  whose gift is under the tree. A tagless gift has us asking whose gift is this. A gift to:_________ that blank to be filled in carries a lot of meaning. 

Before we forget the reason for the season with all our gift giving, let us remember the original Christmas gift. It was God’s gift to the world. Indeed it is a very inclusive gift to all people every where. But the gift is also a very personal gift as well. The great gift of  God’s love  is for you and for me. Jesus was given as a savior of the world but he is also your savior and my savior on a personal basis. God’s great gift for the world is my gift because I am personally individually saved. What a powerful gift both inclusive and specific, both universal and individual.

This Christmas remember that even though the birth of Christ was a gift to the world it was also your gift from God. Remember whose birthday it is and remember the gift.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Church Member OR Disciples of Jesus?

Jesus gave his disciples these simple commands to follow. If we are His disciples we will take them seriously.  With sadness I recognize that there are far too many people who are members of churches but who are not "Disciples of Jesus." By that I mean that they belong to a church but do not accept the commands of Jesus as their personal marching orders.

Remember Jesus' last command in Matthew 28:19, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you always.”

Therefore your personal marching orders from Jesus are:
1.     You Go make disciples of all nations.
2.     You Baptize them.
3.     You Teach them all I have commanded you.
4.     You Remember I am with you always.

To make it personal pray about your part in these final commands, what we now call the "Great Commission." Recognize that you do have a part in this commission and make it personal. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Here Am I

In Isaiah 6 the prophet came face to face with God and said, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…” Isaiah hit the floor with the realization of his position, a sinner living among sinners and in the presence of God. Isaiah did the one thing that is absolutely necessary for any person to do in relation to God, admit our condition. That allows God to grant us grace and call us into ministry. For this scripture was Isaiah's call to ministry.

It is not that God is so worried about our sin and the guilt that arises from it; we are the ones that have the problem. What God wants is our loving relationship and our load of guilt stops the relationship cold. Once we recognize where we are in the relationship we free ourselves up to let go of the guilt and let God deal with our lives.

Once by the grace of God, Isaiah was free from his guilt, and then he was able to hear God ask the great question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Wow what a question! Notice that it was not a command of Isaiah you must go, now that you have received forgiveness. NO! God still gave Isaiah the choice and the opportunity to volunteer. He had a free choice in a relationship of mutual love and so do we. How many times do we pass up the opportunity to volunteer for God? Isaiah could have said, “Well God I don’t know but old Hosea might be available, yes let someone else do it.”

Instead Isaiah did say, “Here am I, send me!”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas in the Gospels

On this first Sunday in Advent I read all of the Bible birth stories and not that each of the Gospels portrays the events of Christmas differently.

The Gospel According to Mark ignores it all together. That Gospel starts with the Baptism. Even if Mark was all of the Gospel I had I could be a Christian.

The Gospel According to Matthew has an angel visiting Joseph to inform him what he must do. Joseph is apparently living in Bethlehem. He is told that the child shall be called “Emmanuel” but he names the boy Jesus. After that the “wise men” from the East show up to honor the new king of the Jews. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.  King Herod has boys under the age of two in Bethlehem killed. After Herod’s death Joseph moves to Nazareth.

The Gospel According to Luke starts with the story of the birth of John the Baptist who is apparently a relative of Jesus. Here in Luke the angel comes to Mary to announce the startling news that she will conceive with out the help of a male and bear a son. She goes to visit her relative Elizabeth for three months. In Luke Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth and go to Bethlehem to register for a Roman tax. That was a rough trip for a pregnant woman. Luke has humble shepherds’ come to visit Jesus. They take Jesus to the temple where to prophets Simon and Anna proclaim him the one. After all that the family returns to Nazareth with no detours. 

In the Gospel According to John what we have of the Christmas story is all from the point of view of heaven “The Word” became flesh and dwelt among us. John is all about God’s side of the story.

Since the first century Christians have combined Matthew and Luke birth narratives and added many human traditions about the story that are not in the bible text. Just where did that drummer boy come from?