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Archive for December, 2014

On a Journey

“. . . magi came from the East to Jerusalem.  They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”  Matthew 2:1b-2 (CEB)

There is so much about this passage that brings up questions for many of us:

Who were these magi (and what IS a “magi” anyway)?

What did they see in a stars?

How did they figure all this out?

Is this a real story or Matthew’s interpretation of a Savior for ALL the world?

Is it a segue to the slaughter of the innocents or the holy family’s escape to Egypt?

I’m sure there are plenty of answers, but it seems to me that we need to look beyond historical significance into the journey itself.  Three (or maybe more since Matthew doesn’t really say how many) wise ones set out on a journey.  They didn’t know what was in store for them, they only knew that there was something significant that motivated them to travel many miles to try to find a special king.

They stumbled into the paranoid King Herod which set up a series of events following their departure, but their intention was to find a king.  Imagine their surprise when they found a humble home with a two year old child being held by a peasant girl and guarded by her carpenter husband.  The scriptures don’t tell us what they thought and lead us to conclude that it didn’t matter.

The mission they had taken up was to find this “king child” and honor him.  Were they changed when they set out for home?  Did their lives take on a new meaning?  Did God in Christ touch them so they were never the same again?  We don’t know how their side of the story ends, but we know that their journey is a lot like ours.

From the moment we “meet” Jesus, we begin a journey.  Sometimes we turn away and reject him as not real, not the “true” thing.  Sometimes folks look elsewhere for their god.  Others start on the journey and stay with it for a while, but then wander away.  Some are on the journey, but they don’t know what they are looking for in the end.

Many have stayed on track, though.  Many faithful folks have started and taken the journey to kneel in front of the Christ child and to follow him to the cross and beyond.  That doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken detours along the way, but they have returned and continue to praise Jesus and try to live the kind of life that he taught and lived – to the best of their ability.

Maybe you know some of those saints who, although imperfect, were changed forever once they encountered Christ.  I invite you to pause and think about them right now.  (Pause)  What have you learned from them?  What example have they set?  What of their qualities would you like to incorporate into your own life?

As we celebrate Epiphany – God breaking into our world in Jesus, the Christ, and, as we start a new year, how will we all keep on keeping on the journey with Christ in our hearts?  It’s a new kind of way to make a New Year’s resolution!  Happy New Year!

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Merry and Blessed Christmas!

God so loved the world . . .”  (John 3:16a)

God loved the world in this way:  God took on flesh to become one of us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus lived our lives, died our death, and rose to save us from sin and death.  I’m writing this on Christmas Day and reflecting on the world that God loves.

There is plenty of bad news, and I don’t even need to list it for anyone to know what we are bombarded with in the media every day – throughout the day.  What is the GOOD news?

For me, it’s the spirit of generosity that we see at Christmas, and not only at Christmas, but all year long.  It’s the caring and love that people show to others, even complete strangers.  It’s the baskets full of food donations at the two churches I serve.  Every Sunday as part of their offering, people bring in some non-perishable item that is taken to the nearby food pantry.  It’s the ways in which people stop to help someone else without expecting anything in return.

Christ is still in this world that God loves so much.  Christ still works through those of us who believe his teachings and seek peace, love, joy, and offer hope even when the situation seems hopeless.  So, in spite of the horrible things that are going on in some parts of our world, Christ is still at work.  Our job is to try to make a difference, to be peacemakers, to give a helping hand, and to offer the love of Christ to each other and others.

Merry Christmas!

Angels with Crooked Halos

The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.  The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid!  Look!  I bring good news to you — wonderful, joyous news for all people.  Your savior is born today in David’s city.  He is Christ the Lord’ . . . Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God.”  Luke 2:10-13 (CEB)

This Sunday our Sunday school children will present the annual Christmas Pageant.  In all the years, I have been a pastor, I have never seen a “perfect” pageant.  Something always goes awry:  the shepherds trip over their robes, one of the Wise Persons (we often have both genders for the Magi) doesn’t show up, several angels have trouble keeping their halos upright or even on their heads, and the young girl who stands in as Mary doesn’t always know how to switch from being pregnant to having the baby.  Sometimes the boy who plays Joseph is very resistant, but he does it anyway with a frown.

Does this matter – no.  We love it all.  Why?  Because our children remind us over and over again of God’s gift of a Savior in Jesus, the Christ.  They reenact the nativity story over and over again, and some of the girls can’t wait to play Mary.  No, they aren’t perfect, but then that is a reminder that none of us is perfect.  We live in an imperfect world and do imperfect things.  Isn’t that the whole point of a Savior, anyway?

Jesus came to live our lives, teach us about living in God’s ways, give us a new perspective on what God’s love is all about, and set an example for us.  He died our death, even though he was innocent.  And he was raised from the dead so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.  The hope of Christmas is that God’s gift is for everyone and is for life.  In spite of crooked halos, many of us become angels to someone else who needs a friend or support or a little extra TLC.

We live our faith in the world to the best of our ability, confident that God will work through us in spite of ourselves.  May this Christmas be one when we remember the point of God’s gift of life in Christ.  May our Christmas be more joyful because of this great gift.  Merry Christmas!

Putting on the Mind of Christ

The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord as anointed me.  He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn.”  Isaiah 61 1-2 (CEB)

Following in Jesus’ footsteps is a hard thing to do.  This passage from Isaiah was his declaration of his mission to the world.  He quoted it in him hometown synagogue right before they tried to run him off a cliff.  He was consistently for the “underdog” and lifting people up to value and honor them.  He taught love for everyone and respect for even those who were his enemies.  HIs was the way of peace, but not compromising his mission and ministry.

It’s hard to stand firm when everything around us tells us that we are not following what society thinks we should do.  Jesus had the same problem – and he was firm in his calling.  We face the same types of issues he did in his world:  violence, abuse, marginalization, racism, ageism, sexism, and all those “ism’s” that humanity seems to “need.”  Sometimes I think God must be weeping constantly over the world, over decades and centuries of human greed, power struggles, lack of justice, and wars.

Yet, in the same passage from Isaiah, we find words of hope:  “I surely rejoice in the Lord; my heart is joyful because of my God, because he has clothed me with clothes of victory, wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bridegroom in a priestly crown, and like a bride adorned in jewelry.  As the earth puts out its growth, and as a garden grows its seeds, so the Lord God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations.”  (Is 61:10-11 CEB)

We can put on the mind of Christ, even though we do it imperfectly.  God is with us in our lives and in our work to build the kingdom of peace, justice, love, and joy.  God doesn’t call us and then say, “Okay, you’re on your own now.”  No, God sends us out into the world to bring Christ to the world and goes with us through the power of the Spirit as well as providing companions on the journey through those who believe in Jesus, too.

May we hold fast to the promise and the hope that no matter what happens, God will prevail in the end.

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