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Archive for November, 2016

Advent, Already?

But about the day and hour no none knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Matthew 2:36 (CEB)

When I was growing up, I thought time moved SO slowly.  My parents used to tell me that it would change when I got older – they were right.  Where does time go?  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to catch up with myself as I try to work ahead but still be true to the present week.

What happened to November?  Here we are at the first Sunday of Advent – already?  Yes, already!  Jesus reminds us always that we are to be prepared, and in this passage of Matthew, he also reminds us that we just never know when our time will come – whatever or whenever it may be.

Advent is a great reminder to us of the need for preparation.  I’m not talking about the usual holiday parties, buying gifts, decorating, or any of the outward signs and symbols of the season.  As we all know, the whole thing has been overly commercialized anyway.  The saying, “Keep Christ in Christmas” even has become a rather trite saying without much meaning.

I have to confess that Advent and Christmas, as much as I love the music, the scripture stories, and being with some of the folks I love, still is a kind of sad time for me.  Maybe I have been away from my family of origin for so long that it has lost some of the feelings of excitement and warmth even though I try to recreate it with my husband and two churches.

One of the things that helps – really and truly -IS to keep “Christ in Christmas” – believe it or not!  When my focus is on the spiritual reasons for preparation and celebration, I stay more focused, too.  It’s really not about the gifts, the food, the parties, or the decorations.  It’s about Jesus and how God loved us enough to become one of us.

So, this year, I will probably – once again – only put up my small creche collection instead of a tree.  Somehow the reminder of that gift fills me far more than the rest of the “stuff.” I also love to see the excitement in the children’s eyes and remember the “magic” of the season when I was a child.

Yes, things change, but when they do, we have an opportunity to find something new – some new blessing – in it.  How will you find yours?

In what ways can you celebrate Christmas by keeping Christ at the center?

How will you help others in the midst of shopping, decorating, and preparing?

When will you take time to spend with God?

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Now faith, hope, and love remain — these three things — and the greatest of these is love.”         1 Corinthians 13:13 (CEB)

I always liked 1 Corinthians 13, and I still do.  Yet, when my husband and I were married, I was adamant that we would not have it read at our wedding.  Instead, we chose 1 John 4:7-11 because it talked about God’s love and how we love because God first loves us.  Maybe it’s because I hear the 1 Corinthians passage read at weddings all the time, so I didn’t want to be like so many others who choose the passage because they think it applies to marriage.

Actually, this passage is far more about God’s perfect love and how we can live in that love in all our relationships.  Just think if the world followed the teachings from that chapter!  We would have care and concern for our brothers and sisters in the human race; we would treat each other with respect and kindness; we would listen to each other, be patient with each other, and work together to make all things harmonize.

When there was dissension, we would find ways to communicate with love and find ways to work through the issues to bring resolution.  Our interactions with others and throughout the world would be about working together instead of fighting or being out only for ourselves.

I am writing this on the day after the U.S. election.  There are many people who are happy today and many who are angry and sad.  Division has marked our lives for a long time, including all the campaigning and mud slinging that went on with this election.  But we aren’t going to undo what has been decided, so we have to look to Christ and the description of God’s perfect love that is so beautifully shared in this chapter.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to take the path of love, and sometimes it’s tough love – other times it’s joyful expressions of our care for someone else.  In this case, it seems to me that some of us are being challenged to persevere in the face of challenges that face us in the coming years.  Others may need to call themselves to accountability for gloating or being arrogant about their candidate winning (or the other candidate losing).

Whatever “side” we are on, may we find ways to live faithfully in spite or because of where we stand with or against someone.  I know this is vague, but when I take stock of how I’m feeling, I know that what I most want is for us all to get through the storm and find ways to care about each other and minister to each other with the love of Christ.

Where can you be a peacemaker, no matter where you stand on issues?

How does the description of God’s perfect love in 1 Corinthians 13 help you to find ways to live that defy the prevailing attitudes in our culture?

In what ways will we claim our priorities of “God first” in our lives to make our world a better place?  How will you love with God’s love?

 

Saints

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.”  Ephesians 1:11-12 CEB

This morning one of the saints of a church I serve passed on to greater glory at the golden age of 95.  She was not a celebrity, never ran for office, didn’t do the really noticeable things that so many of us seem to want in our lives.  But she was an amazing woman who had no idea that she WAS amazing.

Someone like this is every pastor’s blessing.  She was a great baker, and her filled date sugar cookies were the star of every bake sale we ever had.  People flocked to the church’s bake sales looking to buy them before they were all gone.  More than that, she loved her church family and all the people in it.

It didn’t matter to her if there was controversy or dissension (although it bothered her when it was happening), and it certainly didn’t chase her away.  She was a member of the church for well over fifty years and rarely missed a service.  People all called her “Grammy,” young and old alike.  She brought a quiet, unassuming presence that provided some stability in tough times and reinforced God’s love during calmer times.

Her family reflected the solid upbringing they had under her mothering with open hospitality, welcoming all to their home, weekly Sunday dinner gatherings at her house, sticking together even when there were some tensions, and loving, respecting, and adoring their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

Our saints loved pastors – every one – and supported them whether she thought they were great pastors and preachers or not.  This was HER church family, HER church home, and she found God here as well as friends who loved her as much as she loved them.  She lived her faith without even knowing it.

Oh that we could have many more saints like this in our churches, those who witness their faith in their lives wherever they are; those who don’t even know that they are special beyond words; those who love with God’s love and receive that same love back; those who are the backbone of healthy churches and peacemakers in the midst of conflict.

This saint would not have even considered getting up to help lead worship, but she was a worker bee in the background, washing dishes when needed, preparing coffee for fellowship, baking her famous cookies, tending the bake table at the sale, donating toward fund raisers, pitching in to help wherever she was needed.  More than that, even on her death bed she wanted to know how someone was doing – always putting others before herself.

Thanks be to God for the saints who keep us all on track and calm us down, pointing us to what is really the most important thing:  Love of God in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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