Monday, December 24, 2012

GREAT GLAD TIDINGS

For Christ is born of Mary,
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together,
proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the king,
and peace to all on earth!

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
o come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
 
-- Phillips Brooks


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Friday, December 21, 2012

COMING INTO BEING

Webster's Dictionary defines the word advent as "a coming into being" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition). "A coming into being." That's what I'm in need of right now. I need to slow down, to live in the moment, to appreciate the small things -- the warmth and light of a candle flame, the tiny fingers of a newborn baby, the quiet stillness of the dawn, the enthusiastic smiles of children. I need to prepare my heart, to make my spirit ready for the birth of the Messiah.

We all need this time of Advent to slow down, to open our ears to God's quiet voice, to guide us through the chaos of the consumerist culture that Christmas has become. As we make our way through this busy season, let us allow God to shape our minds and hearts -- to become a part of God's "coming into being" in Jesus' birth. 

-- Beth A. Richardson in Child of the Light (Upper Room Books, 2005, used with permission)


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

A RIDICULOUS BEGINNING

Albert Camus once said that, "All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

I suppose you could even say that the greatest deed, the greatest thought and the greatest work had a ridiculous beginning in of all places a manger. Who would have thought? 

-- Rev. Dave Wilkinson, SOUND BITES Ministry™


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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT

“In Him there is no darkness at all. The night and the day are both alike.” (Kathleen Thomerson, from the hymn “I want to Walk as a Child of the Light”)

This phrase reminds me that God permeates everything -- the night that I fear and the morning that I welcome. God, and God’s grace, surrounds us throughout all of life -- the easy, loving parts and the hard, difficult, scary times. God lives in both the night and the day -- they are just alike to God. When we face times of darkness in our personal lives, in our families, in our community or world, God moves close to us, loving us and holding our hands even if we are not aware of it, even if we think God is absent…

When we are facing a dark night of the soul, when we are sick or grieving, when we have hurt others or have been hurt by them, we are not alone. The God of darkness and light stays beside us. And the God of darkness and light sends messengers -- messengers like you and me -- to remind us that we are not alone… We are called to be children of the light, doers, messengers to others of God’s love and grace, God’s comfort and forgiveness. 

-- Beth A. Richardson in Child of the Light


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BRINGING CHRIST INTO THE WORLD

Advent reminds me in a very visual, powerful way that we are called to be pregnant with God. We are all called to labor with bringing Christ into the world, not just at Advent but throughout the year.

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


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Monday, December 17, 2012

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER FOR TODAY BY MAX LUCADO

Dear Jesus,

It's a good thing You were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But You were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see Your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took You and Your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before You were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, You entered the dark world of Your day. Won't You enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask You, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,
Your Children


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Friday, December 14, 2012

THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.   Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him."  (John 3:16-17 NRSV)

The "world" that Jesus came to save is represented in the birth stories by two groups of people who could hardly be more varied: shepherds from the nearby hillsides and wealthy sages from a foreign land. Farmworkers and well-connected intellectuals, one group from the neighborhood and one who traveled from a far country. No one is a foreigner at the manger; no one is excluded because of economic class. God wants a full table at the heavenly banquet and is willing to look for dinner guests in unexpected places. Our place in Christ's reign means that we are willing to sit next to someone who appears at first to be alien to us but turns out to be a citizen, a member with us of God's own household. Embraced by this communion of love, we realize our call to the life of the Spirit and enjoy the fullness of life that comes with Christ's reign of justice and peace. 

-- Blair Gilmer Meeks in Expecting the Unexpected (Upper Room Books, 2006) Used with permission.


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

DEEPENING COMPASSION

Stuff happens all the time that makes me want to scribble God a "Dear John" letter. But I haven't found a better option besides God. What I have found is that it is an act of faithfulness to bring the range of human experiences before God. The harder themes [of doubt, barrenness, pain and longing] are just as real and significantly shape our faith and our images of God and of ourselves in relation to God as the more pleasant ones we tend to focus on.

For the most part, we do not do a good job in Western society of sitting in places of discomfort. We do not know how to sit with our own pain or the pain of others. As a result, we can really miss out on deepening compassion and engagement with our communities that could lead to more healing, in all senses of the word. 

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

THE GIFT OF GRACE

The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is your world. Beautiful and terrible things happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you.

There is only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it. 

-- Frederick Buechner in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC's of Faith


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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE INFANT'S MESSAGE OF PEACE

If we are to be truly peacemakers, I think we must move beyond the notion of peace as the absence of conflict… Peace has to do with the fullness of things, with lion and lamb lying down together, not a world without lions.  If we are to have hearts capable of the peace of Christ, which does indeed pass all understanding, we must have hearts capable of embracing the joy and the sorrow, the sacredness and the sin of the world…

The infant in the manger at Bethlehem comes with a message of peace, an announcement that all sad divisions, all the irreconcilable pieces of our public and private lives will be brought together in the celebration of "shalom" -- God's blessing, God's peace.  This will not, I think, occur when conflict has ceased.  For creative conflict is a necessary component of growth.  Rather, peace will reign when our forgiveness of self and others is wide and deep enough to create new possibilities and, without the use of violence, to transform our seeming impasses into new freedoms and joys. 

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992)


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Monday, December 10, 2012

THE ANGELIC CHORUS SINGS

God's astounding and radical intervention in our human history cannot be contained in the tame and timid displays of Christmas lights, catchy slogans, or the exchange of gifts.

Advent confronts us once again with God's unparalleled effort to communicate the message that all humankind is embraced and held close by a God of love. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain, and evil will be no more. 

In Advent we begin again to try to make plain the wonderful truth of the most extraordinary good news the world has ever heard.  Soon we will join the angelic chorus in singing, "Christ the Savior is born." 

-- Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job in A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 2003) 


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Friday, December 7, 2012

DON'T MISS HIM!

They were looking for a lion, He came as a Lamb, and they missed Him. They were looking for a warrior, He came as a Peacemaker, and they missed Him. They were looking for a king, He came as a Servant, and they missed Him. They were looking for liberation from Rome, He submitted to the Roman stake, and they missed Him. They were looking for a fit to their mold, He was the mold maker, and they missed Him.

What are you looking for? Lion? Warrior? King? Liberator? What are you looking for? They were looking for their temporal needs to be met, He came to meet their eternal need, and they missed Him.

He came as a Lamb to be sacrificed for your sin. Will you miss Him? He came to make peace between God and man. Will you miss Him? He came to model servanthood for all mankind. Will you miss Him? He came that we might have true liberty. Will you miss Him? He came to give you eternal life. Will you miss Him?

When we submit to the Lamb, we will meet the Lion. Join with the Peacemaker, and we will meet the Warrior. Work with the Servant, and we will meet the King. Walk with the Submitted, and we will meet the Liberator. Concern ourselves with the eternal, and we will have the temporal.

If Jesus is not fitting into the mold you have, then come to the Mold Maker and get a new one. Submit to His plan for your life and you will see the eternal need met first; then all the other things you have need of will be taken care of as well. (See Matthew 6:33) 

-- Unknown


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Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE ADVENT PACE

Advent reminds us that as Christians, we follow a different understanding of time than the rest of the world. One gift of deepening our Advent observance is in its drastically different pace to the holiday culture. Advent can teach us to honor the seasons of our lives in which life doesn't happen at the pace we desire. We can all relate to that at some point. 

-- Enuma Okoro, in an interview with Christianity Today Blog for Women about her devotional  Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

THE NEW TESTAMENT STRUCTURE

Myer Pearlman, a Bible teacher with a particular knack for simplifying, used to summarize the New Testament structure this way--

            The Gospels:  Redemption manifested

            The Acts:  Redemption propagated

            The Epistles:  Redemption explained

            The Revelation:  Redemption completed
 
 
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

ANTICIPATING THE JOURNEY HOMEWARD

The promises we anticipate during Advent are promises that the world as we know it will be overturned.  "Prepare the way!" we are exhorted. "Make straight His paths."  We are not only to await the Coming in joyful anticipation, we are to participate in it as well…

All of creation is embarked on that slow journey homeward to its final consummation.  And humankind, as "homo adorans," of all the creatures the one designed to worship and adore, is called to consciously chart and pilot that movement home. 

-- Wendy M. Wright in The Vigil: Keeping Watch in the Season of Christ's Coming (Nashville, Tenn.: Upper Room Books, 1992)


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Monday, December 3, 2012

ADVENT: 'Twas the Month Before Christmas

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the store,
Each department was dripping with Yuletide decor.
The Muzak was blaring an out-of-tune carol,
And the fake snow was falling on "Ladies' Apparel."

I’d come down from Heaven to watch things this day
To check on reports which had caused Me dismay.
I'd come to this store for but one special reason,
To see for Myself what went on in this Season.

I hid in a corner and in a short while,
I saw the Store President march down the aisle.
He shouted an order to "Turn the store tree on!"
And also the "NOEL" in blinking pink neon.

Up high, grandly hanging from twin gold supports,
Four hundred pink angels flew over "Men's Shorts."
And towering over the Rear Mezzanine,
A 90-foot Day-Glo "Nativity Scene."

The clock on the wall said two minutes to Nine,
The floorwalkers proudly all stood in line.
I watched while the President smelled their carnations,
Then called out his final command - "Man Your Stations!"

When out on the street there arose such a roar,
It rang to the rafters and boomed through the store.
It sounded exactly like street-repair drilling,
Or maybe another big Mafia killing.

I looked to the doors, and there banging glass,
Was a clamoring, shrieking, hysterical mass.
And I felt from the tone of each scream and each curse,
That the "Spirit of Christmas" had changed for the worse.

The clock it struck Nine, and the door opened wide,
And that great human avalanche thundered inside.
More fearsome than Sherman attacking Atlanta
Came parents and kiddies with just one goal - "Santa!!"

In front stormed the mothers, all brandishing handbags,
As heavy and deadly as 20-pound sandbags.
With gusto they swung them, the better to smash ears,
Of innocent floorwalkers, buyers, and cashiers.

Egged on by their parents, the kids had one aim,
To get to the man brandishing candy canes.
They mobbed him and mauled him, the better to plead,
For the presents they sought in their hour of greed.

The President watched with a gleam in his eye,
As he thought of the toys that the parents would buy.
Of all Christmas come-ons, this crowd would attest,
That a visit to Santa was clearly the best.

It was all too much for my soul to condone,
And I let out a loud most-holy moan.
The crowd turned around, and I'll say for their sake,
That they knew in an instant they’d made a mistake.

"I've had it," I told them, "with fast-buck promoting,
With gimmicks and come-ons and businessmen gloating.
This garish display of commercialized greed,
Is so very un-CHRIST-mas, it makes My heart bleed!"

-- Author Unknown


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