Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Mary remembers the words of the angel. "His kingdom will never end." He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And He is absolutely dependent upon Mary for His well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey?

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping Him were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshipping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

-- Max Lucado in God Came Near


Tuesday, December 23, 2014


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men". We read this verse a little differently this Christmas. We look at the word "peace" and our hearts sigh. We wonder about the future of  "good will toward men." We feel the longing for something in our hearts -- a longing for what made the angels rejoice as they said these words, and the shepherds stand in amazement as they heard them.

We feel a longing for Jesus -- perhaps more than ever before. We feel this longing as we fall to our knees this holiday season. But we are not brought to our knees in the way anyone expected. We kneel not before other nations… and not out of fear...

We kneel before a manger that holds the Savior of the world. We remember once again how much we need Him, how He is our foundation and our strength.

We kneel before a cross. We see how much He loves us, and how He is unafraid of suffering and sin.

We kneel before an empty tomb. We realize anew how He conquered death and darkness -- how He has made us victorious forever no matter what happens. Yet even as we kneel, we know that Christmas will be different. There are many who will be missed as we gather together with those we love.

There is a feeling that things will never be the same. It is this feeling that causes us to cling even tighter to the promise that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever". The Meaning of Christmas will never change because the Meaning of Christmas is Christ. So we can still proclaim with the angels, no matter what the situation,  "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men".

-- Unknown, from a SOUND BITES subscriber in Wisconsin


Monday, December 22, 2014


Often I stand on the edge of light, afraid to believe, afraid to act, afraid that this story is too good to be true.

But then in my better moments, when I listen closely to the story, move closer to the light, my fears seem to evaporate like an early morning mist, and I can believe again.

I can believe that God who made all that is became clothed in our human flesh so that we might become clothed in God. I can believe that God claims me as a beloved child. I can believe that all my days are in God's strong and tender hands. I can believe that life is good, beautiful, and eternal. I can believe that not only my days but all days are in God's good hands. I can believe, rejoice, and wait trustingly and expectantly for the unfolding of God's promise given so many ways and most clearly in the Advent story.

Thanks be to God.

-- Norman Shawchuck and Rueben P. Job in A Prayer for All Who Seek God, copyright 2003, used by permission of Upper Room Books


Friday, December 19, 2014


"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."  (John 3:16-17 NKJV)

Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.

-- Corrie Ten Boom


Thursday, December 18, 2014


God has broken into this world in an astounding story of divinity and humanity that boggles the brain even as it transforms the heart…

In the words of the late Samuel Hines, “God has a one-term agenda, listed in one expressive and inclusive word: reconciliation.”  It is a bold statement. It suggests that God’s intention, purpose, and desire for the world can be captured in this one word.

Reconciliation implies that a relationship has suffered damage. It indicates division exists where there was once harmony. Such division marks all humanity. Through sin and disobedience, we have separated ourselves from God and from one another…

In Christ, through Christ, and with Christ that “dividing wall of hostility” [Ephesians 2:14] has been torn down. According to Charles Wesley, reconciliation is… the message of Christmas:

            Hark the herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the newborn King;
            peace on earth, and mercy mild,
            God and sinners reconciled!”

-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Abundant life from Christ comes not in tangibles, but in grace-given presence. We are being changed from self-serving people, grasping, needing, to God-serving people, loved and freed, who in prayer and by the Spirit paradoxically gain by giving away Christ's love, compassion, grace -- abundantly.

-- Roberta Porter


Tuesday, December 16, 2014


“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone and her sins are pardoned."  (Isaiah 40:1-2a NLT)

God does not comfort us only to make us comfortable -- rather He does it to make us comforters.

-- Navigator's Daily Walk Bible


Monday, December 15, 2014


Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness. I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God’s saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the "shoot that shall sprout from the stump" [Isaiah 11:1].

-- Henri J. Nouwen in Gracias! A Latin American Journal


Friday, December 12, 2014


Some have shared with me [a] problem.  "I don't want to unload all my darkness, pain, and anger on anyone, especially Jesus, whom I love. I'm afraid it will hurt him," one person told me, really worried.  She had herself experienced much emotional pain, and dreaded the thought of sending that pain and darkness into someone else's heart.  This is a real and loving concern which must be taken seriously.

But this is the mystery of the Savior:
"Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
…wounded for our transgressions." (Isaiah 53:4, 5)

…This includes not only our sins, but also our wounds, our pain. All that hurts us is already shared and carried by that heart.  We are only asked to give the full impact of the pain with consent.  This is the meaning of the limitless love that has come to be with us.  If we still feel troubled, it may be helpful to think of another woman's experience.  When I shared with her this problem, she said, "I just asked Jesus if He was willing to receive my full load of pain directly into His heart, and He inwardly told me He was here for that reason and was willing and able to receive it all."

No matter what we do, no matter what we feel, no matter the full crushing impact of pain we give to God, that heart of God through Jesus will not be shattered or destroyed or hardened.

The fire of God's love is fed by its own fire, forever.

-- Flora Slosson Wuellner in Heart of Healing, Heart of Light, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


The prophet Isaiah spoke of a shoot coming out from the stump of Jesse and a branch growing out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1). Here is a tree tradition that reminds us of Jesus' Jewishness. Jesus did not just drop down out of nowhere. It is scandalous for some to think that Jesus had parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents; but the true mystery of the Incarnation can not be grasped without realizing Christ's full divinity and full humanity, which is so passionately expressed in the words of the second stanza of Charles Wesley's hymn "Hark the Herald Angels Sing":

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th'incarnate Deity
pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel."
-- Kevin Baker in Hail the Heaven Born

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


So here we are again, a few billion miles farther along our mysterious path among the immensities.  What a comfort it is to know the Man in charge of it all.  Without Him, it would be easy to think that the whole of time and space, and life itself, are without reason, purpose, or meaning -- as H. G. Wells said, that it is "a bad joke beyond our understanding, a flare of vulgarity, an empty laugh braying across the mysteries."  With Jesus forever between God and us, we can understand a few things, and trust Him for the rest.  After all, He is one of us: a baby once, as we all were... 

-- Robert MacColl Adams, in a letter


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I recently heard a story on the radio of a woman who was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.

She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season... overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.

Finally the elevator doors opened and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed she couldn't take it anymore and stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."

From the back of the car everyone heard a quiet calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already crucified Him."

For the rest of the trip down the elevator it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.

Don't forget this year to keep the One who started this whole Christmas thing in your every thought, deed, purchase, and word. If we all did it, just think of how different this whole world would be.

-- Unknown


Monday, December 8, 2014


Christmas is a time pregnant with anticipation and expectation.  There is so much to look forward to, but it’s easy to get so excited about celebrating Christmas that we easily overlook preparing ourselves for the Christ.  We can get so caught up in the hype and hoopla that we don’t take the necessary time to prepare ourselves to be watching for how God will come into our midst in the here and now.

Are you anticipating the kingdom this Christmas?

Are you expecting God to come into your midst today?

What are you doing to prepare yourself for the Christ and not just for Christmas?

-- Adapted from Bryan Marvel


Friday, December 5, 2014


What is meant by calling the writings of Moses and the Prophets [the] "Old Testament"?  Do they not set forth the covenant of grace?  The doctrine of justification by faith -- does not Paul in his Epistle to the Romans prove it from Genesis and from the Psalms?  Where is the doctrine of substitution and the vicarious sufferings of the messiah set forth more clearly than in Leviticus and in the 53rd of Isaiah? The term "Old Testament" leads people to fancy it is an antiquated book; whereas, in many respects, it is newer than the New Testament, referring more fully to the age of glory and blessedness on the earth which is still before us.

-- Adolph Saphir in Christ and Israel [1911]


Thursday, December 4, 2014


Not Celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears seem to have no end?

Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors,
and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who knows the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone, for He is born this day to you.

-- Ann Weems in Kneeling in Bethlehem


Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Waiting is open-ended.  Open-ended waiting is hard for us because we tend to wait for something very concrete, for something that we wish to have.  Much of our waiting is filled with wishes: "I wish that I would have a job.  I wish that the weather would be better.  I wish that the pain would go." 

We are full of wishes, and our waiting easily gets entangled in those wishes.  For this reason, a lot of our waiting is not open-ended. Instead, our waiting is a way of controlling the future.  We want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disappointed and can even slip into despair.  That is why we have such a hard time waiting; we want to do the things that will make the desired events take place.  Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.

But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes.  They were filled with hope.  Hope is something very different.  Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes.  Therefore, hope is always open-ended.

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen in "A Spirituality of Waiting", from The Weavings Reader, John S. Mogabgab, editor, published by The Upper Room, Nashville, TN.   Used with permission.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014


"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."  (Luke 1:78-79)

In the light of faith I am strong, constant, and persevering. In the light of faith I hope. Do not allow me to faint by the way. This light, without which I should still walk in darkness, teaches me the road.

-- Catherine of Siena in A life of Total Prayer


Monday, December 1, 2014


Six -year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten.

Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn't know how the stove worked! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor.

Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon's eyes. All he'd wanted to do was something good, but he'd made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

That's how God in Christ comes to us and deals with our messes.  We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend or we can’t stand our job or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him.

-- Unknown