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Advent

Faith in Winter: Advent 2015

Darkness falls early

The night lingers long
Life’s maze a puzzle
Wrong turns, dead ends
Struggles and doubts
Frail, fragile flesh
Stumbling about
Then just short of quitting
Eyes struggling to see
A flicker of light
A promise fulfilled
Another glimpse of glory
Faith’s eyes open wide

imageChristmas comes in Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkest time of the year, but so often it is a dark time for people because the advertisements promise joy and plenty, family and friends, love and kindness.  Even folks in the Southern Hemisphere experience shrouds of that darkness. Why? Because Christmas is not about all that…Christmas is Emmanuel, God With US!  He is with us whether we are having a great year or an unbelievably lousy one.

All we have to do is OPEN OUR EYES and BELIEVE.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
‭‭John‬ ‭11:40‬ ‭NIV‬‬

400 Years: Advent 2015


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Four hundred years without a word

Four hundred years performing the sacrifices, following the traditions, interpreting and reinterpreting the laws and the prophets

Four hundred years of squabbles among religious leaders, with two main parties, the Pharisees and the Sadducees emerging

Four hundred years of humanistic, ritualistic, legalistic and for the Sadducees, pragmatic and progressive actions.

Four hundred years without a word.

AND THEN

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
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He came for all, but some had wrapped themselves so tightly in their own interpretations, their own way of doing things, their own defensive stances that
His voice was unrecognizable. Their ears so attuned to their own rhetoric that He became the enemy.

Emmanuel, God with us, how will we respond?

“Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.””
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭30:20-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Emmanuel, God with us, Will WE HEAR HIS VOICE?

Oxymoron: Advent 2015

imageSo what does the believer do with the Power of weakness, which linguistically presents an oxymoron. We have fought so long and hard to appear smart, strong, and healthy, not to mention spiritual.

How does the admission of weakness before the Lord, who, by the way, knew it all the time, manifest in daily life?

How does the admission of weakness appear as we open our vulnerability to others?

How can submission to his plans, his direction, benefit?

How does ‘when I am weak, then he is strong’ play out?

Will it bring richness, fame, popularity, health?

Consider what the ’emptying’ of himself, what leaving heaven, what becoming Emmanuel ACCOMPLISHED for all who would believe and follow.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬. [bold, mine]

May God bless us as we allow our weakness to be filled with his strength so that others may drop their defenses and bravado before Emmanuel, that we may serve one another with his love, which is our greatest strength.  Amen

Persimmons: Advent 2015

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Sixth Grade Central Grade School, 1956 –Scary Mr. Wilson’s class

My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Wilson, brought persimmons to class, told us how sweet they were and we ate the “mouth puckering” unripened fruit. Imagine in today’s world if that were to happen in a classroom.

Mr. Wilson was right. Persimmons when ripe are very sweet. The fruit of the spirit in the life of the believer when mature sweetens the world. Freedom in Christ infuses the tender fruit with the nutrients to mature.

We are free as we navigate the road to the manger. How we live free among non-believers matters. Excuses for impatience, unkindness, lack of self control because we are stressed, but ‘thank God, forgiven’, erodes the power of freedom in Christ.

The fruit of the Spirit becomes like unripened persimmons, sucking joy from the journey. Freedom misused contaminates. Freedom used to love and serve nurtures.

Choose to live freely enabled to love. Choose the nutrients necessary to become ripened fruit appealing and nurturing to those who need it most.

My attitude and my actions make a difference, but how I choose comes from how connected I remain to the living Vine.  The sweetness  of the persimmon depends on its maturity.

“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13-15‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Live to Tell: Advent 2015

Never held Bethlehem’s Babe
Or cradled him in my arms
Never tended sheep
Never heard Heaven’s Host
Burst forth with song
Or followed a star like the Magi did.
But I have held a baby
Cradled in my arms
Heard music inspired by the divine
Heard singing from choirs indeed sublime.
Stood on a hill on a crystal clear night
Amazed that stars great ships can guide
Read the words:

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”

Perceived Truth  not revealed by senses

Joined the great cloud of witnesses bound by faith.

And experienced the very presence of Emmanuel

So I have to tell.

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Shortcuts: Advent 2015

There are no shortcuts to Bethlehem. Other roads will lead you astray. What appears to be the straighter course will cause you to lose your way.

imageThere are no shortcuts to heaven. Other roads frankly descend. The scenic route with its frills and snares, the rugged path with its crooks and dares, DEAD ENDS!

There are no shortcuts to Bethlehem. Follow the star! Follow the angels! Don’t be distracted by crowds, noise, seasonal displays. If you seek the Babe, and stay the course, you will find the way.

Find time today to watch and pray. Find time to offer kindness. Find time to rest with the Prince of Peace, let his presence be the light that shows the way.

There are no shortcuts to Bethlehem. There is really only THE WAY!

“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭25:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

O Come O Come Emmanuel–God be One of Us Advent 2015

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Isaiah 64:1-9

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence!”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭64:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Expectations of the coming of the Messiah find root in this verse. Indeed, Gabriel’s visitation to Mary and later in a dream to Joseph did rock their plans of a big wedding with feast, family and friends. Surely, at some level it seemed God had burst into their well ordered world, causing Mary to flee to her cousin Elizabeth’s, while Joseph hurried to quietly first divorce her, then come to terms with the dream before bringing her into his home, but not his bed as his wife.

As this drama unfolded in their family, Mary and Joseph prepared for the arrival of the miraculous, the unexpected, Emmanuel, God with us. The country of their birth, the home of God’s Temple continued as if nothing was happening. They remained under Roman occupation, pagan rule, and they tugged against their Roman bonds.  The Jews continued to sacrifice.  The Messiah would come, but they were not actively expecting him.

Some Synagogues opened the scrolls and read from the prophet Isaiah these very verses…even praying for the fulfillment in their time,  Wondering, if God had forgotten them.  It had been a long time since the last of the prophets. Their hope had been depleted.

While in Galilee in the womb of a young woman, God prepared to burst forth.

Are we praying for our countries, wherever we are that God will burst forth? Are we actively seeking to share the miraculous story of Christ Coming…as a baby and one day as a King.

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