As Christians we prepare for the birth of our Savior :tree:
"THE JOURNEY BEGINS IN ROME"
November 29, 2009
Luke 2:1:"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman World."
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem actually begins in Rome. Caesar Augustus was concerned about many matters in his kingdom. One of them was its size. Roman men were not marrying and not having children. He imposed penalties for those not contributing to the growth of the kingdom. One way to monitor the growth was with a census.
The census would work an Advent blessing. It had been prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Caesar had expected the census would be one of the marks of his greatness. He listed it as eighth among the thirty-five "Acts of Augustus."
He might well have expected his death would be noted by the number of years since the founding of Rome. Instead, the baby that would be born in Bethlehem because of his census would cause his death to be marked by that birth.
As we begin our Advent journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we are reminded that what may seem like the innocent events of government, under the blessings of God, have a profound impact on how God's grace is released into the world. This act of Caesar had a profound impact on God's grace to us.
There are many governments involved in many decisions these days. Many of them appear to have no impact on the message of God's love for us and His people, but they do! We give thanks for God's blessings on the acts of leaders and their governments in times' past. We pray He might bless those acts and decisions of government these Advent days. For as He acted to release His love in the days of Caesar Augustus, so He acts to release His love to us and through us today.
THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, we pray Your blessings upon the acts of those who govern these days. Use their acts for Your glorious purposes. Amen.
12-04-2009, 07:56 PM
"CAESAR AND HIS GOVERNMENT"
November 30, 2009
Luke 2:1: Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman World..."
Advent always happens in the context of government. It did in the days of Joseph and Mary. It does today.
In the days of Joseph and Mary, the "days of Caesar," the government was highly respected and feared. Caesar was seen as a "god." He had the respect of all those who were citizens of Rome-whether by choice or not. Many of those citizens saw Caesar as their god. They worshipped him and his image. They held in deep suspicion anyone who failed to honor Caesar.
In the days of Joseph and Mary, there were those who, while citizens of Rome, and who respected Caesar as the leader, honored another God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They would do what the government required as long as it did not cause them to deny their God.
In our day there are many living under governments that do not consider themselves divine. But some who may read these devotions in another language in another place do. They, like us, will participate in activities, like a census, their government requires. While many will follow the requirements of their government simply as good citizens, some will do so with the full hope and expectation their participation will not draw attention to themselves.
It is Advent. We are living out our Advent as citizens under government. We give thanks for those of us who can live out our Advent season highly respecting the government we live under and without fear. We pray God's blessings upon those who live out their Advent this year under governments that also see themselves as divine.
THE PRAYER: We pray Your blessings, Lord, upon all governments of the world, that they may allow Your people in every nation to joyfully and eagerly journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Amen.
12-04-2009, 07:58 PM
December 01, 2009
Luke 2:2: "This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria."
We know about census-taking. It happens regularly. The results are very important. They determine how we will be represented. They determine our tax base. They determine financial resources for which different areas will be eligible. Taking censuses in our time is important.
Israel also knew what taking a census was about. It knew about the census taken at Mount Sinai and just before they entered the Promised Land. It knew about the census King David authorized. Those censuses had pretty negative consequences. Joab, his general, tried to discourage David from taking these censuses. For David, taking the census showed arrogance. God disapproved. The census was followed by a pestilence (I Chronicles 21).
In the faithful teaching of the Rabbis, Israel knew about these censuses. The residence of Nazareth and Joseph would have known these Biblical narratives too. For them, there would be no choice but to follow the decree. How God would deal with it was beyond their control.
Joseph might also have known the prophecies that the Messiah, the Promised One, would be born in Bethlehem. There was no other way than by obeying this decree that Mary was going to have her baby any place other than Nazareth.
We do pray and hope the censuses being taken in the nations of the world will serve purposes that God can bless. We give great thanks that the census decreed by Caesar resulted in the fulfilling of the Biblical promises regarding Bethlehem, our salvation, and the salvation of the world!
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we pray Your blessings on those who authorize the censuses of our times, those who administer them, and those who read them. Continue to work Your purposes for now and for the future. Amen.
12-04-2009, 07:59 PM
"NAZARETH - THE VILLAGE"
December 02, 2009
Luke 2:4 :"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth."
Nazareth: a small village nestled into one of the hills of lower Galilee overlooking the triangular Plain of Esdraelon. It is not once mentioned in the Old Testament. It provided only the bare essentials. To get additional provisions one needed to travel to a neighboring town, maybe Sepphoris, about four miles away through rugged back roads.
But it did have religious leaders who would have dutifully taught their residents the faithfulness of God, the history of their people, and the promises of God for His people.
Nazareth did not have a great reputation. People did not expect much from Nazareth. One of Jesus own disciples sneered, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)
Many of us come from such small towns. Many of those small towns have no reputation at all. They provide only the bear essentials. If one wants or needs more, one will need to go to a neighboring, larger town.
But those small villages often do have faithful pastors and teachers who devotedly share the mighty acts of God in ages past, the history of God's people, and the promises of God for the future. They tell about this One who came from Nazareth as the Savior of the world, and as your Savior!
You may have come from a little town that isn't well known and has no famous people from it. May our Lord bless your message as you share the Savior who came from a little village named, Nazareth.
THE PRAYER: O Lord, we ask Your blessings upon the small villages of the world. In particular, we pray Your blessings as they share the One who came from the little village of Nazareth, and as they carry the message of His love to all the world. Amen.
12-04-2009, 07:59 PM
December 03, 2009
Matthew 1:19: "Joseph ... was a righteous man."
Joseph, "Guardian of Our Lord," is commemorated on March 19th in the Church. What we know of him for sure is that he was present at the birth of Jesus (2:16), at His circumcision (Luke 2:21), the presentation (Luke 2:22), and the search for Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:41-52). We know his trade was that of a carpenter and that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). He was a devout follower of the Law and, like the patriarchs-gladly responded to visionary dreams. He was also a faithful and affectionate father to Jesus. Both Luke and Matthew emphasize he was Jesus' legal father.
What we do not know is how old he was when he made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. If he resembled the pious, hard-working class of his Jewish colleagues in Galilee, he would have probably been at least 25 years old.
Nor do we know when he died. He was apparently alive when Jesus began His ministry (Matthew 13:55), but had died before His crucifixion. We know this from Jesus commending His mother to the care of John from the cross, a gesture that would have been unnecessary had Joseph still been alive.
We do know that many fathers are making the Advent journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem this December. We know they too are pious followers of Jesus, caring greatly for their marriage, and for their children. They eagerly witness the significant events in their children's lives (Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation). They make available to them many opportunities, and remind them that only "one thing is needed" (Luke 10:42b). They, too, by their dedication and devotion are guardians of their children.
May our Lord bless all fathers this Advent Season.
THE PRAYER: O Lord, we are so grateful for the gift of Joseph in the Advent narrative. Bless every father in this Advent time assuring each one of Your steadfast love, and empower each for faithful living. Amen.
12-04-2009, 08:00 PM
December 04, 2009
Matthew 1:1-17 "... and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ."
The godly home is very significant. Joseph was obvious raised in such a home. We don't know any details; we just know the results. The results tell us he knew the history of his family very well. He knew the stories about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He knew the stories of his namesake, Joseph and his coat of many colors. He had been taught the stories of Moses, of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, of the entry into the Promised Land.
The Rabbis and his parents would have shared with him many stories about King David, about his boyhood, about his being selected king, about his strengths and his weaknesses, about his music. Like all the boys of his time, he could sing many of his Psalms. They expressed his faith, his heart, and his hopes.
But mostly these Rabbis would have taught him about his God, the one who had made a covenant with Abraham and had made the same covenant with him. He would have been taught about God's choosing this people as His chosen people, the people by which He would bless all people. He would have been taught about the promise of the Messiah. He would have been taught how those promises were expressed in the writings of the prophets.
It would not have been a home without sin. But he would have been taught that when there is sin, there is also sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. He would have known the feelings of guilt. He would also have been taught about forgiveness.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are grateful for our homes. We are grateful for those who have taught us the history of our people, but mostly the stories of our great God. Bless our homes. Amen.
12-05-2009, 10:14 AM
December 05, 2009
Luke 1:26b:"The virgin's name was Mary."
Mary. We are first introduced to her when the angel approaches her. The angel tells us everything we need to know about her. She is highly favored. The Lord is with her. She should not be afraid. She has found favor with God.
Her response confirms what the angel had said about her. She is the Lord's servant. Whatever it is that the Lord has in mind, let it be. She is to be the mother of the Messiah! Nothing for her will ever be the same!
This very significant event is celebrated in the Church on March 25th, nine months before the church celebrates the birth of the Christ child. In the Middle Ages, it was thought that following a mystical conjunction of events, March 25th was the day creation began. It was also thought March 25th was the day Christ died.
So, from the 6th century through the 18th century in Christian Europe, the great doctrines of creation, incarnation, and atonement were all celebrated on the same day. March 25th, the day of Annunciation, was celebrated as New Year's Day.
There is a popular song sung during Advent entitled "Mary, Did You Know." She knew a lot. She knew God's favor. She new she was going to have a baby. She knew she would name Him Jesus. She knew He would save His people from their sins.
May our Lord grant us faith to know no less about Mary and her baby.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are grateful for the gift Mary was to her world and for the greater Gift she bore for us and for our Salvation. Amen.
12-06-2009, 10:07 AM
"JOSEPH AND THE ANNUNIATION"
December 06, 2009
Matthew 1:19: "Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."
We are not told how Joseph found out his fiancé was pregnant. It might have been that Mary told him. It might have been from a friend after Mary had gone to visit Elizabeth. How he found out is not the important point. The important point was his reaction. Joseph's first reaction was that he did not want to make it more difficult for Mary that it had to be. Because engagement was seen as the same as marriage, and could only be broken by a decree of divorce, he thought this to be the most honorable.
To Joseph's credit he believed the angel that appeared to him in a dream. Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffmann, long-time speaker on The Lutheran Hour, called that one of the greatest miracles of Christ. Joseph believed the angel and became for Mary what she needed.
Faith remains one of the great gifts of Advent. We do not pretend to understand everything revealed to us through the Holy Scriptures. What we do believe is that it was announced to Mary and to Joseph that Mary was going to have a baby, and that this baby would be the Savior of the world!
THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, grant us great Advent faith in what was revealed to Mary, to Joseph, and to us, that our Savior was born to a virgin named Mary. Amen.
12-07-2009, 09:54 AM
December 07, 2009
Luke 1:20: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife."
While we don't know any details from the marriage of Joseph and Mary, we do know something about weddings at that time. We know they were often arranged by parents, but parents would certainly have been aware of who had caught whose eye and attention. They certainly would have known about each other. They would have shared much in common living in this little village. In addition, they shared a distant but common ancestry, as both of them were descendents of King David through different wives.
While we know something about weddings through our Lord's first miracle at the wedding in Cana, we don't know if such a celebration was held at Joseph and Mary's wedding. We do know they did not experience physical intimacy until after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1:24f).
Engagements and weddings are tender events. Many of these events take place during Advent. While they are often arranged by parents in our time, the promises made in a wedding affect them very much. Getting engaged or married during Advent is a powerful time to experience Christ within these events, receiving from each other all that Christ would release through them.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless every couple experiencing marriage these Advent days that they may receive and share Your rich blessings with each other and so many others. Amen.
12-08-2009, 09:38 AM
"PLANNING THE JOURNEY"
December 08, 2009
Luke 2:4: "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea ..."
The news came. The census was to be taken. The registration would have to be made in Bethlehem.
In one sense it was not necessary for Mary to go. Joseph could have registered his family. But Mary's going along solved two problems. The first was the early birth to the newly married couple. They could not get to Bethlehem and back before the baby would be born.
The second concern that would be solved was the fulfillment of the very familiar passage predicting the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Mary had every reason to go.
But going would not be easy. It would be at least three days of riding on a donkey. This has been powerfully placed in our mind through art, imagination, and literature.
The decision still had to be made about which route to take. They could have gone through the central valley, winding through the hills of Samaria. This would be the shortest way. But it would mean contact with the Samaritans. It would be the colder route, possibly more uncomfortable for Mary. Or they could take the southeast route across the Plain of Esdraelon, down to the Jordan River valley as far as Jericho.
All of us have plans to make regarding our Advent journey to Bethlehem. Some are for comfort; some are to make sure we arrive at the manger.
THE PRAYER: Bless our Advent planning, Lord. There are alternative ways we can go. Bless the choices we make. Amen.
12-09-2009, 09:46 AM
December 09, 2009
Luke 2:4: "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth ..."
Leaving Nazareth might well have been an anxious time. There were undoubtedly those who discouraged Mary from going. How would she explain why it was so important for her to go? She may have had second thoughts herself. She was leaving what she knew for the unknown. Still, go she must. She must get to Bethlehem.
What shall she take with her? What is critical? What can she leave behind? There would not be much room for physical things. She knew what she carried inside was the most important thing. As her song in Elizabeth's presence indicates, she understands how she is being honored, how this is a gift to her of which she is unworthy, and how God was extending through her the promises of the past with the blessings of the future. She understands her unworthiness. She understands the gift to her. She understands the gift within her.
We are also on the way to Bethlehem. We, too, must go. We have been there before. There is a temptation for us to take along many physical things. It may be better for us to travel light. But what we carry within us is most important. While we are not leaving from Nazareth, we are leaving for Bethlehem. Our song might also express how honored we are, how unworthy of this marvelous gift, how God remains faithful to His promises of the past, and how determined He is to release His blessings into the future. We do well to understand the gift to us.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless us as we leave for Bethlehem. Grant that we leave what we can and take what we must. Amen.
12-10-2009, 09:40 AM
December 10, 2009
Luke17:11-13 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles. It would take at least three days, perhaps more, if Mary was not feeling well. As Joseph and Mary made their journey they may well have passed by some who Jesus would encounter in his ministry. Among them might well have been some lepers.
"Unclean! Unclean!" That is what the lepers might well have called out as they saw this strong, gentle man leading his donkey with his very pregnant wife, It was required that they call out. But they might have done it anyway. Who would want to spread this dread disease?
Little did they know the baby this young mother was to bear would one day not be put off by their "Unclean!" He would approach them; He would touch them; He would heal them.
There is little chance we will come across any physical lepers on our journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. But we will pass by many who are afflicted with the leprosy of sin. We know this is true, because we ourselves have the disease.
The good news is that the One who healed those with physical leprosy, has also healed us who have the leprosy of sin! He did it by His suffering, death, and resurrection. Though we might well have needed to call out "unclean!" He has made us clean.
The question is, what will those who observe us on our journey to Bethlehem see?
THE PRAYER: May we, afflicted with the leprosy of sin, know and share the healing made possible by Jesus, the Christ!
12-11-2009, 09:37 AM
"ALONG THE JORDAN"
December 11, 2009
Matthew 3:13 "Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John."
Joseph and Mary's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem might well have taken them to the Jordan Valley and along the Jordan. It would have been the warmer of the routes available to them. That would have been more comfortable for Mary.
The Jordan River meant a lot to Joseph and Mary. They knew about crossing the Jordan, according to the book of Joshua. They knew well the story of the Children of Israel coming to the Jordan early in their wilderness wonderings, and then not having the courage to trust the Lord and enter the Promised Land. Almost 40 years later they would come to the Jordan again, and under the trusted leadership of Joshua they would cross the river on dry ground into a land "flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:17b).
Little did they know the past would pale in comparison to the future. It would be in the Jordan that John the Baptist would be baptizing. It would be in the Jordan that John would baptize Jesus. It would be at Jesus' baptism that many would hear the voice of God: "This is my beloved Son" (John 3:17a). It was from the Jordan that Jesus would begin His ministry.
As we journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem this Advent, we, too, will do well to reflect upon our baptism. While we probably were not baptized in the Jordan, through the water and God's Word we were joined to the Christ. He poured His love upon us. On the journey to Bethlehem, reflect upon God's rich gift to you in your baptism.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, refresh in us the blessings that are ours through the glorious sacrament of Holy Baptism. Amen.
12-12-2009, 09:52 AM
"SO THE BLIND CAN SEE"
December 12, 2009
John 9:1f; "As he went along, he saw a man born blind since birth."
As Joseph and Mary made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they would have encountered many people. Among them might have been the blind man-then a little boy-whom Jesus encountered years later. Of him the disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents?" This question may have haunted the blind man and his parents for years. If they attributed a sin to either the blind man or his parents, they would be wrong.
Only Jesus would answer it correctly: "Neither," He said, ... but this happened so that the glory of God might be displayed in his life." He then placed some mud on the blind man's eyes and commanded he go and wash in the pool of Siloam. He washed, and he could see! He could see and the glory of the Lord was revealed!
Not every one who asks, "What did I do to deserve this?" will be answered with a command to do something and then experience a miracle. But all people can know the assurance that God loves them and sees them as precious. Their bodies may not be healed, but that does not indicate a separation from God.
It was for restoration that Jesus came into the world. He saw the ugly consequence of a world out of harmony. He knew the result of giving in to the temptation of the devil. He saw what giving into one's sinful flesh could do. He knew the consequence for all of this. He knew this was all the evidence of sin. It would not be the punishment for a particular sin.
The punishment would be experienced on the cross. It was for this man born blind. It was for us.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are so grateful we need not bear the punishment for our sin, and overwhelmed that You did. Bless us with faith to see in this baby, our Savior! Amen.
12-13-2009, 09:36 AM
"A LOOK INTO THE DESERT"
December 13, 2009
Matthew 4:1; "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."
As Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, they must have often looked across the Jordan into the desert. Their conversation might well have centered on the ancient narratives they received from their families and the Rabbis. Beginning with life in Egypt, with the birth of Moses and his life in the palace, his desert flight, his experience with the burning bush, his confronting Pharaoh, the plagues, Passover, passage through the Red Sea, Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, there was much to discuss.
While they might have often spoke of their history, they probably talked even more about God's faithfulness to His people. He fed them with manna. He gave them water from the rock. He protected them from their enemies. They were His chosen people through whom He was to bless all people.
Now Joseph and Mary were a part of God's action on behalf of His people. The promised Messiah was about to be born. Little did they know their Son, the Messiah, would spend some extremely difficult time in the wilderness. He would be tempted by the one who tempted Adam and Eve into sin. It would be a desperate spiritual battle.
It would not be His last temptation. But like the rest, He would win them all. And the very good news is He would transfer this victory to us. As sinners, we are often not successful against the evil one. In the deserts of our lives, he too often wins. But the final victory is not his. It is ours because of the Christ's faithfulness. As we make our journey to Bethlehem, we are aware of the temptations. We are even more aware of Christ's forgiveness for us.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, protect us from the evil one in our desert travels, and shower Your love and forgiveness upon us. Amen.
12-14-2009, 09:44 AM
"A LOOK AT THE PROMISED LAND"
December 14, 2009
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 "Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land - from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, "I will give it to your descendents. I will let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."
Joseph and Mary might well have considered the territory Moses would have seen from the top of Mount Nebo and then talked about the Children of Israel crossing the Jordan to enter it. This was cause for great rejoicing! They may well have sung the songs their people had been singing for ages-and were still singing!
They would have recalled their people's difficult history in that land. Often under foreign occupation, during Joseph and Mary's day the Romans held sway. But the promise was not only for a land. It was for a Messiah, a descendent of David, who was to be born in Bethlehem. They approached Bethlehem as descendents of David and in Mary's womb was the great promise of the ages.
They must have wondered what this promise meant for their baby. They must have wondered what their baby might mean for the Promised Land. And, for a moment, could they have seen something of the impact this Promised One would have for the whole world!
We, too, are on our journey to Bethlehem. We know what happened to Jesus, the Promised One. We have seen the impact on the Promised Land. What still remains to be revealed is the impact on us personally. What does it mean to have Jesus, the Promised One, in our lives? And still more to be revealed is what it means to have the Promised One in our world!
THE PRAYER: O Promised One, born in the land of promise. Release Your blessings to us, and through us to Your whole world! Amen.
12-15-2009, 09:43 AM
December 15, 2009
Luke 10:30; "Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho ..."
The journey from the Jordan to Bethlehem might well have taken Joseph and Mary through the city of Jericho. How well they would knew the story of Jericho's destruction as given in Joshua 5:13-6:20. They knew how impossible it would be to occupy the Promised Land if they could not conquer Jericho. They could relate about how impossible the task seemed to be. They would remember the strange commands given about marching around the city for six days and on the seventh day, march around it seven times. Then, when they were commanded to shout-shout-and the walls would come tumbling down. Amazing! It might well have left Joseph and Mary with chills running down their spines.
They would have lifted up the name of Joshua, who became so well respected and honored because of how the Lord blessed the Israelites through him. They knew the Israelites saw Joshua as a "savior." He led the people of Israel as they occupied the Promised Land. They knew their Son would bear a name that came from the same root. They knew the expectations for Him would be no less.
But they did not know how it would happen. They did not know that while the taking down of Jericho's walls was unusual, the taking down of sin, death, and the power of the devil would be even more unusual. It did not take an army to defeat Jericho, and it would not take an army to destroy the power of the evil forces. It would take the innocent suffering and death of one solitary individual-their Son. It would result in the walls our sins cause between us and God to come tumbling down and thus giving us access to the eternal Promised Land!
THE PRAYER: Bless us Advent Lord, as we praise You for our glorious and astonishing preparation for entering the Promised Land! Amen.
12-16-2009, 09:21 AM
"THE BLIND MAN AT JERICHO"
December 16, 2009
Luke 18:35-42 As Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem approaching Jericho, they would have passed by many who had significant physical needs. Among them would have been the blind. Among the blind a young man, learning what it meant to not have sight, learning how to call out for help, for mercy.
As Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem approaching Jericho, they would have passed by many with significant physical needs. Among them would have been the blind. Among the blind a young man, learning what it meant not to have sight, was learning how to call out for help-for mercy.
He also learned about the promise of the coming of the Son of David. It was the teaching of his people. The Messiah would come, the promised Son of David. He would bring healing for His people, healing for the world.
Later in life the man would hear about this one from Nazareth who had healed so many, whose words were so comforting to so many, who spoke words of hope and promise, who was fulfilling so many of the promises he had learned the Messiah would fulfill. And then he would hear the unusually large crowd pass by, call out, discover it was Jesus, and call for His attention. Nothing would stop him. He knew what Jesus could do. He had great faith! Jesus would give him sight.
As we travel to Bethlehem this Advent, we too will come upon those who have significant physical needs. They have a great need for mercy. Many of them also have great faith. The Lord, who cared for the blind man near Jericho, also cares for those with physical needs in our day. We are among those who hear their calls for mercy. We are among those who express God's continuing love.
While we express our Lord's love for those physically limited, we are even more concerned for those who are spiritually blind. We see them as we journey to Bethlehem. We pray our Lord's blessings upon them so they may see.
THE PRAYER: Lord, keep hearing the call of those who are blind. Bless their faith. May they see Jesus. Amen.
12-17-2009, 09:43 AM
"THE ROAD FROM JERUSALEM TO JERICHO"
December 17, 2009
Luke 10:30-37 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two sliver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, "Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a well-traveled road. So far as we know, Mary and Joseph traveled it without incident. Jesus would tell a story about a man, however, who was not so fortunate. It would become one of His best-known parables. Jesus would tell it in response to a teacher of the Law's question: "And who is my neighbor?" The teacher knew the correct answer. It was the application that was difficult.
Jesus was about to be born into the world. He would love His Father with all His heart and with all His soul and with all His strength and with all His mind.
Jesus would love His neighbor as Himself. He does not pass by on the other side like the priest. He is the one who binds up our wounds, makes sure we're cared for, and covers the costs. It will not be convenient for Him; it will not be inexpensive for Him. To neighbor us will cost Him everything. He does so because He loves us.
He loves us, even though in so many ways we have shown ourselves to be His enemies. It would have been understandable if He had been indifferent to our plight. It would have been understandable if He had "had passed by on the other side" (Luke 10:31b). How blessed our world is by those who, when they see those who have been left for "half-dead" have not "passed by on the other side."
As Mary and Joseph continue their journey, they carry with them the One who would neighbor every sinner and show mercy to those in need. It is to us, as we travel our own road that Jesus says: "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37b).
THE PRAYER: O Heavenly Father, bless us so we may know Your love for us, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Amen.
12-18-2009, 09:35 AM
December 18, 2009
Matthew 21:17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Mary and Joseph are getting close to Bethlehem. They arrive at Bethany. It would be a place of rest for them-a place where children could play in the street. Mary prayed her baby would soon be such a happy child, playing with such good friends.
Jesus would find happy times and refreshment in Bethany. It was there that Mary, Martha, and Lazarus would be among His very best friends. He would rest there.
But Bethany would also be the place where some of Jesus' most memorable words would be spoken. They would be words about choices. While Martha was concerned she was not getting any help from her sister, Jesus affirmed, "Mary has chosen the good part" (Luke 10:42b). They would be words about the assurance of Jesus being "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25a).
Jesus would show some of His deepest human emotions here. It is here "He wept" (John 11:35).
It is here Jesus would perform the miracle that would leave His opponents no apparent choice. He would raise Lazarus from the death.
It is from here He will enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey, with the crowds cheering Him on. "Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!" Bethany was for Mary and Joseph, and later for Jesus, both a resting place and a launching place.
Perhaps you have a Bethany. You, too, are getting close to Bethlehem. I hope you have a place to rest, in the presence of good friends. For soon you will embark on the activities of the celebration of the Incarnation. Much of what you will experience will be expected and anticipated. There may well be some surprises. Pace yourself.
THE PRAYER: We are so grateful for the role Bethany played in the life of Jesus. Bless our time in our Bethanys. Amen.
12-19-2009, 09:43 AM
"BETHANY AT THE RIGHT TIME "
December 19, 2009
While Mary and Joseph's time in Bethany on their way to Bethlehem may have been brief and uneventful, Jesus' time there would be extended and very significant. He was there often for important events. Perhaps the most noteworthy of all was the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus.
Jesus did not come early. His good friends were anxious and quite disappointed; His followers were confused. "If He could heal a blind man, could He not have kept this man from dying?" (John 11:37)
As the eleventh chapter of John indicates, Jesus arrived at the right time. It was the right time so His disciple would believe. It was the right time to bring comfort to Mary and Martha. It was the right time to affirm His power over death. It was the right time to challenge those who doubted Him. His time in Bethany was the right time.
Our Lord's timing is always right. It may not seem so in the Bethanys of our lives. He may appear to arrive late. He may appear to be indifferent. It may appear His critics are correct and that He is powerless.
But Jesus time remains right. His response always comes from a heart that grieves over our anxiety and sadness. He loves us no less than He loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. His victory over Lazarus' death is in anticipation of our experiencing His victory over our death. He continues to do amazing things! His enemies remain no less committed to discredit and dishonor Him.
But this day, in our Bethany, He assures us He loves us; He cares for us; He forgives us; He hears our prayers, and at the right time we will "see the glory of God" (John 11:40b).
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, come to our Bethany so we may see the glory of God. Amen.
12-20-2009, 09:38 AM
"THE KIDRON VALLEY"
December 20, 2009
John 18:1 "When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley."
As Mary and Joseph left Bethany, they could have passed through the Kidron Valley on their route through Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Passing through this valley would have been a familiar experience. Pilgrims coming to Jerusalem would come singing their familiar Psalms of Ascent! Even now, when one approaches Jerusalem through the Kidron Valley, one can hear pilgrims singing their songs of praise.
Passing through this valley knowing they were bearing the Savior of the world, the One promised for so long, they would have understood these words in a whole new way. Others would sing the songs filled with hope. They would hear these songs as about to be fulfilled. The cry of the pilgrims for deliverance had been heard! Their passing through the Kidron Valley must have been with eagerness and delight.
They could hardly have imagined the triumphal entry of their Son through this Valley on what would later be called "Palm Sunday." He would be welcomed into Jerusalem as the Son of David, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. Jesus would enter Jerusalem that day riding on a donkey. Mary would remember that ride into Jerusalem on a donkey more that 30 years earlier.
Jesus ride into Jerusalem was on His way to offer Himself as our Lord and Savior, to lay down His life for us, and then to take it up for us again. He came through that valley so He might assure us that He joins us in all the valleys of our lives. We may be those being cheered on, we may be cheering others on, we are always joined by the King of kings and the Lord of lords!
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless us and all who are on our way to Bethlehem through the valleys of our lives. Amen.
12-21-2009, 09:44 AM
"THE HOLY CITY"
December 21, 2009
Luke 9:29-30 "Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about His departure, which He was about to fulfillment in Jerusalem."
Mary and Joseph would pass through Jerusalem on their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Their memories of past events in the Holy City may well have overwhelmed them. They knew the temple stood on the reported spot where Abraham was to have sacrificed his son, according to Genesis 22. This was the spot where so many sacrifices had been and were still being offered. While they did not know how, this would be the spot where their Son would make a sacrifice that would change everything!
As they passed through the city, they might have gone the way that would later become the "Via Dolorosa"-"the way of sorrow." It would take them past the temple, past the seat of power, past the governor's judgment hall, past Herod's palace. There was so much history, so many stories.
But most poignant story was yet to come! It would be of Jesus passing that way, struggling with His cross. This was not a light, touring trip through the city. This would be the Son of God bearing the load of the sins of the world. This would be the Son of God carrying our sins!
There were a lot of people who worried because it looked like He was in a terrible spot. They grieved for Him. But He knew who was in trouble. It was those who grieved. It is us. He knew that! To free us from the certain destruction wreaked by our sins, by death, and by the power of the evil one, He bore the load. He bore it all the way through Jerusalem. He bore it Calvary.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, we are so grateful for Your departure from Jerusalem, for us, and for the whole world! Amen.
12-22-2009, 10:13 AM
December 22, 2009
Luke 2:27 "Moved by the Spirit, he (Simeon) went into the Temple Courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the laws of the court required."
Mary and Joseph could not have gone to Jerusalem without pausing at the temple. They knew they would be back with their boy to meet the requirements of the Law. As they paused at the temple, they would marvel at its massive beauty. They would be impressed by the spiritual men and women who prayed and served there.
They would also have noticed the men who had made the temple a place of business and trade-activities that had nothing to do with the purpose for which Solomon had built the temple so many years ago. It would bother them. It would greatly bother their Son years later. So much so, He would later cleanse the temple as recorded in Matthew 21:12-13.
Mary and Joseph were standing on holy ground, and they knew it. This ground had been holy for Abraham as offered a ram as the sacrifice for his son. It was holy ground as sacrifices were offered for the people's sins. Ultimately, it would become the location on which their own Son would be offered for the sins of the whole world!
On our way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, we will also gather on what for us is holy ground. It is the place where we gather to worship He who came into our world to lay down His life as the Lamb of God. We will gather in that special place soon to celebrate the incarnation of Jesus.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless the holy place where we gather to worship You and will soon celebrate the incarnation!
12-23-2009, 09:30 AM
"THE SHEPHERD'S FIELD"
December 23, 2009
Luke 2:8:"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night."
The journey for Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem is almost over. It is only a few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The route takes them past Rachel's Well and a time to remember when Jacob and his family passed this way.
They would continue past the Shepherd's Field, where sheep would be gently feeding under the eyes of caring shepherds. Mary and Joseph would have no reason to know that later they would meet these shepherds face to face. They would have no reason to know these shepherds would be the very first to understand what they would know-that the Savior had been born who is Christ the Lord! They would have no reason to know the message would be given to them by a whole host of angels singing, "Glory to God in the highest!" (Luke 2:14a)
Mary and Joseph also would have had no way of knowing their Son would later declare Himself "the good shepherd" (John 10:11a). He would not be a hireling that would run away when the wolf comes. He would be the Good Shepherd who "lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11b). And those "sheep" are you, me, and the whole world.
THE PRAYER: May our Lord bless our passing by the ordinary events of our lives on our way to Bethlehem to join the shepherds at the manger to worship the Christ Child! Amen.
12-24-2009, 09:52 AM
December 24, 2009
Luke 2:4: "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David."
The journey for Mary and Joseph is almost complete. What began in Nazareth as a journey of a caring husband with his pregnant wife -what began as a journey from one non-descript village after another -what began with their Bethlehem destination firmly in mind-is now coming to an end. They have covered terrain packed with the history of their people. They had passed by people who would be mightily impacted by their Son. Their journey was almost complete. They were coming into Bethlehem.
Not many in Bethlehem were ready for them. The citizens were not ready. The people at the inn were not ready. The spiritual leaders in Jerusalem were not ready. The promise was a long time coming. Many looked for that day. Only Mary and Joseph knew that soon, very soon, the Savior of the world would be born into the world!
The villages we come from and where we will celebrate may be insignificant. But what we will do in those villages will be very significant. It's rather easy to excuse the residents and visitors of Bethlehem for not being prepared to receive the Savior of the world. We, however, have no such excuse. Even if everything else isn't ready-gifts, decorations, meal provisions, travel arrangements, and the like, we can still be prepared to celebrate the incarnation of the Christ, God in the flesh, who has come into our world, our lives, and the lives of those we love.
Ready or not, the Christ is coming.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, bless our last-minute preparations to receive You into our world, our lives, and our hearts. Amen.
12-25-2009, 10:46 AM
"THE JOURNEY'S END"
December 25, 2009
Luke 2:6: "While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born."
Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem. The time had come for their baby to be born. They had hardly expected they would be in a stable. Upon reflection, it's possible they considered how appropriate it was for the Savior of the world to be born in the midst of His creation.
Jesus is born in Bethlehem-literally "house of bread" in Hebrew. How fitting Jesus would see Himself as the "bread of life" (John 6: 35a). God had delivered a bread from heaven for the Children of Israel as they wondered through the wilderness. It was always enough, but Jesus is so much more! He is the bread from heaven!
Many of us will receive Holy Communion as we celebrate the birth of Christ-Jesus, the Bread of Life. In this bread-His Body-He forgives us our sins. In this bread He renews us, and empowers us to continue our journey beyond Bethlehem to our homes, our communities, and throughout the world.
Mary and Joseph journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They would later descend to Egypt to escape Herod's envy, and return to Nazareth where Jesus would grow up and join His father as a carpenter. Later, He would trek to the Jordan River where He would be baptized and on to Calvary where He would be crucified. But His journey would not end there. He would ascend into heaven where He has prepared a place for us. He will come again.
That is when our journey will end-when He comes again. The journey home to heaven will be the best of all. And it is all possible because of Mary and Joseph's Advent journey to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
THE PRAYER: O Advent Lord, thanks for accompanying our journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Bless our celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Bread of Life. Amen.
12-26-2009, 09:55 AM
December 26, 2009
Acts 6:8: "Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people."
This is Saint Stephen's Day. We are not sure if he ever visited Nazareth or Bethlehem. We do know what happened in Bethlehem affected him. There was no doubt in his mind about the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. There was no doubt in his mind about what the angels had sung to the shepherds-that in Bethlehem was born the Savior of the world.
We don' know if Stephen followed Jesus during His ministry. We don't know if he was one of the 72. We don't even know if he was aware of what Jesus was going through from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday. But we do know Stephen believed Jesus had paid the full price for his sins, had conquered death, and that now he had a real purpose for living.
His devotion and his service to Jesus were evident to all. When the apostles determined the expanding community of believers had grown to the size that they could no longer give their full attention to praying, proclamation, and the full pastoral care of the people, Stephen was chosen to be a deacon. His selection surprised no one; he was a strong and powerful witness.
Jesus' followers were mightily encouraged by Stephen's knowledge, faith, and enthusiasm.
Those who opposed Jesus found Stephen's strong witness exceedingly offensive. A full account is recorded in Acts 7. Stephen becomes the first among many who would lay down their lives for Jesus. On Saint Stephen's Day we give thanks for them all-and for the One who gave His life for us.
THE PRAYER: O Lord, bless all who give faithful and strong witness of the wonderful gift You are to us. May it remain the real purpose for our living. Amen.
12-27-2009, 09:51 AM
December 27, 2009
I John 3:16: This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
We can be pretty sure Saint John was in both Nazareth and Bethlehem. On this Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist we celebrate the faithful companion that John, the brother of James, was to Jesus. He was among the first chosen to be a disciple; he was a confident of Jesus; he was with Jesus through His passion; he was at the crucifixion and was entrusted by Jesus from the cross for the care of His mother. Saint John was very special to Jesus.
He is also very special to us. In a Gospel and three pastoral letters, he shares the heart of Jesus for all people. It is the heart of love. John also records the book of Revelation-a vision of what is yet to come.
There is a clear theme to John's writings. That narrative thread is to describe the nature of God's love for us. It is a covenant love-a love that commits to another but that is not conditioned on a response. It's a love that always seeks the welfare of the other and rejoices in whatever the response may be.
That is the kind of love John saw in Jesus. That is the kind of love he was determined to live out. That is the kind of love those who read his writings are urged to live. That is the kind of love he urges us to live out.
On this Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist, on this third day of Christmas, celebrate God's love for us in the Christ Child. On this Feast Day of Saint John, determine again to love as Christ has loved us!
THE PRAYER: Bless us this Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist as we celebrate Christ's love for us and recommit ourselves in our love for our brothers and sisters. Amen.
12-29-2009, 09:52 AM
"THE HOLY INNOCENTS"
December 28, 2009
Matthew 2:18 "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
There were many who were welcomed into Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus. The shepherds were welcomed. They told everyone what they had seen and heard. They told everyone what the angels had told them: "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).
The Wise Men were welcomed into Bethlehem. A star had brought them to where Jesus was. They must have been quite a group, and the residents of Bethlehem must have been very excited to see these visitors from the East. They had seen His star and had come to worship the King of the Jews.
But there was one who was not welcomed into Bethlehem: Herod. Known for his horrible reputation, he was so insecure he murdered members of his own family whom he thought were conspiring against him.
Herod heard from the Wise Men a new king of the Jews had been born. His own staff confirmed this would happen in Bethlehem. When the Wise Men didn't return to help him find this new king, Herod was incensed. He ordered the murder of all males two years old and younger in and around Bethlehem. Fortunately, Joseph had been warned about these unwelcome visitors and escaped to Egypt.
On this day of the Church year we remember the death of these baby boys. It is called "The Holy Innocents, Martyrs." We remember these boys, their parents, and all untimely deaths of children and the pain it brings their parents. We also consider our Lord's great love for those children, and His compassion for those parents. On this day, we pray our Lord would release His love and compassion through us who experience unwelcome visitors to the Bethlehems of our time.
THE PRAYER: O tender Jesus, watch over and protect every child from unwanted visitors. Amen.
12-29-2009, 09:53 AM
"LIFE IN BETHLEHEM"
December 29, 2009
Luke 2:1a: "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod ..."
We don't know a great deal about what life was like for Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby in Bethlehem. They were undoubtedly very busy. The feast days of the Church and the Biblical account of events are not in chronological order. A proper order would look like this:
• December 24th - arrival in Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus
• December 24th - visit of the shepherds
• January 1st - circumcision of Jesus on the 8th day
• February 3rd - presentation at the Temple on the 40th day
• Sometime later - arrival of the Wise Men from the East (celebrated on January 6th - the Feast of the Epiphany)
• Sometime later still - Herod's order to slaughter all males two years of age and younger (celebrated on December 28th)
• Flight to Egypt
• Shortly thereafter, the return to Nazareth, for Herod died almost immediately
Mary and Joseph's time in Bethlehem must have left a deep impression on them. They must have been overwhelmed with the shepherd's account of what they had seen and heard from the angels. Jesus' circumcision and the official naming on the eighth day-even if a private affair-would have connected them with the covenant promises first given to Abraham. Jesus' presentation in the temple and the prophetic announcements by Simeon and Anna would have been inspiring. And what about the arrival of the Wise Men from the East and their marvelous gifts? Indeed, what a marvelous time!
And today, the Christ Child is still present in our times of great joy or trying sorrow. He keeps everything in order, touching us with His gentle love and caring presence. In these special Holy Days, He brings joy and meaning to our beloved traditions and rituals.
THE PRAYER: O loving Christ Child, do bless our traditions, our rituals, our gifting, our feasting, and our time with family and friends. Amen.
12-30-2009, 09:10 AM
December 30, 2009
Luke 2:22-24 "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took Him to the temple to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."
On the 40th day after Jesus birth, Mary and Joseph made the five-mile journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. It would be an exciting and special day for these new parents. Their coming to the nearly completed temple would have been stimulating. This was the center of the world for pious Jews. What they have to offer was meager, indicating their poverty. It was a minimum requirement of the Law (Leviticus 12).
They were also there to formally present their infant son back to God in fulfillment of Exodus 13:2-"Consecrate to Me every first-born male. ..." It would call for an offering of five silver shekels, according to the book of Numbers.
With all that had been revealed to them, with all they had already experienced, their hearts must have been full. How was it possible all of these blessings had come to them?
Our hearts may also be full as we spend these Holy Days surrounded by small children or grandchildren. We are not under the same requirements of the Law as were Mary and Joseph. But we have no less commitment to present our children to the Lord, knowing they are gifts of our Lord and entrusted to our care. As the children did their part in a Christmas pageant, our hearts swelled with joy. We know not for sure what lies before them. But we know our Lord is committed to always be with them
THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, bless all parents as they present their children to You. Keep the children safe and hold them close. Amen.
12-31-2009, 09:53 AM
"SIMEON AND ANNA"
December 31, 2009
Luke 2:25 and 36: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout ... There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the Tribe of Asher."
We don't know if Simeon or Anna every traveled to Bethlehem. We do know they regularly entered the temple as they did when Mary and Joseph went there to fulfill the obligations according to the Law for Jesus' presentation and Mary's purification. It was their first trip outside Bethlehem since Jesus' birth. It would not be their last trip to the temple. They and Jesus would return often.
This trip was significant and left a lasting impression on Mary and Joseph. In the temple courts, an old man named Simeon took Jesus in his arms and prayed one of those prayers the Church continues to pray to this very day:
"Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to Your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32)
Simeon said more. He prophesied about the significant role Jesus would play in His ministry as Savior of the world. He had barely finished when Anna approached Mary and Joseph. She, too, gave thanks for the birth of Jesus, and spoke of what lay ahead for Him.
It is appropriate on this New Year's Eve that we reflect upon Mary and Joseph's experience in the temple. Simeon's prayer might well be our prayer as we complete year 2009. The prophecies of both Simeon and Anna are the promises of the Christ for us as we anticipate 2010. We, too, have seen the Christ and know He promises to be with us every day with His redeeming love.
THE PRAYER: We are so grateful for the words and witness of Simeon and Anna. May our words and witness reflect such a strong faith and such great confidence. Amen.
01-01-2010, 10:42 AM
"THE RITE OF CIRCUMCISION"
January 01, 2010
Luke 2:21: "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived."
Mary and Joseph would have stayed in Bethlehem for this very important rite. On this occasion, two important things occurred. First, the boy was formally named. There was no question about this baby's name; the angel made that clear. His name would be Jesus. It was a strong Biblical name-like Joshua, who led the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. So Jesus, the Greek form of Joshua, would lead all believers into the Promised Land.
Second, through circumcision God communicated the covenant promise of Genesis 12:1-3. Now a covenant is different than a contract. A contract is conditional; a covenant is unconditional. There were four parts to the covenant first given to Abraham and passed on through the rite of circumcision in Genesis 17:
1. God would always be loving, forgiving, renewing, and empowering to those who were part of His covenant.
2. God would always have a place in His heart for those with whom He had a covenant, and when the covenant one didn't need flesh anymore, in the eternities He had prepared for him.
3. God would always surround the one with whom He had a covenant with those who would multiply their joys, divide their sorrows, and lift them in prayer.
4. God would release His blessings through those with whom He had a covenant, so all would be blessed.
On this New Year's Day, consider the covenant God made with you through Holy Baptism. He is committed to be your loving God, who has a place for you, who surrounds you with the communion of saints, and who wishes to release His blessings through you to many others.
THE PRAYER: O precious Jesus, we are so grateful for the covenant our heavenly Father made with You, and through You, with us. Bless our living in the covenant this whole year long! Amen.
01-02-2010, 09:15 AM
"FLIGHT TO EGYPT "
January 02, 2010
Matthew 2:13: "Now when (the wise men) had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.""
Mary and Joseph may well have had plans to stay in Bethlehem for some time. They had become celebrities. The shepherds had wonderful things to say about them; word had gotten round about their reception at the temple; the Wise Men had left them some very nice gifts. This could be their new home!
Then came for Joseph what must have been a nightmare. An angel told him to flee to Egypt as Herod was determined to eliminate any threat to his throne. It would not be an easy sojourn. Even at a brisk pace, it would easily take ten days. We do not know which route they took or where they stayed. It must have been a very unsettling time. What had looked so promising was now ... so uncertain.
However, they knew God's promise their child would indeed be the Savior of all. They knew well God's saving acts when the children of Israel had traveled through this same desert from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were well aware Moses had been an infant in Egypt in a time when the king of Egypt was determined to kill all baby boys born to the Hebrews. They knew these stories of God's deliverance of His people.
There are times when our secure world also gets turned upside down. The memory of God's care for His people and, in particular, His care for this young family, should encourage us as we move into an uncertain future. God is faithful; His love for us is sure.
THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, we travel into the future with the sure confidence Your love is steadfast and sure. Bless us with great faith and a sure hope. Amen.
01-03-2010, 09:53 AM
January 03, 2010
Matthew 2:15b: And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Mary and Joseph's travel itinerary was Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth. Did they know the prophecy from Hosea 11:1? It originally referred to an infant Israel and its being called out of Egypt by God. Matthew, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit sees the passage as a reference to Jesus, God's only Son.
Mary and Joseph certainly knew Egypt's significance in the history of God's people. They knew the Genesis and Exodus stories of Joseph's own namesake, Jacob's son, Joseph. They knew about his many-colored garment, his brother's betrayal selling him into slavery. They knew of Joseph's faithfulness in the face of Potiphar's wife's temptations. They knew about his interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. They knew how Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt and how their people prospered and multiplied in Egypt. They knew about the king of Egypt who forgot the blessings the Lord had released through Joseph. They knew.
We don't know how long Mary, Joseph, and their baby were in Egypt. After Herod died, an angel told Joseph in a dream it was safe to return to the land of Israel. Joseph intended to return to Bethlehem, but when he found Herod's son, Archelaus, was ruling there, he decided instead to go to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Luke reports Jesus "grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him" (Luke 2:40b).
What a journey for Mary, Joseph, and the baby! This is our Savior. His experience is to journey with us-wherever we go or are. His commitment to be with us is steadfast and sure. It is a good word to remember and to pass on to those whose journey is uncertain and difficult.
THE PRAYER: O Lord, bless all those who are on difficult and dangerous journeys. Bless our journey through life. May our Advent journey end with us safely home. Amen.
01-04-2010, 09:26 AM
"THE WISE MEN"
January 04, 2010
Matthew 2:1: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the East came to Jerusalem.
Soon we will celebrate Epiphany. The Magi, Wise Men from the East, were among those who came to Bethlehem for Jesus' birth. Scripture simply says they were "magi" or "wise men." The assumption is there were three because of the three gifts, but there may have been more. While probably not kings, they were likely well educated for their time, knowing something about astronomy. Chances are they arrived from east of Jerusalem, but probably not the Far East.
A star's appearance led them to believe a new king had been born among the Hebrews. It wasn't surprising they went to Jerusalem, the capital city. Nor was it surprising to ask at Herod's palace where the king had been born. Surely the king would know and would be proud to introduce them.
Herod's scholars' research cited the prophet Micah's foretelling of a Bethlehem birthplace. The Wise Men were grateful for the help and headed out. If they were puzzled by the king's ignorance as to where the new king was born, we do not know. We do know they were overjoyed when the star continued to guide them and stopped over the place where the young child was.
This powerful expression of devotion by these wise Gentiles also means a great deal to us. We, too, have been led to worship the nativity of our Christ by a rather mysterious combination of events. We, too, have given great attention to what would be an appropriate gift for us to bring to Him. We, too, have experienced the grace of God as made known to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
THE PRAYER: We are grateful, Lord, for those who were led to worship the Christ Child that first Christmas. We are humbled that we join them in their worship, and are joined by others who have followed us. Amen.
01-05-2010, 09:06 AM
January 05, 2010
Matthew 2:11-12: On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
The Wise Men came to Bethlehem with gifts-wonderful gifts. There was gold, a royal gift, appropriate for one who is the King of kings. There was incense, a common tool of priests, indicating his future priesthood. There was myrrh-expensive and used in a variety of ways: perfumes, anointing oil, medicine, and embalming. Jesus would be anointed with perfume; He would be given wine mixed with myrrh while on the cross; He would be buried with spices that included myrrh. The gifts were appropriate.
We come to our Bethlehems bearing gifts. Some are for dear ones to express our love for them. Some will go to our favorite charities so they may do their work of love to the least, the last, and the lost. Some will go to our worshipping communities so they may continue to express God's heart for His people.
But Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem with the very best gift of all. They came with Jesus, the Christ, the Savior of the world. They came with Him who is both true God and true man. They bring to Bethlehem the Lamb of God who will take away the sin of the world. They bring to Bethlehem One who will be tempted even as we are tempted, but does not sin. They bring to Bethlehem One who will conquer death. They bring to Bethlehem the very best gift of all-the gift of life, peace, forgiveness, and hope. It is the gift that means everything.
THE PRAYER: O heavenly Father, you gave us the best Christmas gift ever. We gladly join with the angels, the shepherds, the Wise Men, and our brothers and sisters around the world to praise and glorify You. Please bless our gifting. Amen.
01-06-2010, 06:30 PM
HI GARY ~ I have a question for ya -- many churches believe that the MAGI or WISEMEN, or KINGS from the East visited the Christ-Child on January 6th (today). You talked about that yesterday; so does that mean that your church believes they came on January 5th?
I was just wondering becuz I am leaving my lights on til tonight for this very reason, as are many other people in our town ... :D
01-06-2010, 11:07 PM
ROSEBUD although we believe that we don't know the date for sure of the birth and exactly when the wisemen arrived we celebrate the Epiphany on Jan 6th.