The Wonders of Christmas 6

December 4th, 2016 by Maureen

Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will. Luke 2:14 YLT

The Greek word for peace can mean lack of conflict on both national and personal level and also the rest and prosperity that results from this lack on conflict. It’s an all-expansive word for peace. The Greek word  ἄνθρωπος means all human kind. I’m going out on a limb here, but, the Gnostics at used the word ἄνθρωπος to refer to the first man, Adam. Perhaps the writer of Luke gave it a double meaning here, this goodwill that God extends to mankind is a reconciling goodwill extended to Adam and the implications connected with the fall. A wonder of Christmas is that the narrative itself holds meaning and evokes emotion beyond those who accept Christianity. It is truly a universal message of love and peace.

Lord, bring peace and goodwill on all.

 

The wonders of Christmas 5

December 3rd, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus is mirrored in Melchizedek in whom the new priestly office arises, not based on the law of precepts constrained by the frailty of the flesh but by the authority of an indestructible life demonstrated by Christ’s resurrection. Heb. 7:15-16

The birth of Incarnate God Who is both Priest and King is a wonder of Christmas. God didn’t send a high priest to confirm and enforce the system the Jews had built around their understanding of law, sacrifice, and forgiveness. He didn’t send a king to rule according to that system, or any other earthly system. God Himself experienced birth and dwelt among us to restore His spiritual kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. Instead of demanding compliance as adherents and subjects, Christ invited humans into the roles He created us for: royal priests and beloved children of His loving, gracious, and redemptive Kingdom.

Lord, I want to celebrate this season as child and priest of the everlasting Kingdom where I live now and forever.

The wonders of Christmas 4

December 1st, 2016 by Maureen

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)

“Bethlehem? That’s random.” Why not one of the big players like Jerusalem? The redemption stories we would write would likely be more straightforward and predictable, but the story God’s been telling “from ancient days,” is full of surprises.  Even the way Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesy so defied the logic and expectations of the religious Jews that He was unrecognizable to most of them. God often chooses the things that seem too little, foolish, weak, and random, perhaps, as 1 Cor. 1:27 suggests, to confound the wise.

Lord, help me to recognize Your amazing  story in seemingly insignificant and unexpected things.

 

The wonders of Christmas 3

November 29th, 2016 by Maureen

“Once in our world a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

Continuing to contemplate Who was in that stable:

The logos (embodiment of God’s thoughts) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Jn. 1:14

God the Father’s thoughts about human beings are full of grace and truth. From God’s own glory came this humble, miraculous, mysterious event, a human child born in a stable, and yet the glory that marked Him as the Son of God spilled out. Worship was the appropriate response. Nobody was expected to wrap their heads around what happened in Bethlehem but poor and wealthy, locals and foreigners, were invited to witness His glory and worship Him. And they came.

Lord, we still come to experience glory we can never explain.

 

 

The wonders of Christmas 2

November 28th, 2016 by Maureen

“Once in our world a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”  – C.S. Lewis

Continuing to contemplate just what that stable in Bethlehem contained:

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Col. 1:17

How can this Baby who has yet to develop language and motor skills and who must be fed and diapered like every human baby, hold all things together? Perhaps this is part of the mystery of the Trinity. Perhaps this is part of the mystery of time and eternity, space and infinity. The incarnation of God lay in a manger and yet the world is still spinning. This is a wonder of Christmas

Lord, Your amazing love and Your amazing plan never stops amazing me.

*C.S. Lewis. The Last Battle. (The Chronicles of Narnia #7). 1956.

The wonders of Christmas

November 27th, 2016 by Maureen

This season offers an opportunity to renew our sense of wonder. C.S. Lewis wrote “Once in our world a Stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”  As Christmas approaches we can enjoy contemplating just what that stable in Bethlehem contained:

We have our beginning and our being in Him. He is the force of the universe, sustaining everything that exists by his eternal utterance. Jesus is the radiant and flawless expression of the person of God. Jesus makes the glory of God visible and exemplifies the character and attributes of God in human form. Heb. 1:3 (Mirror Bible)

This is the Presence that took on human flesh at a particular time, in a particular place, in the specific context of a redemption story God had been writing for ages upon ages. No wonder stars exploded and angels sang at the birth of Him who birthed the universe.

Lord, help me discover what’s in the Stable for me this season. Every year I look there seems to be more!

*C.S. Lewis. The Last Battle. (The Chronicles of Narnia #7). 1956.

Find your personal holiday aesthetic

November 25th, 2016 by Maureen

tree-pictureAnd you will have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at His birth. Luke 1:14

Materialism-driven events like Black Friday make an ascetic approach to the holidays look like a good option. But before jumping into a complete purge of the material and secular, consider engaging in a gentle edit instead. What makes you rejoice at His birth? What makes Christmas beautiful to you? What makes this season meaningful? What beauties of the season truly inspire? What gatherings, events, music, decorations, foods, etc. make this time feel like authentic celebration? Keep the good stuff, even if your good stuff seems quirky or kitchy to somebody else, find your own holiday aesthetic and rejoice with it!

Lord Jesus, Your birth is worth celebrating in a big way!

A personal history of Thanksgiving

November 24th, 2016 by Maureen

I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers. Phil. 1:4

When it comes right down to it it’s the people in our lives, not the stuff or the circumstances, that matter. We remember how we met. We connected by God-inspired serendipity through birth, marriage, work, school, neighborhood, common interests, and random encounters.  We tell stories about our shared experiences, some sweet, some funny and some even disastrous.  The history of my relationships with these people has, at one time or another, served as personal affirmation that God is indeed love. These people are the blessings and treasures God has given to me, and I thank Him for them.

Lord, I thank you and pray joy and abundance on these dear friends who sit at the tables in my house on this particular Thanksgiving, and also on the larger gathering who sit at the ever-expanding table in my heart.

Deep roots of thankfulness

November 23rd, 2016 by Maureen

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Col. 2:7

Everybody rolls into Thanksgiving with specific disappointments and losses that need not be the “in spite of” or the “because of” factors in the giving of thanks. Thankfulness does not depend so much on what we have or don’t have or what happened or didn’t happen, as it does on how we recognize God’s love for us, how we value those around us, and what we consider essential to our peace and joy.

Lord, because of You my heart overflows with thankfulness.

The day the Lord made

November 21st, 2016 by Maureen

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24

Rejoicing is not about finding silver linings, faking smiles, or making lemonade. Rejoicing is not rendered irrelevant by painful circumstances or even negative attitudes, but it’s not denying what we are experiencing either. Simple awareness that God is involved in our lives and loves us on this very day can put us in the spiritual, mental, and emotional state to notice all the personal love gifts and messages He’s placed in our paths for us to experience throughout the day. Having a day to rejoice in depends on how we choose to see it.

Lord, let this be a day of rejoicing, especially for those who didn’t expect to rejoice today.

 

The force of grace

November 20th, 2016 by Maureen

God is able to make all grace overflow to you, so that, in all things, at all times, having all contentment, you may overflow in every good work. 2 Cor. 9:8

God is the force of grace that makes of us forces of grace. When grace overflows it gets all over everything. It cannot be contained by our limitations. It will seep into places we never thought it could reach. Grace is such a powerful force that it invades seemingly solid and impermeable attitudes, thinking, and habits. This affects a chemical change on our spirits. Our responses flow from this powerful overflow of His grace rather than the obligation to “do good work.”

Lord, beyond my resources or circumstances, beyond my doubts and fears, carry me in the overflow of Your grace and cause me to be a force of grace in this world.

 

As we gather together

November 19th, 2016 by Maureen

seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose…There you and your families will feast in the presence of the Lord your God, and you will rejoice in all you have accomplished because the Lord your God has blessed you. Deut. 12:4,7

Our awareness and rejoicing in God’s gracious provision and presence in our own stories, in each other’s stories, and in the unique stories of every group to which we belong, can make any moment of our lives the place of worship He chooses for us. We are part of His collective blessing of abundance, redemption and restoration. Thankfulness increases awareness and optimism.

Lord, let every Thanksgiving gathering become a place of worship.

In the house

November 13th, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jewish followers: “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been anyone’s slave! How can you say ‘we will become free?'”
Jesus: “I tell you the solemn truth, everyone who commits a sin is a slave to sin. A slave does not remain in the house for all time, but a son remains for all time. If, therefore if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.” Jn. 8:34-36

Jesus was having this conversation with those among His own followers who were still adherents to the Jewish law and believed its ideas about who is “in” and who is “out” and believed the law was the process necessary to be “in.” Jesus announced a different paradigm: No more law, just grace. No more condemnation, just restoration. No more sacrifice, just redemption. No more revolving doors, just belonging. No more slaves, just sons and daughters. No more visitors, just family. Robert Frost wrote in his poem, The Hired Man, “Home is the place that, when you go there, they have to take you in.” God is our home.

Thank you for making Yourself my home and for making Your home in me.

 

Healing words from Matthew and Micah

November 9th, 2016 by Maureen

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 22:39 Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Micah 6:8

The president does not dictate whether or not we can love our neighbors. The laws of the land do not decide whether we choose to treat one another with fairness and graciousness. The policies of a government do not decide whether we choose to be generous and compassionate. The attitudes of politicians, the press, our favorite celebrities, or our neighbors do not dictate our responses. We still have the same choices today that we have always had: to love, to embrace justice, to extend mercy, and to exhibit humility and humanity.

Lord, inspire and guide each of us in loving our neighbors, all our neighbors.

Election results have no eternal consequence

November 8th, 2016 by Maureen

Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. I Thess. 5:17-18

In this divisive political season I’ve heard and read rhetoric about “God’s will” in this election. Occasionally, some of this rhetoric offered well-reasoned, good-intentioned, scripturally-supported reasons from apologists for every party explaining why voting for a particular candidate was “God’s will” or the “Christian” way to vote. And there is even more rhetoric that contains inflammatory, knee-jerk, reactionary rhetoric. What if the “this is God’s will” refers to “be thankful” rather than “circumstances.” (It does, after all say “in” not “for.”) God’s solution to all circumstances is Jesus, Redeemer of circumstances, King of all that is Eternal,  from before the foundation of the world. Today’s election results have no eternal consequence and only as much power to disrupt our peace and trust as we allow them to have.

Lord, thank You for Your elegant solutions and loving hand that moves beyond the possibilities circumstance presents.

Two ways to look at it: obligation or privilege

November 7th, 2016 by Maureen

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. Col. 3:16

The message of Christ is redemption, transformation, grace, joy, and freedom. His message is one of loving relationship with a Father who loves us, delights in us, and wants good for us. God invites us into lives that are not full of obligation and drudgery, but of privilege and wonder. We can choose to embrace this life, expect good, and give thanks for it. It’s a risk. The box of legalism and obligation is measurable and some what controllable.  Transforming freedom and grace doesn’t come with a box. What happens might not look the way we expect and we might have to let go of some pet perceptions written on the sides of our boxes. Worth the risk.

My heart is full of thanks for Who You are and all You do for me.

Everything is dust in the wind

November 6th, 2016 by Maureen

God chose the foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose the insignificant, the contemptible, even chose what is considered nothing to reduce to nothing things that exist, so that we take no personal pride in any of this face to face with God. 1 Cor. 27-29

God doesn’t need the best and brightest, the luckiest, richest, or best connected person to cause change or bring about good. In fact, our best, most researched, most sensitive, most considered, most logical ideas and accomplishments are sometimes challenged by small, unpredictable, and almost silly factors. This happens in football, elections, finance, and all sorts of endeavors that humans try to control through human prowess and power. Everything we use to define influence , to assign worth, or to assure security are dust in the wind. And that’s okay because God is the wind.

Lord, help me to rely on Who You are rather than relying on how smart, powerful, influential (or despairing of how dumb, weak, and insignificant) I think I am.

Goodness therapy for angst and guilt

November 5th, 2016 by Maureen

Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works. Heb. 10:24

Is it that effective in the long run to try to guilt people into doing good works?
We can choose to do outrage and grief: constantly focusing on the brutalities and grieving the injustices of life on earth.
We can choose to do sin patrol: noticing and pointing out all the ways we and other people mess up, might mess up, or have messed up in the past.
Or we can choose to do good: looking for, embracing, and celebrating Christ’s renewal, restoration, reconciliation, and redemption of us. Maybe we aren’t here to do His good work so much as that we are His good work.
The outcomes and impacts on the lives of others, and on the state of the world in general, will be different when we come from a place of love and goodness than when we come from a place of angst and guilt.

Lord, help me to stir others to recognize and enjoy Your love and goodness.

Around the table

November 4th, 2016 by Maureen

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” Luke 14:15

We are entering the season where there are so many gatherings of families and friends. Jesus used meals as a time to include, to teach, and to nourish. He ate with everyone who invited him and performed miracles so everyone with him could eat. He keeps adding leaves to His table so we all can sit at the big table with Him. When I think of all the tables I get to sit around and all the faces at those tables, I am incredibly grateful.

Lord, thanks for today’s feast of friendship, discovery, and grace.

Thankful for who? Seriously?

November 2nd, 2016 by Maureen

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them…This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. I Tim 2:1, 3-4

Praying, interceding and wishing everyone well, I get, but thankfulness? I generally pray for protection from mean, greedy, stupid, violent, selfish people. I don’t thank God for them. Can I be thankful for that guy who cut in front of me in traffic? For politicians I don’t like? For the people who press my annoyance button throughout the day? Maybe thankfulness helps make us more aware of the way God loves, values, and desires relationship with and restoration for each person. Maybe thankfulness is what inspires prayer and intercession and goodwill towards all.

Lord, show me how to be thankful for all people. Help them to know You. Help me to reveal You in how I respond to them Adjust my attitude beyond my ability to adjust it.