Archive for December, 2017

Christmas standards: Peace and Goodwill

December 10th, 2017 by Maureen

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward humankind. Luke 2:14

God stated His attitude and intentions toward humankind in the angelic message that accompanied Jesus’ birth: peace and goodwill. This is God’s heart for His creation. This is His endgame. Sadly, human beings sometimes inflict guilt, exert control, manipulate outcomes, create conflict, and even start wars (sometimes distorting or misrepresenting God’s attitude and intentions in the process.) Bringing God’s peace and goodwill into an interaction does just the opposite. Imagine a season in which every interaction in homes, workplaces, schools and worship centers; at events, gatherings, and parties; on roadways, at stores, and in airports; between families, friends, neighbors, and even enemies; across cultural, social, racial, gender, political, and religious lines could start from an attitude and intention of peace and goodwill.

Lord, help me to speak and respond out of Your peace and goodwill in every circumstance, even the ones that try my patience.

The inevitable glitches of Christmas

December 9th, 2017 by Maureen

She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7
That first Christmas did not come neatly wrapped with a red bow on top and it’s likely this one won’t either. In the course of the Christmas story Mary and Joseph face whispers and raised eyebrows from relatives and townspeople, have to travel in Mary’s ninth month of pregnancy, find the inn overbooked, and end up having a baby in a barn. Basically Hallmark channel plot twists… until they later have to flee the country to escape a crazy monarch.The inevitable Christmas glitches don’t matter.
Lord, help me minimize my responses to Christmas glitches and maximize Christmas love, joy, and peace.

Avoiding a tabloid gospel

December 8th, 2017 by Maureen

While he [Joseph], considered these things an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Matt. 1:20

The Nativity story had the potential to become a very messy “he said-she said” tabloid tale. In the  The Gospel of Luke Mary and even her cousin Elizabeth get inside information from angels about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. The Gospel of Matthew explains how Joseph took it when Mary gives her version of her pregnancy story. Though understandably hurt and confused, Joseph seems to have processed the situation with a gracious attitude even though the most reasonable explanation is that Mary cheated on him. It was only after extending grace and keeping an open mind that Joseph gets a dream and angels to offer clarity and confirmation. A reactionary response could have locked Joseph out of that experience. We don’t usually get dreams or angels to clear up ambiguity in our lives. What we do get is the opportunity to choose to manifest grace, to extend the benefit of the doubt, and to leave God room to guide our responses.

Lord, when I don’t have clarity (and even when I think I do) help me respond with a gracious spirit and an open mind.

Is Christ archetype or stereotype?

December 7th, 2017 by Maureen

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12

Archetypes are the original model or ideal example for things of the same type. Stereotypes are simplified images accepted as common by a particular group. Jesus didn’t fit the Messiah stereotype the Jews had constructed. Their Messiah story called for a king, a warrior,  a superhero, a recognizable deity who would improve their earthly circumstances and crush their enemies. Instead they got a baby in a manger. Some adjusted their thinking to the archetypical story God was telling through Christ, but others reinterpreted Him to fit their paradigms.  We can choose to receive Christ as archetype of Savior God with open-hands, open-minds, and open-hearts or we can insist on forcing our stereotypes of what constitutes a Savior God into His story.

Lord, thank You for the manager, the cross, the empty tomb, and the rest of the redeeming story You are telling through Jesus Christ.

Eternal flame

December 6th, 2017 by Maureen

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78

Jesus, the Light of the world, offers peace to souls impacted by the lingering darkness. He brightens the corners of the dark cave of sickness, depression, poverty, isolation, doubt, and fear. Christ illuminates confusing situations and warms cold hearts. Christ guides us in, protects us, and ignites us with His light. Christ causes perpetual light that burns within and around us.

Lord, for all of us with broken hearts and broken lives, living in darkened places in this broken world,  open our eyes to Your light ever breaking upon us like waves.

Random storylines

December 5th, 2017 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,” might have been the response to God’s choice for the Messiah’s birthplace. Those who seem too little, foolish, weak, and random often have unexpected roles in God’s redemption story. When God casts us in a story He’s been telling “from ancient days,” there are no small roles. Our lives are all threads in this eternal epic God writes, and He will resolve every storyline, even the loosest ends of our individual threads.

Lord, thank you for showing me the biggest part of Your amazing story: Jesus. Help me to trust You for the unresolved threads flapping around in my own life.

Deep thoughts about Christmas joy

December 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

The story hangs on what we do with Jesus. He is the hero of the Christmas story. He tells the Redemption  Story for the world and He is also a personal agent of change for each one, destined to be our joy in each of our individual stories. His joy is found in receiving and repenting (definition of repent – changing our minds) and letting the story He is telling deepen in our minds. Insisting on making Jesus fit into our paradigms is a study in frustration.

Lord, reveal and revise my deepest thoughts. Tell me a better story than I can tell myself.

Fear not, the news is really that great

December 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Fear not,” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:9

It seemed that just about everybody involved in Jesus birth needed a  “Fear not” at some point. Experiencing God’s radiant glory has not been the norm in human experience. Honestly, neither has joy and good news. These seem like fleeting, precious moments in the human experience. And yet, something in us responds so powerfully to glory and joy. Christ really is good news of great joy. He is our bliss and His joy and glory is the state in which we are meant to exist. The incredible permanence of God’s love and goodwill toward us seems too good to be true. Fear not. It is. Receive the glory and joy.

Lord, thank you for flashes of sudden fearless glory and joy in my life.