Dec 25, 2015

An Advent Devotion: III

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

I came across this story from a Christmas Eve Pageant of years ago. The writer was a member of a church youth group at the time.

I was chosen to play Joseph and believe it or not, my future wife, Allison, was chosen to play Mary. We did our parts with seriousness and commitment, looking as pious as possible. And then it came time for the shepherds to enter. The choir was singing “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night” and some of our fellow young people dressed in flannel bathrobes and appropriate headgear proceeded to the altar steps where Allison and I looked reverently at the straw, which contained a naked light bulb. With his back to the congregation, one of our peer shepherds said in a very loud whisper for all the cast to hear, “Well, Joe, when you gonna pass out cigars?”
 The spell of that occasion was not simply broken by his remark, it was exploded. Our Mary and Joseph cover was completely destroyed as it became impossible to hold back the bursts of laughter. The chief angel, standing on a chair behind us was the worst. She shook so hard that she fell off her chair and simply rolled over on the floor, holding her stomach. The strains of “Silent Night” or “0 Little Town of Bethlehem” were sufficient to cover the uncontrolled snorts of the main characters. Our much upset but good-sported youth advisor said, “The only thing that didn't go to pieces was the light bulb in the manger, it never went out.”

The light in/from the manger never goes out! This, my friends, is a first-rate image for our days (Hebrews 1:1).

Prayer: “All Knowing God, give us the hope we need in the light of Jesus.” Amen.

Talk time: Ask your family what their favorite memory of Christmas was.

Love during Advent: Encourage your family to work for a day at a homeless shelter or at Salvation Army.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Dec 18, 2015

An Advent Devotion: II

Read: Hebrews 1:1-4

Years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship. The researchers placed two sets of laboratory rats in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. They periodically lifted other rats out of the water and then returned them. When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. 1Why? 

Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope! Those animals somehow hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them. If hope holds such power for unthinking rodents, how much greater should its effect be on our lives? Our hope resides in the promise that “in these last days God has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:1).

Prayer: “Gracious God, come again and give us the promise of hope in Jesus.” Amen.

Talk time: Ask your children what God thinks about Christmas.

Love during Advent: Let your family make some gifts and visit a home for the aged.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Dec 11, 2015

An Advent Devotion: I

Read: Luke 1:47-55

Most of us, like Mary, live un-amazing and uneventful lives. But that is where God lives with us. Jesus was willing to accept the lowliest of births, an ordinary, mundane, and obscure life, and the lowest, most degrading form of death—death on a cross. Why did Jesus do that? Jesus died such a death to fulfill his mother’s song before his birth: “the Mighty One has done great things” for you and for me.

Millions of people this year and every year will sing carols about the savior of the world and yet have no room for Jesus in their lives, just as there was no room at the inn on the night of his birth. Each Christmas God gives us the opening to do something wonderful for ourselves and our souls. Receive Jesus and make room in your heart for him, and enable him to enable you to love others.

Prayer:  “Lord, during this season, help us remember your gift of mercy.” Amen.

Talk time: Offer God a word of thanksgiving as a gift today.

Love during Advent: Give something to someone you don’t know.

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

Dec 4, 2015

A Christmas Parable

My friend Will Willimon, professor at Duke and Bishop of the UMC wrote this a few years ago and I share it with you:

A Christmas story, can’t remember where I heard it, but I tell it to you as you begin your own celebration of Christmastide.

There was a time when all the angels where gathered about the heavenly throne for a discussion. Things were in a mess down on earth. (What else is new?) The Creator had become concerned about the state of the Creation–wars, fighting, famine, bloodshed all over.

“I’ve tried everything,” God complained. “I have spoken to them some of the most beautiful words they could ever hope to hear. Think of the glorious Psalms, the hymns, the poetic passages of Isaiah. They love to read about peace and goodwill, but they don’t like to live it!”

God continued, “Then I sent them the prophets. They love Isaiah, the promises of release from their sufferings, freedom from their exile. But do they follow the precepts of the prophets about justice and righteousness rolling down like waters? Never!”

There was widespread discussion of the sad state of affairs on earth. Many of the angels–Gabriel, Michael, and others had been on earth on many an occasion. They had seen for themselves the sources of God’s lament and shared God’s concern.

“I think the only thing left is for one of you, a member of the heavenly court, to go down to earth. Live with them, not just for a moment, but every day. Get to know them, become one of them, live with them, and let them get to know you. Only then will heaven’s intent be truly communicated to them. Only then will they take notice of the great gap between the way they have been living and the way they were created. Only then will we be able to reveal to them who I created them to be.”

The angels stood in awkward silence. They had been to earth before, to deliver messages from God or to effect some momentary intervention in human affairs. They weren’t about to volunteer for long term duty in such a murderous, difficult place.

The silence lasted for an eternity. Finally, God broke the silence. Quietly, determinedly, but without resignation and no bitterness, God said, “Then I will go.”

This is a parable of Incarnation.            

Come, Worship
Stay, Learn
Go, Serve

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