In search of a star

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. Matthew 2:10-12 (CEB)

Today is the 12th day of Christmas. Tradition tells us that this is when the Wisemen arrived to see the baby Jesus. How did the Wisemen know that Jesus had been born? The Wisemen knew that something was about to happen because they had been watching. They weren’t distracted by things going on around them. They were intently looking. Not only did they notice that the star began its move they also followed.

There is much I can learn from the Wisemen. I can learn to patiently watch and listen as God reveals His vision for my life. Sometimes, even when I try hard to do so, I just don’t see God in the everyday things and events. But I think this is why we are given the story of the Wisemen.

Epiphany gives me the time to remember to watch, wait, listen, look, anticipate, and discern the light, life and truth of the Lord’s presence in my midst. It reminds me that it is important that I remember to look for Him in my life. It is vital that we remember to watch. Once I see His presence in my life I should not return to who I was before. I must seek a new path for my life. How applicable that this story comes so near to the first of the year with its opportunity of a fresh start!

Dear God, Thank you for second chances and for new beginnings. Thank You for signs in our life that show us the way to go. Help me to go down a different path this year. Help me to search for you in even the smallest moments. Help me in my search to be transformed through Your never endig grace. Amen.

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What’s there to hold on to

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.”

But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. ~Romans 8:31-39 (CEB)

 

“Life is unpredictable.  We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next.  So who is there to hold on to?  Who is there to feel secure with?  Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ.  He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend.  He came from God to be with us.  He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God’s right hand to welcome us home.   With Paul, we must be certain that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:38-39).” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

A New Year looms ahead. The possibilities are endless. Sadness and happiness are mixed at the close of an old year; anxiety and excitement greet the New Year. What will it hold? For most there is the underlying hope that the New Year will be better. I may not know what tomorrow and the New Year will bring but I do know that Jesus came down from God to hold my hand through whatever I face, both the good times and the bad.

Merry Christmas!

I ask you Heavenly Father to walk with me into this New Year. I welcome Your Presence in my life. I thank You for the gift of Your Son to guide and direct my steps as I enter the New Year with a clean slate of possibilities. May I ever hold close the belief that You will use all things for my good. Amen.

Arise and Shine!

Arise! Shine! Your light has come; the LORD’s glory has shone upon you. Though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations, the LORD will shine upon you; God’s glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light and kings to your dawning radiance. ~Isaiah 60:1-3

“It requires a lot of inner solitude and silence to become aware of these divine movements. God does not shout, scream or push. The Spirit of God is soft and gentle like a small voice or a light breeze. It is the spirit of love. Maybe we still do not fully believe that God’s Spirit is, indeed, the Spirit of love, always leading us deeper into love. Maybe we still distrust the Spirit, afraid to be led to places where our freedom is taken away. Maybe we still think of God’s Spirit as an enemy who wants something of us that is not good for us.

But God is love, only love, and God’s Spirit is the Spirit of love longing to guide us to the place where the deepest desires of our heart can be fulfilled. Often we ourselves do not even know what our deepest desire is. We so easily get tangled in our own lust and anger, mistakenly assuming that they tell us what we really want. The Spirit of love says: ‘Don’t be afraid to let go of your need to control your own life. Let me fulfill the true desire of your heart.” ~From Here and Now by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Jesus came into the world so that I don’t have to hold onto control so tightly. He knows the real desires of my heart and only wants good for me. He sent Jesus into the world so that I could begin to see beyond the “Thou shalt not’s” to the freedom He desires for me.

Merry Christmas!

It is the call of my heart God to be close to You. Your whispering is heard as it blows through my heart giving me new life. Bolster my unbelief so that I may live life more fully. Give me freedom instead of the chains that bind me to a life I don’t want. Help me to live in the Freedom you promise if only I believe. Help me this day to rise and shine for You. Amen.  

O little town

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom. ~Luke 2:1-7 (CEB)

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

by, Phillip Brooks, Lewis H. Redner.

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,

The silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,

And gather’d all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wond’ring love.

O morning stars together

Proclaim the holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And peace to men on earth.

“No matter how often we sing them, the simple words and music of Phillip Brooks’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ transport us to that night in which the Christ child came to earth. Through a gentle, quiet tune and pictures made by words, we enter the time and place when God, transcendent and unfathomable, was born into human history- in a human way. In terms a human being could best understand.

As the carol proceeds, our words become a prayer. It is a prayer that asks for something incredible: that the miracle be reproduced, and that this time, the event not simply happened in history, but in us.” ~From Faith, the Yes of the Heart by Grace Adolphsen Brame

Peace on earth seems so far away sometimes Heavenly Father, I am thankful for the retelling of the Christmas story because it reminds me that You were willing to come down here with us on Earth. Although the world doesn’t seem peaceful and quiet, if I turn to You I can always find that peace that passes this present understanding. Amen.

Let it be as You have said

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. ~Luke 1:38 (CEB)

“We know we are entirely dependent upon God, yet we forget and try to make our own provision for tomorrow or waste our energy in anxiety and fear that we will be forsaken when tomorrow comes. Mary was able to trust her life fully to the everlasting arms, sure that she would be upheld no matter what the future brought. ‘I am yours’. Help me to remember you provided for me as a helpless baby: you provide for me now and will provide for me through eternal ages. Help me to live as one life totally given to you.” ~From A guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I know deep in my heart that You will provide all my needs, especially as I try to walk in obedience to your will. Guide my steps, strengthen my will, hold my hand as I try to walk this day for You, I am Yours. Amen.

One long night…

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

He will wipe away the tears

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~Rev. 21:4 (CEB)

“Christmas is the promise that the God who came in history and comes daily in mystery will one day come in glory. God is saying in Jesus that in the end everything will be all right. Nothing can harm you permanently, no suffering is irrevocable, no loss is lasting, no defeat is more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive. Jesus did not deny the reality of suffering, discouragement, disappointment, frustration, and death; he simply stated that the Kingdom of God would conquer all of these horrors, that the Father’s love is so prodigal that no evil could possibly resist it.” ~ From Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning

During a time of waiting it is important to hold on to the reality that every trial is just a moment on this journey. Some moments are longer than others. Some more painful than others. But in waiting I have that peace that passes all understanding that should not be mistaken for living in denial. It is a confidence that God hears me when I pray and that eventually God’s Kingdom will come and this too will be just a moment.

Heavenly Father, through Your Word I know that a time will finally come where death will be conquered and our tears will be dried. The struggles I have will pass. I have Hope where once there was darkness and the confidence that all will be made right through You. Amen.

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