Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Advent 2019 (Page 1 of 6)

December 24, 2019- What is different?

Gerard (Gerrit) van Honthorst (1590-1656), Adoration of the Shepherds

Today’s Bible reading

Luke 2:1-7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Jeremiah 29:13

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

More thoughts for meditation

On Christmas morning, what is different? If we still struggle with our old habits, oppressive systems still perpetuate evil, and the earth is still being destroyed, what is different? What was all of that longing and waiting for, if the suffering doesn’t end? Jesus’ name means “God is salvation.” From what are we being saved? From what are we being delivered?

The miracle of God-with-us changes everything. God coming to us, abiding with us, and not leaving but making a home in us is the cosmic response to our need for deliverance. God’s self revelation in Jesus as a retelling and expansion of the promised deliverance that began in the Exodus narrative. God rescues God’s people. We turn toward our deliverance and embrace the baby Savior. On Christmas day, we meet God as God comes to us.

Suggestions for action

We have been lighting candles all of Advent, marking the story as we journey with those who have gone before us to wait for the birth of our Savior. In a dimly lit room, light one more candle today. Let the quiet flame prompt some space to quiet your heart. We’ve been waiting for the baby to be born. Wait now, in your longing. Name your need for deliverance, and the deliverance of the whole world. Come Lord Jesus, come! 

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and the world rejoices. But for now, pray out of the depths of your longing – for deliverance and for Christ’s return. 

December 23, 2019 – Experiential knowing

Today’s Bible reading:  Luke 2:15

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

More thoughts for meditation

So they hurried off. The shepherds went right away to go see what this announcement was all about.

Let’s follow the shepherds. Rise up! Go have an experience with God. 

In his book The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner, writes that  “Knowing God’s love demands that we receive God’s love experientially – not simply as a theory. Personal knowing is not simply a matter of the head. The things we know from experience we know beyond belief.”

A genuine knowing of God comes when we show up in vulnerable ways to receive it experientially. That is what moves us beyond our heads to our hearts; beyond belief to a personal knowing in our current situation. We can’t live off of our experiences in the past. To know God now we must keep seeking; keep showing up.

This is why we need an Advent season of waiting. Advent invites us to show up in the story, to wait on the Lord; to connect with our longing and stay in our desire. It helps us to mark a clear line so that with the coming of Christmas day, we can celebrate deliverance. Sharply drawn seasons help us re-narrate the entire Christian story of deliverance, in this era, in our life circumstances, in our hearts. 

Suggestions for action

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. There will be two gatherings – one at 4:00 pm and a vigil at 10:45 pm (FB events here). If possible, make arrangements today to be able to show up tomorrow. Come have an experience with God. We have been developing our longing as we learn to wait in Advent. The light is growing. The moment is almost here. When we cross over midnight on Christmas Eve, we join all heaven and earth rejoicing. 

December 22, 2019 – The daily grind

Benjamin Gerritsz Cuyp: The Annunciation to the Shepherds

Today’s Bible readingLuke 2:8-15 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

More thoughts for meditation

In the midst of darkness, while they kept watch over sheep, the shepherds received the news that the long awaited Savior had come.

I don’t know what it is like to be a shepherd first hand, but I understand that it is a lot of work. There are dangers on the mountains and it is physically taxing. They have to be paying attention all the time, guiding the sheep to the pastures for sustenance and water. They don’t get holidays off or the weekend to rest – their work is 24/7. 

Many of us feel the same way. Our work doesn’t end either. Break isn’t really a break. The weekend is for getting the things done that you can’t get done during the week. You have to pay attention all the time; be on guard or you will miss something that will be costly. You lost your wallet and can’t afford to replace your monthly transpass. The water pipe needs to be replaced because your makeshift workaround caused a bigger problem. You have no food for lunches this week and no time to get to the store. Your kid is sick. You aren’t sleeping well. Laundry is never-ending. It’s a daily grind.

In the midst of your responsibilities and tasks, a Savior is born. In the midst of your morning commute, good news for all the people! Let the message of the angels get to you. Let their glorious, joy-filled news break through the darkness to reach you in this moment. Into the humble circumstances of your life, Jesus comes. 

Suggestions for action

The shepherds are significant and you are too. No matter how humble your labor, or how pressing your circumstances, God is coming to you. Can you pray this prayer today? 

Break through the cloud of my daily grind, oh God. I am listening and looking for evidence of you. Be born into the details of my life. 

December 21, 2019 — Notice the transformation in each other

Today’s Bible reading: Luke 2:39-49

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant, From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me…

More thoughts for meditation

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Mary’s revolutionary victory song comes right after Elisabeth’s recognition of the child in her womb. I wonder if she needed a loved one to affirm what was happening in her. Her magnificat is a reaction to the recognition of the miracle inside her. She bursts into song after her cousin sees the truth about her and calls it out!

This is of course a cosmic moment unique to these two women and what God was doing through them, but all of us are unlocked by others seeing the truth about what God is doing in us and calling it out. We need each other to recognize and affirm the new life that is growing in us. That is one of the primary purposes of our cells! We can’t can’t always see the impact of our transformation until someone else is impacted by it.  We can’t always see the miracle of incarnation in us. When we do, we might be inspired to burst into praise to God like Mary, too. Jesus is delivering us, and we can be encouraged by our community’s reflection of that new reality.

Suggestions for action

Find someone who knows you and your faith this weekend. Ask them to tell you what they see God doing in your life this Advent, and do the same for them. Then join the others in praise with the shepherds and angels at the Sunday meeting tomorrow!

« Older posts