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Christmas Eve: Relationships: Isaiah 9

Relationships

Isaiah 9:6-7

†  I.H.S.

May you realize the long awaited promise of God’s active presence in our lives, came true for all on a night like this… as Jesus the Messiah was born.

Four Letters.

Four simple letters, written by a prophet 700 years before the event he saw.  The promise of God nearly two millennia before that.

Four letters, divided into two words, that matter more than we can imagine.

“to us.”

This child that we celebrate, this man who is God whom we glorify, was born to us.

To us…..

And everything changes, as the relationship that God wants to have with us, is revealed.  That which they couldn’t understand in Isaiah’s day, and couldn’t understand on the night when Mary gave birth, made clear.  God came to us.  To have a relationship with us, to relate to us in a number of ways Isaiah tells US.

Like Kay is my wife, the church’s office manager, the mother of my son, so too does God relate TO US in a number of incredible ways….. and as we celebrate Jesus coming to us, as we ponder what this all means, it is worth looking at who Isaiah says this Jesus, this God is saves relates… to us

Wonderful Counselor, the one who comforts and directs, who consoles and guides, whose wisdom we depend upon.  This is the God, who came to us. It is the first way Isaiah tells us that He will relate… to us.

He does this because we need direction, we need comfort, we need God here, to be our shepherd. Because we too often lose our way morally, We need Him when life results in despair and mourning. So a child was born to us.

That baby, who was laid in a feeding trough, this child born of parents who would soon leave their country because of persecution and move. He is one we truly need, A God, the God, not made of wood or fashioned from stone.  A God, who is mighty, and uses that might, that ability, that power, for us. For that is how He would relate to us.  Not just minimally from a distance but interacting with us here.

Too often we make false gods, ones who would promise to do what we want, what we think we want.  We don’t want these gods to love us; rather we only want them to give us what we think we need.  This God, though, who came as a child to us…is not like that.  He is a mighty God, who loves and knows what we truly need.  He relates to us as the God, who is always able to be Whom we need,

The next way is is my favorite of the ways in which God relates to us humans, to his people. As our eternal dad, as the loving Father, we run to when we are hurt when we’ve broken our neighbor’s window, or their hearts when we’ve done the things that leave us needing His strong embrace.

And this Father is eternal, and he will be our Father eternally.  Think about that.  God just isn’t a god of this day or that, a fad.  He will be your God always.

There is a lot in this idea that this child relates to us as our Father, our everlasting Father.  Theologians make a big deal of it.  But when you need Him, His embrace is there…for you.

The last way God relates to us, through this child given to us, is so needed today.  With all of the stress, all of the fears, with all the brokenness we have to witness, such is the nature of the God who comes to us.  He is the Prince of Peace!

We so often picture the serenity of the manger scene, which I am not quite sure would be that peaceful.  A woman gave birth, a husband tired and weary, the shepherds, still in awe of the million angels announcing the glory of Christ being born… into that scene comes the prince of peace… and we always picture that scene as serene, peaceful, because we know His character.

The child who would be, no who is, the prince of peace….our Prince of peace.

This child in the manger calms our fears, our anxieties, our lives…our world.  Because of him, we have this peace… peace beyond understanding.  For that is why He came… to us.

And the prince of peace….to us is given

The prince of peace who has come… to us.

AMEN!

Christmas Eve: He Will, He Has!

For He Will: For He Has….
Matthew 1:18-25

Jesus! Son! Savior!

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the hope of Glory, His gift to you!

 What does this Mean?

As people are driving by the church this evening, as they see the cars in the parking lo now, and later, and tomorrow morning, I prayer that they ask a simple question.

Why are these cars here??

I pray that they also seek out the answer. That they would realize the reason we are here is more than just tradition, It is more than the lights and music.  It is worth delaying the gifts, and the family and friends that didn’t accept our invitations to join us.

It is here in this place, Christmas takes on a real meaning.

For this night, we celebrate the greatest blessing the world has ever known.  The greatest blessing that we will ever have, and nothing else is close.

We will realize this through the eyes of Joseph this evening….as we see him twice, both times somewhat unable to put his thoughts into words.  Both times unable to really understand what is going on…

Anxious Joseph…

The first we see of Joseph, he is struggling, confused, hurt, broken.  Feeling betrayed and overwhelmed

His fiancé tells him she is pregnant, and he knows he isn’t the father.  In fact, he hasn’t been alone with her, so how could….  what is a man to think?  The story Joseph was told?  How could she be so malicious, to think Joseph such a fool?

Our translation tonight used the phrase, “as he considered this,” yet the word picture behind the original is one who is breathing hard, who is out of control.  Hurt and broken, feeling betrayed, shocked, he is beyond words.  Speechless, he struggles through the night.

Some of us know this kind of anger, this kind of stress, we’ve felt that betrayal.

Most of us have experienced this kind of stress, this anger, hurt, betrayal, and pain.  Maybe like Joseph, we cannot conceive of how someone else’s actions could be anything but evil.  We can’t find a way to explain the situation in any positive way.

It hurts, we can’t figure a way to get out of the relationship with more pain, yet…can we even stand the pain any longer?  He had every right to demand she pay for her unfaithfulness, but the pain was so deep, he knew that wouldn’t help.

Or maybe, it wasn’t someone else who betrayed us.

We are the one who betrayed us.  I betrayed myself, you betrayed you.  We fell into that one sin, we gave into temptation, we chose to do something we know we would risk becoming broken. We can’t believe we did it.  We can’t sleep, we are so angry with ourselves, so full of guilt and shame…..

And in either case, we need an angel, a messenger from God to come, and make everything right again.

We end up beside ourselves, or we bury the guilt and shame, or the anger and resentment deep, where it causes so many other problems when we can’t bury any more

The Second Joseph

When the angel comes to Joseph, it changes everything.

He hears the news from an angel,

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)

He will save, this baby that is growing in Mary’s womb.  He will save Joseph, and Mary, and his family.  He will save his clan and nation and all people will have the opportunity to be saved from that life of brokenness.

This message brought the news that would repair his relationship with Mary.  No longer would he think her guilty of being unfaithful.  No longer would he deal with the brokenness inside him.

The message of who this baby would be changed all of that. That is what He will save means.

It gave him hope it restored what was broken.

If we are to explain why we are here, in this place, if we are to ask what this ceremony means, it is the same message.  For Joseph the message was He will save His people, for us it is He has saved us from our sin.

For Christ is the greatest message from God, as God comes to us, to tell us He loves us, and because of that, we are saved by Him.

Saved from our sin, our guilt, and shame, and delivered into God’s presence, saved and healed in this life, saved to see relationships restored and healed.  Including our most important relationship, our relationship with God.

God coming, and making everything right, everything righteous, as Jesus goes from a wooden manger to a wooden cross.  A new life which would bring life for the rest of us.

This is why this ceremony, and the one at 1115, and the one tomorrow are worth being at, this is what these ceremonies mean….for the gift is beyond all comprehension.  It is a gift of everlasting peace, and joy, and the glory of God.  It is knowing where we belong, and who we are, and freedom from all that is not good and holy.

Let us worship and praise Him with angels and archangels, shepherds and even wise men.  AMEN!

Christmas Awe… is it completely lost?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
15  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16  They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19  but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:15-20 (NLT)

14  All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

All along, in pursuing this very notion in all its consequences, we will realize that, underneath the trivialized display of happiness about the God who became a child, there towers one of the great Christian concepts, which in fact leads us to the innermost core of the mystery of Christmas. This consists, after all, in the paradox that God’s glory would not be manifested in the triumphal procession of an emperor whose might conquers the world but in the misery of a Child who, ignored by society’s great, is born in a stable. The helplessness of a child has become the most genuine expression of God’s almighty power, which employs no other force than the quiet might of truth and love. In the unprotected helplessness of a child we were to encounter God’s saving kindness first of all.

I only remember one midnight Christmas mass as a child, but it had a definite impact on me.

This was what Christmas was about.  Later years would be filled with trips to my Grandfather’s house, and then my dad’s sister might come to ours.  Christmas Day was just my folks, my brother and sister and I.  We were filled with awe by the things we recived, cassette tape recorders, and games and a toboggan!

The decorations were there, and the manger scene sitting in the big bay window. or perhaps on the ancient sewing machine that doubled as a desk.

But the awe wasn’t about the greatest gift, the child in the manger.  The awe isn’t at the love of God, revealed not to presidents and kings, movie stars and professional athletes.  But too simple shepherds, who in awe (and not a little fear) realized the blessing they had seen.

Simeon a few days later would realize that all his life was centered in the moment he held Jesus.  For in that moment, not only did Simeon see his own salvation, but the hope for all the world,

THe hope that would bring darkness to an end for gentiles, and show Israel again the glory of God their anscestors saw and counted upon.

Simeon saw this, as did the shepherds in the fields.  Yes, it was revealed to them, even as it is to us.   They saw it, as Benedict XVI pointed out, in the unprotected helplessness of a child.  In the humble manger, in the poverty of Bethelem, not the neighboring riches of Jerusalem.

We need to find a way to be in awe of that moment IMMANUEL – GOD IS WITH US, and the moment years later, when the baby, now a man, would hang on the cross, when IMMANUEL would once again be seen as helpless, and yet all the power of God was there, as the Father poured out every bit of wrath our sin deserves, on Jesus, the one annointed to prove God’s love for us.

We can find the awe again, as we kneel, and receive His helpless Body and Blood in the Eucharist, in the Lord’s Supper. We can find it as we realize that God is still with us, the promise God gave us, as His Spirit was given to us in our Baptism….and as we hear our sins forgiven, and our being given access to the place where awe begins.

In the presence of God.

IMMANUEL! God with us…us!

The Christ, Jesus.  The chosen and set aside One who is God’s salvation.

We are in His presence… rejoice in that thought.  For this is what should cause the awe… that we need.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (pp. 396–397). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!

You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!

Featured image

Isaiah 7:10-14

As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you know the peace of the Babe, held in His mother’s Arms.

Can We Know Peace?     Snoopy and the Red Baron & the real Story

As we look at the world, at Afghanistan, Syria, the Ukraine, as we hear of more shootings, and protests here in America, as we hear of disasters and people living in poverty, looking at a romanticized view of the manger causes… dissonance.

How can this be the same world?

My mind wandered back to a more peaceful time, or at least, It was in my mind.  In a small New Hampshire town, the news of the Vietnam War was far more distant than the wards of today… and life seemed at peace.

I remember listening to Christmas music, on our record player, the albums that would get pulled out, year after year.  One of my favorites was a group called Royal Guardsman, and their Christmas song was about Snoopy.

Yes, Charlie Brown’s dog, and a fight he had with Baron Manfred Richtofen in World War I, on Christmas Eve.  A battle about to end with snoopy getting shot down, when the bells of Christmas began to ring in the village below,

The chorus was

“Christmas bells those Christmas bells

Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man”

And for a moment, there was peace.

Such actually happened in World War I, not between two pilots, but two armies.  For an evening, they laid down their rifles, they silenced their artillery, and as one man started singing silent night, men from his army joined their voices to his, then the other army did as well.

For an evening, as bells chimed from churches, announcing the birth of Jesus, there was peace.

Can that happen today?

Will we know if it does?

Can we know peace in War?

That question God wanted to ask…. Yeah

In the days of King Ahaz, in the time described in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, there was a war.

We know the passage so well, because of the prophecy of Mary, and the name, Immanuel, which means Immanent or Immediate God.  It is from where we get our blessing, “The Lord is with you!.”

Jerusalem was going to get run over, brutally run over….surrounded by armies,

In order to provide for God’s people, a prophet is sent to break this new to them.

God asks the king, “let me prove I will be with you through these times, ask me for something to confirm it….Let me give you and answer for the questions you will ask.

Ask, and you shall receive…. Jesus will ask us, centuries later….

Ahaz refused to answer, for whatever reason.

I won’t put you to the test…. I won’t demand you prove your presence, your love, I won’t depend on you God, no matter what threatens me.  That’s Ahaz voice, defensive, dismissive….

Will we doubt the One who was promised, the babe born to a virgin, the One who would remind us that God is with us? That God has promised to deliver His people, and bring them, bring us safely home?
Will we hear it, more than this night!

Many of our wars aren’t military battles, nor even do they include weapons.  They are wars with our neighbors, or our families,, skirmishes and fights with friends.  Civil wars within our hearts, within our souls.

We need to hear that God wants us to ask of Him, we need to seek Him out, we need to realize that He will prove that He is as here this night

We need to know He is Immanuel, our God, with US.

That is what this night, these songs, these readings are all about.  It’s why we gather.  It ‘s why we are here……

and we are why He is here….

We are why this baby doesn’t just belong here… in the manger, but here, on the altar.

The sacrifice that we would know peace.

During a war, nearly 100 years ago, the bells pealed out, and the war was forgotten,… and men sang the praises of God, who came and dwelt among us…

To bring us the peace of heaven…..

So seek, and knock and ask….

And realize the answer was first seen, as a young lady laid her newborn babe in a manger, and God the Father offered Him as the sacrifice to prove Himself to be our God, and to make us His people.

God Showed His Love for Us!

God Showed His Love for Us!

1 John 4:7-11

 IHS

May our recognizing God’s love for us, the mercy and peace given in Christ’s presence be something that is revealed to others throughout the year!

Christmas every day?

Christmas is here, the presents, well, most of them, sit under a tree, wrapped and ready to be ripped open. Children on Christmas break, people coming and going, food cooking, sermons written, music singing and sung, peace on earth, God’s will evident for the moment, peace among families, at least for this moment, Love can even dominate the days, as we are encouraged to love each other, as we are challenged to prove our love and devotion to God.

One could almost ask, couldn’t it be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, every day?

Don’t worry, I said one could almost ask, I didn’t say I would!

We get so caught up, we get so overwhelmed, even so exhausted by it all.  Our focus is so easily taken off of Jesus, and His coming to be our Lord.

For some, it might even seem that the question might be asked, do we have to celebrate Christmas any day…

But that’s not the questions for this night,

Here again John’s words to the church,

10  This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven. 1 John 4:10 (TEV)

Which raises a few other questions about days we could celebrate every day….

What about Good Friday every day?

First, if we desire to celebrate Christmas every day, do we also desire to celebrate Good Friday every day?  For there God’s love is demonstrated even more clearly.  The apostle Paul wrote,

23  As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; 24  but for those whom God has saved, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.    1 Corinthians 1:23-24 (TEV)

We should celebrate Good Friday everyday, as well as our baptism, which unites us to that death, His death, for our sins were nailed to that cross, never to be accounted to us again.

What about Easter?

But we can’t divide the cross and Christ’s death from His resurrection, for as Paul says again,

5  Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6  We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7  For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8  And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.  Romans 6:5-8 (NLT)

So yes, we should remember – and indeed celebrate both Good Friday and Easter for these days reveal God’s love to us, for they shatter everything that would keep us from God, He used these days to work such miracles in our lives.

What about the 2nd Coming?

Should I fail to mention that each day we should also celebrate ascension?  The day when Christ ascended to the Father’s right hand, there to intercede for us, Or Pentecost, the day when the Father and the Son gave us the Spirit, the very birthday present of the Church?  Or the 2nd coming, the day we long for, when we will see God in all His glory.

Each of these days, yes including Christmas, needs to be celebrated everyday, for these days remind us of God’s love for us, shown to us in Christ Jesus,

And knowing that love, shown on Christmas and Good Friday, Easter and the Ascension, Pentecost and the Day of His return; we are overwhelmed by mercy and peace, the peace that cannot be explained, but can be revealed to us, for we live in Christ!

AMEN!

Pastors, Priests and other ministers: Breath, Shift and Accept and Rejioce that it’s all about Jesus!

Devotional THought of the Day:

 6  A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.” 7  His royal power will continue to grow; his kingdom will always be at peace. He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, from now until the end of time. The LORD Almighty is determined to do all thisIsaiah 9:6-7 (TEV)

Breathe, Shift, Accept…. ( a tool a counselor taught my son, which I need to remember as well!)

Things are beginning to get hectic around here.  Three services, plus meals, plus people coming over to our place in between services, plus last minute edits and finalizing sermons.

I am beginning to feel like I am losing it, and expect readers that know me would pipe in with “beginning?”.  Seriously – there has not been enugh time this month, because there have been people who needed to know God’s grace in the moments they face.  That’s cook – I understand it,and that is why I am here.  Even so, I am beginning to feel a lot of pressure.  It’s Christmas, and everything has to be perfect.

My son has asberger’s.  To be honest, as I’ve learned about it, I’ve wondered about myself.  When we went to a child psychologist to find out how to help him with his schooling, Dr. Dudley taught us a lot, but he specifically gave William a tool – to help him avoid a meltdown, or if in the midst of one, to find the peace to come out of it. Three simple steps.  And it works, even for us older folk.

Breathe – deep slow breaths, with lots of focus on the breathing.

Shift – take the time to move into the mode you have to – this comes only after breathing, to slow everything down – and to get needed oxygen to our muscles.

Accept. – this is it… this is the reality I have to work in..

For me, I add a few words to the accept.

“It is all about Jesus”. Because that is where i have to focus.  It is the point of all this we go through in ministry.  We may strive for perfection in our ministries, in our worship services, especially these days when we know people are here.. that desperately need to hear of God’s love. This can all add more pressure, more stress as we try to know the place for everything, and put everything in its place.

Breath my brothers and sisters….
Shift you thinking to the babe in the manger, the one in the shadow of the cross, which is in the shadow of our being welcomed into the very glory of God’s presence.
And accept that this is all about Him… and point to Him, the lamb of God, who has come…

And rejoice, for our King is with us now, even as we prepare to lead others in rejoicing that He has come!

THe one who will care for us, our benevolently providing Lord,
Our  Wonderful Counselor,
Our Mighty God,
Our Eternal Father,
The One who brings us into His peace..>

Breath, Shift, Accept and REJOICE!

King David in Prayer

King David in Prayer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3653-3657). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

God’s Zeal did…. this?

God’s Zeal did… this.
Isaiah 9

† In Jesus Name †

As we look at the life of Jesus, may we realize the manger is just the beginning of the story, as is the tomb, and even out baptism… and that God’s zeal uses that to accomplish something…beyond our belief

Mary Did you Know Video?

          The Manger, the Cross, the Tomb, and the Throne…
All this accomplished because of God’s zeal

The lighting in the sanctuary this evening, allows for the beginning of the sermon to be a video of the life of Jesus, accompanied by a song most of us have heard before.  (start video)

The reason is showed the video is simple – the manger – and the incredibly peaceful looking scene in most nativity scenes can only be understood as we contemplate the ministry of Christ – what occurs in it, the miracles, the teachings, the Cross, the Tomb, the encounter with Paul, and especially the throne.

I love in our Old Testament reading tonight, the use of the word “zeal”. Not normally a word we think of, when we think of God our Father, and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It seems odd to use such a passionate, emotional word to describe the Creator of the Heavens and Earth, the Creator of life, the Sustainer of His people.  But zeal is the word used.

Zeal – the thing we think of when we think of football fans, or the excitement of a couple as they look forward to their wedding – zeal.  Words like enthusiasm, passion, ardor and fanaticism are synonyms.  It is that all out- gung ho approach to getting what is desired….

And it is God’s zeal that accomplishes what we celebrate tonight.

Immanuel!  God with us!  With us, hereto live, to teach, to comfort, to heal, to die, rise, and reign!  To create for Himself a people – holy and righteous.

He’s come to take and transform us, for we have too long lived in the darkness, it is time to live in the glorious light of His presence.
It is hard to imagine God that emotionally tied to us – that desirous of our company – so willing to give His son… that we would know and love and be with Him… yet His zeal is for that very thing – and Isaiah, writing hundreds of years – says that the zeal of the Lord of hosts gets this done!

Accomplished –

          The Light which shatters darkness

His reign and peace
His justice and righteousness

 

I have long counted Isaiah and Hebrews as my two favorite books in the Bible – because of the clarity of their presentation of the work of Jesus, the Lord who was chosen to be the child that Isaiah says was given to us.  And the passage tonight – tells us of the incredible work that He came to accomplish.

We live in a world that seems dark.  Darkened by sin, and darkened by the vary evil of mankind.  By our thoughts, and the words we say, and even the deeds we do.  I was talking to Bob recently, and we discussed that those deeds, once hidden, once never discussed, are now talked about freely, indeed we find people who  take great joy, not just in doing evil – St Paul describes the people of his day, and indeed ours, this way….

28 Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do. 29 They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip 30 and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others. 32 They know that God’s law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them. Romans 1:28-32 (TEV)

Living in a world like this is difficult – where evil seems to reign.  Even more darkened by things we cannot understand – the challenges of living life in a world were disease and disorders change our very lives – the very people we are.

But into this kind of life comes a baby, a little boy, that has promised to be a light unto the world.

Look at the things Isaiah promises He will bring – the wonderful comfort of God, His presence which will sustain us and cause us to be victorious over sin, and satan, and even.. death.  He is promised to be our everlasting Father, the one who cares and protects and teaches us!
Incredibly – He will be our peace, the Lord, the Prince who establishes peace and keeps us in it!

The zeal of God – His desire to have you in His life, in His glory, makes this happen. It was planned before the foundation of the earth was laid, and it was revealed to us in scripture – even as it is today, and it was revealed in the flesh, as Mary and Joseph looked down upon Him and rejoiced!

And yes – it went through His life, as people were freed from demons and illnesses, the blind saw, the crippled walked and the dead – both physical and spiritual were given life!  The plan was completed at the cross – and the grace and ascension bring its goal to fruition – even as we see it revealed in Pentecost – and in our lives.

That’s what this night is about – that is why we desired His advent – His coming into the world.. even as we desire that He comes again, to reveal the completeness of His glory to us, even as we are to abide in it for eternity, even as we do now, though we cannot see it all….

For we will dwell with Him, our Father, our Lord, our Counselor… our God forever.

For the zeal of the Lord HAS accomplished this.  AMEN?

 

His Love Made Perfect…in US

His Love Made Perfect….in US?

1 John 4:7-16

 

As we look into the manger – may we realize this perfect example of God’s love is here…to show us the mercy that will cause us His love to be made perfect in us.

 

The Shepherd’s View….

Of all the characters that gather around the Christ child, for some reason I feel the strongest connection to the shepherds, the ones who come in from the fields.  I imagine myself there, looking down into the manger in amazement, looking down on a little baby.  I think about trying to process what we had seen out in the field, the amazing words we had heard.

Can you imagine – these the least of those, the one’s whose “job” didn’t let them go home at night – if they even had a home, they were the ones who were brought to be the first witnesses of the birth of the Messiah.

Yet, looking down at the Baby…  I can imagine their hearts pounding, the sacredness of the harsh manger overwhelming…  and a question raising up inside…

Why me… why did God choose me to bear witness to this – and indeed I will – but why me?

 

Who us?  Love made perfect in us

As I read the passage we heard a few moments ago from 1 John, the same question arises…especially as I hear these words in my mind,

God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. 1 John 4:12 (TEV)

Me? Really? If there is a reason left in my mind as to God’s wisdom, it in choosing me. And I suspect, I am not the only one who is challenged in that way.  Sunday, as Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, the same kind of response – why are you here, the mother of my Lord – to visit me?  That attitude runs through scripture – Moses, Gideon, King David, so many others…

God you are going to make your love perfect… in me?
I so want to add on the word, “Really.”  Do you know how broken, challenged, imperfect and sinful I am?  And you are going to perfect you love… in me?

What do we think is love?

       It is God sending Christ for us.

       Knowing this – causes us to love each other

       It doesn’t start with us – but with him

I think the answer comes to the “why me”, “really, me” questions, when we begin to hear what love really is. When we really understand why we toss a little manger and put a doll in it, to remember Christmas.  Again – listen to St john’s epistle…

9 And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. 10 This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.1 John 4:9-10 (TEV)

Love is more than just a simple emotion – it is adoration and devotion in action.  Not just thoughts – but that which compels us, that which drives us to act in the best interest of the one whom we love.

And it isn’t that we have loved God… it is that He loved us, proving it here.. (point to the manger) and here (Point to cross), enveloping us in His love as He baptized us into Christ,  cleansing us from sin, as we feed on His Body and blood at the altar, as we are comforted by His presence, abiding in us – making us into the image of His son..

 

It is abiding in this love, living in it, reveling in it – letting it transform us, that brings us to the point where we can love Him – and even as that love resounds from us to Him, it envelopes those around us.

I used to think it a challenge to love those around us – something we have to exert all our energy, strain to do – that it was a challenge to love people who wronged me, or irritated me, or those wouldn’t forgive me for irritating them….

John is crying out to us, it isn’t about our straining to exert the effort to love.  That kind of love comes – as we spend time in God’s presence, living and resting in His love, in realizing and meditating on and reveling in the love that He showed us; as His Son was born and died, and ascended… and the Spirit gathers us, and grants us faith and repentance.
That kind of love doesn’t have to be forced out – it grows and we find ourselves unable to keep it in.

Assured – and so we declare this to others….because we trust in the love God has for us!

That is the love that occurs because God came into the world – and cleanses us from sin.  It is life changing, but such a challenge because we struggle to believe it, it is a challenge to know  it is ours…

Here of it some more,

 

13 We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 1 John 4:13-16 (TEV)
My friends, this is the love that saves the world, this is the love that takes this messed up, upside down, good is evil and bad is good and changes it, transforms it, makes it a place of peace.

This love is God’s love for you, it is the love He desires you to find life and rest in, it is the love that changes everything….

It is the love, that if we are honest, we are uncomfortable with, For we struggle to see ourselves there, and yet – that is the very… attitude that leads to worship – for God sees us and knows us and chooses to pour out that love on us..

So my friends – welcome God’s work in your life, welcome His love, and know, that yet – you really….

AMEN.

Why go to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day…..

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

As I was in the place between sleep and waking this morning, my mind wandered and thought of the “work” that lay ahead of me this day…. a marathon of study and writing, and then two church services – and then just a few hours of sleep – then up for yet again another service.  It’s a long day, this last day of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

And while I know it will be a great blessing, it is a long day as well….and part of me – just longed to sleep in!  It’s the classic battle of our lives!

Some would use guilt, or a call to duty, or other gimmicks to give them the strength to get done what needs to be done.  To be honest, I’ve thought of that, for all one has to do is look at the “successful” churches – and such techniques are used – even as they sincerely desire to have people come and hear of God’s love.   It works – and there will be churches that are full, cathedrals with people huddling in from the cold, as people respond to the call of a “Holy Day of Obligation”, or that come because there is an incredible “show”.

My heart longs for our sanctuary to be filled – but it also longs for a different attitude from those coming.  One that comes, in response to God’s love… to celebrate it, to hear about it, to revel in it.

Christmas Eve, as we re-live the last moments of expectation, and celebrate the coming of Christ, and indeed, Christmas Day as well – are not days of our obligation as much as days were God did what He fulfilled His obligations, His responsibility to us.  That is what these days are about.   Going all the way back to the Garden, God promised to cover our sins, He promised to fix our brokenness, He promised that we would always be welcome in His presence, and He has given us Jesus, His only begootten Son, and the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit to prove it.

I long for the day, when this is so clear – that we rush to church – to hear it confirmed again, to celebrate this great love, to gather – not because we have to – but because it just makes sense to be with each other, those united in Christ, those who are One in Him.

They may say I am dreamer – but to quote the song, I am not the only one…..

A priest/pastor wrote…

In the interior life, as in human love, we have to persevere. Yes, you have to meditate often on the same themes, keeping on until you rediscover an old discovery. “And how could I not have seen this so clearly before?” you’ll ask in surprise. Simply because sometimes we’re like stones, that let the water flow over them, without absorbing a drop. That’s why we have to go over the same things again and again—because they aren’t the same things—if we want to soak up God’s blessings. (1)

I pray that as we gather this day. and tomorrow, and I pray that you do gather, that our hearts are open wide, are open expectantly, to soak up God’s blessings, to revel in them, to rejoice, and celebrate His love, that you know the depth and height and width and breadth of God’s love for you, in Christ Jesus.  And I pray you pray the same for me…

Merry Christ’s gathering!  (for that’s what Christmas means!)

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2034-2039). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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