† Immanuel †
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ reveal to you the love of God, which pours out blessings upon us.
Christmas day in the early 70’s was fun, even though the Parkers weren’t wealthy. We weren’t allowed “downstairs” until 7 a.m. Usually about 5:50 a.m. my brother Stephen and I would sit on the very bottom stair – technically not on the first floor—but we could see the tree – and were close enough to be warmed by the woodstove.
What I didn’t understand as a kid was my parents. They didn’t seem in a rush to open their presents, they just smiled and cheered us on as Stephen, Kelly and I opened ours.
I understand that now, as the joy they had was really watching us revel in the gifts we were given.
I think that there is a lot of God seen in that attitude, to revel, not in what you receive, but in what you gave to others. Even if it was only a life-savers book, that would be devoured by New Year’s!
As we look at the gospel today, as we see Jesus revealing to us the Father, and the heart of the Father, we need to see God’s joy, as we discover the gift He gives us in Jesus. And the gift Jesus gives us, that John writes about in verse 18.
- Near the Heart!
18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
This is how it works. Now one knows the Father’s heart like Jesus, and His mission is to reveal the heart of God to people who are anxious, and unsure of where they are in life, never mind where they are going. People who are broken by the world, broken as their health suffers, broken by the sinful acts done against them, broken by our own sin.
Without Jesus, what would we know of God? Our Lutheran Confessions tell us we would have no idea of the Father’s heart, no idea of what it means for God to be merciful. Without Jesus’ revelation, all we could expect is eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
But Jesus reveals God’s heart to us…
- Revealed God wants to be present in our lives
My parents love to watch us open presents, as they saw the eyes grow wide with each new discovery. In the same way, God the Father enjoyed the sense of discovery and joy that Adam and Eve had in the garden.
Those walks in the garden, those times of joy were long missed because Adam and Even being tempted and sinning. But we see how much God desires that relationship and Jesus comes and dwells with us, and according to Matthew, promised that God will always be there for us…
This is the heart of God—the God who would spend every moment with us, enjoying our discovering the work He’s done for us.
- Revealed God’s love and dependability never fails
Has anyone ever had a roommate who wasn’t exactly who they expected? Maybe it was a good thing—like you found out they were a chef… or one roommate—whose parents lived with us for 2 months, and did all our laundry, cooking, housecleaning. There are other stories, I am sure some of them are horrifying!
For God to come and dwell among men must have had all sorts of expectations.
More rigid rules?
Best behavior at all times?
That was not the key thing John took away, the part of Jesus that reflected the heart of the Father. It was something far more incredible,
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
This is what mattered about Jesus, that he was full of an amazing merciful love, and that he was faithful, dedicated and true to His people.
Both words love and faithful are interesting translations. Other translations will use Grace and Truth instead of love and faithfulness.
The words in Greek are heavy in meaning – and can mean love/grace. We get the word charity from it, which has been a synonym for active love and care for a long time.
What John and the other apostles realized is that God the Son, and therefore God the Father loved them, was charitable towards them. Even for the Jewish people, this was unexpected, who would anticipate God being that loving.
It has been a long time since “true” was used regarding relationships. Being true is the ultimate version of faithful. No other interest: nothing but fulfilling the promise made in the relationship.
Jesus would be the ultimate partner, the ultimate friend, and He reflects the love and faithfulness of the Father.
- Revealed God’s glory
Therefore, John can say, “we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
What is God’s glory? Simple, it is His love and faithfulness, shown to us as He dwells with us. Therefore, we celebrate the birth of a baby in a remote village, in a powerless nation, nearly 2000 years ago.
His glorious unfailing love and that He is true to all He has promised. This made a difference in the life of John and all the apostles. It is what makes a different in 2000 years of His people He calls together; it is what makes a difference in our lives today, and we pray it is what makes a difference in the lives of those around us.
God is with us…. And therefore, we dwell in His unexplainable peace. AMEN!
(if you want to hear this service, please check out the worship service at bit.ly/concordiacerritos )
Let Nothing You
Dismay! – An Advent Prayer
Week 3 – The Day of Delight is Coming!
† IN JESUS NAME †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be so revealed to you, that the idea of dismay or disillusion be simply impossible, as you experience the dimensions of His love.
Announcement Will Be
As we consider the old hymn’s line, God rest you merry gentleman, let nothing you dismay, as we look at the advent readings out of the prophets about the day of Christ, we’ve see something incredible so far. These prophecies were all about a day that was to come, the day that Jeremiah described as the day of promise. Last week Malachi described it as the day of returning, and next week, Micah will talk about the day of peace.
But tonight we’ve heard from Zephaniah, and we will explore the day he was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write about….
The Day of Delight!
Delight, the greatest of joys. The kind of joy that leaves us unable to speak.
A video is circulating on the internet, of this kind of joy. People born color blind are given these new special glasses, that enable them to see color for the first time in their lives. And these people’s body language and the tears of amazement are something to see.
So I think I will show you…
That’s the kind of joy, the kind of delight the prophet says God has promised on that day.
This is Amazing…
But what we really need to realize, is that he didn’t promise this delight to you and I. We aren’t the primary ones to know this joy, this delight.
Hear the passage again,
17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He
He will take delight in you, Al, and you Tom, He will take delight in you therein the back, yes you Doug and Frank, and you over hiding there behind
God will, on that day, take delight in you! Think back to the joy of the color blind man… can you imagine
I mean I get the idea that with all of our burdens we will know a
God finding that kind of joy, joy inexpressible, when we show up?
That’s what the prophet promises! He even says it again, hear this!
With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
The Hand of Judgement is removed
This is the incredible promise we have to understand, that as much as we findGod’s mercy incredible, as much as we are amazed when we hear our sin is completely forgiven, as much joy we find as we experience the width and breadth, the height and depth of God’s love for us, revealed in Jesus…
He finds the greatest joy in restoring us to Himself, reconciling us, cleansing us from all sin.
All of it.
Zephaniah tells us that God will remove his hand of judgment, he ends all
Where we will see God rejoice and sing and be delighted, as He makes His
Not yet? Or Now?
Now the really mind blowing part of this… this day when
God finds such delight in our presence, the day when He rejoices over us with
songs of joy…
While this will definitely be something that we see completely revealed on the day of Christ’s advent, this time has already happened, for John’s gospel tells us,
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NLT2)
And in Luke’s gospel
that the time of the LORD’s favor
has come.” 20 He rolled up
the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the
synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then
he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled
this very day!”
Luke 4:19-21 (NLT2)
In Christ’s incarnation, the thing we celebrate at Christmas, as Christ came, this truth became real, God again found great delight in His people, in dwelling with them. Even through the suffering, the death on the cross, we find that Hebrews tells us it was for the joy set before Him that Christ endured the cross, and in the resurrection, and at the day of Pentecost and every day someone is baptized since, this promise becomes true,
God delights in His people, in you’re and I,, and He rejoices over us with songs of joy!
So let Him cleanse you once again, as we gather together and share in the Lord’s Supper… AMEN!
Devotional thought for our days:
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth h in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 As soon as He came up out of the water, He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending to Him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: You are My beloved Son; I take delight in You!
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. t 13 He was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted u by Satan. v He was with the wild animals, w and the angels x began to serve Him. Mark 1:9-13 HCSB
Thus we are told that only through Christ did real joy appear and that in our life, in the last analysis, nothing matters more than coming to recognize and to understand Christ, the God of grace, the light and the joy of the world. Only then will our joy be true, when it no longer relies on things that can be snatched away from us and can perish, but when it is rooted in the innermost core of our existence, which no power in all the world is able to take away from us. And every outward loss ought to become for us a pathway into these innermost realms and to prepare us ever more for our true life.
Christmas is an emotional rollercoaster of epic extremes. To go from the pressure of rushing around, trying to find perfect gifts, to the moments where a hug from a friend or relative means everything, to the loneliness that occurs, as we realize who we are missing in our life. Like being on the roller coaster, we are not in control, and we don’t always know how to prepare for the next drop or the corkscrewing turn.
For those in ministry, the roller coaster includes our ministry, as well as our own “private” lives. Often we go from trying to reconcile a divided family, to celebrate a service with joy, to worrying about a friend in surgery or recovery, to being there while another friend mourns. And we get to tell everyone that there is JOY in this world!
The reading from Mark’s gospel helps this morning, as we see Jesus going from His miraculous baptism, from hearing the Father’s cry of delight, immediately into the desert, to be assaulted by Satan. From the purity of a sacred moment, into the assault and oppression of Satan himself.
Jesus knows our roller coasters, he knows all too well our brokenness, our struggle with our emotions trying to keep up with the moment’s challenge. In revealing His love, in dying on the cross and rising again, He comes into our lives. and brings peace.
This is what Pope Benedict is talking about as he teaches about joy, this joy that comes from realizing that we are in the presence of Jesus. as we are given the hope of glory, as we are comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The roller coaster doesn’t disappear, but we realize there will be a time when this ride ends, and we will share in His glory.
If I have learned anything about Christmas and its emotional rollercoaster, it is this. In order to survive it, I need to spend some time, looking at the manger, trying to put myself there, realizing that the Lord came into our lives because He loves us. Then, hearing Him reveal HIs love, we find the deepest peace, and in that peace, joy.
God has given Himself to us, fully. Think on that, focus on it, as we prepare to celebrate it, together.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional Thought for our seemingly broken days:
14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” 16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the one and only Son is himself God and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:14-18 (NLT)
When we feel the presence of God in our daily lives, we can only say “God is here”and the first thing to do is to fall on our knees.
In the closing prayer of the [former Christmas Vigil] Mass, the faithful ask God for the grace, through the celebration of his Son’s birth, to “draw new breath”. Why and in what sense they wish to “draw new breath” is not explained, and so we are at liberty to understand this expression in the human and simple meaning of the words. This feast ought to let us draw “a breath of fresh air”. Admittedly, given the way we have burdened this feast with busyness nowadays, it much sooner renders us breathless and suffocates us in the end with deadlines
I wonder how clearly we hear the words we sing?
Are we ready to be thrust into the presence of God, to be in awe, and even tremble as we gaze upon as beauty, are we ready to be overwhelmed by the sight of His glory, and humbled by the purity of His love?
Are we ready to be so overtaken in that moment that our knees weaken and our bodies collapse?
How can we prepare for that moment? Can we be better prepared than Herod, the shepherds, and the angels were the first time Jesus came? Only two elderly people were well prepared for that, ready to behold the glory of Christ incarnate. Two old people who spent their days in prayer, and yet, they were still in awe of God with us.
There are ways to build our expectation, and to get a glimpse of what we are about to encounter. We find that “preview” in the Eucharist, the Feast of Christ, where we commune with His Body and His Blood. That moment we realize how much He is present in our lives, preparing us, cleansing us, setting us apart for this incredible eternity He planned for us.
Church should remind us of this, giving us that “new breath,” that fresh air that we need! It does when the love of God, in all its height and depth, width and breadth is revealed to us in Jesus.
O Come to us, Emmanuel! And until you come in all your glory, fulfill your promise to come to us through your word, to draw us into yourself in the sacraments, and sustain and prepare us as you never leave us alone! AMEN!
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.
Ratzinger, Joseph. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. Ed. Irene Grassl. Trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992. Print.
Devotional thought for our seemingly broken days:
3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. v 4 “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said.
“What’s that to us?” they said. “See to it yourself!”
5 So he threw the silver into the sanctuary w and departed. Then he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5 HCSB
20. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?
To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7.
Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15–16 and in 1 John 2 and 5.
Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.
In so saying, we finally discover the answer to the question with which we started. After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening up of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the “image”, through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.
In many ways, life would be easier without the celebration of Christmas.
For one thing, my cynical nature could use the rest. It gets tiring, seeing people spend millions on decorations (which Costco was selling in September this year!) and gifts and clothes for all the parties, while people they should know are living on the streets. In talking to other pastors, people who used to come to church on Christmas and Easter hardly do anymore, because they are too busy with celebrating Christmas!
It’s hard, all the extra work all the extra services ( 4 in 25 hours this year and add another on the prior Wednesday night )
And we know it all right? We all know Jesus was born in a stable, and the angels sang to him, and the wise men didn’t visit him in the manger that night, but later at the house where they were staying. ( Hmm you didn’t know that? )
So why not give everybody so more time to rest, some more time to spend with families?
I find the answer in the odd (given the season) reading in my devotions this morning. When Judas, torn up with guilt and shame, tried to find hope, tried to find mercy and was denied. The very elders ( read pastors) who were supposed to point him back to God instead they threw his sin back in his face. The very men who were supposed to give him a message of grace didn’t care.
He needed Christmas. he needed to know God would come to Him, forgive his sin, reveal His love for Judas, reveal that this was the very reason for the cross.
Joseph Ratzinger, (later Pope Benedict XVI) had it right, we, like Judas, need to be given the capacity to know the mystery of God, reveal in the heart of Jesus, the one who embraced the manger and the crucifixion, for us. Or as Luther pointed out, we need to realize that this life is full of sin and trouble and Satan is at work to steal our peace. Just as that is done as we approach the altar, as God shares Christ’s body and blood for us, so we need Christmas.
We need to celebrate, even if it is sappy or too utopian in its portrayal, the fact that Jesus shattered the darkness by coming into our world, not just 2000 odd years ago, but today, now, here. That He is with us, that He loves us, that He is merciful toward us, cleansing us of all sin. Our world needs to know this, we need to celebrate it, we need to find out that God has found us.
Rejoice, for unto us a Child is born, and He shall be called Wonderful! Counselor! Almighty God! Everlasting Father! The One who Reigns with Peace…
the peace we are invited into, for that is why He came.
So celebrate Christmas, and see what is revealed to you this day. AMEN!
Ratzinger, Joseph. The Spirit of the Liturgy. Trans. John Saward. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000. Print.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1991. Print.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
15 Later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house. A large number of tax collectors and other outcasts were following Jesus, and many of them joined him and his disciples at the table. 16Some teachers of the Law, who were Pharisees, saw that Jesus was eating with these outcasts and tax collectors, so they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such people?” 17 Jesus heard them and answered, “People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” Mark 2:15-17
580 Humbly ask God to increase your faith. Then, with new lights, you’ll see clearly the difference between the world’s paths and your way as an apostle. (1)
They were the those who were sent away, either to an island for toys that didn’t meet the standard, or out of the camp of Israel because they had sinned, or perhaps, their sin was just more obvious than the rest.
They didn’t fit in, and to be honest, I count myself as one of their number, and sometimes, I even wonder if I am a mis-fit in their circles. I have days like that, even a year or two where I feel that way.
Which is why it is hard at times to realize I do fit in at my church.
If I, their pastor, can feel this way, how many others do as well?
How many of us who gather on a Sunday morning know intuitively or because someone told us, that we aren’t like the others. Maybe it is a psychological challenge, or one of intellect. Maybe it is what appears to be a physical deformity or disease. Maybe it is the weakness of character, or some other distinguishing factor that the world would use to separate us from the norm.
But the church is Jesus’s territory, not the worlds! It is not so different from the Island of Misfit toys, the place where the outcasts would be gathered, and form a tightly-knit community. One gathered around Jesus, because He shows us we do fit, we are fine and safe.
The incarnation was not for the people in perfect places, with perfect clothes, with sinless perfect lives. The incarnation was among the misfits, the outcasts, those who others sent away, as if they were broken, or undesirable. Such make up the One, Holy, catholic (universal/complete) and Apostolic Church, and indeed, of those who were judged mis-fit, some become some of our greatest heroes of the faith, those we call saints (even though all who walk with Jesus are!)
For the world’s paths can’t be tread by them, and as they learn to depend on God, as their faith increases, as they talk and pray with God, He sends them out to bring the healing they are experiencing to the world. They reach out to the other outcasts, and even to those who have pretended they are not!
This is church, real church, with real people who have real problems, and are sustained by a real God.
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1386-1387). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
I Have Seen!
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
I pray for you this, on this third day of Christmas. That you would know the awe, the joy, the wonder on the 8th day of Christmas, that Simeon and Anna knew… and that you would never forget this joy of seeing God’s salvation for all people!
How tired, how weary, and this strange man
It was a cold day when they woke up, and Joseph packed up all they had. We think he had a donkey, but who can be sure? We do know that they were among the poorest of the poor, so it is possible they had to carry all they had.
Even so, the mother of the Messiah, seven days after giving birth picked him up, and with her husband set out on a six to seven-mile hike. A hike that would climb 2000 feet in elevation, as they went through olive groves and past military outposts.
Al, how many of us could walk from here to your house? That would be a little farther, but not as strenuous of a climb! Seven days after giving birth. They were still weary from the long trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Deacon Bob asked a question in our preparation that I couldn’t answer. Would it be easier for Mary to hike that distance, or ride a donkey, considering she just gave birth. I have no idea…..neither sounds like an easy trip!
They had no choice to take either journey. The first was mandated by the laws of men. The journey on this day mandated by the laws of God.
The good thing was that they were in Bethlehem, and not Jericho.
As they finally climb the temple mount, weary and tired from the three to four-hour journey, a very old man wanders over to them, with a huge smile, mumbling praise God! Praise God! He looks down at Jesus and gently takes Him from Mary, crying out to someone(?), I see! I see!
I wonder what they thought when he broke into song????
How would you feel, if you someone handed to you Jesus, the Messiah?
What would it be like to hold Jesus, the one who would die for your sin? Not sure of that perhaps, but knowing the hope for all humanity was there… in your hands?
That is what Simeon experienced…
How tired and weary are we?
Do we manage the things God desires?
What if Mary and Joseph didn’t?
The apostle Paul once wrote,
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 (NLT)
Somehow, Mary and Joseph found the strength to make it to Jerusalem, to have Jesus circumcised, to offer the sacrifices that it took, for Him to be considered righteous. I mean, what would have happened if they had said – well the roads will be too rough, Mary needs another week in bed, we can go to the temple any time? Or the temple opens too early, or tool late, or we don’t like the long lines. I could even imagine Joseph saying, Mary, if you don’t stop trying to give me directions we are just going to head home! If they didn’t complete the journey, if the offerings and circumcision hadn’t happened, then he would not be righteous, and he couldn’t have died for us.
My friends weariness is not a valid reason for you or I to sin. To fail to do the good that God commissioned fro us to do. To say a mean word because we are tired and irritable is as much a sin as the lies and gossip we know are forbidden. Failing to help someone because they drain what energy we have left is just like stealing from them, or even murdering them. Sin is sin, whether we feel like we are Abraham’s age, or William’s.
That’s why Paul encourages us not to grow weary, not to stop doing what God has prepared for us.
it’s hard you say. I agree.
But so was a virgin and her husband, who had given birth a week before – making the trek to the temple.
I have seen!
As they come to the temple, they meet two people have known weariness. They have spent their lives in prayer, and in ministering to others. We hear of their devotion, their faithfulness, their righteousness, Both are guided by the Holy Spirit, even as we are. And despite their age, they serve God with willingness and great desire. And both are older, much older.
Simeon, the one guided by the Holy Spirit that day, who was told that this baby, this newborn, was the one who would make us born again.
He had seen it, what he had been waiting for all of His life, why he spent that life eagerly awaiting for the Messiah to appear. So assured by the Holy Spirit that all he had to see was the baby, to hold him.
The nunc dimitis. Our completion, there in his hands.
This baby would reveal God to every nation, it was the reason God had chosen this small nation of Israel and protected and guided it. This child who would be a great joy to many, the One, who would reveal all our deepest thoughts, and cleanse us anyway.
As God had promised, our salvation revealed!
Our salvation, there in Simeon’s hands.
The other person, whose weariness would fade was a 84-year-old woman who had spent 64 years waiting for that day. For sixty-four years and more, she would fast and pray, that God would save His people. As Simeon noted, not just Israel, but all of His people. And so He did! She told everyone there, everyone who was waiting for the Messiah.
He’s here! Simeon is holding Him!
How much the weariness would disappear from their old bones. How much the joy of knowing God had kept His promise.
As we gather at the rail this morning, as we are given the Body and Blood of Christ, Take a moment…and think about what you have been given. For we too see our salvation, we see God revealed to us, we are brought into His glory.
Find the peace that chases away the weariness, the love which embraces you, the joy of Christ’s gathering us to Himself…and sharing Himself with us.
And rejoice, for He is with you!
Devotional Thought of the Day:
30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. Luke 2:30-31 (NLT)
And what about us? Are we so far away from the stable because we are much too refined and too smart for that? Do we not get all entangled in scholarly exegesis, in the proof or disproof of historical authenticity to the extent that we have become blind and deaf to the Child himself? Do we not really all too intensely dwell in “Jerusalem”, in a palace, withdrawn within ourselves, in our self-sufficiency, our fear of being challenged, too much so to be able to hear the voice of the angels, to set out to worship? (1)
Twenty-four hours ago, I was standing before people, putting into their hands the Body and Blood of Jesus, as we celebrated the Incarnation, one of the most amazing of miracles the world has ever born witness too. For those who don’t know the term, this is the physical birth of Jesus, the Savior.
Like the shepherds, we were in awe, this is God, this is the one who made it possible for all of humanity to become children of God. The God who counts us not as servants, but as friends.
I woke up this morning, had breakfast, watched a little bit of a movie with my son, talked to him about his presents, cleaned the car in anticipation for our vacation starting tomorrow afternoon, and came to work to write a sermon on the passage listed above. Calculating how to get my laptop’s keyboard fixed, how to manage 100 other things.
Then I come to my office, pull out my devotional reading, and hear Pope Benedict’s question.
What about us? Are we already so far from celebrating Christmas that it doesn’t matter? Have we already forgotten the joy and relief as we help in our hands the very body of Jesus, in and under the bread and wine? Have we already lost the awe of the moment?
Unfortunately, I had to be shocked into remembering; this is Christmas!
I had to be shocked into calming down, focusing and thinking about the fact that God so loved us, that He came to us. That He continually dwells among us. We need to see His glory; we need to know His presence. Instead of dwelling on that, and knowing His peace, that I had, as the former pope noted, drawn into myself.
You and I need these words of a simple old man named Simeon burned into us….
30 I have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared for all people. Luke 2:30-31 (NLT)
Take time over the next few days, to repeat those words, to get to realize what they mean. Let over the next week those words burn into your soul….
And rejoice, for to you a Savior has been born, and you dwell in His presence, like the shepherds, and Joseph, and Mary.
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 406). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The Only Right that Really Matters
† I.H.S. †
I pray for you my friends that you would grow to realize even deeper this truth. Because Jesus was born, lived, died and rose from the dead, you are the children of God!
It seems we are always talking about our rights. In the Constitution, it talks about inalienable rights, and its first ten amendments were the Bill of rights. People talk about human rights; there have been numerous civil rights movements. We talk about water rights, mineral rights, the right to assemble, the right to education, the right to medical care, the right to arm bears, o wait, bear arms. Theologians and philosophers talk about the right to basic human dignity. Heck, I even remember one old rock song from 30 years ago that encouraged us to fight for the right…to party! (yeah 30 years ago!)
But what if all but one right were taken away.
What if every right people claimed and demanded were stripped of them, but they could choose one….
I would hope we take the one that we heard a moment ago in the gospel.
It is the only right that really matters.
And to receive it, to trust that we have that right, means that all other rights are diminished, that all other rights are revealed to be something less. They become like idols of wood or stone; that lose their luster and their importance.
Rights, or Self-idolatry?
While I am one who often speaks about making sure others are treated well, I think that we often make what we demand the right to, into an idol, a God that serves us. We can’t think of life without that “right”, and we will fight to protect that right.
I’ve even heard of some people who indicate they will fight for that right, even to the point of death.
I am not talking about trying to serve others, and ensure they have what most would consider basic things in their life. I am talking about when those things or things not so basic or necessary become idols, where we think life must have them, or it isn’t really living.
It is then we have taken something good and turned it into something bad. It is like the Israelites, taking Gideon’s armor and worshipping it, rather than the God who directed Gideon. Or the staff with the snake, that God had Moses fashion, to heal people of the snake bites they received when they were unfaithful. We do it to, when we take the things that remind us of Jesus, from buildings to people, from crosses to music, and say that’s what matters.
Or even when we take a day like Christmas, and make it more about the presents and food than about the Lord, who came to us.
The Lord, who laid aside his rights as God, to come and live among us, to serve, even to the point of death, and that death on a cross.
So what right do we cling to? What right is the one that makes the difference in our lives?
12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
You have been given the right to be a child of God. His son, His daughter. The child whom He loves.
So has everyone else on the planet. Everyone in history,
This is why we are here.
It is not just for the brunch; it is not because of the music, or my eloquence. It’s not because of tradition, or because someone forced you to wake up and be here. (although they might have!)
It is because God drew you here, to remind you of the right He gave you.
That He purchased for you by sending Jesus here, to be born and laid in a feeding trough, to wander around as an itinerant prophet without a home, to be mocked and brutally beaten and hung on a tree to bear every curse your sin earned.
So you would have the right to be a child of God.
To share in His love, His mercy, His glory, His peace……
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.