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Why We Need to See Jesus in the Manger

Devotional Thought of the Day:

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul?b13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good. 14 The heavens, indeed the highest heavens, belong to the LORD your God, as does the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the LORD had his heart set on your ancestors and loved them. He chose their descendants after them—he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Deuteronomy 10:12=15 CSB

Ah, my Jesus, my love, my infinite good, my all, be ever welcome in the poor dwelling of my soul! Ah, my Lord, where art thou! to what a place art Thou come! Thou hast entered my heart, which is far worse than the stable in which Thou wast born; it is full of earthly affections, of self-love, and of inordinate desires. And how couldst Thou come to dwell there? I would address Thee with St. Peter: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.1 Yes, depart from me, O Lord, for I am indeed unworthy to receive a God of infinite goodness; go and find repose in those pure souls who serve Thee with so much love. But no, my Redeemer; what do I say? Leave me not; for if Thou departest, I am lost. I embrace Thee, my life; I cling to Thee. Mad indeed have I been in having separated myself from Thee for the love of creatures; and in my ingratitude I drove Thee from me. But now I will never more separate myself from Thee, my treasure; I desire to live and die ever united to Thee.

“It’s very difficult for a man to believe that God is gracious to him. The human heart can’t grasp this. What happened in my case? I was once terrified by the sacrament which Dr. Staupitz carried in a procession in Eisleben on the feast of Corpus Christi.47 I went along in the procession and wore the dress of a priest. Afterward I made confession to Dr. Staupitz, and he said to me, ‘Your thought is not of Christ.’ With this word he comforted me well.
This is the way we are. Christ offers himself to us together with the forgiveness of sins, and yet we flee from his face.

Ours is a joy not born from having many possessions, but from having encountered in our midst a Person: Jesus who never leaves us alone in difficult moments, and is all the more present when problems seem unbearable and obstacles insurmountable.

It is Christmas Eve.

It is 2020, and we are amid a pandemic that has caused further division. In the days after a political free- for all that has divided us further.

This world is so broken! Even Christianity has become more about a “personal” belief than a communal relationship with God.

It is Christmas Eve.

I look at the world and then look in the mirror and wonder why God would bother with us, why He would bother with me. Luther was correct; it is hard for man to believe that God is truly gracious, that God desires to cleanse us, heal us, help us in the midst of all the crap in which we live. Ligouri echoes the same sentiment when realizing God is here, that God is invading our lives. Ligouri’s reaction is to drive our Lord away…. as if the pollution in our lives could poison God.

I know that struggle; I wonder how God could even dare to descend into my world… I want Him here; I know I need Him here.

This is Christmas Eve.

This is Christmas Eve…

And in a few hours, the babe will go in the manger in nativity sets around the world.

I need to see Jesus there, in all His innocence, in all the simplicity, in that place were holiness and the crap of this world. I need to see, as the filthy shepherds did, God incarnate, the one the angels sang about, reveling in His glory.

I need to see Him there… We need to see Him there.

For there, we can approach Him and realize the incredible love and devotion of God. To realize His faithfulness, to realize His desire to dwell with us…not just in Israel 2000 years ago… but today in Cerritos, or wherever you are….. and then, maybe, we can see His desire for eternity with us…

But it starts there… where He can be approached…reverently for sure, but without the terror that comes as we realize His holiness and purity and realize the difference between man and God.

Seeing Him there, may we never desire to flee from Him again… but stay by Him… until eternity draws nigh…

It is Christmas Eve…

It is Christmas Eve!

Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 77–78.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 19–20.

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), 406.

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.

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