A Season to Change

Isaiah 11.pngA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with the righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give with justice he will give decision for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.        Isaiah 11:1-5                          I will baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, who sandals, I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirt.                                              Matthew 3:11

Once again, we have entered into the season of advent, anticipating the birth of Jesus and hoping that soon very soon that the promise of peace on earth would become true, but can we change our own lives if not the world. As we stop and look into the manager of a tiny little baby perhaps we can say to ourselves what does this all mean. We can pick up a newspaper, watch the television to take notice and to say where is this peace on earth? So much violence in our world and at times so much hate, where is this love that people seems to be talking about especially that we seem to hear it more during this season. As we begin to prepared for this season in many ways such as baking with our children or grandchildren, going shopping in a crowded mall where at times people can be a little crazy, okay you may be thinking they can be nuts at times, the beautiful lights we all see, and the music that is playing on our car radio, and even the movies on television which reminds all of us this season. I personally love the smell of a fresh Christmas tree in my home, which reminds me of the season. Are all the different traditions that we have in our own families does this tell others and also us that we are ready to make a change in our own lives? Are we showing others of what we do or say that we are followers of Jesus, we are his disciples. Even thro this is a beautiful season there are so many people who are hurting this time of year and need to hear about the hope we have in Jesus. Christmas is a profoundly beautiful season, but for some it also highlights the losses, griefs, and heartbreaks in their lives. In Isaiah 11, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a ruler who would be a descendant of Jesse. Jesse was the father of ancient Israel’s great King David. This descendant would rule with true justice and true faith, and he would establish true peace. This peace would be so great that even wild animals would be able to lie down next to one another and even a child will lead them. This descendant would also become a standard for people throughout the world. And, this descendant would be sought by people throughout the world. As Isaiah talks about this future King, he is telling us that he will be able to look into the hearts of people and judge based on the truth. The poor and oppressed will find a champion in him. This ruler to come will stand for justice and will impose punishment of evildoers. This King will not be clothed in royal purple or anything so fancy, his garments will be righteousness and faithfulness. As we heard from the gospel of Matthew we come to learn that John the Baptize was the one to prepared the way of the coming of the Lord. In most households when someone says, “Company’s coming! Everyone works and clean up the entire house in preparation of their guest. The gospel of Matthew has John proclaiming, “Messiah is coming! But do not go and clean up your house. Instead, mend your heart! Clear your lives of any obstacle that would hinder his coming.” Housework requires the right tools to use. The type of tools John has in mind are repentance and baptism. Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which means change of mind, to change one’s life completely. Repentance is like driving down the wrong road, then turning around and going in the opposite direction. Baptism is the symbol that one has repented and been cleansed of sin. This was important to John’s ministry that he became known as John the Baptizer. How do we, as followers of Jesus Christ, return the purpose of Christmas to the focus of Jesus? How do we prepare for his birth and for the second coming, it is not by having parties, decorating our houses, and giving gifts wrapped in fancy paper, but instead by giving ourselves anew over to the way of Christ? I suppose giving ourselves over to Jesus Christ begins with God’s gift of grace to us. It is something we feel inside. Some call it a moment of conversion. Others call it baptism by the Holy Spirit. John Wesley the founder of Methodist called it assurance. Maybe during the season of Advent, we could call it the Spirit of Christ coming into our hearts. But whatever we call it, we will know when it happens to us, because it does cause us to confess our sins and turn ourselves away, over and over, from the trappings of this world so that we can reorient ourselves back toward Christ.

Grace and Peace yo You My Friends

 

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Blue Christmas

Romans 15.pngTragedies unfold each year pausing for nothing. Heartless shootings that result in lives lost with no cause. The Las Vegas Massacre. The Texas Church shooting. Those left behind consumed with grief which feels as if their hearts are being ripped out, no words can describe its depth.
Natural disasters destroying countless people. Leaving communities once thriving fighting to stay alive. Desperately trying to rebuild. Each natural disaster claiming lives. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Wildfires in California.
Then the issue of human sin within the truth of Hashtag Me Too. Ugly, heartless sin which begs to be hidden. Revealing the horror humans are capable of. Of course, these few things are only the surface of the devastation surrounding us. Financial difficulties, abuse, and relationship issues add to the impact. Additionally, much devastation consumes us. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, panic attack, grief, and personality disorders.   The hardships are unending. The news reminds us of this often. Is there meaning in life? Any purpose in all the pain? One can even question if there is anywhere safe anymore. It is draining; sucking the joy from us. At times, we feel dead inside, nearly falling apart as the world caves in burying us.                                                                                 As we all think of these things within our own lives it does not mean that there is no hope for any of us. As I read these words today in the book of Romans 15:13 written by the Apostle Paul “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We humans try day in and day out to find things that can fill the void we are feeling and have been feeling for a long time. Through difficulties around in this world. Rejoice that Jesus is always present with us. Knowing Jesus can enable us to cope with any and all circumstances, strengthening us as we all look to trust the baby in the manger. No matter how hopeless your situation may seen, Jesus assure you that all things are possible with God. Jesus is the Truth and therefore he is true to all of his promises. They provide a rock-solid foundation on which you can live and move and have your being. Since he is the living word, affirming your trust in his promises is an excellent way to draw near him. As any or all of us bask in the beauty of His Presence, you may find yourself wanting to praise Jesus, the Christ, The “Great I Am” Do not restrain that holy impulse, instead, give it a voice. While you are worshipping Jesus, new hope will grow within you. Hope is in Jesus this Christ Season may the Christ Child give you the joy, love and peace that you long to have.

Merry Christmas

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

 

What Great Love Is This!

Isaiah 9.png   For unto us a child is born, for unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.                                                 Isaiah 9:6-7

Long before the birth of Jesus the prophet Isaiah foretold about his birth in the book of Isaiah. During the years when kings ruled Israel and Judah, God spoke through prophets. Although some prophets predicted future events their primary role was to call God’s people back to him. The most eloquent of the prophets Isaiah, analyzed the failures of all the nations around him and pointed to a future Messiah who would bring peace to the nation and to the earth.

Then Isaiah said, “hear mow, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Humans had gotten so far away from God because of their sins just as all of us of today, that God choose to send his one and only Son to become a sacrifice so that we will not be separated for all of eternity. Their would come a time in Jesus’ life that he would touch a leper’s open wound, he would wipe the tears of a widow, he would heal the sick, as well as to heal others, the dumb will speak, the blind would see the “Great I Am” For Jesus will see our nakedness for we cannot hide. He will see our selfishness for we cannot give. He will see our pain, for we cannot heal ourselves. Since Jesus became one of us he depended on human parents to care for him, and a mother to see her son nail to a cross someday while her heart is in some much pain. He will be torn by the thorns of our accusations, you’ll be ravaged by the cancer of our sin. Jesus will be crushed under the weight of his own sorrow, and he will be pierced by the spear of our rejection. And he that God knew all of this way before the day that his son was born, he still choose to send him hear on earth to become one of us.  What love, what Amazing Love that the Father has done for his children.

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

The Birth of Jesus

Luke 1c.png                       In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. ( This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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.                                           Luke 2:1-7

No one expected God to come the way he did as a baby. Yet the way he did come was every important as the coming itself. Jesus was born in a smelling stable along with the animals and then he was place in a manger that his mom Mary made it comfortable for her first born son. The Son of Man came down from his throne as a baby, a child that depend on his mom to be cared for and his father to protect him and his mother. He experienced hunger and thirst. He went through all the normal stages that we all do. He was taught to walk, talk, stand, and all the other things our own mothers taught us. As we journey through this Advent Season focus your eyes on the gift that will lay in the manger on Christmas morning which is the child. Read the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke.

Remember Jesus is the Reason for this Season

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

The White Christmas Stocking

15326559_1498968713451506_7971938639799325705_n                                        I  came across this article about the White Christmas Stocking that I felt I wanted to share it with others who came across my blog post.

                                       THE WHITE STOCKING (adapted by Carolyn Cox, Canberra)

‘Twas the night before Christmas as I walked through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The presents had been wrapped and placed under the tree

I paused, tired, excited, and then giggled with glee.

The stockings were hanging and were beautifully filled

No one had been forgotten, though the credit card was billed.

As I looked at the scene with the stockings on the ledge.

I noticed one was empty, the one on the edge.

Where’s the Spirit of Christmas – What have I done?

The children’s stockings are all full, except for this one

It was the stocking intended for the child of Bethlehem.

The White stocking for Jesus that was hung up by them.

Of all the people at Christmas, that might be forgotten

How could I not remember the Fathers Only Begotten?

Only He had been left out of the festivities.

As we planned and prepared all, for our families.

As I pondered, I realized this just was not right!

It was His birth that was being celebrated, after this night

I resolved then and there to remember the Lord

And quickly made changes that were easy to afford.

I hung the white stocking in a special place in our home.

And corrected the atmosphere to provide a more spiritual tone.

On Christmas morning I gathered the family together

And each of us wrote on a special piece of paper,

We gave Jesus a gift which we placed in the stocking.

A sincere change of heart, not there for the mocking.

The white stocking hung in our home as a symbol for us

Of the true meaning of Christmas – the Savior, The Lord Jesus

So take your white stocking and hang it with pride

Remember the Savior, put his gift inside

(The White Stocking found at motivatedmamas.net)

Second Sunday of Advent

Peace.pngWe began Advent last Sunday by lighting the first candle, the candle of Hope. We light it again today to remind us that Christ is coming to fulfill God’s promises. Today we light the second candle of Peace. The prophet Isaiah said, “Comfort, comfort my people” to a nation anxious about invasion and exile, as he foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace. Our world is still filled with violence and abuse, where families are torn apart by war and children used as soldiers. Isaiah’s words continue to speak to us that Jesus will bring us to an everlasting peace. Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn to give birth to Jesus, but we can heed John the Baptist’s command to make room in our hearts. Wherever there is war or mistrust between people, families, or our own hearts, God is present and leading us to imagine new ways of living in peace. Christ is our only hope, and our peace is found through him. We light this candle to remind us of Jesus’ life-giving peace to all who trust him. We light it in honor of those who live the Gospel truth that war does not make one great. It is the peace workers who risk much so that others may live without fear.

Prayer: We’re in trouble, Holy God. So many in the world do not know peace in their countries or in their hearts. We use weapons of steel and barbed words to wound one another. We seek balm for our restless hearts in the things that only make is more wounded. Open our hearts to Jesus so we may have the peace of his holy presence and live it in our unpeaceful world. Save us from outside violence and inner turmoil. We need you. Come, peaceful God, come.                            Amen

Grace and Peace to You My Friends

Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son

Matthew 1.pngThis is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”) When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lo0rd had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And He gave him the name Jesus.                                                           Matthew 1:18-25) NIV

I wanted to take a moment to consider the faithfulness of Joseph. We hear a lot about Mary, and rightly so. She was, after all, the mother of Jesus, the only person constant in the life of Jesus from the cradle to the grave. But what do we know about Joseph? In all the New Testament he never utters a word. Yet, he’s one of the principle figures in the Christmas drama. And so, let’s take just a moment to give Joseph his due. Tradition has it that Joseph was a simple man of an honorable trade: A carpenter from Nazareth. Sometimes you see Sunday school pictures showing him in a wood shop making furniture. But “carpenter” in Joseph’s day referred to a wide range of trades. Joseph could have just as easily worked with metal or stone, as with wood. The regional capital, Sepphoris, was under construction during this time, and it was within walking distance of Nazareth. It’s possible that Joseph was one of the stone masons there.
In any case, craftsmen worked with strong shoulders and callused hands. They were educated by apprenticeship. Their place was respectable but not on one of the higher rungs of the social ladder. Remember the flap in the synagogue in Nazareth when Jesus preached his first sermon? The elders raised their eyebrows and asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judah, and Simon?” (Mark 6:3).Jesus’ father was neither a rabbi nor a scribe nor one of the civic leaders. He had but two qualifications to play a part in the Christmas drama – he was a descendent of David and, for whatever reason, he was God’s choice. In this regard, I like to think that Joseph is someone with whom we can all identify – a common man who dared to be obedient to God’s will for his life.
His place in the Christmas story, of course, is that of Mary’s husband. According to Matthew, Joseph and Mary were “betrothed,” but not yet married. William Barclay explains that there were three steps in a Jewish marriage: The engagement, which was often arranged by the parents through a matchmaker when the boy and girl were children; the betrothal, which was a formal ratification of the marriage-to-be, usually done a year before the couple was married; and the wedding itself, which lasted a whole week, at which time the marriage was consummated. During the betrothal, the couple was legally bound to each other so that, if the man died before the actual wedding took place, the woman was considered to be a widow. They were actually referred to as husband and wife, though they refrained from having sexual relations. And then, in one further act of faithfulness and obedience to God, Joseph publicly named the child. Matthew says simply, “he named him Jesus.” In so doing, he claimed the child as his own and gave him the benefit of a noble ancestry, making him a descendent of the house of David. Because of the faithfulness of Joseph, Jesus would have a father and Joseph would have a place in the drama of God’s salvation.

Grace and Peace to you My Friends