Christmas Day: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love!

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25 CHRISTMAS DAY

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

AS ADVENT GIFTS BECOME CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Thank you for our Christmas Hope,
your Light that will outshine
the darkness that surrounds us
and enlighten heart and mind.

Thank you for our Christmas Peace.
You make your presence known,
so we can journey onward
knowing we are not alone.

Thank you for our Christmas Joy,
your gifts of truth and grace.
Help us to let your glory
shine on each and every face.

Thank you for our Christmas Love,
for coming here to be
with all of us, your children.
May we live so others see.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Photo by Michael Fenton on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Christmas Eve: Love In The Limbo

Thursday, December 24 (Christmas Eve)

Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

FINDING LOVE IN ETERNAL CONNECTION

We have finally come to this precious, holy Christmas Eve, when we joyfully begin to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, God-with-us! Oh, we are richly blessed!

Even so, we remain mindful of the lingering limbo that has been with us most of the year. Our holiday celebrations may look much different, as our lives have been significantly disrupted and forever altered. Families and friends may be unable to gather together; some loved ones may no longer be with us. Even for those who have been more fortunate, sadness and grief can be found interspersed among the joy and gladness.

Can we find our Love in the Limbo on this Christmas Eve?

Tears begin to flow as I write this, but I am feeling that this Christmas will be even more significant, tender, and meaningful, because of the year we have had. Do you feel your heartache opening a deeper space within you, a holy longing for greater love to enter? Do you sense a deeper need for this Love of God in Jesus, who has come to abide with us in our limbo?

In this limbo called life, love is our sole and sacred certainty.

Love has come. Love has come from the infinite God to be with us and remain with us always. Love has come to be shared with dear ones. Love has come to be a blessing for all the world. Love has come, and Love will remain. ALWAYS. We can count on this, no matter what life brings.

Even through the pain of our struggle, the loneliness of our separation, the deep grief of our loss, love remains and continues…
~ Love extends across the miles to join us with dear ones, as we connect through video chats, phone calls, texts, cards, thoughts, and prayers.
~ Love flows on to connect us with those we do not yet know, through our gifts of charity, kindness, and generosity.
~ Love reaches into eternity to connect us with those who have gone before us, because their presence, memory, legacy, and spirit remain forever within us.
We will be always and eternally connected in a bond of everlasting love – you and I, our dear ones, those we yet consider strangers, and God in Christ Jesus.

Love surrounded Jesus even in the calamity on the night of this birth. After a long journey, giving birth in a lowly place, and then being interrupted by shepherds, Mary quietly “treasured… and pondered” in her heart of love for God and God’s son. Joseph watched over them, caring for his new family. The shepherds left their fields to come and see. Love surrounded Jesus then, and Jesus surrounds us now with that very same love.

Take a moment to close your eyes and open your heart.

Feel the loving presence of God in Christ, the baby Jesus born this night so long ago.
Feel the love proclaimed with the “good news of great joy for all the people.”
Feel the loving presence of those near to us now…
those far from us but close in heart…
those we do not yet know but are part of our worldwide community…
those who have gone ahead of us but remain a deep part of us.

Feel the unbreakable bonds of love surrounding, filling, and connecting all of us, forever.

This is the precious certainty of the abiding and eternal Love that is filling our aching emptiness, our holy longing. Perhaps especially this year, we find that our hearts can hold a greater and deeper love this Christmas…

Do you feel it?


Blessed Christmas, dear friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for tomorrow, Christmas Day, will be John 1:1-14.

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #11: Love In The Limbo

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22

2 Samuel 7:1-11,16 (NRSV)

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. 

FINDING LOVE IN GOD WITH US

“Are we almost there? How much longer?” We often hear these questions from restless children as we drive to a destination. But how often do we have the same questions as we go about our daily living? As we travel this path of life – hoping to reach our goals, making exciting plans, anticipating future joys, trying to fulfill our purposes – we encounter trials and challenges that delay, detour, or disrupt our hopes and dreams. This year has been filled with many roadblocks for us, and the same questions have come to mind:  

“Are we almost there? How much longer?”

How does our Advent love help us to travel this ‘limbo journey’ of life?

In our passage for today, King David tells the prophet Nathan that he wants to build God a temple in which to live. His intentions seem pure; he questions why he should live in “a house of cedar while the ark of God stays in a tent.” But God reveals to Nathan that a house is not needed. In fact, God is working to make a new place, a new house – a kingdom for David and his people! God also helps Nathan understand the ways God has always moved with the people, “I have been with you wherever you went.” God’s presence has helped and protected them all along the way.

What wonderful reassurance this is for us, as we think about our own limbo-living! Today we find our Advent love in knowing that God is with us, wherever we go. As the Gospel of John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The original Greek wording can be translated as, “God pitched his tent among us.” We have God everywhere. Our Advent love is found in God’s presence, around, among, and within us – always and forever.

“Are we almost there? How much longer?”

We do not know where our paths will lead us, but we do know that God assures us, “I’m going with you!” We do not know what our future holds, but we do know that God encourages us, “I am going ahead of you!” We do not know what obstacles we will face, but we do know that God reminds us, “I will help you!” We do not know when we will reach our final destination, but we do know that God in Christ promises us, “I am preparing a place for you!”

As we journey this limbo life in the certainty of God’s constant and eternal presence, we will no longer need to ask the question, “Are we almost there?” For as we travel along in God’s good company, we will find that we have already arrived.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for Thursday (Christmas Eve) will be Luke 2:1-20.

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #10: Love In The Limbo

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20

Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

FINDING LOVE IN LETTING IT BE

The year was 1970… I was an insecure and anxious young teen. My brother Ted brought his turntable out to the kitchen table, placed his new record album on it, and introduced us to a new song by The Beatles, “Let it Be.” My mom, sister, and I joined Ted in a quiet reverence as we heard the gentle, comforting lyrics and tune. I regard this as a holy time in my life; the music touched my soul deeply with a feeling of peaceful surrender.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be…”
And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be…”

The Mother Mary in the song refers to Paul McCartney’s mother, not our beloved Mary from the passage for today. Still, the lyrics are very similar to Mary’s words to the angel of God, “Let it be with me according to your word.”

Now, fifty years later, I am often an insecure and anxious adult during this pandemic time, and perhaps you are, too. We have been enduring a time of long-lasting limbo, as we continue to wait for the Covid vaccine and a new normalcy that will return one day. But we encounter other times of limbo throughout our lives, don’t we? We may have the unsettled limbo of wondering when we will find work, what the lab tests will show, whether a loved one is safe, or when a better day will come.

Where do we find the Advent love in the limbo?

When the angel of God appeared to Mary, her life was suddenly thrown into a time of great limbo and uncertainty… What will Joseph think? Will I be okay? What about my reputation? Will people believe my story? How will I raise this child? Will I be good enough? Yet, Mary had exactly what she needed for this time; she had the certainty of God’s love. So, in trusting obedience, she gently and humbly surrendered her whole body and her whole life to God:

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

This is where we find our Advent love in this trying time of limbo. In our trusting certainty of God’s love, we choose to let it be. We choose to let it be with us according to God’s love for us and the world. We choose to let ourselves be in God’s good hands, and let God guide our lives, fill our hearts with love, and live in us today. Whatever is in store, whatever we may face, we humbly and fully let ourselves be God’s. We let it be with us according to God’s word – the certainty of God’s universal love, shown to us through Jesus, shining as a beacon for us all.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow…

Let it be.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for Tuesday will be 2 Samuel 7:1-11,16.

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

The Beatles Let It Be; Released on: 1970-05-08 Producer: Phil Spector Composer Lyricist: John Lennon Composer Lyricist: Paul McCartney

Advent #9: Joy In The Junk

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NRSV)

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

FINDING JOY IN HOLDING FAST

When we look to the south of our home, we see a lovely hill covered with firs and sycamore trees. But just beyond that hill is a large landfill, a huge eyesore that continues to encroach into its beautiful surroundings. Our earthly life can be just like that scene, can’t it? A new day may begin as a picture-perfect scene of serenity before us, but a junkyard of troubles may be waiting over the next hill. Life is a rich and often surprising mixture of opposites, of joy and “junk.”

In today’s passage, we are told to rejoice always. This seems nearly impossible! How do we remain joyful in every reality before us?

How do we live as people of joy amid the junk?

Today we can find our Advent joy in the phrase, hold fast to what is good. This phrase brings to mind the pocket cross my friend Elaine gave me when I was about to begin chemotherapy. When I felt afraid, sad, or weary, I could hold fast to my cross and envision being held fast by God. Amid the fear, sadness, and weariness, there was the peaceful inner joy of feeling beloved and held by God’s care, shared in the kindness of a dear friend.

Paul’s words do not exclude other feelings or countenances; he does not say, “Solely rejoice” but “Rejoice always.” Joy does not need to be our only emotion, exclusive of all others. Jesus wept, Jesus became angry, Jesus even agonized. To happily rejoice in some circumstances would be absurd or callous. But we can hold a gentle glow of abiding joy within us, even as we mourn, work, struggle, or suffer.

Consider all the Advent gifts God has shared with us through Christ Jesus, the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. In the middle of our junk – the ugly, the sorrow, the pain – we can hold fast to what is good, the particular goodness of God that we need to sustain us and bring us through. We can hold fast to the goodness of hope when we are disappointed or despairing. The goodness of peace when we are angry or anxious. The goodness of love when we are lonely or lost.

Today, may we also learn that we can hold fast to the goodness of joy – even when we are standing in the middle of a junkyard. During a particularly challenging time, my gracious friend Debbie recently exclaimed, “Let’s be determined to find joy!” I love her idea! Looking around us, we just might find a treasure or two hidden in the trash.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This Sunday we will begin Love in the Limbo. Our reading will be Luke 1:26-38.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #8: Joy In The Junk

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (NRSV)

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
    and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
    to spring up before all the nations.

(verses 1-3, 11)

Psalm 126 (NRSV)

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
    reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves.

FINDING JOY IN THE PLANTING

After we lost our dad to Parkinson’s Disease, my sister Janet began a yearly fundraising event to help raise awareness of the disease and continue the research to find a cure. We all felt a special blessing as friends and family gathered to walk together, support the cause, and honor our dad. Janet chose to plant seeds of goodness and hope during this sad time in our lives. She radiated a quiet joy in bringing a meaningful purpose to what seemed to be our senseless loss.

This type of joy is described in our readings for today. Both the Isaiah passage and the Psalm speak of planting and growth during trying times.

Isaiah tells us that those who mourn, “will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.” Further on, Isaiah proclaims, “For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” Despite all hardships, God will bring new life, new joy, and new righteousness, to and through all who have suffered, grieved, or been oppressed.

There is a Chinese proverb which says, The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. Psalm 126 is included today because it speaks of this. “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” When we choose to do the next right thing; when we choose to plant a seed of hope now – even as the tears continue to fall – we are bringing promise and purpose to this moment, as well as a brighter outlook for our future moments. We may plant in sorrow, but we will reap with joy.

This is our reason for Advent joy today. Even as hardships and sorrows remain, even as there is work to do, we can regard each day as an opportunity to plant one seed of faith, hope, love, or kindness. Trusting that today’s tears may lead to tomorrow’s gladness, we begin to mature into those creations of righteousness who display God’s glory.

Our Advent joy is found in the hopeful seed, the loving care, the faithful courage we choose to plant today, as well as the joyful anticipation of the harvest yet to come.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for Thursday will be 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #7: Joy In The Junk

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13

John 1:6-8,19-28 (NRSV)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

FINDING JOY IN HUMBLE PURPOSE

I do not envy any of our governmental leaders, especially this year! They have had to make tough decisions in an unprecedented time. They know they will face criticism (and even threats) with any new decision or policy about our safety or economy. During this pandemic, I have become upset when our governor has changed the Covid statistical parameters or discontinued certain safety policies. Yet, I know he is pressured from many people with a wide range of opinions and information. He has much to consider beyond what I deem important.

It takes a certain strength of character to stand strong against the tide of popular opinion, to decide what seems best despite the backlash that will follow. We do not need to be political leaders to understand this well. There are times when we must choose a path or make a decision that will not be well received. Even as we believe in what we are doing, even as we believe we are making the best possible choice, we know we may be vulnerable to the skepticism or criticism from others.

Where can we find our Advent joy in these situations, this particular “junk” of self-doubt amid our concerns about what others may think of us?

Well here comes John! John is a fascinating example of humility, of finding one’s integrity in God alone. When asked who he was, John’s answer mostly included everything he was NOT. John was not the Messiah, Elijah, or even a prophet. John only professed to be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord…’ and said he was unworthy to even untie the thong of (the) sandal of the One who was to come.

John’s strength of character came from understanding his simple purpose: his calling to be “a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” His example can be our guide. Can we surrender our need to prove ourselves or do what is popular, and in humility, only desire to live as a light that points to Jesus? Can we do our own soul searching to discover who we are not – and do not need to be?

In doing so, we will find the beautiful Advent joy of knowing who we are and whose we are. We will find the strength and integrity of joyfully living as imperfect but beloved children of God, following our own unique calling, simply seeking ways to show people the loving light of Christ.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our readings for Tuesday will be Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11 and Psalm 126.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #6: Peace In The Pandemic

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10

2 Peter 3:8-15a (NRSV)

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

FINDING PEACE IN THE PATIENCE

Do you ever wonder if the main lesson of 2020 is in learning to be more patient? We had no way of knowing how long the pandemic would last, so our patience has been tested as the weeks turned into months, and the months are nearing a year. I can be more patient when I have an “end date” available; I can bear difficult days if I know they will be over by a certain time. I just need to work hard until this deadline. I can handle my chemo for these final six weeks. I only need to carry this load for one more mile. Our burdens seem heavier when we do not know when we will be free of them.

Perhaps because our patience has waned, many of us have understandably begun our Christmas season traditions sooner than we normally do. I have seen several Facebook posts from friends who admit they decorated for Christmas very early this year. Jim and I normally wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate, and keep the outdoor Christmas lights off until Advent begins. Not this year! We needed the cheerful sights of the season sooner (and we may keep them up longer, too). The song lyrics, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute,” come to mind.

I have been thinking, Yes! Maybe we should bring Christmas into our Advent waiting, maybe we just “need a little Christmas now” to bring us peace, to help us get through these trying times. The wonderful news is that we DO have Christmas with us, all through our Advent season of preparation and all through our lives! For even as we keep our seasonal practice of watching and waiting for Jesus to be born, we know that he has already come, and that he remains with us for all time.

These beautiful verses from 2 Peter tell us that God’s time is beyond our comprehension, but we can trust God’s promise that a new heaven and a new earth will come. God is patient, and we must be patient in our waiting, too. Even so, as we are waiting, we are invited to “hasten the new day.” How do we do that?

What sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?

While you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

One visible way we might “hasten the new day” is to ask God to help us notice and embrace God’s patience as our own. Recognizing the patience God has for us will help us to be more patient with others. Witnessing the patience Jesus had in his suffering will help us to be more patient in our own. Knowing the patience God has for our salvation will help us to be more patient with our imperfections. Understanding the patience God has with time will help us to be more patient in our waiting.

Our Advent peace is found when we ask God for the patience to endure trials, to bear with one another, to forgive one another, and to wait for a new and better day. With the patience that only God can give, we will live with greater peace, patience, and serenity, with greater holiness and godliness. In doing so, we will hasten the promised new day, because we will be living that new way – here and now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This Sunday we will begin Joy in the Junk. Our reading will be John 1:6-8,19-28.

Photo by DDP on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #5: Peace In The Pandemic

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8

Isaiah 40:1-11 (NRSV)

A voice says, “Cry out!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
    their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
    but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
    O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
    O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
    lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
    “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,

    and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead the mother sheep.

(verses 6-11)

FINDING PEACE IN THE PRESENCE

Today’s passage from Isaiah describes the fragility of life. “All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades…” This pandemic has shown us how quickly life can change, how fragile life can be. Yes, we are like grass, we are like the flower of the field. When we face our own fragility as well as the fragility of loved ones, fear can often prevail. In these fragile and fearful times, we especially need the Advent peace of God.

We can find this peace in the additional verses of Isaiah, as God is described as both the God of strength and the God of tenderness. God comes to us with power and might, giving us strength and courage in our times of fear. God’s power gives our shaking feet a firm foundation and our quaking souls a safe shelter. God also comes to us with gentleness and tenderness, shepherding us with guidance, assurance, and comfort through our trials. God’s tenderness reaches for our trembling hands and gently calms and leads us.

“Here is your God!” God IS here with us; through Jesus we know this well. When we feel fearful or fragile, we can find our Advent peace by clinging to the loving presence of God. God accompanies and leads us with both mighty power and gentle care, all through this journey of life. With God as our source of strength and tenderness, we can become visible bearers – and sharers – of Advent peace for those who go with us.

May we patiently, courageously, and peacefully journey together through this temporary trial, always mindful that the word of our God will stand forever.

God’s power and love are forever; our fear and fragility are not.

The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together.

(verse 5)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for Thursday will be 2 Peter 3:8-15a.

Photo by DDP on Unsplash

Bible verses from https://www.biblegateway.com/

Advent #4: Peace In The Pandemic

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6

Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

FINDING PEACE IN THE WILDERNESS

This pandemic has seemed like a time in the wilderness, hasn’t it? We have wandered through an unknown and unexplored territory, with no clear signs to guide our path. The distancing isolation has often felt like an empty desert, devoid of many of our usual routines and relationships. One definition from Merriam-Webster describes wilderness as “a bewildering situation,” which serves as a fitting description for the year. A vaccine is on the horizon, but for now, we must remain in our wilderness time.

Where will we find our Advent peace in this wilderness?

The story of John the Baptizer serves us well. As Richard Niell Donovan notes:

John was raised in the wilderness (Luke 1:80), was called by God in the wilderness (Luke 3:2), preached in the wilderness (Mark 1:4), and was most likely imprisoned and died in the wilderness… (Josephus, Ant. xviii 5.2). John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah—to make his paths straight (1:3). He did this by preaching in the wilderness, where he attracted great crowds, by calling people to repentance, by baptizing, and by heralding the one who was to come.1

And now John comes to us, calling us to prepare for this One who is to come.

God is so very present in our lives but can remain unnoticed because of our distraction, busyness, or complacency. This wilderness experience can become the barren place in which we may more clearly hear John’s cry. The wilderness may enable us to more attentively heed John’s call for repentance; to turn from those things that are not of God, and to turn to more of those things that are of God and our true selves in God. The wilderness is where Jesus chose to go before beginning his earthly ministry. Other saints have also chosen to practice this type of desert spirituality, leaving behind comfort, normalcy, and busyness in order to deepen in awareness and love of God.

We did not choose this wilderness, but we can choose to embrace it as a sacred time of desert spirituality. I have heard from others that the pandemic is changing priorities, clarifying purposes, and revealing the beauty of simpler lifestyles. We may discover more about ourselves and our purpose through our slower pace, simpler ways, and deeper compassion for others. We may discover more about God’s power and love through our surrender of earthly securities, self-sufficiency, and comfortable normalcy. We may become like the Israelites in Exodus 16:10, who “looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

Today we find our Advent peace in this wilderness, as we turn to God with greater awareness of God’s presence and love. We find our Advent peace as we invite God to make our paths clearer and straighter, to help our integrity become more God-centered and true. Christ Jesus is on the horizon – and thank you, God – Christ Jesus is already with us. We then find our Advent peace in knowing that even if all else is stripped away, the one who is more powerful remains with us, shows his love for us, and guides us through this wilderness and beyond.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Our reading for Tuesday will be Isaiah 40:1-11.

1https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/mark-11-8/

Photo by DDP on Unsplash

Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/