Monday, December 22, 2014

6th Christmas Thought

Unlike Zechariah, whom the last thought was written about, this person lived his life believing that God had something special for him to do.  Day in and day out Simeon lived a life of faith anticipating what the Lord was going to do for him before he died. 

Christmas for Simeon brought the fulfillment of a promise.  A promise that God had made to him years ago that he would see the “Lord’s Christ” before he died.  As Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple after the time of their ritual purification Simeon recognized the fulfilled promise and held the Christ child and received his blessing.

Simeon is not usually one of the “heroes” of the Christmas story.  His character is introduced somewhat after the birth and only Luke sees the need to tell this story while not mentioning the Magi of Matthew.  But it is with Simeon (and Anna) that we get the validation from the religious community of that day.  Without a mistake this was the awaited messiah.

Simeon’s joy had been made complete.  His life long dream to see the long awaited “Consolation of Israel” was now reality.  How we can only hope that at the end of our days we will be filled with such completion and such joy.  But in order for that to happen we have to have been “awaiting” something special.  What is it in your life that you believe that God will reveal?  What is it that you are waiting for?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

5th Christmas Thought

In these “Christmas Thoughts” I am trying to take the characters of the Christmas story and find something of value in their part to our lives today.  This has not been a difficult task.  Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, has been the easiest to parallel to many of our lives today.

Zechariah along with Elizabeth, his wife, had prayed for many years that God would bless them with a child.  He was a member of the “Priestly” party and had duties at the Temple during various seasons of the year.  It is clear to see that he was a “religious” man and played his daily part.

The problem is that they had been praying so long for a child that they had simply fallen into the trap of going through the motions while believing that God was not going to answer their prayers.  This is evident with his disbelief when the angel told him that Elizabeth was going to have a child.

It becomes easy for believers to fall into the same trap; to pray without belief.  To go through the motions because that is what we are supposed to do.  In too many pews around the world, believers have allowed their faith to be summed up by their religious activities and routines.  Prayers, long spoken, have become empty and repetitious.  Songs are sung with feeling or attention to the meanings.  Activities are performed with heart.  This leaves us living the life a child of God by simply going through the motions.

This does not say anything about our status as God’s children; just our effectiveness.  This story has a wonderful ending however.  Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers are answered in a mighty way.  Not only would they have a child, their son would be the very person who would herald the ripe time of the Lord.

I believe that we all would like to have the faith and energy the end of this story exemplifies and not the stale routine of the beginning.  We can regain this energy by looking honestly into the manger this Christmas season.  May we see more than a baby that we celebrate a birthday with; an excuse to cook, buy and party.  May we see the Christ child who is the hope of the world; the one who will can bring peace on earth! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

4th Christmas Thought

What credentials did the shepherds bring to the big event?  Why would God make the announcement of His becoming human to a bunch of lowly men watching a bunch of sheep? 

Have you ever considered the life of a shepherd?  Barring any animal attacks,  sudden thunderstorms or thieves trying to get away with a few of your animals there life was probably not real exciting.  You found a good place for them to graze and then when time came you walked to the “watering hole” and they drank.  After that you found the place where they could bed down in some safety.  Life was probably not real exciting on a daily basis. 

I am sure they had plenty of time on their hands too.  I cannot imagine the community leaders being real interested in finding a shepherd to tell important news too, unless maybe the price of mutton had gone up. 

I am sure that most of the good shepherds were excellent protectors of their flocks; brave and strong when it came to marauding animals or thieves.  But I cannot see most shepherds as being great public speakers, announcers of news that would change the known world, wrinkle the very fabric in which existence was made.

But there they were, maybe chewing on a straw watching the flock settled down on a plateau or grassy plain.  They might have been telling stories of the day’s excitement around the evening campfire.  Some might have even been thinking about the family that was not present but waiting for Dad or brother to come home.

Then there it was.  A sound that was not normal.  I am sure they jumped to their feet and started scanning the horizon just over their flock’s backs.  Excitement began to grow as they tried to figure out where this amazing sound was coming from.  Then as sudden as it appeared the sound began to take on familiarity; the sound of words.  Words that were being spoken, no sang, to music and it was not coming from anywhere close but from above.  The heavens were singing.  Listen to the song.  Did you understand it.  It was something about Good News, a savior being born right over the mountain there in Bethlehem

God used these keepers of the flock to become heralds of the most important event in history.  I wonder if God learned his lesson with giving such an important mission to the untrained, ill-born, common folks of that day.

I don’t think so.  He still uses me and you to deliver that message.  Maybe you have not been trained. . . so what.  Maybe you were not born to the noble class. . . even better.  Maybe you have trouble speaking to a group of people. . . go after one at a time. 

Truth is we like the shepherds, who went to everyone they knew and told them what they had witnessed and heard, have the same mission.  The fact that you are an ordinary person does not hinder you.  In fact, it elevates God’s ability to bless those around. 

Have a great VOCAL Christmas this year as you tell someone of all you have witnessed!

Monday, December 1, 2014

3rd Christmas Thought

You have got to be kidding?  I can imagine that behind the question “How can this be?” we could hear several different emotions.

1)      It is not physically possible?  I have not yet “known a man!” How can God do this?  Girls talk to each other.  I know what is necessary for me to carry a child and it has not happened!  I can’t believe this.  (Do I hear the music to the “Twilight Zone?”)
2)      Who in the world will believe this?  I am supposed to tell everyone I know that I am having God’s baby?  Sure I am going to be married to Joseph, but I am not yet and believe me people can count!  The numbers will not add up!  I will be the laughing stock and brunt of all the whispers in Nazareth!  (I hope the hospital ward will have soft sheets and pink straight jackets)
3)      Oh well, I can handle that but what will Joseph think.  I love him and want to be married to him and have a family with him.  He will make such a great father.  How can he believe the child I will carry will be the blessing of God and that I have not been unfaithful to him?  He will have every right to publicly humiliate me and put me aside and I will be one of the homeless in our town.  (I never did think the Bethlehem Highway overpass looked inviting and homelike)
4)      Why me?  Who am I that the Holy One of Israel would choose me to do this thing.  I am just a meager child.  Yes, I have done my best to keep myself pure and I try to obey all the commandments of Moses but so do many of my friends.  There are people much more deserving than me.  Would it not be better if God chose one of King Herod’s daughters?  Surely they would be able to provide all the pomp that the Lord of Host would need.  (I have never even won a raffle or door prize at the school parties)

Anyone of these are believable and we would not fault Mary if she were here today and confessed to having all four.  But that is the part of the story that we can so easily understand because we have given those excuses many times to deflect the call of God on our lives.  But that is not the end of the story.  Mary’s final word was “(deciding in her heart) Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant.  As you have said, let it be done to me.” (Luke 1:38 The Voice)  To paraphrase we might say that Mary looked at the angel with eyes of great determination and resolve and said “bring it on, lets do this thing!”

We admire the faith of the founding fathers, the leadership and myopic vision of a Moses, the military prowess of a David and the dedication of a Daniel.  But let us not forget the calm resolve of a Mary who faced the greatest miracle of them all.  God becoming man and the part that God wanted her to play in it.