Monday, December 16, 2013

The Costly Gift

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1John 3.16


 Can you imagine what it must have been like for God the Father to see His ONLY Son as a tiny helpless baby in a feeding trough!  To be separated from Him in a way He had never been before.  The communion of the God head was altered for a moment in time.


What love there must be in the heart of the Father to choose this separation!


But this was only the beginning, in just a few short years the Father would experience complete and utter separation as He turned His face away from His dying Son.


See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  (1John 3.1)


This great elaborate love plan was all for us!  So that we might be His. 


Children of the King!  Heirs of the Kingdom!  Hidden with Christ in God!  (Colossians 3.3-4)


So why as God’s children do we struggle to love each other?  Why are we so unwilling to lay down our desires, our plans, and our wants for our fellow Christians.  Why are we so often self-focused, petty and unforgiving?


Jesus set the example.  He refused to hold onto His equality with God the Father.  He was humble, servant-minded and willingly gave up His divine privileges. 


When we hold onto wrongs done to us, refuse to forgive and live as though it’s all about us, we cheapen the gift.  We denigrate the sacrifice.  We belittle the price that was paid for us.
As we welcome family and friends into our home this Christmas Season, let us love like Jesus loves.  Do you have a mother-in-law who is difficult to love, a daughter's boyfriend that get's on your nerves or a spouse that is running roughshod over you? 
Let us cast off our pride and pick up the mantle of love and grace, especially for those around us who are hard to love.  That's what Jesus did for us!  How can we do anything less?


Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  John 4.11


Lord, I confess that it is easy to say I love You and then turn around and mistreat my brother or sister in Christ. It’s not what I say but what I do that proves my love for You.  Forgive my self-centeredness, my penchant to hold onto wrongs done to me.  Give me a heart of forgiveness and love.  May what I say and the way I live be a true reflection of You.  Amen.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Will this Be the Year?

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright . . .

The night of Jesus’ birth was anything but silent.  People flooded the streets of Bethlehem as they returned to their ancestral home to obey the decree by Caesar Augustus.  Mary and Joseph weren’t the only ones who couldn’t find lodging in Bethlehem.  The inns were bursting at the seams.  Many found themselves sleeping on the street, in alleyways or anywhere that might offer a little shelter from the elements.  Did business owners wanting to cash in on this influx of visitors, keep their establishments open late into the night? Was the darkness filled with raucous laughter, wild bar fights and general mayhem?


Did anyone hear a teenage girl screaming in the early hours of the morning as she gave birth?  Did anyone notice a mangy lot of shepherds tramping through the town on their way to see this baby miracle?


The Son of God slipped into our world unnoticed and unsung (except to a few insignificant, unimportant men).  There were no trumpets to herald the king's birth, no luxurious linens to wrap His new born body in and no doting relatives to rejoice in His coming.


But heaven knew! 


Was there a silent, holy hush as the angels watched this incredible phenomenon? Did heaven hold its breath as this God-baby was born, only to burst out in song, laughter and joy to a lowly group of men on a hillside?


How similar are worlds are. . .  the preoccupation, distractedness, busyness, noise and mayhem of life.


We celebrate the birth of the Christ-child every year but it’s often so filled with other things that we barely stop to recognize who we’re really throwing the party for.


There’s the cookies to bake, the presents to buy and the relatives to visit.  The school programs to attend, church events to serve at, and work parties to show up for.  There are family traditions to maintain, decorations inside and out to put up and the list goes on and on.


And God is left on the doorstep as we welcome family and friends with arms wide open, as we unwrap gifts, eat platefuls of goodies and bow down to the materialism all around us.


Is there a holy hush as heaven hold's it’s breath to see if this is the year that we remember. . . if this is the year that we will welcome Jesus in, sit in the silence of His presence and celebrate the extravagant, enormous, unconditional gift of LOVE? 


 Will this be the year we halt the chaos and embrace the SILENCE, the PEACE, and the JOY?


. . . Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.  He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.


And while they were there the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.


That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.  They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.  “Don’t be afraid!” he said.  “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign; You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”   Luke 2.4-12 (NLT)


Sunday, December 1, 2013


The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”   Luke 1.35-37 (NIV)

Have you ever speculated what it must have been like for Mary to have an angel tell her that she was going to have a baby? 

I wonder if Mary felt like she’d stepped into the twilight zone.  One day she is going about her normal teenage duties and the next she’s had an encounter with an angel that will change the course of her life forever!

In the blink of an eye, an angel’s appearance, a few shocking words and her world was turned upside down. 

Did Mary replay the angel’s conversation in her head over and over?  Did she press her hand against her stomach and wonder if there was a life already inside of her?  Did she rehearse what she would say to her parents when they discovered that she was pregnant?  Did she wonder if she had really had a conversation with an angel or if she was just going crazy?

 In the midst of her questions, did it dawn on her that someone else was in a similar unexpected situation?  Could it be that was the reason why the angel had told her about Elizabeth?

God knew that Mary needed a friend, someone who knew and understood, with no explanations needed.  He knew she needed validation, someone to affirm what God had said to her, so he sent her to Elizabeth.  He gave her a lifeline in her world of upheaval and change.

God throws us lifelines as well . . .  in the form of other believers.  But do we grab onto them or set them aside because it feels too risky.  We're too afraid. 

He created us to need each other, to find support and encouragement, validation and care.  It’s God’s design.  Friendships can be messy, difficult and challenging but they’re worth the risk.

Remember, God never intended for you to walk alone!

Heavenly Father,

Relationships can be hard, disappointing and difficult.  I find it easier to withdraw and go it alone but that’s not Your desire for me.  Help me to see beyond myself, to reach out and take the risk because it’s Your plan for me and I trust You. Amen.