Christ our Hope

A Devotion for The Ninth Day of Christmas on January 2, 2018
Read John 1:1-18

“No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made God known.”

Ann Lomott tells the story of a friend of hers in her book Operating Instructions. The friend had put her toddler son into his playpen in a darkened room, while she tried to catch up on some work. “Her son somehow managed to get out and push in the little button on the doorknob. So he was calling to her, ‘Mommy, Mommy.’ After a moment, it became clear to him that his mother couldn’t open the door, and the panic set in. He began sobbing. So she ran around like crazy trying everything possible, like trying to get the front door key to work, calling the rental agency where she left a message on the machine, calling the manager of the condominium where she left another message, and running back to check in with her son every minute or so. And there he was in the dark, this terrified little child.”

“Finally she did the only thing she could, which was to slide her fingers underneath the door, where there was a one-inch space. She kept telling him over and over to bend down and find her fingers. Finally somehow he did. So they stayed like that for a really long time, on the floor, him holding onto her fingers in the dark. He stopped crying. She kept wanting to go call the fire department or something, but she felt that contact was the most important thing. She kept saying, ‘Open the door now,’ and every so often he’d jiggle the knob, and eventually, after maybe half and hour, it popped open.”

When the language of God seems foreign, when the room is dark and the door is locked and we only want to be free again, Christ is our hope. In Christ we see a crack of lighting spilling under the door. God has entered our world in Jesus . . . God was in Christ – reconciling the world unto God’s self. In him was life, and the life was the light of Humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never conquered it.

Prayer: God of light and hope, For the light you sent in Bethlehem, for the child who grew up to be the very light of the world, we give thanks. When darkness falls around us, remind us that the light of Christ dwells among us, that you have come to walk with us through the darkness into your joy and peace. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

Do Not Lose Heart

A Devotion for the Sixth Day of Christmas on December 30, 2017
Read II Corinthians 4:16-18

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” II Corinthians 4:16

The world Christ was born into was a dark and troubled one. Long years of bondage to a foreign power had broken the spirit. September 11, 2001 troubled the waters of our country. Around the world, candles were lit. Each lit as a sign of light against the darkness that tore us apart. Often, it is in moments when we are most broken that we are most conscious of the light of Christ. Light comes as a sign of hope when all else is obliterated by darkness and despair.

The story is told of a European town which was known for its beautiful stained glass window. The window was shattered in a storm. There was nothing to do but store the pieces in a box. Some time later a stranger, hearing of the loss, asked if he could have the fragments. They were useless to the villagers so he easily received the permission needed. Two years passed. One day the people of the village were invited to a showing of the work of a famed artesian in a nearby village. When the artist unveiled his work, there were the fragments of stained glass – seemingly useless after a storm, but now fashioned into a window of far greater beauty than the original.

The apostle Paul would write, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”

God is the one who takes the fragments and splinters of our lives, then remakes them. Christ came not only to save us from our sins, but to take our lives and transform each one into a masterpiece. The message of Christmas is not only that Christ came, but that Christ continues to come, again and again whenever . . . wherever there are those waiting to receive him in.

Prayer:  Holy God, You are the one  who restores and remakes us.   Come to us again this day.   Take the shattered pieces in our lives that need your  healing touch.   Reassure us of your presence and care.    In those moments when we are ready to lose heart,   remind us that you are the one who takes the tattered pieces of our lives and turns them into places of beauty.  Help us to trust  that we really  are held in your hands of  love.    Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

Telling the True Story

A Devotion for the Second Day of Christmas December 26
Read Luke 2:15-20

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” Luke 2:20

Rich Barger and his family lived in Iran during the revolution that eventually led to the overthrow of the Shaw. On Christmas Eve 1978, they were gathered around the Christmas tree in their home in Tehran. They were under a mandatory curfew; otherwise he and his family would have worshiped in a local German church. On that night they would do church in their home.

As nighttime fell, he writes, “we heard the sounds we had become accustomed to hearing each night. We would hear voices shouting in Farsi from the rooftops; ‘God is great!’ and ‘Death to the Shaw!’ and ‘Death to America’ we would hear the deafening rumble of armored military transports rolling down the street outside our door, taking soldiers to their positions in the city. We would hear machine-gun fire and other eruptions of violence. Inside, my wife, a friend from the US, and I were singing Christmas carols as loud as we could to keep our small children, whom we held in our arms from hearing the mayhem outside.”

Two stories were being told that night. The story told in the street was a version of one of the oldest stories, the story of Cain killing his brother Abel. That story has been reenacted in every age – a tale of the quest for power and the use of force to seize it. It is a story we have never been able to resolve. The second story told that night was the story disclosed in the words of our carols. ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing, Glory to the newborn king; Peace on Earth and “Mercy Mild, God and sinners reconciled. Silent Night, Holy Night! All is calm, all is bright – round yon virgin mother and child.’ Only one of these stories can be true. Only one will have the last word.”*

At Christmas we dare to proclaim the Light of Christ which is the true story . . . God’s story. It is the story of how light came into our world to stay. Darkness has not overcome . . . will never overcome it. For Christ came to be our light, to be our hope, to be our peace and to give us life. On that holy night, the shepherds returned, telling everyone they could find all that they had seen and heard. The spoke of angels with a message of  “Peace on earth,” a child wrapped in “swaddling clothes” . . . and of angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest.”

Prayer: God, you send us messengers. We look for halos and wings, but most often your messengers come wrapped in the ordinary faces of friends, neighbors or the strangers who surprise us with care. May we hear the messages you are sending to us, embrace the words and follow, even when we wonder how what we hear can possibly be true. Amen

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

Christmas – He is Born

A Devotion for the First Day of Christmas on December 25
Read Luke 2:1-14

“And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

My first memory of hearing these words, comes from the Christmas Pageants of my childhood. There would be that magical, mystical moment when under dim lights we would see Mary, Joseph and the baby. We would ponder God’s gift to the world. When I became a teen,  I went from being in the pageants to planning them.    One pageant stands out in my memory. I was directing the play in my small childhood church. Curtains were hung on a string that ran from behind the piano to the other side of the church. Between the wall and the piano  were some very rambunctious angels.

At one point in the play, the angels managed to pull the curtains down. We were forced to make speedy repairs. Throughout the pageant, a teenager was singing a song of eighteen verses spaced between scenes of the play.  We were near the end of the program, lights dimmed and only one  small  light on the piano to see by, when one of our angels pulled the cord. Our light was gone. We were left to sing and play by the light of a solitary street light.  As Mary sang, in the darkened sanctuary, one could sense that Christmas had arrived, in spite of or because of . . . our Messed up angels.

Anne Weems writes in her book, “Kneeling in Bethlehem”
“Each year the Child is born again.
Each year some new heart
finally hears, finally sees, finally knows love.
And in heaven – there is great rejoicing!
There is a festival of stars!
There is a celebration among the angels!
For in the finding of one lost sheep,
the heart of the Shepherd is glad, and
Christmas has happened once more.
The Child is born anew – and one more knee is bowed!”

God’s message of forgiving and reconciling love . . . continues to break into our world, even on this day, when tensions between the nations rise and fears abound. Christ was born  for a time like this time, to remind us of both our future and our hope.

Prayer: On this Christmas Day, we give you thanks O God, for the gifts of life and hope in Jesus, for the wondrous gift of love. Pull us back from our wanderings and open our hearts to joy. May we know the gift of your love and your presence in our hearts. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

Though the Fig Tree Does Not Blossom

An Advent Devotion for December 16, 2017   

Read Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails,
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold,
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

In Martha Beck’s book, “Expecting Adam” she tells about the experience of being the mother of a child with Down  Syndrome. Often there were frustrating moments when she confronted prejudices against her son, from colleagues, neighbors and even doctors.

At one point, Beck gave a talk about her experience to a class of Harvard Medical students, with her son, Adam, asleep on her lap. After the talk, she was approached by an elderly professor who had just become the grandfather of a little girl with Down’s. She says of that, “As he talked to me, he stroked Adam’s soft blond hair and wept. He loved his granddaughter with inexplicable openness, and the experience had changed his whole life . . . Whoever said that love is blind was dead wrong. Love is the only thing on this earth that lets us see each other with the remotest accuracy.”

God has never promised us that bad stuff won’t happen or that our lives will be easy. God has never promised that everything will work out the way we want it to, or that our favorite football team will ever win the Super Bowl. Habakkuk’s hope is based on more than a bountiful harvest. His hope is in the God who brought his people out of Egypt and through the wilderness.

The promise of Advent is that Christ came for all time. What God has promised throughout the scriptures is, “I will be with you.” “I will be with you in the distress of disease, illness, accidents, war, poverty, heartbreaking loss.” There will be painful, harsh and bitter times in our lives. God’s promise is, “I will be with you.” There is nothing in life or in death that we face alone.

Prayer: God of Advent Hope, Some days, we just hang on by a thread. We wonder where you are or if you’ve just run off somewhere. On days, when we do not sense your presence and we doubt you altogether . . . send your messengers into our lives, to remind us of who you are and who we are. Remind us that we are your children, beloved and cherished by you. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

How Beautiful Upon the Mountains

An Advent Devotion for December 15, 2017
Read Isaiah 52:7-9

“How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news . . .” Isaiah 52:7a

Brett Hart’s short story, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” is a tale of a tough, lawless mining camp out west. In the late 1880’s a miner discovers a little baby who has been abandoned. The baby is brought back into camp of rough and tumble miners who have to figure out how to care for the baby.    Almost as soon as the baby arrives a transformation begins. One by one, each of the miners becomes a different person. There are clothes to be made, meals to be prepared, washing and tending to be done, all for the little foundling of Roaring Camp. Not only are the individual miners transformed, but the whole camp as well. Swearing and cursing, fighting and feuding, once typical of Roaring Camp, now cease. Each man tries to be on his best behavior, because of the baby.

Christmas often brings out the best in us. We become more generous. Toys land in containers for children whose parents can’t afford them. Food Shelves are stocked full of food for holiday dinners. Gifts cards get sent to people who are having a hard time.

Christmas – Christ’s coming among us is the power to turn a life around . . . The power to light up the darkness . . . The power to raise up dead lives . . . The power to renew the soul. Knowing Christ gives us the power to face the world with hope and love. It is to move beyond our fears, hurts, failures and brokenness.

To encounter Christmas with its depth and meaning is to encounter the living God who journey’s with us. May this Christmas be one where you are willing to be surprised, to be open to the miracle of Emmanuel who is God with us.

Indeed, “How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.” Isaiah 52:7

Prayer:     God of the mountain messengers, May this year be one in which we truly celebrate Christ’s coming among us. May our hearts open a bit wider and let the Christ child into all our mediation’s, pondering, giving and celebrating. Amen

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions

Advent’s Waiting Time

An Advent Devotion for December 14, 2017
Read Habakkuk 2:1-5

“Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time . . . If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3

The people of Israel waited for a promised messiah, not fully understanding just who the messiah, they yearned for would be. They waited in hope and clung to the promises that one day, a messiah would be born. That yearning was buried in the hearts of the people.
Advent is a time of waiting. We wait with expectation and hope. We wait longing for God to be more fully present among us. We wait for the Christ to be born not only into the world, but into our hearts.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes of waiting, “Waiting is an essential part of the Christian life . . . our waiting is not nothing . . . it is something . . . a very big something . . . because people tend to be shaped by whatever it is they are waiting for . . . When you want something enough – your whole life tends to rearrange itself around that goal” Whatever it is, Taylor writes, “chances are that it has something to do with our vision of what it would mean for us to be made whole, to be transformed into people who are not afraid anymore (whose basic needs are met) and whose wounds are healed and who are more nearly the people God created us to be.” *

Advent is a story of our waiting, our longing for God. But more than that, it is the story of God’s longing for us. It tells us of God’s willingness to do whatever is necessary to find us, to save us, to be with us and to lead us home.

Prayer: God of Advent, In our waiting times grant us the gift of hope, knowing that you and your purposes will ultimately be done on this earth. When we are discouraged, open our eyes to what you are doing and  where you are working in our world today . . . Not only in the world around us, but in us and through us, even as we wait. Amen.

Additional Advent Meditations can be found by clicking here:   Advent and Christmastide Devotions

*“Gospel Medicine” 1995 , Barbara Brown Taylor