I Have Called You by Name

A Devotion for The Tenth Day of Christmas on January 3, 2018
Read Isaiah 43:1-2

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1b

Moss Hart lived in the early 1900’s. His family was desperately poor. One year his father had taken him shopping on Christmas Eve. As he told the story, he said, “The cluster of lights ahead were those of 149th street and Westchester Ave. And those lights seemed to me to be the brightest I’d ever seen. Tugging at my father’s coat, I started down the line of push carts. I would merely pause before a push cart to say with as much control as I could muster, ‘Look at the chemistry set,’ or ‘There’s a printing press,’ or ‘Look at the stamp album,’ and each time my father would pause. He would ask the push cart man the price and then without a word, he would move on to the next push cart. Once or twice he would pick up a toy of some kind and look at it and then at me as if to suggest that this might be something that I would like. But I was just a ten-year-old kid and my heart was set on a chemistry set or a printing press. There they were, on every push cart, but the price was always the same and soon I looked up and saw that we were nearing the end of the line. Only two or three push carts remained. My father looked up too and I heard him jingle some coins in his pocket and in a flash I understood it all.”

My father had managed to get about 75 cents together to buy me a Christmas present and he hadn’t dared say so in case there was nothing to be had for so small a sum. As I looked up at him, I saw a look of despair and disappointment in his eyes that brought me closer to him than I had ever been in my life. I wanted to throw my arms around him and say, ‘It doesn’t matter. I understand! This is better than a printing press. I love you!’ But instead we stood shivering beside each other for a moment and then we turned away from the last two push carts and we started silently back home. I didn’t even take his hand on the way home nor did he take mine. We were not on that basis. Nor did I ever tell him how close I felt to him that night and that for a little while the concrete wall between a father and a son had crumbled away and I knew that we were two lonely people struggling to reach each other.”

In moments of deep loneliness, God calls out to us saying, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” God knows our name, speaks to our hearts and reminds us that we are beloved and precious children. Our lives may be imperfect. Our Christmas celebration may have been far less than what we have hoped for. Still God calls to us with the message, “You are mine.” In that message is both our hope and our promise. For if we belong to God, we are God’s children . . . Beloved and cherished children of God.

Prayer: God, You know our name. You love us just as we are. On those days when our lives are far from perfect and crises overwhelm us, draw us close to you. Encircle us with your love and compassion. Renew our hearts and spirits. Tell us again that we belong to you and we are truly yours. Amen.

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

On a Silent Night

Christmas Eve Devotion for December 24, 2017
The Fourth  Sunday of Advent                                            

Read Luke 2:1-7

“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.” Luke 2:6-7

Ted Loder tells of visiting a ninety-four-year-old woman named Ann, who said to him, “I suppose that worship is supposed to bring us deeply together and heal us, make us strong and daring . . . Then she added, “And there’s that other part, about ‘without us, God will not.’ I love God for that . . . It makes life so exciting and full.”

Life certainly became full and exciting for Mary. But, I wonder if Mary was lonely that first Christmas Eve as she prepared to give birth to the Christ child.  There she was away from her family in that strange place without the support of people she has known all her life.  There must have been a sense of being so terribly alone.  Confined to a stable of all places with her infant child. Mary  must have wondered about the promises of the angel and why everything had become so difficult for her and Joseph. Indeed, she might well have questioned just what God was doing in all those complications. Scripture records nothing of her feelings. Only later do we read, that Mary “Ponders everything she hears in her heart.”

We too ponder the birth of Jesus. The words of Joseph Mohr’s “Silent Night, Holy Night” draw us to awe and wonder. Every Christmas Eve, when the lights dim and carols are sung, I’m drawn once more into the mystery of Christ’s coming in Bethlehem so long ago.   Near the end of the service when we sing the words, Silent Night, Holy Night my heart grows still with the power of love revealed in Jesus.  Today as you sing these words, may your own heart be warmed with God’s love.

“Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.”

“Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
radiant beams from Thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!”

Prayer: Loving God, Plant within us the courage that when we are challenged to reach beyond our comfort zones, when your dream grows inside our hearts and you call us to follow you, that we will trust you.    Give us  the inner strength to carry out your vision. Grant us grace to trust your wisdom in calling to us. Amen

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

The Trip to Bethlehem

An Advent Devotion for December 22
Read Micah 5:2-5

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Bethlehem is called the City of David because the great King David grew up there. Another name is “House of Bread” for it’s fertile ground. It is the place where Jacob’s wife Rachel died and where Ruth found compassion ( see the Biblical book of Ruth).

For Mary and Joseph the route to Bethlehem began when Caesar August decided that everyone needed to return the village of their ancestors to be accessed for taxes. Quirinius was given the job to make it happen. According to the structures in place at that time, Mary and Joseph both had to go and be accounted for.

Unknown to the powerful and mighty and clearly unknown to Augustus, his demand that all people return to their ancestral homeland, will bring about the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Micah
“But you, O Bethlehem . . ,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel”

The wise, proud and powerful make their plans. Yet it is God who works in the midst of those plans, bringing good out of evil, twisting dynamics till truth is born. Michael Perry’s Christmas Hymn reminds us of the prophets and the plans of God.

“Blest be the God of Israel,
who comes to set us free;
who visits and redeems us,
who grants us liberty.
The prophets spoke of mercy,
of freedom and release;
God shall fulfill that promise
and bring the people peace.”

Prayer: Gracious God, remind us that you are working in the world even when the powerful manipulate events for selfish gain, and when they resist the work of your love and compassion. Remind us, that you really are in control, especially when we doubt. Amen.

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