Follow the Star

A Devotion for Epiphany January 6, 2018
Read Matthew 2:1-12

“Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” Matthew 2:11-12

Wise men, astrologers, magi – all names for those men who went searching for a king with only a star to guide them and a prophesy to direct their way. It seems a strange quest, this following a star, this search for a newborn king. Yet, follow they do. These magi, search where the star will lead. The journey will cover a thousand miles with an uncertain destination. Yet they set out in a search not only for a king, a promised messiah, but a search for meaning and purpose. They will be surprised as they discover their destination is not a palace, but a humble home in Bethlehem.

Arriving in Bethlehem, they lay their treasures down. Being warned in a dream – they return home in another way. There is a sense that all of us, having gone to Bethlehem and arrived at Christmas, dare not return by the route we have taken. Christmas ought to change us, ought to cause us to be like those who are wise and be different from whom we were before we met the Christ.

It ought to bring us to a place of changed lives. Christmas, encountered in all of its fullness does change us. It causes us to take stock of our lives. It asks us to look at the values we are living by and rid ourselves of those that have neither merit nor value. Christmas ought to cause us to return home a little kinder, more generous . . . less fearful and more faithful. For if it doesn’t we haven’t truly encountered the Christ

The star continues to lead seekers to God’s truth, to kneel at Bethlehem’s child and leave as new people . . . People who have been set free from yesterday’s sins, failures, fears and doubts. Set free to live and love more graciously with a generosity of spirit and with hope in their  hearts.  Brian Wren’s Christmas Hymn shares the message of a changed life.

There’s a spirit in the air,
telling Christians everywhere:
‘Praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world!’

 When believers break the bread,
when a hungry child is fed,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working, in our world.

 Still the Spirit gives us light,
seeing wrong and setting right:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow’s life today!”

Prayer: God of the Christmas Star, guide each of us as we follow the stars you set in our skies. Lead us again to the Christ, give us dreams to follow and the courage to follow them. Lift our spirits and our eyes to see more clearly your vision for us.  Help us to  trust you to take us where you want us  to be.  May our lives be a blessing.      In the name of the Christ Child we pray. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found by clicking here – Advent and Christmastide Devotions.

Life Wrapped in Unexpected Packages

A Devotion for The Twelfth Day of Christmas January 5, 2018
Read Isaiah 42:8-12

“See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

Writer, Max DePree’s granddaughter Zoe was born during the 24th week of pregnancy weighing only 1 lb.7 oz. In her early days he started to write letters which eventually became the book, “Dear Zoe: Letters to my Miracle Grandchild.”

One day Zoe’s nurse came to him with advice on the importance of his being there for his granddaughter. The baby’s father had left so there was no dad around to hold Zoe. He writes to his granddaughter, “While we were looking at you, a wonderful nurse named Ruth came over to chat. After a few minutes she turned to me and said, ‘For the next several months, at least, you’re the surrogate father. I want you to come to the hospital every day to visit Zoe, and when you come I would like you to rub her body and her legs and arms with the tip of your finger. While you’re caressing her, you should tell her over and over how much you love her, because she has to be able to connect your voice to your touch.’ I’m sure Ruth’s suggestion is going to be very important in our relationship together. I also have the feeling that she has given me something enormously profound to ponder.”

Zoe’s birth is a life changing event for Max. The miracle of her life stretches his heart. Her fragility reminds him that when life “seems most secure, it is unspeakably fragile” and “when it is most precarious it is yet unspeakably good.”

God’s gifts of new life come wrapped in unexpected packages. What looks to be defeat becomes an open door to healing, hope and new life. God moves in our lives to change and lift up. We encounter people whose presence causes us to rethink some of our assumptions.  About the time we are ready to give up, God breaks in with Christmas promises, of Peace on Earth. God entered the world in Jesus to show us a better way to live, to be with us in all of our challenges and especially when life is “Unspeakably fragile.”

Prayer: God of Hope and Promise, Thank you for the hope you brought into the world at the birth of Jesus. We give thanks this hope lasts longer than a single season. When our lives are fragile and we frantically struggle to survive, be with us. Open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the “new things” you are doing among us. Amen.

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

Christmas is for Those Who Refuse to Grow Up

A Devotion for the Fourth Day of Christmas on December 28, 2017
Read Luke 2:25-38

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

Joan Chittister, in her book “In Search of Belief” speaks of Christmas as “a strange season. When you’re a child, it is a season of presents. . . . A season of parties . . . but when you get older, Christmas changes color drastically. Suddenly, out from behind the advertisements and big dinners, through the haze of old carols and soft candles, past the dazzling altars and sumptuous crib scenes, we begin to see what Christmas is really all about. Christmas is about finding life where we do not expect life to be ‘There is a child’ she says, “in each of us waiting to be born again . . . Christmas is for those who refuse to give up and grow old, for those to whom life comes newly and with purpose each and every day, for those who can let yesterday go so that life can be full of new possibility always.”

The world has always had its seekers – people looking for what others are unable to see. Simeon has waited for signs of this coming messiah for a very long time. Each day he would search the temple for a sign until one day a young couple enter the temple with their newborn son. There in the arms of Mary his mother, Simeon recognizes the Christ.   Christmas is never real until we recognize the Christ of Christmas . . . until we turn and worship him. Cards, gifts, celebrations of the season all have their place and their joy. But the richness of Christmas is found in the Christ who came to journey with us, to be our Lord, to be our Savior to come again and again and again as he journeys by our side.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, In this season of Christmastide, may you become real to us. May we recognize your presence in our lives. Help us to surrender ourselves into your loving hands and trust you with our lives and our being. Come, Lord Jesus come. Come and fill us with your presence, with your peace and with your healing touch. 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

Hope in a World of Darkness

An Advent Devotion for December 12, 2017 

Read Isaiah 9:2-7

“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2″

On August 5, 2010 thirty-three Chilean miners were trapped twenty-three hundred feet underground after a cave-in at the San Jose copper and gold mine. Seventeen days later the world discovered they were still alive and in a shelter. Long weeks would follow that discovery as a plan was set in place to rescue them. During those dark hours, a moment of joy pierced the gloom.

September 18, 2010 a miner learned of the birth of his daughter. Ariel Ticona and his wife Elizabeth had planned to call their daughter Carolina. Buried deep in the earth in Chile, having just been miraculously found, Hope seemed a more appropriate name. The birth of his child “Hope” became a sign of hope for all thirty three miners during those long weeks. Hope that somehow the miracles would continue – hope that would pierce the darkness of that underground tomb. “Hope,” he would say, “for getting them out , hope to keep fighting for his daughter, hope to unite his family.” Hope that one day – he would hold his child. Hope that each of them would return to their families. The world watched and waited with them until on October 13th that day arrived

When there is nothing else and we wonder who we can trust or where to turn, Isaiah reminds us of God’s light, calling us to hope. This ancient word continues to speak, wherever there is heartache or sorrow. “Those who dwelt in a land of darkness, on them has light shined . . . For to us a child is born – a son is given – and he shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end.”

Prayer: Loving God, in the words of Isaiah you call us to hope. To hope even when we find ourselves in painful and difficult circumstances. Remind us, in those moments, that you have come in Jesus to be present in our darkest and most painful moments, shining the light of Christ to guide us and lead us into the ways of healing and peace. Amen.

Additional Advent & Christmastide Devotions can be found at:   Advent & Christmastide Devotions