Sunday, December 16, 2018

God, Ever-Faithful

From: Celebrating Advent: The Journey Toward Christmas


Devotion

God unfolded His great rescue mission through promises.  He made an unconditional promise to Abraham, promising him Land (the Holy Land), Seed (the promised Savior), and Blessing (for his descendants and for the entire world).  God foretold that this seed promise, which began in Genesis 3:15 with the prophecy of “the seed of the woman” would finally come to bear in the tribe of Judah.  King David receives even more information as God’s chosen line through which He would bring the Messiah.  God made more unconditional promises to David – that HE would build David’s house.  He promised that one from His line would reign forever.  God showed His faithfulness to this promise when he brought Jesus through the Davidic line both by his birth parent (Mary) and his adoptive Father (Joseph) both of whom were in the line of David.  Jesus fulfilled the first coming promises made to David, and there can be no mistake that He will also fulfill the promise of the Messiah’s coming reign upon the earth.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

How I ceased to be a Grinch


When we are children Christmas is magical.  Gifts, events, cookies, a holiday from school...everything is grand!  In growing older our perspectives change.  Snow needs to be shoveled, money needs to be spent.  Heat, gifts, and Christmas parties all put a different kind of pressure upon a person.  As a child Christmas was lovely, but into my twenties, Christmas became a terror.  Working in retail reminded me daily of the avarice and materialism of Christmas.  Being blasted with the same six secular Christmas love-songs that were deemed appropriate for a secular workplace was about to drive me absolutely mad.  There was more to do with less money and I was poised to become a full-scale Grinch!

Later, the Lord answered our prayers and dreams and I became the pastor of a small church.  Now, Christmas was a time to arrange parties and Christmas programs.  To do more with less, and it seemed that there was always so much expectation of what had to be done at Christmas time.  I confided to a dear friend my growing distaste for the whole Christmas season.

He responded:  "I used to feel the same way.  Before I met Jesus Christmas was just a mess and a noise.  But now that I know what Christmas is REALLY about I love this time more with every year!"

His words cut me to the quick.  I had been so distracted by all of the doings and expectations of Christmas that I was missing the point...even when I was talking about Christmas!  I had made Christmas all about myself - and reaped all of the misery of doing so. 

In the years that followed, I have changed my focus.  When I realized this season was a precious opportunity to look to the loving Savior and the miracle of His visitation everything became different.  Now, Christmas is a delight!  Advent celebrations, Christmas Hymns that celebrate the Savior, and time dedicated to thanking God for all that He has given us in His Son.  I am so thankful for the wise words of my friend, for in saying them he brought me to a limitless appreciation of the Gift of Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Messiah

Image result for handel's messiah score
Each year we attend a Handel's Messiah Sing-a-long which is an ever entertaining performance.  The Loveland Orchestra provides beautiful symphonic accompaniment and the local Chorals provide the solo singers.  We go through all of the big choruses and the high points of the Messiah with the audience comprising the chorus.  I would be lying to say that a few wrong notes didn't come out now and again.  It is, after all, one of the greatest works of all time!  Yet, there is something amazing that happens when people gather and sing through those amazing words of Scripture. 

To hear the rafters ring "And the Glory of the LORD..."  "His Yoke is Easy..." and, of course, ending with a triumphant Hallelujah Chorus.  This wonderful work gives us the whole story.  From Isaiah, from the Gospels.  From the word of God set to the most beautiful music, man can write.  Might I recommend, for your holiday season, sitting down and listening to the beautiful words of the Handel's Messiah?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Scrooge

Image result for ebenezer scrooge
There are so many wonderful shows, books, ballets, musical masterpieces associated with Christmas that it would be impossible to pay them all their due and worthy respects.  One book that I read every Christmas is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  My little ones will usually pop in and out as I tend to read it outloud when there is anyone who would listen to our friend, Mr. Dickens.  This is also a unique work because it has been done and redone and redone so many times I couldn't begin to guess at how many films, stage productions, movies, and radio theaters have unertaken to tell the remarkable story.  

I recently saw a musical version at our local dinner theater.  It was delightful.  The music was good and the singers were really excellent.  The stagecraft was delightful and the makeup and costumes were enchanting.  It was a delight.  My two small disappointments were with the script, and they were a bit nit-picky and personal.  The first complaint was that the ghost of Christmas present was reduced to something of a fool with a message of little more than hedonism.  Having been stripped of all of the power of his message of love and enjoyment of the present he just gave a sad message that seemed to be a defence of Christmas Hedonism.  Which is boring.  But, again, not surprising as there is so much to cram into a stage production from a book that some things are bound to be missed.

The second was that my favorite quote from the book was missing.  When Scrooge's nephew, Fred, visits him in the counting house and gives this speech:

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!” 

This wonderful speech rings in my ears all Christmas long, and I hope it rings in the hearts of everyone else as well.  OH, and "God bless us, every one!"

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Shepherds

From: Family Advent - Celebrating the Journey Toward Christmas

Scripture reading – Luke 2:8-20

Devotion

A shepherd’s life was not glamorous.  Nor did people think much of them.  The constant demands of the sheep kept them separate from city life.  The work of the job often brought them in contact with dead animals – rendering them ceremonially unclean.  Finally, they didn’t have many of the luxuries of the city dwellers and were regarded as being smelly and rough.  Yet on the night that God came to earth there was only one personal invitation given to the event – to a group of shepherds.  In Bethlehem, the shepherds would likely be raising many of the lambs that would be used for the Passover sacrifice each year.  They carefully maintained the blood-lines of the sheep in their care and prepared them for the sacrifice that looked back upon God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  It was shepherds like these that were chosen by God to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  While priests, scribes, kings, and faithful Pharisees and Sadducees slept in their homes, a few poor shepherds were invited to have a front row seat to see the Son of God in human flesh.  Jesus Christ came, not to the rich and the powerful, but the poor and the humble.  He truly is Emmanuel – God with us – come for the salvation of all who would come to Him in humble faith.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Light the Lights


Around this time of year, it is normal to focus all of our attention on Christmas.  Yet this week is also the celebration of Lights - Hanukkah!  Many Christians don't realize that this celebration is a part of our heritage as well!  Jesus celebrated this Festival as was recorded in John 10:22 and known as the Feast of Dedication.  With very good reason. 

This important festival celebrates the victory of the Jewish people over their Greek oppressors in 175 BC.  The wicked king of the Seleucid empire (part of the Biblically Prophesied breakup of the Greek empire) was Antiochus IV Epiphanies.  Having grown sick of the Jewish faith and worship of the temple, and believing himself to be a god, he attempted to eliminate this by illegalizing Torah study and finally desecrating the altar by offering a pig (an unclean animal) upon it. 

At this point, God raised up the Maccabees.  A priest Matthias, who was followed by his five sons.  They bravely fought, and by the providence of God won back the temple and rededicated it to its holy purpose in the plan of God.  The miracle which is celebrated at Hanukkah has to do with divine provision.  The lamps were to remain constantly lit, and there was not enough oil to last the time it would take to make more sanctified oil for the lamps.  The Lord supernaturally intervened such that a single days worth of oil lasted the whole 8 days needed to get more.  In this way, God provided what was needed to glorify Himself and worship Him according to the Torah. 

So, why should Christians be mindful of Hanukkah?  There are many good reasons, beyond the fact that Jesus, Himself, celebrated it.  First, it is a story of God's miraculous provision for the worship of Him.  God's grace and provision put forth everything that sinful man needs to approach Him.  Second, it shows how believers of all ages must obey God, regardless of what world powers may do to stop us.  Finally, and most importantly, it displays how God preserved the Temple and Temple worship.  Had the temple not have been in place Jesus Christ could not come as the perfect sacrifice.  In order for Him to complete His mission, it was required that He perfectly keep the law of Moses.  While the Enemy will constantly attack the plan of God, God is never stymied.  He is going to bring His salvation to bear and no power is going to stand in the way of His perfect plan.  With this in mind, dear believers, may we say to all: Happy Hanukkah!