”There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: A right time for birth and another for death …. A right time to wage war and another to make peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,8
God presented his son to the world at an opportune time. The world was a mess and needed a Savior. But God didn’t send a warrior, he sent a baby. The child became part of a family and learned about his faith just like other Jewish children.
After Jesus entered his ministry—in his 30’s—he didn’t form an army and use weapons to stop the people from destroying God’s world. To bring peace to the earth, he ministered to all through love and compassion.
We hear “what goes around comes around.” Who would have guessed 2000 years ago, when the Prince of Peace was born in Bethlehem, that today there would be so much unrest in that part of the world.
Each year during Advent, we wait with anticipation for the Messiah and pray that in the coming year, the world will hear and take to heart the words of verse two of O Little Town of Bethlehem:
For Christ is born of Mary, and, gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of
O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the king, and peace to all the earth.
“And Mary said, ‘Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me Just as you say.’” Luke 1:38
Mary accepted the angel’s message: “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.” That doesn’t mean she didn’t fret about this pronouncement. “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.” (vs. 33 & 34)
It took nearly nine months to prepare for the first retreat I presented. There were times during those months I felt as if I were giving birth to a bomb and wondered why I had agreed to do the retreat. Fortunately, the retreat went well. Now when I prepare a new program, it no longer seems like a birthing process.
Have you been called into ministry, and then wondered, why you said “Yes?”
Dear Lord, help us out of our comfort zone to serve you. Amen.
“All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong…” Romans 16:25
For over ten years, before climbing out of bed, I faithfully did fifteen minutes of stretches. One day, I decided I didn’t want to do them anymore. After all, I was working out three times a week at the gym. Then my back started to give me trouble—twinges on the lower left side and then on the lower right. To get up from the loveseat, where Glen and I spend evenings together, I’d have to lift myself up and then hobble for the first few steps.
One day my chiropractor said, “You are so stiff, Linda, you need to keep moving.” I returned to spending the first fifteen minutes of each day stretching the muscles that have no memory of what position they were in the day before.
I consider Advent as a time to stretch my faith muscle. Every day (after stretching the body), I spend time in praise, prayer, study, and writing. I’m happy to hear that when I get to heaven, the old body will be gone. No more morning exercises!
Dearest Lord, thank you for my body and soul muscles that become more flexible with daily exercise. Amen.
“And Mary said,
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!” Luke 1:46-48
We tease our third child about being a surprise. We had planned for two children, but got a bonus baby. When my daughter, Karen, began kindergarten, I got a part-time job. But before I began, I discovered I was pregnant. I vividly remember the call I received from the doctor’s office, “Congratulations, Mrs. Gillis, you are pregnant!” I responded with, “Oh, my….” There wasn’t immediate rejoicing, as I pondered starting over with an infant.
Then one day, God performed a miracle—a tumor on my thyroid gland. Suddenly, with the possibility of having cancer, I had someone other than myself to worry about. Would my baby know his/her mommy? During the months of testing and surgery, my pregnancy became the center of attention. As the baby bump grew, I began to long for the infant to be in my arms.
The tumor was benign, but not my love for the baby, the precious gift God gave me—my Susan. Just like Mary, I became the most fortunate woman on earth!
Lord, we don’t always know what is good for us, but we trust that you do! Amen.
My favorite Christmas tree–a “Charlie Brown Tree” made by our daughter, Susan, while in grade school.
“Your family and your kingdom are permanently secured. I’m keeping my eye on them!” 2 Samuel 7:16
The words of God, in the scripture above, were sent through a messenger to Nathan, who then passed them on to David. God wanted David to get the details of how he would become the king, and how his lineage would be linked to Jesus. Think how much easier it is today to send a message through e-mail, Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter!
Through the water of our baptism, we are linked to Jesus and are granted a place on his family tree. However, we tend to be more concerned about where we live, our jobs and position, and our possessions. Let us spend time during Advent revisiting our heritage.
Dear Lord, help us to keep our eyes on the empty manger as we long for the birth of Jesus. Amen.
“David became fearful of GOD that day and said, ‘This Chest is too hot to handle.’” 2 Samuel 6:8
King David gave two men, Uzzah and his brother Ahio, the task of transporting the Ark of the Covenant from their father’s home to the City of David. Instead of carrying it on their shoulders (as spelled out in the law), they put the Ark on a donkey cart. While on the road, the donkey stumbled, and Uzzah reached out and grabbed hold of the Ark to prevent it from falling. Uzzah was unaware that God had made a law saying if a human hand touched the Ark, the person would be struck dead.
With the recent Ebola outbreak, the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote procedures and policies to protect medical providers from contracting the disease. Two Dallas nurses, who believed they were adequately protected from the virus, were the first victims of the disease brought into the U.S. by a patient.
Recently, I heard of an experiment done with nurses to find out if they could remove protective gear (similar to the ones used by the Dallas nurses) without becoming contaminated. Before disrobing, chocolate pudding was smeared on exposed skin on their necks. Then, they were challenged to remove their gear without getting pudding on their hands. The test proved the task was impossible. The CDC had to come up with a new plan.
King David mourned the loss of Uzzah and learned a valuable lesson: God says what he means and means what he says.
Help us, Lord, not to be tempted to trump your laws with the ones we make up along our faith journey. Amen.
After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God, far higher than any angel in rank and rule. Hebrews 1:13
The lyrics of the song It’s Hard to be Humble, composed by Mac Davis back in the 1980’s, could have been written about Jesus. Verse two goes like this:
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
But I’m doin’ the best that I can.
Jesus didn’t ask for the honored place in the high heavens next to his Father. But once there, God declared him to be higher than angels and gave him the honor of the position.
The big difference between the words of Mac Davis and the scripture lesson for today is found in Verse 1, lines 3 and 4:
Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
‘Cause I get better lookin’ each day.
Obviously, this character looking in the mirror was not seeing the humble Jesus.
Dear Lord, remind us that God is in the character we see in the mirror, but we are not God. Amen.
This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature.
Do you think we look alike?
One Saturday morning, my daughter, Karen, who was about 13-years old, and I stopped by a small local bakery to pick up a coffee cake. An older German woman behind the counter looked at Karen, and then at me, and said, “God liked the first one so much he made another one!” I believe Karen felt a bit embarrassed at the suggestion she looked like her mother.
Because of Jesus, I see God as a teacher, preacher, healer, companion, and Savior, not with brown eyes and wavy long hair, as pictured by artists.
Thank you, Lord, that during Advent we get a preview of what’s in your heart and mind. Amen.
As “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!” John 1:23
John the Baptist baptized those seeking repentance for their sins. Curiosity got the best of some Pharisees (who saw themselves as being “above the law”), and they approached John to find out who he was. They had three questions: (1) Are you the Messiah; (2) are you Elijah; or (3) the Prophet? John assured them he was the one preparing the way for Jesus and nothing more.
Today, in the Southwest desert, if someone is hanging out all alone, he or she might be asked these three questions: (1) What are you doing here; (2) Where are you going; and (3) Do you have proof that you are here legally?
Regardless of where you are today, if someone asks you questions about your spiritual life, how would you answer? Advent is a time well spent pondering who we are and where we are going in our faith journey. Happy traveling!
Dear Lord, show us the way so that we will not just wander around in the desert for the rest of our lives. Amen.
“Don’t suppress the spirit…. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19,20
One day while driving home from work, I was approached by a man who said he could fix the dent in my bumper in my own driveway for $600 less than the estimate I’d received from a repair shop. Even though my husband said it sounded too good to be true, I gave the miracle man the task. He labored in our driveway for a couple of hours and then rang the doorbell. “I’m finished. Come and see it.” The dent was gone. Yeah! He had covered the freshly painted area with a thick layer of car wax, and said, “Don’t wash this off until the paint is dry—the wax will prevent the paint from flying insects and dust.”
We paid the guy cash, and got his phone number for any future repair needs. An hour later, Glen cleaned the wax off the bumper and found a sloppy job of patching and painting—the dent was gone, but the bumper looked bad. A phone call to the guy revealed what we had already guessed—there was no such number in service, and we’d been scammed.
This lesson of gullibility cost me $300, but it gave me a good story to share with you!
Dear Lord, help me discern when it is your goodness that is shining through people I meet. Amen.