Adoration Time

Hebrews 2: 12

I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”

Okay, it’s official. The Christmas season has begun. So now, I can start my Christmas celebration.

I love Christmas and I have already been playing and singing Christmas music. As I sang along with classic favorites, I was touched by the line, “Come let us adore him.” What a beautiful petition. Come friends, let us adore Christ in our actions, words and thoughts. I was touched by this thought but also chagrined as I realized how often I have heard those words and that is all they were, words in a song. It is amazing to me how we can sing such songs and sometimes remain untouched by them. What a great message for us, though, as we enter the Yuletide season. Come, one and all, let us find breath and sentiment to adore the Christ.

One of the things I have noticed this year already is how happy and light my heart becomes as I sing Christmas songs. The child who came brought with him salvation for all. That is worthy of praise. He also brought joy, a joy so deep and so broad that time cannot mark its boundaries. It is a joy so profound that your human heart is altered as you experience it. You feel it in your body and you may even find yourself a little giddy. No wonder Christmas makes children of us all. The joy Christ has poured into our hearts is most easily expressed in a childlike fashion.

I encourage you to give into that innocent joy. As you sing Christmas carols, give yourself over to the exultant emotion within. Let your heart be reborn in the simplicity of the Christ child. Lift your voice to give God praise and experience the overwhelming sense of love and acceptance.

Let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas. As we enter this season of great joy I pray that the presence of Jesus will be with you more strongly than ever before and that you will find your heart lifted on the wings of his love. Come friends, “let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.”

Adoration Time

Hebrews 2: 12

I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”

Okay, it’s official. This Christmas season has begun. So now, I can start my Christmas celebration.

I love Christmas and I have already been playing and singing Christmas music. I was touched by the line, “Come let us adore him.” What a beautiful petition. Come friends, let us adore Christ in our actions, words and thoughts. I was touched by this thought but also chagrined as I realized how often I have heard those words and that is all they were, words in a song. It is amazing to me how we can sing such songs and sometimes remain untouched by them. What a great message for us, though, as we enter the Yuletide season. Come, one and all, let us find breath and sentiment to adore the Christ.

One of the things I have noticed this year already is how happy and light my heart becomes as I sing Christmas songs. The child who came brought with him salvation for all. That is worthy of praise. He also brought joy, a joy so deep and so broad that time cannot mark its boundaries. It is a joy so profound that your human heart is altered as you experience it. You feel it in your body and you may even find yourself a little giddy. No wonder Christmas makes children of us all. The joy Christ has poured into our hearts is most easily expressed in a childlike fashion.

I encourage you to give into that innocent joy. As you sing Christmas carols, give yourself over to the exultant emotion within. Let your heart be reborn in the simplicity of the Christ child. Lift your voice to give God praise and experience the overwhelming sense of love and acceptance.

Let me be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas. As we enter this season of great joy I pray that the presence of Jesus will be with you more strongly than ever before and that you will find your heart lifted on the wings of his love. Come friends, “let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.”

Christmas Faith

Luke 1: 38

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”

Put yourself, for a moment, in Mary’s shoes. She was a young, unwed, though engaged woman when the angel Gabriel appeared to her announcing that she would conceive and bear a son. She questioned Gabriel about how such a thing could come to be since she was still a virgin. He responded, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Now, stop right here. What would your next statement be, your thoughts? “Can this be? Have I lost my mind? What will my mother say? What about my friends? Gracious, what will Joseph, my intended say and do?” Think about it. If she consents, then she is about to show up pregnant in her community. What will the village elders think? Fornication is a sin and how else does one get pregnant. Can’t you imagine she would have a lot of questions for Gabriel? I would want to see his angel credentials. Thankfully, Mary was much more faithful and trusting. She said, “Okay, let it be done to me exactly as you have said.”

Do you believe for a moment that she did not understand the implications and ramifications of her decision? Somehow she trusted God above the social repercussions. She must have trusted God to keep her safe. She must have trusted Gabriel’s words when he said that nothing would be impossible with God. She took an enormous risk with her engagement and even with her life.

The point of this story is not that we should worship Mary for her faith. The point is that we ought to learn that trust in God is not misplaced. Through Mary’s act of trust and faith, we may learn how to trust God ourselves. What if we truly believed that with God nothing is impossible.

What is God asking you to do? Are you to preach on the other side of the globe? Or perhaps God just wants you to speak to your neighbor. Honestly, it takes as much trust and faith for one as for the other. This Christmas season I ask you to ponder what you might do if you really believed that nothing is impossible with God. Maybe you would be healed, start a new project, write a book, sing a song . . .. Maybe you can finally take that step that God has been speaking to you for years. Perhaps we can all trust Him just a bit more. Mary’s faith changed the world. Maybe ours can do the same.

Unwed Shame

Luke 2: 4 – 5

And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Mary, the mother of Jesus; venerated, adored and even prayed to, alas was an unwed, pregnant woman.

The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is such a heartwarming tale. I love to read it every year and try to imagine the glory of the Lord shining over the shepherds. What was it like to see the angelic and heavenly host singing praises to God. Wow! Just Wow! It is epic and I want to be translated back to that lonely field and witness the glory of the Lord. As I read, again, the glorious account of the arrival of Messiah, I am struck by the reality Mary, Joseph and others had to live in order to bring this miracle into the earth. I am humbled and whisper softly, “Thank you Father for these obedient servants.” I do not pray to Mary, but I sure am grateful and praise the Father that she hearkened to His voice and His will.

Consider for a moment, people all over this globe have heard the story of the Virgin Mary. She has been depicted in art probably more than any other person in history save Jesus himself. The truth is, though, she was an unwed mother. Now how does that truth play in your neighborhood? What do you think the neighbors said over 2000 years ago? Do you think everyone rushed to her side when her pregnancy was revealed? How celebrated do you think she was then? Think of all of her neighbors. I bet she had one of those judgmental, gossipy old crones living just down the street from her family’s home. Can you for a moment imagine what her parents endured? And bless Joseph, he hung in there with her but at first he wanted to put her quietly away. How familiar does that sound?

There is not going to be another virgin birth but what these matriarchal heroes endured for the glory of the coming king, gives me pause. What would I have said about Mary if I lived down the street from her when her pregnancy was exposed? As much as I do not wish to admit it, I can tell you that I would have judged her. I would probably have thought less kindly towards her and Joseph. I certainly would have assumed I knew how they came to be in that unfortunate circumstance.

I am condemned; not they. They obeyed God at great personal cost. The result of their obedience and shame is my own salvation. I must consider my judgmental attitudes and repent. Who is it today that I judge? Are they not also the beloved of God? Is God’s heart grieved when I judge and criticize His child? “Oh Lord, my God, save me from myself! Help me, help us all to have tender hearts towards all your children, especially, Father, those who appear far from you for we can never know their hearts or circumstances but we do know that you love them as much as you love precious Jesus. No matter how damaged and broken we are, regardless of how far we have wandered from the path, your heart is for us. Help us all to remember the pregnant, unmarried mother of the savior of the world when next we think harsh, judgmental words about one of your own.”

No minister and no ministry is perfect; I least of all. Nonetheless, I wish to echo Jesus’ beckoning statement, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do you know someone who feels shunned or branded as an outcast? Is there someone in your life who feels they have been let down by the church? Jesus took all judgment onto himself so that the grace of God could come on us. Let those people know that God loves them and so do we. In the famous words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.” And Scrooge, that means you too.

Christmas Joy for All

Matthew 2: 10

And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

The second chapter of Luke also tells the Christmas story. In the tenth verse the angel said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people.” Hallelujah! The good news of Jesus’ birth is a message of great joy for all people.

Sometimes we think and act like our fellowship with the Lord is a private club only for those with special membership. We begin to divide the world into we, the saved, and they, the unsaved. There is something very interesting revealed in today’s passage, though. The first worshipers of Jesus were heathen. However, they received the good news of Jesus and rejoiced exceedingly.

The Magi were from the east, perhaps Babylon. They were star worshipers, probably worshiping the sun and moon. However, when they saw the Christmas star, they abandoned their home land and journeyed to Jerusalem. There they found the baby Jesus. Matthew 2: 11 says that when they saw the child, “they fell down and worshiped Him.” As we tell the Christmas story we should remember that Jesus belongs to people from every land. His birth was for all people. Every nation will bow down to him and we can also expect them to receive this good news with great joy. He is not just our savior; he is the savior of the world.

Jesus went to his own people but the Jews didn’t receive him. Fortunately for most of us, we gentiles were invited to the wedding feast. We need to keep that in mind as we encounter people who are not yet Christians and as we consider the blessing of Jesus’ coming this Christmas. He came to and for all people. We need not divide ourselves into the “us” and “them” category because it was “they” who traveled many miles, perhaps over 100 in order to worship the newly born King of the Jews when the Jews didn’t go across town to take him expensive gifts. The heathen magi received the new king with great joy and bestowed honor on him.

So remember, the first worshipers of Jesus were Gentiles. There are many people who are not Christians right now who will receive the good news with great joy. Jesus’ birth is such good news for all people. There is no separation. We are all the beloved of God. The only difference in us versus them is time. We received our salvation yesterday while they will receive theirs tomorrow. The important thing is for us all to receive this gift of the child king with rejoicing. Let us not lose our joy over what Jesus has done for us. Let us all worship him with great joy.

Read the whole story at Matthew 2: 1- 11

From Christmas to the Cross

Romans 12: 10        (Amplified)

Love one another with brotherly affections [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another.

This is a tall order to fill. Nonetheless, God would not have given us this directive if He had not also empowered us to do it. This, being the season of ultimate love, it is worthwhile to look at love from the author of love, our own dear Father. Even as we celebrate the birth of Christ, our sight drifts forward to the sure knowledge of Calvary. While the angels sang and the shepherds rejoiced in pure delight for the arrival of the Messiah, God in heaven knew the destiny of the babe, though men did not know. They did not realize that the Messiah would save all by sacrificing himself. Men thought of a conquering Lord of war. Little did they know that Jesus would overcome by his stripes and it was his deep and abiding love for you and me that gave him the strength to receive those stripes. It was love that brought him into the earth and it was love that put him on that cross. And it is love that will carry us all home.

He now lives inside of us. Because of that, his love also lives inside of us. We are able to love in a holy, self-sacrificial way because love has come and made its abode with us. Because He first loved, we love. And not because anyone deserves our love. Many do not deserve yours or God’s love, but He showed us how to love even when we were undeserving and unworthy. Now by his grace and because of His love and mercy, we love others, even the unlovely; those who are difficult to love. He loves them so we allow His love to work through us. Because He first loved a people; a person, who was unworthy of love and even unwilling to be loved, we allow him to express himself through us. During this season, His love is more touchable than ever. Let your heart be soft allowing him to fill you to overflowing with His goodness and love. Then pass it on. In his name.

Hope Is Born

Luke 2: 8 – 14

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

I love the Christmas story and this passage of scripture specifically. In fact, it is one of my most favorite passages in the whole Bible. And yet … sometimes I wonder if I get lost in the poetry and the wonder of the event and miss the deep significance. 

As you may know, I spent the last several weeks caring for a loved one as she made her transition to heaven. So many times, both when she was in the hospital and later at home, I wondered what people who are without Jesus do in times of great trial and challenge. We were so obviously buoyed up by the prayers of friends and the grace of our dear lord. I would not like to try to endure that without the help of my dear Jesus. The other day it dawned on me that more was born on that Christmas morn than just a baby; more even than a Messiah and king. It dawned on me that hope was born on that precious morning. 

Humanity was lost and without a hope. At least the Jews knew there was a promised Messiah but the rest of humankind had no hope, no prayer. And while it sounds a bit crazy, eternal salvation just isn’t the whole gift. In fact, over the last six or so weeks it hasn’t even seemed like the most important gift of that blessed morn. No, to me, Christianity is so much more than my address in eternity. Christianity to me is my precious, beloved Jesus who is with me every minute of every day caring about every single thing in my life; he who cries when I cry, who laughs when I laugh; he who takes joy in some of the simplest things in my life; who will sit with me, ride my bike with me, who forgives me when I lose my temper and brags on me when I do something right. He is more than a brother, he is so much more than a lord, and more even than a Messiah. He is my breath. I appreciate that he paid the price for me to get to spend eternity in the company of God but I needed someone who would breathe for me, who would laugh for me, who gives me joy in the midst of great travail, who gives me strength when I have none of my own. I love him because he has breathed life and hope into this hurting and decayed world. He gives joy where there is sorrow and he is life. I love him because he first loved me and because he loves me unconditionally. He gives us hope of a future, hope of getting through the rough times. I have stood on, relied on, leaned on and believed in that hope. I have seen the love of those he calls his own and how his beauty shines through them like the glory of the Lord must have shone on that Christmas morn. 

When we were lost and without hope our Father sent us hope in the guise of a little baby. Never again is the world without hope, praise God. For all those who don’t know the Lord Jesus personally I pray that they would find him and be wrapped in his love and grace as I have been. For those without hope, I have this Christmas wish, that the personification of hope, Jesus, the Christ, will fill them with all the joyful anticipation of joy in the morning and that they would be filled with the courage and confidence that comes with knowing Jesus personally, not as Lord, nor as Messiah, but as best friend, confidant, loving brother, as hope and glory. This is what Christianity means to me. Take a deep breath, breath in hope and life. Let Jesus fill you heart and your lungs.

May your Christmas be blessed with a deeper revelation of and a more meaningful relationship with the Lord Jesus and may your heart be filled with hope and joy. Merry Christmas and God bless you.