Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Luke 24: 1-12
Cue the big music!
the spot lights!
All of heaven singing!
It is Resurrection Day!
The reason for EVERY season!

Easter morning is the biggest and brightest to
me if I have observed Good Friday.
If so, I have spent a day reflecting
on the price Jesus paid for me 
and my petty sins.
Seems like they just don't match up...

My prayer is that tomorrow morning, 
Christmas Morning,
shines brighter for Lory and me 
and anyone else who has taken this month
long journey with us.

We have spent a month 
observing and reverencing
the cost to God to send
His own 
beloved son
to come to earth as a 
helpless, innocent baby,
into a poor family,
to grow into a righteous man,
to live a blameless life, 
only to be beaten and die a horrible death
to atone for my sins.

Thank you, God for sending 
Jesus The Christ
for me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


I'm not a loyal royals watcher, but I do confess to a bit of curiosity when the news tease is about William, Kate and baby George.  I mean, they have it all:  good looks, perfect smiles, money, the perfect life.  Whatever they want, they have.  Seems idyllic.  I'm betting George has never known need is his entire, though short, life - and that isn't likely to change any time soon.

You know this is heading to another king, right?  What a contrast, though.  There were no 1000 count sheets comforting Mary's baby, just rough swaddling clothes with a straw mattress poking through.  It was a borrowed bed - borrowed from the cows and donkeys.

After a lifetime of service and giving and loving and teaching, He is laid to rest in a borrowed tomb - dependent again on the kindness of a stranger.  There was no state funeral - quite the opposite, actually.  The burial was hurried and the most basic customs placed on hold in deference to the Sabbath.  At least it was a new tomb.  It could have been a paupers grave if Joseph of Arimathea hadn't stepped up.

William, Kate and George have everything they desire - everything that money can buy, at least.  Jesus had nothing.  Throughout His life He was dependent on the kindnesses of others.  On the other hand, Jesus gave everything: His position, His lifetime, His life.

Now that's a royal I can watch.  
That's a royal I want to emulate.
That's my King!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Luke 23:44-49
Darkness fell, 
the curtain in the temple was torn in two. 
Jesus cried out and breathed his last.

Then, the centurion praised God and said
"surely this was a righteous man."
The people who had gathered to watch 
beat their breasts and went away.

Too little, too late.

It's not too late for any of us.
God reaches out to us every second of every day.
His mercies are new every day.
And twice a year we celebrate and 
proclaim God's great love for us.

It's the Christmas story.
It's the Christ story. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Choices We Make

Sometimes it feels like life makes choices for us.  It's not true, of course.  At the very least, we chose how we will react what life presents.  Sometimes we get to see how two different people react to the same situation - a psychological microcosm.  Before Christ's birth, Zechariah and Elizabeth were just such a study in duality.

The angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah that his wife, well beyond childbearing years, would have a son.  "Name him John." (Luke 1:13-17)  Ever practical, Zechariah demanded proof - of God's messenger - as if a swelling belly would not have been enough.  And for his doubt, the father-to-be was struck mute for the next nine months.  Elizabeth, on the other hand, acknowledged and praised God for the babe.  (Luke 1:23-25)  She had the honor of naming her son - not Zechariah as tradition would have dictated, but John.  And the pronouncement of the child's name loosed her husband's tongue again.  (Isn't he glad she listened and obeyed?)

Thirty some years later, as Christ suffered on the cross, two others had a choice to make.  Both were criminals.  Both we receiving their just punishment.  Each hung next to the Christ, all condemned to die the same horrible death.  One joined the taunts of the crowd, "Save yourself and save us!" (Luke 23:39)  The other acknowledged Jesus' innocence,
his own guilt and asked forgiveness.  (Luke 23:40-41)  Christ, ever the gentleman, even to death, gave each man according to his heart.  And that made all the difference.

May we all be wise enough to ask for what we really need this Christmas -
The child
The Christ
Our Savior

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Luke 23: 26-31
Simon from Cyrene.
Why is he in here?
The Roman soldiers made him carry Jesus' cross.
Even the Roman soldiers could see, sometimes, 
you just can't do what you can't do.

There was no way that Jesus, 
beaten and bloodied
was ever gonna get to the top of the hill
with that weight.

God knows that
we can't do what we can't do. 
There is no amount of good deeds
we can do to take the weight of sin 
from our shoulders 
so that we can make it to heaven.

Simon came from Cyrene and carried a cross. 
Jesus came from the father and carried our sin.

Friday, December 19, 2014

When I Don't Get What I Deserve

In Luke 23:13-23, the crowd chose to release Barabbas rather than Jesus.  They demanded the release of a hardened criminal rather then the author of the Universe - the King of the Jews.  And in doing so, they condemned Jesus to death - not accidentally, but by design.  It's easy to read the text and shake my head.  It's harder to admit my complicity, but my cry is too often no different than the crowd's.

How many times have I demanded Barabbas over the Christ?  

When I say "Happy Holidays"?
When "Jingle Bells" is sung with gusto and I hum "O Little Town of Bethlehem"?
When the 'right gift' gets more attention than the Advent Wreath?
When I take more pride in the perfectly wrapped gift than the swaddling clothes?
When the hustle of the season crowds out contemplation of the reason?

Thank you, God, that I do not get what I ask for - Barabbas.
Thank you, God, that you offer me a baby instead.
Your Son.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The more things change
the more they stay the same.

Luke 23:6-12 tells of when Jesus was brought
before Herod.
Herod Antipas, that is.

Just 33 years earlier 
Herod the Great
had sought to kill Jesus.

Neither guy was effective in 
squelching this "Jesus" thing.
The first guy had a lot
of innocent baby boys killed.
The second one chickened out
and passed the buck. 

Where's the Christmas in this story?
I'm not sure but I'm drawn to the 
concept of 
"squelching" Jesus.

Our society is doing it's best to
take the Christ out of 
There, is a movement of 
"Jesus is the reason for the season."
But even that falls short.

Jesus is bigger than the season.
 He was not sent to fulfill mankind's
need for a celebration. 
Jesus was sent to save the world from it's sins.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The King Comes

"Are you the King of the Jews?" Pilate asks. (Luke 23:3)

Well, there's no denying that!  A star shone above His birthplace guiding other kings to come worship Him.  And if the star wasn't doing a good enough job, angels lit the sky with both their brilliance and their singing, proclaiming "Glory to God in the Highest" (Luke 2:14)  Shepherds came running from the hills to see the new born King.

Just the week before Pilate's question the people made a spectacle of Jesus as He road into town on a donkey.  They placed their coats on the ground in front of Him, waved palm branches before Him and shouted, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"  (Luke 19:38)

"Are you the King of the Jews?"  Seems like a silly question, doesn't it?

But just in case someone might miss it, Jesus answers affirmatively.

Heralded King at birth.
Accused of kingship 33 years later.
Guilty as charged.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Luke 22:54-71

Peter went from 
Disciple (follower of)
to Apostle (one sent forth).

Yet his one colossal failing
in life is recorded for all time.
Jesus told him he would deny him
three times and he did.
But what is also recorded for all time is the man
he became. 
Peter went on to be the first to
on the day of Pentecost.
He went on to be one of the 
 apostles of all. 

Shepherds were pretty much the lowest of the low
when it came to the social hierarchy of Jesus' time.
Think homeless people on the street.
God chose them to receive the 
message from the angels
of the babe in the manger.
Luke 2:9
"And the angel of the Lord appeared to them.."
Luke 2:17
.."and when they had seen him they spread the word..."

The shepherds went from
the depths of the social chain
Heralds for our Lord.

I think God is showing me, yet again, 
that he can use the least of these.
My failings are no excuse to 
hold back from proclaiming our Lord.

He used a 
frightened man, 
homeless people,
a baby in a manger.
He can use me. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Christmas Kiss

I have 3 sons and 5 grandboys.  I cannot count the number of times I have kissed each them:  their button noses, their fresh from the bath squirmy toes, their skinned knees, adolescent broken hearts, their celebrations and their fears in the night.  No matter how old they get, I want my kiss to heal whatever ails them.  I've been at it long enough to know it doesn't always work, but I've been at it long enough to know to try.

Jesus was the recipient of just such kisses, too, starting in the manger and continuing though out his life.  I can't imaging it any other way.  Mary loved her son.  I'm sure she said "love" and "support" and "belief" with a kiss for all of her Son's 33 years of earthly life.

But the Christ's only kiss recorded for generations to come is the perverted one from His betrayer.  Even Jesus seems to be incredulous, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48).  His friend broke the universal unwritten law against perverting a kiss for something evil.

It started with a kiss on a baby peach fuzzy head.
The end starts again, with same but twisted gesture.

It's in our Christmas Story.
It's our Christ Story.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Luke 22:39-46
This passage brings us to 
The Mount of Olives.
I think this might be the time
Jesus is the most human to me.
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me..."

Jesus knew what lay ahead of him, 
I think this one verse shows how human he was
and yet how divine, 
"..yet not my will, but yours be done."

Mary and Joseph weren't facing an agonizing
death, few of us are called 
to that level of obedience.
But they were being called out of their comfort zone,
and by all accounts they rose to the occasion. 

Luke 1:38, 
"I am the Lord's servant. 
Let it be with me as you have said."
Was Mary's response.
Joseph meant to divorce Mary quietly
until an angel came to him and told him 
.."do not be afraid.."
Joseph took Mary home as his wife.

Very seldom ,does it seem, that I am 
called out of my comfort zone to 
exercise my obedience.

My prayer is, 
Lord, your will, not mine, be done, 
I am the Lord's servant, 
I will not be afraid.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Too Predictable Prediction

Luke 22:31-38 tell us about Jesus prediction that Simon Peter will betray Him three times.  Pete is incredulous - it won't happen!  He will follow his Lord to prison or death!  Sometimes, for Pete's sake, I wish he was right.  But then, we would have missed a sorely needed illustration of redemption.

I guess I could tie this back to Herod, the ultimate Christmas bad guy.  But he never toppled from his best intentions - his intentions were never that good.  If a Bethlehem shepherd was
at the Crucifixion, maybe.  When they left the manger, "they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child." (Luke 2:17) But that's not really the same thing thirty three years and a lifetime later.

What I really see in my Christmas story, and my Easter one, too.  I see my resolve shattered by fear in the blink of an eye.  I hear the words resounding in my head, the ones I should say but don't.  I feel my feet moved to action as I sit idly by.  And I feel, with grateful shame, the grace of my Savior:  "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."  (Luke 22:32b)

The gift I really need.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jesus teaches us over and over again,
don't get too full of yourself.

Today's verses have a lot
to say,
Luke 22:14-30.
It's a good size chunk. 
But the one piece of a verse that speaks to me,
is in verse 26,
"...the greatest among you should be like the youngest..."
Jesus came to earth a
conquering hero.
Jesus was/is the 
among us.
Jesus was God's 
perfect gift.

Jesus came as 
a baby.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unlikely Provision

It's the stuff of Christmas Carols!  After a long journey, God provided a place for His son to be born.  It didn't look like what anyone would have expected:  a stable and a manger and a rough cloth to comfort the King of the Universe.  But apparently it was provision enough.  The babe was not surrounded by sterile facilities or even generations of relatives and casseroles from friends.  But He was loved and comforted and heralded from on high.  In fact, his visitors included shepherds and angels and kings.  Not bad for such a lowly start.

In Luke 22:7-13, among Jesus last days on earth, He and His friends needed a place to celebrate the Passover.  Now this was more like it!  He sent two friends to look for a man carrying a jar who would lead them to a large upper room to celebrate Passover - a completely furnished room!  Kind of a snap-your-fingers-and-receive-your-wish kind of place.  Seems more Lord of All, doesn't it?  There He was surrounded by His most loyal friends AND His betrayer.  That last part might make the manger look pretty good after all.

The Lord will Provide.  
Sometimes I just don't get it.  
Even in hind site, it leaves me scratching my head.
Thank You God that You know what You are doing!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Luke 22:1-6
brings us to Judas.

I can't help but reflect on Lory's post from the 3rd.
Snake oil.

Herod was dishing it out, 
but the wise men weren't having any.

Judas on the other hand, 
drank it up. 
But Judas was getting it from the snake himself, 

Thank you, God
for the Christmas story.
Thank you,
that when this world seems to be
drowning in snake oil,
you give us the light of
The Christ Child
to cling to. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Warning and the Desire

I love Christmas!  I love the trees and the lights, the carols and the food, the gatherings and the wrappings, the hustle and the bustle - I love it all!  But if the truth is told, sometimes I like Christmas more January through mid-November.  Sometimes I like the idea of Christmas more than the actual Christmas crush.  Every year I try - generally unsuccessfully - to simplify the holiday.  It all becomes not small like a baby or huge like a Savior, but heavy like a duty and tiring like a treadmill.  It can indeed be a struggle to keep CHRISTmas in the holiday.

Being fully human (and fully God), Jesus understands just how heavy life can be.  He experienced it in ways I don't dare even try to imagine.  In Luke 21:34-37, He warned us to "be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with...the anxieties of life..."  His advice?  "Be always on the watch." In truth, He was referring to much more than just self imposed holiday mayhem.  I imagine He has a kind of sad smile when He watches the stress we allow His birthday to create.

Mary is my Christmas roll model.  A young girl far away from home and family, she gives birth to the light of the world.  The guest list is unimaginable: donkeys, cows, sheep, shepherds, kings.  She "treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19).

This year I will heed Christ's warning and follow Mary's example.  The wrapping paper will go on with appreciation that there are things to wrap and in anticipation of the joy of the unwrapping.  The cards will be sent with a pray for each beloved addressee.  The hurry will remind me that I have somewhere to go, someone expecting me.  I won't do it perfectly.  I'm only hoping for some success, for some self-aided, God-granted rest from the rush - some time to gaze upon our Savior.

Monday, December 8, 2014

When God chooses to come to earth
the event is heralded by the heavens.

Luke chapter 21 gives us some of 
Jesus' final teachings.
In verse 25 Jesus is talking about when 
He will come again.

"There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars."

These signs will signal the 
coming of the conquering hero. 

Thing is,
 one solitary star signaled the same event
over 2,000 years ago.

Matthew 2:9, 
"..the star went ahead of them and 
stopped over where the child was."

That solitary star shone over the conquering hero.
Next time he will arrive horseback. 
This time, 
he comes to conquer via manger. 

Same guy. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Cost of Christmas

For all appearances, things were going very well for Jesus in those scant days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  The adoring crowds, silenced religious leaders tucked back into their rightful hole with Christ's perfect logic.  So when the disciples started a discussion about the future with their leader, they must have been hoping for tales of conquest and glory (Luke 21: 5-24).  Certainly they had no inkling of the dread that would settle upon them when Jesus answered their questions:  wars, revolutions, famines, pestilences, persecution, betrayal, hatred and death.  Not a bedtime story for the faint of heart.

I wonder if His mother, Mary, was there?  Did she remember a similar warning given her some thirty-three years earlier?  When her babe was a mere eight days old, a stranger named Simeon spoke similar words to her.  "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too." (Luke 2:34-35)

God did not hide or deceive the earthly mother of His son.  Amid the joy of the birth came the truth of the future - a warning of the cost of the future.  The true cost of Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Luke 21:1-4
Today's reading is about the 
widow's offering.
It teaches us that  
 God honors our gifts and most especially when 
they come at high price for us. 

Mary' gift was her reputation. 
Joseph's as well, truth be told.
There must have been much 
snickering behind their backs.

Mary knew all she had came from God
and would continue to come from Him.
Her baby himself was a gift.

Later in her life Mary makes another 
extraordinary gift to God.
One at very high price. 
Her baby himself.

Let's not forget the gift God has given us. 
It comes at a very high price.
We should honor God's gift
as He does ours.

It's in our Christmas story.
It's our Christ story.

Friday, December 5, 2014

To Life!

My youngest grandboy, Elijah, will celebrate his first Christmas this year.  He will be largely non-plused, I imagine, though I'm sure he will spend some time staring at the lights on the tree.  An ornament in his honor will hang there as well.  Maybe I'll put it at eye-level for him.  Then again, that would also be hand-level for Josiah, so maybe not.

Is there any more precious than a babe held lovingly in his mother's arms?  It's a universal symbol of love and protection and LIFE.  It has been said that every baby born is God's Vote that life should go on.  Christmas is the epitome of that of that Vote.  Christmas cards and carols and creches all echo God's will that life continue.

I struggled with today's reading, Luke 20:27-47.  The topics listed in my Bible are "Religious Leaders question Jesus about the Resurrection" and "Jesus Warns against the Religious Leaders."  My first thought was, "I'm in trouble now.  Where am I going to find Christmas in here?"  Frankly, I held that thought for quite sometime as I read and re-read the text.  

Then I saw something again, for the first time.  Jesus replied to a question from the religious leaders with, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive." (verse 38)  That echos the Christmas sentiment loud and clear.  I can wrap my head around that.  

This affirmation of the Vote is not given while snuggling a helpless babe - all holly and singing angels.  Rather is it just days before Christ will be brutally sacrificed on a cross - and He knows it.  His imminent death is not a new revelation to Him.  He was born to die - to die unjustly and thereby create the perfect path to life.  In the face of death, Jesus affirms life.  As a result of death, Jesus brings life.

It's part of our Christmas story.
It's part of our Christ story.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

 Luke 20:9-26
Todays reading tells us the parable of the tenants 
as well as the story of the spies sent 
to trip Jesus up by asking Him if
they should indeed pay taxes to Caesar.
 Jesus' response was to give to Caesar what was his.
Jesus was a law abiding guy.

Luke 2:1
Caesar Augustus sent out a decree across the
land that a census shall be taken. 
Everyone must return to their town of origin. 
It wasn't easy to make the trek with a 
very pregnant bride.
Joseph was a law abiding guy. 

Jesus' life was at peril depending in his answer.
Joseph's unborn child's life was in peril 
depending on his 
adherence to the law.

In our times, how challenging is it for us to declare 
Jesus as King?
How politically incorrect is it for us to
celebrate the true reason for the season?

We are called to give Caesar his due.
We are also called to give God his due.

Merry CHRISTmas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Gift of Snake Oil

Both our current world and history are ripe with men and women with satin-coated though forked tongues.  The wild West had a name for such individuals:  snake oil salesmen.  A recent example on a national scale would be Bernie Madoff.  By all accounts he was intelligent, charming, remorseless, conniving.

As a newborn, Jesus faced just such a person: Herod.  But in addition to the above attributes, Herod was also deadly. Herod applied his craft to the Magi, telling them to "Go and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." (Matthew 2:8)  The Magi listened politely but did not swallow the snake oil.  Instead, they returned to their land by a different route.  Herod, finding himself bested, showed his true colors and ordered the massacre of possibly hundreds of little boys, Jesus' contemporaries born in and around Bethlehem.  Herod not only sold snake oil, he was indeed a snake.

If only history would cease to repeat itself, but alas, Jesus was offered a drink of the same kind of toxin from the chief priests and teachers of the law in Luke 20:1-8.  Sidling up beside Him, they hoped to entrap Christ by asking, "Who gives you your authority?"

Jesus, of course, has had much experience with snakes dating all the way back to the Garden of Eden.  His response was classic: sure, I'll drink with you, but you take a draft from your own elixir first.  Guess who slithered away to await another round.

In the end, Jesus drank their poison.  He drank deeply, swallowing every drop - knowingly, willingly, obediently.  The end, it turns out, was just the beginning.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  It isn't Christmas yet...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas has become all about
Making Merry.

And when we try to bring Christmas back to the basic,
to the baby,
I realize it's so much more than the
babe in the manger.

Luke 19:45-48
This is the story of when Jesus went to the temple
and got so mad. 
He managed to get the big shots mad as well.
Jesus shook things up.
They started plotting how to have Jesus killed.

This wasn't the first time Jesus' life was in danger
The poor boy was still a toddler 
and Herod tried to have him killed.
Jesus shook things up.
Matthew 2:16, 
Herod orders the killing of all boys in
Bethlehem 2 years old and younger.

I pray for Jesus to shake things up today.

It's part of our Christmas story.
It's part of our Christ story.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beasts of Burden

You can't read the Christmas story without noticing a donkey.  Mary, of course, being too pregnant to see her toes, much less walk, rode on the back of a beast of burden.  A donkey carried the King to His place of birth.  Not a gilded chariot, a thoroughbred, or even a plow horse, but a lowly donkey.  If your creche has more than just the Holy Family, a donkey is sure to be in attendance. It makes so sense, of course.  Joseph was not a wealthy man.  He used what he had and God blessed it.  God elevated the lowly donkey to the status of King carrier.

It wouldn't be the last time, either.  Luke 19:28-44 tells us how Jesus entered Jerusalem, no longer a babe in His mother's womb, but a man publicly and popularly recognized as King!  Men and women sang His praises spreading their coats before the donkey- riding Lord of the universe.  Children waved palm branches, also placing them on the ground with their parents' cloaks to prepare the way for a KING!  Riding on a donkey...

Jesus, all grown up now.
Jesus, stepping up to His rightful place as Deity.
Jesus, from humble beginnings to humble acceptance.

Jesus, rode a donkey to fulfill His Divine purpose - Twice.  
Beginning and End.  
Alpha and Omega.