Monday, December 23, 2013
One of the favorite Christmas hymns is "Joy To The World." This marvelous hymn was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748.) One of the lines is "He rules the world with truth and grace." Watts believed that God rules with truthfulness and graciousness. I agree. Those first century people didn't recognize Jesus/God as any type of ruler because they were expecting something else. Perhaps they were looking for a political King, a military leader, a financial wizard, a theological teacher, a miracle worker or something other than a helpless infant who grew up to be a wandering teacher with a small following. I suspect people today don't recognize Jesus/God anymore than those in that first century. Perhaps, it is because we are like those first century folks who expect something more from God than ruling the world (and our lives) with only truth and grace.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
25 years ago my wife and I were scheduled to go to the Middle East for a six weeks mission trip. She was to help the Hospital Administrators with their new computers and system. I was to be a "Pastor." We were to leave in January. Friends had questioned whether or not we should make this trip. Our plans were really put in jeopardy when the Pan Am flight was destroyed over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December--25 years ago. My wife was daily reading in Isaiah and I was reading in the Psalms. One day she was reading Isaiah 41, when verses 8-10 caught her attention. Those Isaiah verses read, "You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, 'You are my servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you for I am your God, I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous hand.'" On that same day, I was reading from the Psalms, when Psalm 121, verses 7-8 jumped off the page for me. Those two verses read, "The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time and forever." We made the trip to the Middle East and developed some marvelous friendships and memories.
Maybe this isn't a Christmas story but, again, maybe it is. Christmas is about God showing up. Church people, like to use the big word, incarnation. In Bethlehem, God showed up as a new born and helpless infant, who was birthed in an out-of-the-way place by a seemingly insignificant couple whose pregnancy was suspect. God seems to continue showing up in unexpected ways and places. God spoke to us while we were reading the scriptures, not especially looking for anything in particular, yet wondering about a trip to a country we didn't even know about until we had received an invitation. It is a Merry Christmas because God keeps showing up.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I rarely go to the malls. I'm not a shopper because I don't like big crowds and long lines. I'm grateful for on-line shopping. Nevertheless, I ventured into a mall recently. I neither stayed long nor purchased anything because I was "turned off" by the noise and the crowds. This morning my scripture reading was in the 3rd and 4th Psalm. I've been reading from Eugene Peterson's The Message. The ending of the 4th Psalm is paraphrased by Peterson as "Why is everyone hungry for more? 'More, more,' they say. 'More, more.' I have God's more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees. At day's end I'm ready for sound-sleep, for you, God, have put my life back together." I think I've heard a Word from God for me this 2013 Christmas season. My prayer for this Christmas is simplicity accompanied with more attentiveness to God's presence which is more-than-enough.