Walking with Jesus #96

Walking with Jesus

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”   Luke 2:13-15.

The joyous event was not announced to dignitaries in palaces but to lowly shepherds working the night shift. This is in keeping with what Mary says in her song, Luke 1:52, that God “has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”  Surely the most humble of the humble in society in first century days were shepherds.  Whenever an angel of the Lord appeared to anyone in Biblical history, the typical reaction was fear, and the response of the angel was, “Do not be afraid.”

The angel told the shepherds that this Baby was born in the town of David, Bethlehem.  As descendant of David, Jesus was to be a king.  The angel said that a sign for them would be a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  A heavenly host lit up the Judean skies and filled the air with their praise not for the King and his court to see, but for lowly shepherds. What more of a sign is needed?  The angel said “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.”  We might be tempted to see God’s sense of humor here: an infant, who was supposed to be the Messiah, was being born in a feeding trough!

The sign was not just to help the shepherds find the Baby. The point of the sign is to confirm to them that this baby is indeed the promised Messiah for all people. They did not waste any time going to look for this baby.  The shepherds rushed into Bethlehem.  Here was the Messiah born in surroundings that were familiar to them–a manger.   And bless those shepherds.  They believed enough to go and see and know, when they saw the baby in that manger, that he was the Messiah, the Savior of the world.  They left the manger where the baby lay praising God and sharing this good news.  God sought out he most humble persons in society to learn about the birth of his Son, Jesus, and they shared the marvelous amazing good news everywhere they went. The praise and worship of the shepherds came after two previous events: divine revelation given by the angel, and verification by the shepherds. The word of revelation was confirmed by what they experienced at the manger. The shepherds’ praise was not a hysterical, emotional response to the spectacular heavenly phenomenon. Their praise was the result of what they personally verified at the manger.  They could not keep the news of a Savior to themselves.  There was nothing ho-hum about this message, they had to tell everyone.

 

Questions:

 

  1. What does that say to us?
  2. If the night crew of shepherds in the Judean hills left their flocks and made haste to see the Savior in his birth place, and then shared that good news with others why are we so slow to share the good news of Jesus with others we meet each day?
  3. Do we take for granted this message of angels, and our own experience of meeting Jesus so much that we just don’t share it?

 

 

Christmas Message

As we celebrate Christmas this year we are drawn into the social and cultural remembering of this past year.  It has been a trying time for all of us.  Some of you may have been ill with the coronavirus, or had family and friends suffer from it.  We have all experienc3ed social distancing, wearing masks, staying home from work or social gatherings, worship and church events.  I invite you to reflect on the church’s patterning of time. This invites us to recognize, today, God with us. This reminds us our year begins with Advent and keeps before us not only the remembrance of the incarnation, but to expect that God’s yet unfulfilled promises remain trustworthy. Whether in a person or a community, around us are indeed glimpses of God’s active grace, if we have the imagination to see. It is time to begin looking to begin again, starting at the manger in Bethlehem where our Lord was born.

In this hope-diminishing year we have just experienced, I pray that you have maintained the imagination to recognize God’s promise-keeping presence among those in your community.  Perhaps your eyes were opened to God’s work among those you love, or among those you struggle to love. Because Luke’s narratives remind us to see God’s grace impacting the young and old, rich and poor, leaders and led, Jew and Gentile. It has always been a promise to all the world. That memory, that glimpse, brings peace and hope for each of us.

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in a lowly manger in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as His children. Young men and women, old and young together are called to come to that manger where God’s Son was born!  We are all given the blessing of God with us.   So now, let us leave from this year in peace and hope. God has begun a new season among us.

Our time under God is now. It is time to remember, reflect, recognize and give thanks to praise to God for Jesus Christ, our Savior. God is with us. And we have each other to share God’s Good News with the world.

Merry Christmas to each of you and your families.  May the year 2021 bring you joy, peace and hope and may God’s richest blessings cover you all.

Pastor Sue Beall

 

Walking with Jesus #95

Walking with Jesus 

 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.  Luke 1:35, 38

I got a Christmas card from a cousin the other day and my cousin had written a note inside which said, “A little gift is on its way.”  That is the message of the angel to Mary.  In fact it is the message Elizabeth and Zechariah got about John, and it’s the message Mary and Joseph got about Jesus.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.   In the New Living Translation we are told that Mary was ‘confused and disturbed’.   All the angel had to do was say ‘Hi’ and Mary was perplexed.  I can totally understand.  So would I have been confused, and disturbed about what it could mean.  Mary was very much like you and me.  She was a girl, just becoming a woman who learned that God specializes in surprise packages, by coming to us in unlikely places, and speaking to us through unlikely voices.  Yet at the end of the angel’s visit Mary declared that she was a willing servant of the Lord and would do whatever God asked of her.

It dawned on me that Mary was the first bearer of the ‘body and blood’ of our Lord.  The blessed  virgin Mary then was the first human who could say of Jesus, “This is my body, this is my blood.”  We might even say she was the first minister of the sacrament of the real presence of Christ.  But what is so important to each of us is that she was willing to serve in the role God gave her, to bear the Son of God in the flesh.  This is a lesson of hope and grace for every human being.

Hope propelled an angel to visit Mary and offer her an outlandish invitation. Hope enabled Mary to say ‘yes’ to God.  Hope inspired her to sing of the restoring of the world like it had already happened.  Hope inspires us to accept the gift of God’s Son to our world.  It is hope that comes to us to receive Jesus Christ into our hearts.

It is God’s grace that brought this message to Mary and to the world.  Because of grace God offers his love and acceptance to forgive our sins.  It is because of grace we have found favor with God just as God found favor with Mary.  God’s grace has been so freely poured out for each of us even though it is not deserved.  Our life of faith is all about grace, and hope.

Isn’t it wonderful that something so undeserved, and yet so freely poured out for each of us is given in God’s grace.  May we each say with Mary today “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”  The biggest little gift has already arrived. Jesus has come, and we can celebrate his coming again.

Questions:

  1. How are you listening to God’s voice and calling you to be and do what God wants you to be and do?
  2. How are you responding to God’s voice calling you to be and do what God wants you to be and do?

walking with Jesus #94

Walking With Jesus
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10
As we travel the Advent road of waiting for Christmas, Isaiah reminds us that we have something to be joyful about. We have been accepted by God even though we don’t deserve it. Like the people of Israel who had been given another chance and was allowed to return to their homeland, we have been clothed in God’s righteousness, and we did not deserve it either. Deep down inside we all long for the kind of acceptance that is complete and unconditional, acceptance that covers us with a robe of righteousness, and God has provided this love and acceptance through Jesus Christ.
Isaiah is saying that the salvation that God will work for the Israelites will render them as beautiful and considerable as those who are clothed with the richest garments. When we recognize God’s glory in his love that accepts us and covers us with his righteousness, we are totally overwhelmed with joy. When we think of our relationship with God, knowing that we have done nothing to deserve such righteousness, joy fills our souls to overflowing.
When prayer or Bible study or worship become a chore, or a ritual to be done out of habit or just endured, then we have lost the clear vision of God’s complete love for us, or the full meaning of what God is doing for us through his salvation.  Joy is a huge product of our salvation. Joy is meant to be a center piece in our Christian life. Joy emits the energy of God’s grace. It moves us to sing, to have compassion for others, to reach out in love to tell and show God’s love to others. That is all because God has dressed us in the garment of salvation.
We once were lost and dead in sin. Then, miracle of miracles, Jesus reached down to us from the cross and brought cleansing and forgiveness.  When he walked out of the tomb he brought us resurrection life. Our lives have meaning because we are in Christ. I am overwhelmed with joy at what God has done in me and I hope that I shall always rejoice in the Lord because of this gift.
Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is often brief- it literally depends on what is happening in the moment. Joy, however is eternal because it is a gift from God that does not leave us, it is not transitory. Even in the greatest trial or the saddest moment, joy will be there waiting to bubble up to the surface like a spring of water. Hope and joy can make this waiting time of advent a wonderful journey.
Questions:
When was the last time you were overwhelmed with joy in worship, in your prayer time, in Bible study, or in visiting with someone in conversation about the Lord?
Prayer
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of salvation. Because of your love, all my sins are gone, cleansed by your blood. Help me to remember this when the world overwhelms me and pulls me away into frustration, fear, or dissatisfaction. Amen.

Walking with Jesus #93

Walking With Jesus 

8But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  9The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.          2 Peter 3:8-9

A thousand years seems like a long time to me, and for a thousand years to be like one day to God, really puts the patience of God into perspective.  I don’t know about you, but patience is not one of my long suits.  When I go to the doctor a specific time is set for the visit.  However, it seems that doctors schedules do not necessarily match appointment times of patients.  After getting checked in by a nurse, I usually have to sit in the doctor’s room where we will meet and wait for another 30 minutes before the doctor walks in for our visit.  I have learned to take my I-Pad so I can do some reading or answer some emails while I wait.  It is only when I am caught off-guard and have to wait, like in traffic, that I get antsy and impatient.  I realize I simply do not have much patience.  So when I read Peter’s message that one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day to the Lord, it makes me think about God’s purpose in waiting and what it means for me. Perhaps God is waiting on us to see if we can grow in our relationship with God.

Advent is always a time for waiting.  We wait for Christmas to arrive, and what do we do with that period of waiting?  Many of us get caught up in decorating our homes, and that can be an ongoing activity that lasts right up until Christmas Eve, or we get carried away with shopping.  If Jesus truly is the “Prince of Peace,” then why do conflict, war, and aggression still prevail in this world?  We wait for Peace all our lives.  Like many of you I long for God’s peace to reign in the world.  The events of this year remind us that peace is not on earth yet.  The tribulation is here but the Son of Man remains in the clouds (Mark 13:24-26). Why must we wait so long for peace?

Perhaps we need to use the Advent waiting time as a time of working for God’s peace with a stronger purpose than we have been doing.  God must have great patience with us while he waits for us to learn something and do something that fulfills his purpose.  Perhaps God is waiting on us to work with a Godly purpose, work that helps us move toward a more just and peaceful future.

So what does that work look like?  Peter goes on to say that while we are waiting for Christ to come in his glory we can strive to be found at peace, without spot or blemish.  Our hope for peace might sound like a pipedream in all of the rioting, and controversial groups in our society that are constantly at war with each other.  I wonder if our hope for peace is made real by us living out our lives working for justice and peace.  We can examine our own hearts to see what bigotry is in us.  We can use our waiting time in doing something that brings peace to the kingdom of God here on earth.    We can care for the poor, the sick, the child, the elderly, the homeless, the immigrant and give them the love that Jesus gave them. If we use our waiting time to the glory of God in any way perhaps we can then realize that patience is developing in us, and God’s righteousness is at work in our waiting. You must know dear friends I am writing this to myself, and you just get to read my thoughts on how I can possibly learn to be patient like God has patience with me.

Questions:

  1. In what ways can you spend your waiting time in Advent to bring peace and God’s love to others?
  2. Will your patience during Advent be realized by helping others, and how can you extend it beyond Christmas of 2020?