Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Word Became Flesh

Jesus, God incarnate, the word became flesh, and lived among us. can you believe that? The God that created the universe, humbling Himself and being born as a little tiny baby in a manger, to live as one of us. He did it out of His great love for us, even with all of our limitations, He became one of us, He lived with us to get our attention, to reach out to us and show us how great His love is.

Today you can find support groups for almost anything. There are support groups for widows and widowers, alcoholics and families of alcoholics, or those that struggle with other addictions or personal issues. Why are these support groups so important or effective? Because the only person who is really able to reach an alcoholic is another alcoholic. They know the struggles first hand, they empathize and can offer that support that no one else can.

So it is with Jesus, God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, Full of divine power and wisdom. Yet, out of love, He chose to be one of us, a real live human, to experience everything that we do, walking in our shoes. This is the message of Christmas, that God so loved the world that He became one of us, to make us part of His family, to claim us as His people, and to show us how to live in love for the whole world. Jesus is the Eternal Word made flesh so that we may experience His love now and forever.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

What does Christmas mean?

  I wonder what Christmas means to a mother who has lost her husband, who has 4 children to care for, works everyday but never making ends meet, never quite getting things done. What does Christmas mean to her?
I wonder what Christmas means to an 80 year old man in Zimbabwe, living in a hut, who knows nothing of shopping malls, or what a Christmas tree is. I wonder what Christmas means to him?

 I wonder what it means to the little homeless children with smudges on their cheeks and sparkling eyes that look up and thank me for giving them one meal a week. What does Christmas mean to them?

 I wonder what it means to missionaries who are half way around the world, separated from family and friends, sacrificing so much to bring the precious gospel message to those who have not heard. What does Christmas mean to them?

 To store owners it means the busiest time of the year. Stores have longer hours and hire extra people, and it definitely means higher profit to help them get through the lean times ahead. For their employees it might mean a Christmas bonus, a little more money in their pockets to help with Christmas shopping.
To many adults and teenagers it means parties and fun. For children it is a time of impatience, with time passing so slowly as they wait for Christmas morning.

 Do we go through all the buying presents, making special meals, and decorating, but somehow forget who's birthday it really is? It's Jesus' birthday and it might not be the exact day He was born, but it's a time for us to remember His birth and what it is supposed to mean to us.

 Look at Luke 2:8-14
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

  In those days shepherds were at the low end of the social ladder compared to all the influential people of that time. They weren't respected, lived in the fields with their animals, and had no power or prestige. Yet God chose to make the announcement to them. The fact that He chose the shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas. God so loved the world that he gave his only son and He chose to announce it to the shepherds first of all, and in that one message God made known some very important truths.

 First, it tells us that no matter how insignificant we think we are, God knows us and we are important to Him. All throughout the bible we see God using and honoring people that the world would overlook or ignore. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1: 26-28
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not 
  A young Jewish boy was sold into slavery by his brothers and carted off to Egypt. But, when God wanted a very important message delivered to the mighty pharaoh, It was Joseph the slave who was brought out of the dungeon to interpret that message. God uses the lowly and despised to show his power.
When God decided to choose a mother for His Son, He went passed all the the beauty parlors and fashion shops. He went passed all the diamonds and gold and went to a insignificant village called Nazareth. He chose a peasant girl who was not dressed in designer clothes, didn't have a sophisticated education, but she was pure so God chose her to be the mother of His only begotten Son.

  When Christ comes, he is not born in Mt. Sinai Hospital with doctors and nurses around, He is born in a stable wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger, and when God delivers his announcement, He delivers it to shepherds. It is like Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, if God cares about sparrows and lilies, then he cares about you and me. The world will laugh at you and look down on you and say that that is foolishness. But, Paul says " The foolishness of God is wiser then man's wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger then any man's strength.

  We need to hear that, don't we?  Teenagers in orphanages watching the young kids getting adopted, and realizing that it probably won't happen for them. They need to hear that. Single mothers with no help from their estranged husbands need to hear that. Homeless people living on the streets, not knowing where their next meal will come from need to hear that. People who are lonely need to hear that. Widows or Widowers need to hear that. Everyone needs to hear that message. All of us have felt rejection in our lives, felt left out. Christmas comes and the light shines and God says "NO!" Your wrong. I made the announcement to the shepherds and He makes it to us. Unto you a Savior is born.

  The second thing I think it teaches us is that life matters. Not only to us, but our lives count with God. Imagine those shepherds sitting around the campfire wondering if life was really worthwhile or not. Does it make a difference whether we watch the sheep or not?  We, like the shepherds wonder too. What difference does it make if I get out of bed in the morning? Our lives are like endless cycles of things that seem to not mean anything, or make a difference. When God made his announcement to the shepherds, He is also saying to us that our lives are worthwhile, it is His gift to us. So we must live every golden moment of it, because your life Matters to Him. We should see that every life matters, everybody's life counts for something. It is impossible to live on this earth and not influence somebody in one way or another, good or bad.

I remember seeing a cartoon of 2 farmers standing in a field in Kentucky. Snow was falling lightly and one farmer said to the other "Anything exciting happen today?" And the other farmer says "Nothing exciting ever happens around here", " there was a baby boy born over at the Lincoln's place.". That baby grew up and became the President of the United States. He changed the course of history and liberated the slaves. One life can make a difference. I wonder if on that night there were people in Bethlehem standing around asking, "Anything exciting happening today? " And maybe they were told, "No nothing much", "Just  some woman giving birth to a baby in a stable." "Nothing exciting ever happens around here." Except that baby changed the world.

  Life matters, life counts. Your life and mine. Lives of shepherds and lives of kings. All are important to God.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Picture of Joseph

      This week I wanted to write something about Joseph, I looked everywhere I could think of, from the bible to the internet and to my surprise I didn't find one quote from Joseph. I have never given it much thought before this week, but Joseph doesn't say one word in all of the gospels, he just listens and obeys. I can see where one could assume that his words are written in the bible, we can hear him having conversations with Mary, and for sure the Angel Gabrielle. We can imagine him talking to the inn keeper, we can visualize him teaching Jesus about carpentry, but he just fades from the scene. I have found out that it is thought that Joseph was much older than Mary, and when Jesus starts His ministry Mary seems to be alone, and even though the bible doesn't say she is a widow, we can kind of figure that Joseph has passed.

      I think Joseph thought he had his life pretty well planned out. His trade and his marriage were all tightly wrapped for him, but then his world is turned upside down when he found out his bride to be was pregnant. Joseph wanted to do things the right way. He thought about divorcing her, but wanted to do it without calling attention to the reason. He could have had her publicly shamed, or even had her stoned to death for adultery. But Joseph protects her reputation by moving up the wedding date, and then the Roman census took them away from the wondering eyes of the town.

      Thanks to the genealogy of the Gospels, we know that Joseph came from the royal lineage of King David, but I can easily picture Joseph as a humble man. The brief mentions of Joseph in the bible suggests to me that he was a quiet man that didn't purposely call attention to himself. He was available when needed and willing to take on hardships. Joseph was looking forward to fathering his own child, but was instead fathering a child that was not his own, but he accepted the humbling experiences around the birth of Jesus, and he trusted in the divine care of God every day. There were no training manuals or directions on how to be a father to the Son of God, but he used faith and compassion. Biblical scholars paint Joseph as an excellent choice for a provider and protector of his family.

      There is not one Christmas pageant performed anywhere that Joseph plays a big role in, but in the most important Christmas pageant of them all, his part was very important. His role was to take care of Mary and the Baby Jesus, to protect them, and get them where they needed to be. Joseph had the important role of caring for the needs of others. Does that sound familiar?

      When our lives take a turn for the worse, and we cry out, Lord how can this be? Like I am sure Joseph cried out, but we must be again like Joseph and hear the still, quiet voice from God saying trust Me. God does not always lead us down the easy path, and we might not ever understand everything that God does, but He says trust me and all things will work out for good.

      I have heard a saying that says the best thing a father can do for his kids is to love their mother. Joseph's love for Mary was a excellent example of Paul's definition. Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast, it is not proud or rude. Love is not self seeking or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13) Instead of being angered and annoyed, Joseph accepted Jesus as his own, Joseph accepted the will of God that was revealed to him. He followed what he was told. They journeyed to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and then back to Nazareth. I can easily see Joseph receiving his son as a true gift from God.

      Joseph became a father to the Messiah, who would teach us about the true grace of God. Joseph was entrusted with naming their son and thus defining His mission, the name Jesus means Savior. I have read where archaeologists have uncovered ruins of a city called Sapphoris near Nazareth, and it is believed that Joseph spent a lot of time there working carpentry jobs. Maybe even with his young apprentice and son Jesus. You see, when Jesus came home, the people cried out, is this not the son of Joseph the carpenter?

      There is so much I would love to know about Joseph. Like where and when he was born, how he spent his days, what he sounded like and what he said, or when and where he died. The last time we hear of him is on that pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12. I think it's safe to say that he was a man of few words, but he did what he was supposed to do. Sure, we don't know much about Joseph, but scripture gives us the most important knowledge of what kind of man he was. Joseph was a righteous man, and he may of thought that being righteous only meant doing the right thing. But, he found out that it also meant being the right person.....

Friday, December 2, 2016

Don't Let The Grinch Steal Christmas From You

     Today I would like to talk about a book by a certain author. He has written at least 44 books, they are published in 34 different languages, and can be found in homes all over the world. His books are so well respected that he goes by the title Dr. That's right, Dr. Seuss, and the book I would like to discuss is How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

     You all know the story. The Grinch lives in a cave with his dog, and he is one of the meanest creatures to ever live. The book says he's as charming as an eel, cuddly as a cactus, and a bad banana with a greasy black peel. This guy is one mean dude, you don't want to touch with a 39 and 1/2 foot pole. In the story it is made well known that the Grinch hates Christmas and everyone who celebrates it. So he devises this plan to ruin Christmas for the cheery people of Whoville, and even drags his poor little dog in to it. On Christmas Eve, the Grinch sneaks into every house in Whoville and steals everything that has to do with Christmas. As he is climbing back up to his cave, positive that he has ruined Christmas for everyone, the book tells us that every Who in Whoville, the tall and the small, were singing without any presents at all. He hadn't stop Christmas from coming, it came. Some how or other, it came just the same. And the Grinch, with his Grinch feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons, It came without tags, it came without packages, boxes, or bags. And he puzzled 3 hours, til his puzzler was sore.Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store, Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

     You see, the Grinch realized that there is something more to Christmas than just decorations and presents. He saw that there was something more to the true meaning of Christmas. So as Christians, what is the true meaning of Christmas, especially with so many different voices speaking to us? Jesus was the fulfillment of a promise, a promise that is at the heart of what we are preparing for. It was a promise that through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would learn that God is a God of power, but also a God of love, a God of joy, and a God of peace. But, most of all, He is a God whom we can put all of our trust, and all of our hope into. Hold fast to what is inside your heart, that faith and hope in Jesus Christ, Because He has redeemed us from our sins, He removes those things that gets between us and God, and He is the One that gives us hope for a better life, for us, our family, and the whole world.

     This season, you will come across Grinches, and they will try to hide the true meaning of Christmas from you, please don't let them. Ask yourself, what is it that I am truly hoping to get on Christmas day, that day we chose to celebrate the birth of Jesus? What is it that God has promised to us and no one can take away? As Christians we know that our faith and hope is in a Child who was born one night to bring us salvation and the promise of life everlasting. Don't let that Grinch steal Christmas from you.......... Amen