Sunday, December 10, 2017

3rd Sunday in Advent - A Christmas Story - Advent 2017

"...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.” Luke 2:11-12


Each year, the re-telling of the Christmas story fills the devotions we read, the sermons we hear, the carols we sing. The bright lights and decorated trees bring not only joy, but memories surface of days long passed. In my reading this season of Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller, he does a great job of reminding us that the Gospel story is no legend or fairy tale. While these stories are not factual, Keller says they satisfy a desire "to experience the supernatural, to escape death, to know love that we can never lose, to not age but live long enough to realize our creative dreams, to communicate with nonhuman beings, to triumph over evil." These fictional stories reveal our longing for the human desires, but only Christ can complete us and fill the void inside us. 

Keller describes the Christmas story like this: "Here is a story about someone from a different world who breaks into ours and has miraculous powers, and can calm the storm and heal people and raise people from the dead. Then his enemies turn on him, and he is put to death, and it seems like all hope is over, but finally he rises from the dead and saves everyone." While to some it fits the genre of fairy tales or super heroes, the Christmas story brings even more. Jesus entered the world and "punched a hole between the ideal and the real, the eternal and the temporal." And yes, "there is an evil sorcerer in this world, and we are under enchantment." Jesus is "the noble prince" who brings "a love from which we will never be parted."


FrederickBuechner, American writer and theologian writes, “…Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning…” This year, when I listen to the Christmas story once again, let me pause the world. In this stillness, I want to let God's glory fill me. Lost in the wonder of indescribable love and surrounded by the divine presence of God, I long to find Jesus who comes for me, who offers himself as Perfect Love.I yearn to celebrate the greatest Christmas Gift, Jesus, who renews my journey. Let me find new beginnings and new ways of living for Christ in the coming year! -dho


2nd Sunday of Advent - In the Family ~ Advent 2017

"The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac... Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." Matthew 1:1-16  





As for Jesus, his ancestoral lineage has been recorded, according to the custom in ancient times, and this provides great historical documentation. The first chapter of Matthew gives us the "genealogy of Jesus the Messiah." Many find reading the detailed list laborous, but it is quiet remarkable, including five women, which is uncharacteristic of "ancient patriarchal societies" says Timothy Keller in Hidden Christmas. Many of those listed are flawed individuals, both Jews and Gentiles, both men and women, labled by various kinds of immoral deeds and deceit and dynfunction.Today, we can read this ancient list of names, even the failures and outsiders, and know them to be included in the family of Jesus. 

Today science provides a way for the everyday, ordinary person with the opportunity to take a personal DNA test that can determine ancestry. Family records with names and places and occupations can be found via ancestry.com. In our searches, we find flawed ancestors, perhaps a thief or a murderer, just as we discover soldiers and missionaries, explorers and farmers. Each of us is a mixture of genetics from the decades and centuries passed, each generation influenced by their cultures and societies. Keller says a genealogy is saying, "This is who I am."

In thinking about the ancestors of Jesus, what meaning is there for us? Keller says, "First, it shows us that people who are excluded by culture, excluded by respectable society, and even excluded by the law of God can be brought in to Jesus' family." Looking around the world today, we see situations where power corrupts and hate excludes; we see dysfunction and immorality. We can break the cycle of our past... or present; we can choose to live a different way. Timothy Keller reminds, "It is only what Jesus has done for you that can give you standing before God." When we place our faith in Jesus, irregardless of our sinfulness, we, too, can be included in the family of Jesus. Without fear or shame, we can share the Gospel story by telling our story of grace. "This is who I am... in Christ!" -dho

**During this season of Advent, I am reading Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller. I will share some of his thoughts along with mine. May your Christmas season be filled with Light! 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent - A Great Light ~ Advent 2017

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”


In Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller writes: “Christmas contains many spiritual truths, but it will be hard to grasp the others unless we grasp this one first. That is, that the world is a dark place, and we will never find our way or see reality unless Jesus is our Light.” Keller goes on to describe darkness as “both evil and ignorance”. In describing the social and cultural issues at the time Jesus is born, he uses “violence, injustice, abuse of power, homelessness, and bottomless grief”. Today’s headlines in newspapers, television news, social media all reflect the same words. We are living in times no different today than then, except that ‘a great light’ shines on us all.

Isaiah the prophet speaks to the people of darkness and proclaims they “will see a great light.” Hundreds of years after Isaiah, John writes, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." [John 1:5 That Light is Jesus, a promise of God’s Presence and Glory to shine on all people, uniting humanity and truth. From centuries long ago until time to come, some will choose The Light, while some will not. Whether kabod in the Hebrew or doxa in the Greek or shekinah in Aramaic or glory in English, God's Holy Light comes to us, comes for us, before and now and again! 

Christians are called people of the Light, and our lives should give voice to the glory of the LORD ~ praising and honoring His goodness and grace. We are to be His light shining in the world's darkness, both a "recipient and a reflector" of Light! Waiting expectantly requires action. Get out of bed...wake up...GOD's bright glory has risen for you. [Isaiah 60:1-2 The Message] Are you waiting expectantly? The Light is coming! ~ dho

**During this season of Advent, I am reading Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller. I will share some of his thoughts along with mine. May your Christmas season be filled with Light! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thoughts on Advent


ADVENT begins this Sunday, December 3, 2017!
During ADVENT I will be posting my blog on Sundays!

I am reading Timothy Keller’s book Hidden Christmas during this time. Join me as we look for Christmas! -dho

Thursday, November 16, 2017

In His Presence - Gratitude



I'm still in Your presence, but You've taken my hand. You wisely lead me, and then You bless me. Psalm 73:23-24 (msg)


Holy Father,
Everlasting Light forgive my redundant thoughts. Unfailing Love rescue my reluctant heart. Extravagant Grace fill my repentant soul. Goodness surrounds my every moment, exceeding my vocabulary. You continue to weave an extraordinary tapestry with sacred threads, torn remnants and unspun fibers. All are being woven together by Your Light and Love and Grace. What a masterpiece You are creating - thread by thread, moment by moment, possibility by possibility. Gratitude shouts Hallelujah! A thousand Hallelujahs are not enough. On my knees, LORD, find me on my knees, for You are Great and worthy to be praised! Your presence delights my soul, encourages my spirit, mends my wounds, shows me truth, offers me peace. Lord, be my strength, my shield, my joy! I long to abide in Your presence. Amen.
 ~dho


Thursday, November 09, 2017

For He is Good! - Gratitude

God is the LORD,
And He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifices with cords
to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You;
You are my God, I will exalt You.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, 
for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.


As we enter this season of gratitude, let us reflect upon the abundant blessings that fill the moments of life. The heart experiences immense gratitude from unexpected words that whisper love and inside surprises that shout joy and within unspoken thoughtfulness. In between the obvious and outside the margins, threads of possibility weave scenes of goodness and generosity and grace. While grand gestures and catastrophic calamities stand alone and unforgotten, these small and simple pleasures embrace the soul with wordless glimpses of heaven. As silence surrounds, we must bring these most sacred offerings to the His altar with abundant thanksgiving. Within these holy moments, God draws us deeper into His Presence. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. ~dho

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You - Gratitude

Loving God,
    
The night sky is filled with luminaries that
light the darkness. Angels whisper evening
songs to my weary soul. I do not notice.

As sleep gently calls, I forget that I have
breathed the morning air, listened to laughter,
seen the evening sky appear. Another day! 

Something disturbs the rhythm of my sleep, 
summons my soul. In these sleepless moments,
the Holy Spirit is waiting and listens for my
response. I whisper, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! 

 


Holy Father, when I fail to see the beauty of
Your day, remind me with a glorious morning
to take my breath away, a soul-laugh that only 
a listening heart can find, and a night sky 
crowded with stars like diamonds that demand
a lingering look. 


My heart bursts with unmeasured thankfulness!  
These are Your ordinary gifts! I simply miss them in my
hectic hours, my scheduled chaos, my saturated time.

Give my heart the desire to breathe,
listen, and see the ordinary with extraordinary 
intention. Grant my soul the desire to breathe,
listen, and see Your Extraordinary Gifts of
Love, Grace, and Joy! Let me seek Your
extravagant gifts in every day! 

Let me shout, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

Refresh my spirit! Refine my faith! 
Restore my love! Renew my strength!  
Rebuild my trust! Reclaim my soul! 

To God be the glory! Amen.  ~dho   

Thursday, October 26, 2017

"God-chosen...Splendid Friends"

"Keep me safe, O God, I've run for dear life to You. I say to GOD, "Be my Lord!" Without You, nothing makes sense. And these God-chosen lives all around - what splendid friends they make!" Psalm 16:1-3 The Message





These last months, I have shared my thoughts and studies about friendship, with God and with others, and His friendship with us. When I happened upon this picture, I wondered how closely we cherish the friendships God gives us. My grandmother made me this "dancing doll". If you look carefully, you can see the elastic straps that attached the dancing doll to my feet. We moved together, no matter how or where, when or why I moved, connected and certain. I love the way The Message  describes the people that God gives to us on earth. I want to share something from Macrina Weiderkehr's book A Tree Full of Angels.

It is difficult to fathom the potential of each person you meet. This depth and potential are like treasures hidden in a field... When your depth meets the depth of another, what a sacrament that can be... The heart cannot live without intimacy. We all need special people in our lives to whom we can show our souls... How do you feed your friendships?

In our relationships, with others and with God, opportunities wait for knowing and being known. Although God knows us completely, He desires us to come to Him. With prayer and mediatation and through reading the Living Word of the Holy Bible, our relationship grows ever deeper with the Lord. The same goes for friendships. Spending time together, sharing thoughts, being there for each other, and praying for one another, the friendships God chooses for us begin to evolve - even when we don't expect friendship. The words "God-chosen" and "splendid" perfectly describe divine friendships in my life, even when I was not looking for such. 

Making God Lord, the One we choose first, gives us a joy that exceeds the boundaries of the heart. The Amplified Bible says Psalm 16:11 this way: In Your presence is fullness of joy. During this series, I pray you have examined your relationship with God and each other. I hope you will spend some time reading David's psalm, listening for God's promises, praising God for being our refuge, our inheritance, our secuirity. "You will make known to me the path of life." I'll conclude with a variation on Macrina's question - How do you feed your God-chosen, splendid friendships?  -dho

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jesus, Friend of Sinners - Series on Friendship

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

Opposition to the ministry of Jesus, which the scribes and Pharisees join, intensifies. Jesus responds to obvious hostility from the religious establishment. Selfish and stubborn describe the actions of those rejecting His ministry. Because Jesus has dinner with everyday, ordinary folk, with "tax collectors and sinners", He is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.** Enduring religious and political ridicule and ultimately physical violence, Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing. 

Today's times mirror this period in Greco-Roman civilization. Just as Jesus speaks to the growing crowds in the villages, He calls to the masses all over the earth. Both then and now, people are too busy or too tired, critical and calculating, looking for escapes or making up excuses. People are still consumed with fear and desperate for hope. The world stands in stark contrast to God's Kingdom. Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing.

Jesus says wisdom will reveal her own results. What is this wisdom? Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced! You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work, treating each other with dignity and honor. [James 3:17-18 The Message] If I, a sinner, am a friend of Jesus, then my life will reveal Jesus in my acts and deeds. Jesus, Friend of sinners, break my heart for what breaks Yours.  ~ dho 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Greatest Friendship - Series on Friendship

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:7-8 NLT



During the Greco-Roman times that Jesus teaches about loving, forgiving and serving others, genuine sacrifice of one's life for another is as rare as the concept of "a good man". This kind of heroic act would not be common, and for the Jewish people, this kind of offering would not be praised. When the Greeks talk about enemies becoming friends after some conflict, these conversations stay within the context of individuals and certainly did not include God. Jesus enters this culture, introduces the idea of reconciliation between a person and God, and offers His own relationship with God, the Father, as an example of divine fellowship. Jesus says, I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.

Jesus not only describes the blessings of fellowship with God but willing lays down His own life for His friends. As Jesus tells the Disciples, There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, He knows that in a few hours He will live out these words. But for whom? What friends? For those who beat Him and those who nail Him to the cross, for those who watch and mock, for those who fled in fear and hide, for those barter for His robe, for the liars and hypocrites, for the selfish and greedy, for the lazy and defiant, for the sick - the weak - the poor, for the healthy - the strong - the rich, for the leaders and the followers, the merchants and the farmers, the scholars and the students, for those who steal and murder and commit adultery, for those who hate and those who pretend not to care, for those who smile and pretend not to grieve, for the hopeless and helpless, the homeless, the orphan, the widow, for the elderly, for the children...for those then and those to come, for you...for me? Yes... for all!

Dying for someone upstanding or even good remains a rare, heroic act. Perfect Love lay down His life for the unworthy, the unclean, the sinner, the shunned. No person is worthy of such love, but Jesus chooses us. When Grace meets the enemy, possibilities are endless. This holy relationship can exceed all expectations. Grace invites each of us, I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love. This is the greatest Friendship~dho