Wednesday, December 24, 2014

4th Sunday of Advent ~ Holy Light, Perfect Love


Merry Christmas!  ~ 2014                     
 

the 4th Sunday of Advent leads us into Christmas...

“…and they hall call his name
Immanuel,” which means
GOD WITH US!  Matthew 1:23


FrederickBuechner, American writer and theologian writes, “…Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning…” The Season of Light captures our attention with its hurried and increased activities. Choirs and candles, decorations and details capture us. Words and wonder fill us to nearly overflowing. The Virgin Mary with Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, angels singing to shepherds, a star and Magi, all coming to celebrate this newborn baby called Immanuel. Advent candles retell the familiar story with hope and peace and joy and love. Buechner continues, “The birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it.


Christmas reminds us of new beginnings. We sing Christ the Savior is born but must remember that Christ is also the Redeemer, bringing salvation to a dying world, establishing a new relationship with us. Immanuel, GOD WITH US, is still with us and holds us with grace and goodness. Jesus came that we might be His Light to others, to help the lost and have compassion on the broken, to feed the hungry and hold the hurting, to tell the Good News of His Grace, to forgive, to listen, to love. We must continue to live a new way after the Christmas celebrations end and the decorations are put away, long after we forget about sheep and shepherds. As we find our old routines, let the greatest Christmas Gift, Jesus, renew our journeys. Let’s find the new beginning and new ways of living for Christ in the coming year! ~ dho / 2014         

Thursday, December 18, 2014

3rd Week of Advent ~ Shepherds See the Glory of God!

"Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night... and the glory of The Lord shone around them... For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ The Lord... You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger..." Luke 2:8-20



The shekinah Glory of God fills the house of The Lord (1Kings 8:11) when the Ark of the Covenant is placed into the Holy of Holies in the temple Solomon built. Centuries later high above a Bethlehem field the Glory of The Lord again appears breaking the silence of the night, revealing to shepherds where to find Christ The Lord! This stands in stark contrast between appearing to the priests in the Temple in the Most Holy Place and common shepherds in an open field. Considered the least in society, shepherds, believed to be unclean, could not even worship in the Temple; yet, God chooses these with simple faith to go and find the baby Jesus. The least, the simple, the willing shepherds.

Some scholars suggest that sheep to be used for sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem were frequently kept in the fields around Bethlehem, and that perhaps the very shepherds the angel appeared to were keeping watch over these sheep. While the shepherds could not even be witnesses in legal situations, perhaps it is irony that they become the first people to bear witness and testify to the birth of Jesus. The New Testament uses the Greek word poimen for 'shepherd' meaning a person who tends to a flock. According to Mounce's Expository Dictionary, the most frequent use of poimen refers to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. These shepherds who society deems some of its most unworthy receive the first invitation to see the Lamb of God. The unclean, the unworthy, the invited shepherds.

This Advent season reconsider these God-chosen ones. In the Christmas Story, shepherds of simple faith and willing to respond are key figures, but society calls them unworthy and unreliable. The shepherds came with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when [the shepherds] had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Do we see others through God's eyes or accept society's view? Are we willing to recognize Jesus in the least, the simple, the broken? Aren't we ALL unclean, sinners who are unworthy? Yet, God chooses each of us ~ rich or poor, scholar or laborer, old or young, thriving or hopeless, struggling or defeated! God invites each of us to come and meet Christ The Lord ~Perfect Love, Lamb of God, Amazing Grace!  ~dho

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Second Week of Advent 2014 ~ The Lord You Are Seeking Comes!

Ad-vent: a time of waiting; marked by a spirit of anticipation; an arrival of a notable person; appearance


"See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple, the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty." Malachi 3:1 NIV

Some say the four candles we light at Advent symbolize the 400 years between the prophecy of Malachi and the proclamation of John the Baptist. During those 400 years, God is silent. Historians record the lives of the people during Persian, Greek and Roman rulers, each group conquering the next. Cyrus of Persia meets defeat, and Alexander the Great claims victory. When Jerusalem comes under Greek control, idol worship desecrates the temple. During these years the Jews participate in the Maccabean revolt which re-establishes the Jewish temple. It is cleansed and rededicated (Hanukkah celebrates this victory). Ultimately the Romans defeat the Greeks, and by the time John the Baptist spreads the message about Jesus, Herod the Great rules the Roman Empire. Four hundred years of waiting! 

These 400 years mark the completion of the Old Testament writings giving the Jews an authoritative canon, comprising the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom writings. The Greeks compile the Scriptures of the Old Testament and translate them into Greek calling it the Septuagint. Other writings scholars acknowledge from this period include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, writings of Philo and Josephus, early rabbinical writings, and religious literature known as the Qumran. The Old Testament we know today includes the 39 canonical books that the Jews accepted during this time. Four hundred years of writing! 

"It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way - a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him.'" 
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him...And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Mark 1:2-8

In Luke 4:14-21 we can read the account of Jesus going to the synagogue, standing to read from the scroll given Him. "Unrolling it, He found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is one Me because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  Everyone watches Jesus as He returns to sit. Jesus looks at them and says, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Four hundred years of silence broken!

The Old Testament tells of obedient prophets who share the messages God reveals but all pass from life without the appearance of the 'Wonderful Counselor'. A faithful remnant waiting for the 'Everlasting Father' to end their struggles in a world more impressed with power and possessions pass their hope from generation to generation to generation. Desperate and defeated people longing for the one called 'Mighty God' anticipate His coming. Then the 'Prince of Peace' walks into the synagogue and announces God's promise is fulfilled, but nobody recognizes Him. 

This week contemplate God's promise of the Messiah. Think of the years of faithful waiting. Imagine yourself in the synagogue that day, listening to Jesus read the Holy Scriptures from ancient times. Are you listening? Do you recognize Jesus? Do you hear Him calling? 
God is calling to you, preparing you for His purposes. Listen! ~ dho 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

First Week of Advent 2014 ~ The Light Is Coming!

Ad-ventimportant arrival; Latin - adventus - 'arrival'; coming of the Savior

Arise, Shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
Isaiah 60:1-2 NASB

Advent brings a message of an 'important arrival' as we wait expectantly! This first week of Advent focuses on the prophecy of the Messiah. The Old Testament uses the Hebrew word kabod to describe the glory of the LORD, to define His Presence with us. God's Glory comes to us full of wonder and mystery, full of wordless splendor, breathtaking and awesome. His glory comes with abundance, divine and righteous, a light that defeats darkness, a holiness that overcomes despair. 

Isaiah the prophet often refers to the glory of the LORD, revealing God's power and holiness. God promises His Presence and Glory to shine on all people, uniting humanity and truth. Hundreds of years later John writes, "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." [John 1:5From 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. [The Message, Is.60:1-2] Are you waiting expectantly? The Light is coming! ~ dho