Sunday, December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent - Perfect Love for the Weak - Advent 2017


"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



In Hidden Christmas Timothy Keller writes, "Every other religion and moral philosophy tells you to summon up all your strength and live as you ought. Therefore, they appeal to the strong, to the people who can pull it together." He goes on to remind us that "Only Jesus" says, "I have come for the weak... those who admit they are weak. I will save them not by what they do but through what I do." Christmas celebrates God's holy plan for all of us who find ourselves emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted, those of us who are weary from trying too hard to achieve, wasted from seeking too long to aquire, worn from waiting too often for affirmation. Jesus comes to the stable first, to the poor, to the weak, to those who are overlooked by society.

Christmas means that the King has come into the world. But the Bible tells us that Jesus comes as King twice, not once. The second time he will come in power in order to end all evil, suffering, and death. The first time - the Christmas coming - he came not in strength but in weakness, to a poor family in a stable." Timothy Keller, from Hidden Christmas 

In the Christmas Story, shepherds of simple faith and willing to respond are key figures, but society calls them unworthy and unreliable. The shepherds come with haste and find Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. After seeing the baby Jesus, the shepherds go and make 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 I see others through God's eyes or accept society's view? Am I 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

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!