Thursday, December 25, 2014

Arrived



December 25, 2014

Arrived! By Rev. Leslie Dalstra

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

“She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.”   Luke 2:7

Christmas has arrived!  The waiting, the preparation, the anticipation is over.
Every year there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything ready.  Unexpected situations seem to arise and I just don’t make plans for that.  I’m not sure that any of us really do.

As I began the Advent season, of course I had plenty of expectations of what my family would do together.  We would …
bake cookies,
purchase and put up our tree,
decorate it,
hang and place decorations around the house,
address and mail Christmas cards (which means of course ordering them and making sure you have stamps!)
we would venture out at night to view Christmas lights,
purchase and mail presents for our out of town family,
purchase presents for one another,
and we would take time each evening to light our Advent candles and do a daily family devotion.

As I look at that list I am not surprised that it was hard to get everything in. (And trust me we didn’t, or the things we got in didn’t happen in the exact same way as last year)  It seemed like I just could not get ahead of the game.  It’s a lot to add to an already full schedule.

And then there are the unexpected wrenches that get thrown into my life:  Things that need my attention that I had no idea were coming my way.

I think of Mary and Joseph, so much of the beginning of their relationship is not what they had planned.  Yes they desperately wanted to have God’s presence in their lives.  And they chose to take on such a great responsibility, but when they did, the rest of their lives didn’t fall into place, in an idealistic sort of way.

There was a census ordered and in a very inconvenient time, they were on their way to Bethlehem.  Then there was the reality that they arrived late and all the guest rooms were taken, so the only space open to them was the barn:  Which in the ancient near east was inside the house (they didn’t have barns like we Americans do removed from the house).  It doesn’t make it any more glamorous just less removed than we have imagined it.

Yet despite the wrenches thrown at them, God found a way to be present with them.  God always does.  Even in the most inconvenient places in our lives, God is present.  Even when nothing seems to be going as planned, God is with us.

So if you have young children and they have reached their limit and the sugar high is wearing off, know that God is with you (and your kids too).

If Uncle Joe is on another one of his political tirades (and you don’t vote the same way as good ole’ Uncle Joe), know that God is with you (and Joe too).

If you are finding yourself waiting with a loved one in the hospital and the situation is not at all what you had pictured for Christmas day, know that God is with you (and your loved one).

You see we don’t create Christmas with all of our preparations.  God comes regardless if we got the tree up or not, or made the cookies (or burned the you know what out of them and set off the smoke detectors) or got the cards mailed.  All we need to do to prepare is to open to experiencing the presence of God period.  That is Christmas, remembering and experiencing the story that happens over and over again.  It speaks to the deep truth that God comes to us regardless of how out of control our lives feel.  God comes to us.

Prayer:  We thank you God for coming to us.  Our world desperately needs you.  There is so much to be done to help make our world right side up.  Empower and equip us to be your agents in the world.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Passing It On



December 24, 2014
Passing It On.  By Carol Walters

Scripture:  Isaiah 59: 15b-21

“And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore.” Isaiah 59:21


It is a wonderful experience to receive positive feedback about your child or someone else you care about or even someone you supervise.  Anyone who has tried knows that passing on good manners, good behavior or good work habits can be a challenging task.  It is an imperfect process of guidance, discipline, modeling and reinforcement.  And though the process sometimes goes awry and doesn’t produce the hoped for result, any departure is usually only temporary.  Good teaching, consistently practiced, almost always achieves the desired outcome.

Today’s scripture is God’s promise that those who have his spirit and speak about him will pass the same on to their children and through them to their children down through the generations.  How comforting it is to know that God intends to have an ongoing relationship with the world.  Our role is to be faithful in our belief and to follow the example of the Christ child who was sent to us by God and comes anew in to our hearts each Advent season.  Then, after receiving Him, we should pass it on.

For me, lyrics from the song, “Pass It On”, summarize the process quite well:
                       It only takes a spark to get a fire going
                       And soon all those around can warm up to its glowing
                      That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced  it
                       You spread his love to everyone; you want to pass it on  

This Advent,   whether you are inviting Jesus in to your heart for the first time or for the one-hundredth, pass his love to others and encourage them to “keep it going”  to their children and their children’s children forever and ever.

Prayer: Oh, God, as you promised to send your Spirit to all who believe and follow you, we promise to receive your son, Jesus in to our hearts and share his love with others from this time forth and for evermore. Amen. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love



December 23, 2014
Love.  By Irma U. Aguilar
Scripture: Psalm 116 and 117
“For great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!”  Psalm 117: 2

When I wake every morning,
I need to remember how great is his love.

I’m not searching or looking for anything special,
Because all I have to do is look up above.

The beautiful faces of children, family and friends is all I need
To know how great is his love.

Lord, keep blessing and loving us; fill us with grace,
Especially from your heavenly dove.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!



December 22, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!  By Dan Dalstra

Scripture:  Isaiah 11:1-9

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
 Isaiah 11:6-7


The imagery of this passage is very familiar to many of us… a wolf (or in other translations: a lion) snuggles up with a lamb as other predators and prey do the same, all thanks to the love and knowledge of knowing the Lord. Sort of like the food chain in the animal kingdom is turned upside down. I suppose that would be a lot like me cuddling with a juicy cheeseburger and not devouring it in a matter of seconds. 

When the riots and protests over the case in Ferguson happened, my family and I were literally 30 minutes away from the burning businesses and enraged people violently protesting the judgment handed down from the court. I wasn’t scared for our safety, but I was saddened for people on both sides of the issue, especially those who lost their hopes and dreams at the hands of looters and bandits. I prayed that God would be with everyone during this time, and help them see that in God’s kingdom, the wolf and the lamb can be together, that a little child can lead a lion and calf together to graze in the fields. 

This Advent season, it is my hope we can begin to mend as a country and as a community. Let us celebrate our differences and look for a way to lift each other up and let the knowledge of God’s love bring us all together.   Unless you happen to be a cheeseburger. 

Prayer: Dear God, let us not focus on what sets us apart, but give us the courage to come together and honor your glory and bring about your kingdom here on earth. Amen. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Simple love or simply love?



December 21, 2014                                                   
Simple love or simply love?  By Jeri Sias

Scripture: John 3:16-21

 “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”  – John 3:16 Common English Bible

Advent draws to a close and Christmas is almost here! All of the preparation and waiting leads to a day when we are told that Love becomes present among us in the form of a young child.  

When we are children, much of our own confidence, development, and the ability to care for others, is based on the bond of love. It may be hard for us to believe or trust in others without first knowing that we are loved and will always be loved.
I asked my children how they know that I, as a mother, love them. One answer I got was “I just know”…. and then, there were no words—my son just pointed to his heart and smiled.  

We cannot always find the words for God’s love. Sometimes we see it, sometimes we experience it, and sometimes we feel it.
It is simple, easy to understand, not complicated, it’s just love.*
It is simply, sincerely, wholly, and absolutely love.*

And there happens to be enough for everyone.  For God so loved us, that a child was given to us, so that we may learn to love, believe in it, and live our lives in peace. Timeless. Simple love and simply love.

Prayer: God, we come to you like children who wait with anticipation for Christmas. Help us to accept your love, live it, and find peace and joy in our hearts. Help us to share your love so that others may believe and experience it.  Amen.

*Varying definitions of “simple” and “simply” from www.dictionary.com. Accessed December 16, 2014. 

Waiting

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