Friday, December 30, 2016

A stable will do

Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Friday, December 30, 2016

Focus passage: While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  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 guesthouse. Luke 2:6-7
When I was in Nicaragua the second time, our team stayed in someone’s home up in the mountains of the cold climate rainforest.  And it was not a usual American home; it was the home of a farmer that had a kitchen and a stable on the ground floor and then a guest room and private bed room on the second floor.  We along with our hosts and their very large pigs all slept under the same roof.
I keep this image in mind when I read this story.  I prefer to think that the holy family, while arriving late and finding the guest room already occupied, were still welcomed in, room was made under the same roof, in an overcrowded home.
And so the stable will do. 
I keep this image of smelly animals and the laughter of children and the smell of spices mixing with vegetables and meat over the fire, of laughter and hushed conversation, of visiting shepherds, making even more room for more guests. 

Prayer: Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Room in the home

Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Thursday, December 29, 2016

Focus passage: While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  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 guesthouse. Luke 2:6-7

Our pageants lead us to believe that a sympathetic innkeeper gave them space in the stable, and we imagine that it is away from the hustle and bustle of Bethlehem, almost on the outskirts of town, alone, and cold.
I like the Common English Translation, which was translated by scholars from around the world, in verse 7 we read, “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 guesthouse.”
The Greek word that is translated as “inn” in other versions of our bible, is kataluma.  This word only occurs again in the gospels when it refers to the upper room that the disciples find for the Last Supper.  That room is not a room in an inn, it is a guesthouse in someone’s house.
Middle Eastern hospitality would make room for family, there just might not be room in the guesthouse, or in the room set aside for guests.
A typical Middle Eastern home in the ancient world would have been three stories.  The third story was open for summer sleeping and would not be used in the winter.  The second floor would have had a central room that served as a kitchen and living area, there would also be sleeping quarters where the parents would sleep and a guest room where the kids would sleep, unless they had guest and in that case the kids would sleep in the same room with their parents or in the main living space.  There was also a stable or a small barn that would be part of the home as well; it would be on the first floor of the home.
The stable, on the first floor would provide protection from the elements and safety from thieves.   


Prayer: Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Presence

Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Focus passage: In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.  This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.  Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.  Luke 2:1-3

Luke begins the second chapter of his gospel with these words, “In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.” In verse four we read, “Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.” 
And everyone is put into motion.
Like we all are.  “In those days when Mrs. Martin assigned a take home project for all second graders and we find out at 8 p.m. that it is due tomorrow.”  Or “in those days when the military relocated my family to El Paso.”  Or “in those days when we got word from the doctor that it is cancer.”
As we make room for others in our lives, we find that life still goes on with all of its blessings and challenges.   God is present in our daily living.  In the complexities, when we feel out of control, God is present.

Prayer: Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Making room

Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Focus passage: While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  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 guesthouse. Luke 2:6-7
The story begins with Mary and Joseph making room for the Christ child in their lives.  We all do this at some point in our lives, in a somewhat similar fashion.  We make room for people to get close to us.  We make room for children that are born or adopted or cared for in the foster system.  We make room for the people our siblings chose to make a life with.  We make room for in-laws and cousins.  We make room for members of our faithful community.  We make room when we get the whole family together, rearranging furniture, placing down sleeping bags on the floor, and getting creative with places to hang wet towels after showers and baths.
And when we make room, life is still busy and crazy and full of love and possibilities.

Prayer: Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Making room

Daily reading: Luke 2:1-20
Monday, December 26, 2016

Focus passage: While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  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 guesthouse. Luke 2:6-7

The story of Christ coming into our world is a story of making room.  We are called to make room in our lives for God to work on us, to mold us into more faithful disciples.  This room making, makes us more gracious, more loving, more compassionate that we may want to be.  We find that we may even make enough room for the love of God, that we are able let go of the possessions we cling to or even to love our enemies.


Prayer: Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Sunday December 25, 2016

Focus passage: When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened.  Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.”  They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-16
The coming of Christ is an invitation to find grace and compassion permeating our daily living, to be surprised by the presence of God in our lives, to find love even in the messiness of life…
In the somewhat difficult conversations we will have with family members over life choices, or political candidates, or the timing of the meal or “yes, mother, I really am having a second slice of pie” conversation.
Or in those difficult moments when we realize that we have forgotten to buy batteries or have to endure the frustration of putting together a toy that takes half the morning to assemble and the instructions needed to have a magnifying glass in order to read them. 
Or perhaps to live into the difficulty of celebrating this year for the first time without someone because of relocation, or divorce, or death, and it really doesn’t feel like a celebration, it is rather lonely and painful.
Or in those moments when we find ourselves so overwhelmed by love that it takes our breath away.
The reality is that we don’t make Christmas happen.  In the mess of our lives, God still shows up, in remarkable ways to remind us that we are deeply loved, every one of us.

Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20
Saturday December 24, 2016

Focus passage: While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.  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 guesthouse. Luke 2:6-7

We have been called to actively wait since the beginning of Advent.  Each week we have lit one more candle on the Advent wreath, symbolizing our waiting for the coming of Christ anew into the world.  It is now Christmas Eve.
How does this Christmas season find you?
Tired, or more honestly exhausted?
Excited and anxious?
At a space of in-between?
Stressed or content?
Maybe just a mixture of all of the above.
My husband Dan and I hide the gifts we have for one another in our family during the Advent season, creating a sort of Easter egg hunt, if you will, when it comes time to wrap the gifts.  Our tradition has been not to put many packages under the tree until the children go to bed on Christmas Eve. 
One year we just couldn’t remember where we placed the presents for the dogs.  To know my husband, this really shouldn’t surprise you because he is always forgetting where he placed something.  So at 11 p.m. he headed out to the only store that is open at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Walgreens, and he said you could smell the desperation in the air.  Shoppers circled aisles of picked over shelves with only a few items left, with dazed and confused expressions on their faces.
While we have come to remind ourselves that we don’t make Christmas happen.  Our gift exchange doesn’t make it happen, we all still struggle with the materialism and consumerism of the holiday season.
I invite you to take a moment and read the story again.  Christmas reminds us that in all of our activity and attempts to make meaning of our world, God is with us.
Incarnation by its very nature is the melding of the sacred with the ordinariness of this world.  And the story from Luke’s gospel is strong cocktail of sacred and earthiness.  Emmanuel, God-with-us, doesn’t get more real than straw, an unwed pregnant teenager, a long hard journey, overcrowded sleeping quarters, labor, pain, blood, birth and arrival.

Incarnate God, may I make room for your presence in my words and actions today.  Amen.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Preparing

Daily reading: Luke 1:26-55
December 23, 2016

Focus passage:
46 Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.

48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”


Mary’s song encourages us to listen to the voices of those on the margins, not to those who already have the power,
but to hear the voiceless and trust that God will use unlikely people who are ready and prepared to respond to the call.
         
What we wait for in Advent is for God to come near once again. 

We wait week after week to be reminded how God cares for us,
for everyone.  God is concerned with those who have too much food and for those who have little or none.  God cares about the complexities and intricacies of our lives, of our governments, of the structures we move and live in.  And God calls us to respond to the grace, mercy and love that God has for us in our daily living. 

We prepare by already knowing it is so.  We prepare by making room for God once again, embracing the mercy and grace of our God.


Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus in our Advent waiting.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mary's Song

Daily reading: Luke 1:26-55
Wednesday December 21, 2016

Focus passage:

46 Mary said,
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.

48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”


Mary’s song of praise comes from a long, long, longing that her people have shared in, as well as in a long tradition of women in the Bible who sing a song of praise to God when God calls upon them to be agents in God’s work. 

It acts, in part, as the answer to Isaiah 64, which begins with the words, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence.” 

Here Mary is affirming that God is active in the world and this activity is the great reversal. 
         
Mary the lowly servant has been looked on with favor, the proud are scattered, the powerful are brought down while the lowly are lifted up. 

The hungry get something to eat, while the rich are sent away empty. 

And finally, Israel, who had been subjected to God’s judgment, now receives God’s mercy.  In other words, God’s actions are not what we might expect. 

What we have here is a God who is concerned with the lowly, not just with the rulers.  Who in fact wants to make things right, not so that the poor can now become rich and the rich poor or so that the exploited can become the exploiters.
         
She sings what we who have encountered God already know,
that the poor need liberation and the rich do as well. 

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus in our Advent waiting.  Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2016

God's favor

Daily reading: Luke 1:26-55
Monday December 19, 2016

Focus passage: When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”  Luke 1:28

Before she can wrap her head around all of what God is calling her to do, she first needs to embrace the reality that she is favored and this is what sets the foundation for her response. This isn’t the answer to a prayer, at least not recorded in scripture as the gift of a child was to countless other women in the Bible.  No, this is a gift that has the possibility of being rather inconvenient and dangerous.  
         
When she sings her praise of God she begins by singing that she is favored by God but it is not only Mary that is favored.  In her song, we see that God’s favor, God’s mercy, love and grace are for everyone.

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, in our Advent waiting.  Amen.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Grace and Mercy

Daily reading: Luke 1:26-55
Sunday December 18, 2016

Focus passage: When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!”  Luke 1:28

We have taken time to ponder and pray; to join in God’s desire for our world to be filled with hope, peace, joy and love. 

Advent is a time of active waiting.  We have been preparing ourselves spirituality during this time to be open to God coming to us in a new way.  Today’s passage focuses on Mary and on her response to God’s activity in her life. 

The passage centers upon this question, what happens when we encounter our God of grace and mercy?


Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus,  in our Advent waiting.  Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

God's joyful dream

Daily reading: Isaiah 61:1-11
Saturday, December 17, 2016

Focus passages: The LORD God’s spirit is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn… Isaiah 61:1-2
I surely will rejoice in the LORD; my heart is joyful because of my God, because he has clothed me with clothes of victory, wrapped me in a robe of righteousness like a bridegroom in a priestly crown, and like a bride adorned in jewelry.  Isaiah 61:10

God is doing a new thing, the people are not returning to a sovereign Israel, the monarchy as it was under David will not be restored,  Israel will continue to be marred  with a continued story of foreign occupation. 

Everything in their society, down to their sacred temple is so broken that the only way to move forward is to do something new. It’s so broken that they need God to initiate the action.  God has to physically bring them back from exile, to pave the road ahead.   God has to spiritually bring them back to remind them what the hoped for future kingdom looks like.  What the joyful kingdom that is and will be looks like.
The prophet speaks of the year of Jubilee from Leviticus 25, a year of release, when those indentured in service are freed, where debts are forgiven and land used as a form of payment is returned to the original owner, it is a year of socioeconomic reconfiguration of the community.  Even amidst this rubble there is this radical realignment and hope.  God is planting seeds that need time to develop and tending as they grow. 
You see, there is no evidence that Jubilee was ever lived out before the exile, but it is revisited here as a continued dream of God’s as it was back in the formation of the nation of Israel, now as they have returned from exile it is re-imagined, and will be again when Jesus preaches from this text in Nazareth at the beginning of his public ministry, and it is offered to us today to be re-imagined and remembered as a dream that God still holds for our world.

This dream of bringing good news to the poor and binding of the brokenhearted,  and releasing people from crippling debt and comforting those who mourn is followed by future conversation of how God will move us forward and what that will look like.  While looking at the ruins, perhaps longing for what was, God forces a change of perspective to the future, so we can actively participate in the dream and vision God has for us all.

We are called to be faithful in all times, in times of heart break and sorrow and in times of joy and exploration.  We witness to our faithfulness to God when things are changing; in the continued story of exile and homecoming, of death and resurrection. 

Prayer, God of Advent Joy, help me to be faithful to you in all times.  Amen.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Called into the future

Daily reading: Isaiah 61:1-11
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Focus passage:  They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past. Isaiah 61:4

You can almost imagine the community gathering and investing their lives in rebuilding.  In sifting through the rubble and, rather than striving to put the pieces back together much like we do with a puzzle, they find a way to build in a new way, creating a new temple that may just bear the scars of the past.  Not intending to pretend that the past did not happen, but that has formed them into the people that God is calling them to be:  A people that have wondered, a people that has turned their backs on God, a people that have stumbled their way in and out of faithfulness. 
They work on rebuilding this Holy City, where the temple housed the Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God.  The work is sacred and I imagine that as they sifted through and planned and placed mortar on stone, that an interior work of a similar fashion was happening in their souls.

And the prophet sings about it joyfully.  This new community that they are patching together, of exiles and left behinds, of those who saw the temple fall and those who only had ever seen its ruins, hear of this promise, this dream of God where the world as they know it is renewed in a way that they have yet to realize and live in.


Prayer, God of Advent Joy, help me to be faithful to you in all times.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Joy

Daily reading: Isaiah 61:1-11
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Focus passage: The LORD God’s spirit is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn… Isaiah 61:1-2
Into this space, third Isaiah is anointed and sent by God to offer up a message of joy.  His good news is that they together will rebuild their community from the inside out.  It is a renewal that will affect everyone and it begins with a focus on God and the promise that God will restore the people and bring them home.
It begins with a word of joy.

God has sent the prophet to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.

This is the active joy of Advent, of preparing for God to come and dwell among us.  It is a joy that is grounded in the community, where the poor are not forgotten but looked after, where those who have suffered loss and are mourning find joy, where not only are stones  put back into place but also the relationship each person has with God is renewed.


Prayer, God of Advent Joy, help me to be faithful to you in all times.  Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

God among us

Daily reading: Isaiah 61:1-11
Monday, December 12, 2016

Focus passage:  They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past. Isaiah 61:4

This foundational scripture in Isaiah comes after the exiles have returned and begin the long hard process of rebuilding the temple, of restoring the protective wall around Jerusalem and in piecing back the fragments of their lives.   Just as we see distinct traits and unique perspectives formed within the variety of generations present here today, there are distinct traits and unique perspectives within the various groups that find themselves in Jerusalem after the exile.

 Some of the exiles had never stepped foot into Jerusalem, they were born in Babylon and that is the only home they know.  Others lived through the horror of captivity and forced exile to the land of their conquerors.  And then there were those who were left behind in the rubble to eke out an existence with the infrastructure of their community gone. With, of course, those who were born in Jerusalem during the exile only to know their community to be sparse in population with a ruined infrastructure.   Sorrow and sadness blanket this time for the people of Israel.

The exiles return to a temple in ruins and join those who have lived among the rubble.

I can only imagine the sense of exhaustion of returning to something that needs to be rebuilt.   I can only imagine the mixture of emotions of joy and sorrow, of anticipation and mourning.  I can only image what those who were left behind felt when they saw people returning.   I can only imagine the enormity of the task, the disappointment, the disillusionment and even the division that would have been present in the community.  We read about in other prophets, not just in Isaiah, the return was not easy.  Nothing had been easy for some time.  When structures fall apart, it is always hard. 

 As people of faith, we ask where do we find God in substantial change?  Do we look backwards remembering when God was with us?  Do we recognize the presence of God among us now even if it is different from yesterday?  Or do we anticipate God leading us forward into the unknown future?


Prayer, God of Advent Joy, help me to be faithful to you in all times.  Amen.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The unknown future

Daily reading: Isaiah 61:1-11
Sunday, December 11, 2016

Focus passage: As the earth puts out its growth, and as a garden grows its seeds, so the LORD God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations. Isaiah 61:11

Advent is a season of here and not yet.  It is a distinctive season of remembering the coming of Christ to dwell among us 2,000 years ago; an even longer hoped for promise fulfilled. It is also a season of proclaiming joyfully that Christ is present with us now and it is a season of anticipating Christ’s return to us in new and unexpected ways.  So in Advent, we look back but also forward.  It is a season of being open to the movement of God’s Spirit that will surely change us.

Today we heard a joyful proclamation from third Isaiah.  It is a passage full of activity placed in the future.  There are 17 “wills” in the 11 verses of this passage.  “They will, foreigners will, you will, God will” sprinkled throughout and driving the passage forward to this final sentence of “God will grow righteousness and praise before all the nations.”

Prayer, God of Advent Joy, help me to be faithful to you in all times.  Amen.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The gift of the Spirit

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Saturday December 10, 2016

Focus passage: 28 After that I will pour out my spirit upon everyone;
        your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
        your old men will dream dreams,
        and your young men will see visions.
29 In those days, I will also pour out my
    spirit on the male and female slaves. Joel 2:28-29

Through the prophet Joel, we read that God casts the net of invitation wide.  The Spirit of God will be poured out on everyone, not just on the priestly community, but on everyone; on the men and the women, on the young and the old, on absolutely everyone.

The gift of the Spirit is open to us all.  It is up to us to have a willing heart to receive the gift: To hold that dream and vision for shalom peace with God.  To let that dream become an active faithful response to the great needs in our community and beyond.  It only comes together when we all join together in returning to God and opening ourselves up to the guidance of the Spirit.

What dream or vision from God is waiting to be born among us?   How might your active participation in living out shalom peace help prepare room in your heart, in your community for the presence of God?


Prayer: God, help me to fully return to you.  I open myself to join in your dream for shalom peace within myself and for my community and world.  Amen.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Return to God

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Friday December 9, 2016

Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your hearts,
        with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
        and not your clothing.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is merciful and compassionate,
        very patient, full of faithful love,
            and ready to forgive. Joel 2:12-13
God invites us to bring our entire selves to worship when the community is gathered.  Joel invites us to be completely vulnerable with God. And the reason for this openness is grounded in the ancient words that are repeated throughout scripture.  We are invited to be vulnerable with our God because our “God is merciful, compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love and ready to forgive.”
In the midst of the busiest consumer holiday of the year, when we place unbelievable pressure on ourselves to meet our own expectations and others, to somehow create Christmas, our merciful and gracious God, invites us to come home.

God invites us to return, it is so simple.

You see, we so often have it reversed.  We can’t buy or make it happen. God initiates it.  God always has.  The Spirit of God will come when God chooses.  We prepare out of faithfulness, we return and repent because God has loved us first.


Prayer: God, help me to fully return to you.  I open myself to join in your dream for shalom peace within myself and for my community and world.  Amen.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Repent

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Thursday December 8, 2016

Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your hearts,
        with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
        and not your clothing.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is merciful and compassionate,
        very patient, full of faithful love,
            and ready to forgive. Joel 2:12-13

Joel reminds us that we don’t make Christmas happen. No, we accept the invitation to return to God, not just with a singular motion, not with a promise that soon will be forgotten and did not become part of the fabric of our faithfulness.  No, we accept the invitation knowing that it will forever change us.

“Tear your hearts and not your clothing, return to the Lord,” Joel pleads.
Back in the day when someone had sinned they would tear their clothing.  Clothing was a highly valuable possession in the Ancient Near Eastern world.   It would take months to make a garment.  Only the very wealthy would have multiple cloaks.  So it was a big deal to rip your clothing to outwardly display to the world your level of regret and remorse in such a costly way.

Joel calls us to open our hearts, to rend or tear them so that they are radically changed.  The invitation is to bring your entire self before God:  Even the small part that still believes that you can make Christmas happen.  Bring it all, your grief, your sense of lose, your fasting and religious strivings, your longings, your moments of turning away from God and placing something or someone else above God, bring it all before God:  Because if you only bring a part, you cannot fully return to God.  God desires a complete devotion of our will.


Prayer: God, help me to fully return to you.  I open myself to join in your dream for shalom peace within myself and for my community and world.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Receiving Christmas

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29
Wednesday December 7, 2016

Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your hearts,
        with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
        and not your clothing.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is merciful and compassionate,
        very patient, full of faithful love,
            and ready to forgive. Joel 2:12-13

We have been bombarded with the consumer version of Christmas for some time.  Each year it seems the stores pull out the Christmas goodies and play the music earlier and earlier.  Every year I hear people mumble under their breath, during the fall season “it’s not Christmas yet.”
We can easily believe the myth that we make Christmas happen.  Be it with the gifts that we purchase, the tree we set up, the family that we visit, the cookies that we bake, the cards that we send, the decorations that we hang and place.  We can con ourselves into believing that Christmas is a commodity that can be purchased or delivered by us for us. 

Joel reminds us that we don’t make Christmas happen.  We don’t bring God to earth to dwell among us.

Instead, Christmas is the fulfillment of a promise for God to come and dwell among us, to give us shalom peace that encompasses the entire community and our entire selves that reconciles us to creation, our neighbors and to God.


Prayer: God, help me to fully return to you.  I open myself to join in your dream for shalom peace within myself and for my community and world.  Amen.

Waiting

Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 Monday December 10, 2018 Focus passage:  Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!  Raise your voice a...