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Showing posts from December, 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 o…

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 roo…

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 famil…

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 o…

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.

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 the…

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…

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 voi…

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 wome…

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.

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.

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…

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 pla…

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 c…

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 a…

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 …

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 …

Return to God

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29 Friday December 9, 2016
Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says theLord,
return to me with all your hearts,
with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
and not your clothing.
Return to theLordyour 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 …

Repent

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29 Thursday December 8, 2016
Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says theLord,
return to me with all your hearts,
with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
and not your clothing.
Return to theLordyour 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 d…

Receiving Christmas

Daily reading: Joel 2:12-13, 28-29 Wednesday December 7, 2016
Focus passage: 12 Yet even now, says theLord,
return to me with all your hearts,
with fasting, with weeping, and with sorrow;
13 tear your hearts
and not your clothing.
Return to theLordyour 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 re…