Today is a day of anticipation – although we know what is to come tomorrow, we still find ourselves anxious about getting everything done, dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “t’s”. Retailers have been speaking of tomorrow since before the leaves started changing. I don’t know about you, but for me it seems like the anticipation is laced with a mix of numbness and relief that the retailers can finally stop exploiting the day for their own benefit.
Which is why this passage means so much to me. From the first phrase: “the goodness and loving-kindness” – we know that the world is going to change. God came in a form that, perhaps, no one was expecting: appearing in the form of a small, helpless infant in a manger. This infant changed the world, and calls us to do the same.
I encourage you during this day to take a moment to pause at some point in the midst of the “buzz” of the day: celebrate in how much the birth of one child so many years ago impacts your life in the way that it does today.
Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the greatest gift that I could ever receive. As your son comes, I thank you for the way my life will change (again) because of what happened in a stable so many years ago. Amen.
Pastor Kathryn, Austin, and Avis Campbell
As Austin and I have made a lot of transitions this season, it has got me thinking a lot about family and what the holidays have meant to all of us. I have thought about Avis having all four grandparents with her for Christmas morning, just like I did when I was her age. I didn’t realize what a gift it was having all four grandparents joining me, my brother, and parents until later on in life. With all of that family under one roof during the season growing up, traditions of multiple Christmas trees (one real, one artificial), caroling on the town green followed by Christmas Eve worship, and traditional English Christmas dinner complete with popovers flood my mind and warm my heart. It is these memories that continue to keep me rooted in who I am and what this season has meant to my family, shaping me into the person I am today.
In this passage from Galatians, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are heirs. According to the dictionary definition, an heir is a person who “inherits and continues the legacy of a predecessor”. Me thinking about my family’s traditions and wanting to continue them makes me an heir to my family’s story. As heirs to God and all the stories of God’s people, we each are charged with not only inheriting the stories of faith of those who have come before us, but also in continuing on the stories in such a way that our children and our children’s children will want to do the same.
Prayer: Dear God, allow me to remain deeply rooted in your story during this season of hope and anticipation. May I continue on growing in faith through the love you have for us. Amen.
At the time of Jesus the oral tradition of passing down stories and sayings of the prophets would have been common. Did the shepherds think of this passage when the angels told of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem? How about the wise men, they too would have remembered this passage in Micah. Read these few short verses again. Here Micah, who scholars think was from a small town himself, refers to Bethlehem of Ephrathah (an older name for Judea), but why would he name backwater Bethlehem? This is where Jacob buried his beloved Rachel and also where David was born and anointed by Samuel. This is a classic first shall by last, last shall be first situation. Micah prophesizes that “one who is to rule in Israel” shall come from Bethlehem and “he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord … and they shall live secure, for how he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” (verses 4-5a) As shepherds and wise men would recall this prophecy no wonder they rushed to the stable to worship the infant Jesus. What wonderful promises God promised to those who listened to Micah or heard about his prophecies by word of month later.
What about us? Can we take this leap of faith and believe, we who are riddled with doubt and frailties and rush to action, when the angels call and God reveals his plan in ways that seem unbelievable to us. Even with all that is going on around us, God has a plan for us, has promised us and fulfilled his promise that Jesus will feed his flock and be the one of peace. What are we doing to be Jesus’ hands and feet to feed his flock and shepherd the world to peace?
Prayer: God, forgive us for an unbelief in times of turbulence and uncertainly. Help us to turn to passages that show you are with us always and in sending your Son you are feeding and leading us. Give us courage and strength to work for peace and understanding even if we are like Bethlehem, just a little clan (person). We can do all things through you. Amen
Mary Jane Conger
The Wise Men Revisited
This week I discovered a different perspective on the story of the Wise Men. In this new perspective I see Matthew tipping his hand to the amazing story that he’s about to tell. On the one hand there is the jealousy, deceit, and grasping for power of Herod. On the other hand, there is a new kind of power emerging in the birth of Christ. Fear of a threat to his power drives Herod to order the death of all male children under the age of two. The story of the Wise Men tells a story of a power that is humble rather than prideful, a power that is giving rather than grasping, a power that brings people of different backgrounds together to enhance life rather than destroy life.
It is regrettable, but true, that the grasping ways of fear related to power are still at work in our world today. Just look around. There is senseless killing in our streets; the Middle East is still a hotbed of strife filled with heinous acts of violence. But this new perspective on the story of the wise men that Matthew inserts early in his gospel is truly “good news,” both for his time and for ours. He tips his hand that the birth of this child is going to make available to all who embrace it a new, life-giving, and world-changing kind of power. He brings a power that overcomes fear and offers a true and lasting hope.
When I read these verses in Matthew, about the birth of Jesus Christ, son of God, it’s amazing and touching to the people who believe in God, especially Christians. On my reflection on how Jesus birth came about through the holy spirit this is the way we also as the Christians reflection on how God can work in our lives. But not just Christian, we need to obey him by doing his work through people by providing necessary need and therefore our prayers will turn in to blessings. As we can see in Joseph’s case he was man of faith; that’s why God gave him the blessing by giving his wife Mary, the baby through the holy spirit and that’s how his work was recognized by God, and that’s how his prayers were answered as well.
All by reading these verses, God is God of miracles throughout in our lives, in many examples in the past and present days and that’s why God sent his son to come and die for us. God shows us his amazing love by sending his son to take our sins away, therefore we as Christians need to forgive one another and care for others.
Again on my reflection on these verses our faithfulness and prayers can bless as long as we obey our father in Heaven by doing his work accordingly. Also He is God of miracles no matter what difficulties we are going through. As his children in his name they can be overcome by prayers, kindness and love.
All will be well.
18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
These verses to me describe what real faith is – by Mary having to believe and trust God when he told her she was going to have a baby and her being a Virgin. What an act of FAITH. Faith is not BELIEF without proof, but trust without reservation. Mary trusted God with All of her heart.
Prayer: Dear Lord, Thank you for the greatest gift your son Jesus Christ. During this season as we celebrate his birth and the story behind it. My prayer is that I learn to TOTALLY TRUST YOU without reservation. Amen.
It was the holiest night of the year – Christmas Eve. In the glow of the candles in the dimly lit sanctuary I studied the bulletin cover and the artist’s interpretation of an empty manger with straw and swaddling cloths. BUT what was this? There was a crown of thorns nestled among the straw as well! What an awful thing to include in a picture on this magical night of peace and goodwill, hosts of angels, adoring common folk, and a newborn baby. This was an Easter symbol. What was it doing in a Christmas picture? I continued to ponder the absurdity of the illustration; and as I did, I realized that the artist had in actuality gotten it just right. The birth of this child would lead to a crown of thorns. This was merely the beginning of the story of the child who just thirty-three years later would secure my salvation through his death and resurrection. It would indeed involve a crown of thorns. It was not only appropriate to place these two items together, but it foreshadowed the reality of the future for this child and who he would become. It was perfect.
Prayer: For the miracle of His birth and the glory of His resurrection we give you honor and praise, Father. It is the best gift ever!