Monthly Archives: December 2009

Advent e-votions, day 20 (Christmas Day!)

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Luke 1.46-55

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Following the birth of my second son, I experienced a tremendous sense of euphoria. I was filled with so much joy, I remained awake for hours. Even though my body was tired, I could barely contain myself. I laughed, I cried, I squealed with delight.
I imagine that Mary experienced a similar joy—a joy that could not be contained in words but could only be expressed through a song.
On Christmas Day we celebrate with Mary that God comes among us, and in so doing, God is working with people to change the world into something better. We join our voices singing our own magnificat:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Savior reigns.
Let us our songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains,
repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness,
and wonders of his love.

(hymn text by Isaac Watts, 1719)

Prayer
Deo Gracias! Thanks be to you, O God, for your most amazing gift. Amen.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Sherri Dees

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Advent e-votions, day 19 (Christmas Eve!)

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Luke 1.39-45
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

I was filled with anticipation, excitement, and joy when I found out that our family was growing. We were going to be grandparents. I couldn’t wait to share the good news with family and friends. Emails, phone calls, and notes went out far and wide announcing our news. The news of the baby became more precious and exciting as it was shared with others. I imagine that Mary must have felt the same way. She journeyed to visit Elizabeth to share her good news. Can’t you feel Elizabeth’s joy and delight knowing, without words that Mary was expecting the Son of God?

Let us open our hearts and minds so that we too may feel the anticipation, excitement and joy as we wait for the birth of the baby Jesus. Let us share with others all the love and promise this good news brings. During this Advent season remember what God has promised us through his son. Remember the joy that Mary and Elizabeth felt during this time of waiting and preparing. Take time to reflect on our blessings including the biggest blessing of all, the love of God through his son, Jesus Christ.

Prayer
Thank you for bringing joy into the world by coming among us yourself, God. Help me, Lord, to be open to your movement in my life and in the world. Amen.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Cynthia Lopuszynski

Advent e-votions, day 18

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Hebrews 10.5-10
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;
in burnt-offerings and sin-offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, “See, God, I have come to do your will, O God”
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).’
When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt-offerings and sin-offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘See, I have come to do your will.’ He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Imagine being one of a multitude of people worldwide working for improvement in the social condition and economic reality of God’s people, as well as the Earth they inhabit. In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken takes a close look at all the efforts of caring people everywhere and finds it the largest movement the world has ever seen. No one knows the actual size of the movement, but it brings hope and help to billions of people. You might say this multitude of caring people has heard the message of Advent, the promise of new life. And through our joint efforts at RCLPC, we are part of that movement.

In today’s scripture verses, Christ rejects sacrifices and burnt offerings as what God would want of us, and then Hebrews’ author restates that thought, making sure we’re paying attention. Christ has set aside the old laws and established a new order. This new order—a life of kindness, compassion, and love—starts in our homes, churches, and communities, spreading to God’s loved children throughout the world.

During communion earlier in December, the choir sang “A Place at the Table”. It speaks of justice for everyone… woman and man, young and old, just and unjust. Clean water, bread, shelter, safe places. Fairness, freedom, forgiveness. I can rarely sing those words without tears in my eyes. What a world that will be! For us to be “creators of justice and joy” is surely a tall order, a challenge as we live each day of our lives, and an incredible calling.

As Advent culminates in Jesus’ birth, we find we aren’t bystanders at the manger but instead participants in the unfolding of God’s kingdom of love and peace. The promise of new life, filled with justice and joy, awaits our hearts, hands, and feet.

Prayer
Gracious God, guide my steps from the manger to my home and my neighbors, wherever they may be, and however I may be a creator of justice and joy. Amen.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Lois Johnson

Advent e-votions, day 17

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Psalm 80.1-7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

“I positively know what I need, when it should be done and how it would best be delivered! It is my life after all, so I’m most qualified to know my needs, aren’t I?” Sometimes my prayer requests sound more like I’m ordering from a menu with the expectations that the food from my server (God) be delivered as ordered (and promptly too!). Depending upon how “hungry” I am, when there is nothing brought to my table in a timely manner and I am left waiting, then anxiety, frustration and even anger can set in.

In today’s scripture the Psalmist begs for the miraculous power that only God can deliver to save them from their despair and sorrow. They have been praying in earnest, doesn’t God hear them? There is a disconnect between their desperation and God’s apparent silence and this makes the Psalmist cry out with confusion and despair. Knowing the capabilities of what God can do and seeing no result is maddening to them and I think we can all relate.

There are so many times our hearts are heavy when we see family members, friends and colleagues struggling for just a bit of hope, healing and joy. Is it too much to ask that God intervene with a small dose of health, wholeness and restoration for those close to us or even for ourselves? I don’t think so, as praying to God is our Christian response to the needs around us. But Advent reminds us that the answer to what we feel is needed isn’t always the answer. We must wait. And we may never get the solution we believe is needed or possibly never an answer at all.

So as we wait for our “ordered” meal to be delivered to our table, instead of concentrating on our own “hunger” we must look around at the tables around us to see what may be needed and what we might possibly be able to bring to their table. As we do this, I believe the season of Advent promises us that a five star meal will be put down in front of us when we aren’t even looking for it and it will be more delicious than we could ever imagine!

Prayer
God, help me to keep praying even when it seems there is no answer…and help me to answer when you are calling back to me in my prayer. Bring peace, bring justice, bring food to the hungry, bring your comfort and healing to all. Amen.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Joan Jensema

Advent e-votions, day 16

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Micah 5.2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah
who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in travail has brought forth,
then the rest of his brethren shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the
strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

And this shall be peace.

Throughout the book of Micah, the prophet tries unceasingly to convince Israel and Judah to behave according to the word of God. He lists the evils that consume them – the greed of the rich who drive widows from their homes and steal children’s rights; the leaders who bribe and take bribes; the worship of false idols; the use of extortion and fraud for unfair gain; the lying and the violence that fill their lives. Because of these behaviors, he announces that they will suffer and be enslaved by their enemies until God decides once again to forgive them and to bring those who remain, back to their true home. God will send them a new leader to be born in Bethlehem, “And this shall be peace.”

Much of Micah sounds eerily like today’s news – greed, fraud, lying, war and violence – and we are still waiting for peace in all parts of the world. This desire for peace is certainly not new. The Bible speaks of it often. In Ecclesiastes “ there is a time for war and a time for peace.” Psalms tells us “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Isaiah promises us that a child will be born who will be “The Prince of Peace.” And Matthew tells us, “blessed are the peacemakers.” But the world we inhabit now, is anything but peaceful. History tells us that both war and violence have filled the 2000 years since Jesus came to us. So how are we to understand Micah, and his promise of peace?

I have to believe that although Christ was the promise of peace, only we can really make it happen. With Christ acting through us, we can work for peace at the world level, in our communities and families, and, most important of all, within ourselves. Thomas Merton says that, “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves.“ Every year as we prepare for Christmas, we are reminded again of the promise of peace when we listen to the beautiful music of the season and hear the familiar words from the Bible. It is our opportunity to take a deep breath and feel the fresh promise of a newborn child and to renew the hope that maybe this will be the year that we will all see, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”

Prayer
God, thank you for the promise of peace that Christ brings to us. Help us to feel Your peace in our hearts and to work for Your peace in our world.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Joan Black