On Christmas Eve, our focus was on the presence of God with us in our worldthrough the reality of Christmas; that God, at a particular point in history, really and truly became a human being and stepped into our world, taking our brokenness on Himself that He might make us whole. We focused on this Jesus stepping into the existence of humankind – our existence - stepping into the stuff of life, healing the sick, raising the dead, making the blind to see and lame to walk, and bringing a message of life and hope, doing all that was necessary to make this message certain through the cross and the empty tomb. We focused on Jesus as He came to do life with those around Him when He walked this earth, and how He continues, as Immanuel – God with us - to come to us to do life with us, not as a God who is far away from our condition, but as our brother who understands and has come to rescue us. In the next few weeks, we will flesh out a little more what this message of Christmas – God with us - means (or was meant to mean) in our lives. Let’s keep opening these wonderful gifts of Christmas!
Sunday, January 1st Restart!/Fresh Start! (Yes!..It IS possible!)
God seems to have built the idea and message of the hope of new beginnings into the very fabric of our existence and really into our very souls. No matter how difficult today is, night will come and then a brand new morning….a brand new day, a brand new month, a brand new year! And on this day there will be the joy of beginnings as babies are born, marriages are begun, first steps are taken, and new things are learned; as humankind throughout the world experiences a myriad of new beginnings in what we do, learn, create, and experience! All of these point to the new beginning that God would give us through Jesus, who is Immanuel, god with us! As it says in the Bible, “God’s mercies are brand new every morning!”...Where do you need a new beginning in your life? Where do you need a “fresh start?” And where, as you see your past, are you sure you have no hope of one? This God of new beginnings, who began something brand new on Christmas as He came as Immanuel – God with us – has plans to give you a brand new beginning right where you need it in Him!
Sunday, January 8th The Gift of Belonging The Wisemen (This Family’s Big Enough for You!)
You can always tell. You can always tell when you are being welcomed as family…and when you’re not. Growing up and even into High School and college, my dad was great at honestly, from the heart, welcoming any of my friends as family. What was amazing is that they knew it…so much so that when I moved away they kept stopping by my parent’s house, especially at Christmas, to see my dad!... who had become “family” even as he welcomed them as family. Some of them, who I hadn’t seen in years, even came to his funeral. Today is about God welcoming you as family. This family’s big enough for you!
Sunday, January 15th The Gift of Community (Doing Life Together)
Have you ever noticed how we are all interconnected? Whether we like or not, it is as if someone put life together in a way that made us interdependent on one another…so that life, by necessity is made up of community. In a real sense, from a Christian perspective, we “love our neighbor” when we do our work (our vocations) honestly, before God, to the best of our ability and for the good of those we serve, whether we are a plumber, a grocer, an engineer, a parent, or an elected official. Life with Jesus – the life we live out in flesh and blood – was also created by God NOT to be lived out alone, but rather in a community of believers. We were not made to go it alone! We were created to be interdependent on one another. We are meant to be gifts of God to each other! This Christmas gift is also for you!
Sunday, January 22nd The Gift of Relationship (It’s Personnel!)
Fifty percent of Americans have no one to talk to. We live in an epidemic of disconnectedness! We can move in and out of large crowds and yet be alone. (Did you go Christmas shopping this year?) Even when we are together with people or with an individual, we can maintain our isolation as electronic connectedness takes precedent over flesh and blood connectedness. But we know there is something missing! Deep down we know we were made to be personal with others and have others be personal with us. This too is a gift that God would give to us through one another. Together, we are His Family. And in this Family, we are empowered to be personally there for one another in the flesh and blood of life, the flesh and blood into which Jesus was born. This Christmas gift is also for you!
Sunday, January 29th The Gift of Purpose (Lived Out In The Family)
Some of my earliest memories is of working together with my dad and brother to accomplish a task…painting a fence, doing yard work, putting on a new roof, tearing down a wall, etc… It was a blast….not because of the task but because of who we did the task for and with! What, finally, gives something purpose and meaning? The task or the one we do it for and with? God would fill our lives with purpose and meaning as we live them out in flesh and blood for Him!...But again, we were not made to go it alone! Rather, He gives us one another to work with and for as we live out our mission in Him! And yes, this Christmas gift of Immanuel – God with us – is also for you!