December 27, 2017
A prayer at this time of year . . .
Lord, in our world where worry often prevails, we desperately need your peace. We ask that you stir in our hearts anew the good news of the coming of the Christ-child into our lives. We thank You for the gift of your son Jesus, our Emmanuel, your Word made flesh. Forgive us when we forget that and when we forget that your love never changes and never fails.
Lord, may we never abandon the purpose for which your son came—to save us from our sin and selfishness and to give us eternal life in the world to come and joy and meaning in this life in this world right now.
Lord, for those whose hearts are shattered by sorrow or battered by broken relationships, for those whose lives know continuing conflict and confusion, for those whose bodies are tired and tested seemingly beyond their ability to endure—may they be assured of your comforting presence. May they know with confidence that you are still the same Savior who was born of a virgin, not in a hospital but an animal barn, and laid in a manger of hay, and that you are still the One sent by your heavenly Father who offered not condemnation for our sins, but love and forgiveness and daily, divine fellowship which can sustain us, whatever the circumstances of our lives.
Lord, enable us to know rest when we are weary, peace when we are anxious, and acceptance when we feel rejected and uncared for—not just at Christmas, but every day of every year. Restore the joy in us that’s been crushed by pride, wrong priorities, world events. Set us free from the self-destructive attitudes and actions that have held us captive far too long. Grant to us calm, quiet spirits in the midst of the clamoring of this world.
Lord, as your children, we yearn for a deeper awareness of who you are. Help us to choose by faith to make the “good news of great joy” a reality in our lives. Help us to understand that peace on earth for us will only come when our hearts find peace with you.
Lord, may we embrace you as our joy and our peace, not only at Christmas and not only in the new year, but always. Amen.
December 18, 2017
The New York Times recently published the article: “Is
Christmas a Religious Holiday? A Growing
Number of Americans Say No.” It
cited a study that found 45 percent of Americans said they did not celebrate
Christmas as a religious holiday.
For many people, Christmas has been culturally co-opted so as to not only separate its observance from the core commitments of the Christian Church but also from its connection to personal faith. But in its essence, Christmas is a celebration of faith about the coming of the Son of God as a baby into the world. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the reason for faith and the object of our faith. Simply put, Christmas is all about Jesus.
Hebrews 11:1 says: “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen.” Scripture defines hope as a confident expectation—a recognition that in Christ is found the fulfillment of God’s promises.
When many people in today’s world struggle with a sense of isolation and hopelessness, Christmas reminds us of the absolute conviction that God is at work in ways beyond our human comprehension to rescue the world, including us, from brokenness. Despite the lack of material evidence, those of us who are followers of Jesus believe in the invisible God and his promises of a heavenly future.
Our steadfast hope motivates us to live in ways that radically express our faith in a Savior who entered the world that first Christmas. We are called to live lives of hope. Even when the circumstances of our lives feel impossible to endure, we are to hold fast to God’s promises. No matter what we encounter, we believe with assurance that God’s light will shine through. Emmanuel is with us.
When we or when our loved ones experience difficult circumstances, may we set our hope on Christ. May we experience God’s light penetrating our darkness. May we open our eyes afresh to the Lord’s glory and experience God’s indescribable joy. Merry Christmas!
December 11, 2017
Christmas season is upon us, so I will be brief. I simply invite you to take a few moments to
ponder how this quote from Phillips Brooks applies to your life: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no
miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”
Joyner has written an article called “5 Questions
to Ask Before Posting to Social Media.”
1. Am I seeking approval?
When I seek validation through something I post and that little red flag starts popping up to notify me of each person giving me attention, it’s an addictive reward. And it works. I feel better, so I keep coming back for more. What are the bigger needs asking to be met here? Maybe it’s a desire for community. Perhaps it stems from unresolved conflict with someone I love. Or maybe I just thrive on pleasing people and hearing their praise. If your interaction with the internet is driven by a need for approval, consider healthier ways to address this issue and choose to stop reinforcing the unhealthy ones.
2. Am I boasting?
There’s sharing excitement and then there’s bragging. Truthfully, we each know which camp we fall in. When the Apostle Paul described what it meant to love others, he specifically mentioned that love does not boast. That post isn’t “just a picture” or “just a tweet,” it’s an opportunity to love others in a way that reflects Jesus. Or it’s an opportunity to show them something quite different, something that looks nothing like Christ. Examine your motivations and walk away before using social media as the adult version of show-and-tell.
3. Am I discontent?
Are you looking for something “better”? Nothing you will read, write or see is going to solve this one. Instead, ask yourself why you are discontent and address those needs. When we view social media from a lens of discontentment, whatever we find will be colored with bitterness and ungratefulness. Their lives will begin to look brighter than ours, while our lives will take on a sense of lacking. Let us not forget—their world is as ordinary as ours and our life is as exciting as theirs. Stop asking the virtual world to solve dissatisfaction with the physical one.
4. Is this a moment to protect?
When we interrupt lunch with a friend in order to quote her on Twitter, we invite hundreds of people into a conversation that could have been sacred; and we miss the sweet memories that may have formed had her words remained simply between the two of us. Not every great moment needs to be shared. In fact, some of the best times are most enjoyed privately. If we suspend the present in an attempt to capture its beauty in 140 characters or less, we sacrifice our experience of the moment itself.
5. Is it kind?
Let’s return to Paul and his call to love. “Love is patient. Love is kind.” Our culture tells us it’s our right to comment on everything, regardless of whether it was addressed to us and without consideration for how it might affect others. We’ve replaced face-to-face confrontation with sharp comments and mocking memes. Jesus said the world would recognize us by our love. What messages are we sending?
It’s worth noting that these are questions we ask of ourselves, not criteria for interpreting and evaluating others. We cannot know their hearts anymore than they can know ours. Let us pause and give ourselves an honest moment to reflect—bringing discernment, love and wisdom to each picture and word we share.