Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Preparing for Christmas

'Tis the prepare for Christmas.  As we hurry through our days, driven by our expanding "To Do" lists,  I am reminded of a sentiment voiced by many marriage counselors:  "I so wish that this couple would have spent as much time and energy on preparing for a strong marriage as they did on preparing for a grand wedding."

The same can be said for Christmas.  May we spend as much time preparing our hearts to receive Christ in a deeper and more meaningful way as we do in purchasing gifts, decorating our homes, and baking goodies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Wisdom of a Hymn

"Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand."

Ancient chant
Translated from the Greek by Gerard Moultrie

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Thought For The Day

"This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child."

                                                      Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, November 27, 2016

An Advent Meditation and Prayer

Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent, let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in the manger.

Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this holy Child; and let us look forward to the yearly remembrance of His birth with hymns and songs of praise.

The Almighty God bless us with His grace; Christ give us the joys of everlasting life; and unto the fellowship of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us all.  Amen.

                                                                                            Ancient Bidding Prayer


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pleasing God As We Thank Him

As we head into November, it is appropriate and helpful to think about thanksgiving, the giving of thanks, the cultivation of a grateful heart.  I would like to start by considering an interesting passage:

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’  But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’  I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:9-14).

Here we see a devoutly religious man giving thanks.  What could be wrong with that?  Jesus explains that his thanks fall short because his prayer of thanksgiving is self-focused rather than God focused.  The Pharisee’s thanksgiving is about his feeling good about himself.  The tax collector knew that he had no cause to feel good about himself, and his prayer is God-focused.  And it is in this culturally-despised sinner that God takes pleasure.

I think we can learn a great deal from this passage.  Not all thanksgiving is created equal!  The giving of thanks is much more than finding things for which to be thankful.  While it is not inappropriate to thank God for our health, families, homes, and jobs, the real “rubber meets the road” issue is that of context.  Do we see our health, families, homes, and jobs as products of our hard work and effort.? Or do we, like the tax collector in our story, genuinely realize that we can earn nothing before God and that even as we see good in our labor, it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13)?

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to come before God and to ask Him to reveal Himself to us.  And then, as we catch a glimpse of who He is, we can begin to see who we are before Him—unworthy and empty-handed but blessed by His mercy, grace, love, and all of His abundant provision.  Then we are truly in a position to give thanks and glorify God.