Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent 4 - Love

John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

God’s story woven for us is, rightly understood, the greatest love story of all time.  It is the story of an all powerful creator, so in love with His creation that He devises a plan to deliver his people from their own self-made destruction.  It is a story that begins and ends and is wrapped all around in love.  Love of creation.  Love of life.  Love of justice and mercy and grace.  Love cannot be coerced, cannot be bought, cannot be forced – love must come from a great source within.  For us, that source is God Himself, who has imprinted on all of us His spark of love.  For God, the love that motivates His story is simply an expression of His most basic nature.  God is love.  As we light this candle, we are reminded again that just as the flame begins with a spark, our love story with God began with His love for us. 

There is a greater story being told.  It is a love story, and we are supporting characters, surrounded by the love of God’s hero, Jesus.  If we are living in God’s story, we are living in love.  There is no other way.

Prayer  God, we can truly come to you in prayer and say, “we love you.”  We can do so because you are our great source of love, and we recognize that the love we have for you is merely a reflection of the love you have already shown to us.  We love you for who you are, for what you have done, and for what you are doing daily in our lives.  We love you for loving us, for sending Jesus to deliver us in our darkest night.  We love you because it is the only response that understanding you can bring.  We love you, and so we serve you with our whole mind, body, and spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 3 - Joy

Luke 2:8-11
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Joy!  A leaping spirit.  A heart in song.  A child bursting with laughter.  When the angel delivers the message of the coming Christ, there can be only one result – Joy!  The gospel isn’t a story about Christ, Christ is the gospel.  He is the good news.  He is our reason for shouting, because he has made all things new.  All people new.  God’s story is a story of celebration.  A feast.  A party.  God’s story is a story of the most generous King giving everything to the most unworthy of people.  The story being told is good news that should cause great joy for all the people.  If there is no joy in our telling, the problem isn’t with the story, but with those of us telling it.  We light this candle with Joy, so that its light may flicker and dance like our hearts in Christ – free and warm and glowing, resonating joy.

There is a greater story being told, and as it spreads from person to person, it carries Joy alongside.  The gospel brings with it joy as long as it is delivered by a people of joy.

Prayer God of joy, our hearts leap at the good news you delivered so long ago through your messenger.  May our lives burst forth with a shout that cannot be contained – Our God reigns!  Our God saves!  Our God comes!  As we continue in our Advent, help us to wait in Joyful expectation of what is to come.  Help us to look back on your promises fulfilled, and to look inward at your blessings on our lives, so that we can look forward with joy to a great tomorrow.  We joy in your presence, in your Spirit, and in your work in our lives, Amen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent 2 - Peace

  Luke 1:76-79
You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
   through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
   by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
   and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
Peace, too often, is something we think of as happening to us.  We think that when we cease to hurt, or when the noise of the world finally calms, that we are at peace.  The kind of peace offered in Christ is different.  It doesn’t simply happen, it is lived.  We are active participants in peace.  There is a greater story being told, and part of that story is that God has set aside believers as peacemakers.  A people, a collection of Kingdom Ambassadors here on earth, empowered and equipped to be part of a reconciliation, mending all that is broken.  We are called to be bringers of peace.  We are called to be the people who mend broken relationships, to live as an example of grace, and who, like this candle we light today, light the way toward a more perfect world.

There is a greater story being told, and we are part of the telling.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called “children of God.”
Prayer  God of peace, we take seriously your call for us to be peacemakers.  The peace that passes our understanding comes from you, and we thank you for it, as it lights our darkest days.  Make us as eager to make peace as we are to have peace.  In every area of life, at home and at work and at play, help us to live peaceful lives.  Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent 1 - Hope

I was asked if I could post the Advent Candle Readings on my blog, so over the next couple days I will catch all you blog readers up, and then post each new one on the Monday following.  We begin with Advent 1 - Hope.


Matthew 12:18-21
18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
   the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
   and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
   no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
   and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
 21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Hope flickers in the darkness, much like the light of this single candle.  Hope is that piece of our heart that says to us, in spite of all appearances, things will be better, there is a greater story being told.  The season of Advent begins with this kind of Hope.  Jesus was born into a world that was dominated by empire.  Greed, racism, war, and poverty reigned - yet even in a world such as this, the people held fast to hope.  Things will get better.  There is a greater story being told.  Today, we light this candle to illuminate the world, and our hearts, with hope.  The hope of Jesus.  The hope of a Savior. 

There is a greater story being told, God’s story, and it begins with hopeful expectation that God will deliver us from darkness.
Prayer:  God of hope, all of our hope is in you.  Make us to shine in the darkness like this candle.  Make us to be a people who bring the hopeful message of a loving God everywhere we go.  We anxiously await the day when all of our hopes are fulfilled in You.  In the name of Christ, for whom we eagerly await, Amen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hide and Seek

Evan has a new favorite game.  It has replaced the "Pop Pop," the "dump all my word cards out" game, and even the "walk around with a stick" game.  Evan is now a Hide and Seeker.   Well, more accurately, Evan is now a seeker (calm down Harry Potter fans!) and I am a hider.  As soon as I get home, I hear these words in order, "Daddy!" "Play!" "Hide!"  Yes, its great fun.  Yes, he needs me to help him find me sometimes.  Yes, I have as much fun as he does.

I started asking myself, "why is this game so fun?"  Why is it that kids seem to almost instinctively learn to love "Hide and Seek?"  Is it the running?  The exploring?  The little sense of danger that around some corner, or behind some door, Daddy is going to pop out and say "Boo!?"  Or are we simply wired to love searching?

I think that we are.  I think most of us at our core love searching for things - knowledge, answers, wisdom, truth, a better way to downtown.  This is great fun, and probably a little glimpse into our deeper nature as created beings, created by a creative God, with His creative image all over us.

Read through your Old Testament and you will find a people "seeking" God.  Searching, asking, longing, and yes, finding Him.  The language of covenant is not a language of theological purity, but an agreement by the people to "seek" God.   It was Moses' challenge to Israel in his final speech, it was God's challenge to each of the kings called in the Chronicles, through the Psalms, Proverbs, and into the Prophets, the language of relationship with God is of seeking and finding.

When Evan and I play, even though I'm hiding, I am always making noise, whistling, laughing - basically doing everything I can do so he will find me.  Sound familiar?

Sometimes, the game breaks down, and Evan can't seem to figure out where Daddy is.  When that happens I leave the closet and find him.  In Christianity, we call that day "Christmas," when God came seeking man.

Maybe He wasn't really hiding all along.