Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Holy Name, January 1, 2015

The Holy Name (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Numbers 6:22-27, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:15-21, Psalm 8

Numbers 6:22-27

In pronouncing God’s favor on the people, the priest was to use a prescription for blessing. This beautiful benediction’s purpose is clear: the desire of the Lord is to provide His people with His name.

The name of the Lord is identical to the Lord Himself so that this blessing becomes an appeal that God will live among His people and meet all their needs. He alone can bless His people, keep them, look on them with favor (make His face shine and turn His face toward them), be gracious to them, and give them peace.

Galatians 4:4-7

Under Old Testament Law, Israel was held prisoner, “locked up” to keep them out of trouble until Jesus came (3:23). Now as “sons of God”, God has given believers His Spirit. The cry “Abba, Father,” implies a clear distinction between slave and family member. Only a child has the privilege of such warm and direct address. Only a child has such immediate access to a parent. Paul’s point is that “sons (and daughters)” have no need to be locked up and no need of a guardian. As sons we have direct access to God and also a matchless resource that enables us to be holy—the Holy Spirit Himself.

Luke 2:15-21the-adoration-of-the-shepherds-birth-of-jesus-pic-getty-images-837714310

The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message and went to confirm it for themselves. Such an attitude contrasts sharply with that of the religious leaders who knew where the Baby was to be born but did not take the time or the effort to confirm it for themselves (Matt. 2:5). After seeing the Baby, the shepherds were the first messengers to proclaim the arrival of the Messiah: they spread the word, and those who heard were amazed.

Mary and Joseph carried out the pronouncement of the angel by naming their Son according to the word that had come to Mary before her Baby’s conception (Matt. 1:18-21). The name Jesus is very appropriate, for it means: “Yahweh is salvation”.

What’s In A Name?

Who are your folks? In the south, when meeting someone for the first time, it’s a common practice to ask this question. Knowing the names of those who raised you instantly tells a lot about you and your values. Depending upon your family, the simple act of knowing your name can open doors, create opportunity, and earn favor.

Through the gift of His Son, God has adopted us into His family, giving us His name. Through Him, our place in this world – and in the world to come – is secure. We bear the name of Christ; our identity is now linked directly to God through Jesus. As members of God’s family, we are blessed and kept. God looks upon us with favor and is gracious, giving us His peace.

Take seriously the privilege and power of bearing the holy name of Jesus Christ!

Prayer for Holy Name Day – “Holy God, stir in my heart the love of Jesus, Savior of the world, and the grace of Your Spirit to worthily bear Your name before a watching world. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

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*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

Christmas Day, December 25th, 2014

Christmas Day (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14, Psalm 96

Isaiah 9:2-7

David was Israel’s greatest king, and there was always hope for another one like him. However, Isaiah foresees the birth of Jesus, God’s Son whose reign will be an extension of God’s rule; a time when burdens will be lifted, increased joy will be experienced, weapons put away, and Jesus will reign as the Prince of Peace.

Titus 2:11-14

Waiting for the blessed hope – that time when Christ will fully restore peace – isn’t always easy. Paul instructs Titus (and us) that God has given us His grace to assist us in everyday life… a grace that will produce good works and Spirit-controlled living as we await Christ’s return.

Luke 2:1-14Gerard_van_Honthorst_001

“As weak as a baby!” is a common expression. While Jesus was as weak as any other baby… all of heaven understood that this infant would be the center of power! Discovered in a humble manger by lowly shepherds, Luke underscores that this birth is indeed, good news for all kinds of people – not just the great and mighty; the clever or religious. The birth of Jesus is such good news, the angels sing God’s praise and their joy is echoed by the shepherds!

Good Things Come In Small Packages

Blink and you’ll miss it. On a dark night, hurrying to get out of the cold, you might not notice another pregnant woman – one more baby. You’d be in good company. The night of Jesus’ birth went unnoticed by most. Except for a few.

God went out of his way to share “tidings of great joy” with a select few. Not the religious leaders – not the wealthy kings. God made sure he got the attention of the misfits… the poor… the nobodies. Have you ever felt you fit in this category? If so, be encouraged.

God sent the angels of heaven to deliver a message of hope and acceptance to those living on the margins – to those marginalized by society. Simple people, tired enough – desperate enough – were courageous enough to believe that the Savior of the world could be found lying in a manger, cold and crying. And somehow, these misfits were wise enough to cradle Salvation to their breast.

The best things really do come in small packages. Hope, no matter how small it may seem, is still transformational. Salvation – even when cradled in your arms – is still very much a miracle.

Prayer for Christmas Day – “Almighty God, as I rejoice in the birth of Jesus Christ Your

Son, let me also rejoice in the gift of your grace and salvation, revealed in Him. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

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*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

4th Sunday of Advent, December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16, Romans 16:25-27, Luke 1:26-38, Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

Nathan receives a message from the Lord. God doesn’t want or need a house. There is even some danger in building a temple, because it will seem to ‘fix’ God in one place. The Israelites have always experienced God ‘on the move’, leading them forward on a journey of faith. He does not live in a temple or shrine, but with his people, wherever they are.

Far from David needing to establish God’s house, God is going to establish David’s ‘house’ or dynasty. He promises to be a father to David. He will make David very great, and his descendants will reign forever.

Romans 16:25-27

How is it possible to take sinful human beings, motivated by selfish and sinful passions, separated by racial prejudice and vast social differences, and create a community bonded together by selfless love? Only God could do it in the world of the first century. And only God can do it today. The message of Romans is that through a righteousness imputed to us by faith and made real by continuing trust in our living Lord He will do it.

Luke 1:26-38L'_Annonciation_de_1644,_Philippe_de_Champaigne.

Six months later, Gabriel appeared to a virgin named Mary, engaged to a man named Joseph. She would have a child while still a virgin. The child would be named Jesus and would be Israel’s long-awaited Messiah (1:26–33). The angel explained the miraculous nature of this conception, and to substantiate his amazing prediction, he told Mary that her relative Elizabeth, though old and barren, had also miraculously conceived (1:34–37). Mary expressed her willingness to bear the child.

House of Love

What makes a house a home? Love. Today’s readings make this point very clear.

God tells Nathan he doesn’t need a “home” – He needs the love of being welcomed to move freely among God’s people. And in a very real sense, He sends this same message to Mary, a young virgin. In her very body, He will create a “home” for Himself – a loving, nurturing setting where He can develop and grow, revealing Himself to a waiting world.

Too often, we hold ourselves back from God – from people – because we are “not good enough.” I can’t invite so-and-so over, the house isn’t clean enough. There’s no point in offering to serve; I don’t have the right experience. God isn’t looking for perfection – He’s looking for us. In loving hearts, God reveals Himself, transforming humble people into mansions fitted for His glory. Make ready your heart and home to be a dwelling place for God’s great Love.

Prayer when lighting the fourth candle of the Advent wreath – “God of love, through Your daily dwelling in my heart, prepare for Yourself a mansion fit for Your glory. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

Get FREE printed devotionals for all seasons in Year B (Dec. 2014 – Nov. 2015)

*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

3rd Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28, Psalm 126

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

After the day of Christ’s vengeance, comfort will be given to restored Israel. The setting up of the Kingdom in the earth will mean the repairing of all the waste places and all the ends of the earth shall see God’s great salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

As he concluded his letter, Paul gave several exhortations (5:12–22), assuring the Thessalonians that God was ready to bless them and keep them “blameless” until Christ’s return (5:23–24). He admonishes them (and us) to be joyful (vs. 16), prayerful (vs. 17), thankful (vs. 18), and careful (vs. 19-22).

John 1:6-8, 19-28TitianStJohn

The Jews expect a great prophet to come before the Messiah or ‘Christ’ appears. John the Baptist doesn’t claim to be this prophet — although Jesus will later say he was. John prefers to think of himself in the words of Isaiah. He is a voice, an announcer. He clears the road for God’s arrival. The baptism he offers is simply a wash to help people get ready. The Christ who is coming will be very much greater than this humble herald!

Lit Up With Joy

A woman told the story of being given two candlesticks for Christmas. Each was made of brass and spelled out the word “joy.” At first she took them for granted, displaying them only because she was young and had few Christmas decorations. But over the years, those candlesticks became more precious.

In the year following her husband’s death, she hesitated to display them at all, feeling none of the joy they spelled out. In subsequent years she would bring them out, noticing that the brass finish was dull and tarnished. But year after year, season after season, she unpacked and displayed them, knowing the season was about more than what she felt in the moment. Until finally, she realized joy had been there all along – not because of her circumstances, but in spite of them. The tarnish only serves as a patina to bring attention to the flames of the candles’ bright light.

Today’s readings remind us that we are like those candlesticks. Like Isaiah, we are commissioned to carry “good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted…” And when we find ourselves broken and despairing, the psalmist reminds us “those who sow in tears will reap with joy.” In places and moments when our joy feels tarnished, the Light is shining most brightly.

Prayer when lighting the third candle of the Advent wreath – “God of joy, stir up Your power in me, allowing your grace and mercy to help me overcome sin, shining the joy of Your salvation in and through my life. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

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*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

2nd Sunday of Advent, December 7, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8, Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

Isaiah 40:1-11GoodShepherd

To those who find themselves undone, there are no words more comforting than the announcement of the coming of the Redeemer as the Lamb of God and as the Good Shepherd. Those who wait for Him, acknowledging their lack of might, find He will be their help if they will humbly depend on Him.

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Our human concept of time means nothing to God, who created and controls time (3:8). The only reason God delays judgment is to give as many as possible the opportunity for salvation (3:9). When judgment does come, it will be final and catastrophic, with the very elements of nature melting in “fire” (3:10). In light of this certain judgment, we should live in holiness as we await the better world that will follow (3:11–13).

Mark 1:1-8

The Old Testament predicted Jesus would be preceded by a herald (a messenger) sent to prepare men for his appearance. John the Baptist came as the last representative of the old order with the express purpose of introducing the key personality of the new.

The deity of Jesus Christ is fully attested by the seal of the Father from heaven, His victory over Satan, His authority to call men, and His power over evil spirits and all manner of diseases.

Tiny Peaces

Peace. In a world that is too often divided and divisive, the mere mention of peace can bring a person to tears. And soothe a heart. And quiet chaos.

Today’s readings speak of this peace. Isaiah comforts God’s people with a proclamation of reconciliation and peace with God. The psalmist speaks of righteousness and peace “kissing.” Peter acknowledges the difficulty of waiting for God’s ultimate justice, yet encourages waiting in peace. And Mark writes of John the Baptist’s message of peace with God through Jesus Christ.

Who are the people in your life who need peace? What relationships need reconciliation? Only God can mend a broken world with His peace. We, however, can be instruments of that healing on an individual level, bringing wholeness and tiny “peaces” to broken lives and broken relationships.

Prayer when lighting the second candle of the Advent wreath – “God of peace, You sent Your Word to speak repentance and reconciliation to me. Help me to extend that same peace to others so together; we may know the joy of your eternal kingdom. Blessed be God now and forever. Amen.”

*Readings are from the NRSV and the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B

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