NO STANGER AT THE MANGER–seeking Christ in the midst of suffering

imageI say to God, my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why am I sad and troubled by my enemies?” My enemies’ insults make me feel as if my bones were broken. They are always saying, “Where is your God?” Why am I so sad? Why am I so upset? I should put my hope in God and keep praising him, my Savior and my God.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:9-11‬‬

I went looking for the Christ Child today
As the media images made him seem far away
With faces of children lost in the fray
As friends suffer with pain they can’t keep at bay
As unbelievers scoff at my naivity
‘Where is this Christ of Christmas amid such disray?’
My heart broken, I still looked for Christ Jesus today.
Not in the manager set out on display
But deep down in myself not that far away
I felt his anguish, his love, his heart hurting with mine today.
For the suffering that so heavily weighs
On a world that he suffered and died to save
His voice a whisper, I hear him say
Comfort the people I place in your way
And I will be in Christmas Always.

NOTHING CAN KEEP CHRIST OUT OF CHRISTMAS IF I KEEP MY HEART IN HIS SWAY…NOTHING, NO ONE CAN X HIM AWAY

Nck, 2016

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NO STRANGERS AT THE MANGER: What should keeping Christ in Christmas look like?

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Forget for a moment the window decorations, nativities on the court house lawn, the emphatic rebuttal of “Merry Christmas” to every one who declares, “Happy Holidays”.  Don’t forget them completely for they are important, but when I saw the poster above from a website that almost always criticizes those of us who know the value these outward displays have, I was convicted.

Consider how powerful Christ would be in our communities if we lived the message openly and without shame.  Somehow wearing a button that declares, “Keep Christ in Christmas” loses its impact if I am chewing out a store clerk or shoving a fellow shopper.  And with or without the button, the nativities on the court house lawn, or any public displays of Christ in Christmas choosing to be cheerful, loving, giving, and forgiving carries Jesus into the world, if I let others know I love the Lord.  His own words in the parable of the sheep and goats declares this:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, WANT CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS?  LET THE CHRIST IN YOU [the hope of glory] SHINE into every dark corner of this world.

 

WANT CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS?  Look for him in the most vulnerable, the forgotten, the suffering, weary workers, lonely neighbors. . .make your own list.  Look with His eyes, the eyes of God who blessed an old couple with a son, who chose a young woman and her betrothed to parent, who influenced an emperor to take a census, and who sent Angels to a rough group of shepherds.

SHINE!  And together we will find Christ in Christmas.

 

 

No Stranger at the Manger: Zechariah and Elizabeth

More than once scripture shows the heart of God and his power through the elderly, the barren, taking even dried bones scattered on an ancient battlefield to create living human beings.  God delights in using the weakest, the most crippled, the least likely to display his power.  So it is not unusual that he would choose the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth to bring forth a son, who Jesus would describe with these words:  “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  [‭Matt. ‭11:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬]  The angel Gabriel greeted Zechariah by saying God had heard his prayer followed by the proclamation that he and his wife, though old would have a son.

Call me strange, but I expect Zechariah had not prayed for a child in a good many years.  Certainly, it had been the prayer of his youth and maybe well into middle age, but it is highly unlikely that it had been on his most recent prayer list.  Still way back when, God had heard his prayer and NOW was the time for the answer.  As Pastor Dan told us this morning, write down your prayers, your requests so you can check them off when God answers.  Then you won’t be scratching your head like Zechariah, you’ll be checking off ‘Lord, bless Elizabeth and I with a child’ or your equivalent thereof.  No wonder Zechariah scoffed at Gabriel…can’t you hear the touch of sarcasm in his remark,  ‘what? Now?’  Be careful, God closed his mouth until after the answered prayer had been accomplished and named, John.

Now I doubt Zechariah or Elizabeth were anywhere near the manger physically, seeing as how these old folks were caring for their then three month old son when the Christ Child was born.  Nevertheless, this old faithful couple played just the role God chose for them in the narrative of the nativity and the life of Christ.

Watch out for folks who seem cut off from the joy of Christmas.  Speak to strangers.  Offer assistance.  Ask someone older for help or to go shopping or invite someone to share a conversation or a meal.  It is so easy to fall into being with folks we know, that our circle becomes tight and those on the fringes go unnoticed.  Don’t be a STRANGER.  Let Christ be in Christmas through how You and I treat ALL people this season.

And by the way…

Reach out to  the grumpy old people—wait a minute–I am one of those.  That’s ok, sometimes I need a reminder of what Christmas really is about, too.

Waste Not God’s Mandate to Be A Good Citizen

“Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens.

Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order.

It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society.

Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules.

Treat everyone you meet with dignity.

Love your spiritual family.

Revere God.

Respect the government.”

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:13-17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Waste Not the Good Citizen Card

Show respect for the offices of power

Show respect for civil law

Show that love conquers fear

Show yourself to be one who can

Cross the street, shake a neighbor’s hand

Keep the peace, follow God’s plan

Which never includes giving up what you believe

Or keeping your opinions up your sleeve.

Instead it is up to you and me, to be

Prayerful first, exhibiting courage based on kindness

Not empty mindedness.

To echo scripture:  Revere God, respect, love, and serve

Go over the top, give more than others seem to deserve

Waste not the mandate to be a good citizen.

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Waste Not Grace

As for me, I will sing about your strength; I will praise your loyal love in the morning.

For you are my refuge and my place of shelter when I face trouble.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭59:16‬ ‭NET‬‬

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Dependable Love
Unfathomable Grace
Strong arms that reach
Catching me there in midair
before my faith
Dissipates
Before the flames lick my feet
Before I give in to fear
There You are in my face
In your powerful embrace
I know without question
Dependable Love
Unfathomable Grace

Waste Not a single moment doubting the powerful embrace of Grace..Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Photo Credit:  Tom Wilson, Kentucky

Waste Not Movement–Do What You Can While You Can

If I keep my eyes on GOD, I won’t trip over my own feet.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:15‬ ‭MSG

imageWaste not walking
While you can
Even if you need a walker,
A cane, a hand
Waste not walking
Outdoors, indoors
A few steps here
A few steps there
Especially if you are going nowhere
Even if you forget
Why you rose to walk from this room
To that
Waste not movement
Don’t sit too long
Move while you can, upright
Posture conscious, eyes open
Waste not walking if you can
For there are many who cannot
And if you number in that span,
Move your arms, your hands,
Don’t just simply sit or lie
Waste not the chance to move
What ever body part you can
Blink your eyes, wiggle your ears
Waste not motion while you can
Even if you need a hand.
And with each effort sing a tune
Of gratitude.

 

Waste Not the Power of One

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:4‬ ‭

Waste not the value of ONE
One sheep
One coin
One child
One life in danger
When many are safe
One voice
One vote
One final embrace
One life in danger
When many are safe
One kiss
One hug
One kind word

One life in danger
When many are safe
One phone call
One note
One steadying arm
One life in danger
When many are safe
One praise
One prayer
One yielding hand
One life in danger
Though many are safe
God yielded
His One Son
One gesture
Of Grace
So great is
Heaven’s Love
So gratefully
Waste not the Power of One

One God, Triune

One me

One you

Seeking the one in danger
Until all are safe
Just ONE

by one, Until all are safe.

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