Monthly Archives: December 2015

Christmas: The Ordinary and The Extraordinary

When Jesus had finished saying these things,
the crowds were amazed at his teaching,
because he taught as one who had authority,
and not as their teachers of the law.
~Matthew 7:28-29

We celebrate Christmas knowing the baby born in humble conditions will grow to be a man of great authority. He will live out his true identity as Prophet, Priest and King. And in the end, the Son of God will give us more than just words to live by. He gave his life so that we might live in the Father’s Kingdom each new day and beyond.

Each year at Christmas, we are reminded of how the ordinary becomes extraordinary when God is involved. And we are truly amazed once again, just as those who heard the teachings of Jesus were amazed by his compassion and wisdom. But Jesus wasn’t born and didn’t teach because he wanted us to be amazed at his authority. He wants us to give up trying to build our own kingdoms and give him authority over our lives.

As Christmas day is celebrated and the new year begins, may you and I be amazed by the sacred mystery of living in the Father’s Kingdom where the ordinary is always extraordinary.

For Christmas is not merely a day like every other day.
It is a day made holy and special by a sacred mystery.
It is not merely another day in the weary round of time.
Today, eternity enters into time,
and time sanctified is caught up in eternity.
~Thomas Merton

Advent: Building Wisely

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came,and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.
~Matthew 7:24-27

Earlier in Matthew’s gospel we read the account of the wise men and King Herod. This part of the Christmas story filled with intrigue. And I am intrigued by the thought that perhaps the wise men are like the man who built his house on the rock and Herod like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. King Herod has power but the wise men have perseverance. King Herod wants to through his weight around and the wise men want to worship the king of the Jews. King Herod is building his kingdom upon his own own whims and the wise men are building upon God’s prophecy.

And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.
~Matthew 2:6

As the Sermon on the Mount draws to a close, Jesus offers a final word picture. The foundations of this world will fall away but the Kingdom of God provides a safe foundation upon which God’s people can build their faith, find hope and live as dearly loved children.

May our worship throughout the rest of advent help us build wisely on the everlasting foundation of Christ the newborn King.

Advent: Coming of our Lord

Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned. Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ ~Matthew 7:15-23 (the MSG)

During Advent we read what the prophets in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New Testament said about the coming of our Lord and Savior. As Jesus draws his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to a close he warns us to follow leaders who are authentic and true. Spiritually healthy people are life-giving to be around and their ministries multiply. Moreover, we can trust men and women who live humbly by faith, proclaiming with joy:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

During the season of waiting may you and I announce with great joy the many ways our Lord has come into our lives.

Advent: A Doorway of Hope

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~Matthew 7:14-15

Plainly in the eyes of Jesus there is no good reason for not doing what he said to do, for he only tells us to do what is best.  ~Dallas Willard

In this first week of Advent, I see the narrow gate as a doorway of hope that leads to life.  So I am trying to narrow my choices and make my way through dependence on God’s best for me even when it is hard, rather than choosing the wider way of independence which appears easier to navigate. The more time I spend reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, the more I see how many good reasons there are to simply do what Jesus says.  Advent reminds us that God sent his Son because he only wanted the best for us.

During this time of waiting, may you and I consider the road we are on, notice the pitfalls we come upon, and then give thanks to God for the hope we experience in his kingdom now and for eternity.