January 19, 2016

The New Year

“And when Jesus had said these things,
he went on ahead, going to Jerusalem.”
–Luke 19:28

“These things,” which Jesus had said, happen to have been in parables, but almost any day in the years of his ministry or any page in the Gospels could have ended with “he went on ahead, going to Jerusalem.”  Before Jesus went ahead this time, he had trained followers to go with him, but whether they were close or whether he had to summon them from a distance, he was always “ahead” of his disciples.

That word, “ahead,” is a very eye-catching, soul stretching way to think of our Lord.  In fact, it was one of his core characteristics. He was not content to stay with things as they were, not able to roam the landscape without direction.  Those who followed him soon realized this.  They learned: they were not to sleep when he needed them: they were not to rest when there was work to be done: they were not to run around in circles pointlessly. 

Even today, if we want to follow or go looking for him, know that one of the things we will find is comfort - but also challenge.  Know that no matter how far you have progressed in your Christian journey Jesus will always be one step ahead urging you to move along.

Knowing you are already ahead of us, Lord, in the New Year ahead give us the strength and courage we need to follow your lead. 

January 2, 2016

Season of Epiphany

The season of Epiphany is when Christians celebrate the “shining forth” or revelation of God to humankind in human form in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a time of widening-light, of manifestation, of discovery.  Epiphany is on January 6th. The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. 

Later, additional meanings were added - the visit of the Magi, Christ's baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences. 

For the Church, the Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of humankind. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where the Church comes together in the covenant of brotherhood/sisterhood to love one another as Christ commanded.

I like the unique way Carla Mae Streeter describes it:
“Epiphany is the season of exposure, 
when God plays peek-a-boo.”

“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning,” the author of First John tells us (see 1 Jn. 1:1-2:2) “we saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands this one who is light itself... we proclaim this to you,” ...so that all of you may participate in keeping the circumference of the light of Epiphany ever-widening by the mission, by the outreach, by the work you do in the world around you.

May the ever-widening circumference of God’s light reveal to you this New Year that it is not so much God playing peek-a-boo with you as it is YOU playing peek-a-boo with God that hinders your Epiphany.

December 21, 2015

Christmas Poem

Christmas Greeting

This greeting now comes your way
With good wishes and a prayer,
That you may have a blessed Christmas day
As God’s gift of love you share.

May the Christmas message ring
From within hearts of joy;
Proclaiming how our gracious King
Came to earth as a little boy.

And may you know God’s wondrous peace
Within the new year ahead;
That God’s blessings may not cease,
As by him you are daily led.

By: Judith Searle

December 8, 2015

Counting Down the Days Until Christmas

         While counting down the days until Christmas 
              here are 24” things to always remember 
                       and1” thing to NEVER forget:
Your presence is a present to the world.
You are unique and one of a kind.
Your life can be what God desires it to be.
Take the days just one at a time.

Count your blessings, not your troubles.
You’ll make it through whatever comes along.
Within you are many of the answers you seek.
Understand, have courage, remain faithful.

Don’t put limits on yourself.
Many dreams are waiting to be realized.
Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened.
Reach to the sky with prayer.

Nothing wastes more energy than worrying.
The longer one carries a problem, the heavier it gets.
Don’t take things too seriously.
Live a life of serenity, not a life of regrets.

Remember that a little love goes a long way.
Remember that good memories live on forever.
Remember that doing the right thing is a wise investment.
Remember that friends are God’s life preservers.

Realize that it’s never too late.
Listen more to learn more.
Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Have hope, promote peace, give the gift of grace.

And NEVER forget -- God‘s gift to the world -- Jesus Christ.

November 28, 2015

The Christmas Spirit: 5 Steps

The Christmas Spirit: 5 Steps
By: Jason E. Royle

1)  When you go from believing in the Christmas spirit: smiling faces, unexpected hugs, unwarranted acts of kindness, to storing the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year long—you have taken a spiritual step.

2)  When you go from safeguarding love inside you to spreading the seeds of God’s love to those around you—you have taken a spiritual step.

3)  When you go from needing "things" to needing something more, from wanting more of the temporary to searching for more of that which is eternal—you have taken a spiritual step.

4)  When you go from believing in the meaning of Christmas to exemplifying the meaning of Christmas—you have taken a spiritual step.

5)  When you go from getting upset over not getting every gift for Christmas you wanted to realizing every breath you take is a gift—you have taken a spiritual step.  May the Christmas spirit been seen in your life, both now and forever.   

Amish horse & buggy, Schaefferstown, PA

November 23, 2015

O' Little Town of Bethlehem

Jesus was born in a specific place, a Judean sheep-town that can be located on a map and visited in person. The good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ therefore is not a kind of “once upon a time in a Disney movie” story, but the account of real people in real places.

In Hebrew, the name Bethlehem means “a house of bread.” Think about it. The village where Jesus was born was named after a human need as basic as eating.

Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that our Christmastime celebration is not a kind of “escape from reality,” a few days or weeks of fairy-tale spending and pretending out of the year, but that the coming of Christ  (both at Bethlehem and into our lives) signals a real concern given by God to meet our real, most basic human needs—new life, a second chance, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love, grace, faith, generosity, love thy neighbor, joyfulness, humility, acceptance, courage, devotion, self-control, justice, kindness, moderation, stewardship, patience, hospitality, commitment, discernment, integrity, virtue, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, and salvation.

How much of your Christmas celebration is merely redundant and unnecessary, and how much is truly essential, truly spiritual?

O’ little town of Bethlehem…
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight. 

November 17, 2015

She Gave Her All

One Sunday morning a mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. So she gave her daughter a quarter and a dollar to put in the offering plate during church."Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told her. 

When church was over, as they were walking to the car, the mother asked her daughter what amount she had put in the offering plate. “Well,” said the girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the offering plate was passed the preacher said that we should all be cheerful givers, and I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.”

Unfortunately the girl was persuaded by selfishness rather than sacrifice. She could have kept the quarter and given away the dollar, instead she did the opposite. Just like in the story about a widow (see Mark 12:41-44) who could have kept back one of the coins, it wouldn’t have been much, but it would have been something, but instead she gave them both away.

So Jesus calls his disciples to him and points to a widow with two coins in her hand. He wanted them to take note of the sacrifice of her gift.  “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others,” Jesus said.  But how can that be, Jesus?

Because the widow held nothing back. She gave her all. Are you giving God your all, or holding something back?