Christmas Day! Jesus Christ is Born!

* This post concludes a series of Advent devotionals that was posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Christmas Day: December 25 – Jesus Christ: God with Us!

Our Context   

What more can we say? God has entered our darkness and turned it into light. We were hopeless; but in Jesus Christ, God has filled us with an overflowing hope. We were without peace; but in Jesus Christ, God has enveloped us in his all-encompassing shalom. We were without joy; but in Jesus Christ, God has given us the gift of a joy that endures all circumstances in eager anticipation of Jesus Christ’s return. We desperately needed to be loved; and in Jesus Christ, God has lavished upon us the glorious riches of his love.  Jesus is the life that lights our way!  Continue reading

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Advent: Day 25

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Wednesday 24 December                   

Read: Isaiah 65:17-25

(light four candles)

Reflection

Have you noticed what’s missing from the nativity scenes that adorn our mantels? Blood, dirt, and manure. Mary has just given birth in a back room used for the animals! Yet, Mary’s clothes inevitably fall gracefully down her side with pleated folds protecting her modesty. Did she do a quick change of clothes after the messiness of birthing a baby? And her smiling face looks so freshly washed – no sweaty, dirty smudges, not a hair matted to forehead or cheek! Joseph stands peacefully by her side, though they’ve just finished a journey and his wife is giving birth to a child that is not his own. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 24

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Tuesday 23 December                

Read: Isaiah 61:1-3

(light four candles)

Reflection

Each Sunday in Advent last year and this year our church has proclaimed the Good News through a simple call and response between our children and the adults. The children gather at the front of the sanctuary. While facing the rest of those who have gathered that morning, they declare in a loud voice: “Jesus is coming!” To which the adults respond: “He’s almost here!” This simple act reminds us that our act of remembering Jesus’ birth is intended to deepen our anticipation and longing for the day when Jesus will return.

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Advent: Day 23

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Monday 22 December                   

Read: Isaiah 55

(light four candles)

Reflection

Christmas is almost here. In a way, we can hardly wait. Like children eager to unwrap our presents, we can be giddy, barely restraining our excitement for the coming day. At other times, we marvel at how quickly we have gone through this season. Is it Christmas-time already? Today – and this text in particular – provides us with a fitting pause then, inviting us to look back on our Advent journey, even while looking ahead to the celebration of Christmas Day. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 22 – Fourth Sunday

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Fourth Sunday of Advent: 21 December – God’s Lavish Love      

Our Context   

All we need is love…or so the song goes. Yet, we seem perpetually incapable of love. Our self-interests, our self-doubts, our self-actualizations – all our preoccupations with our own way of life keep getting in the way of love. Our motivations – whether comfortable homes and clothing, freedom and security, access to food, education, and healthcare, entertainment – all come at the cost of others, many of whom we will never see and whose names we will never know. How can we even begin to love God, if we don’t know how to love each other? Or ourselves? Where is the love that will light our way? Continue reading

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Advent: Day 21

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Saturday 20 December                   

Read: Isaiah 54:1-10

(light three candles)

Reflection

“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.” How harsh and out of place these words must have sounded at first! Think of Sarai, Abram’s wife, when the Lord visited them and promised a child. She responded with laughter – not from joy, but to protect herself from opening a dream deferred and destroyed. What else could she do after decades of her yearning, only to have her prayers for a child seemingly fall on God’s deaf ears. The promised joy of children and the fullness of life they bring seemed too cruel to dare imagine again. For that matter, think of Rebekah and Rachel and Hannah who also pleaded to God in the midst of their barrenness. In their own stories, each of these women depict the story of God’s people as a whole: so full of hope, yet seemingly so barren. When would they taste and see and hold the abundant and overflowing life God had promised them. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 20

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Friday 19 December                   

Read: Isaiah 52:7-12

(light three candles)

Reflection

Most schools in North America begin their two-week holiday break today. Christmas Day is less than a week away and many of our Christmas celebrations have already begun. “The signs of the season” are all around us. Trees and sugar cookies alike have been decorated. Presents are wrapped and beginning to accumulate. Meals are planned and special desserts are being baked. Laughter and games around family tables are anticipated, if not already taking place. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 19

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Thursday 18 December                   

Read: Isaiah 49:1-7

(light three candles)

Reflection

Those of us who live in North America (and perhaps elsewhere in the world) have a tendency to think in “us-vs-them” categories. Some of it is friendly competition: Canada national hockey teams vs anyone else; or, U.S. Olympic basketball vs the rest of the world. We cheer for and delight in our professional and collegiate teams. We adorn ourselves with all sorts of team toques, jerseys, and t-shirts. The more fanatical among us will even decorate our vehicles or a room in our house according to our allegiances. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 18

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Wednesday 17 December                

Read: Isaiah 44:1-5

(light three candles)

Reflection

Perhaps, one of life’s greatest questions, which nearly all of us ask at one point or another is “Who am I?” The challenge many of us face is that most of our responses to that question have a certain level of instability and insecurity to them. We might say I am a beautiful person. But shifting cultural definitions, age, disease, and tragic accidents all threaten our beauty. We might say I am an intelligent person. But even the most intelligent among us face the threats of Alzheimer’s and dementia, brain injuries, addictions, and emotional breakdowns. We might identify ourselves by our jobs, our family structure or reputation, our parenting skills, our financial success, our ability to communicate, or any number of other things – all of which can be undone in a moment. Those who take this question seriously come to recognize the frailty of our lives. Continue reading

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Advent: Day 17

* This post is part of an Advent devotional being posted daily during Advent 2014. For an intro to this series of posts, please read the initial post here

Tuesday 16 December                

Read: Isaiah 43:1-7

(light three candles)

Reflection

The passage opens with a call not to fear. This call makes sense in those situations when we are afraid. Arguably, when we are afraid, joy becomes impossible. This repeated refrain of “be not afraid” gains extra importance during the Advent season. Think for a moment about how many times it comes up in scripture. Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua all heard these words from God’s own  voice. “Do not be afraid” echoes as a constant refrain in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and returns in Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, and Zechariah. Angels tell Zechariah, Joseph, and Mary not to be afraid. And Jesus repeatedly reassures his disciples that they do not need to afraid.   Continue reading

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