Monthly Archives: December 2008

JOY to the world???

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” —Isaiah 9:6a

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Even the world around us seems to be a little kinder & a bit more thoughtful. Yet I am also aware that a very real part of the Christmas story is remembering how King Herod was nervous about the rumors that there was a baby king out there somewhere, so he ordered that any baby boy be killed immediately. And hundreds of mothers and fathers found their joy over new life turned into the depths of despair and grief over fresh pain. Christmas wasn’t joyful for them. (Matthew 2:16-18)

This year, even as our family celebrates Christmas with Joshua who is growing more excited every day, we also feel the sting of pain as we miss loved ones who’ve died in the past few years. For me, this will be the first year without my mom.

Many others have had these same feelings we’re experiencing. Christmas isn’t the same anymore because a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, or even a close friend is gone now and the holiday is now a stark reminder of what is missing in our lives. We miss our loved ones. We’re not sure if we even want to decorate or celebrate or even go to church… because it hurts too much. Can we bear that much pain? Do we have to? What do we do? How can we walk through this time of joy and peace, when we feel neither? What do we do about the loneliness? What about the questions and the doubts?

As Christians, we turn to the Bible, where we read: “My help comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:2)

But how can that help come? In the times of grief and sorrow, it may be nice to hear how good God is, and how helpful He can be, but deep down, we need to know how He’s going to help us!

First, we can expect to find God’s help as we go to Him in prayer. Jeremiah 29:13-14 reminds us that if we seek God, we WILL find Him. If we want to know His help and His comfort, we have only to ask & He will be with us. In fact, that’s what it means when we call Jesus, Emmanuel: “God Is With Us.”

Secondly, we can expect to find God’s help through the words He’s already spoken… in the Bible. For it is in the Bible that we read words like these:
“He heals the brokenhearted & binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4)
“I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

The third way we can expect to find God’s help is through his people. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are expected to “rejoice with those that rejoice & weep with those that weep…” (Romans 12:15). God, through his people, weeps with us, even as we grieve… As we surround ourselves with friends and family, even though it might be painful. As we continue to celebrate important times, with important people. As we talk together and weep together about our loved ones, our memories, our doubts, our fears, and our feelings. And a funny thing will begin to happen as we remember together, and weep together, and walk through our grief together… the loneliness will begin to heal and the weeping will eventually turn to rejoicing.

This year, a part of the message of Christmas, for me at least, is a fresh reminder that God wants to be with us… If we’ll let Him. We need to intentionally surround ourselves with God’s people, His Word, and with prayer… For “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” and He is Emmanuel… God with Us!

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Can Divorce Be Forgiven???

My cousin Gordon wrote a note on facebook about how difficult it is for some Christians to accept someone who has been divorced… in fact, SOME will deliberately SHUN even a family member who has divorced. He challenged his readers to rethink that practice and make a change.

Now, I DO agree that Scripture is clear that God HATES divorce… If the concern is over the SIN of divorce, OK… but Scripture also says that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and WILL FORGIVE our sins and Scripture is also clear that Jesus said there was ONLY ONE unforgiveable sin… And he did NOT spell it D-I-V-O-R-C-E. So to justify the “shunning” some religious traditions prescribe and practice because of the ‘sin’ of divorce, requires that you believe that Jesus was wrong. Is that such a good idea?…

OR… Perhaps the shunning of a divorcee is simply a statement that we believe God is powerless to forgive and Christ’s sacrifice was not really enough. After all, who does He think He is… God?
Seems theologically dangerous to me. Wasn’t Lucifer condemned to Hell for trying to overrule God?? Who are we to call something ‘unpardonable’ when God gave His Son, and Christ shed His blood, to forgive ANYONE who repents?

AND if God HAS TO condemn a divorcee because divorce is sin, then God must HAVE TO condemn the gossip to Hell along with the glutton and the liar and those who judge others.
I choose to believe the Bible and the God it reveals to us… The God who despises and hates ALL sin, including divorce, and yet is ALWAYS faithful and just to forgive us when we confess our sins.

One more thought: Jesus taught us to pray: “forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE those who sin against us.” I wonder if He really meant it?

He also said: “Let him without sin, cast the first stone.”

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A tune that’s been running through my mind…

This Christmas, I find myself returning again and again to the carol: Angels from the Realms of Glory. I ‘hear’ it in my head, I sometimes catch myself humming it, I was even whistling it one day! But I never sing it (except during church) because I know the music, not the words.

Today I actually looked it up in our hymnal (#220). And now I love this song even more!

As a pastor, I get tired of songs or poems or readings that just tell you something… but that’s it. You know, the reading done because it’s this holiday or that and Mrs. McGillicuddy likes to have that 52 stanza poem read every year on that day. Or the song that says “I can’t wait until I can tell you about my special day…” and then never does tell you about it.

This song is SO different from those descriptions! First of all, it is a story song… almost a ballad kind of idea. If you take all the verses of this song, you have the high points of a complete story (in this case, of Jesus’ birth). This isn’t one of those songs where you can easily get away with just singing the first and the last verse! Or you’ll miss a big piece of the story!

Secondly, I like the way the song is actually addressed to someone. While many hymns and ‘churchy’ songs are addressed to God, many times they aren’t. Think of ‘How Great Thou Art’ where the whole thing is addressed to God, as opposed to a song like ‘Amazing Grace’ which speaks about God and God’s grace.

This song is aimed at those that will encounter God… It is addressed to the angels who were in the primary role of being spectator, to the shepherds who were in their usual role of being the outcasts, the sages (or wise men) who were the intellectual (and probably even rich!) people of their day, and the saints… which is the very term the apostle Paul used whenever he spoke of people who followed Jesus and accepted him as their Lord and Savior. THAT’s US!!! We encounter God, through the birth and life of Jesus, in just the same ways that those shepherds, angels, and even sages did. We come and we worship him. We give him the gift of our attention and our presence. We make him more important than anything else.

This Christmas, I pray that we all come to a deeper understanding of OUR role in the Christmas story. The angels, the shepherds, the wise men, and even the Holy Family itself are all incomplete without us… the ones who believe in Jesus and accept Him as OUR Lord and OUR Savior. We are part of the Christmas story!

And thousands of years later, the invitation still calls out to all…

“Come & Worship…
Come & Worship…
Worship Christ The Newborn King!”

Christmas Eve service starts at 7:00 on Dec. 24th… Come & Worship With us!

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