Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Vigil - Week Four

Jesus Promised as our Prince of Peace

In the first week of Advent, we remembered that Jesus comes as our Wonderful Counselor – Pure Wisdom. In the second week of Advent we celebrated that He comes as Mighty God – the omnipotent creator of all. In the third week, we considered that He comes to us as Everlasting Father – the source of all life.

In this last week of Advent, we embrace Him as the Prince of Peace.

Living in a world that is so full of strife, who of us hasn’t longed for peace? The Hebrew word for peace, however, means much more than the absence of conflict or the end of turmoil. Shalom conveys a deep sense of tranquility, wholeness and completion. Cornelius Plantinga Jr. puts it this way…

“We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.”

Bill Risinger says it this way… When the heavenly host said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14), we should have heard in this the news of hope. When peace was announced at Christmas, it was the coming of the transformation of the world from the way it’s not supposed to be into “the way things ought to be.” God was bringing Shalom to the world!

Christmas brought the good news that the Prince of Shalom had come to conquer sin and death and to establish His Kingdom on earth. This gives us real hope in the here and now. We are not waiting for pie-in-the-sky future stuff. While we wait for the return of our King Jesus to bring the final restoration of ultimate Shalom, we must move obediently with His Spirit to bring His Shalom Kingdom into our broken and needy world.

Scripture Reading
As you meditate on these Scriptures this week, remember that these were written by people who were familiar with great hardship and persecution. Some were even murdered for proclaiming this kind of shalom.

Monday – Phil 4:5-7; Tuesday – Jn 14:27; Christmas Day – Eph 2:14, 17-18

As you pray this week, ask yourself “what are the broken areas in my world that need His Shalom?” Then invite him to speak His Shalom into those situations. Ask Him to use YOU as an instrument of His Peace.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, speak Your shalom into our chaos. May Your deep shalom rule in our hearts, bringing wholeness to our brokenness. Teach us to become peacemakers – loving justice, doing right, and leading others along the path of peace.

You may also want to use this prayer, by St. Francis of Assisi, as a part of your daily prayers this week.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Vigil - Week Three

Jesus Promised as our Everlasting Father
In the first week of Advent, we remembered that Jesus comes as our Wonderful Counselor – Pure Wisdom. In the second week of Advent we celebrated that He comes as Mighty God – the omnipotent creator of all.

In this third week, we consider that He comes to us as Everlasting Father. Everlasting, because He always was and always will be. Father, because He is the Source of all life. How amazing that this infant Jesus was at the same time infinite God. Almost in the same breath, the prophet Isaiah calls him a “child,” and a “counselor,” a “son,” and “the everlasting Father.”

The Apostle Paul, in that great hymn quoted in Colossians reminds us that...

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation;
because by Him everything was created,
in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have first place in everything.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself
by making peace through the blood of His cross —
whether things on earth or things in heaven.

It’s often been said that our impressions of God are largely formed by our fathers. How interesting then that Jesus, the “image of the unseen God” is also called our Everlasting Father, the one who perfectly shows us what God is like – loving, providing, protecting, comforting, present, disciplining, consistent, serving, strong – the list goes on.

Each day this week, meditate on one of these Scriptures that speak to an aspect of the “eternal fathering” of Jesus.

Monday – Jn 1:1-5 (His eternal nature); Tuesday – Lk 12:22-34 (His provision);
Wednesday – 2 Cor 1:3-7 (His comfort); Thursday – Ps 91 (His protection);
Friday – Eph 3:14-21 (His deep love); Saturday – Heb 12:5-11 (His discipline)

Lord Jesus, I acknowledge You today as my Everlasting Father. A Father who loves, protects, guides and disciplines. I acknowledge today that You are good. Whatever my dysfunctional views of “father” may be, I pray that You would reveal Yourself to me today as a good father… the best Father. Draw me closer to the intimate relationship You desire for us to share as Father and child. ~ Amen

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Family Out in the Cold

We canceled 2 of our 3 worship services this morning. While folks were leaving after that 1st one, I noticed that the holy family in the stable was sorely unprepared for the inclement weather. I happened to have a small stocking cap in my office and was able to take care of Joseph.

However, the baby Jesus doesn't even have a blanket! I fear it might be too late for him... looks like a severe case of hypothermia.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Advent Vigil - Week Two

Week Two-Jesus Promised as our Mighty God
In this second week of Advent we celebrate that He comes as Mighty God. He who spoke the universe into existence and parted the sea, was the One who healed the sick and turned water into wine. He who caused Moses to tremble and take off his shoes, was the One who said “I AM” and caused soldiers in the garden to fall to the ground when they came to arrest him. He who breathed life into the first man, secured everlasting life with His resurrection power that defeated the grave.

When the John the Baptist questioned if Jesus was “…the One who was promised, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus himself replied “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the Good News.”

Read this description from Revelation 12…

I saw the Son of Man, dressed in a long robe, and with a gold sash wrapped around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool—white as snow, His eyes like a fiery flame, His feet like fine bronze fired in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of cascading waters. In His right hand He had seven stars; from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was shining like the sun at midday.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild? I think not. And who wants that kind of Savior anyway? It may make for a nice greeting card, but it won’t go very far when it comes to defeating evil, healing people, and setting the world right. No, we need a Mighty God to do that kind of work.

As you move through this second week of Advent, we encourage you to meditate on these texts that speak to Jesus’ great power:
(Monday—John 1, Tuesday—Colossians 1:15-20, Wednesday—Mark 4:35-41,
Thursday—Matthew 8:5-13, Friday—Mark 1:14-45, Saturday—Acts 3:1-10).

Before you pray, identify a specific area that you especially need to see Jesus’ might and power displayed. As an act of worship, go to Him now with that need and ask for His power to work in that situation.

Lord Jesus, I worship You today as my Mighty God. I acknowledge my weakness, my frailty, my powerlessness to do what most needs doing. I believe that You are able to anything that brings you glory. Believing that this would advance Your Kingdom and Your fame, I ask you now to ________________. I also ask for Your power to be revealed in me today. The power of Mighty God – Jesus to re-create, heal, defend, and fill me with the resurrection power of God. ~ Amen

Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent Vigil - Week One

I'll be posting here a collection of guided advent meditations that we are going through at our church. I hope they will be helpful to you as you navigate this holiday season...

\'ad-'vent\ noun (from Latin adventus, “arrival”)
1: The coming of Christ at the incarnation.
2: The period of 4 weeks before Christmas.

Vigil: \'vi-jəl\ noun (from Latin vigilia, “wakefulness”)
1: A period of sleeplessness.
2: An occasion for devotional watching or observance.

At Advent, we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus. We sing the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in a minor key and rehearse the feelings of abandonment and longing felt by those to whom God had become silent. We sing the refrain of the same song and “Rejoice”, for He has come—the WORD has become flesh. We watch with devotion for how He might come anew into our lives today.

In foretelling His coming, the prophet Isaiah declared that He would be known by four names...

Isaiah 9:6
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Each week in our Advent Vigil (a period of devoted watching for His incarnation) we want to reflect on one of the four names of the Promised One. We want to welcome Him into our lives and remind ourselves of how each of these beautiful names from this ancient prophecy (2,700 years old) perfectly speak to our need today.

Week One - Jesus Promised as our Wonderful Counselor
In our first week of Advent, we remember that Jesus came as our Wonderful Counselor. He is the One who knows and understands. He never needs to be informed, but rather informs every situation of our lives. His wisdom is complete, His counsel incomparable. He is never anything but wise in every thing He does. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that “if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.“ (James 1:5)

What are the things in your life right now that need the wisdom of Jesus? Where do you especially need clarity and understanding? Solomon (the wisest human besides Jesus) says that “… the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Pr. 2:6) Ask Him to give you the wisdom, knowledge and understanding you need, and then look for it, listen for it, earnestly seek it—from Him, not from the world.

This week we encourage you to read one chapter from Proverbs each day. We suggest that you read the chapter that corresponds with that days date (Monday—Prov. 1, Tuesday—Prov. 2, and so on).

Lord Jesus, I thank You and praise You for coming as my Wonderful Counselor. I recognize that you alone, O Lord, are the source of all wisdom. I confess to you my tendency to try to answer my questions with the world’s “wisdom”, which is foolishness to You. Come Lord, I open myself to receive Your wisdom in all areas of my life, especially _________. Amen