November 27

Advent has begun; another way in which the church is counter cultural. We anticipate the coming of Christmas for four weeks. We prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Then, we celebrate Christmas until epiphany (Jan. 6th), or at least that is the ideal. Very often, we give into the culture and celebrate Christmas before Christmas and leap over the season. There are benefits and drawbacks to both holding the traditional line and also to going with the cultural flow.

Maintaining the traditional Christmas season is a way to witness to the world that Christ is the important part of Christmas. All the preparation is for his coming, not for Santa or for gifts.

Celebrating in a more culturally relevant way, such as singing Christmas songs before Christmas or putting the baby in the manger before Christmas eve, may reach more people. The message that Christmas is about God born as a child may reach hearts and ears that are not in church for the traditional Christmas services.

Whatever way that your church chooses to celebrate the coming of Christ, we know that Advent is a time to examine our hearts once again. It is a time to be humble before God. It is a time to acknowledge that God is in control and chooses to come to us, to reach out in love. It is a time to turn our lives once more over into the hands of God.


November 21

            We’ve just come through a very trying ordeal as a nation, and we’re unsure about what the future holds with new leaders taking the reins of government next January. As Banquo said in Macbeth, “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak then to me.” Some people see the imminent change of power as a good thing; others, not so much. Those who think this is not a good thing might very well end up lamenting that “God is nowhere.”
            I am not here to debate the fitness of one candidate over the others, however, because there is another way to look at this. If you add something to the last word of the sentence “God is nowhere,” you completely change the meaning of the sentence. All you have to add is a space between the W and the H, which changes “nowhere” to “now here.” A completely different meaning, and one which permits us to have hope for the future.

            We can place our faith and hope in a God who believes in love and justice and wisdom. As the Bible reminds us, “I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (Amos 5:24); “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8); “She [Wisdom] calls to the crowds along the main street… ‘Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise’” (Proverbs 1:21a, 23). As long as we – kings and commoners alike – remember that God is now here, we will be able to do great things.

November 14

We don't see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God
Hope unswervingly
Love extravagantly
And the best of the three is Love
1 Corinthians 13: 12-13 (The Message Translation)

We have all read and heard 1 Corinthians 13 many times. Sometimes, I like to look at the way Eugene Peterson translates scripture in "The Message".  It can make me "hear" it in a different way.  That is what happened when I read this passage prompted by "The Upper Room" last month. The daily devotion was entitled "The Gift of Love". I think in the past, I have thought of romantic love in this passage because it is heard at many weddings. But I now realize it refers to God's love, which is a very different type of love. God's love encompasses all the types of love we think of, as well as some we don't. We certainly understand how to love our spouse or our children or our dear friends, but what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves or even our enemies? I think we all struggle with that. I am not sure as flawed humans we are capable of loving our neighbor, but I do know from personal experience, with God's help, we can even love our enemies. We all have people in our lives we struggle with. I urge all of us to pray for our hearts to be changed and for the strength to see those we struggle with through the eyes of God. Amen.


November 6

My husband and I attended a dinner for the health care system he works for this past        
weekend. Being somewhat of an introvert, I was not anxious to attend the dinner since I
did not know anybody. At the beginning of the evening, a physician in his late forties sat
down next to us. We exchanged information about where we lived and discovered that
this gentleman had graduated from John Hopkins University and that his wife grew up in

Timonium. He told us that he now lived in a small town in central Pennsylvania. We talked about our families, and he then shared that he had a severe heart attack five years ago that changed his life. During this time, he had undergone a profound and sudden revelation of God, which he described as “earth-shaking”.  He proceeded to tell us that he felt called to serve God after this happened. He grew up Catholic but was somewhat skeptical that God was actually present in his life. As he said, he just went through the motions of being a Christian and didn’t really think much about God. After the heart attack, he became very passionate about serving God. One of those ways of serving included prison ministry. He shared that he learned more from ministering to the prisoners then they learned from him. At the present he is in a five year training program to become a deacon in his church. I must admit I did not expect to feel God’s presence at the dinner table that night, but I did. It was a reminder of how God uses people, if only we open our hearts.