Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Hope Isaiah 9:2-7

Christmas has no meaning with out Christ.

Christmas has no hope to offer—nothing to sustain without Jesus coming into our midst. Christ came intent on changing us. He came to redeem us to make us different—not just for a day but for ever.

Isaiah spoke about it so plainly about 2700 years ago. He wrote about light coming to a people in deep darkness (Isaiah 9:2). 2000 years ago the world needed a savior. And looking around today we can see that we still need a savior. God planned to come into our world and Christmas is the moment.

To those outside the faith it's a great mystery to us why the one who made the universe would enter into time. To those who know Christ by faith the reason is simple—Christ really loves and care for us.

The light of Christ is coming into our darkness. Jesus is the Light. He is the one who exposes the truth both ugly and beautiful in us and our world not just as an example but to redeem and renew lost sinners like me. The ancient prophet Isaiah called him the prince of peace and the ever lasting father (Isaiah 9:6-7). The prophets spoke of one who would make a difference.

The question for me this year is very personal: Will I be different because of Christmas?
Will I choose the light or the darkness. Pax, John

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mary's Hope Luke 1:39-55

At Christmas our culture loves to tell stories. It's almost a time of collective reminisence--and also dreaming of the families and culture that we always we wish we were part of but really aren't. The gift the church brings at Christmas is the one story that brings hope. It's a story that starts with Mary. Mary was part of a much bigger story. She was never the central character--but she was always a part of the greatest story ever told: the story of our redemption.
The story started long ago--no human really knows when because no human was alive in that moment when God created the cosmos. God took great pleasure and joy in his creation (Genesis 1). And by faith we know God still values what he made--but it's somehow different. Those who populate the world today, while made in God's own image, have been broken away from God. If it wasn't so there would be no need for a savior and the hope he brings. If it wasn't so there would be no deep longing to belong to something significant.
The a vague sense that something's wrong is punctuated by acts of evil and injustice. People of faith see sin, death, and evil as everyday evidence that we need a savior (John 1:1-5, 14-15).
So where do we find hope? We find hope in the story of Christ's coming for us. If you are blessed to read Mary's story you drink in the details of God stepping into our lives (Luke 1:26-56).
Jesus, the very God who made heaven and earth, grew in the body of a young woman. A scandal grew as he grew. She wasn't married. The risk intesified for both child and mother. Her husband to be might abandon her or worse (Matthew 1:17-18). The particulars in this part of Jesus' story call to us from the deepest part human history and human longing. The tough parts of our lives hurt and hope; pain and promise are right there A young pregnant woman insists that God is somehow part of the story. Her husband to be prepares to leave her. And the woman open to the will of God gives life--and the will of God a chance.
It's easy to make Mary into a bigger than life sized human being. But the scandal of her pregnancy and openness to God's work have their greatest impact when we realize how surprising and wonderfully normal she was. So what set Mary apart?Could it be something as simple as cooperating with God's plan of salvation.
As you consider Mary's story look around you. How is God at work in the middle of ordinary life to bring eternal hope in the promise of salvation. May God bless us this Christmas with a clear vision of His coming. Pax, John

Monday, December 3, 2012

His Word will not pass away Luke 21:25-36

Jesus made a promise: his words will not pass away. Everything else we know--heaven and earth will pass away--but his words will not. There's a great truth and a word of hope to hear in these words. Jesus is making promises that last and in his promise we find an invitation to stand up and proclaim his Word and the hope we have found in Christ to the world (Luke 21:28).

One of the great joys of being a Lutheran is the way many churches join together pooling abiltities and resources to help after disasters. Truth is I am often most proud to call myself a Lutheran when gathered with Lutherans and other Christians in service to those who've endure tramatic events.

Over the past 15 years in church work I've been there with other Lutherans after tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. Brothers in sisters in Christ come together to serve a couple days and even a couple years after disasters struck. It's a mission of rebuilding sometimes from the ground up.

Rebuilding in a broken world is an amazing calling for us as church--it's a calling to step in when everything has fallen away knowing that the One who won't fall away calls us into these situations to serve our neighbors. Great empires and cities might very will fall--but God's Word will remain and in that Word we find hope. The assurance we have that the Word of God will not pass away is it's guaruntor. The one who stands behind the is the Word is the One in the Cosmos who will not pass away.
Pax, John