Rejoice

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“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

“Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 35.1-10 (NRSV)

Christmas Eve is here! It is the night so many children can hardly wait for and a day of excitement of all sorts for everyone around the world. Tonight is a night we welcome Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace into our homes. It is a night some will welcome Santa Claus into their homes as well. It is a night we can all welcome Jesus into our homes again as well.

Every time God shows up there is reason to rejoice! We come to the edge of time (the fullness of time as Paul writes) and celebrate God coming into the world both as the end of Advent and Beginning of Christmas. We remember the Jesus of the manger and we wait for Him to come again and bring justice and redemption to our world. Both are cause for celebration.

Both are also cause for anxiety as well. Those of us who have built our lives upon things other than God will find them shaken up… as Ebeneezer Scrooge found out in A Christmas Carol. Others will find themselves lifted up out of the storms of life. The first shall be last and the last shall be first and those who served the least, the last, and the lost shall find themselves face to face with their king. Is it really any wonder why the traditions of Santa Claus, who embodies generosity also keeps a list of who is naughty and nice?

It all comes together tonight and, as much effort as we put into it, we will find ourselves surprised yet again by God presence coming into our celebrations, and if we pay attention, we will find new cause to rejoice in the love our God sends into the world tonight.

  • How will you celebrate the birth of Christ today?
  • What do you hope Christ will bring into your life tonight?
  • Who will you share your hope, love, joy, and peace with today?

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel has come to us, O Israel

Saturday December 24, 2016

Presence

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On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. Isaiah 4:2-6 (NRSV)

The last words of the great Christian reformer John Wesley were, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Here Isaiah, paints a picture of the restored Kingdom of God in Jerusalem. There is no mention of streets of gold or “a big, big yard where we can play football”, but there is life and there is holiness. It says the Lord will create a cloud over the whole assembly by day and smoke and flaming fire by night, which is an allusion back to the time that the Hebrew people followed God in the wilderness for 40 years.

Don’t get so wrapped up in the imagery of what a city with a burning cloud over it would look like and miss the main point. For us foreignors, it certainly would look frightening… but for those in Jerusalem, Isaiah says it is their shelter. It guards them from the heat of the day and acts as a refuge from the storms that come their way. It is, in its own way, just like a mother hen who gathers her young underneath her wings.

As we prepare for Christmas, presents are on all our minds, but the most important gift given is the presence of God.

  • Where do you feel the presence of God most?
  • When do you feel the presence of God the least?
  • What can you do today to bring yourself into God’s presence and give your own presence as a gift to Him?

Emmanuel, Emmanuel,

His name is called Emmanuel.

God with us, revealed in us,

His name is called Emmanuel.

Saturday December 3, 2016