Sunday, December 26, 2010

January 2, 2011

Scriptures for January 2nd: Isaiah 60: 1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12 Theme: Epiphany Song: This Little Light of Mine – UMH 585

Isaiah: The Israelites had been away from their homes for 39 years. They had no idea of what to expect, or what to do when they got back. When they returned after their life having been abandoned, they found total devastation, a thick darkness. There was nothing. Isaiah had to say something to them that would get them motivated to rebuild and not to lose total hope. He uses the powerful words of Isaiah – arise and shine, your light has come. Those words are so powerful, they still inspire us today. We can be grateful that our nation has never totally been destroyed, but there are times when our lives are. When we look at the world we see hopeless situations that no amount of work can help. With God’s help and intervention, anything is possible. We have to believe that.

Matthew : This is the first Sunday of Epiphany – the first Sunday of the star. In Matthew, the wise men come to visit Mary at her house, and they give her baby gifts. In our minds, this happens soon after the baby was born, and in our minds, Herod finds out quickly. In reality, this is over a spa n of a few years. But the eternal point for us is that salvation is not just for the Jews. It is for anyone who is wise enough to accept it. Epiphany is the point when we realize that our actions are not our own, but they are God’s. God is working in our lives, to make a difference not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. What is God revealing anew to you this year?

Questions: When in your life have you experienced total darkness? What darkness is present in the world today? How does God come as the light? What is your greatest source of joy in difficult times? Was Jesus really King of the Jews? Was he a threat to Herod? What convinces us to make Jesus our King? How do we pay homage to Jesus in our lives?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 26, 2010

Scriptures for December 26th: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23 Theme: the story and the implications of the first Christmas

Hebrews: This book spells out what it means for us to have a savior who is incarnate (in the flesh). It gives all of the gory details of why we need a savior and why Jesus is that savior for us. But is also reminds us that even though we are grateful for the little baby in the manger; it is not just the fact that Jesus was born that saves us. We are saved through his suffering for us. In his suffering he atoned for all that we have done wrong, and he showed that he loved us unconditionally. In his suffering, he acknowledged that there would be some sort of suffering in all of our lives. If Jesus can endure the ultimate pain, we have an example to endure whatever life brings us. And we can still sing and celebrate that through Christ we are victorious through whatever it is.

Matthew : This is the painful story of the slaughter of the innocents. Joseph had another dream that in order to save the messiah, that he needed to get out of the country and protect his family. In the absence of the Holy Family, King Herod kills every boy under the age of 2. The world was still a dangerous place for the righteous. We can be happy that the Lord survived, but we must also mourn the loss of all of the other babies. But in God’s wisdom he made sure that the baby who would change everything lived and grew to be a grown man. The Lord works in mysterious ways in all of our lives – blessed be the name of the Lord!

Questions: Jesus is our priest, our brother, our partner, our savior – which image of Christ is most helpful to you right now? How does Jesus share in your suffering at this moment? How does Jesus help you overcome that suffering? Does the story of the innocent children killed make you happy or sad? Is there ever a real purpose in a baby dying? How does our faith help us understand the pain? What do we pray for to prevent this from happening again in our time?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 19, 2010

Scriptures for December 19th: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1- 7; Matthew 1:18-25; Theme: The prophecy of hope fulfilled

Isaiah: The leaders of Israel felt that they were under attack. There were hiding, and felt that the only way they could be rescued was if God were to intervene. Isaiah answers their fear by telling them that God’s presence is already with them and is working to set them free. The threat that looms so large today, will disappear. A maiden will have a child, by the time that child is old enough to go to school, everything will work itself out. So many times are waiting for God to do a magic intervention, when all it takes is for to be patient and realize that God is not just a part of the future, but also a part of the present.

Matthew : The waiting is almost over, Advent is almost over, and the baby will arrive. Every year at this time we have a scripture on Mary’s journey to becoming the mother of God. Matthew also mentions the struggles of Joseph at this time. How can he accept that the woman who he is supposed to marry is already pregnant. God speaks to him in a dream and tells him that it is okay. He does the right things, and is committed to be a dedicated wife and father, and to raise this special child. Where would we be if Joseph had not listened to his dream? Where would we be, if we did not dream and follow them to God’s plan?

Questions: What oppressive forces are present in your life right now, which is appears will never go away? If you think about it, what ways is God present with you now? What does God need to work out in order for you to have a better future? How does your faith help you stand tall in difficult situations? What do you do, and who do you listen to when you are facing a difficult situation? Who are the Josephs in your life, who helped you even though they didn’t have to? How do your dreams speak to you?