Learning from Mary

By Charles W. Christian

I once heard a Catholic priest tell a joke about a scene in Heaven. Jesus walks up to a Protestant and a Catholic and says to them, “I am glad to see you two getting along so well.” Then Jesus turns to the Protestant and says, “I would like to introduce you to my mother.  I don’t think you two have met!”

We Protestants in the crowd laughed, but it challenged me to take a closer look at what we as Christians – both Protestants and Catholics – can learn from Mary.

Based on the Gospels, here are a few lessons that come to mind:

  • We can be available for the work of God: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
  • We can allow faith in God to override our fears:  [Elizabeth said to her], “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her” (Luke 1:45).
  • We can embody thankfulness:  “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
  • We can allow God to use us to speak prophetically to a world in need of a Savior: “He [God] has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered the proud. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:51-52).
  • We can learn to treasure God’s gifts: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There are many other lessons we can learn from Mary’s example.  During this season of Advent, may we, like Mary, approach the future with humility, faithfulness, and hope.

God has chosen His Church to be the bearers of the good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Let us adore Him, and let us share this good news by the power of the Holy Spirit as we journey together through Advent.

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Prayer for the week:

Teach us obedience, Lord
In every part of our lives
Ears to hear your word
Hands to do your work
Feet to walk your path
A heart for all your people
A mouth to shout your praise
A childlike faith
Humility
Confidence
That says
To the possible
And the impossible
I am the Lord’s servant
May it be to me as you have said.
Amen

(John Birch at faithandworship.com)

This article was originally published at: Holiness Today

 

Come, All You Not So Faithful

By Rev. Chris Gilmore

One of my favorite Christmas carols begins with the line, O, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. I imagine shepherds and wise men singing these words and asking others to join them as they visit the newborn and long-expected Savior. It is an invitation to gather around Jesus to celebrate his coming.  Come, all you faithful.

But what about the not-so-faithful? Are they invited as well? Can only the joyful and triumphant come to Jesus?

If so the guest list will be remarkably small. Even those who are the most enthusiastic about Jesus are at times unfaithful. We all fail to live up to our own standards, let alone God’s.  We’ve all felt defeated. Honestly, some of us find ourselves here quite often.

As we read the gospels we find that the invitation is much broader than the faithful and joyful. There we see that it is Christ himself who does the inviting. Jesus reveals that his kingdom and his table and his grace are for all people. That he came for the whole world and he invites any and all to come to him. Jesus embodies a love that is for people wherever and whoever they may be.

Sometimes we don’t communicate that message very well. Sometimes we exclude folks who are messy or who sin differently than we do. Sometimes we find it difficult to make room for people who aren’t just like us. Sometimes we act as if we’ve been faithful when we haven’t. Sometimes we pretend to be joyful and triumphant when we are anything but. Sometimes our behavior builds barriers between Jesus and the people he loves.

But Jesus is better than that. And its his party, not ours. And he says you’re invited.

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So yes, come all ye faithful. And come all ye not so faithful too.

Come all you who feel defeated and who feel hopeless.

Come all who are worn out and carry heavy burdens.

Come you who are stressed and at the end of your rope.

Come all who feel dirty and unlovable.

Come you who grieve.

Come wise men with gifts fit for a king.

And come drummer boys with nothing of value to bring.

Come lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes.

Come you who feel overlooked or pushed out or rejected.

Come shepherds and doctors and inn keepers and waitresses.

Come people from every tribe and every tongue. Come young and old.

Come you who feel betrayed. And you have done the betraying.

Come all who blew it this year. And last year.

Come doubters and skeptics. Come with your questions and your intellect.

Come all who hunger and thirst for something more.

Come all of you with baggage.

Come all of you with fear.

Come you with broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Come you have already quit. And those who wish they could.

Come refugees and CEOs.

Come you who are enemies. Come you who are strangers.

Come you anxious and come you hiding behind a mask.

Come you who can barely muster a prayer and you who cry out daily.

Come wanderers and seekers, legalists and charlatans.

Come me. Come you.

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“Come and behold him, born the King of Angels.”

Come and see that the Lord is good.

Come and find hope and help and healing.

Come find rest.

Come and find meaning.

Come and find belonging, find family.

Come find forgiveness and salvation.

Come and find light.

Come find a fresh start.

Come and find grace.

Come and find Jesus. He is Christ the Lord.

When you come you will find that he is better than we have demonstrated and more marvelous than we deserve. He is trustworthy and he is true. He is for us. He is with us.

And you, whoever you are and wherever you’re at or however you feel, are invited. Come.

 This article was originally published at: iamchrisgilmore.com

 

Creator God

By Emily Armstrong

He came into the room and handed me a little box and said “Merry Christmas, I hope you like it.”

I took the little square box into my hands.  I felt around the edges and shook it a little, just to see if I could figure out what was hidden inside before I actually lifted off the top.

“Go on…open it!” my husband urged me.  

As I lifted off the small cover, I knew immediately what it was.  It was a necklace.  But not just any necklace – it was the necklace that I had wanted for the past year.  It was a necklace that had to be designed just for me.  The four unique charms caught my eye instantly, the first of which being a small silver moon with the words “To the moon and back” stamped on it.  The second was a small circle with the words “Elijah” and “Sydney” stamped on it.  The last two were small, plastic, circular charms – one the color of an emerald and the other the color of an amethyst.  

It was the “mother” necklace that always caught my eye when I saw it.  I had dreamed of wearing it every single day, thinking about my children every time I put it on.  It was the perfect complement for jeans and a t-shirt or my Sunday dress.  “To the moon and back” was the phrase from a children’s book that we read over and over again when they were no taller than my waist.  There was nothing more perfect in my mind.

“So, do you like it?” my husband asked me with expectation in his eyes.  He knew he had hit a home run with this gift and was anxiously awaiting my nod of confirmation, and maybe even a few tears of joy to run down my cheeks.

“I love it,” I replied.  “It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted – in fact, it surpassed what I even knew I wanted.  You chose the perfect charms!  You remembered the book we read together when they were young and you chose colors that match their birth months.  It’s beautiful.”

Taking the exquisite necklace into my hands, I thanked my husband and then quickly threw the precious gift into the trashcan. 

Wait.  What?

That doesn’t make sense.  Is this real life? What in the world would possess someone to trash a precious gift that was designed just for him or her?  My honest answer is, I don’t know, but it happens everyday.

The first handful of words in the Bible introduces us to our God, the Creator.  Laced throughout the poetic writings of the Psalms we see the praises of the Creator being proclaimed.  This Creator, OUR God, lovingly designed everything with purpose.  He knew what we wanted before we knew what we wanted.  Creation wasn’t just utilitarian; it was aesthetically pleasing.  God the Creator handed humanity – a part of God’s creation – a gift.

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The world he created was a perfect ecosystem that was picture-perfect when it all worked together – that is the picture of the Garden of Eden in the beginning chapters of Genesis.  The earth was watered by the rains that fell and the streams that rushed through it.  The sun, moon and stars governed the seasons so that the perfect amounts of rain would fall, producing lush vegetation that in turn would nourish forever the animals and the people. People and animals eating the fruits of the earth would create a natural pruning process, which provoked more abundant harvests in the future.  Man needed nature just as much as nature needed man. It was flawless.

However, perfection comes to a screeching halt when Adam and Eve sin.  Genesis 3:21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”  Death has come to natural creation, and now shame needs to be “covered” by the killing of the same animals that had previously been in perfect harmony with man. Nature is “exploited” and the flawless relationship that the divine Creator had set in motion is marred. 

One of my favorite parts of being a Nazarene is that we are optimistic.  We believe that God is restoring perfect relationship between the Creator and his creation.  And because God is actively restoring the relationship with us, it compels us to restore perfect relationship as well.  Could this possibly mean that we should be seeking a flawless relationship with nature? Obviously so. 

Remember the necklace that I threw away?  Even after my husband had so carefully and thoughtfully created it for me? I didn’t really throw it away – I cherished it.  I wear it almost every single day, and think about the blessing that my family is to me.  I have had to replace the chain twice.  I have had to buy a special polishing cloth for it.  I go out of the way to appreciate it.  

Could it be, that restoring perfect relationship with nature is not an optional part of Christianity?  I propose that we don’t get to choose if we should care for God’s natural creation or not – it’s part of the covenant we make when we ask him to be our Savior.  

Maybe you think that recycling is about politics, that putting trash in the trash can is an inconvenience, or growing your own vegetables is a little over the top.  Maybe you’ve never even thought about why a Christian should prioritize caring for God’s creation.  Well, now you know.  We should care.  God shared his special creation with us, as a perfect gift – and it’s because of this that we will honor our Creator by taking care of it.