Monthly Archives: December 2010

Home for Christmas

Friday December 24

Psalm 90

For most of my adult life, I have lived in other people’s houses. As a clergy family, our idea of home has never been a house, because that changes. Our ideas of personalizing a house have never been an option, because there have always been rules and committees, warnings about what to plant, and the challenges of decorating around “Methodist tan.” Our parsonages have ranged from a mobile home to a stunning, enormous 100-year-old house.

The concept of home for my family is probably different than most other families. When our son left for Iraq I told him I was sad that while he was deployed he could not picture a place to which he could come back “home.” I will never forget this words back to me. “ Dan’t worry mom, where you and Daddy are, whatever church he is serving-that will be home. It is impossible to separate the two.” By the time, our granddaughter was three years old, Nana and Papa had live at four different addresses. For our family, houses are of little importance and are never home.

The ancient Hebrews’ history included slavery in Egypt, decades of wandering in the Sinai desert, and exile in Babylon. So often, they were not in their own land. So often, they longed for home. The writer of the Psalm assured these Hebrews that across the years, no matter where they slept, God had loved and preserved them. He was their home.

Home is a refuge, a place to go for love with no limits. We are safe at home. At home, we are without pretense. Home is a place of hope and encouragement. When life beats down on us, when we face one problem after another, hurt after hurt, unrelenting pain or constant fear – home is our refuge. When others seem so unmerciful or when the years pile up with terrifying swiftness – home is our safe harbor. There we can rest under God’s shadow. We can live in the shade of His grace. We can dwell in His peace and protection. God is “home.”

Over all these years, I have begun to believe that God is my home, or as the psalmist put it, “God is my dwelling place.” When Jesus came into this world at Bethlehem, He left his home in heaven. God lived as a man to show us the way to go home. He came to insure us an eternal dwelling place that would be our refuge forever. His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection where all about giving us this dwelling place. Whenever we are with God, now or in eternity, we are home. It is impossible to separate the two.

Reflection – Meditate on the times when God has been your dwelling place as you have journeyed through life.
Monica Boudreaux

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My Soul Shook

Thursday, December 23

Luke 2: 41-52

It was dark with only a small fire for light and warmth. Suddenly an intense brightness, a light such as we had never seen, a light that could never be produced from a fire or oil lamp flooded our field. An angel stepped out of the blinding light. I have never been so terrified. But the angel spoke words of reassurance to us and then the promise of Good News. The Angel instructed us to go look for a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a feeding trough! This baby was the Messiah, the Savior. The sky was suddenly filled with a multitude of heavenly beings singing a holy hymn of joy.

Still partly blinded by the light and recovering from fear on trembling legs, we were led by a sense of holy presence to a barn behind an inn. He was lying in an ordinary crude manger filled with fresh hay. I saw Him – MY SOUL SHOOK! Aaron, the shepherd.

It was the day after Passover. The crowds were leaving Jerusalem, traveling back to their homes. The Temple was nearly empty after the hectic days of the annual pilgrimage. I am a doctor of the law and on that day, I made my way over to meet with my colleagues for the discussion of the day’s questions. I was surprised to see in their midst a small boy. All of us were amazed at the depth of his understanding of the intricacies of the law. For him, the law was more than rules; it was a matter of heart. He led us to see Yahweh’s purpose. With all our combined years of study, our insights paled in the light of his knowledge. For those hours, the law lived.

After three days of conversation with this remarkable boy, his parents showed up in a panic. His mother reprimanded him for worrying them so. His response has never left me. He said to her, “Why are you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

I saw the impact of his words on his mother’s face. She knew. I began to wonder – His Father? Could he be? As He looked back, He walked away. I saw Him – MY SOUL SHOOK! Saul, Temple Rabbi

The Scripture tells us of many others who saw the Christ, recognized Him, and felt their souls shake – the magi, Anna, Simeon, Paul the Apostle, the centurion at the crucifixion, Cleopas on the road to Emmaus. Today, when we see Christ with spiritual eyes, recognize Him in our heart; sense His real presence – our souls shake!

Reflection – When did you feel your Soul Shake because you saw Christ?
Monica Boudreaux

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God Moments

Psalm 118:24-29

We have all had them. Those special moments frozen in time. Those moments that will be remembered when we are very old and sit daydreaming about life. They are gifts of God to cherish into eternity.

Everything is more sharply focused in that instant, time stands still, the rest of the world disappears. For this one tiny piece of life, everything is more precious, and God grants a brief interlude in the usual business of living.

The stories of the birth of Christ are full of such moments. Imagine the moment when Mary spoke to God’s messenger, Gabriel. Picture the moment when Elizabeth and her unborn child, John the Baptizer, recognized the unborn Messiah and His Mother. See the awe on the faces of simple shepherds listening to a choir from heaven. Watch the puzzled expressions on the faces of the Magi as they researched the strange new star. Witness the joy on the face of the prophetess, Anna, when she looked on the beautiful, innocent face of the infant Jesus.

Advent gives us unusual opportunities for God moments. Touching moments. Funny moments. Heart-breaking moments. Moments that happen once in a lifetime. Moments that reveal our hearts and clarify our faith. The specialness of the season offers moments of forgiveness and reconciliation. Our spirits sense the hope and joy that Christ’s birth gives the world, and miraculous moments come alive. Eternal moments for ministering to others, in the name of Christ present them selves.

If we are not careful, we will let these special times slip by unnoticed. They can never be recalled. Once passed, they are lost in an eternity of seconds, minutes, hours, days. Learn to recognize when you are part of something much larger than yourself. Take notice of “God Moments” in your life this Advent.

Reflection – Remember some special God moments in your life.
Monica Boudreaux

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Juan’s Story

Tuesday, December 21

Matthew 22:34-40

Juan was a tiny eight-year-old boy in a little Mexican town quite untouched by any other influences. In its simpleness and poverty, time had stood still for 100 years. Juan was one of the town’s orphans. He had lived on the streets as long as he could remember and had no memory of how he came to be there. The church with the convent next door was where he could be found more often than not. The nuns saw to his basic needs as best they could. They shared meager rations of food with him and left the door of the church unlocked on cold nights.

The season of Advent was Juan’s favorite time of year, because the church was so magnificent with its candles and crèche on the altar. Inside those four walls, he felt embraced by light and warmth and security, but he also felt the mystery of God’s presence, which gave him a sense of the only love and peace he knew.

On Christmas Eve, one of the sisters invited him to join the other children of the town in the traditional processional as they brought gifts to the Christ Child. Juan’s joy at being included was soon replaced by sadness at the realization that he had nothing to bring as a traditional gift to present the baby. All day he thought and prayed and not long before the service was to begin, he found a piece of paper and made his gift.

The processional began. The infant Jesus was laid in the manger on the altar and the children presented their gifts of fruit, flowers, and sweets. Last of all Juan walked up to the Nativity and laid in the manger the piece of paper he had found and fashioned into a paper doll.

The next day a kindly nun asked Juan about his gift. This was his story: “Sister there are many nights that I am cold and alone. I had no gift to bring to Christ, so I made myself from a piece of paper and thought I would just lie next to the Baby to keep Him warm.”

The old nun with tears in her eyes said, “Juan, you truly gave to Christ the best of all gifts. You gave him yourself, all that you are. You gave Him your heart.”

Christmas is a time for gifts. I do not believe that God who created all things is impressed with any grand gift we could give Him, but I know God is overjoyed when we offer Him our hearts.

Reflection – What must I do to truly give God my heart, all of who I am?
Monica Boudreaux

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“O, Come All Ye Faithful”

Monday, December20

Luke 2:8-20

The narratives of the birth of Jesus recorded in the Scriptures are told through the adoration of the baby by ordinary individuals like the shepherds, the magi, and Simeon and Anna. They all recognized the baby as the Messiah, the Savior of the World. They worshiped Him acknowledging that He was the one present at creation, foretold by the prophets, the long awaited Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. He was God come down from heaven where He was worshiped and adored by angels for eternity – to be a man. He would walk the earth, give himself up to die, and provide the grace to save the whole world. He would rise from the dead; ascend back to heaven from whence He came to be eternally adored by the angels and the saints of all time.

My grandfather and I sat on his front porch one mild December afternoon. My Grandfather was a man of simple but great faith. I asked him what his favorite Christmas carol was. He rubbed his chin, as was his habit and said, “Oh, that’s easy. I love the one that tells us to come and adore Him.”

My grandfather with is beautiful tenor voice and I sang “O, Come All Ye Faithful” together that afternoon. It is one of my most treasured memories of him.

During Advent, the faithful Church is invited back to Bethlehem to revisit Christ’s first coming to the world. We are invited to listen to the choir of angels that sang to the shepherds. We are invited to travel with the Magi and follow the star. We are invited into the stable to behold the King of Angels and simply adore Him.

Needless to say, my favorite Christmas carol is “O, Come All Ye Faithful.” I love to think of my grandfather in heaven adoring Christ face to face and singing with the voices of all of heaven’s hosts in that beautiful hymn of praise. And every year during the Christmas season, I still sing it with him as surely as I did that day on the porch.

Reflection – Spend some time in simple adoration of Christ.
Monica Boudreaux

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“God With Us’

December 19

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Passage Isaiah 7:10-16

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

I wonder-how many of us really believe that God is with us? After all, isn’t that what religion is all about ? No matter how many times we read this passage of Isaiah we still seem to have our doubts. A good reason to observe Advent as a time of preparation is to pursue these doubts and bring them to a conclusion. As we turn into the final stretch of this season let’s bear down on our proclamation of “God with Us’” and live life as if we can see him by our side.

  • How will you practice “God with us“ this week?
  • Ponder some times that you really felt the presence of God.
  • Read through the entire passage three times and imagine a world with “God with you” every moment of the day

 As you worship this Sunday invite God to be with you.

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God’s Great Plan

Saturday, December 18 
Luke 2: 1-7
                 She was exhausted!  After 70 uncomfortable miles, they were finally in Bethlehem.  Joseph help her slide her aching body off the donkey.  He had been so patient and gentle.  All the way from Nazareth, Joseph had insisted that they stop along the roadside so she could rest.  He had rubbed her stiff shoulders and given her almost all the water in their pouch.  Because of the frequent stops, everyone else traveling the road had outdistanced them. By the time they finally arrived in Bethlehem, it was dark. 

Mary sat huddled against the chilly breeze, praying that Joseph would find somewhere for them to spend the night.
As he had walked off, Joseph tried to be cheerful, but Mary could see the worry on his face. They could tell by the large throng that the little village of Bethlehem was overcrowded. His chance of finding a room was slim. Joseph had scrimped and saved for weeks to have enough money for lodging in the inn, and they had planned their meals carefully. Joseph’s business at the carpenter shop had fallen off sharply since he married her.

Mary stretched her tired back and thought back over the past few months. All this began when an angel came to her to tell her of God’s Great Plan. She recounted her conversation with Gabriel for the millionth time. She remembered the devastated look on Joseph’s face when she told him she was expecting a baby. She thought about the day he came bursting into her house with the most radiant smile she’d ever seen. The angel had visited him, too! She remembered how he had taken hold of her shoulders with trembling excitement and cried, “Mary, he even told me what to name him!”

“JESUS!!” they had both said at the same time. How they had hugged and laughed and cried – all at the same time! What a blessed relief it had been to have Joseph back, and what a comfort he had been these past few months! The condescending looks, judgmental remarks, the social isolation – they had been through it all. But it didn’t matter! They were a part of God’s Great Plan – He would protect them.

The baby moved, and Mary smiled. She couldn’t wait to look on his face and hold this tiny body in her arms! What a special child he would be! She and Joseph knew he would be born tonight. The prophet Micah had foretold her baby’s birth in Bethlehem. The census was all part of God’s Great Plan – Joseph had figured that out. As she had packed the necessary items for the journey, she had included some “swaddling cloth.” She had saved long and bargained hard at the market place for that warm, soft cloth with which to wrap her newborn baby.

She could tell by Joseph’s walk that he was discouraged. She knew him so well! He explained that the kindly innkeeper had agreed to let them spend the night in the stable – there were no more rooms in Bethlehem. At least they would be out of the cold wind and have some privacy. She smiled at him and touched his face. “It’s fine Joseph. Remember the prophets. It’s part of God’s Great Plan.” Joseph brightened, squared his shoulders, and helped her up.

That night in a cold, dark cave that served as a barn, God came into this world. He came with a divine mission – to die on a Roman cross to give us eternal life. He came to fullfill God’s Great Plan established before the Garden of Eden existed.

The Creator, the Lamb of God, the Messiah – now a tiny, baby boy warmly wrapped by his mother in soft, white cloth. The Almighty God, the Final Sacrifice, the Savior – asleep in a feeding trough on some fresh, clean hay carefully arranged by a poor, simple carpenter.

Reflection – In what specific ways can you incorporate the coming of Christ into your everyday life?
Monica Boudreaux

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Passing Through

Friday, December 17
Luke 4: 16-30

Jesus went home. After ministering in Galilee he decided to go back to Nazareth, to reconnect with those who had known him as a little boy, to visit his mom, to speak at the synagogue that he knew like the back of his hand. At the synagogue, he spoke about his mission. The locals were at first offended and then enraged. They took him to the cliff which marked the edge of town with plans to throw him off. Then the miracle happened. Scripture says, “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.” One man in an angry mob and “he passed through the midst of them!” He did not call for help or fight his way clear. He just passed through them.

When we think of Jesus’ miracles we consider events like healings, resurrections, calming the sea, walking on water, or turning water into wine. We never see this miracle listed, but I see it as an incredible moment that relates to our journeys so often. How many times have you walked through frightening, dangerous, heartbreaking situations and gone on to live out your life? How many times have you not been able to explain how you did it, how you made it through? How many times have you weathered opposition and hostility and continued to live victoriously? How many times has your broken heart healed? How many times has your mind been calmed by an unexplainable peace? How many times has your soul been restored? How many times have you been at the edge of the cliff sure you were going over, when some Presence led you through the fear and pain and hurt and death? Each of those times was a miracle.

Jesus knows all about standing at the cliff’s edge with other situations or people pushing you over. He knows what it is like to look down at a chasm of hopelessness and despair. He understands the pounding of your heart, the wrenching of your gut, the tears of your hurt. He reaches out his hand and leads you as you pass through the midst of them and go on your way to love and serve Him.

Reflection – What has Christ helped you pass through?
Monica Boudreaux

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Forever Changed

Thursday, December 16
Luke 2: 21-40

I have often wondered what Bethlehem was like a month after the birth of Jesus. I am sure the magnificence of the night of the Messiah’s birth had begun to wan. The shepherds had settled into their boring routine of “sheep watching”. The same field that had been the stage for an angel choir was now dark and cold and guarded by men huddled around a small fire, each questioning what he had really seen. The innkeeper had completely forgotten the desperate young couple that had spent the night in the barn. The manger that was the cradle of the King of Kings was now once again a feeding trough for cows. Now that Caesar’s census was over, Bethlehem was once again a sleepy, country town.

Even though Bethlehem no longer considered the birth of the baby, now one month old, as significant, the world was forever changed that night. Nothing would ever be the same again, because in their town, God came to this world to finish His marvelous plan to redeem the world. Beginning that night, God was here to show us how much He loves us and how we ought to love each other. He was here to show us how to serve unselfishly, forgive unconditionally, pray honestly, live abundantly, and die victoriously.

In the season of Advent, we join a continuous line of Christians who have celebrated for 2000 years the one who was born in poverty, lived sinlessly, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. Jesus bought us a place in the Kingdom of God – here and now, and eternally in heaven. He opened wide the doors of Kingdom living in today’s world. He offers peace beyond our circumstances, hope beyond our dreams, joy beyond our expressions, wisdom beyond our understanding, and accomplishments beyond our abilities.

History was eternally changed that night 2000 years ago in a smelly barn in the dusty, country town of Bethlehem. We date our calendar by the birth of Jesus. He changed our approach to God, our worship, how we pray, and how we relate to each other. The Christ Child brought grace greater than all the sins of the world – a world forever changed.

Reflection – What has changed in your life because of Christ?
Monica Boudreaux

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Treasure

Wednesday, December 15
Luke 12: 27-34

I have a little rock, smaller than the palm of my hand and shaped like a perfect heart. On a summer day while taking a walk with my grandfather, he noticed it on the ground and gave it to me. That was almost fifty years ago, and after moving sixteen times and a lot of life, I still have that little rock. It is one of my greatest treasures.

Jesus spoke of treasure. He had been telling his followers that the things we worry about – the material things like clothes and food, where we live and how much is in our “storehouses” – have already been provided by the Father. He encouraged them to look at the beauty of the lilies of the field and the helpless birds fed by their Creator. No greater provision could have been made for them.

Your treasure becomes what drives you. Your treasure determines how you spend your time and money and energy. Your treasure dominates your thoughts and consumes your passion. Your treasure defines your soul.
Jesus had just told the parable of the rich fool. This man had planned and hoarded and saved. He had become the rich owner of many storehouses and was proud of his hard work and accumulated abundance. One night – he died. He had a great wealth of the world’s temporary treasure all put away in a “safe” place, and a poverty of eternal treasure stored away in heaven.

I have been trying to remember last year’s Christmas gifts – those I received and those I gave. I remember being tired while shopping. I remember trying to find some bargains to save money. I remember making sure everyone got the same amount spent on them and trying to find just the right little treasure for each person. I remember opening presents after church on Christmas Eve. I cannot remember what those gifts were. How illusive the world’s treasure is!

Jesus has told us to make sure our treasure is in heaven, to make sure that what is important is eternal, to make sure that what is precious to us is of God. Christ has told us that what we cherish must be spiritual, must last past the few years of our lives, and must live on in the souls of those we have served. Our spiritual footprints should help others who journey behind us to find the way to Christ. Then our treasure is forever safely kept by God.

There is an old Creole proverb that says, “Tell me who you love, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Jesus said your heart, all of who you are determines what you treasure. Jesus warns us, we cannot serve two masters. We will choose to give our hearts to the world’s temporary treasure or God’s eternal treasure.
While you ponder and wait this Advent be honest about who you love and what you love. Take the time of this season to store up that eternal treasure, that real treasure so rare and precious it cannot be bought. It can be found in unexpected places and unexpected people as we serve in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “your heart and your treasure will be in the same place.”

Reflection – What does my heart truly treasure?
Monica Boudreaux

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