Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Love for All Times

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pitsak, a Medieval Armenian scribe and miniaturist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day Jesus was confronted by some of his detractors. They ask him what was the greatest command of the law. He told them to love God with all their beings. Then he added, ”Love others as much as you love yourself.”. That word love is just all over the place. Yet we live in a world  that thrives on power and the ability to control. If we need to use force, we will. The message of Jesus is one of love and grace.

Our great challenge is to. learn to live with that love in our lives. Lives that are filled with love can easily be spotted. They stand out in the crowd. Their demeanor can calm a tense room. Their gentle spirits can soften a hostile crowd. Their openness can bring acceptance to all they touch. If we can discover the secret of love of Jesus we can conquer the world.

Jesus does give us a few hints that can help us climb the mountain of self-absorption that we find ourselves facing. His love is a giving love. He gave his all for you and me. His love comes without price to us. We all too often demand a price for our love; it is a conditional love.  When Jesus opens his arms his love reaches out to everyone not just to those who respond.

Maybe you and me can try to practice the love that is giving and free. It might be a big challenge but with God’s help we can do it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Living, Church, Love of God, missional, Missional Living

Not Alone

I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.

 Taylor Caldwell

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Soul Shook

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.

Emmaus

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 walked away, He looked back. 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

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional, Christian Living

Juan’s Story

Christmas Eve supper. Only compote, kutia, bor...

Christmas Eve supper. Only compote, kutia, borscht, herring, varenyky and salt are shown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

1 Comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

O, Come All Ye Faithful

O Come all ye faithfulThe 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 his 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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

Passing Through

Nazareth

Nazareth (Photo credit: ChrisYunker)

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?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

Forever Changed

The place where — according to the Christian f...

The place where — according to the Christian folk tradition — Jesus was born. The site is located in Bethlehem, precisely in the cave under the Church of the Nativity. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional, Missional Living

Something Scared

Ancient mosaic of Nazareth

Ancient mosaic of Nazareth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Emperor’s registration has been a great boon for business, but a mass of confusion, crowding, and short tempers here in Bethlehem.  Since our humble village is the birthplace of the great King David those of his lineage have been required to come here to be counted.  Our sleepy little country town has been inundated by hordes of irritable citizens inconvenienced by the journey.  I warned my wife weeks ago that the inn would be filled to overflowing for these days. Together we made as many advance preparations as possible – more lamp oil, food, linens.  Still the rush has been more than we bargained for, and we’ve met some real characters.

A few nights ago, a most peculiar thing happened.  An exhausted young man came in just before sunset.  He had just arrived from Nazareth with his very pregnant wife and was desperate for a room.  I told him that I regretfully had nothing to offer him – there was not a corner to be had.  Something about his manner really captured my attention, though.  He wasn’t angry or annoyed as most were, but he just thanked

me and turned to her with such concern and care.  For some reason it was terribly important that I help them.  It occurred to me that the cave in back which serves as a stable was empty.  When offered such humble accommodations they gratefully and readily accepted without a word of complaint.

Sometime during the night, I was awakened by a small group of shepherds that claimed to be looking for a baby.  I was bewildered, thinking perhaps they had had too much wine, but they hurriedly explained their reason for coming to the inn.  They related that angels had appeared to them in their field and told them of a Special Child they were to come and worship for He was the promised Messiah.  The angel instructed them to look for a baby in a manger.  I must say, I felt the strangest sensation and thought of the young couple in the barn.

We went back to see and before us was the most beautiful sight.  The young woman had given birth to a baby boy.  Her husband, I think he said he was a carpenter named Joseph, had cleared out the animals’ manger and put in fresh hay, and there the baby lay all wrapped in warm cloths.  The shepherds fell to their knees.

Although, I was confused and somewhat skeptical, I can truly say this was no ordinary child.  In that smelly old barn, there was a holy presence.  I have been drawn back in there many times in the last few days.  Something lingers – something sacred.

This Advent Season look for opportunities to give compassion.  In doing so you offer Christ’s presence to the world.  Wherever Christ is, there is a holy presence.  Something lingers – something sacred.

Reflection – When has your spirit sensed a sacred presence?

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

Anna, The Prophetess

Anna She was ancient, maybe more than one hundred years.  She was so tiny and hunched over that others were reminded of a frail bird.  Long, long ago, she was married for seven years and then he had died.  That all seemed like another lifetime, so many decades had passed.  She could barely remember his face anymore.

For decades, she had lived at the Temple.  She had come there every day to pray, and at some point, she just did not go home.  Now, she never left.  She stayed in the Court of the Women on the east side of the Temple.  There were some storerooms there mostly for musical instruments used in worship, and she had a pallet in one of them.  She was not disturbed.  Everyone either ignored her or loved her.

Her name was Anna, Hebrew for “grace”, and she served God with fasting and prayers day and night.  She cared little for food anymore, prayer was so much more important.  Besides, she was so completely devoted to God that at this point she lived more in a spiritual realm than on a physical plain.

From the Women’s Court she could look into the Inner Court where sacrifices were made daily.  Anna watched and prayed, because she knew that He would come to the Temple.  All of her devotion was preparing her to see that Final Sacrifice – the Lamb of God.  She had seen thousands of lambs sacrificed for sin.  She had learned patience and perseverance, and a deep understanding of holiness.

Anna was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher, whose name refers to the face of God, and she would see God’s face today.  She watched them coming up the steps – a girl with a tiny baby and her husband.  The girl looked like a child herself to Anna.  She looked up, caught her eye, and Anna knew.  She had waited a lifetime for this moment.  The prayers of all her years were answered.  Her years of holiness prepared her to recognize the Holy One.  He had come to the Temple – the Lamb.  She received the ultimate reward for years of faithful devotion – Anna saw God Incarnate in the arms of his mother.

She was described as a prophetess – a rare distinction for a woman.  She was set apart, spiritually pure, this Anna, daughter of Phanuel, the last Old Testament prophet – the one who saw God face to face.

Reflection – How are you preparing yourself to meet God face to face?

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional

Holy Values

The Beatitudes give us insight into those values that Jesus honors in his followers. We have a glimpse of what meets God’s approval, the attitudes that bring delight in heaven and a smile to the Father. We see God’s personality in these verses. With His sanctifying grace we must make these principles become the essence of our souls as Christians.

Jesus presented to us characteristics of a blessed, holy person. He said that those who are poor in spirit, those who recognize their need for God, and who understand their own spiritual poverty are a part of God’s Kingdom. In their unworthiness, they depend on God for spiritual sufficiency. They will live in heaven.

Jesus spoke of those that mourn, those that have sorrow because of their sin, those that understand they have offended God. These people grieve because they realize their unworthiness and lack of holiness. Jesus promised them comfort in sorrow, healing in pain, and joy in sadness.

Jesus affirmed the meek. He blessed the humble, those who know who they are in relation to who God is. A ready willingness to submit to God brings its permanent reward.

He also promised that those people who hunger and thirst after righteousness will find that righteousness and be spiritually completed with it. When knowing God is one’s driving passion more than eating or drinking, more than being alive, that passion will be satisfied, filled, and honored.

Christ promised those who live life in the spirit of mercy that they will be blessed by the Father’s mercy. Sowing human mercy brings in a harvest of divine mercy. Those whose hearts are pure, whose motives are honest, who have an inward holiness not just outward piety will see God because they recognize purity when they see it.

The Prince of Peace blessed those who give their lives to the reconciliation of people with each other and with God. He gave peacemakers the special honor of being God’s children, because they look just like their Father.

Jesus also offered blessing and comfort for those who do not hide their faith to avoid persecution. He gave His support to those that bear insults, who are lied about and who watch people turn their backs on them. Jesus said to take each insult, each lie, each isolation, and consider it an honor. Persecution can bring joy when we consider the great faith of all the prophets and saints that have suffered before us. We are in holy company!

Living according to these values that Christ blessed all bring reward, all of them spiritual – the comfort of the spirit, the mercy of the Father, life in the Kingdom, joy in persecution, and an understanding of holiness. Being blessed is being filled with the peace of Christ, living beyond the restlessness of the world, and finally seeing the face of God.

Reflection – Reflect on how to make these eight values part of your spiritual journey.

Monica Boudreaux

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Advent Devotional