a journal of my journey

Posts tagged “advent

God With Us

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).– Matthew 1:22-23, NIV

For four weeks we have been in the season of Advent. Advent is all about waiting, anticipating, hoping, and pacing in expectation of Christ’s coming into the world. It marks five themes, including the Christ Candle that is lit today. Themes of joy, peace, love, and hope were observed. Today we observe that Christ came into this dark world to be “with us”.

God of the universe came to this dark world to bring a shimmer of light. This world is dark because of our own nature and own desires. It is not what God intended for us. As we look around this woIn Jesus coming into the world we see a light, a sense of hope that was not there before.  

The Beginning…

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”- Matthew 1:20-21, NIV

Days like today I often reflect on my Christmas memories. Of the days waiting at the top of the stairs in anticipation of seeing what Santa had brought us. Or those Christmas Eve’s hanging out with my cousins. Or the times that I spent all morning throwing wrapping paper at my sister. At times those memories bring a smirk to my face. I am in the middle of creating those same memories for my children. Those times in a decade or two where they will remember and smirk as well. 

While I enjoy creating those touching moments for my kids there is a part to their story which I want to impart. While Christmas is all about a number of traditions and memories the DNA of it is reflected in Matthew. That Jesus came to earth to begin the redemption story. Tonight many will take away from services that God became flesh, it is more that that, a reason for it existed. Our sin and desires created division between God and ourselves. A division that could not be solved by anything we did. The solution came from God, and God alone. Jesus came to save us from our sins.

Beginning of the story, not the end. Christmas marks Jesus coming to the world, but its not the end. It’s a momentus event, but not THE MOMENTUS event. That comes at the celebration of Easter, where Christ died and rose again for you and me.

Advent Love

Presenting Gifts

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.– Matthew 2:10-11, NIV

When I was dating my wife I loved showering her with gifts. Since I was a poor college student at the time, it was more the thought that counted rather than the worth of the gift. There would be times that I would make her dinner or make simple gestures that would show her how much she means to me. It was gestures of a budding and mature affection for someone that means a great deal.

As the Magi brought gifts to Jesus it was not simply because it was socially appropriate or what they were suppose to do. There was more to it. They came to worship the child. Jesus to them was more than just another infant. There was something special about this child. While the Magi could not completely put their finger on it, something was different. Was Jesus to be truly the King of the Jews? The Magi came to Jesus with items that was of value to show how much they cared about this child Jesus. It was an outward response to an inner working in their lives. 

As we approach Christmas and the many worship service that will be held the next couple of days, do we come in worship? Or do you come simply because that is what your family does? We come and gather in these times to worship and give back to show what this season means to us. As we come to worship, truly give yourselves. Just as we gave gifts and gestures to the loves in our lives, we must do the same with the God of the Universe we came to this world for you and me.

Setting Everything Else Aside

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”– Luke 10:41-42, NIV

Phew. December is almost over. December is a mix of a sprint and a marathon. All out one day but long enough if we sprint it we will be worn out. Between trying to get to Christmas Parties, work events, school events, getting a tree, shopping, and everything else in between… I am tired. Chances are so are you. I am looking forward to the drive home after the last Christmas Eve service. It will be a long winding drive home as I exhale from a long month. You too will probably have that same moment. Whether it is after the gifts are all assembled or when Christmas dinner has been served. The moment when we can just let the long month go. (exhale here)

The verse today describes a scene when Jesus is visiting the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is trying to manage a number of tasks while Mary is simply being with Jesus. Mary understood the priority. It was to be with Jesus. Martha was too busy to understand that all the material things did not matter, we are to simply BE with Jesus.

All of our Christmas seasons have been at breakneck speed, in fifth gear. All to prepare and make Christmas better for everyone we know. To make sure that everyone is happy. While we were doing that we have missed the focus of the season. Jesus does not require cookies under the chimney nor a fancy present. What is required is our attention. Where is you attention today?

Loving Others

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”- Mark 12:30-31, NIV

There is an episode of Friends that discusses selfless good deeds. Joey says that it does not exist because we all feel good about what we do. Phoebe for the remainder of the episode attempts to do a good deed without feeling good about it. Many times we do good deeds and we blow ourselves up with pride over it. We gloat to our friends how we helped others and we get patted on the back. Or you have others that do service for others and take a number of staged pictures to put in on facebook or your newsletter.

Balancing publicity, pride, and all the other human emotions is a difficult one. This morning I had the opportunity to be a driver for our Presbytery as they provided Christmas gifts to 25 families that were and continue to be affected by Hurricane Sandy. Our Presbytery church family stepped up to help these families. It took three vans and a trailer to bring the numerous amount of gifts to the school.

It does feel good to be able to help others or have the ability to do it. There were no shameless pictures of our group. We simply went in and left. We did not even see the families that will be recieving the gift. It had nothing to do with ME or making ME feel good. I mearly had the opportunity to be part of the extension of God to those families. We are called to love, and take care of each other. It may sound cheesy but our faith is reflected in how we care for those in need.

This was all about a selfless good deed… it had nothing to do with ME but everything to do with an expression of God’s love to those that need it.

The Gift of Trials

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.- James 1:2-4, Message

Ever feel ovewhelmed with your situation? Don’t know where you are going to get the money for presents, let alone the mortgage? In a job situation doing something you hate? Got a medical report that shows some abnormalities? Going through life rudderless? Sure we have all been there at one time or another. Let me throw in a different wrinkle. You are in the situation but you KNOW you are there because its part of your spiritual/ faith journey.

I have been there. In Seminary, with very little income, no job offers despite the endless applying for anything that pays, BUT on the course that God has set for me. Sure the circumstances where less than ideal, but in many ways I still long for those times. Those were times where my faith was stretched. At times it may have felt flimsy, but in the end became even stronger. The times in worship on Sundays as I came knowing that God moved in my life that week… makes times of worship even more meaningful and not a routine. In those years I came to know (really know) a God that deeply cared about my needs and was not a distant absent God.

In the New International Version it says “consider it pure joy”. While I am sure many of us disagree that trials and times of hardship are not to be recieved joyfully. The Message version puts it a differently. It is a gift. Times of hardships are a gift. And as we open that gift we become more aware that we are not alone, that there is a God that cares and loves us. It is in these times of trouble we gain a deeper sense of faith and knowledge that the Creator of the Universe loves us intimately.

The Two Way Street of Joy

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. – John 15:9-11, NIV

My youngest son is a booger, and he knows it. You have to understand that he is two and very good at it. Especially since he is the youngest of four kids, so he has everyone wrapped around his little finger. If you were to ask him for a kiss he will put his cheek out there for you to give him a kiss but he will not reciprocate it. A one way street of affection. I am sure that each of us have relationships like my son. One that is all of us giving while the other party is take, take, take.

God wants our joy to be more than a one way street. The love that is given to us God wants shown back. This verse comes in the middle of a chapter where Jesus is talking about “abiding” with one another. I love the word abide. It means to dwell, interweave, and join together. We are asked to abide with God and God will abide with us. Such is the same with joy. God’s joy intemixed with our joy makes a joy that is complete. It comes from both ends of the spectrum. 

As we continue in this time of Advent we celebrate the joy that is Jesus coming into this world. Remembering that this joy needs to be reciprocated to God. Is God’s love and joy in you one way?

Advent- Joy

Light in the Darkness

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.– John 1:1-5, NIV

As we come to terms what has happened in Newtown, CT an undeniable fact come to light. That bad things happen in this world. Many people have described it as evil. This in not the only evil happened in the world yesterday. In China, 22 children were attacked by a mentally ill man in their school. While Newtown is in the media forefront today there will always be evil in the world. Since the beginning of time our own corruption has overcome what God truly intended for the world. As we scan the news day by day, most of it is darkness. Our humanity causing pain in the world in which God wanted good to reside. I weep and mourn with those in Newtown, as well as those in China. But also for those losing their lives or in circumstances beyond their control in Africa and throughout the world. Darkness runs rampant throughout our world.

But in the darkness of this world there is hope. There is a light, a ray of hope. That light comes in the form of the baby Jesus that we celebrate in a couple weeks. The one little light was the first spark in a dark sinful world. As more and more put their faith in Christ the light become brighter. As we move aways from a world corrupt by our own greed and wants the light become brighter. And evil cannot overcome it.

My friends, as we feel we live in a dark world, understand that the darkness cannot overcome the light. The light that orginates from God.

When Peace Does Not Rule

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

While many of us are celebrating and looking forward to being with our families there are many that this season does not bring joy. Perhaps they will be alone this season for the first time, they have lost a loved one during this season, or a number of other reasons. Whatever the reason they would prefer that Christmas would speed on by. In some way we each know their pain. From the first Christmas without a beloved grandparent to another loved one. When you are anticipating them walking in the door and greeting you or sitting in their spot at the Christmas dinner table. The pain sometimes is bearable but at times it can paralyze you.  

Dealing with loss and pain during advent does overwhelm all of our senses. There is no joy, peace, love, and hope that is proclaimed through advent. How can Christ bring peace when we are in such pain and inner turmoil. The Scripture this today encourages us. Peace does not come from us, the next drink, our work, or anything that we can find to fix the problem, it comes from Christ. It is Christ alone that brings peace to us. The verse describes that we will all have pain or struggles but it is through Christ that we can have true peace. Not a fluffy kind of peace but a peace that is backed up with God overcoming the world.

What does peace mean to you when this season is not so joyful and happy?


Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.– Matthew 5:9

The news this morning was a story of a arguement that started on the SEPTA train in Philadelphia after a sporting event. As the arguement began to escalate into a fight a man stepped in to calm everything down. As the train pulled into the next station one of the groups left. While they were leaving they turned and pulled a guy and shot into the train hitting both the other aggressors and the peacemaker. 

Being the peacemaker is not a safe place to be sometimes. Peacemaking does not happen in calm serene places but too often in places of conflict. Thos places of conflict are sometimes not where we expect them to be. It could very well be around the dinner table, within church walls, or in our relationships. As I look to what we are called to be… peacemakers. Far too often we want to be peacemakers of the “safe thing”. The issues that will not take us too far out of our comfort zone. Instead of standing up for the rights of others we simply choose to mediate the fight between Girl Scout Cookies of Somoas or Thin Mints. We are unwilling to stand up (sometimes to our own families) for what we believe is right and God honoring. Look within your relationship and life.

Through the week of peace we have begun to realize the peace that we are to have with God but also the peace that we are to be a part of in the world. Where does God call you to be a peacemaker? 

Shalom the Dude of the Israelites.


The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace(shalom). – Numbers 6:24-26 

Being a native Californian the word of choice and still is revolved around the word “dude”. It can be a verb, adjective, noun, question, exclamation, and basically anything you want it to be. Simply by changing how you pronounce it. By simply using the word with a variying style of emphesis I probably could have had a complete conversation with some of my friends.

Each region of the world has their own slang. In Biblical times the word “shalom” was one of those words. It meant hello, goodbye, peace, and a myriad of other functions. There was more to this word than simple greetings but their was a deep feeling, intent, and emotion behind it. There was a sense of complete peace that wrapped up ones harmony, sense of secuity, relationships, health, wealth, sucess, and a complete wholeness behind it.

No matter how hard the Isrealite tried. This complete peace could not be created by them. I am sure that more than one of them tried. Much like you and I have. Probably without much sucess. Sure some of us have had some sucess in the stock market, have a nice family, or live a healthy life but a complete peace is far from our grasp.

The complete peace or shalom that the Israelites write about comes does not magically appear. Rather it comes about as a result of a restored righteousness with God. A restored relationship with the One that actually bring about a wholistic peace. It was this shalom that the Israelities were calling for in Isaiah when they looked ahead to the coming “Prince of Peace” who will restore their relationship with God.

This advent do you have Shalom?


Worship Fully


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  


15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:8-15, NIV)

Many of my collegues are involved in the advent conspiracy during this Advent Season. The prayer is that this Christmas season would be rooted in our faith rather than our consumerism. While I will be among the first to admit that it is really hard to stay grounded in the whirlwind of the season, especially when you have children, family, and others that you care for. The first reaction is to get them a gift to show how important they are to us. In the middle of the crazy season lets stop and look at what is rooted in that first Christmas.

Worship was the very central focus of that first Christmas. The shepherds that the angels appeared to were so struck by their proclamation that they left what they were doing… tending sheep to go worship the baby that the angels told them about. Not simply look and see how cool it the baby was but to worship. Why? They had become overwhelmed and changed who they were to the very core. This was not worship that involved an organ, Gloria Patri, or even a band but life changing worship that leaves you speechless and with your mindblown. 

The question is then posed that in the midst of this type of worship one that redefines who and what you are, how do you respond in worship. It is not by buying a Christmas tree or more presents but how do we worship God and give all of ourselves in it?

Second Sunday of Advent- Peace

An interesting video that made e contiplate that to make peace in the world I have to have peace myself.

We Are the Offering

Christmas is the season for giving. Whether I want to make sure that my children, family, and friends recieve gifts in expression for what they mean to me. Too often I get preoccupied with trying to find the perfect gift. The questions arise if they would use it or is it too much like giving my wife a vacuum cleaner? While we are fighting and clawing our ways through Black Friday and other sales that surround the holiday season, we need to realize that the greatest gift of all is not one that we need to shop for. That being our whole self.

Last night was the first time in a what seems an eternity where I got to sit back and worship. Connect with God. Not sing the words to the song but worship them. As one in leadership in a church sometimes those moments are far and few. As my world was refocused upon Jesus coming into the world for me, I came back to the realization that I do not need to bring an offering much like the magi did. Simply I bring myself.

I am the offering.

Offering up all my hopes and dreams. All that I am. In the middle of the shuffle of this time of year take a moment and stop. Refocus yourslelf on not rushing out to find the perfect gift or the Christmas party, but upon Jesus coming to the world for you.

Over the skies of Bethlehem appeared a star

While angels sang to lowly shepherds
Three wise men seeking truth traveled from afar
Hoping to to find the child from Heaven


Falling on their knees 
They bowed before the humble Prince of Peace


I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to You


The sun cannot compare to the glory of Your love
There is no shadow in Your presence
No mortal man would dare to stand before Your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven


It’s only by Your blood
And it’s only through Your mercy, Lord I come


We bring an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord we bring an offering to You


We bring an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus may You receive the honor that You’re due
O Lord we bring an offering to You
O Lord we bring an offering to You


O Lord I bring an offering to You
O Lord we bring an offering to You
I bring an offering to You my King
We bring an offering 
O my King Jesus my King
We bring an offering Lord
We bring an offering to You

Tension and Hope

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. –Romans 8:22-25 (Message)

As we start this march and journey toward Christmas, the first Sunday of Advent is hope. Christian hope is more than wish for gift under the Christmas tree, but is intertwined with the tension of our daily lives. The hope that Christ brings thrives and become clear due to the tension and problems of this world. As we daily scan the newspapers and endure life we wait and anticipate a time of hope. Hope that everything will be alright. Hope that all the pain and problems of this life will go away. Is that the hope that this season is all about? Simply that our pains will go away or is it something more?

The Start of a Journey through Advent

Doesn’t it feel like it should still be somewhere in the summer? The year went by awfully fast. I intend to slow it down about bit in the next couple of weeks. I will be writing a devotional everyday as we look and explore this season that we are in. Tonight is a quick intorduction to advent, which is Rev. Dr. Mark Roberts describes

In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come. 

For a deeper introduction to Advent go here. Tomorrow starts the first Sunday in Advent. I hope you will join me in this journey through Advent as we explore what it really means and what it means to each of us.