A Stunning Anthem

Our first Sunday in Advent at church was a blessing of fine music. We are the happy recipients of an incredible pianist/organist whose unsurpassed keyboard talents set the tone for high and holy worship with the first strike of the keys. I nearly wept after her prelude, which wove familiar hymns such as “Let All Mortal Flesh be Silent” with “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in intricate chords and dramatic bass notes. I felt that in that singular moment, Christmas had blossomed in my heart.

Music can do that to you.

We were designed for worship and praise. As God knit us together in the womb, he had a plan for his people to be able to come and adore him in harmonies that have only been heard by the angels. I suppose that is why Christmas carols and Christmas songs are so important to this season. They set the stage for the advent of Christ in our hearts and draw us to that angel choir that hovered above his manger at his birth, singing their glorious “alleluias.” God invites us to sing along.

In the fifteenth chapter of Romans, Paul is reflecting on why Jesus came and how we should respond to him. Not surprisingly, he says that we should strive for a maturity of personal harmony with one another that will make us into a choir … “not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem.” What a beautiful image!

Romans 15 (The Message)

3-6 That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next.

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

If we are to be a choir of worshippers who live in harmony, we have a few things to do. First, we must stay true to God’s purposes for his creation, which is to live in peace together. That may mean laying down old grudges, prejudices, and bigotry. Next, we need to invite outsiders in and welcome the insiders to return. As the “choir,” we can be integral in reaching out to welcome one another in love and acceptance for all.

7-13 So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:

Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I’ll sing to your name!

And this one:

Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!

And again:

People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!

Ask yourself if you are adding to the harmony of God’s worship or detracting from it. Have you welcomed the stranger into your heart and your home? Are you able to include every aspect of God’s diverse and beautiful world in your worship? Can you invite your neighbor to church this season?

And Isaiah’s word:

There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse,
    breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!

Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

I pray that each one of us will do all that we can to share the joy, the peace, and the live-giving energy of the Holy Spirit to an outsider who desperately needs it. Look around … they are in our midst. May we bring the brimming-over of hope to the world this season.

May the God of Green Hope Bring You Joy by Kathy Schumacher

Bleak Midwinter

Raise your hand if you are among the unfortunate ones who have a December birthday. Those of you born in the other eleven months don’t have a clue. Who else gets “combination birthday/Christmas presents?” Nope, that is reserved for us December babies. I can give you a list of such combo-presents: every bike I ever received, a fancy cowgirl outfit (with boots), a black and white TV for my teenage bedroom … yes, my parents would do the combo thing when they were debating a somewhat expensive present that they were struggling to afford. Bless them!!

On the other hand, I do share a birthday with Walt Disney. I found that out when I was in High School and have always loved it. It makes me happy to share a birthday with a man of his creative genius and genuine expertise in storytelling. Happy birthday to us, Walt!

The most important birthday in December of course is Jesus’ birthday. I had a childhood practice of either staying up past midnight on Christmas Eve or waking up early on Christmas morning to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before the day began. I would look out the window from my bed at 5 Chatham Rd. and see the streetlight shining in the dark and sing to baby Jesus. More often than not, I could see the snow falling on Christmas morning in that light, and snow on Christmas was EVERYTHING. This is possibly the only benefit of growing up in New Jersey.

I wonder what Christmas would look like if we had kept it as just a birthday party for Jesus, instead of the giftpalooza-partypalooza-spendtoomuchpalooza-shoptillyoudroppalooza that it has become. Imagine it: we would wake up, talk about how wonderful Jesus is, plan a nice meal, bake a birthday cake, have the celebration, blow out the candles, and call it a day. And it would truly be just about him.

How can we make Christmas just about Jesus again?

First, we can care about the things that he cares about. The widow, the orphan, the children crying for their parents at our country’s border…he cares about that. Giving to the needy and sharing our abundance is something he cares about. He cares about the people who are ill, in hospital beds, or nursing homes. He cares about things that are lost: souls, marriages, teenagers, car keys, runaway pets, and your will to resist temptation. He cares about the planet his father created.

He cares about YOU.

Micah 6:8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

8 He has told you, O man, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you

Except to be just, and to love and to diligently practice kindness (compassion),

And to walk humbly with your God, setting aside any overblown sense of 

importance or self-righteousness?

This Christmas, let us focus on getting Jesus the perfect birthday present. Let us dive deep into his word and grow closer in our relationship with him. Let us stand up for justice, diligently practice kindness, love one another, offer compassion, and be humble before him. Or, as Christina Rossetti once wrote:

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a Shepherd

I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man

I would do my part,

Yet what I can I give Him,

Give my heart. (In the Bleak Midwinter)

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

In the Bleak Midwinter by Mary Anne Mong

Reverse the Flow

Our text from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah comes from a time of high anxiety, impatience, and discouragement for God’s people. There was tremendous political infighting. Corruption was widespread. Powerful Assyria had gathered up smaller nations and was headed toward Jerusalem with an eye toward conquering them. Alternate religions infiltrated into the people’s minds, and they turned away from God. In the midst of this crisis, Isaiah had a vision of a united, harmonious Israel, and peace on earth.

Isaiah 2 

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
    the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains
    and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.

3     Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

As we begin the season of Advent, we can easily put on our New Testament glasses and see Jesus in this prophecy. He came to bring peace, unity, and harmony to our hearts. In his second coming, he will bring these things to the world when he reigns from Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace. The second coming is what we are waiting for as we dwell in the marvel of his first coming on earth on that first Christmas morning. Advent is thus a time to reflect, rejoice, and make spiritual preparations for the birth of the Messiah again in our hearts. As the carol says, “Be born in us today!”

Yet many of us will be overwhelmed by the flow of secular Christmas and spend this time overspending, overeating, overindulging, and going over the top in ways that we will pay for all next year. It will take months to shed that credit card debt and those 3-5 pounds many of us will gain between Thanksgiving and New Year. And for what? Is that why Jesus came?

I propose that we work hard to reverse the flow of commercialism and dwell in the light of Christ instead.

A friend of mine told me a remarkable story about her trip to Fort Myers last week to help people whose houses were damaged by Hurricane Nicole. The team was ripping out drywall and wet insulation from a home and the homeowner showed her something amazing. When the house was built, the homeowners went through the house with their kids and wrote Scriptures on the walls. When the flood waters came raging through the house, the water stopped just short of the place on the walls where the Scriptures were written. God’s word remained.

This is a powerful reminder for us today about the power that God’s word has over the flow of destructive forces in our lives. As we spend this Advent season trying to reverse the flow of secular behavior, may we remember to stay anchored in God’s word, which is immovable and unchangeable. If we had to choose just one scripture for this Advent waiting place, it should be Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This Advent, may we commit to being still in God’s presence!

Be Born in Us Today by Michelle Robertson

Ain’t Gonna StudyWar No More

Today’s devotional begins in an unusual place. We find ourselves in Nat King Cole’s marvelous song, “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More.”

Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
Ain’t gonna study war no more.

refrain

I ain’t gonna study war no more,
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
Study war no more.
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
Study war no more.

The origin of this spiritual comes from our Advent lectionary passage found in Isaiah 2. This prophetic word points toward a time when peace and harmony will rule the earth with the coming Messiah. People will take their weapons of war and turn them into instruments of harvest, as the world moves from violence against one another to growing and sustaining one another:

Isaiah 2 (Common English Bible)

He shall judge between the nations
    and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
    neither shall they learn war any more.

In this season of reflection and waiting, I suggest we work toward finding inner peace. We won’t have outer peace without it and having peace in our hearts is something we can do now as we wait for Christ to return. Do you have peace? If not, try these things:

1. Rejoice in the Lord. 

Phil. 4:4 says to rejoice in the Lord always… not just rejoice occasionally. Not just rejoice when something great happens but rejoice in the Lord always. Making the choice to rejoice in every circumstance brings peace to your soul.

2. React with graciousness. 

Be gentle and forbearing… with everyone. Scripture teaches us that “A gentle word turns away wrath.” Paul says to let your words be seasoned with salt and designed to build up, not to cut down, designed to develop, not destroy, and designed to help, not to hurt. When your graciousness is evident to all, you not only experience peace, but you also give it to others.

  1. Rest in the Lord.

Jesus said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you!” Remembering that Jesus is with you and that you abide in Him will help you rest in Him and experience his peace when you have none. 

  1. Reach up to God in prayer.

Let prayer be your first response, not your last resort. Paul says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 6:7)

5. Reflect on good things. 

The battle for peace is primarily fought in the mind. We must take every thought captive to Christ by meditating on God’s Word. In Phil. 4, Paul wrote: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” 

6. Repent and receive forgiveness.

The Holy Spirit will not let us be at peace when we are holding on to sin, so we must confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness. When we confess and repent of our sins, we find an inner peace.

Advent is a season of light. May we walk in the light of Christ as we wait!

O house of Jacob,
    come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

Let There Be Peace on Earth by Michelle Robertson

Laid in a Manger

Luke’s description of what happened on that first Christmas is by far the sweetest rendition of the Nativity that you could ever read. Perhaps that is grounded in our many, many Christmas Eve services, where we heard it read aloud. Perhaps it was read to us in our homes by our grandmothers in the King James translation. There is a good chance that when you read it, the voice of a very serious little boy named Linus will speak in your memories of childhood Christmases gone by. (By the way, an article in The Smithsonian Magazine reveals that two of the co-creators of ”A Charlie Brown Christmas” balked at the inclusion of Scripture in the show, but Charles Schulz insisted that it remain.)

So let us read Luke 2 again, as the days until Christmas now number in single digits:

Luke 2 (New Revised Standard Version)

 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

We will continue this passage in our last devotional before Christmas, but let us pause at the manger and ponder this. It is such a simple story, one that begins with a country’s routine taxation system and ends in glory. No wonder people were amazed. Who would have thought that the long-awaited Messiah would be born of unmarried parents in such ignominy? How could the world have envisioned its Savior being laid in a dirty manger used for feeding barnyard animals? This story is surprising at every turn. And the unfortunate location of Jesus’ birth raises the same question for us every year: is there room in your inn for the Christ Child? Is there room in your heart, room in your expectations, room in your bank account, and room in your compassion for an refugee infant born so far from home?

And so before we get to the awestruck shepherds and the glories of the heavenly host, let us renew our passion for making room for everything and everyone that Jesus came to save. Where is God calling you to shine his light in somebody’s darkness? Make room.

Beach Tree by Michelle Robertson

Walking in Darkness

The Gospel of John makes great use of dark and light imagery. John beautifully weaves metaphors of night and darkness with sin and death. Light becomes a symbol of Christ and hope. Even at the end of Judas’ betrayal story, John writes that Judas got up from the warmth of the supper in the upper room and went ”into the night.”

As we quickly approach Christmas this week, our neighborhoods, our trees, our banisters, and even our tacky sweaters are encased in light. We do this as a celebration of the Christ-child, who was born to be the ”Light of the World.” On Christmas Eve, we will finally light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent Wreaths and proclaim that Christ is a Light that can never be extinguished. Amen!

John 8:12 says this: ”Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; whoever follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

The Light of Life. Think about it! Following Jesus means that we have access to a light that will illuminate our path no matter what tragedy, temptation, or trial encumbers us. Like a flashlight, all we need to do is turn it on and point it toward the darkness.

Isaiah also wrote beautiful words about darkness and light. In the ninth chapter, we discover this passage, which tells us exactly why the Light of the World came:

Isaiah 9 (New Revised Standard Version)

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

And now for the Christmas part:
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Jesus came to light up your situation. He came with so much power and might, there is no force of darkness you can encounter that could dull his wattage. He is the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace, who brings endless peace to the world.

Do you lack peace right now? Turn on the Light.

Darkness to Light by Stacey Hanf

Rescue Me

As you look at this picture, you will instantly notice that something has gone very wrong. A shrimp trawler named Bald Eagle II, traveling north from our neighboring town in Wanchese, lost its engines a week ago and drifted onto the shoals of this sandbar that we live on. The tide carried it right to the water’s edge, where it remained stuck on our beach for days.

Our heroic Coast Guard performed a dramatic rescue of the four crew members, pulling them from the dangerous boat one by one, by helicopter. Four men were saved. Then came the arduous task of having to carefully remove over 6500 gallons of fuel and an additional 1000 gallons of a watery oil mixture.

Think for a moment of the difficulty of saving this boat. Look at how it sits on the sand. Now think about how difficult it was to save humanity. The prophets remind us that people had fallen into sin and darkness beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden. This darkness overcame the world, and we needed a miracle to save us.

Today’s lectionary passage is a pre-Christmas reminder of why Jesus came to save us. In this Psalm, God is portrayed as both the Shepherd of Israel and the One whose face shines “so that we may be saved.” It is a good prayer for us as we slowly approach the birth of Christ and recall once again why he came. Christ was born to rescue us … because we could not rescue ourselves.

Psalm 80 (New Revised Standard Version)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
    before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!

This is a psalm of Asaph which is thought to be written after the separation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judea. The references here make it clear that the psalmist is asking God to save Israel, and so it is believed to have been written prior to the Assyrian take over in 721BC.

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

When God’s face shines, darkness and despair are obliterated. When Jesus came, he was described as the ”Light of the World,” dispelling darkness forever.

O Lord God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
    our enemies laugh among themselves.

Asaph knows that the apostasy and sin of the people have brought about their predicament. He senses God’s anger in what is about to happen, as Israel will fall into the hands of the enemy.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

I am happy to report that the story of the Bald Eagle II has a much better ending. A small tug boat was dispatched, and it was able to move the trawler at high tide, taking it out to sea to a safe harbor where it can be repaired. Don’t you just love a happy ending?

You can have a happy ending, too. God is waiting for you to be fed up enough with your own darkness to cry out for rescue. Are you stuck in bad habits, inappropriate choices, or just plain out of hope? Call out for Jesus to come and rescue you. Your savior is on the way.

Rescue Me by Jennifer Thompson

“Chesed”-Love

Today’s devotional won’t feel very Christmassy until the very end. Promise me you will keep reading until you get there!

In Joshua chapter 2, we encounter Rahab, the pagan prostitute from Jericho, whose heroic actions save two Israelite spies from capture by her own king. The king confronts her, and she flat out lies:

Joshua 2 (Common English Bible)

But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. Then she said, “Of course the men came to me. But I didn’t know where they were from. The men left when it was time to close the gate at dark, but I don’t know where the men went. Hurry! Chase after them! You might catch up with them.” But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the flax stalks that she had laid out on the roof. The men from Jericho chased after them in the direction of the Jordan up to the fords. As soon as those chasing them went out, the gate was shut behind them.

Rahab sets terms

Before the spies bedded down, Rahab went up to them on the roof. She said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land. Terror over you has overwhelmed us. The entire population of the land has melted down in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Reed Sea in front of you when you left Egypt. We have also heard what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites on the other side of the Jordan. You utterly wiped them out. 11 We heard this and our hearts turned to water. Because of you, people can no longer work up their courage. This is because the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below. 

 Rahab saved the day for the nation of Israel, but not in a typical hero fashion. She had no special powers and was not by any definition a “mighty warrior,” yet she used what she had to defeat the enemy. And what did she have? Words. Rahab accomplished her heroine’s mission by simply employing words to their full advantage. She shaded truths, boldly negotiated, and offered a deal to the spies that they simply could not refuse … and in doing so, she saved her entire family from the destruction of Jericho that wiped out the king, her creditors, and the rest of the population.
     Let’s take a look at one particular word which Rahab used like a weapon. In the twelfth verse, she says,

 “Now, I have been loyal to you. So pledge to me by the Lord that you in turn will deal loyally with my family. Give me a sign of good faith.”

When we dig into the Hebrew word for loyal in this sentence, we find Rahab’s secret power: she used the word chesed. Chesed is a type of loyal, loving-kindness that is part of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. It is a word that cannot be sentimentalized, but speaks to the strength and steadfastness that stem from that covenant relationship.[1] It is a reminder to the spies of their God, whose love for Israel was so great that God would never let them go, despite their actions. By choosing the word chesed, Rahab establishes her own covenant relationship with these men, relying on their understanding of what that truly meant. And in the end, her household was saved not only from death, but from the debt that had forced her into prostitution. Clever girl!

The connection to Christmas is obvious. There can be no greater expression of God’s chesed love for us than to send his only son to be born in a manger, walk among us, and die on a cross for our sins. Our ability to participate in Jesus’ resurrection is the finest example of loyal, loving-kindness we could ever hope for.

On Christmas morning, God filled the humble manger with an offering of covenant renewal that was given to both Jews and Gentiles alike. This gift of chesed is the world’s saving grace. And all we have to do is open it. Are you ready?

Christmas Holly by Kathy Schumacher




[1] A Theological Word Book of the Bible, by Norman H. Snaith (New York: MacMillan, 1951), pp.136-137.

I Just Can’t Wait to be King

I’m gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware!
I’m gonna be the main event, like no king was before!
I’m brushing up on looking down, I’m working on my ROAR…
Oh, I just can’t wait to be king!”


I’m sure many of you recognize the lyrics to Simba’s theme song in the Disney production of “The Lion King.” This is the story of a young lion cub who desperately wants the fame, fortune, and attention that comes with being the king. Simba succumbed to the temptation of wanting praise and adoration for his bravery, and the seduction of knowing what was in the forbidden land. This information would give him superior knowledge over all of the animal kingdom, and he wanted that power. Simba’s ambitions set a series of events in motion that resulted in his father’s death and the young cub’s exile from Pride Rock. (Don’t miss the double meaning of Pride Rock: A pride is a collection of lions, and it was pride that led to Simba’s downfall.) Eventually Simba returned after a long period of humility and isolation that resulted in a realistic understanding of what kingship entails. He became a good king, and the story has a happy ending.


In our Scripture today, King Solomon’s story had a similar trajectory, but without the happy ending. Like Simba, Solomon succumbed to his temptations, ego, and ambitions. Pride was also a factor here, as were the seductions of wine, women, and song that attended a king of his stature. Solomon’s fall from his own “Pride Rock” was dramatic and devastating, resulting in the invasion of stronger armies, the fracturing of the Kingdom of Israel, and ultimately their exile from the very land God had given them. 
 

1 Kings 11:4-13 (Common English Bible)

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods. He wasn’t committed to the Lord his God with all his heart as was his father David.Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the detestable god of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s eyes and wasn’t completely devoted to the Lord like his father David. On the hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a shrine to Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and to Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 

The Lord grew angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from being with the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 The Lord had commanded Solomon about this very thing, that he shouldn’t follow other gods. But Solomon didn’t do what the Lord commanded. 11 The Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done all this instead of keeping my covenant and my laws that I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. 

Clearly, God ain’t playin’. It had always been the plan that God would reign as king, and the people of Israel would live together in peace and harmony. But after a series of prophets and judges overseeing them, they grew restless, hostile, and jealous. Finally they demanded that the prophet Samuel give them a king ”so that they could be like the other nations.” (1 Samuel 8:5). These stories remind us that we reject God at our own peril. Was there ever a time in your life when you rejected God? I bet it didn’t go well.

Even still, God’s amazing grace, his unfathomable mercy, and his unconditional forgiveness are offered to Solomon:

12 Even so, on account of your father David, I won’t do it during your lifetime. I will tear the kingdom out of your son’s hands. 13 Moreover, I won’t tear away the entire kingdom. I will give one tribe to your son on account of my servant David and on account of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

God preserves a part of Israel and the lineage of David in spite of Solomon’s sin, and that lineage led us to Jesus.

Christmas is a time to consider kings and kingship. Who is your king? What is on your throne? Have the foreign idols of celebrity worship, the blind following of popular politicians, hours upon hours of screen time, and reading more social media than your Bible become the things that you worship?

We are called back to the manger to worship the King of Kings, who is the Lord of Lords. Jesus is our one and only king, and he deserves our complete attention and obedience. To do anything less will result in danger and exile.

It is never too late to turn your heart back to God. Only then will you receive the blessings of the Prince of Peace.

King and Queen of the Animal Kingdom by Mark Poblete

Merry Christmas!

And so the day we have long anticipated is here! Christ is born, and born again in our hearts. Take a moment in your busy day to dwell on that.

What does Jesus mean to you?

What is joy?

What message will you carry from this day into tomorrow?

Isaiah 9 (New International Version)

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

May peace reign in your home and heart today, and may angel-songs fill the air. Merry Christmas!

A Light Has Dawned by Karen Warlitner