My Eyes Have Seen

We live in a cynical world. Many of us are so used to news and information turning out to be false and misleading that we don’t believe anything anymore, and rightfully so. Media outlets who are more interested in pay-by-views than good, honest investigative journalism have conditioned us to react to things this way. Long gone are the days of reliable information. Instead, we have infotainment, vitriol, hate speech, and inflammatory language.

Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him?

Let’s join a man named Simeon who delivers the good news of what his eyes have seen:

Luke 2 (Common English Bible)

25 A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said,

29 “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
30  because my eyes have seen your salvation.
31 You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
32 It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and a glory for your people Israel.”

His eyes truly did see the Lord’s Christ, but in baby form. But the eyes of his soul saw the prophesied salvation, the light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory for Israel. Simeon saw and then told.

33 His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him.34 Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.”

This last sentence is so hard to read. I think of Mary, cradling her sweet baby boy at his dedication, and hearing that she will be pierced in her innermost being. It pierces me, too. We will talk more about Mary as we move toward Lent, but already we see her heart breaking.

So often women’s stories are overlooked in the Bible, but here we see that there was a “female correspondent” on the scene as well. Anna is an inspiration to us all, as she devoted her life to worship in the temple and praying night and day. She was able to be a reporter for the truth whose name was Jesus:

Anna’s response to Jesus

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. 37 She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Did you notice how much attention is paid to her age? Luke writes that “she was very old” and that “she was now an 84-year-old widow”. Hmmm, no mention of Simeon’s age … but we’ll move on. One of the better aspects of this passage is to see a woman in her golden years find a new calling as the one who delivers the news that everyone had been waiting for … the redemption of Jerusalem had been born. This reminds us that it’s never too late to start a new thing.

She went out and spoke to everyone.

Jesus as a child in Nazareth

39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him.

Simeon and Anna saw with their eyes what we can only see with our heart. But the urgency to report the truth of his good news is just as powerful today. Do you know Jesus? Can you see his glory revealed in Scripture? Do you hear his stories repeated often in worship? Do you teach them to your children? Do you spend time in prayer and behold him there?

God calls us to deliver the good news of what we have seen with the eyes of our hearts. Go, and tell.

Morning Glory by Michelle Robertson

Blow Your Horn

What is it with trumpets this week in the lectionary?

If you read the last devotional, you might have picked up on two trumpet references. (Like a Trumpet.) In the Message version of today’s scripture, we see another invitation to “blow a trumpet for God.” As a former bassoonist, I protest. We never see our instruments elevated like this! Flutes, lyres, harps, drums, and trumpets get all the glory in the Bible. But you will never read, “David lifted his bassoon and soothed Saul with his music.” Nope, not gonna happen.

Unfair!

In today’s reading, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and laid out an argument against the arrogance of the Jews and Greeks who were proclaiming that the crucifixion and resurrection were utter nonsense. He built the case that God chose humble, ordinary folks like them to reverse the ideas of wisdom and stupidity, miracles and anti-miracles, strength and weakness, etc., and invited them to celebrate their “nobody” status:

1 Corinthians 1 (The Message)

18-21 The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,

I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as shams.

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid —preaching, of all things! —to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.

“God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered stupid — preaching, of all things! — to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.” Amen, brother. Speaking for myself, sometimes my preaching is truly stupid, and surely all of us, laity and clergy alike, sound stupid to the non-believer when we preach forgiveness of sins, salvation through Christ, and the resurrection we all share with the Son of God himself. Stupid, indeed.

Stupid-smart, as it turns out.

22-25 While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so cheap, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”

Paul is exactly right. Human wisdom is cheap and impotent next to the absurdity of the cross.

26-31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”?

This is when being a nobody is the greatest thing in the world. Do you ever feel like a nobody? Never mind. You truly are somebody to God.

That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

Everything we have comes from God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And Christ gave us his everything. His heart, his mind, his teaching, his healing, his life on the cross, and the promise of life abundant. He didn’t withhold a thing. Neither should we. Now that is something to blow a trumpet about!

Or even a bassoon.

Horn Blowers by Michelle Robertson

Like a Trumpet

I came across an interesting detail in our lectionary passage today. Matthew 5:1 says that Jesus “opened his mouth and taught.” The Greek word for “opened” here is translated as more of a loud and earnest proclamation than a quiet teaching. The famous commentator William Barclay said this: “In Greek, the word for “opened” is used of a solemn, grave and dignified utterance. It was used, for instance, of the saying of an oracle. It is the natural preface to a most weighty saying.” Charles Spurgeon pushes it a little farther: “Jesus Christ spoke like a man in earnest; he enunciated clearly and spoke loudly. He lifted up his voice like a trumpet, and published salvation far and wide, like a man who had something to say which he desired his audience to hear and feel.” (Learn more here.)

I had a flashback to a time years ago when I was chaperoning my daughters’ band at a football game. The cheerleaders came out after the first quarter and threw little footballs printed with the school’s name into the stands. A few minutes later, I noticed a little boy from my church frantically waving at me as he made his way over to the band bleachers. “Pastor Betsy, they won’t throw me a football and I want a football. Make them throw me a football!” he cried.

I chuckled a little and wanted to explain to him that while I had some authority to speak in our church and be heard, I had no authority here as a band mom to do as he asked. So, I did the next best thing. I turned to the trumpet section behind me, many of whom had caught a football, and asked if anyone would share with the little boy. One immediately tossed his ball to my little friend, and all was well.

I just love band kids.

Jesus is surrounded by “the multitudes” in his outdoor, makeshift church, and he “opened His mouth” with authority and power, and proclaimed the secret to good living to all who would hear:

Matthew 5:1-12 (New King James Version)

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If we were to internalize the Beatitudes, we might just find the key to a great life. We would find comfort, inheritance, fulfillment, mercy, peace, and the promise that we can participate in the kingdom of heaven. With these words, we are invited to see God and the kingdom on earth that he desires for us.

What is important enough in your life for you to use your voice like a trumpet to help others? Would you encourage those who are poor in spirit and who mourn? Would you demand that the arrogant shut up and be meek? Would you seek righteousness in your own walk and invite others to follow? Would you shout a word of peace over the rebellious?

May we encourage one another today with mouths wide open to be the merciful and pure in heart, for then will we see God. Rejoice and be glad!

Blessed by Michelle Robertson

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Worries and Distractions

Do you ever get up in the middle of the night just to worry?

It’s 4:00 in the morning and my mind is not at rest. There is something about the “witching hour” that catches up with me more nights than I would like to mention. I get awake and start the video replay of all the things I have to do, all the things I wish I had said, all the things I regret saying (!), and a multitude of other non-sensical items dance through my head. Sometimes it can take up to an hour to fall back asleep.

Yesterday, I preached a sermon on Mary and Martha as part of our Epiphany series on “Seeing God through different things.” My emphasis was on seeing God through sitting at Jesus’ feet (Bible study) in order to arise and serve, as Mary does in this passage. I didn’t spend too much time on what was happening to Martha, so let’s take a moment to unpack that. Watch for the words distracted and worried:

Luke 10 (New Revised Standard Version)

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him.[k] 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her, then, to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things, 42 but few things are needed—indeed only one. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Last night I was blessed to lead the youth group in a study on this passage, so naturally I focused on distractions and worries. Their responses were very telling! Everyone was able to name their distractions, and number one among the responses was “my phone.”

Are you constantly distracted by your phone? Do you find yourself in a live conversation with someone and you keep glancing down at your text messages? I was grateful that they could name it, and then five minutes later had to ask two of them to put their phones down.

Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she was worried. Who could blame her? Wouldn’t you worry if Jesus was coming to your house for dinner? I mean, what do you serve the Son of God if he came to dinner? I told my congregation that I would immediately call the church’s Care Team and request a meal to be brought over, preferably Rendy’s famous Chicken Pot Pie with a lot of side dishes. I would proudly serve that to Jesus. He’s probably never eaten as well as the Methodists do at a potluck supper! Casseroles galore over here!

We went on to talk about things we worry about, and a very lovely High School Senior said, “Disappointing other people.” She told a story about how she cried at her Spanish oral exam because she could tell that the teacher, whom she adores, appeared to be let down at how she was doing. The sting of disappointing someone hurt her heart.

I can completely relate and might even add that the FEAR of disappointing someone is often a “negative motivator” for me when I have to get something done. What a terrible burden we carry when we feel that way!

What distracts you? What are you worried about?

Now that we’ve acknowledged that we are all Martha, let’s see what Mary did. Mary instantly put her distractions and tasks aside the minute Jesus walked into the house and sat at his feet to listen to his teaching. And there is the answer for us when anxiety overwhelms us. We need to set down the worries we are focusing on and sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.

So, the next time you are awake at 4:00, open your Bible and listen. Get down on your knees and pray but be sure to listen. Take out your journal and list your worries, and then look at them again while you listen to God as he swoops in and gathers them to his bosom.

In a world full of worries and distractions, be a Mary.

Listen to the Dawn Arise by Michelle Robertson

Knit Together

Click. Click. Slide. Click. Click. Slide. That was the sound of my childhood, sitting on the couch next to my mother as she busied herself with knitting. She was a wonderful knitter. I remember watching her knit every evening from the time I was little. Our family still enjoys “Grandmere’s” beautiful lacy throws and blankets in every color combination imaginable. In my closet is an intricate winter sweater that she knit for her own mother one year for Christmas, which was passed down to me. The idea of taking different skeins of yarn in their individual packages and weaving them together into something wearable or useful still fascinates me.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul reminded the people that they were meant to be “knit together.” This passage from 1 Corinthians is painful to read. Paul addressed the many divisions that had formed in the church in Corinth and basically told them to knock it off. People had aligned themselves with different church leaders and were standing in opposition to each other. Their unity had completely unraveled. Division in the church?? Say it isn’t so

It is so.

The history of the Christian church in America is filled with schisms, mergers, disaffiliations, and strife. My own denomination is going through a time of splits and separations, and it is extremely painful. United Methodism has become Untied Methodism and it breaks this pastor’s heart. I grieve the fact that we are not meeting Paul’s standard for how a church should behave:

1 Corinthians 1 (New Revised Standard Version)

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you but that you be knit together in the same mind and the same purpose.11 For it has been made clear to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 

13 Has Christ been divided?

Here is the heart of the issue. Christ has not been divided. Christ calls us into a “oneness” of thought, belief, and purpose. One of the last things he did before he made his way to the cross was to pray that his disciples and those who come later, meaning us, would be “one.”

John 17 (Common English Bible)

21 I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me.22 I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. 23 I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

We have utterly and completely failed.

Paul continued his argument with the Corinthian church:

1 Corinthians 1 (New Revised Standard Version)

Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else. 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel—and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

What can you do to bring unity and harmony to your world? Does everything have to be fought over? Can you just agree to disagree with someone rather than fracture the relationship?

God desires that we would be one in our families, our schools, our workplaces, and our churches. Is God calling you to change your attitude?

Reflecting God’s Beauty by Michelle Robertson

Deep Within

Good intentions. Everyone has them. Most people follow them. Some stray far. I always think of New Year’s resolutions as good intentions. We intend to do better at our jobs, lose weight, change habits, be more present with family, etc. but for the most part, our resolutions barely make it to February.

One good intention I hope you have is to stay in God’s Word this year. Be it a New Year’s resolution or just a desire, being centered in God’s will by staying centered in God’s word is good for the soul. This is why I write these devotionals … to help all of us approach and access Scripture in easy to digest bites. I begin 2023 with the same commitment, and I thank each one of you for following along! May we make a commitment together to read every one. If you read these on Facebook or Twitter, don’t forget that you can also sign up on my website to receive them in your email inbox every morning.

Psalm 40 reminds us of the importance of reading, learning, studying, and incorporating Scripture into our lives. The psalmist proclaims, “I want to do your will! Your Instruction is deep within me.” This could be our resolution as well.

Psalm 40 (Common English Bible)

I put all my hope in the Lord.
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.

I recently tripped going up the stairs and broke my left arm. It is still healing, and it hurts to type. This last phrase, “He steadied my legs” will be my new prayer for 2023. Lord, in your mercy, save me from my stairs!

He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord,
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!

Do we pay too much attention to the proud and those who follow lies? Watching the fifteen rounds of votes that it took to elect a Speaker of the House last week had me turning off the news and shaking my head. Lord, in your mercy, save us from the proud!

You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!

I love how the psalmist says, “you have given me ears.” How many times during the day do we neglect to use them? Are you busy looking at your phone so much that you don’t hear your family talking to you? Lord, in your mercy, help us to listen better.

So I said, “Here I come!
    I’m inscribed in the written scroll.
    I want to do your will, my God.
    Your Instruction is deep within me.”
I’ve told the good news of your righteousness
    in the great assembly.
    I didn’t hold anything back—
        as you well know, Lord!
10 I didn’t keep your righteousness only to myself.
    I declared your faithfulness and your salvation.
I didn’t hide your loyal love and trustworthiness
    from the great assembly.

As we look toward this new year before us, may we commit to not missing a chance to be in God’s Word, whether it is by reading these devotionals, joining a Bible study, attending weekly worship, attending Sunday school, etc. Lord in your mercy, draw us into your Scriptures every day.

11 So now you, Lord—
    don’t hold back any of your compassion from me.
Let your loyal love and faithfulness always protect me
.

God offers us loyal love and faithfulness. How will you return those things to him this year?

God Leans Down by Jan Wilson

Arise

Raise your hand if you are a Wordle fan. I love word games and puzzles so this online game from the New York Times is right up my alley. It is a five-letter word game where you have six tries to get the correct word. Letters in the right place turn green; letters that are somewhere in the puzzle but not in the right place turn yellow, and incorrect letters are gray.

People have come up with starting words that use popular letters, such as adieu. A while ago I was using either weary or teary as my first guess since they have common vowels that might be in the word. One day I was listening to NPR, and I heard the New York Times puzzle master, Will Shorts, say that he starts with either arise or arose.

So now, depending on the kind of day I am having, I start with either weary or arise. My mood dictates my choice, and obviously I am having a good day when I choose arise.

On this Epiphany Day, we revisit Isaiah’s beautiful passage on the regathering of the nation of Israel after the Redeemer conquered all opposition and called the people back home. They have been living in the darkness of the diaspora and have longed to return. Now, the gloom has been lifted and God has not only shone his light on them but enables them to be a light to the surrounding nations.

No one can ignore this dawning radiance.

Isaiah 60 (Common English Bible)

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
Though darkness covers the earth
    and gloom the nations,
    the Lord will shine upon you;
    God’s glory will appear over you.
Nations will come to your light
    and kings to your dawning radiance.

Our New Testament lenses read Christ all through this passage. Christ is the light that has come and will come again. Christ is the radiance that obliterates the darkness of our sins, burdens, addictions, estrangements, and sorrows. Christ even obliterates the darkness of death. He invites us to lift up our eyes and see our own reflected radiance in his presence.

Lift up your eyes and look all around:
    they are all gathered; they have come to you.
Your sons will come from far away,
    and your daughters on caregivers’ hips.
Then you will see and be radiant;
    your heart will tremble and open wide,
    because the sea’s abundance will be turned over to you;
    the nations’ wealth will come to you.
Countless camels will cover your land,
    young camels from Midian and Ephah.
They will all come from Sheba,
    carrying gold and incense,
    proclaiming the Lord’s praises.

This is such a beautiful foretelling of the Second Coming as well. When Jesus returns, the nations will gather in Israel and bask in the glow of his light. The glory of God will appear over the earth and every knee will bow in its radiance.

On this Epiphany Day, God invites us to arise and turn away from the darkness to walk in the light of Christ and invite others to walk along with us. We have but one job to do today. Lift up your eyes! Look all around! Then you will see and be radiant.

Shine on!

Your Light Has Come by Michelle Robertson

Get Up

A round of some type of viral respiratory infection that rolled straight into a sinus infection rendered me “Sleepless in Colington” last month. The minute I put my head on the pillow every night, that annoying tickle-cough-draining-into-my-chest thing seized me and kept me awake. Both my husband and the dog fled to the guest room for over a week, waiting it out.

If you’ve dealt with that kind of thing, or have a newborn in the house, or are kept awake at night with anxiety and fears that become larger at night, you know how begin sleep-deprived can rob you of all your critical thinking skills, cognitive powers, and even your ability to be polite. My head was mush for over two weeks and nothing got done … and the things that got done were poorly. My get up and go got up and left.

As we have finally rounded the corner past Christmas and are heading into the new year, we have a moment to focus on Joseph. We remember him for many things. We remember his humility in receiving an unwed pregnant girl into his keeping when he could have easily dismissed Mary. We remember his sacrifice of reputation and freedom. We see his struggle to provide shelter for his newborn son and new wife. We admire his quiet and steadfast faith.

And we are amazed at his ability to think fast on his feet in the middle of the night when his sleep was interrupted. God appeared to him in a dream with the command, “Get up.”

Matthew 2 (Common English Bible)

13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” 14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.

I always wonder what happened to this little family during the Egypt years. As immigrants, they surely had a hard time finding shelter and work to sustain them. They lived under the threat of a tyrant who was hell-bent on killing their child. This awful man had no problem killing all the children in Bethlehem in hopes of eliminating Jesus. The fear and disorientation for these young parents must have been overwhelming.

Murder of the Bethlehem children

16 When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. 17 This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:

18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much grieving.
        Rachel weeping for her children,
            and she did not want to be comforted,
                because they were no more.

And finally, when King Herod died, Joseph is awakened in the middle of another night and told to “Get up” again:

19 After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 

Joseph was a sharp and quick thinker. He followed God’s instructions and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide him along the way. A third night of sleep was disrupted, and the angel sent them to Galilee to keep Jesus and Mary safe.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. 23 He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.

This makes me wonder what God is telling me to “Get up” and do. Am I sleepwalking through my faith? Am I mush-headed and missing cues around me that the Holy Spirit is trying to guide me toward?

Are you?

Let us agree to be like Joseph and get up and go when called and sent by the Lord. I pray for clarity of direction for all of us.

Get up!

Bleak Midwinter by Michelle Robertson

Happy Boxing Day!

The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day in the British Commonwealth. It is said to originate from two different sources. One legend says that Boxing Day was a day when the servants of Lords received a box of small gifts and Christmas dinner leftovers. They were given the day off to travel to their homes with said boxes. Another tradition suggests that it is a reference to the Feast of St. Stephen, whose feast day falls on December 26th. Stephen was one of the men selected in the Book of Acts to ensure that the distribution of alms was done equitably, including the Greek widows who were being neglected. On the Feast of St. Stephen, clergymen take the alms that were dropped in boxes at the church on Christmas Day and deliver them to the poor in the village.

In both cases, Boxing Day is a celebration of offering charity to the marginalized.

What a lovely reminder as we bridge Christmas and New Year’s Day. Those who have received much are invited to give much.

Luke 14 (The Message)

12-14 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned! —at the resurrection of God’s people.”

In this parable, Jesus seems to speak right into the type of Christmas that many of us experienced. We gave to our friends. We supped with our family. We received riches. We offered things to people who are able to offer things back.

But the way to be a blessing on Boxing Day is to box something up and give it to someone who had a scant or non-existent Christmas.

Your community has homeless people living in it. Your community has families who rely on assistance to make the most meager ends meet. There is need where you live.

What will you do on this Boxing Day?

God calls us to share what we have. Dig deep. Open up your eyes, your heart, and your wallet. Christmastide has only just begun, and it is always better to give than to receive. And this kind of favor is returned at the resurrection. You get to be a blessing today, and you will be blessed by your giving. 

Happy Boxing Day! 

Better to Give by Becca Ziegler

David’s Psalm

Today’s writing is a real treat. My friend David Jones is a retired United Methodist pastor in the North Georgia conference, my home base. He is an excellent communicator of the Gospel, and I know you will love this story that I am sharing with his permission. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

“This is my favorite Christmas story. A true and personal story. Christmas Eve 10 years ago I was the pastor of Glenn Memorial UMC on the Emory University campus. Between our 2 services I walked over to Emory Hospital to visit Ted and Cindy Runyon, long-time members at Glenn.

The hospital was quiet, as I’ve always found hospitals to be on Christmas Eve. The only people in a hospital on Christmas Eve are the staff and the patients who absolutely have to be there. Ted had to be there. He’d had emergency open heart surgery the day before.

When Cindy and I walked into Ted’s room in the ICU a nurse was checking Ted’s vital signs. Then he walked across the room and started writing on Ted’s chart.

Cindy and I stood by Ted’s bed for a brief visit. While it’s always difficult to leave someone in the hospital overnight it’s especially hard when they’re in Intensive Care. All the more so on Christmas Eve.

When the nurse came back over to check Ted’s monitors I said, “I hope you’ll take good care of this man. He was my teacher when I was in seminary here at Emory. Now it’s my privilege be his pastor.”

The nurse smiled. I don’t remember what he said. I do remember he said it with a Jamaican accent. Then he went back across the room and started writing on Ted’s chart again.

Ted and Cindy and I talked for a few more minutes, then I said, “Before I go I’d like for us to have a Christmas Eve prayer together.” The 3 of us held hands. As we finished the prayer and said, “Amen,” we heard another “Amen” from across the room, spoken quietly in a Jamaican accent.

I looked across the room and said, “You’re a believer.” “Yes,” the nurse said, “I am a Christian.” I said, “My name is David. What’s yours?” He said, “My name is Emmanuel. I will be here with your friend all through the night.”

At that moment the Christmas story hit me as never before. The angel said, “You shall call him ‘Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’” Every day. Every night. Wherever we are. Whatever is happening to us. In our growing and our becoming. In our rejoicing and our weeping. In our struggling and our loving. In our living and our dying. God with us.”

Oh, the wonder of it all!”

Matthew 1 (Common English Bible)

23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel.

Indeed. Oh, the wonder of it all. I pray you find your own Emmanuel tonight.

God With Us by Michelle Robertson