Posts

Showing posts from December, 2019

Happy New Year From The Daily Devo

Image
Grace and Peace my friends! 

Today's Devo will serve as a bit of an announcement in addition to well-wishes.  

First, I want to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year!  It is my hope for each of you that 2020 will be a year filled with all of the blessings you can handle and then some.  

It is a joy and a privilege to do this every day, and to hear back from so many of you when you were touched by something you read, or you want to know more about what I was writing about!  Please don't ever hesitate to correspond with me and let me know you're reading.  

Second, I also want to share that I'll be taking the next week off from writing any new Devos so I can spend some time with my family and friends who will be in Austin to help us ring in the new year.  

Thank you for your support, and I'll be back Monday, January 6th!  

Blessings, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.

Ghosts of Christmas Past - Week Four

Image
This is the first Sunday of the Season of Christmas--and it's also the conclusion of the sermon series that we've been sharing throughout the month of December.

Christmas is a time of year when we celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the arrival of the new--a chance to begin again, to find restoration, renewal...

But for a lot of people this time of year brings a lot of things that they have been struggling with into sharp focus.

We all struggle with the Ghosts of Christmas Past in our own way.  And it's this time of year when we often begin to think more deeply about the things that have happened to us, the pain that we've felt, the losses we've endured.

These ghosts always seem to find their way to us when we're at our most vulnerable, or when we are filled with memories and feelings... when we are anticipating the end of a year and the beginning of something new.

That's the focus of this sermon series.  We will be learning to let go of the things that are kee…

You Are Stronger Than You Know

Image
Next week we'll be ushering in a brand new year--the first of a new decade.  

I don't know about you, but for me the beginning of a new year also brings with it a new sense of hope and excitement... along with a bit of fear.  

The hope and excitement are feelings that stem from the fact that a new year often feels like a chance for a new start, to turn over a new leaf, begin again... 

Almost all of us feel like this, no matter how jaded we might be, or want to seem to others.  We do want things to be different in the new year, and when the clock strikes midnight on 2019, most of us will feel that thrill deep inside.  

"Maybe," we tell ourselves, "things will be different.  Maybe my life will change.  Maybe the world will be better."  

But there's also a bit of fear, isn't there?  There is fear that it will all just be the same---that nothing will change at all.  

And some of us feel that fear more intensely than we feel the excitement, and way more than w…

The Day After Christmas

Image
It's the day after Christmas.

The presents have been unwrapped... the fridge is overflowing with leftovers...

And as you sit there in your house this morning, you may have already begun thinking about your plan to put away all of the decorations.

Or  (if you are like me) you might actually be thinking about how long you can leave all of the lights outside up without raising the eyebrows of your neighbors.

You may also be tired of Christmas music, too---especially that awful song by Mariah Carey (shudder).

This is what we do, isn't it?  We move on quickly---ready to put the holidays behind us, and to marvel at how fast the retail stores can shift from Christmas to Valentine's Day with their decor and candy.

Stop for a moment.  

Think about what we just celebrated.

We celebrated the most incredible act of love imaginable.  

God became one of us.  The eternal, universal, Creative Word of God became one of us.  The Christ, the Rescuer, the Redeemer became one of us.

The birth of Jesus m…

Christmas Eve Homily - 2019

Image
Here we are... on this night of nights.  

It was meant to be that we would be here together, you and I. 

Just for a moment---we get to push away from all of the busyness and forget about all of the things that we've left to do.  

Breathe in this moment.  

There are stories to tell on this night.  Stories of wonder.  Stories of joy and hope for all of the world. 

But the world still feels as though it's marked by darkness doesn't it?  There are things out there in the night that we can't ignore for ever.  And some of them are frightening.  

Still, tonight is for us.  We can stop for a moment, and light a candle rather than curse the darkness.  

Because the darkness doesn't get to win.  Ever.  More on that in a moment.  

I went to the Austin trail of lights with my family and some friends yesterday.  And I  was talking to my friend about this very thing that I'm doing.  She laughed at one point, and said---"I'll help you out... why don't you talk about the t…

Can You Feel It?

Image
It's Christmas Eve once again. 

This year it seemed to arrive much sooner than usual.  I'm not the only one who feels that, right? 

If you are like me, your list of things that needed to get done before today still has items left unchecked.  Maybe a lot of them. 

Push away from the list for a moment, and take a deep breath. 

Now close your eyes and pay close attention.  

Can you feel it?  

There's an energy in the world right now.  It's permeating everything.  We're all connected to it, but not all of us are aware of just how amazing it is.  

That energy, that feeling is the expectant energy of all of the hope, desire, longing, worry, anxiety, fear, doubt, joy and triumph that is such a part of this Advent moment.  

It's almost time.  

Tonight we will engage in our traditions, our rituals, our gatherings... we'll exchange gifts, share meals...  we'll go to church and light candles.  

But we will also know that there is more---there is something below the surface …

The Light Has Dawned

Image
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. - Isaiah 9:2

People often ask me if I have a favorite verse in the Bible.  I don't know how to answer that question, to be fair. 

It's like when you get asked if you have a favorite song.  None of us has a favorite song, if we are being honest.  But the reality is you have favorite songs. Or maybe you might have a favorite song right now. 

And hey, if your favorite song right now is Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" I won't judge you... much. 

Having said all of that, the verse at the top of this devo from the prophet Isaiah is probably one of my favorite verses in all of the Bible.  It's beautiful, and poetic. And even though it's part of a larger passage of prophecy---it easily stands alone.

Although the prophet Isaiah was speaking into a particular moment long before the birth of Jesus, there's a timeless hope imbedded in …

Ghosts of Christmas Past - Week Three

Image
This is the fourth Sunday of Advent--the final Sunday of a season of expectation and waiting, as we look forward to the coming of the Messiah, and to new beginnings.

But for a lot of people this time of year brings a lot of things that they have been struggling with into sharp focus.

We all struggle with the Ghosts of Christmas Past in our own way.  And it's this time of year when we often begin to think more deeply about the things that have happened to us, the pain that we've felt, the losses we've endured.

These ghosts always seem to find their way to us when we're at our most vulnerable, or when we are filled with memories and feelings... when we are anticipating the end of a year and the beginning of something new.

That's the focus of this sermon series.  We will be learning to let go of the things that are keeping us from being the people we were meant to be... letting go of what was in order to embrace something new.

Today we'll be learning together what it m…

Longing For Home At Advent

Image
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

In the opening lines of the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the author invents a new way of speaking about how God chose to enter into history.  

He speaks of Jesus as the universal Christ or the  Logos, a Greek term which we translate into "Word."  

Basically, he took a Greek concept of the Logos as a kind of creative, divine expression and re-interpreted it with his new understanding of what God was up to in the world through Jesus.  

To put a fine point on it.... the author of John's Gospel thought that God was up to something pretty flipping huge---a bold plan to become one of us, and to demonstrate how far God was willing to go to rescue those whom God loves.  

And in verse 14, the author spells it out...  The Universal Christ, the Logos (Richard Rohr uses the term Blueprint) moves into our ne…

It's Hard To Believe, Or Is It?

Image
It's hard to believe.

The whole story that we celebrate during Advent is hard to believe. 

A virgin conceives and bears a son.

Angels appearing in the sky to shepherds on a hillside.

God becoming human. 

I get it when people tell me that it's hard to believe these stories. 

I also completely understand when someone who is an avowed atheist presents the accounts of Jesus' birth as Exhibit A in their long list of things they can't bring themselves to accept as true. 

I've had my own moments when I let the full weight of the impossibility of it all land on me and rest like a heavy, leaden shroud.  That kind of weight can crush the breath out of belief, to be sure.

And there was a time in my life when I did stop believing.  It got too hard to hold it all in my head enough for it to take hold of my heart. 

But there was a thing that I eventually came back to, and I keep coming back to over and over again whenever I  start to struggle with the impossibility of the Advent story..…

Beauty Is Not Always Lovely

Image
The way God entered into this world was not picturesque.

There was no Bavarian-style nativity scene with animals asleep on the hay, and a bright shining star overhead to illuminate the whole thing. 

There were no brightly dressed shepherds all carrying uniform crooks. 

There were no wise men from the East (they came much later). 

The birthplace of Jesus was almost certainly a cave, hollowed out in the side of a Judean hillside.  The manger would have been merely a large rock with a crevice carved into it.  The shepherds would have been dirty, unkempt and probably illiterate. 

And the parents of the Christ-child? 

They were scared, homeless, first-time parents---far from home, no family to support them, chased by scandal... refugees, if you will, sent there due to the money-hungry whims of a power-drunk emperor. 

The cave would have been strewn with bloody straw, the remnants of the travail of young Mary giving birth. 

And into this bloody, dirty, dank place, surrounded by nobodies... God ente…

All of the Sacred, All Around You

Image
I feel like Advent is the perfect season to slip between the sacred and not-sacred easily and quickly without even realizing it.  Many of us feel things more deeply during these times of year, especially so close to Christmas.  

But for centuries Christians have been taught something absolutely awful and dangerous about the difference between what is sacred, and what isn't.  

When I was young, I knew a lot of Christians who were keen on identifying what they considered "secular," and by "secular" they meant whatever they deemed was "of the world."  

The term "of the world" referred to anything that would keep you off the straight and narrow.  

For example...  Rock and roll music was "of the world."  So was going to movies, beer commercials, beer, other forms of alcohol, smoking, dancing, thinking about dancing, watching other people dance, gambling, the political party we don't agree with...  there were lots of things considered &q…

It's Good To Wait

Image
As I was practicing my sermon yesterday morning, I had a strange epiphany that made me change some of my introductory remarks. 

In the original draft of the sermon (which was mostly in my head), I was going to say something like, "Advent is a season when we live in expectation of the coming of the Messiah..." 

But then I  started thinking, "Is that a true statement for the people who are gathered in my church today?"  What if there were people there who didn't really buy into the whole "waiting for the Messiah" thing? 

So I changed what I was about to say to this, "Advent is a season when those of us who are Christians anticipate the coming of the Messiah."  But that didn't sound right either. 

I wondered aloud, "Is that what Christians are really doing?  Do they really think that the Messiah is literally going to be arriving on December 24th?

So I changed things again.  This time I said, "Advent is a season when those of us who ar…

Ghosts of Christmas Past - Week Two

Image
This is the third Sunday of Advent--the third Sunday of a season of expectation and waiting, as we look forward to the coming of the Messiah, and to new beginnings.

But for a lot of people this time of year brings a lot of things that they have been struggling with into sharp focus.

We all struggle with the Ghosts of Christmas Past in our own way.  And it's this time of year when we often begin to think more deeply about the things that have happened to us, the pain that we've felt, the losses we've endured.

These ghosts always seem to find their way to us when we're at our most vulnerable, or when we are filled with memories and feelings... when we are anticipating the end of a year and the beginning of something new.

That's the focus of this sermon series.  We will be learning to let go of the things that are keeping us from being the people we were meant to be... letting go of what was in order to embrace something new.

Today we'll be learning together what it me…