Christmas Day

Read Luke 2:8-20

Do you enjoy a large gathering on Christmas Day? Or are you isolated this year by work, finances, weather, or for some other reason? You are not alone. It is certainly possible that Mary and Joseph came into the first Christmas feeling the same way, huddled together and all alone with their newborn baby.
God didn’t leave them alone for long. He sent His angel to shepherds watching over their flock at night. The angel told them the exceedingly good news that God had kept His promise a Savior had been born! Because Jesus would take their sins and pay the full price we all owe God, they could leave their flocks and hurry into the presence of their God and King.
Suddenly the sky was filled with a multitude of angels praising God. The overjoyed shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they hurried and found Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And so began the first Christmas gathering.
Can you imagine the joy Mary and Joseph felt when this unexpected company arrived? We continue this wonderful tradition by hurrying from our homes to “go over to Bethlehem” and gathering together with our Christian brothers and sisters in church to “see this thing that has happened.”
And if there is an empty spot at your Christmas gathering because a loved one has left this world in faith, then take heart. Like the shepherds, they have gone to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord had told them about. One day you and I will gather with them because God’s Son became human, took our sins upon Himself, and died in our place on the cross. Through His glorious resurrection. He has guaranteed we will rise again and live with Him forever in paradise.

THE PRAYER: Almighty God, thank You for this wonderful day in which our Savior was born. As we gather at church and in our homes, fill us with joy. And like the shepherds may we return, glorifying and praising You as we share with our family, friends, and neighbors all that we have heard and seen, just as You told us. Then, in Your perfect timing, bring us to Your eternal gathering in our heavenly home. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Christmas Greetings

As you make your Christmas Eve plans — I would like to extend a Merry Christmas. It has been a great year of blogging and I hope to continue on this journey in life with you.

Below is a video from Mark Hanson the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Enjoy the video, have a safe and merry Christmas and a Happy New year.

Christmas Eve

Read Luke 2:1-7

Now that Joseph and Mary were together as husband and wife only one detail of prophecy remained to be fulfilled. Do you remember our shelter and manger waiting patiently for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus down in Bethlehem? Mary and Joseph are 70 miles away and have no plans for a trip south! The shelter and manger will remain empty and Micah’s prophecy unfulfilled-unless God steps into human history once again.

While they were there the time came for Mary to give birth. And since there was no room in the inn, so she laid her baby in a manger inside that lowly shelter.
So many people come out to church on this night. Often they’re people who have not been here since last Christmas Eve. And sometimes they’re people who will not set foot in church again until next Christmas Eve. Like the crowds of Bethlehem, they turn Jesus away from their hearts and make Him remain outside in the cold. He faced that kind of rejection all through His earthly life-all the way to His death. But He suffered it all to save us. No matter who we are or what we have done, Jesus has won our place in paradise by His perfect life and innocent suffering and death as our Substitute.

Are you home for the holidays this Christmas Eve? As you prepare to gather together with family and friends, come out to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. Don’t leave Jesus in that manger as though He never grew up to save you. Join us as we follow Him through His childhood. Join us as He takes on His life’s work, and goes to the cross to save us all through His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection.
God grant you a joyous Christmas gathering together with your family and friends at home, in church, and in eternity in His heavenly home.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for moving Augustus to issue a decree so that Your Son would be born in the place You chose. Prepare me to celebrate our Savior’s birth this night, that He might be born in my heart again, and that forgiven of all my sins for His sake, I may rejoice in Your presence now and always. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Joseph

Read Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes it is hard to tell Joseph apart from the shepherds.  More than once I have set up my nativity and noticed that Mary was alone with the baby and Joseph was off to the side with the shepherds.  What would the first Christmas looked like if Mary was alone with the baby Jesus? What if Joseph was no longer around?

After Mary returned from her stay with Elizabeth and Zechariah, Joseph found she was pregnant. I am sure Joseph was upset, but he did love Mary and he did not act rashly out of pride or hurt.  He acted deliberately, guided by justice and mercy.  If people found out that Mary was pregnant from another man both Joseph and Mary could of been charged as criminals or even be put to death!  Joseph did not want this to happen,  he wanted to do what was right by Mary and by God.  Even though it might of seemed harsh for Joseph to not marry Mary, he was doing what was best for her.

He had every right to publicly divorce her to clear his name. Before he did anything God stepped in through an angel and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. And in that dream Joseph learned Mary had not been unfaithful to him; he learned the true identity of Mary’s Son.
Because of the angel Joseph stayed with Mary and became Jesus’ legal guardian.  Joseph made a vow that he would love and protect Jesus as if he was his own son.

The course of history would of changed if Joseph decided to leave Mary, especially in her time of need.

In this Christmas season, fathers are reminded of the important role they play in the life of their children and families. Today we see so many children who might not have active father figures in their lives.  I feel lucky because I did have my father in my life (and still do).  In fact, Joseph reminds me a lot of my own father. He was a man who took did what he felt was right in God’s eyes. He was loving and supportive my entire life, he encouraged me in my faith even when I wanted to be a pastor.  Dad was a central and integral part of our Christmases and our lives. God grant all fathers to be the same for their families.

As a father myself, I love interacting with my children especially during this time of the year.  Even though my days are filled with getting the church ready for Christmas, I do spend as much time as I can telling my own children the Christmas story.  I take the time to keep the magic that is Christmas alive in our home (the “Santa effect”) as well as telling them the true meaning of Christmas (the “Jesus effect”).

This is why, I think Joseph is such an important figure for me in my nativity scene.  Joseph raised a son that was not his, he gave up so much to protect Jesus — I hope and pray that all fathers are as faithful to their children as Joseph was.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing Joseph to be the foster father of Your Son. Thank You for sending the angel to assure Joseph of Your will in the life of Jesus. Bless all men to follow Jesus Christ our Lord in true faith that they may act in justice and mercy. Empower all fathers to step up to their responsibilities to the children You have entrusted to them. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Supporting Family

Read Luke 1:39-56

Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth right after Mary found out she was pregnant with Jesus.
Mary barely gets out a greeting before her excited cousin responds. With John leaping in her womb, Elizabeth loudly exclaims, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42b-43).
Elizabeth is humbled to be in the presence of God’s Son. Like Elizabeth, when we come into our church where God meets with us in His Word, in baptismal water, and in the bread and wine, we should ask who are we that the Lord has come to us? We are undeserving sinners, but in His love and compassion Christ comes to us to wash us and make us clean.
Mary shares Elizabeth’s humility, and bursts out in her own song of joy at God’s grace. Mary is amazed that God has chosen to exalt someone so humble and lowly like hen Seeing her God more clearly, Mary cannot help but rejoice.
Mary ended up spending three months with Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah. They shared a special Christmas visit as they spoke of their sons and the gracious work God would accomplish through them. And all the time, Jesus was present there with them – growing in Mary’s womb.
Sometimes our Christmas gatherings with family and friends aren’t as close and open as we would like. Perhaps some of your family and friends don’t share your faith, priorities, and values. That’s why God has provided us another family: a Christian family at church. When we are gathered together with them we can share the true meaning of this glorious season and the special Savior whose birth we celebrate. May you treasure the time spent with Christ’s family just as Mary and Elizabeth did.

THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, though we are totally unworthy, we thank You for gathering us into a family of Your sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, Your Son. Help us truly rejoice together as we share the glad tidings of Your wondrous salvation – just as Mary and Elizabeth did. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

Thankful

Read Luke 1: 26-38

It can be hard to think about all the positive things in our lives and to think of things to be thankful for. It is during this time of the year more than ever do we stop and think about all the things we are thankful in our lives.
So in order to think of the things in our life that we consider blessings we should not focus on what we don’t have, but focus on what we do have. For example: “I’m thankful to have a warm place to sleep in the winter.” Or “I’m thankful to be able to see the beauty around me.”
Like I said, it can be hard to think about the positive things in our life. So to help you I will give you some suggestions to think about:
1. Think about the special people in your life– Who makes you happy? Think about the people who have made a difference in your life. They can be family, friends or simply people that you’ve read about or seen on television. We interact with so many people on a daily basis (especially thanks to Twitter and Facebook) it makes it a little easier to think about the special people.
2. Think about the people who have made life a little harder for you– Now it might not make sense to think about these people. But even if you have experience some negativity through these people there can be hidden blessings in those relationships. Think about the things you accomplished because of them. Did you finish something because they said that you couldn’t? Did you get better at something because they criticized you when you did it badly? Did their cruel actions make you vow never to treat others that way? Some of these interactions might of turned out positive.

There is so much in our life which we can be thankful for. My suggestion to you is to take some time everyday and give thanks for those things which God has blessed us with. It will change your perspective on your life.

THE PRAYER: Merciful God, thank you for being there with us and for us. Help us Lord to be thankful for all the blessings that you provide for us. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.