Thursday, December 24, 2009


His parents were hungry, weary travelers…peasants…living under a corrupt government. He was born in a stable…a grotto…to a teenage mother. There was no medical care…not even a midwife. The birth announcement was made to shepherds.

And we call this the Christmas Miracle?

Yes, a miracle indeed: God has visited us in the person of Jesus.

But he came in humility. He worked through a devout, obedient couple. He connected with the poor and oppressed.

Claim the miracle this Christmas!

In our weakness…in our spiritual poverty…with a measure of trust and fidelity…God is present in our lives! Amen.

Top: Fresco by Botticelli, Florence, 1476

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve

Despite his generosity, Santa’s gifts won’t satisfy completely.

Despite his glowing red nose, Rudolph won’t light the way adequately.

But there is a gift that offers contentment, and there is a light for sufficient guidance: Jesus Christ, God’s gift to mankind for peace and illumination.

Thanks be to God - for Jesus,

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent - Week IV

We give thanks, Eternal God, for Jesus, with this memorable line from the Christmas carol:

Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!
(O Little Town of Bethlehem)

That is the Christmas story: Jesus removes the barrier of sin between man and God, and we have fellowship with God. Not a vague sense of God, but a rapport with God.

We give thanks, Dear Father, for Immanuel, for “God with us.” As Jesus said to Phillip:

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
(John 14:9)

That is the Christmas story: We see the love, the compassion, the mercy, the seeking heart, the purity of God. In Jesus we see what God is like and what God means for us to be. (William Barclay)

Thanks be to God - for Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advent - Week III

St. Nicholas - Russian fresco - Patron Saint of Children

Dear God,

The Christmas gifts are piling up at my house. It’s an embarrassment of riches, but our largesse pales by comparison to your generosity.

“You can’t out-give God.” John 3:16 sums that up:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

From the wonder of the Nativity to the miracle of Easter, you give us your Son and He gives us eternal life.

And there are more divine gifts: Forgiveness. Guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peace. Contentment. Joy.

Lord, I pray that we will take time during this Christmas season to carefully unwrap each of those gifts, to ponder their significance, to fully consider our salvation, that we may join in Mary’s canticle:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Luke 1:47

Thanks be to God, Amen.

St. Nicholas relief - Amsterdam

St. Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving and became the model for Santa Claus, whose English name comes from the Dutch language.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent - Week II

The Nativity ~ Gerard van Honthorst ~ 1622


I’m like a kid at Christmas. I want an Advent filled with Alleluias and angels “singing sweetly o’er the plain.” But I always encounter a few dark days. Stress at work. Family drama. What happened to the joy?

Maybe it’s part of the Advent program: We have to face the darkness before we can appreciate the Light of the World. (Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem)

Indeed, Mark’s nativity story begins with John the Baptist, the voice crying in our wilderness:

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And so John came…preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:3-4)

We have to face our flaws and failings before Christmas can come – face our need for a Savior before he can be born in our hearts.

I heard a great sermon line:

You have to wash your hands before you can hold the baby. *

So, Father, I wash my hands, confess my sin, profess my need of a Savior...and with gratitude and joy, I await the baby’s birth! Amen.

* - The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA,