Advent – Saturday, Day 14

By Elaine Knudtson

“Hallelujah Chorus” as sung by London Philharmonic Chorus

heaven1

The Fulfillment of the Law and Prophets

Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The voice of God confirmed, “This is my Son. . . Listen to Him”.  Jesus is linked to the root of the Jewish faith through his connection with the law (Moses) and prophets (Elijah).  He does not stand alone, but is God’s fulfillment of the redemption story began at the time of the fall—“He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” Gen. 3:15

The Invitation

Dear Lord, help us to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption.  Give us a deeper appreciation of our connection to the law and prophets through Jesus.  We do not stand apart from scripture, but are included in God’s plan from the beginning.

Scripture

17 “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. 20 “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” Rev.22:14-20

“As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.  From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord.  Is. 66:22-23.

Reflection

“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

“Apparently, then, our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation. And to be at last summoned inside would be both glory and honour beyond all our merits and also the healing of that old ache.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

We long for something more.  This is a beautiful world and there are many moments of great joy, but much like a Christmas toy that doesn’t work without the batteries, we know that there is something that is still missing.  We are promised a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time when Jesus returns to gather us as His own.  The final resurrection will make everything right, and “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our slight momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18.

Points to Ponder

  • We are promised a new heaven and a new earth where all the wrongs will be put to right. What needs to be put right in your life.
  • Faith is the assurance of things hoped for—we accept these promises by faith because God has proven himself to be faithful in the past. How does this guarantee change the way we look at suffering and death?

Conclusion

O Lord we love this life, and yet we know that we live in a broken world.  We are reminded of that, especially at this time of the year when we are made aware of the needs around us.  We rest on your faithfulness as we hope for a new day when everything will be put right and we will replace our temporary tents with eternal life.

Advent – Friday, Day 13

By Elaine Knudtson

“Restore Me” by John Biggs and Jason Ingram

river

The Messiah as Shepherd

In the midst of the challenges of life, God offers us comfort and forgiveness.  Our shepherd carries us during our most vulnerable times.  He understands that true healing begins when we allow Him to renew us so that we can soar above our circumstances like an eagle.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we are often troubled and weary in this life.  We look to you to lead the way and renew us.  We accept the promise: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. . . Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.” Isa. 43:1-4

Scripture

“What do you think?  If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matt. 18:12-14

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. . . He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart, he gently leads those that have young. . . Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isa. 40:1-2, 11, 28-31

Reflection

It is commonly held that this portion of Isaiah was written during the Babylonian captivity.  Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple plundered, the people scattered, and a remnant taken to Babylon as captives and slaves.  Not again.  They had been led out of Egypt into the promised land and for generations they had believed that God would establish the throne of David forever.  At this point in the story, it all seemed impossible.  Where was God?  Had He forgotten his people?  Why was this happening?  Hope was gone.

shepherdIn the midst of our darkest moments, God is often carrying us, “As a shepherd gathers the lambs in his arms.”  We need renewal when we walk through the “valley of the shadow of death”.  Faith is believing that when we come out on the other side, He will have prepared a feast for us.  It is the eternal story of death and resurrection; Good Friday and Easter morning; captivity and release.  These times will certainly come.  Jesus himself experienced them, but the moment he cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was carrying us on His shoulders, through the fire, through the water, through hopelessness, to victoryon the other side.

Points to Ponder

  • When have you experienced a sense of hopelessness? Looking back, can you see how God lead you through that time?
  • Can you remember a time when you had a sense of being “carried” when your own strength was gone? What does that teach you about God’s love.
  • Even when we don’t see a “happy ending”, living by faith means that we trust God still loves us. Does that make a difference?

Conclusion

O Lord we depend on you to carry us through the dark times when we dare not even hope for a good outcome.  Renew us in spite of our circumstances and let us see your love shine through.  We need your comfort.

Advent – Thursday, Day 12

By Elaine Knudtson

“When a Child is Born” sung by Il Divo

jesus-with-young-child-1127677-gallery

The Messiah as a Child

“Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phil. 2:6-8. Choosing to come as a baby, born of a woman of a working class family stands as an example to us of humility.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we are humbled by your willingness to set aside heaven’s glory to be born in a manger.  You did not take on the trappings of our world, but modelled the way of humility and self-sacrifice.  Make us open to consider how we can follow His example.

Scripture

“He called a little child to him and placed the child among them.  And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’”  Matt.18:2-5

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” Isa. 7:17.

“For unto 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 increase of His government and peace there will be no end” Isa. 9:6.

“So man will be brought low and mankind humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled, but the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by His righteousness.“ Isa. 5:15

Reflection

Pastor Jones was a humble man who willingly took on all tasks, no matter how small. At one wedding, he was the usher, pastor, pianist and janitor.  While we appreciated his enthusiasm, his willingness to say yes to every request meant that he would often be over-committed and double-booked, resulting in frustration.  He had to learn to say no and prioritize requests so that he could meet the greatest needs of his congregation and give others an opportunity to serve.

mother teresa.jpgJesus Christ provides a unique model of humility—the Word, through whom the world was created, set it aside and became an ordinary human.  We identify with the needs of others, just as Jesus identified with us.  Christianity has been at the forefront of relief efforts around the world.  The acts of charity begin with the most vulnerable in society.  Hospitals, schools, and homeless shelters were often established by people of faith in response to God’s admonition— “Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” Matt.25:40  Humility does not mean doing everything for everyone, but rather it begins with an examination our talents and gifts as we look for ways we can best serve.

Points to Ponder

  • What unique talents and gifts and interests do you have that could be used to serve others?
  • Servanthood does not mean doing everything, but it may mean not being recognized for your efforts. Does that change how you choose to spend your time?
  • How do you feel when you serve others—when does it become a burden?

Conclusion

O Lord you showed us that true leadership involves servanthood and humility.  Even when we are frustrated by a seeming lack of appreciation, give us a willing heart to serve those in need.  Reveal to us how we can do the greatest good with our interests, talents and finances.

Advent – Wednesday, Day 11

By Elaine Knudtson

“Comfort Ye My People” from Messiah as performed by the London Philharmonic Chorus

christ on cross

The Suffering Servant

Isaiah speaks of a suffering servant, born of a virgin, despised and rejected.  Christianity is unique in having God identify with us in our suffering by taking on humanity and becoming one with us.  He suffered and died; we are not alone on the journey.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, help us to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of your plan for redemption of this world.  Give us a deeper understanding of your role as the suffering servant and how it speaks to our brokenness.

Scripture

“’The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.  They will kill him and on the third day He will be raised to life.’  And the disciples were filled with grief.” Mat. 17:22-23

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.  He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.  After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many. . .” Isa. 53

Reflection

One of the most common objections raised against belief in God arises from the suffering of the innocent.  Such objections presuppose that a God of love would not allow sickness, death and pain if He had the power to stop them.  Hence, either God does not exist, or He is powerless.

The Biblical story begins with God’s perfect creation at the beginning.  There was no pain, suffering or death, but through the free will of choice, humanity became separated from God, and sin, death, and suffering became part of the human experience.  The story of redemption is how God intervenes in our suffering and ultimately returns us to the “Garden of Eden” at the end of time when there will be a new creation of heaven and earth.  But, we are NOW in the middle of the story, not at the end.

Jesus is God’s answer to pain and suffering; He participated in it.  He was not sent to perform miracles and right all wrongs in the political system of the day.  He came to die.  In the midst of our pain and suffering, we have one who understands what it means to be despised and rejected.  He identifies with physical suffering and betrayal.  He identifies with the effects of sin on the world; He came to release us from it.  Through His death we receive forgiveness and reconciliation leading to our ultimate resurrection.  We don’t fully understand how all of this fits together; we would prefer a much easier path of happily ever after in the here and now.  Part of living by faith is to know that in the midst of the suffering, God is there with us.

Points to Ponder

  • How does having a God who suffered and died help us through our own pain?
  • God created a perfect world, but our choices disrupted the plan. What is the evidence that we are in a broken world?  What does God say to us in that brokenness?
  • We are in the middle of the redemption story, between the Garden of Eden and the revelation of the New Heaven and the New Earth. How does that change your expectations for this present life?

 Conclusion

O Lord we resist the brokenness of this world as seen in injustice, oppression, suffering and death.  In the midst of our confusion you bring Jesus, the suffering servant, to comfort us and ultimately lead us back to reconciliation.  Help us receive comfort from your intervention in this world through the birth of Jesus.  We look to the future resurrection.

Advent – Tuesday, Day 10

By Elaine Knudtson

“O Come All Ye Faithful” sung by Josh Groban

396px-St_stephens_cathedral_vienna

The Invitation to Come

Isaiah transforms the distant God of judgement, vengeance and wrath to one who invites us to come and quench our thirst.  More like a shepherd than a mighty warrior, the Messiah is portrayed as approachable, caring—a champion of our needs.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we respond to your love as seen in the shepherd who carries us through the waters and invites us to come and quench our thirst.

Scripture

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.” Rev. 21:6-7

1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

5 Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has endowed you with splendor.
12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isa. 55:1, 12.

Reflection

We stood outside the gates at the back of St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna along with the other tourists who were admiring the architecture, history and priceless art work.  A small congregation was celebrating mass, apart from the crowds near the front altar.  All at once they began singing a familiar hymn in English.  I was overcome with tears as I identified with those Christians who saw the cathedral not as a museum, but a place of worship.  We spoke to the usher at the gate and asked to be let in to join them.  “It’s a service,” he stoically declared.  “We know.  We have come to worship,” we said as we walked past him and took our place with the congregation, no longer outsiders.

Advent is our invitation to join the descendants of Jacob as God’s own children.  We come, not as part of our birthright, but through the grace and invitation of God who proclaims, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.“  We have not earned a position at the table; the cost was paid by God himself, made possible through the gift of Jesus Christ.

Points to Ponder

  • Have you ever felt excluded from an event because you did not have an invitation to be there?
  • What if access to God were limited to the Jewish people? How would the world be different?
  • Grace is unearned, freely given, lavish. Consider God’s open invitation to you to be His child.  What does it cost you to say “yes”?

 Conclusion

O Lord we have been invited to participate in your grace through Jesus Christ.  You opened the way for us, despite the fact that we were not your people.  Thank you for your generosity; give us an appreciation of what it cost you.

 

 

Advent – Monday, Day 9

By Elaine Knudtson

“Some Children See Him” sung by James Taylor

reading.jpg

The Fulfillment of the Law and Prophets

Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The voice of God confirmed, “This is my Son. . . Listen to Him”.  Jesus is linked to the root of the Jewish faith through his connection with the law (Moses) and prophets (Elijah).  He does not stand alone, but is God’s fulfillment of the redemption story began at the time of the fall—“He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” Gen. 3:15

The Invitation

Dear Lord, help us to accept Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption.  Give us a deeper appreciation of our connection to the law and prophets through Jesus.  We do not stand apart from scripture, but are included in God’s plan from the beginning.

Scripture

“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. . . While he was still speaking His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light; a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matt. 17:1-3, 5

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.  And He will delight in the fear of the Lord” Isa. 11:1-3

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy.  Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert” Isa. 35:5-6.

Reflection

I have fond memories of sitting with my mother in a rocking chair by a big open window, cuddling in the morning sun.  We would often sing “Jesus Loves Me” and I would listen to her read Bible stories, complete with pictures.  On one occasion she let me know that Israel was a country far from Canada, where Jesus grew up.  “Maybe we will visit it sometime,” she said.  I was shocked.  “You mean to say this place is real?” She laughed and went on to inform me that not only did the place exist, but the stories we had been reading were also true.

In my pre-school mind, something exploded.  Israel was real? Jesus was real?  The stories from the Bible really happened?  Was heaven real too?  I loved the stories, but I placed them in the same category as the fairy tales that we had also been reading.  To learn that there was a difference was astounding.  I loved the Bible stories, but to know they were true changed everything.

“Not only that,” my Mother explained, “but Jesus is right here with us.  You can’t see Him, but you can talk to Him and He will listen.  Just talk to Him like a friend.”

The good news was simple enough for a child, and the depths of that truth has continued to bless me throughout my life.  It is a deep well that never runs dry.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, God revealed truth to Peter, James and John that would sustain them through the death of Jesus and carry them through their own journey after the resurrection.  God revealed the connection between the scriptures they were familiar with and Jesus, His Son.  No longer a prophecy for the future, they were witnessing the confirmation of the Messiah as revealed in the Law (Moses) and Prophets (Elijah).  It was all true!  No more waiting.

Points to Ponder

  • How does knowing that scripture is true change the way you approach the faith? What truths are opened up to you about life, death and the hope to come?
  • How does the Old Testament strengthen the Christian faith? Why is it important to know that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of the Messiah?

Conclusion

O Lord we are amazed at your faithfulness in fulfilling the prophecies for redemption through Jesus.  We rejoice to be included in the promises and the future hope.  Help us to be patient in waiting for the final resurrection when all prophecies will be fulfilled.

 

 

Advent – Sunday Day 8

Psalm 19 sung by Sons of Korah

truth

The Prophet Speaks

Christianity was not conceived apart from God’s redemption story beginning with creation and culminating in the ushering in of a new heaven and a new earth.  The Jewish people emerged as a people set apart to fulfill God’s purpose to all humanity.  The apostle Paul connected his Jewish faith with Jesus Christ, seeing evidence of God’s plan in the law and prophets.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we know that Jesus, a Jew, was the fulfillment of your promises given in the law and the prophets millennia before His birth.  Open our ears to hear and our eyes to see how your faithfulness and redemption has been evident from the beginning.

Scripture

Paul witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.” Acts 28:23

Reflection

We live in a post-truth era of alternate facts and fake news.  The Oxford Dictionary defines posttruth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion.”  It includes a denigration of objective truth, based on facts and the elevation of subjective truth based on opinions.  Hence, each individual can create their own truth and be satisfied that their story (or narrative as it is popular to say), is just as valid as anyone else’s, apart from the facts.  One pastor facetiously retorted, “Your truth is my lie.”

The Apostle Paul was concerned that the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus not be viewed apart from truth as held in Jewish tradition and scripture.  The law and the prophets came together on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah in the presence of Peter, James and John.  The voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!” Matt. 17:5.

Christianity was not a creation “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) of the first century church in opposition to the Jewish faith; instead it grew from the womb of Judaism as its most authentic expression.  It is God’s truth, not ours.  By examining the prophets we get a fuller picture of God’s plan from the beginning, and marvel at His faithfulness to the whole world, not just one nation.

Points to Ponder

  • “There are three understandings of truth: your truth, my truth, and the actual truth. “  How is “your truth” different from “God’s truth”?  Do you hold opinions that set you apart from traditional Christian teachings?
  • What is the ultimate outcome of accepting everyone’s personal truth as equal to absolute truth?
  • How would you answer the Greek question, “What is truth?”

 Conclusion

O Lord it is difficult to submit to truth as found in scripture.  We often argue with the truth when it disrupts our world view or personal preferences.  It is an act of submission to listen to your words as God’s truth and allow the searchlight of your Holy Spirit to correct our faulty thinking.  At this time of advent, make us open to being redirected and enlightened.

Advent – Saturday Day 7

“Going Home” sung by Libera

going home.JPGPrepare for the Resurrection

We are reminded at Christmas of those who are no longer with us.  It is most intense when family and friends get together to celebrate; we can almost hear the voices from the past and it creates a longing.  “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”  C. S. Lewis

The Invitation

Dear Lord, we know that this life will pass away.  Remind us of the hope of resurrection made possible through Jesus.  Let us consider the lives of those who have touched us through the years as we long to be reunited with them at your second coming.

Scripture

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.|” 1 Thes.4:13-18

Reflection

The faded photos remind me of a past when the generations gathered to celebrate with me, a child, at Christmas.

I can feel the warmth of the house created by the steam of the Christmas dinner.

I smell the lutefisk—stinky like old men’s socks and hear the laughter as I wrinkle my nose in disgust.

I remember the joy of sitting close to my grandparents on the couch, when the eating and gift-giving was complete.

I rested my head on their knee and let them stroke my hair as I fell asleep listening to their stories.

The voices fade with years: the abandoned house sits empty.

Dishes gather dust in the kitchen cupboard,

Pictures, knick knacks, handmade doilies and crocheted pillows wait like museum pieces in the front room for a visit from future generations who will never come.

I ache to be a child again: hopeful, content, loved, cared for, sitting in that space,

To have life ahead rather than memories behind;

To hear the story for the first time and marvel at the angels and shepherds and the baby in a manager;

To sing “Silent Night” in harmony with the generations who went before me,

And hear their prayers of blessing one more time as the family gathers to hear the scripture, sing a carol and celebrate Christmas.

I wait for the feast of the lamb when we will be together again: renewed, restored.

No more death

No more dying, No more pain, No more tears, No more parting.

Together, redeemed, through the blood of the lamb who invites us to His table.

Loneliness will cease; praise begin, the longing will be satisfied.

 Points to Ponder

  • How do you want to be remembered by generations who come after you? How can you create those memories this Christmas?
  • If you could speak to yourself as a child, what would you tell yourself?

Conclusion

O Lord we know that our celebrations in this life will pale in comparison to the feast you have for us in heaven.  Help us remember that we have been created for eternity.  Thank you for the legacy left to us by those who were faithful to you in the past.  Show us how we can pass the faith forward to those who come after us.

Advent – Friday Day 6

Prepare to Give

“In the Bleak Midwinter” sung by Sarah McLachlan

bleak

Giving is often part of Christmas.  We exchange gifts with family and friends, acknowledging their importance to us.  God gave humanity the ultimate gift, knowing we could never repay Him.  In accepting this treasure, we respond with grateful hearts by giving our time and money to those who will not reciprocate.  In so doing, we are blessed.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, just as you gave the greatest gift of all to the world, knowing that not everyone would value the sacrifice, we look for ways to reach out to others during this season.  Teach us the joy of giving from a grateful heart that does not expect to be rewarded.

Scripture

“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

Reflection

It was Christmas day and we were eager to pack our three children in the car and drive across the mountains to celebrate Christmas with our family in Alberta.  Before we left, I noticed the remains of our Scandinavian supper from the night before filling the fridge.  I planned to pack it in a cooler and take it with us.  Just as we were getting ready to leave, my husband asked if I would be willing to visit a ninety year old Danish widower with our family.  I saw that as an opportunity to share our feast with someone who would be eating soup alone in his house.  Before heading off on the long drive to the farm, we stopped by his house, bringing him a hot meal and Scandinavian pastries.  We sang carols and our children did the actions to “Away In a Manger”.  Our hearts were warmed by this old man’s response to our gesture.  He gave us far more than we gave him.

Several years later we left the Christmas Eve service at the church and took the family to the hospital to visit an elderly woman from our congregation.  By this time our four children could sing in four part harmony.  The room was dark and quiet as we entered, with only a night light on behind her bed.  The lights of the town shone through the window as we sang our Christmas songs, acapella, to the audience of one.  What a thrill.

Over the years we have donated money to charities and given hundreds of gifts, none better received than these gifts of time.  We received much more than we gave; the warmth of those memories has lasted over thirty years.

Points to Ponder

  • What are the ways we show our gratitude to God in our giving during this season? Consider the gift of time or a visit to someone who would otherwise be alone.  What would it take to make that happen?
  • Sacrificial giving is from the heart. When have you given sacrificially?  How did that make you feel?

 Conclusion

O Lord help us to look for ways to share your love with those who cannot give us anything in return.  Reveal opportunities for us to give sacrificially of our time, talents and gifts, knowing that in giving to “the least of these”, we are giving to you.

 

Advent – Thursday Day 5

By Elaine Knudtson

“Open Thou Mine Eyes” by John Rutter

advent wreath.jpg

Prepare to Be Enlightened

A candle is often a symbol of advent.  We light an additional candle each of the four weeks until Christmas Eve when the Christ candle is light in the center.  The candles represent hope, love, joy, and peace.  Christ turns our darkness into light and causes us to see life differently.

The Invitation

Dear Lord, our world becomes too small when we only see life from one narrow perspective.  Change our attitude so that we begin to move from darkness into light through your love.

Scripture

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.  Psa. 18|:24-28

Reflection

“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Mark Twain

The driveway was encircled by blocks of wood as we arrived at our grandson’s home.  “What is that all about?” I asked our daughter.  “Oh, it’s his train.  Everything is a train to him.”  I learned the truth of this a short time later when I emptied a jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table.  “Grandma, are you making a train?” he asked.  To this two year old, the edge pieces looked like tracks, neatly fitted together in a long line.  He was obsessed with trains.

It is easy to fall into the habit of seeing everything in the same way: a pessimist sees the negative, a skeptic sees the scam, a scientist sees the material, a poet sees the metaphor.  Scripture states: “to the faithful you are faithful; to the blameless you are blameless; but to the devious you are shrewd.”  Our perspective clouds how we see others, ourselves, and God.

At advent we ask God to open our dark places with His light; to help us shed our prejudices and narrow thinking.  If we approach the season from the perspective of hope, love, joy and peace, the cynicism falls away and darkness turns to light.

 Points to Ponder

  • What negative attitudes do I hold at this season of the year? How might the message of hope, peace, joy and love change that perspective?
  • How do you see God? What is your starting point?  How could the light of His word broaden your view of who He is and how He wants to meet you?  What might that look like?

 Conclusion

O Lord we get stuck in our narrow habits of the mind, seeing only what we choose to see and ignoring everything else.  Broaden our view by the light of your love to see the good, beautiful and positive in the world around us.  Help us to demonstrate hope, peace, joy and love to those we encounter this advent season.