Prayer for the Week:
Just another date on the calendar –
Just another year completed –
As we approach the end of one year
and the beginning of another,
make us aware of all
that deserves our gratitude.
O Holy God,
there are many events
that brought disappointment,
even anger or grief or despondency.
These events could define us –
These events could define our attitudes –
These past events
could shape our future.
O Lord of Heaven who came to the world
through a birth,
who taught us about repentance and renewal,
and revealed the power
of rebirth and resurrection,
we do not dismiss the past,
but with your help,
we make the conscious decisions
to never forget the past.
We allow our faith in you
to create a future untethered
by all that might try
to drag us down…
and away from the dream
you have for our lives.
O God of New Beginnings,
help me to make
as many new beginnings as possible,
not only for myself,
but for others.
Small Groups Begin In Mid-January
Scripture: Matthew 2:14-15
Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.
Thought for the Day: The word ‘fulfilled’ is the same basic word as what we find in Luke’s Gospel when it said the time was right for Mary to deliver her child. In both cases, the Greek word is where we get our English word Plethora. This event brought the God experience beyond the tipping point, spilling over the top. The journey to Egypt allowed what had been taught centuries earlier to spillover into the present. Have you ever known something to be true, and then something else occurs that has you understanding the first thing on a deeper level? It’s not that what happen in the first place was any less true, but the new thing revealed what hadn’t been seen before. So often in scripture, something new is revealed. In those moments, I have watched Christians suggest the earlier happening was inferior or substandard. That’s silly! When science has a new discovery, it is almost always based upon previous new discoveries. The new one does not dismiss the earlier work, but is thankful for it. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is seen as the new Moses. Does that mean we can forget the earlier one? That would be silly! The author is really pointing out that God rarely does a truly new thing, for Moses was about liberating enslaved people. Jesus was about liberating enslaved people. Different time – different context…but similar work.
Prayer: May your Spirit spilling over into this moment provide me new insight into your gracious and liberating work. O Heavenly Father, may all the Moses-like figures in history remind me of my own calling to help in the liberation of others. Amen.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP
Scripture: John 10:27
My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
Thought for the Day: What does it mean to follow the gift God gave to the world? I have often said that I don’t want folks to simply fall in love with Jesus, but to fall in love with the ways of Jesus. You can always passionately admire someone without ever replicating what it is that you admire. In the last few days, the starting quarterback at Old Dominion, Blake LaRussa, announced that he will forgo his final year of eligibility. When a college football player makes such an announcement, it usually means he’s making himself eligible for the NFL draft. For many, especially quarterbacks, this move can be worth millions of dollars. But for LaRussa, he is not going to build on what was an exceptional season. Instead, he is headed to Seminary for the purpose of pursuing ministry. In his press release, he wrote:
I am confident entering this next chapter of my life and excited to pursue what I have always known to be my heart’s greatest desire, and that is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ and help people find hope…
I’m not suggesting that football is a bad pursuit, but how many have dismissed God’s call as the lure of worldly accolades and prestige and money were too great?
Prayer: Let my daily life give witness to my desire to follow you, O Lord of My Life. The witness I give is not for my recognition, but for your glory. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:28-32
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said, “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”
Thought for the Day: A few days ago, I referenced the sacrifice given by Mary and Joseph at the blessing of Jesus, but soon after the customary ritual, Simeon encountered the Holy Family. Simeon had felt as if the Spirit had revealed how, before death, he would see the coming of the Lord. Upon seeing the infant Jesus at the Temple, Simeon found peace. What I love is the universal declaration made by Simeon – this child is a revelation to all those who are not Jews (Gentiles) while also an affirmation for the people of Israel (the Jews). These two categories covered everyone in the known world, and this light of divine love radiated upon all. How does your light shine beyond the group with which you affiliate? How do you demonstrate the love of the Christ Child to those who do not align with you religiously, politically, socially, etc? It is a question the scripture seems to be asking, not just those in the first century, but every generation.
Prayer: May the light that brought life and love to me, O Giver of Glory, be given from me without restriction or hesitation. Clearly, I did not fit what some would describe as the correct group, but your light reached even me. Thank you! Amen.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Thought for the Day: We, with emphasis on we, are the Body of Christ. Collectively, we are the physical body of Jesus Christ in the world. In light of what you learned this Advent Season, what should the Body of Christ look like to the world as we approach 2019? I don’t have one specific answer to that question, and I would discourage anyone from thinking there is just one answer to the question. Instead, let us think about the vulnerability of an infant representing God to the world; let us think about our God who so loved the world that a gift of God’s self was given; let us think about this God who desired to be known and to be in relationship with humanity. How should the church, the Body of Christ in the world today, continue to reveal the God of Christmas?
Prayer: Let us continue to know the Jesus of the manger, and in doing so, know you. O Emmanuel, show us how we can better be your body – hands, heart and head. Amen.
FOR THE LUNCHEON
ON JANUARY 6?
Scripture: Luke 2:22-24
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Thought for the Day: Jesus is born, but within Jewish tradition, there were certain things that had to be done and there was a timetable. Mary and Joseph did what generations before them had done – they took Jesus to Jerusalem for a blessing before the Lord. It’s a little like our baby dedications at Cypress Creek Christian Church. This passage offers us some interesting information, specifically the sacrifice that was made: a pair of turtledoves. Within Judaism, there were certain sacrifices required for certain ceremonies, celebrations, community events and family occasions. According to Leviticus 14, a lengthy list of items was required for such a sacrifice, many costly items. But the scripture also gave room for someone who could not afford such a lengthy and costly list. Leviticus goes on to say, “…two turtledoves or two pigeons, whatever they can afford—one as a purification offering and the other as an entirely burned offering.” This information provides insight into Mary and Joseph, for clearly the author of the Gospel was revealing to us the financial situation of the young couple. I also believe this information was included as a reminder of how God has always been gracious. Judaism, and specifically the Old Testament, receives a bad rap as ungracious and legalistic. Rituals had the purpose of helping Judaism stand as a unique body in a culturally diverse world. No matter how specific the required sacrifice might be, there seemed to be an alternative so as not to put an undo burden on the poor, the disenfranchised or the sick. The system itself showed the same grace that God was revealing in the birth of Jesus.
Prayer: Thank you, O God of History, for remaining consistent then and now and years from now. My faith finds strength and confidence in who you are as you continue to be who you’ve always been. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for Mary to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Thought for the Day: Good morning, Christmas! Maybe you’re not reading this in the morning, but whenever you find yourself glancing upon these words, I pray that they are meeting you in whatever your circumstance. Christmas is not one thing to all people, and for most of us, it is a mixed bag. We can be full of joy while also grieving the death of someone who is not present to celebrate with us; there can be deep loneliness even though you are surrounded by people; there might be a wonderful peace about you even though you are spending Christmas alone; there might be some disappointment because this year is not going to be as good as last year; there could be some real excitement as you hit it out of the park when it came to that gift for that special someone; there might be some new traditions this year because of marriage or a new relationship. The list could go on, but the point I want to make about this day is that you do not need to get yourself to some specific place of perfection in regard to what Christmas should be. Christmas is all about God, Emmanuel, making a way into our unique, less than ideal or even messy Christmas. There has never been a right way of doing Christmas, for it really is something that God has done and continues to do. And God is the perfect gift to us in whatever our life circumstance is on December 25 or any other day of the year.
Prayer: Thank you, O Gracious God, for entering this world centuries ago. Thank you for entering my life again this day, not because I deserve it or did it the correct way, but simply because you are God. Amen.
PRAY FOR PEACE
IN THE HEARTS OF ALL PEOPLE
PRAY FOR PEACE
IN THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD