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Archive for December, 2016


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Gerard Van Honthurst: Adoration of the Shepherds

Matthew: Do Not Fear – Part VI

Christmas Saturday, New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2016

Jesus prepares his followers for his own exodus from the mortal life to the eternal. After taking Peter, James and John up the mountain to witness his own transfiguration, he tells them words that engender hope, the words he always tells us: Do not be afraid.

And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)

Jesus feels compassion for the women who tend to him so faithfully. Knowing that their fidelity is an exemplar to all of us, Jesus says the words he says to all of us: Do not be afraid.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. (Matthew 28:5)

Jesus feels deep love for those who want to follow him, knowing that their journey will be difficult. To them and to us Jesus lovingly says: Do not be afraid.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to my brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

Years after Jesus tells those closest to him that he wants to bring unity out of division, he tells each of us that he wants to erase all fear and division. Jesus tells all of creation that fidelity helps us to see how love converts all harm to good, hope sustains all life through turmoil, and love brings all light from darkness.

Today we might ask, “How can we bring faith, hope and love into our lives every day as we are poised to begin a new year?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the many ways God says to us, “Do not be afraid. I live within you always”.

 

 

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angels-announcing-the-birth-of-christ-to-the-shepherds-flinck-govert-teunisz-1024x792-dec-30

Linck Govert Teunisz: Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds

Luke: Do Not Fear – Part V

Christmas Friday, December 30, 2016

Do not be afraid. We need to hear these words. We need to share these words. We need to use these words every day.

The angel of the Lord speaks to the high priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, assuring his that the Living God was making the impossible possible in their lives.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. (Luke 1:13)

The angel of the Lord speaks to the girl Mary, the mother of Jesus, assuring her that the Living God was entering her life in a special way.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)

The angel of the Lord speaks to shepherds who guard their flocks on the night of Jesus’ birth, assuring them that a newness has just entered into a weary world.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

Jesus speaks to Jairus, a synagogue leader, assuring him that his daughter is alive and has not died.

But when Jesus heard this, He answered him, “Do not be afraid any longer; only believe, and she will be made well.” (Luke 8:50)

Jesus speaks to the people, assuring them that the darkness of the world can be dissipated by the light of truth and peace.

“I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. (Luke 12:4)

Jesus speaks to his followers, assuring them that the evil of the world is transformed by love.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Anton Raphael Mengs: Dream of Saint Joseph

Lifetimes after these verses are recorded, we remind ourselves that the impossible is possible with God. All harm becomes goodness through God. Darkness becomes light. Despair becomes home. Doubt becomes faith. Evil becomes love. And for all of these reasons, we need not fear.

Today we might ask, “How do we live in order to remember that we need not be afraid? How do we live in such a way that we demonstrate our understanding that God is everywhere and lives in us? And how do we share this Good News in our thoughts words and deeds?

In Matthew 1:19An angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. To learn why, visit: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/why-did-joseph-plan-to-divorce-mary 

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to remember God’s words, “Do not be afraid”.

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Jeremiah: Do Not Fear – Part IV

Michael Dudash: Birth of the King

Michael Dudash: Birth of the King

Christmas Thursday, December 29, 2016

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that we need not be afraid even in the long and wearying times of violence and war.

“Do not be afraid of [the nations], for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)

“For behold, I will save you from afar and your offspring from the land of their captivity. And Jacob will return and will be quiet and at ease, and no one will make him afraid”. (Jeremiah 30:10)

“Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,” declares the Lord, “for I am with you to save you and deliver you from his hand”. (Jeremiah 42:11)

“Now so that your heart does not grow faint, and you are not afraid at the report that will be heard in the land – for the report will come one year, and after that another report in another year, and violence will be in the land with ruler against ruler”. (Jeremiah 51:46)

Centuries after Jeremiah gives us these words, God continues to be our deliverer, our savior, and our ruler against the kings and powers that threaten our very existence. God tells us, through Jeremiah, that we cannot fear the atrocities we witness and we cannot cower in the face of annihilating forces that wipe out peoples and cultures for God continues to walk and live among us. The child Jesus is the new ruler who governs us for more than an earthly time of war. The child Jesus invites us into a new, inverted, eternal kingdom where the marginalized are the center of the universe.

Today we might ask, “Where do we put the fear that takes hold of us when we witness chaos and carnage? How do we calm our anxiety when we experience outrageous acts against nature and the peoples created by God? When we listen to the voice of Jeremiah, we find that our fears dwindle, and we remember that God’s promise is already with us leading, guiding, saving.

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the many ways God says to us, “Do not fear. I am here with you always”.

 

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Isaiah: Do Not Fear – Part IIIchrist-born-high-res-abstract-background-your-project-35831176

Christmas Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The prophet Isaiah tells us a number of times that we need not fear the circumstances of our lives.

God says, “O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did”. (Isaiah 10:24)

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)

Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me’.” (Isaiah 37:6)

God says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. (Isaiah 41:10)

God says, “Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none”. (Isaiah 44:8)

dec-26Millennia later God continues to be our rock and our refuge, our strength and our song. God sends us prophets whom we may heed or ignore. And God continues to breath and live among us.

Today we might ask, “Whom do we follow and why?” When we listen to the voice of Isaiah, we have a new opportunity to listen to God. We have a new opportunity to give thanks that the Messiah Isaiah foretold is here. The Lord is born. And this Lord is one with us.

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to explore the number of ways God says to us, “Do not fear. I am with you always”.

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Exodus 14:13: Do Not Fear – Part IIred-sea-parting

Christmas Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We know the story of Moses saving his people and leading them to freedom by crossing through the Red Sea that parts for the Hebrews. This miraculous passage has been celebrated and retold endlessly; and for good reason. God loves the faithful so deeply that nature bends to his will; and God still performs miracles for us today. When we lose heart we might remind ourselves of the words Moses spoke to his people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again.

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Hugo Van der Goes: Adoration of the Shepherds

Centuries later God perseveres in watching over those who follow the voice that calls them to unity and peace; and God sends a sign that The LORD walks among us. If only we might take note.

Where are the seas we need parted today so that we might continue our journey to freedom? What are the signs we look for and miss, even though they are in our field of vision? Whose voice do we follow when we are lost or distressed?

Today we might ask, “What or who is it we fear, and why?” When we spend time with this old, familiar story, a new understanding presents itself. Let us open our eyes and ears and hearts so that we might better understand.

For interesting video attesting to proof of the Red Sea Crossing, visit YouTube for the first of three parts at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-v6dzIrGR4

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to explore the number of ways God says to us, “Do not be afraid”.

 

 

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Genesis 15 & 21: Do Not Fear – Part Ibigstock-christ-is-born-55349039-752x440

Christmas Monday, December 26, 2016

We are familiar with the conversation between Abram and “I AM” in which God promises not only a kingship and land but a son and as many descendants as there are stars in the sky. Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great (Genesis 15:1) God’s fidelity is echoed in Abram’s.

Later in this story, Hagar bears Abraham a son and her attitude toward Abraham’s wife Sarah changes. When Hagar and her child Ishmael are sent away to wander in the desert, the same God who promises so much sends a messenger to bring them tidings of peace. The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. (Genesis 21:17Ishmael’s cry is heard by God.

Millennia later God perseveres in watching over the marginalized and invites shepherds as the first witnesses to the arrival of the Messiah in the world. Today we reflect on the gift of fidelity that Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ismael teach us. We reflect on the humility and joy of the shepherds who visit the child Jesus. And we reflect on the permanence of God’s love.

Jesus persists in serving as our shield. Today let us consider the fidelity we echo back to God.

To learn more about why and when Abram and Sarai’s names become Abraham and Sarah, visit: http://bibleblender.com/2011/bible-stories/old-testament/genesis/abraham-gets-a-new-name

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to explore the number of ways the Creator tells us that we need not be afraid.

 

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Luke 2: Christmas Dayjesusborn

Sunday, December 25, 2016

We have beheld God’s promise of creation. We have experienced the renewal of a new day. We have received the gift of Lord and Savior that we were promised in the child. Today is Christmas Day. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

When we read The Message translation of this favorite story, we discover a new perspective. We see, for example, that verses 8-12 give us a new angle on a very old tale.

An Event for Everyone: There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

When we find time today to explore the gift of this translation, we receive more than the gift of words. Behold, we receive Christ himself.

Tomorrow and throughout Christmastide, we will explore the number of ways the Creator tells us that we need not be afraid.

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Luke 1-2: Behold the Christ

Antonio Baletsra:

The Nativity – detail

Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, 2016

In this final week of Advent, let us decide to make our hopes tangible, our dreams a prayer for our reality, our faith unwavering and our love secure. Let us cleave to the Creator, follow the Redeemer and rest in the Spirit. This week let us give one another the gift of preparing for the very real promise of eternity.

The high priest Zechariah learns patience so that he might behold Emmanuel, God Among Us. While he awaits the birth of his only child who will become the announcer and baptizer of the Christ, he waits in patient hope until the day his speech returns.

And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” (Luke 1:20)

The girl Mary learns that God can do the impossible when the angel Gabriel visits her with the astounding news that she will bring the Light of the World to waiting humanity.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. (Luke 1:31)

Mary learns the astounding news that her elderly cousin Elizabeth has conceived life. An affirmation that with God, all things are possible.

And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. (Luke 1:36)

Mary learns that her confidence in God is rewarded as she responds with her, “Yes,” to God’s invitation to enter into union with all of creation in a most special way.

And Mary said, “Behold, the bond slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)

Elizabeth learns that her young cousin Mary is the new ark of the new Word. These kinswomen greet one another just as each of us might if we understand God’s message of hope.

For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. (Luke 1:44)

The marginalized shepherds learn the redeeming news that the Messiah has come to live among them as a vulnerable child.

But the angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; (Luke 2:10)

The wise man Simeon learns that his outrageous hope has been rewarded. He has met the Savior of the World, just as God has promised.

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— (Luke 2:34)

The woman Mary learns that this child she must share with world for the redemption of all is fully human and fully divine.

When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” (Luke 2:48)

Each of us is given the opportunity on this Good Night to become apostles of Christ. Each of us might carry Christ within and share him with the world. Each of us truly human and truly divine as our brother Jesus tells us. Each of us is given the gift of this Nochebuena, this wonderful Good Night. Let us rejoice with the shepherds. Let us give our confident “yes” to God’s plan. And let us behold the marvelous gift we hold in our hands.

In the Hispanic culture Christmas Eve bears the title of Nochebuena. Read more about this custom at: http://www.whychristmas.com/cultures/spain.shtml

These verses are taken from the NASB translation of Luke. Other versions open this story so that our ears might hear, our eyes might see, and our hearts might open wide to welcome Christ into our lives in a very real, very human, very divine way.

adoratio

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Malachi 4:5-6: Behold the New Day

Friday, December 23, 2016

Duccio di Buoninsegna: The Prophet Malachi

Duccio di Buoninsegna: The Prophet Malachi

In this final week of Advent, let us decide to make our hopes tangible, our dreams a prayer for our reality, our faith unwavering and our love secure. Let us cleave to the Creator, follow the Redeemer and rest in the Spirit. This week let us give one another the gift of preparing for the very real promise of eternity.

The prophet Malachi communicates God’s words to us.

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse. (NASB)

Elijah was able to perform miracles just as Jesus did in his own day and even in this present time. Malachi advises that we might want to look forward in hope rather than backward in fear.

But also look ahead: I’m sending Elijah the prophet to clear the way for the Big Day of God—the decisive Judgment Day! He will convince parents to look after their children and children to look up to their parents. If they refuse, I’ll come and put the land under a curse. (MSG)

That day is great for some and dreadful for others. As followers of Christ we are convinced that God’s “greatness” is with us in every moment and in every place.  We are also convinced that Jesus searches for every last sheep, for every hard heart, for every broken soul.

A stained-glass window featuring the prophet Elijah, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire, England

A stained-glass window featuring the prophet Elijah, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucestershire, England

Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers: lest I come, and strike the earth with anathema. (DRA)

And as followers of Christ, we are also convinced that the Spirit works to remove all anathema, to heal all destruction and to bring about complete transformation for all.

But before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; otherwise I would have to come and destroy your country. (GNT)

Malachi calls out to us across the millennia: Behold, Emmanuel is among you. Awake. Rise up. And Malachi asks that we give witness to the enormity of the gift we find in our hands, the gift of God’s infinite peace, Christ’s overflowing compassion, and the Spirit’s miraculous renewal.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we behold the enormity of God’s gift that we receive without asking.

N.B. Some versions of Malachi number this citation as 3:23-24.

For more about Malachi, the last of the minor prophets, or Elijah, the prophet who life is decribed in the Books of Kings, click on their names and/or images above.

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