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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category


Ezekiel 4Inevitability

Friday, October 6, 2017

Michelangelo: Ezekiel

Today’s post is a reprise from December 24, 2011. We have an opportunity to consider the possibility of recovering from calamity, an opportunity to accept the gift of Christ, God Among Us. Let us imagine that we are about to celebrate the gift of the Nativity. And let us be grateful for God’s greatest gift of self for God’s generosity, love and goodness are inevitable. 

There is a certain inevitability about Ezekiel’s prophecy.  He is certain that his predictions will come to pass.  From our place in history centuries later, we can easily see that what seemed impossible for Judah and Jerusalem does indeed take place.  Their fortified city is besieged and destroyed; their powerful and comfortable leaders are killed or deported.  Why did anyone doubt Ezekiel and the other prophets?  They reported what they saw in the present and what they saw to come.  They were accurate, so why did anyone have reservation about their words?   Most likely it was because the naysayers had too much invested in the corrupt system.  We might learn a lesson from all of this.

There is a certain inevitability about Jesus’ story.  He comes to tell us that he is Emmanuel – God Among Us From our place in human history we can read about the miracles he performed.  We can also number the times that impossibilities take place in our own lives.  Jesus tells us that he will be destroyed and yet rise again in new life.  He tells us that he has come to take us with him on this amazing journey as his well-loved sisters and brothers.  Jesus tells us what the Creator has asked him to report to us: that we are free, liberated from anything that holds us to the material world in which we live.  This freedom includes freedom from anxiety and stress.  Why do we cling to our old and familiar discomfort when there is a newness offered to us without cost?  Why do we behave as those who heard but ignored Ezekiel’s words?  Do we doubt what Jesus has told us?  What are the reservations we have about his words or his actions?  On this eve when we celebrate his coming into the world as a vulnerable baby, why do we continue to ask for additional proofs and for further assurance that he will complete his promise to bring us to the new life he experiences?  Why do we hang on to our fears and reject the possibility of joy?

Gerard Van Honthurst: The Nativity

So on this Christmas Eve, as we await midnight in order to join in praise of God’s goodness to us, we have this to ponder about our own acceptance of what we have heard and what we have seen.  What is it about Jesus’ story we do not believe?  What are the further proofs we demand before we accept the prophecy of his coming as true?  Who has lured us away from the one true story of redemption and the promise it holds for all?  How have we become like those who hear but so not listen?  When will we tire of hiding behind subterfuge, of supporting corrupt systems and people?  Why do we persist in being as blind as the inhabitants of Jerusalem to whom Ezekiel spoke?

Let us reflect on God’s gift of inevitability as we pray . . .

Tomorrow is the feast of Christ’s birth . . . the feast of the birth of newness in each of us.

Tomorrow is the celebration of a new-found freedom . . . the celebration of our release from fear and anxiety.

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the arrival of hope and God’s promise . . . the commemoration of God’s coming to dwell among us. 

God’s love is inevitable.  Let us cease our resistance.  Let us rejoice in this good news and be glad.  Amen.

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Numbers 6:22-27: Do Not Fear – Part XIII

Saturday, January 7, 2017numbers-blessing

Tomorrow is the official close of Christmastide with the observation of the Epiphany of the Lord when we celebrate the true arrival of the Christ in our lives.

We might best prepare ourselves for the discovery and acceptance of this amazing gift by remembering Aaron’s blessing to the tribes. With this reception of God’s grace, and with all that we have encountered in this season of Christmas, we are hopeful that we will remember . . . we have nothing to fear.

May the Lord bless you and take care of you;

And may we remember that the Christmas gift of Jesus lives and breathes and moves in each of us . . . even our enemies.

May the Lord be kind and gracious to you;

And may we remember that the Christmas grace of the Christ moves and acts and witnesses to each of us . . . even when we have separated ourselves from God.

May the Lord look on you with favor and give you peace;

And may we remember that despite what we se, despite what we hear, despite what we feel . . . we have nothing to fear.

Amen.

blessing-handsWishing each of you Christmas peace and joy throughout the year.

To compare other translations of this blessing, use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore.

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Psalm 56: Do Not Fear – Part XII

Friday, January 6, 2017

Jacob Wet: Adoration of the Magi

Jacob Wet: Adoration of the Magi

Today is the traditional close of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a day when many cultures celebrate the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem. In some countries, children place hay-filled shoes outside their front doors to feed the camels of the kings as they pass by on their journey to the Messiah. In the morning, children find that the camels have eaten the hay and the kings have left presents behind in thanks.

The official name of this celebration is Epiphany, a word coming from the Greek word meaning “to reveal”. Our Merriman Webster English definitions are: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure, a revealing scene or moment, an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being. Today, on this traditional close of Christmas – a day when God surprises us with the revelation of Jesus’ divinity – we might put aside our fears to understand the full impact of this gift.

Sandro Botticelli: The Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli: The Adoration of the Magi

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56 is one we might keep close to hand in 2017 as our personal and public lives unfold. The psalmist speaks to God – just as we might – to tell God that foes trample and oppress him; enemies lie in wait while the mighty and proud dominate his world. The psalmist’s words are distorted; adversaries lurk; opponents plot to end his life. Wickedness, anger, tears, and wanderings. The psalmist records the offenses of a lifetime but rather than despair, he gives his worries to God. Like the psalmist we might place our own woes in our shoes beyond the door as if they were stalks of hay or straw, trusting that the king of kings will exchange them for the promise of restoration.

Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Today, as we reflect on the psalmist’s words, we ask ourselves, “How do we best prepare to enter the land of the living?”

Quentin Metsys: The Adoration of the Magi

Quentin Metsys: The Adoration of the Magi

Throughout Christmastide, we have reflected on the many times and the many ways the Living God assures us that we need not be afraid. Let us keep God’s wisdom always in our hearts and minds as our refuge and rock. Let us keep the centering presence of Christ always as our beginning and our end. And let us keep the healing indwelling of the Spirit as our homing guide.

When we explore other versions of these verses, we begin to understand how we might practice placing our fears in the restorative hands of the eternal, Living God.

Definition from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany 

For more on the Feast of the Epiphany, visit:  http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm 

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Revelation 1: Do Not Fear – Part XI

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Carlo Maratti: John the Evangelist on Patmos

Carlo Maratti: John the Evangelist on Patmos

John brings us his Patmos vision in the first chapter of Revelation.

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (verse 1:9)

John tells us why he writes his apocalyptic prophecy.

I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet, saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches”.  (verses 1:10-11)

John describes the Living God’s response to his fear.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades”. (verse 1:17-18)

The Cave of St. John on the Island of Patmos

The Cave of St. John on the Island of Patmos

Today, as we reflect on John’s words, we might ask ourselves, “In this new year, how do we open ourselves to the promise of peace God offers to us with the gift of his entry into the world as a small, vulnerable child?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the meaning of the prophetic description of the Living God as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.

Apocalyptic literature can be difficult to take in. For commentary on the Book of Revelation, visit: http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Revelation&ch=

The Island of Patmos Today

The Island of Patmos Today

When we explore other translations of these verses, we begin to understand how our fears disconnect us from the one who is the beginning and end of all.

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1 John 4:17-18: Do Not Fear – Part X

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: The Adoration of the Shepherds

Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre: The Adoration of the Shepherds

John reminds us that the one sure antidote against fear is love.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (NASB)

John tells us that the power of love overcomes the power of evil, always.

There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. (GNT)

John reminds us that all love that emanates from God has the power to heal and transform.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love. (MSG)

John tells us that as we grow in love and in Christ, we no longer are a harbor of fear.

Today, as we reflect on our fears, we might ask ourselves, “In this new year, how might we make ourselves ready to grow in love?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the confidence God’s words bring to us, “There is no room in love for fear”.

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1 Peter 3:14-16: Do Not Fear – Part IX

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

François Boucher: Adoration of the Shepherds

François Boucher: Adoration of the Shepherds

Peter knows that the newness of the kingdom is more than the world can bear. Peter also knows that the faithful in this kingdom will experience trials. And so Peter animates Jesus’ followers, both his contemporaries and those of every age.

But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a  defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (NASB)

Peter tells us that the terror of persecution becomes joy when we remember that the power of Christ.

But even if you should suffer for doing what is right, how happy you are! Do not be afraid of anyone, and do not worry. But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, but do it with gentleness and respect. Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are insulted, those who speak evil of your good conduct as followers of Christ will become ashamed of what they say. (GNT)

Peter reminds us that we are not alone, and that we need not seek revenge.

If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (MSG)

Peter tells us that when we follow Christ, we are assured of redemption, healing and transformation.

Today, as we remember the gift that Jesus is to the world, we might ask ourselves, “Are we willing to live in such a way that the world knows we place our hope in Christ?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the hope God’s words bring to us, “Do not fear, do not be troubled, do not give the opposition a second thought”.

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Acts 27:23-24: Do Not Fear – Part VIII

Monday, January 2, 2017

Philippe de Champaigne: The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1640, oil on canvas, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edwin Binney, 3rd, no known copyright restrictions, 66.83

Philippe de Champaigne: The Adoration of the Shepherds

Paul is arrested and held as a prisoner for his faith in the risen Christ. As he journeys to Rome, he undergoes a number of trials, and it is into this environment, when fear might take over, that Paul is visited by a messenger from God.

For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you”. (NASB)

Paul tells us that when we experience darkness and anxiety, God does not desert us.

For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me and said, “Don’t be afraid, Paul! You must stand before the Emperor. And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you”. (GNT)

Paul reminds us that when great power overtakes us, the risen Christ brings us the courage to resist corruption.

“Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.” (MSG)

Ludolph Backhuysen: Paul's Shipwreck

Ludolph Backhuysen: Paul’s Shipwreck

Paul says that a life lived in Christ will never be smooth; and he tells us that when shipwrecks occur in our lives – as they always will – Christ will make the impossible possible.

Today, as we consider the courage of the shepherds who followed the star to the Bethlehem stable, we might ask ourselves, “What risks are we willing to take as we resist easy comfort? And what shipwrecks are we willing to experience as we follow the bright star of Christ?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the renewing power of God’s words to us, “Don’t give up. Do not be afraid”.

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Acts 18:9: Do Not Fear – Part VII

Sunday, New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

We enter a new year, a time of replenishment and restoration. We look for a new message of transformed hope. A new sign of renovating freedom. We await a new pronouncement of the words we need to hear: Do not be afraid.

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; (NASB)

Saul, the persecutor of early Christ-followers, encounters the risen Christ and learned that his fears have no meaning in this kingdom of Jesus. He now believes the words: Do not be afraid.

One night Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up. (GNT)

Saul the persecutor, blind for a time, trusts God’s plan as he shares the Good News that Christ’s new coming brings new hope and new meaning.

One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: “Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.” That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians. (MSG)

Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the Apostle, sharing the Good News that hope is alive, rebirth and transformation are possible, and fear is only for those who refuse to believe.

Centuries after Paul shares his news with anyone who will listen, he tells each of us that there is no reason for fear or division.

Today, as we reflect on the journey the magi make to worship the new king, we might ask ourselves, “What journey we are willing to make? And what are we willing to put aside in this new year as a sign that we refuse to surrender to fear?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the transformative power of God’s words to us, “Do not be afraid”.

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1622gerard_van_honthorst-dec-31

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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