Today is THE day! Hallelujah! From your facial expression, although you are at church, you look stressed, exhausted and not in a “hallelujah” mood. You have gotten beyond the Thanksgiving family gathering, the Macy's parade, decorating the house, buying the gifts, keeping a schedule of all the school-church-community events, volunteering at the holiday pantry, getting out the Christmas cards and cooking! That sleepy little town of Bethlehem sounds alluring. Merry Christmas! Celebrate!
Jericho, Province of Palestine – Our community was rocked today by the news that one of our leading citizens has publicly announced his religious transformation after an encounter with the unorthodox Galilean rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.
An article in Parade Magazine affirms the belief in miracles by members of the Beam family after their daughter survived a fall that her doctors declared would take her life. “Today, more than four years after the December 2011 incident, Annabel still takes no medication and has no symptoms."
It is not, as some friends have interpreted for me, a wonderful reminder that we must leave a heritage of love and morality when we come to death. It is not a touching story of a great philosopher/prophet who gave away his life as an ultimate sacrifice to show us a better way to live. It is not a reminder that we are only truly different from all other creatures when we center our life on self-sacrifice and exemplary ethics.
When we arrive at Easter every year we know the story and repeat the rituals, often without rediscovering the breathtaking reality of God’s love. On a recent Sunday my worship experience was energized by new joy as the choir sang an unfamiliar anthem based on the idea of Jesus’ suffering and death as a dance of joy!
How do you deal with failure? Are you devastated, consumed with guilt and the sense that your life will carry a negative burden and the future will never be better? Do you blame failure on circumstances or someone else? Or, do you find a way to make amends, to learn new behavior, to take responsibility and fashion positive values?
When you celebrate the Lord’s Supper, consider that Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus was preparing to die for us. The disciples were not paying attention. They were thinking about themselves. Jesus did not condemn them or turn them away. Instead, he opened his heart to them again, loved and encouraged them and looked to the cross.
Luke meticulously lays the foundation that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah, pointing to an angelic revelation to both Mary and Zechariah, the heavenly hosts revealing to lowly shepherds that this “promised one” is born in a humble animal shed in Bethlehem, the startling affirmation of Simeon and Anna at the Temple, Jesus’ impressive visit with the scholars at the Temple when he was only 12 years old and Jesus’ baptism by the unorthodox prophet John.
We all know about beginnings: that first day in school, becoming old enough to join the youth group at church, going off to college, starting a new job or career, marriage. You may remember the exact moment you accepted Christ as Savior and the day you publicly declared your life commitment by baptism.