The problem with Christmas is we know the story too well. We have seen the lavish details year after year in movies, on concert stages and in magnificent works of art. But once in a while we catch the real magic of that moment in Bethlehem when eternity and this physical world witnessed the incomparable act of God.
Ezekiel and John the Baptizer are two of the most colorful characters in the Bible. Ezekiel was a dramatic visionary who never minced his words about God's judgment and Israel's sins, experienced bizarre visions and declared God's unbroken love for his people. John the Baptizer was also a mysterious and colorful person who appeared out of the Dead Sea wilderness, condemning the Jews' devotion to rules and rituals in the place of submission to the God who loved them, and powerfully calling them to the Messiah who could bring them back to God.
As I write this lesson, it is the first week of November, yet the retailers already have their Christmas decorations up, television shows are offering Christmas cooking segments, and schools are practicing for holiday concerts. I still have leaves to rake, a family event to plan, and the distractions of unsettling news stories.
The situations of our world can distract us from what is of greatest importance. When least expected, we may encounter heartache or situations that disrupt life and challenge the normal.
When people are desperate for hope they often gravitate to any person who seems to promise what they want. Our study compares and contrasts two biblical texts about the same redemption of God event, but positioned in a different context.
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!