IF ONE GOES OUT
Date: 12/16/2014 08:20 - Subscribe


"If One Goes Out They All Go Out"

Read Isaiah 35:8-10.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion
with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they
shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall
flee away. Isaiah 35:10

I have a love-hate relationship with my Christmas lights. I love
them when they work. I hate them when they don't. Sometimes
a single bulb goes dark; sometimes it's a section; sometimes
it's the whole string. Often they are all working when you put
them up. But then, usually on a dark night when snow is falling,
the temperature is dropping, and a cold wind is blowing, you
look up to admire them and you see some of them are unlit.

When I was a kid miniature bulbs had one huge drawback-the
electric current had to run all the way through each and every
bulb or it wouldn't run through any of them. So if one bulb went
out, they all went out. Sometimes our joy at Christ's birth
seems like that. We get the idea we will only have a great
Christmas if everything goes perfectly. But if one part of life
goes badly, it steals the joy and leaves us in darkness.

But vast improvements in miniature bulb strings have been
made since I was a kid. Now, when a bulb burns out, current
still runs through the base of that bulb to the next. As a result,
you may have lights burned out, but the rest will keep shining.

Odds are this Christmas won't find everything perfect in your
life. You may have good health and a good job, but are
struggling with relationship problems. Your family may get
along fine, but you're having troubles paying your bills. It might
be everything else is good, but this is the first Christmas
since a loved one died and it just doesn't feel like Christmas
without him or her.

It's hard to keep from letting one problem crowd out our joy and
thankfulness. It's hard, that is, until you stop and think about the
first Christmas. Joseph and Mary were not wealthy people. And
since there was no room to lodge, they had to wrap Jesus in
swaddling cloths and lay Him in a manger-a rough feeding trough.
But the lack of a crib did not diminish the joy of that first
Christmas. The joy still shone through because the Son of God,
the Savior of the world, was here.

On that first Christmas, Jesus Christ began sharing our sorrows,
our problems, our pains, and our sufferings. Eventually He shared
our death and God's wrath. But through His perfect life and
innocent suffering and death, He conquered our death and won for
us eternal life. Until His glorious return to this earth, our lives will
not be perfect and neither will our Christmases. But He will change
all of that upon His return. Never again will there be sorrow, loss,
grief, suffering, or pain. All of that will flee in His glorious presence,
and we will be crowned with eternal joy and gladness.

THE PRAYER:

Lord Jesus, because of Your great sacrifice, I have reason to rejoice
and be glad all the days of my life. Comfort me in my sorrows this
Christmas. Please open my eyes to see those who suffer around me
so I can offer them that same comfort. In Jesus' Name I pray. Amen.

(Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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WHITE CHRISTMAS
Date: 12/15/2014 04:14 - Subscribe


"Dreaming of a White Christmas"

Read Isaiah 35:1-7.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the
recompense of God. He will come and save you." Isaiah 35:3-4

Ordinarily I love a white Christmas, but that was the last thing
my wife and I wanted for Christmas 2002. Mom was dying of
cancer and we hoped desperately to be able to drive back the
550 miles for Christmas. The weather forecast in the days
leading up to the holidays wasn't good and, sure enough, on
December 24 there were eight inches of snow on the ground
and more expected to fall through the day. We were forced to
cancel Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services at church,
and soon it became painfully clear we would miss gathering
for Mom's last Christmas here on earth.

There are times in our lives and, sadly, at our Christmases,
when we face problems that make us anxious, troubled, and
fearful. Maybe you face great struggles this Christmas. Maybe
you are hanging at the end of your rope. Maybe, instead of
getting better, things are getting worse. It might seem God
doesn't care at all.

Our Lord Jesus understands that feeling better than we can
imagine. As He hung from the cross enduring the fiery wrath
of God for our sins He cried out, "My God, My God, why have
You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46b). God the Father did not
forsake His only begotten Son because of anything Jesus
Himself had done. He forsook His Son because Jesus took
upon Himself the punishment that should have fallen on
each of us.

That is God's love for all fallen men, women, and children. He
demonstrated that love when He sent His Son at Christmas,
the baby in Bethlehem's manger, to be our sacrifice, the pure
Lamb who would take away the sins of the world.

Jesus died and rose again to be our Good Shepherd. Having
defeated death He is with us forever. When we are at the end
of our wits, Jesus is there to hear our prayers and comfort us.
"Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest" (Matthew 11:2cool.gif.

Come to Bethlehem's manger. Come see Your Lord and
Savior who was born to rescue you and bring you to eternal
life in heaven.

THE PRAYER:

Lord Jesus, there are so many times when I'm at a loss and
when I don't know where to turn. Remind me to come to You
humbly and completely. You are my Lord and my risen Savior
who has conquered death, hell, and given me eternal life. Amen.

(Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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WHO TO TRUST
Date: 12/14/2014 08:02 - Subscribe


"You Have to Know Who to Trust"

Read Psalm 146.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in
the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth. ... The LORD
watches over the sojourners. Psalm 146:5, 9A

Putting up Christmas lights by yourself isn't very easy, and often
it's not very smart either. In the first week of December 2006 three
men in northern Texas fell off ladders while decorating their
houses. Two were paralyzed and the third died. They broke one
of the first rules of using a ladder: always have someone there to
help steady the ladder. They forgot the second rule too: if you must
climb the ladder yourself, make sure it is secured to the roof.

We tend to trust in our skills, our abilities, and our knowledge --
even our balance -- more than we should. But asking someone to
help who has no idea how to hold a ladder would be no better.

This week in church we light the third candle in the Advent wreath.
Traditionally, and still in many churches today, that candle is a
different color from the others. It is a reminder to turn our attention
to Christ Jesus who is different from all other people. He is
absolutely trustworthy and able to handle every single problem
that could possibly come our way.

Are you hoping for a "perfect Christmas" this year? What are you
counting on to make it perfect? Is it the perfect present under the
tree? Is it getting all the presents bought and wrapped? Is it
getting every string of lights onto your house and your Christmas
tree and then keeping them lit all through the holiday season?
Will it be the perfect Christmas if you are able to get each
member of your family to join you? Will it be perfect if everyone
is healthy?

How often do our hopes and aspirations for Christmas -- and for
life itself -- depend on our accomplishments or someone else
coming through for us? Whenever you have placed your
confidence in an Internet business, a department store, or the
forecast of the local meteorologist, how many times have you
been disappointed at Christmas because you or somebody else
has failed?

There is only one safe place to set our hope, and that is in the
God who made the heavens and the earth. He alone has the
power to do all we need. He alone loves us enough to give us
more than we can ask or imagine. He is the God who became
human and lived among us. He is God who laid down His life
on the cross and rose again in glory for us. He is the God who
walks along with us and guides us to our heavenly home. Our
hope is in Jesus Christ our only Savior, for whose sake our
Heavenly Father stands at the end of life's road with His arms
widespread, waiting to welcome us into His heavenly Kingdom.

THE PRAYER:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our
Lord and Savior. Forgive us for placing so much trust in
ourselves or in others. Teach us to rely on Jesus Christ alone
for He can never fail us. In Jesus' Name, we pray. Amen.

(Luheran Hour Ministries)

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SHARP NEEDLES
Date: 12/10/2014 07:16 - Subscribe


Read Isaiah 11:6-10.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain; for the
earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters
cover the sea. Isaiah 11:9

I love the smell of fresh cut Christmas trees, but I'm not crazy
about their sting. I was never a fan of those sharp needles. Your
each in to string some lights or attach an ornament and ouch!

That's one of the reasons my wife and I decided to go with an
artificial tree when we started our own family Christmas traditions.
You can reach in there all you want and know nothing will prick
you.

Wouldn't it be nice if the world was like that, especially this time
of year? How wonderful it would be to go shopping and know
people would be patient and polite. How refreshing it would be if
you knew people wouldn't cut you off to have that parking space
or wrestle you over those "must-have" presents this Christmas?

I imagine most of us would like our homes to be oases of
respect, safety, and peace. But here too the pressures of the
season can cause tempers to be short, words to be sharp, and
patience to wear thin.

Even in your church congregation there is undoubtedly stress
and strife. Slights and insults are exchanged like Christmas
cards; pessimism and doubt leads to discouragement and
apathy; selfish pride leads to deep divisions that splinter us.

But that is why Jesus Christ -- our brother and King -- is here
with us. He guides us in humility and meekness and teaches
us to treat one another in the same way. He who came to this
world as a little baby shared our humanity, our sorrows, and
our disappointments. He suffered from the cruelty and
murderous hatred of His own people. He wore a crown of
thorns and died on the cross for all the sins we committed
against our God and against one another. But now, risen from
the dead, He works to bring healing, peace, and harmony to us
and each one of our broken relationships.

Showing us the depth of His love in His holy Word He fosters
love within our hearts toward one another. Forgiving our sins in
our Baptism, He empowers us to forgive those who sin against
us. Reminding us of the price He gladly paid for our salvation,
He softens our hearts as He gives us His own body and blood
to eat and to drink so that we gladly sacrifice ourselves for each
other.

In Jesus Christ, God's Word through Isaiah is fulfilled: "The earth
shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD," and nothing will hurt
or destroy us on His holy mountain.

THE PRAYER:

Holy Lord, tame our wild impulses, forgive our sins, and change
our rebel hearts so that we may no longer cause any hurt or harm
in Your holy house. We pray this in Jesus' Name. Amen.

(Lutheran Hour Ministries)

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SPEAK OUT!
Date: 12/09/2014 11:39 - Subscribe


In recent weeks, we’ve seen firsthand that our justice system
treats some people like they don’t matter. Grand juries in
Missouri and Staten Island both decided that the deaths of
unarmed black men were not worth further investigation by
declining to call for a trial of the police officers who killed them.

This isn’t just a problem in Ferguson, not just something that
happens in New York. We hear over and over again that our
society is treating our black sisters and brothers as though
their lives don’t matter.

How do you change a culture that systematically devalues
our black brothers and sisters? Start locally. A letter in your
local paper calling for justice is a powerful way to reach your
friends, neighbors, and community with the message that
ALL people are made in the image of God.

Your voice is critical. If we are ever going to change our
culture that disregards the worth of black lives, Christians
need to speak out.

We need all Christians to speak out against the injustice
we’ve seen toward our black sisters and brothers. The work
of the church is reconciliation – now let’s get to it!

In faith,
Janelle and the rest of the Sojourners team

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