pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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This Most Holy Night

Reading: Luke 2: 1-20

Just as Joseph and Mary made the trek to Bethlehem to be registered for the census, many people will come tonight to worship on this most holy night.  Just as the light of the star signaled the birth of Christ, so too this evening the light of the Christ candle will recall this holy arrival.  As millions and millions hoist candles and sing “Silent Night” we remember the numberless heavenly host who gathered around the shepherds and proclaimed, ” Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests”.

This most holy night is special.  To many, we gather to remember the birth of the divine baby.  Born of a virgin mother, come to dwell amongst humanity, come to die for our sins.  In Jesus we find not only the Savior of the world, but also our Savior.  This night invites us to come, to soak up the holy mystery, to be still and really hear the words of His birth, and to be filled with wonder, awe, and presence of our God most high.

Others come tonight searching, perhaps longing, for all that Christ offers: peace, hope, joy, and love. This night invites those who are lost or hurting or without faith to come in and to be filled.  Christmas Eve is about God giving the gift of Jesus to all people regardless of who they are, what they have done, or where they are from.  In the birth we find our connection to God because in the birth God took on flesh and walked among us.  In the flesh, tonight we are all invited to come and to take on the divine, to experience life lived as a child of God.  Tonight all are invited to become part of God’s family.

On this most holy night, may you and your family be truly blessed by the presence of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.


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God’s Love

Reading: Hebrews 1: 1-12

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In this one act, God shows us how much we are loved.  We are shown the depth of God’s love in a number of ways.  We are told that heaven is a place where there is no pain, no tears, no hurt, no evil.  “Paradise” is a word associated with God’s dwelling place.  That God would leave heaven and choose to live amongst us here is one way the birth reveals the depth of God’s love for us.  God’s choice to put on flesh and walk amongst us sinners reveals a love that is hard to understand.

Verse three states, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory”.  As our Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus reveals the compassionate heart that beats in heaven.  Rather than be the Lord or King that He could have been, Jesus instead chose the role of humble servant.  With a wave of His hand or a whisper of His voice Jesus could have wiped out all evil and injustice.  With a thought He could have removed the Romans.  Instead Jesus became like you and me, demonstrating God’s love through simple acts of mercy, friendship, compassion, and love – in ways you and I can follow and practice.  He became like us so we could be like Him.  Oh how He loves us!

These are just two reasons we celebrate the love of God revealed in the birth.  But in knowing the end, we are also amazed at the birth.  How hard it would be to bring a child into this world knowing that they would die a horrific and unjust death.  What an amazing love that God would send Jesus knowing that the cross loomed.  As a parent we would do all we could for our child to avoid that death.  God did all He could to insure that Jesus would go to the cross.  It is a love I cannot fathom.  Yet for this love, I say thanks be to God.


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Light

Reading: Isaiah 9: 2-7

“On those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned”.  The light of the world reigns with righteousness and justice.  The good news of Jesus Christ is here.  In our world, where many live in darkness, this is very good news.  The light of Jesus both shows the way and also exposes the things done in the dark.

At times, life can be challenging, it can be hard.  This can be for a short season and often the holidays are a hard time.  For some it is because of loss – loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a relationship.  For some it is the stress of the season – so much to do and buy, so little time and money, such high expectations.  Into these and into all situations, Jesus wants to shine the light that shows the way.  Jesus’ light reveals hope, grace, contentment.  Jesus wants to remove pain and burdens and to give us peace, rest, and joy this season.

Jesus’ light can also shine into our darkness.  In the light, the dark is cast aside.  Nothing can hide.  For some, this illuminating light banishes fears and doubts and brings reassurance and trust.  For some, the light illuminates our sins and makes us aware of our need for repentance and change.  Maybe we realize we are being greedy with our wish list or gluttonous with our spending.  Maybe we are being stingy with our time or withholding of our forgiveness.  The light shines into our darkness and calls us back to the path of following Jesus.

We all need the light.  The light leads to life lived in peace, joy, contentment.  The light reveals what truly matters in our world – love, fellowship, family, presence, time.  This Advent season, may we joyously live in the light, sharing the light of the world with all who cross our path this day.


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One Day

Reading: Psalm 98

The psalmist solemnly reminds us that the Lord “will judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity”.  It is a truth we know: one day we will all stand before the judgment seat to be deemed worthy of heaven or to be condemned to hell.  We do not know the when or the how, but we know that the who and what we are now is not forever.

God will first judge in righteousness.  There will be truth in how we are judged.  The simple question that is illustrated in the parable of the sheep and the goats will be the one Jesus asks us: “Do you know me”?  It is the hope and prayer of every Christian that when Jesus looks back over the course of our lives, that He will see we knew Him.  It will be revealed in how we lived out our daily life.  It will be revealed in how we treated our neighbor and the stranger in our midst.  It will be revealed in how we used the gifts and talents and blessings God gave us to help build the kingdom here.

God will also judge with equity.  Loving God and loving neighbor can look like and be a lot of different things.  There is not just one way to love.  By judging with equity God will look at each of us uniquely.  If I was given the gift of teaching, did I teach others about God and faith?  If I was placed in a situation to help the person on the street, did I?  If I was feeling the call or nudge to go to a friend in need, did I respond?  We will each be judged by our own lives, not against some set standard.

When Jesus asks, “Did you know me?” may our answer be a joyous “Yes”!  And may our Lord and Savior say, “Yes indeed – welcome home”!  May we live each day so that one day this will be.


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Sing!

Reading: Psalm 96

“Sing to the Lord” is how our Psalm opens.  Sing?  Why sing?  Because there is joy in song!  Today, people need to hear joy, so sing.  Sing of God’s glory and proclaim His salvation to all you meet.  Lift another up with the good news of God’s saving grace.

“Great is the Lord” and worthy of our praise heralds the psalmist.  God is the creator of the splendor and Majesty of the earth and all that lives on the earth.  God’s strength and glory surround us and call forth our praise.  Take stock and sing God your praise for the ways you experience God’s strength and glory.

Our response to the gift of salvation and the power of God?  We are to bring an offering of praise and to “worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness”.  Our omnipotent and omnipresent God has time for each of us and is interested in a personal relationship with each of us.  Our God is so powerful and amazing that it is hard to get a grasp on God, yet this same God is personally invested in each of us.  Sing praises to his holy name!

The Psalm concludes with the grand finale.  We know it is coming – whether for us personally or for the earth as a whole.  One day life here will cease.  The psalmist concludes, “He will judge the world in righteousness and the people in truth”.  There will be no wiggle room.  Truth is truth.

Jesus our Lord and Savior said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.  Jesus, our Emmanuel, is the truth.  Jesus, our Redeemer, is the way.  Walk in the truth, follow Jesus’ way.  Sing a song to the Lord, all the earth!  Sing of Christ’s wondrous love!  Sing, sing His praises today!


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Beautiful Feet

Reading: Isaiah 52: 7-10

Christmas fills the air!  In our churches, in our homes, in our cars, and even in some of our offices the sounds of Christmas fill the air.  In church we have been singing carols.  Playlists are filled with our favorite Christmas songs.  Music gets us in the mood to celebrate.  As Christmas itself draws near, the songs remind us both of the stories and serve to build up our anticipation and excitement as we wait.

In Isaiah 52 the watchmen are atop the wall waiting for news to come.  There is anticipation and excitement, hoping for good news.  The psalmist writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”.  In one way many people today are much like the men on the wall: they long for good news.  They peer out into the world, longing to hear something good.  For followers of Christ, at times we too long for good news.  Then a song like “Joy to the World” or “K the Herald Angels Sing” floats into our ears or minds and we are reminded: good news is indeed on the way!

In Christmas we celebrate the gift of Jesus.  We celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world.  In acknowledging the babe as the Savior, we connect the baby to the good news.  The baby will grow into a man willing to give all of himself for the world.  The good news of Jesus Christ is that through Him sin and death have been defeated.  Jesus conquered them.  We know the end of the birth story and it gives us hope.  Yes, this life will have its trials and troubles, but ultimately we we will rise to eternal life.  This is the gift we find in the manger on Christmas Eve.  What a wonderful gift indeed!

As believers we know the story.  We sing the songs to remember and to remind ourselves.  May our voices carry the good news to those who wait along the wall, eager to hear some good news.  May our feet be beautiful today.


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One More

Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25

One more.  We wait.  One more week.  We wait.  In one more week it will be Christmas.  We will celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior.  One more week.  It is a significant day because it marks the celebration of the arrival of the Messiah – the one who forever changed the world.  Jesus began a new era in His birth.  Emmanuel, God with us, forever changed our relationships with God, with each other, with sin, and with death.  Jesus is the full revelation of God’s love and the example of how to live this love out in our daily, human lives.

One more second.  On more month.  Twenty-three days.  Right now.  All of these are also available options of times to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah.  Our Emmanuel, God with us, is an ever present God.  We can have Jesus’ presence with us all the time.  Jesus does not just come once a year on Christmas.  Jesus continues to be present to us in the here and now and will continue to be present to humanity until the end of this age.

The Messiah came to initiate a new age: the age of peace.  It is a work in progress.  It is a work in the midst of labor pains.  It is a work that seems far from complete.  It is a work that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, continue to carry out day by day, person by person.

Just as Jesus was the revelation of God and the evolving story of the Old Testament, we too are the continuing revelation of Jesus and the story of the New Testament.  The story of the good news of Jesus Christ continues to grow, to spread, to reach new ears, and to transform lives.  Everyone who comes to Jesus as Lord and Savior helps to complete the narrative of peace and to draw the world a little closer to the return of Jesus.  One more soul at a time.  Matthew writes, “He will save his people from their sins”.  May all come to know this wonderful peace of Christ.