Struck By the Grace of Christmas

Good morning. It is Saturday, December 6, 2014. Only 19 days until Christmas. Do you know where your presents are?

Did you know that Google cares nothing about GPA and test scores when hiring people? Says they are meaningless. I have felt, for a long time, that colleges should stop giving grades and go with a pass/fail model. We don’t go to college to get good grades. We go to college to learn about a career that we think we are interested in pursuing.

Today is Pawnbrokers Day. I don’t have much to say about that. It was either that or Miners’ Day.

I had a wonderful time having lunch with Christi yesterday. We went to a place close to where she works, that is, basically, a Japanese Sushi restaurant with a Sports theme. But they have these lunch specials that are phenomenal, and low-priced, as well. We both got the Teriyaki Steak lunch, that included a nice portion of sliced steak that was very tasty, some fried rice, several pieces of tempura shrimp and vegetables, two pieces of what was probably California Roll, and a salad. All that for $6.95! We also got a fried calamari appetizer with ranch dressing, which was also quite delicious.

After lunch, I came home, put laundry away, emptied the filter basket for our pool equipment, and then just played games for the rest of the afternoon. It was a nice day of PTO.

Today, Christi is about to head out for the weekly grocery trip for us, and for her mother and step-dad. We have our usual prayer gathering at 4:45 this evening, followed by our worship time at 5:45. Our pastor is preaching a series on Christmas, called “All Authority: Connecting Christmas To the Great Commission.” Apparently, tonight’s message will center entirely around the word, “Go.” As always, anyone is welcome. We are The Exchange.

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of our first date. To celebrate, we plan to go out for “brunch,” to a new restaurant in town, called “The Egg and I.” Then we may just go out an shop around a bit. I need a shirt to wear to Christi’s upcoming work Christmas party, which is a week from today.

(Source: This Day In History)

It was on this date in 1969 that the Alamont Speedway Free Festival occurred, about 60 miles east of San Francisco, California. Arrange by The Rolling Stones, to cap off their tour for the year, it was nothing short of chaotic, as the venue was not even chosen until the Thursday before. Scheduled to appear were Santana, The Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Grateful Dead, and headliners, The Rolling Stones. It was dark before the Dead were slated to appear, but they had left the venue, fearing for their own safety, after Marty Balin, of The Jefferson Airplane, had been knocked unconscious, during their performance, because of a fight involving the several dozen Hell’s Angels that had been hired as informal security (they were each “paid” with $500 worth of beer). During the Stones’ set, though, that the violence took the most dreadful turn. “A 21-year-old Hell’s Angel named Alan Passaro stabbed a gun-wielding 18-year-old named Meredith Hunter to death just 20 feet in front of the stage where Mick Jagger was performing ‘Under My Thumb.'” The Stones never even knew it happened until several months later, when Jagger watched footage that would be made into a film called Gimme Shelter. Jagger has never spoken publicly about this event.

Today’s birthdays include Johnny “Football” Manziel, Randy Rhoads, Agnes Moorehead, Dave Brubeck, Jobeth Williams, Ashley Medekwe, Ira Gershwin, Wally Cox, Peter Buck, Steven Wright, Tom Hulce, Johann Christian Bach, Evelyn Underhill, Fred Duesenberg, Joyce Kilmer, Tish Hinojosa, and Kevin Cash.

There are several that I would make note of, today. Randy Rhoads was a rock guitarist who played with Ozzie Osbourne; Agnes Moorehead played Samantha’s mother, Endora, on Bewitched; Dave Brubeck was a jazz giant on the piano; Ira Gershwin was a lyricist, who wrote “I Got Rhythm,” along with his brother, George; Peter Buck is a guitar player who played with R.E.M.; Tom Hulce may not be very well known, except for the fact that he played the title role in the Oscar winning film, Amadeus; Kevin Cash was a MLB catcher, who recently signed a contract to manage the Tampa Bay Rays. I wish him luck with Eva Longoria and the other “desperate housewives.” Not really. I don’t wish him luck. The Rays may have taken over the lead in my “most hated baseball team” category. Anyway . . .

Here is a clip of compilations of Hulce’s laugh as he played Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

First Week of Advent

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 31:24
Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

Psalm 5:1-2
You are God; we praise you;
You are the Lord: we acclaim you;
You are the eternal Father: All creation worships you.
To you all angels, all powers of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim, sing in endless praise:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Te Deum
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Psalm 119:165
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 5:11-12
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the
armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came
to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his
glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
Matthew 17:22-23

This is the second time in, at least in Matthew’s record, that Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection. It is apparent that the disciples struggled so much over this, that they totally missed the “and he will be raised on the third day” part. Otherwise, why would they have been “greatly distressed?” Puzzled, mystified, confused, maybe. But distressed? Not if they had heard the entire prediction.

How often do we miss key portions of statements, when we are listening to people. How often do we miss key points in the words of Jesus, as we read them? As I read through the Gospels, I am trying to hone in on every aspect of the life of Christ, to hear every word that he spoke, and then to, by the power of the Spirit, comprehend their meaning. It’s not an easy task. But to give the disciples a little credit here, it’s a lot easier for us to comprehend what Jesus was saying, after the fact. This was something totally new to them, and they had not had anyone come to them and associate The Messiah with the “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “The Grace of Christmas.”

“In the face of pessimistic appraisals that we have nothing going for us anymore, Christmas says that we have everything going–Jesus, the journey, and the dream. Richard Rohr says, ‘The Christian never loses, because he has nothing to lose.’

“My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, if you have been struck by the grace of Christmas, if the Lord in his mercy has given you the courage to accept acceptance, if you are convicted that Christmas is the decisive breakthrough of the passionate love of God in Jesus, if you trust that God is faithful to his promises, that he will finish what he began, that amazin’ grace is at work right now, that you have only checked into the hotel of earth overnight and you are en route to the heavenly Jerusalem, then in the immortal words of John Powell, ‘Please notify your face!'”

However, if you are one who has not been “struck by the grace of Christmas,” simply ask, “and it will be given . . .”

In that day you will ask nothing of me.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name,
he will give it to you.

John 16:23

Father, I pray that all people would be struck by the grace of Christmas. With the force of a sledgehammer. Seriously, Father, especially Christians. Sure, we all know, by now, that December 25 probably was not the real birth date of Jesus. We also know that, even though it’s our biggest “holiday” of the year, we are never commanded by Scripture, or even strongly advised by Scripture, to commemorate Jesus’s birth! In fact, for event that we place such high importance on, it occupies very little space in the tome we call The Bible. But we also know that it was the miraculous birth of your Son as a baby human that enabled the rest of his life of grace to happen, along with his torture, his death, and his even more miraculous resurrection and ascension, later on. So we celebrate. And let us celebrate! Father, may we know and experience the joy that should be coming from this time of year, and, yes, may it show on our faces!! While I am quick to acknowledge that we aren’t always going to walk around with big, silly, grins on our faces, there is also no need for us to be continuously scowling. Father, we have a gift inside of us that is unmatched by any Black Friday doorbuster! And we didn’t have to stand in line all night to get it! So may the joy of the grace of Christmas show on our faces throughout this season, and may it not stop when January and February, that most dismal of all months, roll around. Restore to us the joy of our salvations, Lord, the source of which is that baby born on that night in Bethlehem; that night when Mary kissed the face of God.

Father, I pray for this day. May Christi be safe and protected as she goes out to do grocery shopping for her mother. I pray for peace in that relationship, as well, and the light of your grace would shine on Christi’s mother and step-dad. I pray for tonight’s prayer and worship times, that your name will be lifted high and that all we do will glorify your name.

May you be struck by the grace of Christmas this year, and may you know the joy of Jesus today.

Grace and peace, friends.

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