Celebrate His Presence

Good morning. (Or afternoon, as was the case by the time I finished this.) It is Saturday, December 13. 12/13/14. There are some who say that this is the last sequential date for this century, the next being 01/02/03 (2103). But if we cheat a little bit, the next one could be 1/2/34, only twenty years from now. I guess it just depends on how much of a purist you are.

Did you know that there are 328 people in the United States named “ABCDE?” I swear I am not making this up. It is pronounced “AB-si-dee.”

In keeping with the holiday festivities, today is Gingerbread Decorating Day.

Tonight, we are going to the USBC (United States Bowling Congress) Christmas Party. It’s at a hotel in south Arlington, with catered buffet dinner, door prizes, and a DJ with dancing. All for free! We will be missing church to attend this, but we decided that it would probably be a good thing for Christi to be there, since she has only been working there for a few months. They really like her, and she got a very nice review yesterday. It’s not all about appearances, however, as we think it should be a pretty good time, as well. We don’t miss church that often, and the pastor understands. It is one of the downsides of having church on Saturday evening.

As for tomorrow . . . I don’t know of any plans at all. So, probably just a day of relaxing and rest. I’m only working two days next week, as I have three more PTO days to use for 2014. I really wish our company would allow us to roll vacation days over. While I would always rather be at home than at work, I would rather not just take random PTO days just because I have to use them or lose them.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

In January of 1948, Jim Elliot would begin a journal that would become “among the most famous spiritual records of the twentieth century.” On this date in 1948, his entry read, “O Jesus, my Immanuel, how grateful I am that Thou art no less with me in common places than in elevated ones. He who stooped to babyhood in a stable will not defer stooping to abide in this poor, dark, stable-like heart of mine, I know!” In 1949, on December 13, he wrote of nineteen different words that Paul used to describe the sinfulness of men, recorded in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. “Aphilagathoi: not regarding good as a thing to be cherished.” In 1950, Elliot corresponded with Elisabeth Howard, with whom he was in love, but waiting for God’s timing to marry. On December 13, 1950, his journal entry recorded a trip to Chester, Illinois, and some prayer requests that would appear, to the outsider, absurd. “I think God is to be glorified by asking the impossible of Him,” he recorded in his journal. He was also desiring to go to the mission field in Ecuador, which he was finally able to accomplish in 1950. Two years later, he and Elisabeth were married. He began attempting to make contact with the reclusive Waodani Indians, in Ecuador. His last journal entry would be on December 31, 1955, “describing a month of temptations.” Eight days later, Jim Elliot and four missionary associates were martyred by the Waodani.

Today’s birthdays include Taylor Swift, Jamie Foxx, Amy Lee, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Buscemi, Ted Nugent, Rickie Fowler, Cristopher Plummer, Mary Todd Lincoln, John Davidson, Morris Day, Ferguson Jenkins, Phillips Brooks, Carlos Montoya, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Kathy Garver, and Ben Bernanke.

Hmmm. . . Amy Lee or Taylor Swift? Amy Lee or Taylor Swift? It really shouldn’t be that much of a contest, for me. But I do like one of Taylor’s latest songs, “Blank Space.” She is 25 years old today. After seeing her as a guest mentor on The Voice, I gained a new level of respect for her. She’s a pretty smart kid. 🙂

Amy Lee is the co-founder and lead singer of the rock group Evanescence. They haven’t released an album since 2011, but still claim to be a band. Amy turns 33 today. Here she is, singing with Korn in a very different arrangement of “Freak On A Leash.” Don’t worry, it’s safe. They don’t sing the bad words. 🙂

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Second Week of Advent

May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Psalm 104:34
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!
Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.

Psalm 141:3-5
I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me.

Psalm 119:174-175
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
Ezekiel 34:11, 15-16
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.
For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.

Psalm 37:23-24, 28-31
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare
the way for our salvation: Grant us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
O God, the source of eternal light: Shed forth your unending day upon all of us who watch
for you, that our lips may praise you, our lives may bless you, and our worship may give
you glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Chapter 18 ends with this rather lengthy parable, but not after Jesus probably stunned Peter with the answer to a simple question. I’m sure Peter thought he was being very generous when he offered to forgive his brother up to seven times. Jesus, however, increased that number, exponentially, by saying either seventy-seven times or seventy times seven, depending on the translation. It is my opinion that by using this number, Jesus was indicating that there is no limit to the number of times we should forgive. Then he tells the parable. In the parable, the first man owed the king ten thousand talents. At first glance that doesn’t seem like much. We immediately try to insert dollars there. $10,000. It’s a lot of money, but less than most of us make in a year’s time. But we must consider how much it really is. A denarius is about a day’s wages for the common Jewish laborer. A talent, on the other hand equals about 6000 denarii! That’s sixteen years worth of wages!! (Almost 16.5, actually.) Ten thousand talents??? If my math is correct (and it frequently is not), that’s about 160,000 years of wages! In other words, Jesus has thrown out a number that is unheard of, pretty much impossible. But his hyperbole is to make a point. The king forgives this outrageous debt, after which this man goes out and threatens a poor fellow who owed him a mere three months’ wages. He refused to forgive him. He had just been forgiven an impossible amount, which he would not live long enough to repay, yet cannot see fit to forgive another for just a few months worth of debt. When this got back to the forgiving king, he was furious, brought the first man back in, and put him in debtor’s prison.

The point that Jesus is making is that we have, all of us who call the name of Christ, been forgiven something pretty much equal to the ten thousand talents. We have been forgiven an impossible debt. We had better show the same mercy to others.

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “His Presence At Christmas.”

“The crisis of Christmas in the Christian community is truly a crisis of faith. Many of us will continue to ignore the invitation, dodge the truth, evade reality, and postpone the decision about Jesus–which is a decision itself.”

At Christmas, we celebrate the birthday of the Son of God. Doesn’t matter when it really happened, this is when we celebrate it. Get over it. It doesn’t matter that it aligns with the date of a pagan ritual celebration. We are celebrating the birth of the Son of God, our Savior. “What will separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the mystics from the romantics this Christmas will be the depth and quality of our passion for Jesus. The insensitive will eat, drink, and be merry; the superficial will follow social customs in a religious setting; the defeated will be haunted by ghosts from the past.

“And the victorious minority who are not intimidated by the cultural patterns of the lockstepping, anonymous, and unbelieving majority will celebrate as though he was near–near in time, near in place, the witness of our motives, our speech, our behavior. As indeed he is.”

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73:28

Father, I pray that this Christmas season will find me celebrating the nearness of the Son of God, as I celebrate his birth. May my celebrations be full of joy, yet serene and peaceful, knowing that Jesus is near to me, both in time and space, and that he observes my every motive, word, and action. While I will, no doubt, participate in some jollity, eating, drinking, and merriness, my heart will know the presence of Jesus in the season, and worship him as I celebrate. May these thoughts and actions influence just one person during this season, Father.

I pray for this day, that we will have safety as we travel around, that Christi will find peace, somehow, as she serves her mother and step-dad. Give her (us) wisdom to know how to help them in the endless drama that is any kind of relationship with her mother. Christi’s mother is the most selfish person I know, Father. I pray that you would break her and give her a new heart, a heart of love and compassion. I pray that we will have a fun time at the party tonight, and, at the same time, somehow display our faith in you through Jesus. May our travel to and from there be safe. I pray for Stephanie, while we are gone, that she would know your love for her and, in her own way, begin to see the presence of Jesus in the season.

Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for everything.

How will you celebrate this season? Will you celebrate with the insensitive, the superficial, the defeated, or the victorious?

Grace and peace, friends.

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