Today is Tuesday, the 20th of December, 2022, in the fourth week of Advent.
May the peace of Christ be with you always!
FIVE days until Christmas!
Christmas is going to be strange, this year. As previously mentioned, our Christmas Eve celebration with C’s sister and family has been postponed until sometime in January, due to health concerns (S had Covid, and sister’s husband is having shoulder surgery today, I believe). And Christmas falling on Sunday is always different. I do plan on attending a Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran church, probably at 3:00 Saturday afternoon. S has actually said she wants to attend. They are only having one service on Sunday, at 10:00, but I don’t know if I will make it or not. It kind of depends on what time people get up and about and what time we get presents opened.
We’ve got the menu all planned out for Christmas, and I have the groceries set up to deliver this afternoon. We’ll be having ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, mashed potatoes, sopapilla cheesecake, and teacakes. Maybe some rolls, too? Probably. That’s a lot of food for only four people. On Christmas Eve, we will have tamales that I bought from one of our librarians.
I believe I am waiting on one more present to wrap, and it is supposed to arrive tomorrow. A number of presents have also been delivered to our oldest daughter’s home in Indy, and we will have some kind of Zoom-ish call with them on Christmas morning.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. (Psalms 119:61 ESV)
Lord our God, thank you for bringing us into glorious day. Let the rays of your grace, the grace of Jesus Christ, shine into our hearts so that we are truly born of the Spirit and serve you as your children at all times, also when hard days come. Through your might and your revelation pry us loose from all earthly things. Pry us loose from worries and from pleasures. We are your children, O Lord God. We come before you, our Father in heaven, and you will accept us so that we may be a people who prepare the way for you. May all the words you speak be a blessing to us and make us joyful in expectation for the day of Jesus Christ, which has begun in power and glory and will bring power and glory when all is fulfilled according to your merciful and perfect decree. O God, your children entreat you, “Accept us. Hear us. Set the light aflame in our hearts for the coming of your great day!” Amen.
This is the one about whom it is written: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you." Matthew 11:10, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- for John the Baptizer, and all who have gone forth, preparing the way
- for the Word of God, constantly revealed in our hearts
- for the joyful expectation of the coming of the Lord
- for the presence of God in my life; it changes everything
- that God Almighty, who dwells in a high and holy place, also condescends to dwell with us who are contrite and lowly in spirit (aka not proud)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:1-3 ESV)
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:12-17 ESV)
"Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David." (Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)
"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:6-9 ESV)
"For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9 ESV)
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." (John 11:21, 32, 44 ESV)
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
(Isaiah 57:15 ESV)
Take a good look at that last verse from Isaiah. God Almighty, “the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy,” dwells in the “high and holy place.” He dwells in a place none of us can reach.
But He also dwells “with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,” and, in that dwelling, seeks to “revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
What beautiful language, here; how encouraging and comforting!
This is the essence of humility. God, high and lifted up, whose name is Holy, will condescend to dwell with those who are humble. Not with those who are proud. We all need to hear this lesson.
Then, see the words of Jesus. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” Do you have even an inkling of an understanding how much the Father loves the Son?? Is it possible for us humans to even begin to comprehend the love that abides in the midst of the Holy Trinity??
Jesus loves us with that love!
I really had to stop and ponder that for a few minutes.
What does His presence mean for us? Consider that. If we are humble in heart, contrite in our presentation before Him, He dwells with us. It is true, of course, that God is present with us, with all of us, regardless of our state of heart. God is everywhere, all at one time, so He must be. But this “dwelling,” of which Isaiah speaks, is different. You can be “with” someone, but not dwell with them, not abide with them.
Mary and Martha needed that dwelling. But they had allowed their grief and worry to overwhelm them. Both of them complained to Jesus about His absence. Jesus, being God in human form, was not able to be everywhere, all at one time. “Lord, if You had been here, our brother would not have died!” they complained. At least they had that confidence about them. They had the sincere belief that, had Jesus been present, He would have healed Lazarus before he died.
But Jesus had bigger things in mind. He had a bigger lesson to teach.
Shawnelle Eliasen wrote what may be, in my opinion, the best Guideposts reading I have ever read. As she closes this reading out, after discussing Mary and Martha, and their reactions, she says:
"I often succumb to worry over my loved ones or over a tough circumstance I can't see the end of. My soul cries like a babe needing comfort. When I'm so disturbed that I'm distraught, I can be sure that I've not practiced being in the presence of Jesus. "He brings hope. He works in ways I cannot fathom. Trusting the presence of Jesus is training myself to receive peace. . . . "Presence changes everything."
And so it does.
Father, I praise You for Your presence. I pray that my heart will be contrite and my spirit of a lowly nature, that You would dwell with me. May I be not proud, Father, as I truly have nothing to be proud about. The only things that I would be able to boast of have come from You. Your presence truly does change everything, as Mary and Martha found in in a huge way.
May we know this presence, Father. Not just know about it, but experience it and dwell within it, ourselves. Help us to abide in the unfathomable love that Jesus describes, that love that is present in the midst of the Holy Trinity, and with which Jesus loves us. And help us to know the resurrection that comes from knowing and loving You. Jesus brought Lazarus forth from the grave. Help us to believe this and never forget it. Perhaps that is one thing that is truly worthy of “never forget,” unlike most things we are determined to “never forget.”
Now, when I am tempted to be distraught, or to allow worry to consume me, remind me of Your presence; remind me that the presence of Jesus resulted in a resurrection; remind me that Your presence changes everything.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
Grace and peace, friends.