Archive for December, 2013

Advent Reflection

December 25th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 18:18-27

Sell your car. Sell the necklaces, the DVDs, the game systems. Sell all of your clothes except what you have on your back, and make sure you sell those watches and those shoes, too. Sell everything in your house until nothing remains, until everything you once owned is now reduced to a pile of cash and checks. Then, go out and give that money away. Give it to the homeless man you pass every day on your way to work. Give it to the single parents who are struggling to put food on the table. Give it to the kids who have never gotten a new toy on Christmas morning, let alone any other morning. Give, give, and give, until you literally have nothing left. And then rejoice, “for you will have treasure in heaven.”

This is a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? Christ tells us that becoming poor in this life will make us rich in the heavenly kingdom. Some of us are opening Christmas presents this morning, and some will be opening them soon in January. Imagine receiving those gifts and then immediately selling them in order to give that money to someone less fortunate. Are we willing to trust the Father with everything that we have? Are we willing to listen to Him when He beckons us to a life of selflessness and sacrifice? It is not enough to just obey the rules. As we read in James, “Faith without deeds is dead” (2:26). Christ gave everything he had to give us the riches of heaven. As we celebrate his birth this Advent season, let us remember that our true treasure lies in Christ and His eternal kingdom.

Lord, let nothing of this material world satisfy us the way the hope of Your heavenly kingdom satisfies us. Put it on our hearts to give sacrificially so that we might help others in greater need.

Advent Reflection

December 22nd, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Isaiah 40:18-31

Do you know who your God is? Especially during the chaos of the Christmas season in America, we have the unfortunate habit of creating other gods. We put so many things on pedestals: our perfect dinner parties, our final grades of the semester, our paychecks, our newly-wrapped Christmas presents. These gods slip into our minds and our hearts, and they do a great job of averting our eyes us from the God who is the only One worthy of our affection. He is “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” The same God who set the earth on its foundations is the same God who planned our salvation through his son Jesus Christ. Can the gods we covet in this life say the same? Dear readers, let us praise the God of the universe, who gives us faith and allows us to “soar on wings like eagles.” This is the God of our Advent season and the God of our whole lives.

Lord, forgive us for turning to false gods in this holy season of preparation. Give us the faith and the strength to put our hope in You and not in the things of this world.

Advent Reflection

December 20th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Hebrews 3:12-4:10

Take a look at your schedule for this upcoming week. Is it packed with appointments, meetings, coffee dates with friends in town, Christmas parties, etc.? Have you scribbled frantic notes to buy those last remaining gifts before the sales come to an end? We often find ourselves in this near-panicked state when approaching Christmas Day. Sometimes the days leading up to Christmas can feel like a marathon, with us collapsing at the finish line in a heap of shredded wrapping paper on the morning of. If this is what our advent season feels like year after year, then we are missing the point, my friends! Yes, it is a beautiful thing to give thoughtful gifts and enjoy time spent with friends and family, but these things should lift us up, not drain us out. As Christians, we have the infinite joy of being able to “enter God’s rest.” As his beloved sons and daughters, God gives us the opportunity to experience his rest and peace every day, not just on Sunday. So long as the day is called “Today,” we have the abounding pleasure of resting in the arms of our Abba Father. Don’t let the rush of the season overwhelm you; take time out of your day to sit, reflect, and pray to the God of eternal rest.

Lord, there are so many things in our day that conflict with the peace we can find in You. Help us to block out all the unnecessary distractions of the Christmas season and find a moment to enjoy your loving rest.

Advent Reflection

December 18th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Luke 17: 11-19

When was the last time you felt thankful? We are so incredibly blessed in America, so much so that we sometimes forget that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17). The gifts of shelter, food, and clothing are simply taken for granted, and we demand the next new piece of technology or creature comfort as if they were entitled to us. We get caught up in the whirlwind of Christmas wish lists and the anticipation of receiving gifts and material good wishes. And yet, in reality, shouldn’t we be floored when we reflect on all that we have? The art of thankfulness is a daily practice of appreciating the small things – the favor from a colleague, the full gas tank, a winter coat – so that we can be truly grateful for the big things – the good health report, the returned soldier, the additional holiday with an elderly relative. Like the healed Samaritan, we should be “praising God in a loud voice” and throwing ourselves at Jesus’ feet to thank him. Living gratefully is not just the best way to live; it is the instinctive response of a faithful heart.

Lord, thank you for all of the gifts that you have given us. We pray that we may recognize your abundant blessings and always find the words to express our deep gratitude.   

Advent Reflection

December 15th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 17:1-10

Forgiveness is one of the most empowering and yet difficult callings of a Christian. Much to our discomfort at times, forgiveness is the necessary step we must take to return to communion with each other and with God. When someone hurts or offends us, it is so easy to close ourselves off from that person and never reconcile with him or her. However, Christ urges us to rethink conflict. He insists that “even if they sin against you seven times in a day,” we should forgive people each time they apologize. This shocks the disciples so much that they proclaim, “Increase our faith!” Indeed, our faith in Christ should help break down our pridefulness and open our hearts to forgive. Jesus promises that such faith can move the mountains in our lives: it can heal hurt relationships, rebuild trust, and enrich the bonds between friends and family members with whom we’ve had a falling out. During this season of increased grace and kindness, let us be true witnesses to Christ’s love by being able to forgive as readily as we would want to be forgiven.

Lord, it is your heart’s desire to see your children live in love and forgiveness. Help us be quick to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.”

Advent Reflection

December 12th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Matthew 5:1-12

During the hustle and bustle of Christmas, it is so easy to think about what we want and what we hope to “get.” Retailers spend an incredible amount of money on TV commercials and magazine ads to entice us into thinking that we need this new outfit or that new toy in order to be blissfully fulfilled. As Christians, we need to overrule these selfish inclinations and focus on humility and service. Looking to the Beatitudes, we see what it takes to live a happy life, to be truly “blessed.” These God-honoring qualities are unequivocal models of how we should endeavor to act: when we are “meek,” “merciful,” and “pure in heart,” only then will we “inherit the earth,” “be shown mercy,” and “see God.” It takes effort and prayer to embody these qualities, no doubt, but the reward of God’s blessings is greater than any present we could ever get. Before we set our eyes on the material gifts we want for ourselves, let us set our eyes on the true gift that we can give to each other – the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lord, liberate us from our selfish desires and fill us with your abundant love. Give us humble hearts that are fixed on serving you and loving others.  

Advent Reflection

December 8th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read Luke 14:12-24

Jesus knows how to throw a good dinner party. Unlike Americans today, who rush quickly through a meal in order to get on with their busy schedules, Jesus is aware of how special meals are. He recognizes the long preparation, the eating, and the conversation as a sacred opportunity. In today’s reading, he suggests that hosting a meal is not meant to be a game of hospitality-tag; it is meant to extend love and generosity through the act of breaking bread. This sounds familiar, right? In the holy meal of Eucharist, we become united as one body by the holy meal that Christ offers us through his body and blood. The precious nushhkar is enough to nourish everyone who shares in it, and we celebrate the fact that we partake in it together. During this Advent season, remember that your dinner tables hold no ordinary meal; they offer the possibility of holiness in table fellowship with others and with Christ.  Paree akhorjag!

Lord, open our eyes to see the sacredness of a meal. Remind us to extend the hospitality of our holiday dinners to more than just those who can reciprocate.

Advent Reflection

December 6th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

As we are now one month away from Christmas, there is a certain spirit in the air that seems to transform everyone’s heart, moving them to kindness and generosity. Advertisers refer to this as the “magic” of the holiday season. I would argue that perhaps it is the Good News of Jesus Christ that inspires people to live as they were made to live: in true, compassionate fellowship with their fellow human beings. In this epistle, St. Paul urges his readers in Thessalonica to “live in peace with each other.” He tells them to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, [and] be patient with everyone.” During Advent, many of us are inclined to “rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances.” But why do we limit these beautiful actions to a small window of the year? This is the call that we have year-round: to love one another, to honor one another, and to give to one another. Beyond the snow and the Santas and the carols of Christmas, there is a much bigger story of salvation, one that deserves to be at work throughout the year.

Lord, as we approach the celebration of the birth of your Son, we pray that we act with the love and prayerfulness of this season throughout the year, honoring you by loving and serving others.

Advent Reflection

December 5th, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28

As we are now one month away from Christmas, there is a certain spirit in the air that seems to transform everyone’s heart, moving them to kindness and generosity. Advertisers refer to this as the “magic” of the holiday season. I would argue that perhaps it is the Good News of Jesus Christ that inspires people to live as they were made to live: in true, compassionate fellowship with their fellow human beings. In this epistle, St. Paul urges his readers in Thessalonica to “live in peace with each other.” He tells them to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, [and] be patient with everyone.”

During Advent, many of us are inclined to “rejoice always, pray continually, [and] give thanks in all circumstances.” But why do we limit these beautiful actions to a small window of the year? This is the call that we have year-round: to love one another, to honor one another, and to give to one another. Beyond the snow and the Santas and the carols of Christmas, there is a much bigger story of salvation, one that deserves to be at work throughout the year.

Lord, as we approach the celebration of the birth of your Son, we pray that we act with the love and prayerfulness of this season throughout the year, honoring you by loving and serving others.

Advent Reflection

December 1st, 2013    |    No Comments »

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-11

God calls us to live holy lives. This means everything that we do – from waking to sleeping, from working to relaxing, from eating a meal to driving a car – should be done in a way that would please God. You can imagine how hard this can be! We all fall short of glorifying God in our daily actions because we get distracted, we follow the desires of our bodies, or we simply choose not to live by Jesus’ instructions. God’s steadfast will, however, is to see his creations turn away from the immorality and meaninglessness that ensnare them and turn toward the love of God that sanctifies them. St. Paul advises his readers to “make it [their] ambition to lead a quiet life,” one where their business and their handiwork is humble, respectful, and full of love. We have both the Holy Spirit and our fellow Christians to help us live this honorable life.

Lord, help us to use these bodies that you crafted for us in an honorable way, doing everything for your glory. Please guide us towards goodness and away from wickedness so that our lives may be made holy.