A Special Star for a Special Birth

It is possible that the Magi may have heard of a Jewish prophesy about a king whose birth was to be marked by a star (see Numbers 24:17). But how would a normal sign in the sky come to rest over the place where the child was. Jerusalem is only about 5 miles from Bethlehem. They could have walked there in about an hour and 45 minutes. It would be hard to tell the difference from an astronomer’s POV. I like to think that this sign was something that God specifically created to celebrate the birth of his Son! Kind of like the “it’s a boy” signs you sometimes see in a front yard! A special sign for a special birth.

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Dressed for Salvation

For those of you who are married, can you remember what you wore on your wedding day? If you are not married, think about another significant event in your life. We tend to wear special clothes for special occasions. In Isaiah 61:10, the speaker seems to be the servant of the Lord, the Messiah (see 61:1). Earlier in the chapter, God’s people were given “garments of praise” (61:3). Now the Servant himself is given special garments for a special purpose, Salvation and Righteousness. He is getting prepared to save his people. He is getting ready to visit us!

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Hope, Peace, and Joy

“Hope,” “Peace,” and “Joy:” this time of year we see these words written everywhere: yard decorations, television commercials, wrapping paper, and Christmas cards. These words make us feel good, like a warm blanket and a steaming peppermint latte, but what do they really mean? Imagine for a moment receiving a gift in beautiful packaging, but when you open it there is nothing inside. The words “Hope, Peace, and Joy” can be like that. We hear them, and they make us smile, but a few moments later it is as if they meant nothing. These words can also be some of the best gifts you have ever received, which fill the deepest needs and desires of your heart. Ultimately, it is your choice.

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Expectations

In business, it is important to underpromise and overdeliver. Sometimes this is referred to as “managing expectations.” It is important to be mindful of expectations in all of our relationships, whether business or personal. Especially in marriage. Unspoken expectations lead to lots of conflict and resentment.

In the Gospel passage today, John the Baptist is in prison for speaking truth to power. John’s role was to prepare the way for the Lord. The Messiah was coming, the time was imminent. John was sure that Jesus was the Messiah, he knew it even while he was still in his mother’s womb, and this truth was confirmed at Jesus’ Baptism. But now John was not so sure. His expectations were not lining up with what he was seeing. Why?

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The Place Where God Dwells

For the sons of Korah, the authors of Psalm 84, there was no better place to be than the Temple. The temple was intended by God to be an earthly representation of God’s heavenly courts. A place where heaven and earth met. Even today, when we worship it gives us a foretaste of heaven. Today, we give God thanks for this house of worship as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the consecration of this building. Since that day there have been approximately 520 Sundays and probably at least 2000 opportunities for corporate worship! At the same time, we remember that the church is not a building, it is people!

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Wake Up!

Your car may not have an autopilot mode, but I bet you have had the experience of intending to go to a particular destination, getting lost in a conversation, and taking wrong turns because of it! Similarly, sometimes we move through life as if we have an autopilot for our lives. We can pick up sin in our lives without even realizing it. This is what happens when we are in autopilot mode. It is as if we are sleeping. We move passively through life, uncritically accepting patterns of speech, behaviors, and concepts from our culture. In Romans 13:11 Saint Paul tells us that it is time to wake up!

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Count Your Blessings

Our contemporary celebration of Thanksgiving arises from a European tradition with deep Christian roots, recognizing the blessings and provision of Almighty God either at harvest time or after deliverance from significant trouble. And yet, we forget this sometimes. We forget that God is the one who provides, and we take that burden upon ourselves. We strive after the things of this world, searching for happiness, searching for meaning, searching for peace. Jesus’ words remind us to set our anxieties aside. He tells us that when we focus on the things of this world, we will find anxiety. But, when we focus on God and his Kingdom instead, everything else falls into its own right place.

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The Crucified King

As Americans, we don’t have much of an appreciation for the role of a King. In fact, you might say that the roots of our nations are decidedly anti-king. Our constitution was set up with a system of checks and balances to make sure that no one person could hold all the power at one time. We have a right to be afraid of earthly kings, but Jesus is a king that will never fail us. His rule is just and perfect, he always has our best interests and the best interests of his kingdom in mind. And one day he will make right all that is broken in this world.

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In My Flesh I Shall See God

There is meaning in our suffering. When we suffer and continue to trust God, it gives us an opportunity to rely on God for the strength to make it through. It gives us an opportunity to identify with the suffering of Christ himself. There is work yet to do. There are people who rely on you, but even more important than that, you are the image of God in this world. There are people whom God has uniquely positioned you to reach, both by your words and examples. There are people who may not make it safely home to God without your influence in their lives. Remember, “he is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (luke 20:38). He wants us to live for him now, and we all look forward to seeing God, in our flesh, face to face.

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Saints Today with Hope for Tomorrow

If you golf, you may have golf heroes. Woodworkers have woodworking heroes. Cooks have cooking heroes. As Christians, we have Christian heroes that we call “saints.” The point is not that Saints are so much holier than us and therefore must be much closer to God. All Saints were also sinners. Not perfect. The point is that they give us real, concrete examples of what it looks like to live out the Christian faith.

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