Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday November 30, 2016 Forevermore!

He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:3-8 NIV

Are you tired of waiting? Tired of watching? Has that light of hope that once burned bright begun to flicker? Have you lost sighted it completely? Has sadness crept in? Know this: you are not alone! For many, many people, this holiday time is a time of internal struggle.  It is a good bet that all of God's children have felt deep sorrow at one point or another. In fact, even Jesus knew soul wrenching sorrow: Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38 NIV). But hear this good news: more than the fact that we are not alone in our suffering because others suffer as well, this psalm reminds us that although we may tire and fail to keep watch, our God never does. The psalmist tells us He neither slumbers nor sleeps. The promise here is that He watches now and He will watch for all eternity. The key to unlock that promise? Jesus Christ, who we are told is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34). This same God who watches over us and promises to do so forevermore, is joined in the Godhead by the very One we are watching for. Jesus who was not just fully God, but was a fully human person. Jesus who knows and feels and understands our every sorrow, because He too experienced earthly sorrow, sits at the right hand of God and pleads for us to the One who has promised to Never. Stop. Watching. Ever! This is a promise to lay hold of and sustain us as we watch.  Hallelujah!

Eternal God, eternity...forevermore, is a difficult concept for our human minds to conceive of yet that is precisely what you have promised: to watch over us forevermore. And even more than that, through Jesus Christ, You have opened the gates of heaven and invited us to join You forevermore. Thank You Jesus that such a thing is even possible!  Remind us of this great Good News, even as we struggle to focus and keep watch during this special season of Advent. We ask in Your precious name. AMEN!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29, 2016 The Watchman

November 29
The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!
Mark 13:34-37 NLT

In the ancient world, the watchman played a critical role. In the countryside, high stone towers were build in the vineyards and fields.  From atop these towers, as the harvest approached, a watchman would survey the surrounding fields or vineyards and watch for animals or thieves who might destroy or steal the crops planted around them.  The watchman was responsible for the food supply of the townspeople. Likewise, the cities, such as Jerusalem, were surrounded by a high, thick wall. From atop the wall the watchmen could watch over the approach to the city. From their high vantage point they would be able to see in the distance and warn the people inside. If enemy armies were approaching the city the watchman would sound an alarm and the gates to the city would be secured as the inhabitants prepared for battle.
It is no wonder then,  that scripture uses the image of a watchman to describe the prophets who were to look to the approaching future, and warn the people of what was to come if they continued in their wicked ways. In the New Testament, however Jesus charges all of His followers to keep watch, this time for His return. In today's scripture, as in yesterday's,  Jesus warns His listeners that no one knows when that time will come, so they must remain vigilant and prepare. This is the image we bring to Advent. We are to watch and be prepared for that day when Jesus Himself returns. So even as we prepare our homes and surroundings to commemorate and celebrate the birth of Jesus long ago, we are to mend our own ways and prepare our hearts for that time when He returns. Keep watch!

Holy God, we love You and offer all our praise to You.  As we find ourselves in this Advent time of waiting and watching, remind us, we pray,  that even as we wait with anticipation for a day of celebration of the birth of Jesus, in a larger way, we also await the day You will return and every knee shall bow every tongue declare allegiance. Stir in our hearts O Lord, a strong desire for You that outweighs our desires for lesser things of this world. Show us we pray, what You would have us do in this time of waiting and longing for Your presence. Help us to be vigilant and keep watch so that our own hearts are prepared for Your arrival no matter when that happens. We ask in Jesus' name. AMEN!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Monday November 28 Watch

However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.  When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into.You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. Matthew 24:36-44 NLT

Advent. A season rich with dichotomies. A season of already and not yet. A season our consumer culture calls us to rush through to arrive at Christmas  while our Christian culture calls us to slow down and look inward  preparing our hearts. A time of commemoration of the birth of Jesus and a time of anticipation of  His final return. A time to look back and a time to look forward. Even the word itself is defined as both coming and arrival. So which is it? It is both, and that is the tension of Advent. That is why Jesus tells His disciples, both then and now, to keep watch; for no one, not even Jesus Himself, knows when the Kingdom will come. That knowledge is for God the Father alone. What we are told though, is that not only has Jesus come as Immanuel, God with us, but he will return as the King of Kings and Lord of lords. If we want to be prepared, we are told in this passage precisely what to do: keep watch, for surely He will come when least expected. And just as surely,  we will want to be ready.

Gracious God, we are awed by You and the enormity of Your love for Your children such that You were willing to step out of heaven and become one of us, entering our world in the humblest of ways. Immanuel,  God with us in the person of Jesus. We give thanks for the reminder from scripture that only You know the day and the hour of His return, so we need to keep watch and be prepared. Help us to use these days of Advent as a time to draw closer to You. Remind us, we pray, that we get to participate even now in building Your kingdom here on earth, and motivate us to do just that. We ask in Jesus' name. AMEN

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sunday November 27 WELCOME! Happy New Year!

The season marked by the four Sundays before Christmas is known as Advent. Advent is the beginning of the Christian new year. It is so fitting that our Christian year begins with Advent. Just as the secular world marks the passing of another year by looking back at what has come and making plans for what the future will bring, so we, as followers of Christ, begin our year by looking back in time remembering the birth of Jesus, while keeping watch for His promised return. Advent has often been a season rushed through on the way to Christmas, that glorious celebration of the birth of our Lord. This year, before we fix our eyes on the star that marks His incarnation among us, let us look with anticipation and yearning for the clouds on which He will return to make all things new.

To help with Pastor Jen's challenge to look at our Bible as much as we look at our email or Facebook, we will include a scripture passage each day, followed by a devotional reading and a prayer. Would you consider taking a moment to introduce yourself in the comments section and tell us where you are from and perhaps share what bings you here? Blessings to all in this season of preparation!