Devotional

The Importance of Being Left Out

The Importance of Being Left Out

Friday Dec. 27 Scripture: Luke 2:20 Shepherds were on the outside looking in at Jewish religious society in the first century. Those shepherds who worked the night time shift were most likely watching sheep they didn’t own on open ranges for meager wages. They were most likely not often present in the synagogues because their professional hazards kept them unclean. And they were not the men you wanted your daughters to marry because their career earning potential was quite low. Yet, they were exactly the people God chose to be the first to celebrate the birth of Christ. Maybe it was their status as semi-outcasts which made them the perfect people in God’s eyes to appreciate the magnitude of the…
Read More
How My Father In-Law Taught Me the Meaning of Christmas

How My Father In-Law Taught Me the Meaning of Christmas

Thursday Dec. 26  Scripture: Luke 2:8-20  Shepherds are unlikely people to appear at the manger. And you might not expect to discover the meaning of Christmas by spending time with your in-laws, but that’s exactly what’s happened to me (Wil) over the years. I have learned many things from my father in-law over the years: How to clean a pistol. (Right before my first date with his daughter, seriously, it’s the truth.) How to back up a trailer. (He’s really good at it. I’m pretty mediocre.) How to avoid gun fire when driving a pick up truck. (It’s a long story. No, we weren’t actually shot at. Yes, we thought someone was shooting at us.) However, maybe the greatest thing…
Read More
The Day the Manger Became a Throne

The Day the Manger Became a Throne

Wednesday Dec. 25, Christmas Day Scripture: Luke 2:1-7 Jesus did not coming in to a world looking for a Lord and Savior. He came into a word where Caesar Augustus was proclaimed to be Lord and Savior for bring peace to the Roman Empire by defeating his rivals, quashing rebellions with a heavy hand, and continually conquering barbarian lands. Jesus did not come into a world looking for a King of the Jews. Jesus came into a world where Herod had been given the title, King of the Jews, by Augustus Caesar no less. And Herod was more than willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill to keep that title. So intent was Herod on making his greatness known that…
Read More
It’s Never Too Late

It’s Never Too Late

Tuesday Dec. 24, Christmas Eve Scripture: Matthew 1:20-25 In Matthew 1:20 an angel appears to Joseph. Joseph has just decided to end his engagement to Mary, because she’s pregnant, and the baby isn’t his. Just when he had resolved to do this, God does a very God-like thing. God intervenes and changes Joseph’s mind. God’s method of intervention is an angel who speaks to Joseph in a dream. And Joseph reverses course and marries Mary, adopting her son as his own. Joseph almost opted out. Almost left the story before it started. Almost... but at the last minute, something happened. The car is in reverse and the back-up camera is on. The suitcase is packed and the Thermos is full…
Read More
Beginning Again

Beginning Again

Monday Dec. 23 Scripture: Matthew 1:18-19 Matthew uses the same word for “birth” in 1:18 that he does for “genealogy” in 1:1. The word is genesis. Genesis means “beginning.” Genesis is, of course, the name of the first book of the Bible. It is the book that tells us about how God created the heavens and the earth. The theologian Stanley Hauerwas says that Matthew is writing the story of a new creation. Matthew, Hauerwas says, is telling the story about how God is offering creation a new beginning in Jesus Christ. John’s Gospel (while using the Greek word arche instead of genesis) appears to be presenting the story of Jesus as a story of new creation as well. John…
Read More
God is with (the real) us

God is with (the real) us

Sunday Dec. 22 Scripture: Matthew 1:22-23 Two of the four Gospels tell us about the birth of Jesus --Matthew and Luke. The other two Gospels, Mark and John, bring Jesus onto the stage as an adult. There are no appearances by the baby Jesus in the second or fourth Gospels. Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth very differently. One of the many differences is that Luke focuses primarily on Mary while Matthew’s story centers on Joseph. In Matthew we don’t read anything about how Mary learned that she would be the mother of Jesus (that’s only found in Luke 1:26-38). Instead, we read about Joseph and his response to Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. Joseph’s initial plan is to…
Read More
Super Jesus Powers

Super Jesus Powers

Saturday Dec. 21 Scripture: Luke 4:22-30 When Jesus preached in his hometown of Nazareth for the first time, the people initially praised his wisdom. But as he began to further articulate his beliefs, they grew enraged. In fact, they reacted so negatively when he told them the good news of God’s kingdom was for Gentiles as well as Jews that they tried to kill him. Thankfully, he used his super Jesus powersto walk right through their midst unharmed and left town. This Christmas some of us will go to family gatherings in our hometowns where initially we will be received joyfully. But we can already anticipate that after the warm greetings are over, we’ll eventually her grumbling from our families:…
Read More
What to Believe About Jesus

What to Believe About Jesus

Friday Dec. 20 Scripture: Luke 4:16-21 When you were a child and questioned your parents about why they made certain decisions with which you disagreed, you probably got used to one of their favorite responses: “Because”. I have read numerous parenting books which discourage parents from ever answering any questions by simply saying “because”.  These books encourage parents to always explain to their children why they make certain decisions. (Full Disclosure: As a parent, I (Wil) must admit I use the term “because” to answer the my kids' questions much more often than the experts recommend. And I kinda enjoy doing so. But enough about me and my issues. Let's get back to Jesus.) Luke 4:18-19 preserves for us the…
Read More
Revealing Our Inner Thoughts

Revealing Our Inner Thoughts

Thursday Dec. 19 Scripture: Luke 2:33-40 When Simeon encounters the infant Jesus in the temple, he begins to prophecy that the way people accept or reject Jesus will reveal their inner thoughts (Luke 2:35). Soon afterward, Anna, a prophet who spent her days worshipping at the temple, beholds Jesus for the first time and begins praising God and speaking to the people of the great things God will do through Jesus. As Anna offers her own prophecy, she becomes the first person to fulfill Simeon’s prophecy. Through Anna’s response to Christ, her own inner thoughts are revealed. Anna was married for seven years, presumably as a young lady, before being widowed. At the time she saw Jesus, Anna was 84…
Read More
The Consolation of Israel

The Consolation of Israel

Wednesday Dec. 18 Scripture: Luke 2:25-26 As Mary and Joseph bring their infant son Jesus to the Temple for the first time, they run into a man named Simeon. Simeon wasn’t a priest or political leader as far as we can tell. He was just a very devout Jew who, we are told, was looking forward to “the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25)”. Because of his devotion, God had revealed to Simeon that he would see the Messiah with his own eyes before his death. Let’s consider for a moment the content of Simeon’s focus which so pleased God that he was granted the promise of seeing the Messiah with his own eyes. “The consolation of Israel” is understood to…
Read More