Today’s readings:
Psalms 90; 149, Isaiah 35:1-10, Revelation 22:12-17, 21, Luke 1:67-80

Christmas Eve readings:
Isaiah 9:2-7, Psalm 96:1-13, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

The shepherd realized he’d been holding his breath, and so inhaled deeply. The air was still strange, full of aromas unidentifiable but seemingly familiar. The usual smells of sheep and pasture had begun to reassert themselves but a subtle perfume would linger for a long time.

Angels. They had seen angels. He didn’t even believe in angels.

Moments ago the sky had been lit with a host of them. As they approached, he and his fellow shepherds began to wonder aloud if it was some new, terrifying trick of the Romans – perhaps a detail dispatched to enforce participation in this new census. But up close – angels! And not with words of punishment, but words of hope:

“Do not be afraid; for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

Why him? he wondered. Why them?

Someone tugged his sleeve. Was he coming? They were going into Bethlehem to discover if it was true. They moved quickly in the cold night. Even late, the streets of Bethlehem were crowded with people walking, talking, even sleeping. There were several stables in town. Would they have to search each –

A baby’s cry cut through the night. They stopped, shushed each other to listen for it again. They followed his voice, but by the time they reached the stable he was quiet. The father stood between the door and his young wife and newborn son lying in a manger.

The mother, so young, so tired-looking, nodded her head and the father stepped aside, though he did not drop his guard.

It was true. The angels had revealed the Messiah to common shepherds. Not to high priests. Not to the governor. To those who made a life protecting the defenseless. Was this to be His way then? A savior of the meek and ordinary? Then he would need a particular strength. A strength that would keep him vigilant while others slept, that kept the predators at bay without succumbing to their wiles, that would compel others to go places that were frightening but necessary.

He would need a shepherd’s strength.

The young mother patiently listened to their story long past the time they should have departed. As they left the stable, the child cried once more.

The shepherd held his breath, savored the sound. When it is time, he thought, I will know your voice.

Comfort: I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.

Challenge: To be Christ-like, me must build our own shepherding strengths.

Prayer: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace! Amen.

Discussion: Is there a part of the nativity story that particularly speaks to you?

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On The Dime



Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 27; 147:12-20, Exodus 1:6-22, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Mark 8:27-9:1

Have you ever heard the expression “life turns on a dime?” It refers to the way our fortunes can change with little to no warning. When a new king who did not know Joseph or Joseph’s family rose over Egypt, he did not look kindly on the Hebrews. This new king viewed them as a potential threat, should they decide to align with his enemies. To preempt any uprising, he put harsh taskmasters over them and turned them into a nation of slaves. He went so far as to tell the Hebrew midwives to kill any male children at birth. The midwives were clever, and said Hebrew women were strong and gave birth on their own before a midwife could arrive. In a generation, the Israelites went from famine to favor to fetters.

In what must have felt like a mid-stream change of course to the disciples, Jesus began to teach them he would have to undergo great suffering, die, and rise again to fulfill his mission as Messiah. After all the miraculous healing, multiplication of loaves and fishes, and adoration of the crowds, Peter couldn’t believe his ears. He tried to tell Jesus it didn’t need to be so, and Jesus famously responded: “Get behind me, Satan!”

Psychologists tell us change –– good or bad – is an enormous source of stress, and sudden change even more so. In truth, life is nothing but change. Our bodies are machines of change, transforming food and air into blood and thoughts. As we sleep, our planet moves around the sun and our sun turns with galaxies and we wake unimaginable distances from where we laid our head. Change is unceasing; only our awareness of it flickers.

At the center of it all is God. He is the fixed point on which all else pivots. No matter our fortune, no matter where in the universe we stand, Jesus is the north star of our faith, guiding us toward the loving creator at its heart. Whether we are showered with riches or stripped of dignity, focusing on the center keeps us from spinning out of control.

Comfort: Focusing on God keeps everything in perspective.

Challenge:  Talk with a friend about their perceptions of your ability to handle change.

Prayer: God of creation, you are my center and my focus. Thank you for your constant love. Teach me to keep your ways in focus. Amen.

Discussion: What changes do you find especially difficult? What makes you dig in your heels and say: “Enough!”

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!