Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Celtic Prayer


Jesus, we kneel before You in silent amazement.

Thank you that, because of Your birth, we know that our Father is with us.

May we welcome You, not in a cold manger of a heart,

But in a heart so pure, a heart warm with love for one another.

Jesus, You are—

The tender holy Babe;

The Shepherd of Your flock;

The Healing Person;

The Christ of the people;

The world-pervading God;

Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Jesus, You are—

The Glory of eternity who now shines among us;

Son of the High King of the universe;

Splendor of the Father;

Source of life; 

Prince of Peace;

Wonderful Counselor; 

Friend of all;

Champion of justice;

Joy of angels.

Jesus, in You we see God's face—





Jesus, You radiate what the world 
so needs today—

Gentleness, tenderness, light and hope.

In You, may we find—

Gentleness as the answer to violence;

Tenderness as the answer to ill-will;

Light as the answer to lies;

Hope as the answer to despair.

Jesus, Your grace brings forgiveness—

Have mercy upon us, bring us to 
true sorrow for our sins 
and a sincere repentance. 
Forgive our sins that we may have 
eternal life through You.

For Your glory fills eternity both now 
and ever and to the ages of ages.  


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jingle Bells. Jangled Nerves.

Dear Friends,

When I was a teenager, my grandmother took me on a vacation across America. We were going to Chicago to visit family and then to New York to see the 1965 World’s Fair. I wanted to fly. Get in. Take off. Land. Get to where you want to go, to see the things you came to see! But my grandmother, the teacher, had other ideas – we’d take the train. 

Crawling across the country for three days, I was bored. I was fascinated. It seemed to take forever and it was over too quickly. I still remember the images from the observation car. Those western towns in New Mexico, the forever plains of Texas, traveling through Websters Grove, Missouri – the birthplace of my grandfather, and the thrill of crossing the Mississippi River while thinking about the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his friend Jim. I had wanted to get to New York as fast as we could. My grandmother wanted to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the journey. What a wonderful gift of memories she gave me that summer.

It seems that as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are dried and put away, a bell sounds and the Christmas race is on. Recent surveys show that Christmas is the sixth most stressful life event up there with divorce, death, moving and changing jobs. December is the most stressful month for families. High expectations for the perfect gifts, baking, cooking, decorations, parties and will Aunt Eunice drink too much of the enhanced eggnog again? Jingle Bells and jangled nerves. Dashing toward Christmas day in a one horse open sleigh. Then finally, it’s Christmas! It’s show-time!! We did it! And we never notice that in our perfectly hand-crafted, decorated Christmas, the manger is still empty. We’ve left someOne behind.
When we’re flying through December and hurtling toward the destination we call “Christmas,” life around us becomes a blur. Maybe grandma was right and we need to just slow down and enjoy the journey. That’s why we need Advent. 

Advent means “coming” and these are the days that we anticipate the coming of Christ. Advent is the spiritual speed-bump that slows us down in our race toward Christmas and allows us to savor the journey. When we are tempted to speed up into the Holly Jolly Christmas pace, Advent takes us into a contemplative place. During this happy holiday season, we can meet Santa at Wal-Mart, but Advent reminds us that we’ll meet God in the quiet sacred places.

On the Advent journey, we find our peace and joy not in what we buy, plan, decorate or cook, but in the expectancy of His coming. You may want to spend even more time in quiet prayer and contemplation. You may want to turn down the noise of your fast-paced life and spend time in silence with Him – just you and God – alone together. 

During this journey of Advent, spend time with  Luke 1:5-2:20 and Matthew 1:18-24. The ancient practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) is reading a passage of scripture until a word or phrase stands out and repeating it in a slow and reflective manner. Meditate on the word or words by thinking about what they mean to you. What is God saying to you? Pray about this and then just rest in His presence. Sit quietly with Him in a time of contemplation. You may hear Him speak to your heart, you may be filled with His peace or you may just find yourself sitting there with God and enjoying His Presence. 

Resting in His peace will bring a joyful attitude. When others are stressed, anxious and angry in the weeks ahead, bring the joy of God into their lives. Practice graciousness, patience, and kindness with family members and frazzled store clerks alike. Be especially aware of friends and neighbors who struggle this time of year and be compassionate. Be Christ-like. Show them the love of Jesus this Christmas and do what you can to relieve their distress, suffering and loneliness. 

Let Advent slow us down from the craziness of Christmas and take us into that contemplative “Maranatha” place as our souls are nourished with the anticipation of His coming. The Aramaic phrase MARANATHA is used just once in the New Testament (1 Cor 16:22) and is translated, “O Lord, come!” Let that be our prayer this Advent...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Starts With Christ

Dear Friends,

It was a few years ago that we first saw the store on Main Street in Ventura at Christmas. All the windows were painted red and in huge white letters: JOHN 3:16 and THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS IS JESUS. Every year since, we always look forward to seeing what will be on the display windows, and this year they had painted: CHRISTMAS STARTS WITH CHRIST. There is a black and white painted portrait of Jesus and then the words: IT IS SIMPLY BLACK AND WHITE... This store owner is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I wish that every Christian retailer in America was as bold as this person is!

If I lived in Ventura, I’d be sending everyone I know to American Mattress! We need to show our appreciation for retailers who actively support Christmas. Lowe’s, Sears and Wal-Mart do an exceptional job at celebrating and promoting Christmas. Other companies who support Christmas are Costco, Rite-Aid, Macy’s, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Hallmark, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Michaels, Target,, Office Max and Sam’s Club. 

But some retailers actively against Christmas are Barnes&Noble, PetSmart, Office Depot, Staples, Foot Locker, and Victoria’s Secret. Radio Shack, for example, refuses to use the word “Christmas” in its advertising and prohibits its employees from saying the word in the stores.*

Powered by progressive liberals and atheists, a forceful and deadly tsunami of political correctness is sweeping over Christmas in an attempt to completely secularize this holy day (holiday) and strip it of any religious meaning. “No way that’s going to happen!” we scoff. But are we certain of that?

Remember that for the first few hundred years in our country, Thanksgiving was a uniquely Protestant Evangelical Christian holy day. [See last week’s AMEN Corner]. Now secularized and sanitized of its original meaning, Thanksgiving is about eating a meal and watching a football game. 

The President’s Educational Reform requires that states adopt Common Core standards before they can receive federal funding. This new approved curriculum for teaching children about Thanksgiving has removed any reference to the original intent by Christians to express gratitude and thankfulness to God. Children are now being taught that thanksgiving was always practiced by the American Indians to thank the spirits for their harvest. This politically correct version of our American history portrays the Pilgrims as a group of foolish and unprepared settlers and shows how they were saved by the Indians. The new Common Core approved curriculum now presents a fictitious spin on thanksgiving that removes the original Christian meaning and focuses primarily on the culture and customs of the Wampanoag Indians.

Could secularization really happen to Christmas? In British society, atheists have made significant headway in removing Christ from Christmas. In a recent poll, conducted by Christianity Today, only half of British adults believe that the birth of Jesus has any connection to Christmas. That means that half of their entire adult population sincerely believes that Jesus has nothing to do with the holiday they call Christmas! 

Every year in America, Christmas is becoming more secularized and the 80% of us who are Christians quietly complain as we shrug our shoulders in apathy. We need to put Jesus back into Christmas with the same passionate fervor and intensity that atheist activists have invested in their efforts to make it a Christ-less holiday.

John Calvin, one of the early protestant fathers of our faith said this, “The Gospel does not fall from the clouds like rain by accident, but is brought by the hands of men and women to whom God has sent it.”

Don't be ashamed to speak the name of Christ at Christmas. Don't be ashamed to wish people a Merry Christmas. There is an 80-90% chance that they celebrate Christmas too! If you are a politically correct type of person, that's fine. Be politically correct when you talk about politics, but we need to be a Christian when we’re talking about the religious holy day that celebrates the birth of Christ and glorifies the risen King!  Amen?

* See the entire AFA Naughty or Nice List here