So, how many tumblers do you have? We seem to be living in a time of tumblers. Videos have even been made of kitchen cupboards filled with tumblers, and I know some people who carry around a tumbler of tea or water with them wherever they go.
Why the fascination with tumblers? One could argue that we desire our thirst to be quenched at all times and that our drinks be kept as cold as they can be whenever we want a drink.
On a deeper level, I wonder, too, if tumblers are an emotional crutch for satisfying our broader thirsts for comfort, love, fulfillment and happiness. But tumblers run dry and the liquids within grow warm, and we start with new tumblers the next day.
I say all this as a modern-day prelude to the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well. She had a thirst for companionship, for love, for purpose in her life, and she knew that the water at the well could not quell those thirsts. But Jesus told her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The woman naturally responded, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty” (John 4:15).
She recognized that Jesus was the only one who could quench her thirsting soul. We need to remember that too. Each time we take a tumbler with us somewhere, we must remind ourselves that only the Living Water of Jesus fills us with the salvation we need through his life, death and resurrection that our once-thirsty spirits may never thirst again.
What did you do during “Betwixtmas,” the week between Christmas and New Year’s? Many were off work and some stores had limited hours or were closed. It seemed like a time when everyone took a break, relaxed, slept in, watched TV or movies, enjoyed Christmas gifts, gathered with friends and family and/or visited certain attractions or events.
As Christians, we are actually always living in a betwixt time: the time between the ascension of Jesus and his return on the Last Day. So what do we do with this time on a grander scale? We can look to what we did during “Betwixtmas” for some guidance. While sleep is important for many in the days after Christmas, our greater betwixt time as Christians should be more about staying awake and keeping watch for the Second Coming of Christ. Just as we enjoy our Christmas presents between Christmas and New Year’s, we should enjoy and use the gifts our God has given us of time, talents and treasure as we wait for the return of God’s Son. We should also continue to regularly gather with friends and family in the faith in this extended time between Christ’s going and coming. Engaging in activities that reflect that we know that Christ is on his way to take us back with him to heaven energizes and renews us in ways that selfish endeavors do not. Let your actions point the way to Jesus and his love. Look up to him, look out for sin, and look forward to the future with great joy, betwixt and between everything in life.
I was the last to leave work a couple weeks back just as the sun was setting. Gorgeous streaks of pink spread over a stretch of yellow glowing at the horizon just beyond the empty parking lot and barren trees. It was a reminder to me that now that the winter solstice is past, the days are gradually growing longer, and light is returning to the early evening. As I mentioned a few days ago, we are in the midst of the season of light called Epiphany. The light of Christ extends farther and farther into our lives, even if it is little by little or bit by bit.
This last little bit of light from the sun that I saw that day helps me to remember that no matter how empty or barren life may seem at times, the light of the Lord is always a beauty to behold. Beyond my day-to-day existence going to and from work, there is a greater reality at work—a spinning globe in orbit around a star we call the sun created by a God who said in the beginning, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). And there was light.
Let the light of the Christ keep creeping into your reality and world. Even the littlest of light from him can do wonders to our mood and mission. I know that the first thing I did after seeing this sunset that day was to text the picture (seen above) to my friends and family. I desired to joyfully share this spectacle from the hand of God. We must be just as joyful in expressing our enjoyment in the Lord with one another. Brighten someone’s day in this way!
Once while Jesus was standing beside the Lake of Gennesaret and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. Luke 5:1-3
I find it fascinating that Jesus decided to preach from a boat. When you think about it, he was literally rocking the boat when he was rocking the boat figuratively with his words.
Just verses earlier, the Bible records, “They were astounded at his teaching because he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32). The things Jesus was saying were unlike anything the people had heard before and not like the traditional teachings of the scribes. He was not reading from a script or a scroll. He was speaking from the heart and revealing the plans that God the Father had in mind to save us not by following rules, but by following him.
It must have been hard to reconcile Jesus’ words with everything they had known or experienced their whole lives. Jesus was forging a new path to freedom from sin, a fresh way to forever. And that way was him. Simon and Andrew got the message. Their actual boats and their very souls had been rocked by Jesus, and they got up and followed him. Many others would do the same.
How about us? Sometimes we forget what shocking news this was and is. Let the message of Christ’s coming shock you like it did the first hearers of these words. And let his words move you to action, rocking the boats of others with the life-changing news that salvation has come through one man, Jesus.
We are now in the midst of the season of light, the Epiphany season, which began with a bright star that shone down on Jesus. The season now reveals that Jesus is the Light. In John 8:12, we hear the familiar words from Jesus: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me with never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus spoke these worlds during the Feast of Tabernacles, a weeklong Jewish festival celebrating the Exodus. As part of this festival, flames were lit on the top of two 75-foot pillars to symbolize the pillar of fire God provided to the Israelites so they could travel in the wilderness through the night. Jesus would have been saying he was the light while actually standing in a space flooded with light. Talk about enlightening!
Jesus continues to enlighten us along our journey, helping us to find our way through the darknesses of our lives. Darkness did not stop the Israelites on their journey and neither can it prevent us from moving forward. The light of Christ leads us on. There is no hardship or danger or problem that Christ’s light cannot break through.
So be on the lookout for light when you are in a dark place. Jesus promises that it will be there for you because he is there for you. Let his light flood the scary spaces where you are and surround you with the confidence to get through.
Today is the Day of Epiphany. It commemorates the journey of the Wise Men from the East who followed a star to Baby Jesus. I marvel at the motivation these men had to pack up their belongings for a trip of an unknown length to find a king they did not know because a particular star shone brightly in the sky.
If I told my friends and neighbors I was embarking on such an adventure today, they would call me mad. But the Wise Men were motivated, it seems, by the promise of that star that a king had been born. We often lack motivation to make even the simple drive to church on a Sunday morning to worship a king we know is there, and yet these men stayed focused on their mission. Even when they made a wrong turn to a king they discovered was not the king they were looking for, they kept going. Nothing would deter them. Their motivation paid off when they entered the house where Jesus was. They found the king they were looking for, and they showed their joy by giving him gifts meant only for a king.
How can we capture that motivation of the Wise Men in our day-to-day journeys? What keeps us going? What moves us on when detours come our way? What fills us with determination not to stop and turn around? The answer is the same as it was for the Wise Men: the bright promise of a king, a king who can save us, deliver us and love us. We need nothing more to guide us.
When we read a bedtime storybook to our children, they tend to enjoy the final two words: The End. And we enjoy those two words, too, if we are truly honest with ourselves. We can go to sleep ourselves at that point or move on with the rest of our evening then. What is it about reaching the end of something that can be so satisfying? Maybe it is the feeling that a job has been accomplished, a period of difficulty is over or a time of waiting is done.
As we say The End to the year 2022, some or all of these reasons for satisfaction may apply. But probably for most of us, coming to the end of a year is hard because it means that time is moving on and our age is increasing.
If we take a step back as Christians, it is important for us to remember that the end of a year is only a foreshadowing of the end of time when Christ will come on the Last Day to take all believers to heaven with him. He will take us to a place where there will be no end. There will only be peace, love and joy forevermore. Come, Lord Jesus, come, and bring an end to every sin and suffering and strife. How satisfying that will be. Amen.
I remember that sometimes at Christmas we children would have to go on a scavenger hunt to find our “big” presents. We would open a box to find a note that said, “Go to the mailbox.” There we would find another note that said, “Look in the refrigerator” to discover another note that said, “Go to the closet in the hall.” There we would find a bicycle, or a dollhouse, or a computer.
On that first Christmas, the angels asked the shepherds to go on a scavenger hunt to find the biggest and best Christmas gift of all. They said:
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12).
The shepherds were good at scavenger hunting. They said:
“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:15-16).
Are we good scavenger hunters this Christmas? Can we find Jesus amidst all the wrapping paper, cookies, candy canes, tinsel, trees and lights? The manger is still not hard to find. He is mangered in our hearts. Go to him with haste.
This wooden chair with a counted cross-stitch cushion was passed down to me from my grandmother, who did the stitching. The chair fits well into the wooden features of my 1930s home. Each time I sit in this chair, I am reminded of sitting at the table with Grandpa and Grandma at meals around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other times of the year. There is a familiar feeling to siting in that chair. It feels like home, and the fact that Grandma stitched the place for me to sit makes it even more special.
As Christmas approaches and many family and friends will be sitting in all sorts of chairs old and new gathered around many a table, we need to keep in mind that Jesus is in the midst of us. His name Emmanuel means “God with us,” and he said in Scripture, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Jesus has a seat at the table, and his presence should be familiar and comfortable to us. Jesus feels like home, and he has a seat prepared for us at the banquet table in heaven. He knows we are coming there.
God knit each one of us in our mother’s womb and he stitches us into his family through the birth of his Son into the world to save us. Jesus sat at table with sinners in his lifetime, and he served a special meal to his disciples on Maundy Thursday of his body and blood in bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins.
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown” as Linus would say. Unto us is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Make room for him at your holiday dinner tables through prayer and reflection and love toward one another.
When I read in Scripture about Gabriel’s visit to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of Jesus, I always have to laugh a little when it says Mary “wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). Now there’s an understatement. Was this a greeting of death? A greeting of the devil? A greeting of a dream or hallucination in Mary’s own mind? None of these, it turned out. It was a greeting of good news from heaven. Gabriel made it clear that the message was coming from God and that Mary was specially chosen to give birth to God’s Son.
We call this event the Annunciation, and we sort of take this meeting for granted nowadays. But put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a moment. None of what she experienced made much sense at first, but she processed the information, and she took her role to heart, understanding and accepting the magnitude of her holy calling by the end of the angel’s visit, saying: “Be it unto me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).
We don’t always understand at first what is happening when some life-altering events come our way (when we are unexpectedly greeted by a job change, a move, a pregnancy, for instance). But eventually we see the hand of God in the process and understand what positive plan God has in mind for us in the long run. Let our response to God always be: Be it unto me as you have said.