2020 is coming to an end, and some would say not a day too soon. In many very dramatic ways, the year was like none other than we have experienced before and it was not at all what we expected for the most part.
Looking back on what has happened this year, we grieve with those who lost loved ones and lost jobs due to COVID, we thank health care workers who treated the sick and dying, we give thanks for those who have recovered from COVID. As the Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). In addition, we sorrow over the civil unrest that occurred and pray for resolution to racial strife. As the Bible says, “Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16). That should always be our goal.
Looking ahead to 2021 gives us a chance to have hope as the introduction of COVID vaccines comes to pass. We look ahead with joy as the promise of healing is on the horizon. We look ahead to peace in the days ahead now that we have celebrated that the Prince of Peace has come. The new year helps us to gain a new perspective on our lives. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we are reminded that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Every day we are made new in Christ, and that is the blessing that can carry us forward with confidence into the unknown circumstances that await us in the weeks and months ahead.
As you look back and look forward this New Year’s, always remember to look up to God for the help and guidance you need each and every day. He always has his eye on you.
Merry Christmas to you all! I send you good news of great joy to all the people, as the angel said to the shepherds on the night when Christ was born. The message that Christ has come for “all the people” makes me think of my cloth Christmas tree I bought at a little gift shop in downtown St. Charles, MO, a few year ago. It is made of felt squares of different colors and sizes stacked on top of one another to create a very festive Christmas tree shape.
Each of us is like a square of cloth, brought together with other “squares of cloth” to celebrate the good news of great joy for all the people. It does not matter if you are big or small, It does not matter what race or region of the world you are from. It does not matter whether you are on the top or at the bottom of society. We all join as one to create something beautiful to welcome our Savior. like all the squares come together to create this tree. And we all point to the star, which is Jesus, who is the light of our lives and the pinnacle of our existence.
As you gather round your trees on this day, take a look around you at the people celebrating with you. Sing a beautiful carol together in praise of the Christ Child. Say the lovely words of a prayer in unison to glorify the One who has come to deliver us all from sin, death and the devil. Join as one to uplift the Son today and always. Blessings, joy and peace to you this happy day!
You may have noticed that we have added videos to our Creative Communications Facebook page this Advent, with different authors and editors reading devotions from our seasonal booklets in many recent days as part of a 3-minute devotion challenge. I was privileged to be asked to be a part of the endeavor. And I learned a lot in the process.
I first learned that it is not easy to set up my smartphone just right to capture my image for the recording. I found it a challenge to make sure the background of my video looked pleasing without any stray items showing that might be distracting. And I learned that reading the words that appear on the page can be difficult at first until I read them through a few times.
What I encountered making these videos can also be applied to prayer in many ways. It is good for us to spend time preparing for a moment of prayer, adjusting ourselves to speak to God in the most clear and direct way. We also pray the best when we clear our surroundings of all distractions and hindrances to our time with God. And our words of pray that we say aloud or silently become easier to pray the more we utter them.
I found that by the last video I did, I had a better handle on what to do to make it go smoothly. And staying in constant prayer can have the same effect. It becomes more natural and more second nature to our spiritual life, the more we do it. So keep the prayers coming. God is happy to hear them.
When driving, making left turns are some of the most difficult maneuvers to undertake, especially on a busy road with traffic flying at a fast pace from both directions. Making a left turn often requires skill and boldness and quick thinking. At the heart of it all, making a left turn can take risk. That is why, for a time and at the bemusement of my friends and family, I avoided making left turns at all costs, even if it took me longer to get somewhere. I just didn’t want to take the risk. I have since returned to making left turns and have gained the strength to making the extra effort and possessing the patience to perform the task I once was averse to.
This experience made me realize that Jesus never avoided taking “left turns,” if you will. He took risks and did not turn the other way when lepers cried out to him for healing, when a blind man pleaded for mercy, when Pharisees came to him with questions. He did not take the easy way out and turn away from the cross, but turned directly toward it with all the difficulties and pain that appeared along the path toward it.
Jesus was a risk-taker and he wants us to be risk-takers, too. He does not want us to turn away from those who need our help. He does not want us to avoid talking to those who have questions about our faith. He does not want us to stop from carrying our cross for him. Not taking left turns is not an option in the Christian life. In fact, taking left turns, taking risks and chances is what Christianity is all about. Start making more left turns today.
“And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
In the St. Louis area and in other parts of the country, a popular pastime is trivia nights. In person and now online, people gather in teams, an announcer reads the questions in various categories, teams answer the questions and at the end of all the rounds, a winning team with the most answers right is declared.
I am always amazed by what people know. One woman in my group during one trivia night I was in online knew that MMA stood for Mixed Martial Arts, though she had never been involved in the sport. Another person in my group knew that the group Baha Men sang, “Who Let the Dogs Out.” How did she know that? She just knew.
That got me thinking: “How do we know that Lord is God?” We just know, not because of anything we have done, but because the Holy Spirit has put that knowledge into our hearts, souls and minds. Knowledge of our Lord is being put into the hearts, souls and minds of people every day. And this is not trivial knowledge, this is essential knowledge for our very lives. Knowing the Lord means knowing we are forgiven, we are loved and we are remembered by him forever. Not just good to know, but everlastingly life-affirming to know.
I find it interesting in these days of Zoom calls that we get to see where people actually live. A co-worker of mine noticed a book on a bookshelf behind me on a Zoom call that he also had. We chatted about the coincidence. I have seen wall hangings and knickknacks that caught my eye. I have viewed couches and comfy-looking chairs where people most likely do their relaxing when the work day is done.
These glimpses into the background of people’s lives got me to thinking, “What do people notice behind us (literally and figuratively) that reveal our connection to Christ and our life of faith?” It might be a cross on the wall or a Scripture verse on a plaque. It could be a carving of praying hands or a Bible set on a bedside table. But it is also actions like setting aside a time for prayer and opening Scripture on a daily basis, things that we do “behind the scenes,” so to speak, that invigorate and enliven our face and demeanor to the public. Our spiritual background can have a great impact on what goes on in the foreground of our lives. Now, more than ever, people are watching and we have a great opportunity to show to others the reason for the hope we have in us (1 Peter 3:15). Do not be afraid to share “what is behind you,” spiritually leading you on.