Advent Faith

advent candlesIn the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. –Luke 1:26-38 ESV 

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

   “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. –Matthew 1:18-25

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Social Media Christmas

Happy Monday was long enough already and I didn’t want to just stick this in at the bottom. Here is an imaginative take on what the incarnation might have looked like on the pages of social media (i.e. Facebook). Props to the brilliant folks at Igniter Media.

Mary Did You Know?

UPDATE: Mary Did You Know was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene.  I stand corrected; read the comments below.

Mary Did You Know was originally written by Mark Lowry in 1984.  Lowry is best know for being a comedian, and practically made a career out of making fun of Bill Gather.  Michael English was the first artist to release it on his debut album in 1992.

Here is Mary Did You Know performed by Mark Lowry, with scenes from the Jesus film.  

*The video description spells his name incorrectly; Lowry not Lowery is correct.

If you prefer Michael English:  Continue reading

About My Father’s Business

One year as the returned home from Passover, Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was not with their group.  They searched among their relatives and acquantances, then went back to Jerusalem to look some more.  They found the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple, asking questions and reasoning with the temple priests.  “Why have you treated us this way?” Mary demanded.  She expressed her concern and distress as they didn’t know where he was these past two days.  “Did you not realize that I must be about my father’s business?” Jesus replied.  (The ESV says in my father’s house.)  Of course his parents could not understand what he was talking about.  Luke 2:41-52

Jesus thought it was obvious.  Why were they looking for him?  He must be about his father’s business.

If you came up missing, where would people look for you?  Should we go straight to God’s house, or perhaps the office?  Or the golf course?  Or the bar?  Would we be found visiting the sick and afflicted, giving a cup of water to the least of his children? Or would we be somewhere else?

Look at Christ and consider the example.  We must be about our father’s business.

The Second Sunday of Advent

The Second Sunday of Advent is about Faith, and we light the Bethlehem candle.  Matthew 1 describes the encounter Joseph had with the angel Gabrielle, who told him that Mary’s child was of God.  In faith Joseph took Mary as his wife.  Luke 1 tells how the same angel spoke to Mary, explaining that the Holy Spirit would come up on her and that the child she would carry would be the Son of God.  In faith Joseph and Mary make the journey to Bethlehem, believing God and waiting for the Promise. Continue reading

…And the Holy Spirit

God manifests himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It’s easy to recognize the Father and Son in many of our Christmas stories and traditions, but the Holy Spirit is sort of the missing character.  That’s just in our remembrance of the story; in the Biblical account, he is all over that story.

If we’re aware of the Holy Spirit in the Christmas narrative at all, it’s probably when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive, Luke 1:35.  That’s just the first time Luke will mention the Spirit. Continue reading

Advent: Faith

Week 2 of Advent is about faith, and we light the Bethleham candle.  This candle reminds us of the faith Joseph and Mary had to go to Bethleham, believing God was fulfilling his promise to Israel and blessing their family at the same time.  I began by reading Psalm 79.  Most of the psalm is a lement over the destruction of Jesrusalem. Continue reading

Christmas Card Theology

What if everything we knew about Christmas came from studying the pictures on our Christmas cards?  Even if you never pick up a Bible, there’s a lot to learn from the cards we send around each year.  Here’s a list of some that I’ve noticed:

  • Mary and Jesus are both white.  I’ve even seen Jesus with red hair, and lots of it.  Way too much for a newborn.
  • Angels are beautiful women.  They basically look like super models in choir robes.  OR
  • Angels are 6 year old children.  They’re cute, and plump, and sometimes play musical instruments.
  • There were 3 wise men.  There were exactly 3 wise men, no more, no less.  Two of them were white, one was black.  AND THEY WERE AT THE MANGER.
  • The manger was in a shelter made of wood with a straw roof.  There were no other buildings of any sort for several miles in any direction.

These are a few of the things we learn when we get our theology from Christmas card images.  Assuming of course that your cards have anything about Jesus on them at all.  I’m going to leave it at this.  Check out the first couple chapters of Matthew and Luke before asking stupid any questions.

Rethinking the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:1-2


Take a good look at this nativity scene.  Study it for a moment.  It should look similar to every other nativity you’ve ever seen before.  Jesus is lying in a manger filled with hay; the major characters are in or around a stable of some sort; the star would be shining above; the shepherds came from the field, where they had been watching their flocks; and the 3 wise men came bringing gifts.  It’s a nice picture, and we think “That seems about right.”  But it’s not.  One of the things on my list, according to scripture at least,  doesn’t belong. Continue reading

Advent, week 2

advent-wreathThe first Sunday of Advent celebrates Hope, and we lit the candle of Prophesy.  If you need the introductory lesson, click What is Advent?  This second Sunday of Advent is called Faith, and we light the Bethlehem candle to remind us of the faith Joseph and Mary had as they trusted God and waited for the birth of Jesus. Continue reading