Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - Advent Devotional 2015

Thursday, 25 December 2015

Stories simply written can teach many lessons. "The Story of the Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke proves this point clearly. The story is simply this. A well educated astronomer and physician by the name of Artaban has planned to join his colleagues, the three wise men, to go in search of Jesus Christ, the new born king of the Jews. Artaban starts off to meet Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. He brings with him three gifts: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl. His colleagues are bringing the Christ Child gold, frankincense and myrrh. Artaban was to meet the three wise men in ten days. He never meets them. The wise men saw Christ in Bethlehem. Artaban never sees the child. Artaban fails to meet the three wise men and Christ because along the way he is delayed.

Why didn't he meet the wise men at the appointed time? He met a man along the way who was sick and dying. Artaban ministered to him, took care of him and restored him to life. But in doing so he missed the three wise men who had to leave without him. And so the search for the person of Christ was something Artaban had to do on his own. He gives the sapphire to a small caravan to help them go across the desert. He takes counsel from a scholarly Jewish Rabbi who tells him that the new born king is not to be found in a palace, nor among the rich and powerful. His kingdom is a new kingdom, the royalty of perfect and unconquerable love. Artaban followed the counsel of the Rabbi and though, as Van Dyke says, he found more to worship, he found many to help. He fed the hungry, he clothed the naked and healed the sick and comforted the captive. His ruby was given to a soldier to protect a small child from being slaughtered. His last gift, the pearl, was given to prevent a young woman from being taken into slavery.

The quest for Christ continues for some 33 years. One day, at Passover, people were talking about a crucifixion that was taking place. The earth started to quake. The sky darkened. Artaban and the young woman he had given the pearl to sought shelter. A heavy tile struck Artaban on the head. He was badly injured. Then Artaban, with blood all over his face, seemed to be whispering and saying, "not so, My Lord, for when did I see you hungry, or thirsty and gave thee to drink? When did I see a stranger and take thee in? For 33 years I have looked for you and never saw your face." And the voice that prompted all the words of Artaban became more clear and strong and said, "as often as you did it to one of these, my brethren, you did it to me."

There is no doubt that the other wise men found the king. But Artaban also found him in his own way. There is no doubt in reading this Christmas story that the author was telling us that there are so many Christ-like people in our own life that have to be ministered to.

The journey of Artaban to see Christ is a reminder that Christ, in the person of the homeless or the forgotten elderly, is in our midst. Van Dyke has told us that the most beautiful words that we can hear are the words "as long as you did it to them, you did it for me."

May all of us experience and hear these words as we journey to find Christ.

Source: Spirituality for Today, December, 1995, Volume 1, Number 5
Photo: Artaban, The Fourth Wise Man

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23 - Advent Devotional 2015

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

There's a company that makes t-shirts with spiritual themes. One of them shows an airplane being flown by a frantic pilot. The shirt says, "If God is your co-pilot, switch seats."

That's a state that's simple, but sort of sums up our struggle. We often talk about how faith is hard. But a certain amount of faith is really not difficult at all. The Gallup Organization conducted a survey that consistently reports that about 94 percent of Americans believe in God. Making God your co-pilot is not easy.  Like this:

God, you keep an eye on the horizon and the dials and gauges which I fly the plane. But you be ready in case a storm comes up or we lose an engine or the wing falls off, because I'm gonna need you to save the day. Of course, when we have blue skies, I'll just take over again.

That's not hard. What's hard is to relinquish the wheel. At the Annunciation, Mary gives us the blueprint for a different kind of faith - the hard kind.

Mary may have had many ideas and expectations about what her life would be like. We all do. We knew she was expecting to marry Joseph. And then this angel shows up with a message from God that lays out a whole different plan for her future. To say this was going to complicate her life is putting it lightly. While Scripture talked a lot about the coming of the Messiah, it didn't include instructions for being the Messiah's mom. Mary is the ultimate example of a life yielded to God's purpose. Mary puts God in the driver's seat. But how do we live out faith today, and walk in submission of God? The answer begins in Mary's story, an act of grace that has the power to transform our lives. We need to remember that Jesus didn't come just to accept the shepherds' worship or the Magi's gifts. We need to see the cross as well as the manger.

Christ said to Martha in John 11: "I am the resurrection and the life. You who believe in me will live even though you die, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" We all want to surrender our lives, to let go and let God, to turn over the wheel. It is in answering Christ's question that we find the confidence to do this.

There are times when we wonder whether we matter to God, whether God really knows who we are, or cares. God responds to our doubt and our feelings of inadequacy by saying this: "Come live with me at my house. I have prepared a place for you! It's a great house, too. And I'm not talking a two-week lease - it's forever! And, not only that, you can invite all your friends, too!"

Believe it. Switch seats. Follow Mary's example, and make God the pilot in your life. Let go of the wheel, and grab hold of Christmas with all your strength.

Source: REMinistries, the Internet outreach of Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey
Photo: Airport Delay a Gift From God

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22 - Advent Devotional 2015

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sing Out My Soul

Sing out my soul,
sing of the holiness of God;
who has delighted in a woman,
lifted up the poor,
satisfied the hungry,
given voice to the silent,
grounded the oppressor,
blessed the full bellied with emptiness,
and with the gift of tears those who have never wept;
who has desired the darkness of the womb,
and inhabited our flesh.
Sing of the longing of God,
sing out, my soul.

Source: Adaptation of Luke 1:39-53, by Janet Morley
Photo: Annunciation Glass, Mary via Flickr

View all Advent Devotional 2015 posts here.

© 2015, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.