Yesterday, we reflected on the life of Saint Patrick and the legacy he left as a leader. Patrick was known for purposely building relationships with the pagan chiefs in order to reach entire villages, setting up hundreds of churches and monasteries as each village king allowed. Some argue that the Celtic Christian movement finds its roots in Patrick’s legacy. And one of its hallmarks was the practice of hospitality.
Lent is a time to come before God with consistency, to open your heart to his mercy, to make yourself available to his grace. No matter what you do or don’t do during the weeks before Good Friday and Easter, I would urge you to draw near to God regularly so that you might be renewed in your relationship with him and so that you might be ready to experience more deeply and truly the passion and resurrection of Christ.
As you reflect on the Magi in the Christmas story, as you are impressed by their boldness, don’t just admire them. Imitate them. Approach God’s throne boldly. Know that, because of Jesus Christ, God is ready to shower you with mercy and grace in your time of need.
Jesus understands. He gets it. He gets us. So, when we’re hurting physically, or when our hearts are heavy, or when we feel abandoned, or when people disappoint us, or when those we love reject us, or when we experience the reality of being human in a fallen world, Jesus knows how we feel.
At Christmas, we focus on the wonder of the birth of Jesus. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Christmas sermon on dealing with temptation. But, from the perspective of Hebrews 2, one of the life-changing implications of Christmas—the celebration of the incarnation of God in human flesh—is that Jesus will help us when we’re tempted. This is such good news.
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the one who was truly God and truly human. Yet the birth of Jesus did not save us. Rather, his birth and his nature made possible the salvation that was yet to come, when Jesus died in our place on the cross and was raised triumphant on Easter. Christmas is, in this sense, a prelude to what comes later.
Yesterday, I shared honestly about the painful irony of my family experiencing so much hardship and heartache over Thanksgiving week. How did Jesus have so much joy amidst his own tremendous suffering?… How can I find joy amidst the reality of the presence of pain? I choose to believe that the writer of Hebrews was hinting at Jesus’s bigger vision of the cross. Yes, the cross was real pain and suffering, but it was also real redemption and hope.
I want to “get in the spirit” of this Thanksgiving season, but there’s just so much bad news that it’s just harder for me this year… As our churches prepare for Advent, I can’t help but think of the name, “Immanuel.” God with us. God in our skin. The Suffering Servant. So I will consider him this Thanksgiving week and trust that gratitude will find its way out of my broken heart and toward my lips in due time.
Today is, as you know, Christmas day. For millions of people around the world, it is a day of celebration and rejoicing.
It is for me, too, though this will be an unusual Christmas for my family and me.
“Why did I sign up for this? How in the world will I ever finish? What was I thinking? Look at all of these people running so much better than I’m running this race!”
Isn’t that the way it goes?