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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Simeon Sees God's Salvation




Simeon Sees God’s Salvation

 

Simeon was a good Jewish man living in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus’ birth.  Simeon loved God and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  Simeon knew from Scripture that God had promised a Savior and oh how badly Simeon wanted to see this promised Savior! If only he could see this Savior, who would be God’s salvation, before he died!  This was Simeon’s deepest desire.

 

Then one day the Holy Spirit came and revealed to Simeon that God would give him his desire  and he would indeed be privileged to see the Savior! We read in Scripture: “And it had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he would see the Lord’s Christ.”  (Luke 2:26)  Simeon was overjoyed and waited anxiously for God’s salvation to be revealed to him.

 

When Jesus was four or five weeks old, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to the Lord and to offer sacrifices.  At the very hour that Mary and Joseph were there in the temple with the baby Jesus, the Holy Spirit directed Simeon to go to the temple.  The same Spirit that had given Simeon the hope of seeing the Savior now provided him the joy of seeing the Savior. Scripture says: “So by the Holy Spirit, Simeon came into the temple.” (Luke 2:27a)  We don’t know how the Holy Spirit moves us to do things and go places, but God has His ways.  Isn’t it exciting to know that God leads us and moves us - if we are open to Him?

 

Scripture says that when Simeon saw the baby Jesus he knew immediately that this was the promised Savior.  Trembling, Simeon asked to hold the baby Jesus.  Scripture tells us: “Simeon took the baby Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and said: ‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word.  For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.  A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.  And the glory of Your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:28-32)  Simeon’s prophetic words are known as the “Nunc Dimitis,” and they stress the truth that Jesus is the Savior for the whole world. 

 

We don’t know how Simeon recognized the Savior when he saw this little baby in the temple, but God opens the eyes of His people and shows them mysteries that those who reject Him will never get to see.  Oh that we may be open to God to give us eyes to see what He wants us to see.  Like Simeon, if we desire to see the Savior, God will let us see Him.        

 

Mary and Joseph stood there in the temple and marveled at Simeon’s prophecies concerning their infant son, Jesus.  Then Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and gave a prophecy to Mary.  Here is the prophecy that Simeon gave to Mary that day in the temple.  “”Behold this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.  Yes a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34b-35) 

 

What does Simeon’s prophecy to Mary mean?  Mary’s Child is “destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.”   Perhaps this means that not everyone will accept the salvation that Jesus offers. Some will see Him and accept Him and live eternally and some will stumble over Him and fall.  The opposition to Jesus and His message will reach its climax at the Cross, where Mary will also experience piercing anguish. Lest Joseph and Mary especially should be lifted up with the abundance of the revelations, perhaps here is a thorn in the flesh for them, and also what we sometimes need to keep us humble. 

 

Mary, being chosen to become the mother of God’s Son, was blessed among women.   But Mary’s Son, the Son of God, would be a suffering Son, a suffering Savior.  And those who follow the suffering Savior would suffer also.  The followers of Jesus would be called to take up their cross to follow Him.  Mary would also have sorrows and piercing pain in her life – would also take up a cross of suffering.

 

It is a spiritual battle that we are engaged in – the battle between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil.  We don’t understand this mystery of why this battle is only won through Jesus suffering and death.  Or why we who follow Him are called to suffer.  But God, our Father calls us to follow Him in faith.  To trust and obey.  In the end when the battle is over, we have the marvelous promise that Jesus will win the battle for us.  In the end good will overcome evil, light will shine through the darkness, life will conquer death.  Jesus will win the victory and be victorious.  And we will be victorious through Him.  Simeon was not satisfied with what the world had to offer.  He was only satisfied when he was allowed to see Jesus.  Oh that we might be like Simeon and long to see Jesus.  May we never be satisfied with anything less.     

 


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Songs and Prophecies Ushering in the Christ Child




Songs and Prophecies Ushering in the Christ Child

 

At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.  Down through the centuries God had sent prophets telling the Jewish people that a Messiah or a Savior would come who would bring salvation not only for the Jewish people but for all people who would accept it. But shortly before the baby Jesus was born, His birth and His mission were foretold and celebrated by angels and by members of His family.  Let’s listen in to the angel Gabriel as He announces Jesus’ birth to Mary. 

 

“Now …the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you: Blessed are you among women!’”  (Luke 1:26-28)  Mary was frightened, as I am sure you and I would have been, to be greeted by a bright angel..  “Then 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 bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High:..”  (Luke 1:30-32a)  Mary was told by the angel Gabriel to name her son, “Jesus”.  Jesus is Greek for the Hebrew name, Joshua, which means “The Lord is Salvation.”

 

Then Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sex with a man?”  (Luke 1:34)   “And the angel answered her ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you: therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”…”For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Then Mary answered. “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word.”  And the angel left.  (Luke 1:35-38)  Mary was a humble girl who fully trusted God and wanted His will in her life.  Oh that we might follow her example.

 

The conception of Jesus would take place through the direct action or “overshadowing” over Mary of the Holy Spirit.  Mary would be the only virgin on earth ever to give birth to a baby. The birth of Jesus was different from all other births because Jesus is different from all other humans that have been born in that He is the Son of God.  He could not take away our sin if He were born in sin as we humans are.  

 

A few months later when Mary was a couple of months pregnant she visited her cousin Elizabeth and shared her joy in being given the honor of being chosen to be the Mother of  the Savior.  Let’s listen to what Mary tells Elizabeth.  Here is part of Mary’s song which has also been called “The Magnificat”. “My soul magnified the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.  For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant: For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.  For He who is mighty has done great things for me.  And holy is His name.  And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation…”    (Luke 1:46-50)

 

There is a wonder surrounding Mary, the mother of Jesus.  That she was privileged and chosen to bear God’s Son is wonder enough.  She is taking part in the miracle of God becoming human, which is called the Incarnation. She didn’t understand all of it but she simply worshipped God in humble acknowledgment.

 

We can follow her example of persistence and obedience in following God’s basic directive on our lives, even when the details of the outworking of His will are unclear or mystifying.  Mary is a study in the pathway forward in God’s will.  She remained steadfast with Jesus all the way to the Cross, rather than protect herself.  (John 19:25)  Mary is a model of responsive obedience. 

 

Another relative in Jesus’ family was also given a prophecy from God concerning Jesus’ coming birth.  The Holy Spirit came upon Zachariah, the husband of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, and the father of John the Baptist.  A few months before Jesus was born, Zachariah prophesied concerning Jesus’ coming birth.

 

 This is part of his prophesy.  “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel.  For He has visited and redeemed His people.  He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David. As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began.  That we should be saved from our enemies.  And from the hand of all who hate us.  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers.  And to remember His holy covenant.  The oath which He swore to our father Abraham: To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, and holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.  (Luke 1:67-75)

 

This song or prophecy of Zachariah’s is known as the “Benedictus” because it deals with the salvation which is about to appear in the Person of the Messiah, Jesus, Mary’s child.  The redemption Jesus accomplishes is a visit of God, a direct intervention.  It is also the raising up of the “horn of salvation”, which is symbolic of strength.  (Ezekiel 29:21)  God’s people had waited a very long time for their promised Messiah (Savior) to come. 

 

Our Savior’s birth came with signs and wonders.  God was not silent.  But many in that day went about their business and never listened to the prophecies in Scripture or knew that the promised Savior had come.  Never saw the star or heard the angels sing. But, those who wanted to see were given sight.  And those who wanted to hear were given open ears.  It’s still the same today.  Many are too busy to see God’s love for them. Or hear God calling. If we truly want to follow the Savior, He will be made known to us.  (Matthew 7:7) 

 

As we rush around preparing for Christmas, may we slow down enough to catch the spirit and the wonder that our promised Savior brings.  As we hear the words of the carols may we feel the joy that they bring.  Let the truth of Christmas sink in deeply.  The truth that God loves you with an unconditional love and He sent His Son to bring you salvation.    

 

    

 


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrating the Christmas Promise





Celebrating the Christmas Promise

 

 

Last Sunday our Sunday school lesson was about the story of creation in the Bible.  (Genesis 1-3)  Scripture says that in the beginning God create an amazing sinless world, with no death, no disease, no sorrow, and no sin – a paradise.  Scripture says that everything that God created was very good.(Genesis 1:31) Since we have always lived in a fallen world and have always known a world with problems and sorrows, it is hard for us to imagine what the world God created before the fall was really like. Things were so different back then before sin changed everything. The world God created was full of love and harmony.  Adam and Eve trusted and loved God and that was what God wanted. God wants all of His children to love and trust Him. The animals did not kill and eat other animals before the fall, and Scripture describes a future time in heaven where the animals will again not hunt or kill anymore. (Isaiah 11:9)  

 

God put the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in a lush paradise called the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had bodies that would never get hurt or sick or die.  And God created humans in His own image, with the ability to make decisions on their own.  Obey or disobey Him if they wished.  God loved Adam and Eve with fatherly love.  He came and walked and talked with them each day in the garden.  God loves to walk and talk with his children. And God told Adam and Eve that He loved them and that they could eat all of the fruits and vegetation in the garden, except for the fruit on just one tree.  They were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that was growing in the middle of the garden.  God warned them that if they ate the fruit of that one tree, they would die.

 

One day Eve is strolling by herself in the garden, and along comes Satan in the form of a snake or serpent.  You notice Satan, the tempter, catches Eve when Adam is not there.  Eve might be more vulnerable by herself, and Satan wants to take advantage of her when she is most vulnerable.  The tempter tries to catch us when we are vulnerable too.

 

The Bible says: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.  And the serpent asked the woman (Eve), ‘Has God indeed told you that you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”  And the woman (Eve) answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said ‘You shall not eat it, nor touch it, lest you die.’”  Then the serpent answered the woman (Eve), “You shall not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat that fruit your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”.  (Genesis 3:1-5)

 

We know from the Bible that Satan is a liar. (John 8:44)  Satan told several big lies to Eve right there in the garden. Satan lied to tempt Eve into not believing what God had told her. His lies  caused Eve to question Gods’ honesty. Satan even implied that God didn’t want her to eat the fruit because He didn’t want her to become “wise” and “be like Him”.  If Satan could plant doubts in Eve’s mind about whether God spoke the truth or not, then it would be easier for him to seduce her into eating the fruit of the tree– and disobeying God and sinning. (To sin is to disobey God)  Does Satan tempt us this same way? 

 

 Eve had a choice of who to believe and she believed Satan instead of God!  Satan’s lies to Eve, caused her to want the wisdom she thought the forbidden fruit would bring. The desire to become “like God” also seemed attractive to her. Why would God keep that from her?   Did she envy God for being God?   Want to be like Him?  Eves’ definition of being “wise” was human self-rule, not dependency and trust in God.  Scripture says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 1:7)

 

 Satan guided Eve closer to this powerful tree in the middle of the garden, luring her on.  Eve quivered as she tiptoed around the mysterious tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden, gazing up at its’ translucent ripe fruit.  Satan was right there beside her and he wasn’t letting up. The fruit on this magnificent tree glistened with moisture and became more and more attractive to Eve the longer she looked at it.  She kept listening to the snake’s soft seductive voice over and over in her ear encouraging her to take and eat.  Take and eat. What could it hurt?  Take and eat. You want it so badly, you know you do, he hissed on and on in her ear.  Was she falling under his spell?  Was she lusting after this fruit because God had commanded her not to have it?  Desiring it because it was wrong?  Now she was shaking all over.  Shaking with desire for this bad fruit. And this desire kept growing bigger and bigger in her heart.    

 

Eve’s hands were trembling as she picked the forbidden fruit off the mysterious tree.  And her whole body was trembling as she ate the fruit.  While she was eating the fruit she felt something strange happening to her!  Something definitely was changing, she knew that!  But what was it?  She had never felt pain before, but now her body was in pain.

 

 Then Adam came back and Eve ran to him and told him all that had happened. She told him about the wisdom they would get by eating the fruit.  That they would be like God and also that the snake had promised them that they would never die, as God had said they would.  Would Adam believe Satan’s word over God’s?  He had a choice to make whether to trust God or to believe Satan. Eve repeated her story and then stood there holding the fruit out for him to take.  But Adam just stood there shaking his head and wondering what to do -  obey God or to listen to his wife.

 

 Adam must have been influenced by his wife because when she gave him the fruit, he took it and ate it. Immediately after Adam ate the fruit, he also knew that something had changed in his life. It seemed at that terrible moment the universe shifted!  Paradise was lost!  Right away both Adam and Eve became ashamed that they were naked!  (Genesis 3:7)  They had never been ashamed or embarrassed of their nakedness before!  But now they felt like they needed a covering.  What had changed?  Were they not good enough on their own now that they had sinned?  Are we not good enough on our own?  Is that why we cover our nakedness with clothing?  Do we need a spiritual covering (Jesus) as well?   Adam and Eve sewed leaves together to try to cover their nakedness. 

 

About this time God came to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the garden like He always did each afternoon.  Adam and Eve had always run to God when He came, thrilled to be with their loving Father.  But this time instead of meeting their God and walking with Him, Adam and Eve were afraid and ashamed and ran away and hid.  Sin had separated them from their God.  

 

Where are you? God called out to Adam and Eve.  He knew where they were and what they had done!  God knew and God was brokenhearted.  He knew that Adam and Eve would die, and all earthly creatures would die too. Nothing would be the same again on His beloved earth. Death and decay had come into God’s magnificent world. Scripture says that sin causes death. (Romans 6:23)   And in that dreadful moment Adam and Eve lost their immortality and began to die.  Death would be passed on to their children and all their children’s children-and to all humanity.  Passed on as a curse on the whole earth’s environment and on to the animals and birds and fish and plants and all of God’s beloved creation.  (Romans 8L20, 2 Peter 3:4-7, Isaiah 45:18) 

 

God killed an animal and made clothing to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.  Perhaps this was a lesson pointing to the Lamb of God who would be a covering for sin. Scripture says: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.”  (Hebrews 9:22)  God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and then He sent angels to guard the garden and keep Adam and Eve (and all humans) from ever going back.  (Genesis 3:24)   If Adam and Eve returned to the Garden of Eden they might eat of the Tree of Life growing there in the garden, and live forever.  Live forever in their sin?  God did not want His beloved children to live forever in their sin and misery.  Some things are worse than death. 

 

There was one ray of hope, one promise of grace spoken by God on that dreadful day when mankind and all creation were subjected to the curse of sin.  God loved His children and His world too much to leave it dying and without hope.  Adam and Eve had gotten themselves and all creation into a terrible mess, but God promised to rescue them. While God was speaking to the snake (Satan), He spoke these words. “I will put enmity between you and the woman.  And between your seed and her Seed.  He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  (Genesis 3:15) 

 

Bible scholars interpret this Scripture to be a promise.  The promise is that the Seed of the woman would someday crush the Serpent’s head.  That woman in particular would play a part in undoing the effects of the fall into sin. The woman would have children and one of her children would be the “Seed” that would crush Satan’s head and take away sin.  The “Seed” being the Lord Jesus who has trampled Satan at the Cross.  In its’ wider sense, the human race will eventually completely triumph over the Evil One (the snake, Satan) through the Seed of the woman. (Jesus).  (Romans 16:20)  

 

All the richness and mercy and sorrow and love and glory of our loving God’s redeeming work with humans is here in miniature.  God promises Adam and Eve, the first humans on earth, that He will bring a Redeemer from the Seed of the woman.  This Seed (Jesus Christ) from the woman (Mary) will be completely human yet divinely begotten.  That serpent of old, called the Devil would war with the Seed. (Revelations 12)  Even as the Serpent struck at His heel, His foot would descend crushing the Serpent’s head.  In Christ’s life and death this Scripture was fulfilled.  By His death and resurrection Jesus Christ has defeated and made a public spectacle of the powers of hell. (Colossians 2:15)

 

This word of hope, spoken by a brokenhearted God at the beginning of human history when His children had fallen into sin and death, was the first messianic promise made to humans, with many more promises to follow. And when the baby Jesus (the Seed) was finally born of Mary (the woman), the angels rejoiced in the heavens and proclaimed the good news and the great joy that was to be for all people of good will, that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem.

 

  The Christmas star shone in the sky over Bethlehem and the wise men followed the star to greet the new King. We celebrate the good news that we will live forever without our sin through Jesus who fought the battle for us.  We look forward to the time when the curse of sin over the earth will finally be broken and we celebrate the fact that we have been given eternal life through Christ our Lord. The angels rejoiced when the Savior was born, and we rejoice along with them each year at Christmastime.  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Preparing a Place for the Christ Child




Preparing a Place for the Christ Child

 

Our church celebrates the Advent season each year for the four weeks leading up to Christmas.   Our pastor says that Advent is a time to examine ourselves and see if we have unconfessed sins.  A time for us to do some housecleaning and prepare a bigger place in our hearts for the Christ child.  A time to prepare the gift of more of ourselves for Him.

 

 I listen as the pastor encourages us to open our hearts to Christ during this Advent season, but I am not moved. I know that opening my heart to the Lord means forgiving people and I am not in a forgiving mood. I am mad at a friend and I feel I have good reasons to be mad. And I don’t want to stop being mad!

 

 It all started a week ago when I was at lunch with a group of women and sitting with my friend Mattie. (Not her real name)  Mattie and another woman at the table were discussing the subject of abortion and I joined in.  I said that if we could change the spirit that our culture has now to a different spirit or belief system where the culture and the media would once again encourage young couples to become committed to one another, then we might have fewer single mothers and fewer abortions. Ever since the sexual revolution, I said, millions of abortions have been performed in our country, even performed up to late term and just before birth.  Really tragic, I added. And because our individualistic and sexualized society encourages sex without commitment, this mind set is one of the reasons we find ourselves choosing abortion.   

 

My friend Mattie became angry at my comments and told me that I was wrong and that late term abortions never happened in our country.  That I should not have mentioned such a thing.  That anyway it wasn’t nice to talk about such an issue.  Mattie is an emotional person and she was getting angrier as she talked.  She added that she didn’t ever want to talk to me again.  That I was no longer her friend.  At that point she stopped speaking to me.  I was shocked.    There were no other seats at the table so I could not get up and move. I spent an awkward lunch hour sitting next to an angry Mattie while she carefully avoided me.  

 

 I left feeling hurt and angry.  Surely Mattie and I could still remain friends and not have to agree on everything. I figured that I would be friendly when I saw her next and all would be forgotten. But that wasn’t to be.  Later on in the week Mattie wrote an angry message on my Facebook page telling me that I was bringing in the Anti-Christ to this country since I voted for President Obama.  I was shocked and didn’t answer her.  What could I say?  And then she de-friended me on Facebook.   

 

So when I was at church Sunday, listening as our pastor asked us to celebrate Advent by forgiving anyone we had a problem with, I found it difficult to let go of my negative feelings towards Mattie. Finally the best I could do was to pray that the Lord would soften my hard heart and stop my unkind feelings towards her. I knelt at the rail and prayed for His help.   

 

There are so many political issues today that can set friend against friend and brother against brother.  Instead of a spirit of love and compromise, the culture and the media keep us in a constant state of hysteria stirring up anger and hatred over each problem or imagined problem. How many friends have been separated over these political issues today?  (Like Mattie and myself)

 

 Hatred and anger seem to be in the air. We have mass murders occurring throughout the world with Isis terrorists gunning down innocent people in the name of religion. And domestic terrorists shooting down their terrified victims because the gunman had a bad day.  No wonder when Jesus prophesied about the end times He said:” And then many will be offended and will betray one another and will hate one another.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”  (Matthew 24:10, 12)  How are we to act if we are living during such a time? 

 

Jesus promises His help and calls us to reach out with peace and forgiveness and love even in difficult situations.  Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? “(Matthew 5:13)   We are not salt all on our own.  Jesus in our hearts loving and caring for others through us - that is the salt.   And this “Jesus” salt in us gives us flavor and peace and love to share with others around us.  Jesus is our salt. And He is the salt of the world. But, as Jesus warned, this salt can lose its flavor. When we stop caring about others or refuse to forgive.   Or give in to anger and hatred, then our salt loses its’ flavor.  It’s our job to keep and protect our salt from becoming bland and worthless and going bad. 

 

Jesus also said: “You are the light of the world….Do not put your light under a bushel, but put it up on a lampstand, so it will give light to all those around you.” (Matthew 5:14-15)  We are not that light on our own.  Jesus is the light. (John 8:12)  He is the light of the world and the light of life.  And His light is in us and He wants to shine His light (His spirit of love and peace) through us to those around us. .He calls us to put the light of His love and salvation up on a lampstand for all to see.  But when we get angry with others and criticize and hate, we put this precious light under a bushel, the bushel of hate, where no one can see it and be blessed and saved.  We need to put the light we have been given up high on a lampstand and away from the temptation to be critical, or to hate, or to be unforgiving – those bushels that cover up our precious light. It’s our job to keep this light shining.     

 

Jesus calls us to spread peace where there is anger or ill will.  He calls us to be peacemakers.  (Matthew 5:9)   He will give us the ability or power to do what He asks of us. He promises to give us His special peace.  He said: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you.  I don’t give the way the world does.”  (John 14:27)  He promises us His peace so let’s take it. 

 

And Jesus calls us to spread love when there is hate. When hate is all around us He calls us to live in His love and enjoy and bask in the warmth of His love. And pass it on.   “As the Father has loved Me, I also love you, abide in my love.”  (John 14:9)   When hate and arguments are raging all around us, we are to wrap ourselves up in God’s wonderful love.  We can pass Gods’ love along to others only when we abide in it ourselves.   

 

This week I read an article in the newspaper concerning the pope’s recent visit to Africa. Pope Francis visited Benqui in Central Africa with his message of peace. It was very dangerous for the pope to travel to Benqui, since the area has been wracked with bloody wars, mass murders, torture and violence between the Moslem and Christian populations who live there.  Pope Francis risked his life by going into this hate filled war zone.  He entered a mosque and sat down with the leader of the mosque and asked the Muslim leader to work with him for peace.  To work together to stop the bloodshed and to live as neighbors together in peace.  The pope spoke these words:  “Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully for many years.  We are brothers.  Together we say “no” to hatred, to vengeance and violence especially violence that is committed in the name of a religion or in the name of God.” 

 

If Pope Francis can plead with a Muslim leader for peace by asking that both Christians and Muslims say “no” to hatred, even after big issues like mass murders have happened, shouldn’t I be able to say “no” to my hatred over such a small thing as a silly disagreement with a friend.  I finally made the decision to just say “no” to my critical spirit towards Mattie.  Even if Mattie is never friendly to me again, I will give her to God and pray for her and say “no” to anger.

 

 I want to follow Jesus and I can’t do that while I hold on to hateful feelings towards Mattie.  Scripture says: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  (James 4:7)  We just have to say “no” to our hate.  It’s as simple as that.  So simple we almost overlook it.  Confess and turn from sin. (1 John 1:9)  Draw a line in the sand and refuse to go over it.  “Repent” the Bible says. In other words, just say “no”.  

 

 Now I can go back to church this Sunday and joyfully take part in Advent season.  I can prepare a bigger place in my heart for Christ now that I have said “no” to the hate that took up precious space there.  The salt in my life will be saltier now, because when hate was there my salt was becoming tasteless.  And without hate in my heart, the light in my life will shine again too..  Advent is a time for housecleaning – throwing out those things that keep us from Christ.  I have done a bit of housecleaning already and it feels so good.  Do you want to join me?   Do you want to make more room in your heart for Christ this Advent season too?  Let’s prepare the gift of more of ourselves for Him this Christmas season.