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Someone’s Coming (Part 3)

The Nativity of Christ-themed wooden Christmas ornament
 
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today… And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” Luke 19:5,8-10
 
This week, we’ve been thinking of company coming, visitors who just showed up without calling or texting us ahead. Suddenly, there they are at our door.  Quick, get ready! So far, we have put on the coffee and brought out the good food. We’ve cleaned the house and found the gifts that were given. Now it’s time for the last choice. Get dressed! Of course, you are dressed but you’ve been busy. Maybe after the visit is an hour or two along you finally notice you never did get time to change. You look and see that you’re wearing the oldest sweatshirt you own. It’s a little late though to bring it up. If you say to your company, “Let me go get changed” you’re going to make them say, “No, no, don’t bother. You look fine.”  Or, worse, they’ll say, “Don’t bother. We really should get going.” But you don’t want them to leave! Everything is going so well, you’re hoping that they will stay.
 
Zacchaeus must have felt the same way. At the end of the meal I’m sure he wanted Jesus to stay with him as long and as he could. I hope that Jesus even stayed overnight, the best night Zacchaeus and his household ever had.
 
We want him to stay the same way in our house. Picture Jesus as the guest who’s come to be with your family. Are you perfect in your dress or house or gifts? None of us are. But that’s not why he came and it’s not why he stays. He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us and he is with us out of grace and mercy. Very soon we are going to be in the season of Advent. We are going to sing that great hymn, “O come O come Emmanuel.” He enriches our homes by his presence that endures with us even when we are far from perfect. But he enriches us by his presence. He is the real gift of this season, Emmanuel the God who is with us.
 
So, I hope company comes to your house at the right time without too much surprise. I hope that you have good warning before they pull in. When they come, you still have those three classics of hosting company: put on the coffee, clean the house, and get dressed. In this Advent season, remember Someone is coming to our homes. He’s not a surprise but as a welcome guest to enrich our homes. God bless you as he comes to be your lasting guest.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that you come even when we are far from perfect or even presentable. Wash us clean with your forgiveness and remain with us as Emmanuel, the wonderful God who is with us in every season. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Storms

huge wave at daytime
 
 “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.   And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.   And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”   And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.    And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him”  Matthew 8:23-27   

“Why are you afraid?”  Can you imagine if Jesus asked you that question?  I suppose that I could go on for hours with reasons why I’m afraid.  And I’m not even being tossed around on the waves of the sea.

Then again, maybe I am being tossed around on the waves of the sea.  And maybe you are, too.  Life is tumultuous, scary, unpredictable sometimes.  And when you’re in the middle of a storm, it’s hard to think about anything else other than getting out of the storm!

The disciples feared that the storm would destroy them.  And they assumed that since Jesus didn’t immediately wake up and save them, that He didn’t care. 

When we’re in the middle of the storm it sometimes seems like Jesus doesn’t care.  It may seem crazy to you that He doesn’t immediately calm things down.  But where is faith in that?  If we simply expect Jesus to eliminate our problems, our capacity to trust Him through the storms of life will suffer.

Jesus knows – perfectly – when and how our faith needs to be tested and stretched through suffering.  As He pushes the limits of our trust, He grows our faith.  As He shows us that He cares and is always there, we mature.

So, thanks be to God for the storms.  And thanks be to God for the Savior who entered the Storm of sin, death and the devil and defeated them all by His cross and empty tomb.

The time will come when the waters will be perfectly still, always.  The time will come when storms will cease.  I can’t wait for that Day.  But as much as I long for it, I am comforted that while I’m here in the place of storms, I have One who is with me and knows what’s best for me every step of the way.

Lord Jesus, You entered into this world of storms to show that You are more powerful than anything that would harm us.  As we face storms in our own lives, remind us that You are there, and grow our faith that we might always trust You.  In your name, Amen.  

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Someone’s Coming (Part 2)

person holding red and brown gift box infront of Christmas tree inside the room
 
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he turned and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’” Luke 19:5-8

On Monday we talked about visitors coming at night, company you didn’t expect. You have only so much time to get ready and your first thought might be to put the coffee on and get something to eat.  Or, you might choose instead try to clean up. Pick up the house and especially find the gifts. Let’s say that you know who’s coming down the driveway and you realize that they gave gifts the last time they were here. Where is the cutting board? Where is the clock? Is it running? Clean the house and make sure the gifts are out.

Zacchaeus must have also seen his house and his life as a gift. As we read in the text, Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, became very generous with the gifts he planned to give. Jesus’s visit changed everything for Zacchaeus. That night, Zacchaeus saw that everything in his house was already a gift from God. When he gave those gifts away, he understood that those gifts hadn’t changed in nature. Everything he had was a gift already. In giving it to the poor he was simply seeing still as a gift.

Zacchaeus’ generosity was a great act of re-gifting. Re-gifting in the very best way recognizes that this gift isn’t really best for us but would be better used by someone else. Everything we have is already a gift of God. Look around at our homes.  What is here that God hasn’t first given to us? And so, what we do with those gifts simply continues to keep them as his gifts as we share them with others. When we re-give these gifts, we wrap them with the thanks that God takes care of all our needs. His gifts are here every day and, even better, he fills our house with himself. He is still the one who says he must stay in our homes today.

Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you that everything is a gift from you. Help us to re-gift what you first gave to us.  Let us share the generous nature of Zacchaeus who gave freely to others. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Do Not Be Anxious

woman praying while leaning against brick wall
 
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Matthew 6:25-27

Some of Jesus’ words just cut so quickly to the heart of the matter:  “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Isn’t that the truth?  In fact, there’s a growing body of literature that anxiety can actually subtract from our hours of life on this earth.  I was recently perusing the Harvard Medical School website (impressive, huh?), and I read an article describing how one’s stress/anxiety level is inextricably linked to one’s physical health.

Ouch.  Anxiety has consequences.

But it’s important to realize that the reason for us not to be anxious is not that there isn’t anything to be anxious about.  There’s plenty to be anxious about:  Disease and death, financial problems and family problems, terrorism and violence.  The list goes on and on.

Rather, the reason for us not to be anxious is that we have a God and Savior who has promised to be with us, watch over us, and take care of us.  He feeds the birds.  He’ll feed us.  Not to mention, He forgives us for Christ’s sake and is preparing a place for us in eternity.

Trust God.  He’s trustworthy.

I’ve struggled with my share of anxiety over the years.  I still do.  I think I always will in this life.  It’s part of my fallen, sinful makeup.  But it has helped tremendously when I feel anxiety rising in my chest to be reminded of how my God has always taken care of me throughout my life.  Does He feed me?  Clothe me?  Forgive me?  Watch over me?  Love me?  Teach me?  Care for me?  Show me patience and understanding?  Answer my prayers?  

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I feel the anxiety lessening already.  I hope you do, too.

Gracious Heavenly Father, sometimes I feel anxious.  I worry about small things and big things.  Forgive me.  Remind me of your love, forgiveness and protection.  Help me to trust You more and more each day.  In the name of Jesus who suffered and died for my sins, Amen. 


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Someone’s Coming (Part 1)

grayscale photo of crown in bassinet
 
“And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’” Luke 19:5
 
I grew up on a dairy farm in western Minnesota. There were two sentences that got our family moving like nothing else. The first was: “The cows are out!”   It didn’t matter what you were doing, what you were wearing, or where you were going. That sentence got your full attention and all of us went to work to get the cows back inside the fences. The second sentence that got our attention was “Company’s coming!” We said this in the evening about 7:30 or even 8:00. That late in the evening, we didn’t expect anybody was going to come. But then we would see lights coming down the driveway. “Company’s coming!” was an electrifying idea.
 
We have much of the same situation as we watch Jesus come to the house of Zacchaeus today in our texts. So, if you realize someone’s coming and you only have a minute to get ready, which one of these would you choose to do? Put the coffee on and get something ready to eat with a company? Clean the house and bring out the gifts these people have given you? Or put on new clothes because you can’t meet them looking the way you do. Which one of those three would you do if you only had a minute to get ready?
 
Let’s start with putting on the coffee. You can’t really serve the coffee you made six hours ago that’s stone cold. Put on the good stuff. Someone’s coming, after all.  Zacchaeus must have felt the same way. Look who’s coming to the house tonight. Jesus is here and that must have taken all of Zacchaeus’ time and energy. Jesus would be the greatest gift and guest Zacchaeus would ever have. I think we can be sure that he brought out the very best he had and was glad to have a chance to give it to Jesus. The key was, “Look who’s here!” Zacchaeus was generous with the meal, I’m sure. But what was most amazing and generous was this thought:  Jesus has come to our house!
 
In this Advent time, when we are buying and giving gifts, we can remember to be like Zacchaeus. What matters is the One who has come to be with us. Because He is with us, we bring out the best in our houses. Our gifts are not the focus of attention. The great news is that Jesus has come to stay with us.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, remind us that Someone is coming this Advent. Thank you that your Son has come and is coming again. Help us to be ready and remain focused on this great certainty: Someone is coming, coming again, for all of us, We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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