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brown camel Christmas tree decor
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?” Matthew 2:1-2

That honesty doesn’t sound very wise to me.  You have these men, from a far-away country.  They traveled through barren and sometimes hostile lands…past robbers, through inclement weather, through areas they did not know.  Is that wise?  They met up with the King of Israel and essentially disobeyed him by not reporting what they had found when they saw Jesus.  Is that wise?  They brought valuable gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh to present to…a baby!  How “wise” does any of this sound?

Today is Epiphany, the day that we celebrate the visit of the Wise Men.  Actually, that is probably the best translation of the word “Magi.”  Some have suggested that these Magi were experts in any number of things.  They were said to have known medicine, astronomy, geography.  So, by some standards of this world, they would qualify as wise.  But to risk life, expend capital, disobey a foreign king, and all the other things that went into this trip, I’m not so sure “wise” would be the way most would classify them.  In fact, weren’t they even kind of foolish?

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men…” (1 Cor. 1)  How instructive all of this is to us.  You and I get labeled as foolish for the things we do as Christians.  We are foolish for believing in a God we cannot see.  We are foolish for believing that the crucifixion of a man 2000 years ago somehow forgives our sins.  We are foolish for giving our hard-earned resources to a church.  We are foolish for trying to live our lives in unconventionally kind and sacrificial ways.  How like the Wise Men we are!

The visit of the Wise Men highlights what the calling of God does to people.  We do things, think things, believe things that the world does not understand or respect.  And yet, because we have been summoned by God, this is who we are…just like the Wise Men.

Prayer: O Lord God, thank you that you have made us as foolish as the wise men.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Faith in Jesus

woman in white sleeveless dress holding book
(Jesus) also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:36-39 (ESV)

The people were amazed as Jesus began His public ministry.  They were amazed that He spoke with such authority.  They were amazed that He could heal the sick and cast demons out of the possessed.  This was new!

What was “new” about this wasn’t so much the acts involved in Jesus’ ministry, but the words He offered them. 

These people had been told they needed to earn the love of God.  When bad things happened to them they were led to believe it was God’s judgement against their bad behavior.

Jesus’ talk about forgiveness and God’s love was new.  It was exciting!  It was life-giving!

But it didn’t fit into the theology they had been taught for years.  This new wine wouldn’t fit into the old wineskins.

What have you been led to believe?  Are you struggling because you fear your sinful life will prohibit the Lord from loving you?  Get rid of that old wineskin!  Do you think you need to work your way to heaven by good works?  Get rid of that old wineskin!

Faith in Jesus is the new wineskin that opens our eyes to the fact that Jesus loves everyone—even me and you!  Faith in Jesus opens our ears to hear our Savior cry out forgiveness from the cross.  Faith in Jesus opens our arms to welcome the outcast into our community of believers.  Faith in Jesus gives us hands to serve.

Blessed Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross, which showers me with forgiveness and provides me with the grace to forgive others.  Allow me, each day, to see myself as a servant, ready to honor You by loving others.  In Your name I pray.  Amen.  


Touched by Jesus

brown cross on green grass field during sunset
And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” Matthew 8:1-3
Sick of new rules yet? Masks, physical distancing, limits on how many people in stores, shopping online, not seeing family or friends. Isolation. You probably feel like a leper from the time of Jesus.
They had similar rules placed upon them: they had to stay outside of town, not touch anyone or get too close. They had to announce their presence and their disease whenever they got close. And they had to have a priest declare them “clean” before they could return home.
Jesus encountered quite a few lepers in his time on earth. One of those meetings is recorded in Matthew 8. The man came, probably terrified, deeply depressed, anxious, and nervous. He fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
He knew what Jesus was capable of doing. Jesus could change his situation entirely. This leper trusted Jesus, and prayed that it was Jesus’ desire, too, to see him be healed. We know the same thing, don’t we? We know what Jesus is capable of doing. Wiping out COVID, eliminating all that is happening in our world. We know that Jesus could fundamentally change everything.
But the first thing Jesus did was touch the leper. A man who hadn’t felt the touch of another for a long time. Jesus reached out and touched the man. This first act of Jesus was a profound move, to be willing to take upon himself the disease of this person so that he would know how deeply loved he is.
Willing to take upon himself the disease of us all. Not just ailments, but the spiritual sickness we call sin. The physical reality of bodily death. Jesus has taken upon himself the ailments we bear, and he gets close enough to touch us and remove the weightiest things our souls face.
After lifting the heaviest burden- the burden of isolation and separation from God and people, Jesus then speaks clearly: “I am willing! Be clean.” Jesus shared that he wanted the best for this man, and he restored him both in the sight of man and God by sending him back to the priest to be declared officially “clean.”
In this New Year, let us consider how Jesus comes to us, taking our infirmities and diseases, bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows (Is. 53). We know he will work for our good. You might be frustrated, or scared, or both. Whatever is on your heart, whatever is keeping you from dear relationships, whatever sickness is affecting your soul, let us draw close to Jesus. Let us kneel together at his feet. Let us pray, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make us clean.” Let us wait for him to reach down, touch us, and change our situations. Today and forever.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, if you are willing, you can make us clean. We carry to you all those things which trouble our bodies and souls, asking you to purify us, touch us, and lead us as we walk in your love. In your name, AMEN.


Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

cupid playing violin figurine
“Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Of the many hymns penned by Charles Wesley, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, is among the
most beloved of Christmas carols. Originally written in 1737 (or 1739, date uncertain), the
original lyrics were modified by evangelist George Whitefield 1754 and again in 1782 when the
words were finalized. While many people love this carol, few have paused long enough to reflect
on the message it contains.
Throughout Christian history, music has been a wonderfully beautiful way to bring God’s word
and truths to people. Notice these lines from the carol,
Peace on earth and mercy mild – God and sinners reconciled!
Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail th’ incarnate Deity!
Light and life to all He brings. Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Throughout the hymn the story unfolds. God the Son entering into our world in the lowest of
settings, taking on human flesh, only to give His life for us so that we sinners may be reconciled
with the Father. That’s the Gospel! That’s the Good News this Christmas season and always.
As Christmas begins to fade into the background and the new year approaches, may the true
reason for Christmas prepare you for the wonders of God’s love in 2021.
Precious Savior, Your love for us knows no bounds. You humbled Yourself to become one of us
and that we give You all thanks and praise. Forgive us when we fail to show love to others as
You first loved us. Fill us with anticipation for the blessings that You have waiting for us in the
coming new year. Amen.



green Christmas decor with New Year greetings


 22 Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)

“New” is fun and exciting!

New clothes for Christmas are worn on the first day back to school.  We wish that the new car smell would linger in our automobiles for years.  That new puppy provides hours of fun and great photo opportunities with the children.

We look to January 1 to bring us the “new” feeling.  Resolutions are designed to rid us of old habits, old behaviors, old and harmful routines.  We put off the old lifestyle that caused ill-health and negatively affected our relationships.

But what’s so magic about January 1?  Where is the power behind the turning of a page on the calendar?  We know that there isn’t any.  It’s really about our resolve, our determination, our doggedness.

History proves that our resolve is not all that powerful or lasting.  We all too often return to those old habits, failing to control our anger and urges.

St. Paul reminds us, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

It’s not that the Christian faith guarantees a life free from harmful habits.  Not at all.  We are all sinners and we all struggle with temptation and with the frailty of our flesh.  Again, St. Paul weighs in on this when he writes,  15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me (Romans 7:15-20).

However, when we turn to Christ in repentance, living in His forgiveness, we have a new view of life and a new power in life.  In prayer we turn to the One who loves us and gave His life for us.  He forgives our failures.  He provides us people to assist our walk.  His Word gives us hope.
We will never be perfect…but we are forgiven.  And that’s what makes us new!

O gracious Jesus, so often I struggle with my faults and failures.  I know that I am a sinner and I know that I am forgiven by Your life and death.  As You rose from the grave with new life offered to me, give to me Your Holy Spirit that I may live to glorify You and to serve others.  In Your name I pray.  Amen.