Luke 2

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

One more thing the angel mentioned is Jesus will be found wrapped in strips of cloth, laying in the manger. This is how babies bodies are kept warm at the time. Well, when Jesus is crucified they wrap him again with strips of cloths, but when he is born again at his resurrection, the disciples look inside of the tomb and there are strips of cloth lying there without a body. This is the first evidence for them that Jesus is risen.

Wrapped in strips of cloth at his birth, unwrapped at his new birth. Yes, the tomb becomes a womb.

And speaking of wombs, we think of Mary and Joseph traveling from Nazareth to Jerusalem when she is in the late term of her pregnancy. Usually people would just walk when they traveled, but, even though the Christmas story doesn’t say, we can reasonably assume Mary was riding a donkey.

So, Jesus rides into Jerusalem in the womb of Mary to be born. On Palm Sunday, Jesus will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey again, but this time to die. He will not stay dead, however, and is raised from the dead, a new birth, coming out of the womb that is a tomb, reborn King of the Universe.

ME

Have you ever ridden a donkey or seen someone on a donkey? How did this strike you?

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John 13

Love one another as I have loved you.

There is a lot of confusion over the use of the word, “love” today. We don’t get what love means. Not really.

Sometimes we use the word “love” to mean we have a strong passion for something.

We love chocolate, love our favorite tv series, love our football team. This is not love. It is desire or delight.

There are other ways the term, “love” is misused. In fact in the recent election, a misuse of the word “love” became part of political campaign. The whole “Love Trumps Hate” slogan not only got “love” wrong, it got “hate” wrong, too. At least from a biblical perspective. “Love trumps hate” is a clever phrase. But, as usual, people pass off cleverness as intelligence.  Far from it.

The biblical meaning of love and hate are not represented by this slogan. To love someone is to will what God wants for them and work for this within your range of influence.

It does not mean to try to please their desires and champion the cause of them doing whatever they want.

To hate someone is to try to work evil in their life on purpose. It doesn’t mean to disagree or oppose their viewpoint. Confusing?

I don’t know if you watched the news, but when I saw “Love Trumps Hate” sign holders or t shirts wearers, the people usually appeared filled with rage and contempt. Well, that doesn’t work.

Being bigoted against those you consider bigoted makes you a bigot.

If you hate haters you are a hater.

And, if you are a Christian full of rage and contempt, you are showing you do not understand Jesus.

I suppose someone has the right to be uneducated about the meaning of love and hate if they are not a Christian, but if you are following the model of Christ, you need to show far more wisdom. Rage and contempt are not part of Jesus.

Christians can’t hate. We cannot work evil on purpose against someone. Not ever. 100% of the time God wants good to come to the lives of even those whom we consider most vile. Rage and contempt are never an option for Christians. You see, love is actually an overall disposition toward what is good and right in God’s eyes. Dallas Willard says it this way:

“Our aim under love is not to be loving to this or that person, or in this or that kind of situation, but to be a person possessed by love as an overall character of life, whatever is or is not going on. The “occasions” are met with from that overall character. I do not come to my enemy and then try to love them, I come to them as a loving person. Love is not a faucet to be turned on or off at will. God himself doesn’t just love me or you, he is love. He is creative will for all that is good. That is his identity, and explains why he loves individuals, even when he is not pleased with them. We are directed by Paul to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us.” (Eph. 5: 1-2) We are called and enabled to love as God loves.”

ME

People who speak out about hate might be the most hate-full people you know. Why is that?

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I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.

Yes, we are the beginning of the new Jerusalem and Jesus will rejoice and be delighted in all his people as a groom rejoices and delights in his bride. Jesus gives this vision to John, recorded in Revelation 21.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

God’s people are seen as the bride of Christ. We have his everlasting covenant where we are one with him. There will come a day when we are raised from the dead and given new life when the new heaven and new earth become one.

In the meantime we are to live now as it will be then. The future comes to us in the present as we are called to anticipate what God is going to do in the future with our acts now. Acts of justice where we bring God’s fairness, acts of mercy where we bring his graciousness, acts of beauty that lift up what is good and right, and acts of truth which last far beyond.

ME

When have you experienced some “heaven on earth?” What was it like?

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John 14
My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him. 

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but people today, even people I would say are Christians of good will, have a completely distorted view of the concept of love from the Bible. The biblical view of love is to work for good of someone within your range of influence. What is good? What God wants for them. Instead of this view of love, in our culture today love means something far different.

Love means approving of someone doing whatever they desire. How did that happen?

When we think of God loving us it is not about God letting us have whatever we desire. Are you kidding? Any earthly parent knows what a disaster that would be, let your kids have whatever they want, so why would our heavenly Father think that way?

No, Jesus says God loving us has to do with God making his home with us. If God is at home with us then obviously we are at home with God. And God is the head of the household.

God puts limits on us all the time. There are lines we are not to cross. Fences to keep us on the right path. We call these things, “God’s ways.”

You can’t be a racist, for instance. Everyone knows that one. Intentionally working against someone because of their race is wrong. But, we tend to forget this one. You can’t be bigoted toward people you consider racist. Remember the Jesus thing about loving your enemy? Most people, including many Christians forgot this one.

It is a really a simple formula. You don’t have God on your side blessing your life if your actions are not godly.

But, when you do obey God and follow his ways, something amazing happens. You share the same home with him.

This means you share his stuff. It’s like a family refrigerator. What’s yours is mine. In the refrigerator of “life with God” all that is God’s is ours. What makes this even more amazing is God will guide us if we open ourselves to him. God will actively put his thoughts in our minds because we are home with him. We can think like Jesus.

ME

What do you need out of God’s refrigerator today?

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Isaiah 9
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with justice and with righteousness, from now until forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.
And hope comes where it is complete…
It is God’s zeal that will bring lasting peace. It is his ways that will take hold. People will treat each other like they do already in any good home. With fairness, with graciousness, quick to forgive, slow to anger, and filled with laughter and gladness. If we can already live this way now when we are our best true selves, why do we think that this will not be a way of life for all people forever?

God won’t let his dreams fail. His destiny for us is that we will live with him as he lives in his fullness in the Trinity. We even get glimpses of this the words of Isaiah from even before the time of Jesus. Isaiah calls him a Mighty God, but listen to what else he calls Jesus and then consider the words of Jesus himself from the Gospel of John.

Wonderful Counselor…
John 14:26
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.
We are not alone in the world relying on our own strength and wisdom. We have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus who remains with us and teaches us everything. Way more powerful than Wikipedia or the whole internet itself, there is nothing The Holy Spirit cannot show us that will give us confidence in Jesus.

Eternal Father…

John 10:30

I and the Father are one.

You either trust that Jesus is God himself or you don’t. There isn’t anything that God the Father has that Jesus doesn’t have. And Jesus ruling from the heavens now is doing so as a human being. He is the first true human in God’s new creation and everything he has is available to us. We even get to experience the power of Jesus in glimpses now. Hope for the hopeless, strength, even in our weakness. God is for us and not against us.

Prince of Peace…

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Remember peace is not just the absence of violence or war. The world can give us laws and treaties and resolutions. Again, like our best true selves living in community, we don’t need any of this if we have his peace. His peace means everything is in harmony. Our life with God and others is in synch. We don’t have to be anxious, we don’t have to be fearful, the Prince of Peace has perfect love and perfect love casts out fear.

This is not only our hope, this is our destiny. No troubled hearts. No fear. The peace of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is true reality and it is available to anyone who wants it. Real peace is available to you.

ME

How does knowing God as community help in your understanding of what it means to live in community?

aircraft-77971_1280Isaiah 9
For all the sandals of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

And hope comes where it is most evident…
Here we see another kind of fire. A fire where the sandals of warriors and their blood soaked clothes are burned for good.
We talk a lot about a world without violence and war. When you don’t seek revenge and you work for the good of others, no matter who they are- That is a formula for working towards a world without violence and war.
In other words following Jesus. We move in a world of less violence when we raise children with this hope. From day one when children realize they are loved by us and we are glad to be with them, when children are encouraged that their lives will go well, this is possible as we follow Jesus.
Jesus never used hate as a motivator. Jesus never saw himself as a victim, though no one had more reason to see himself as treated unfairly than he. This is why following Jesus makes so much sense and why true hope can be a way of life. If you raise your children to hate or raise them to see themselves as victims their lives will not go well. The evidence of this is all around us if we have eyes to truly see.

ME
Where are you most peaceful?