The Ethic of the Ages

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 2:1-20

Prayer:  Father, you always seem to choose the marginalized to reveal your majesty to and through. The ancient people of Israel were simply slaves in Egypt, under the thumb of the most powerful nation on earth at the time, yet you chose to lead them out with an outstretched arm of might and miracles. Now, through them, the globe has been introduced to the ethic of the ages. A young couple, from a small town, became the instruments to bring the Son of God into the planet, and all they could offer Him was a feeding-trough for a bed. Yet from that humble beginning, the globe has begun a slow, but sure, transformation by the baby of Bethlehem. Yes, you even appointed shepherds, the most marginalized group of their day, as the first royal couriers of the newborn King! Simply amazing. In Jesus’ name, AMEN

Ponder: How can you and your family intersect with the marginalized in society during this season? When you look at the fact that shepherds and a poor young couple gave us Jesus, God was saying something to those who had “first contact” with the Messiah. Remember the ethic of Jesus is that the looked-over, the left-out, the least, and the last become the first, the most, the included, and the chosen!! How can you make that happen for someone?

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The Reanimation of the Ancient

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 1:57-80

Prayer:  Father, let us see the power of the Christmas story with renewed freshness. Too often we are like Zachariah on hearing the miracle of birthing the renewed hope of Israel. We become muted by doubt because the prevailing circumstances speak just the opposite of the long-sought-after promises of Scripture. Like Zachariah, we feel that the prophetic voice has simply become a distant memory; that the supernatural is ancient history; that we are left in a world in which miracle and mystery have been taken over by technology and science. But then, like Zachariah, a baby is born, an ancient promise is awakened within us, and the prophetic voice animates our lips and tongue to declare its truth and power! Yes, this is what Christmas is all about, the reanimation of an ancient story that holds great promise for a sure future. This Christmas is a reminder to us all, of the big story of redemption, breathing joy and hope into the smaller chapters of our individual lives. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: How can you breathe joy and hope into the smaller chapters of your life with the ancient bigger story of Christ? What would you write now as well as later in your story? How would you keep Christ as your main theme all the way through?

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The Heart-Song of Humanity

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 1:39-56

Prayer:  Father, what a day it had to have been to rejoice with Mary and Elizabeth over their expectant sons. They carried, within their wombs, the hope for the very transformation of the planet. Mary, especially, is truly our blessed perennial example of the heart-song of humanity. Mary’s song is that of all people, waiting to break free from the bondage of oppressive powers. It speaks to us about the bright light of redemption, dawning over, and consuming the dark winter of human plight. She reminds us of your deep concern for justice being reestablished, and for freedom coming in fullness to the human race. Yes, the child in Mary’s womb, would embody the national hope of Israel. Yes, Jesus was the bearing of your powerful arm to crush darkness, evil, and oppression wherever it may hide. And to think, such power all started in the frailty of a fetus inside a little Jewish maiden! Simply amazing! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: What is your favorite Christmas song? Why do you like it so much? Why not find a place to sing it softly with your family and rejoice over this truly magical and miraculous season?

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The Spirit-Weaving Mystery of Incarnation!

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 1:26-38

Prayer:  Father, you amaze us with your desire to be one with us. You made us in the image of your sacred deity, but then took on the barren and broken image of our humanity! Through your eternal Son, your power and presence descended into the handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin Mary. This Spirit-weaving mystery of incarnation was a remarkable event. Help us to be like Mary when you call us to become a vessel of your purpose. Like her, when assigned an impossible task, may we seek clarity without proof and understanding without unbelief. Like her, may your overshadowing favor unite with our inner faith, to do the impossible. And may we say, as she did, “Here I am, the Lord’s servant; let it be as you have said.” In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: How is Mary a model of faith in your life? How can you exalt her example more this season than normal with those you love?

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The Unlooked Arrival

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 1:5-25

Prayer:  Father, Oh how you surprise us when we are least expecting! You invade our ordinary and routine life with extraordinary and unusual angelic visitations! You replace the barren with fertile joy and hope! You mute our unbelief, which has taken years of fruitless longing to develop, with the inexpressible power of divine intervention. Christmas is truly the unlooked for and unexpected finding of our prophetic horizon filled with advancing light, when, for years, it was clouded with disappointment. Now in the coming of Jesus, the languishing hope of Israel is reborn within our once barren expectations. Now, Zachariah’s joy and Elizabeth’s song in the birth of their son, John, is the foreshadowing of a greater, more superior, and more ancient Son’s arrival. So banish our fickle faith with faith-infused God-songs!  Awaken our mundane devotion with routine-shattering God-encounters! Let the spirit of Christmas be born in us with the reanimation of the miraculous love of God who visits His people with the longed-for hope of the ages. Indeed, Christmas is in part the puzzlement of half-faith being banished by the wonder of a baby’s birth. It is God’s grand plan contained in the enigma of common folks being used in spectacularly uncommon ways. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: Have you ever been surprised by the goodness of God? What was it like? How did you respond? How did it change your life?

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The Living Word

David Sulcer

Passage: Luke 1:1-4

Prayer:  Father, we worship you for giving us the living Word. Scripture is the embodiment of your heart and mind. Composed by the most simple and ordinary of men, who wrote from the context of their culture and thought forms, yet so eloquently unified and inspirational that the clear presence of your Spirit guided its whole composition. Yes, your Word is simple enough that a toddler can wade into its waters, yet so profound that a Rhodes scholar would drown in its midst. No mere human could have come up with such revelation, yet you used them as instruments in your hand. The wonder of it all is that your Word is not, so much, the result of an exercise in philosophy, but the retelling of events observed, miracles witnessed, and a Singular Life so profound that to leave Him untold would have been the death of literature and the height of ignorance. Yes, dear Father, the Bible is no humanly created philosophy, but your divine master narrative, intersecting in time and space, with your Son being its grand theme! Tell me the story of Jesus. Write on my heart every word! In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Ponder: I challenge you to make these next few days leading up to Christmas a special trip through the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth. Read them at the table and talk about what you read with one another.

 

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Seeing the Good in the Bad

Chris Kaskel

Passage: Colossians 4:10-18

 Point: Here at the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we see the people who are with him in prison, suffering alongside of him. One of the things you will notice about Paul’s prison letters is how he never seems to complain about his circumstances. He understands that he is suffering because of the Gospel message that he’s preaching, and you could even say that he realizes that he is not who is really being persecuted, but rather Jesus and His message. Paul takes time while he is in prison to write letters and encourage his churches. No matter his circumstances, he is always looking out for them and finding ways to help, encourage, and build them up. The second thing to notice is the fact that he takes time to point out and be thankful for the friends he is imprisoned with. You can see this thread of community being woven all throughout the New Testament and if there were anyone who understood its importance, it was Paul. It’s important to understand that when we are going through storms and trials in life, we are not alone. It’s important to realize that people around us can give us life and encouragement in tough times. Even though Paul was stuck in a prison cell, he did not lose his enthusiasm, passion, and heart for the Gospel of Jesus and the Church.

Ponder: What is your first reaction when tough times happen? Do you get depressed? Hide? Write? Sing? Read? Who are some people close to you that you can turn to in times of trouble? Who in your life would “sit with you in prison”? Take some time to make a list of things you are thankful for so that when you are feeling down, you can remember the things in life that are good.

For Families: Ask your kids who their closest friends are. Talk about the importance of having friends and how they can help when times are tough. Who is the first person they turn to when bad things happen?

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