Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

On This Holy Night: A Star and a Stable

December 6th, 2017

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:11

We’ve all read the story in Matthew chapter 2 of the wise men following the star. Pastor preached on it last week for Advent. But I wonder … what if we followed a star that led us to a stable? What if suddenly after expecting something grand, you end up behind a barn? And there, instead of a palace and king on a throne, you find a baby in a manger? Nothing is as you anticipated. How would you react if you followed a star and found a stable? How is your conduct affected by the outcome of your expectations?

Seriously, imagine the disappointment the Magi might have felt when they finally ended up in Bethlehem. They’d visited Kind Herod’s palace to find out about this star and the child king to be born and probably a royal court.

Every one of us have had times in life when we’ve followed a star. Everything looked so promising, but we were to find out at the end that we were in a stable. Go back and look at what was written in your high school yearbook, have you met those goals? Some college kids graduate with their diplomas tucked under their arms ready to win the world – but quickly find out the jobs they wanted aren’t the ones they got.

Or maybe your stable was a relationship so full of promise, or a job where you were expecting a long due promotion. You get called into the office and are certain you’re about to get it only to be introduced to the new guy that got your promotion. In a daze you realize you were following a star and ended up in the stable.

Wise men of every age, when faced with a stable, don’t panic. They hold stead and know that God is there. A mature Christian sees God not only in palaces and pleasures, but also in the barnyards and stables of life.

Have you ever had a stable moment that changed your life? I’ve had plenty. Those are usually times He wants me to change direction and look at what’s in the stable. A baby that would save mankind, the same that the wise men found. Let’s be wise and look for God in the stable. Let’s bring Him our best and allow Him to change our direction to become greater than we are.

Advent: Gift

December 21st, 2016

The judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift… resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:16-17

Christmas day is almost here and soon gifts will be placed around the tree with anticipation of what’s in them. What is the most special gift you’ve ever received? Did you receive it for Christmas, or on another occasion? Through the years I’ve received some amazing gifts, but Jesus is the most marvelous gift ever given. And it is the most needed gift ever given.

The apostle Paul taught that by one man sin entered the world, and death was pronounced upon all, for in Adam all have sinned. On the other hand, grace entered the world through Jesus, and a forgiven life and eternal life are available to all who believe. Christ brought us the gifts of grace, justification, righteousness, obedience, and eternal life.

Christ’s sacrificial death saved us. We now live with the gift of eternal life rather than under the curse of death. We can rejoice in God who, in His Son, atoned for our sins. Our justification is complete and irrevocable; there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.

What a marvelous gift! What a wonderful life!

Advent: Snow

December 14th, 2016

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

If you live anywhere affected by the current “polar vortex”, then you’re probably aware of the importance of winter gear. Any true northerner knows that you don’t simply rush out in freezing temperatures to make a snow angel in your yard. There are a series of items that you must first put on your body. A warm sweater base layer is needed to hold in body he A properly insulated jacket keeps out the cold. Appropriate footwear is also needed to prevent feet from getting wet and cold.

At this point, you may feel prepared to take on the frigid temperatures, however, you aren’t fully protected, are you? You still need to wrap a scarf around your neck, put on a hat over your head and pull gloves onto your hands. Only then are you ready to step out and face Old Man Winter.

It may be tempting, in the rush to get outside, to skip something. The problem with that is that each item protects a certain part of the body. Each one has its own job, and without it, you’ll leave something out in the cold.

When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he told them how they could defend themselves: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, shoes of peace, and sword of the Spirit. In one short passage, Paul told the believers to put on the whole armor of God. To neglect any part of the armor would be to leave some area vulnerable to the enemy’s attack.

You wouldn’t rush out to make a snowman with your bare hands, or trudge through the snow wearing flip flops. If you are wise, you wouldn’t go out in this weather without being properly protected. How much more important than is it to be properly protected before going out into the world?

Advent: Jesus Came

December 7th, 2016

Christ Himself was like God in everything… But He gave up His place with God and made Himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant.  Philippians 2:6-7

Why? Why did Jesus travel so far? I was asking myself that question when I was listening to sleet hit my windows last night and I was meditating on what aspect of Advent I wanted to focus on.

Jesus gave up His place with God and came down. Hmm. And what a world He left! Our most amazing castles wouldn’t compare to a shack from where He came from. Earth’s finest cuisine would be walnuts on Heaven’s table. Yet, Jesus came in the form of a baby.

Jesus came because He loves to be with the ones He loves.  A doctor told a remarkable story of a love like this: a man had been burned and disfigured in a fire while attempting to save his parents from a burning house, but he couldn’t get to them. They perished. He mistakenly interpreted his pain as God’s punishment. The man would not let anyone see him — not even his wife.

She went to a plastic surgeon, for help. He told her not to worry. “I can restore his face.”

The wife was unenthused. Her husband had repeatedly refused any help. She knew he would again.

Then why her visit? “I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him! If I can share his pain, maybe he’ll let me back in his life.”

The doctor was shocked. He denied her request but was so moved by her love that he went to speak with her husband. Knocking on the man’s bedroom door, he called loudly. “I’m a plastic surgeon, and I can restore your face.” No response. “Please come out.” Again there was no answer.

Still speaking through the door, the doctor told the man of his wife’s proposal. “She wants me to disfigure her face, to make her face like yours in the hope that you let her back into your life. That’s how much she loves you.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn.

The way the woman felt for her husband is the way God feels about us. But He did more than make the offer. He took on our face, our disfigurement. He became like us. Just look at the places He was willing to go: feed troughs, carpentry shops, badlands, and cemeteries. The places He went to reach us show how far He will go to touch us.

He loves to be with the ones He loves. That love is why we celebrate Christmas with amazement. Hallelujah!

 

Advent: Our Perfecter

November 30th, 2016

Let us … keep our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith… Hebrews 12:1-2

Have you noticed that Christmas seems to show up in stores earlier and earlier each year? I swear some stores had Christmas decorations on display since September, right next to the Halloween costumes and fall decorations. Starbucks were already selling gingerbread lattes when it was still 80 degrees outside. Why? Why is there this insane rush from one holiday to the next? Can’t we just enjoy it?

Did you know there’s actually a term for this holiday blending? Honestly. It’s called hallothanksmas. Isn’t that frightening? Can we all agree that our grandparents wouldn’t have approved of hallothanksmas? I don’t think many of us enjoy being rushed through the holidays.

So what’s the secret to stepping off this crazy train long enough to enjoy Christmas? Simply making the choice to focus on Christmas. Even though at this very moment stores are enticing us to focus on decorations, gifts, and holiday treats, let’s purposefully heed Paul’s advice and keep our eyes on Jesus.

Some of us have already gotten caught up in hallothanksmas, but that’s okay. It’s not too late to take back December. We can stop looking ahead to the next thing and fix our gaze on what is before us. There’s still time to take a deep breath and focus on the blessing of a baby born in a manger.

For the rest of this Christmas season, let’s move forward in joy, giving Christmas our full attention.

Christmas: Virgin Mary

December 2nd, 2015

The days leading up to Christmas present us with an extraordinary opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge of Jesus, who called himself the way, the truth and the life. Even if we have a sense of purpose in life, we don’t talk about it in that way.

But Jesus said he came for fulfill the Scriptures. He came to preach and proclaim, and lead us out of the darkness so that we may have eternal life. As if that weren’t enough, He said that He came in order to serve and to sacrifice.

There are many ways to study the life-changing reality of the coming of the Son of God. Over the next few weeks I’ll focus on a few key words associated with the birth of Jesus. Last year I focused on the words joy, peace and angel. Each of the chosen words are like Christmas treasure. I want to start with the virgin Mary this year:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” Luke 1:30-31

Can anyone fathom the immense faith Mary was called upon to have? She was a young virgin probably expecting to lead an ordinary life in a no-name Galilean town. Then the message came from heaven.

To be visited by an angel would be miraculous enough, but to hear those powerful words: “You will be with child,” in a way that no woman before or since has been with child. God chose Mary to be His instrument. A high favor indeed!

Mary & Gabriel

Mary & Gabriel

Mary is a pivotal figure during the Christmas season. She stands at the crossroads between the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New. She was asked to believe something that many of us struggle to imagine. Yet, from that day when she was face to face with an angel, to the cold night in the stable, to the day her son was mounted on a cross, her life witnessed Jesus’ message.

She was human as we are, with extraordinary faith. God bless you as you draw closer to the baby, born to a virgin, in a manger so long ago.

Christmas: Joy

December 1st, 2014

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

Yesterday marked the first Sunday in Advent and it seemed to go largely unnoticed by people I spoke with. Yet, the days leading up to Christmas present us with an extraordinary opportunity for great joy. And that seems to be noticeably lacking, too. Therefore, over the coming weeks I will consider words key words or phrases with are associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. Starting with joy…

Great joy, is it too much to hope for? Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated and replaced with a nonstop buzz of lights and weary shoppers? It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to step aside and experience the angel’s proclamation, “I bring you good news of great joy!”

The angel came to the shepherds on a night like any other. But that night changed everything.

That’s the way it works with real joy. It changes everything. You might enjoy a Christmas cookie, or a gift received. But joy itself, true and pure, is so much more than enjoyment. Joy is a thirst that can’t be quenched. A never ending hunger to know God.

The angel’s proclaimed “great joy” is great because it’s everywhere with us and it’s for all people here and now. This Christmas season take time out of your busy schedule to sit and experience real joy.

 

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.