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The Agape Love of God

Christ Is Here! Alleluia!

December 25, 2017 – The Birth of Christ

4 “But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” ~ Titus 3:4-7 (NRSVACE)

Merry Christmas my brothers and sister! May the love of our eternal father rest upon you today like no other day in our earthly calendar! For today we hold within our hearts the great hope for salvation made flesh, the great charity of forgiveness made into everlasting grace, and the agape love of God showered upon us cleansing our sinful hearts through the birth of Christ and the renewal of our faith through the Holy Spirit!

If you have followed me this year you will have read about an intricate plan skillfully crafted and executed by our eternal Father who out of unconditional love chose to forgive us, (all of humanity), our sins. You will have read about grace, charity, and mercy; a love story on an epic scale greater than anything we could have ever done on our own. The level of sacrifice and unconditional love exhibited by God can never be measured or outdone by man. For this plan of God’s cost Him much and is the eternal investment which speaks of an undeniable desire to have a relationship with all of us. At the heart of God’s plan was to bear the hardships personally, to walk in our shoes, emulate our sufferings, experience the daily grind of our life ultimately seeing the world through our eyes in order to suffer and to die for our sins which we could have never washed away on our own. A love story that all too often is more like a one-way street when we petty humans reject God, but this never deturs Him, no our Father’s desire is so lasered focused He keeps knocking at the doorway of our heart continually offering us His unshakable love. So my brothers and sisters, when I say Christmas is a love story on an epic scale, one which gives us the gift of salvation, a monumental gift of grace and mercy, and a gift which is its own economy greater in value than any monetary system we could ever invent – know that my words are sincere; for God did not have to do any of these things.  Rather, He could have just started over casting us aside with as little effort as like squashing an ant underfoot. For I say unto you, my brothers and sisters, each day is not promised and each breathe is a precious gift from God. Therefore, for God to have sent His only son Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour was the greatest act of mercy and charity; the greatest gift our loving Father could have bestowed upon us.

The Birth of Our Saviour

15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” ~ Luke 2:15-20 (NRSVACE) 

Over the last four weeks we prepared for this event, we made ready for the coming of Jesus, but in retrospect, very few people really knew what was going on at the time of Christ’s actual birth over two thousand years ago. Think about it, Mary and Joseph were made part of the plan at the enunciation then their collective families were told after the shocking news that Mary was pregnant.  Then Mary’s cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist knew when Mary visited her. The three wise men who watched the stars and read scripture put two and two together and began a long harsh journey following an astronomical event only to make King Herod aware by asking him if he knew anything about the coming Messiah. The shepherds became

aware only because they were told by angels from heaven. It’s ironic really when you look at it from this perspective because only a handful of people knew and out of these people how many really believed that indeed this was the coming of the Messiah? I mean everyone in Judea was waiting for a savior, but few knew and witnessed it in person and from this handful of people the word was spread. From this humble of beginnings, Jesus would grow up in a world who largely was unaware and in disbelief even though the Lord was standing right in front of them. So, my brothers and sisters, how lucky we are today too have the benefit of our faith without having seen the nativity first hand, how much more meaningful is it to know Jesus within our hearts first before knowing Him in Heaven? For truly I say to you that we know and love Jesus Christ through the experience and blessings poured out overuse through the works of the Holy Spirit which in and of itself is the true agape love of God at work as we celebrate this Holiest of Days.

Rejoice for the Lord is Here!

Let Us Pray

God, come to my assistance.

– Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen Alleluia.

Canticle of Zachariah

Ant.  Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth, alleluia.

Intercessions: The Word of God existed before the creation of the universe yet was born among us in time. We praise and worship him as we cry out in joy:

‘Let the earth ring out with joy for you have come.’

You are the eternal Word of God who flooded the world with joy at your birth,

– fill us with joy by the continuous gift of your life.

You saved us and by your birth revealed to us the covenant faithfulness of the Lord,

– help us to be faithful to the promises of our baptism.

You are the King of heaven and earth who sent messengers to announce peace to all,

–  let our lives be filled with your peace.

You are the true vines that brings forth the fruit of life,

–  make us branches of the vines, bearing much fruit.

Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

May your Christmas be filled with joy everlasting as you spend time with your family and friends on this most Holy of Days. Rejoice in this unfathomable gift from God we receive on this day of Christs Birth, for into the world did He come, on our behalf to give us the hope of life everlasting.

Amen, Alleluia!

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Purpose of the Season

14 “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” ~ Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)

Advent starry night part 2 – WetCanvas

The traditional view of our modern – Western Christmas – is one that devolved over time from a pagan tradition to a more religious Christian tradition then finally into the economically driven holiday we have now.  In others words, what we celebrate is less about Jesus and the anticipation of the coming of Christ from Godhood to man, less about that singular miracle,  to something that is at a lesser state of being than what previously came before it!  We have softened the message of this miracle of Christ’s birth over time, we have sidelined God’s wanting to become flesh and blood as well as His love for humanity which is partly His motivation in becoming flesh and blood. We have changed the very definition of God’s purpose to fit our own less intensive version that is more politically correct and less threatening and less controversial.  We have changed the paradigm of God and turned Him into a jolly old man that gives tangible gifts instead of the intangible gift of salvation! Our modern Christmas for the majority of westerners leaves out this moment where we reflect and make ready our hearts in anticipation of Jesus the Son of Man  in His return so that we will finally and forever be with Him in Heaven. To me, this is the ultimate gift. It is a gift which cannot be bought, it never rusts or fades, it will be ours for all time and will never be taken away. It is the ultimate promise, one that is bigger, better, and more fulfilling than anything in Saint Nick’s green and red bag of toys. Because when we celebrate Christmas in it’s entirety we do not need toys to excite us or keep us from boredom because salvation is not boring!

So I say to you my brethren, the Lord Himself foresaw and provided for this time for the world to wait, hope, and pray for His triumphed return. The signs were all around the people of Judea, they are all around us today recognizable only if you believe and allow ourselves to see the true message of this remarkable holiday. For I tell you now that when a person understands the full meaning, knows the path yet to come, and fully comprehends what each word God spoke really meant, then the totality of that one miracle of Christ suddenly opens our eyes, hearts, minds, and His love becomes more accessible to us as we grow in the confidence that God is working towards our ultimate salvation through Jesus Christ. It is this miracle message we need to be celebrating and not the gifts that cost hundreds of dollars, the bling bling of modern day living, or even the decorations we allow to influence our motivations for celebrating Christmas in the first place. Our excitement of this season should be that which makes us ready to receive our savior.

6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ~ Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

Christian tradition as observed for most Catholics and some of the other religious denominations of Christianity in general believe in the coming of Christ in two parts. The First coming is typically called Christmas or the Nativity. However, a more appropriate term is “Advent”, which in its more basic meaning is, “Coming”. Breaking advent down more completely you have “Ad” = “To” and “Vent”=”Come”, leaving us with “TO COME”. Before the birth of Christ it was prophesied  that the word would become flesh and dwell among us in scriptures from Isaiah to Zechariah. Thus, within the Jewish teachings just before the birth of Christ the hearts and minds of the people where in this hopeful anticipation of the Savior or Messiah.  For those who understood prophecy also understood the signs to look for and in this case it was the Star of Bethlehem.  Christian tradition and the telling and retelling of the Nativity story has become the basis for the modern reason why we celebrate Christmas as a holiday. At first the meaning of Christmas was all about the miracle of the virgin birth of Christ. The celebration centered on the miracle of Jesus being sent by God, the act of the miracle of God made flesh. There was great excitement because to the Jewish people this would mean the end of Roman oppression! Oddly, it would be the Jewish leaders who would advocate Jesus’s death and the Roman Empire that would later embrace His divinity, thus combining two different holidays into one and called it Christmas complete with our modern Christmas Tree. But even then gifts where never at the center of the season, it was all about the hope and anticipation of Christ’s return or the Second Advent! So I say to you my brethren take time to prepare your hearts for God and reflect and be filled with the hope, love, joy, and anticipation of Christ’s return!

Advent | Sound Shore Media

ADVENT VIDEO ~ Concordia Publishing House, (2014)

Amen,

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26 “In the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'” ~ Luke 1:26-28, NIV Bible.

An angel came to Mary, the mother of Jesus and said to her, ” Greetings, you who are highly favored.” In retrospect there is no better opening; no news greater; nothing more spatular, than what we as mortal beings could have ever hope to hear whether in the time of Mary or in our own current day. How awesome it would have been to be told by an angel of God that you are highly favored. I can’t even begin to imagine what was going through Mary’s mind upon hearing those words spoke aloud. Building upon what would have most certainly been a highly emotional event for Mary; firstly the shock of seeing an angel of God, secondly the impact of what he had announced must have been overwhelming in and of itself, those breathe taking and at the same time scary words Gabriel spoke to her. To be certain Mary indeed was blessed, and God was truly with her in that moment and in every other precious moment she experienced and would ever experience from that moment on. For me I think Christmas begins with these words spoke by Gabriel, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!”, because through the promise of Jesus, His salvation, the future events which had not yet come to fruition at the time Gabriel came to Mary, I can’t help but to think that Gabriel was really speaking to all of humanity, that he had foreknowledge of the mission of Jesus and was thus so excited when first addressing Mary. There is no arguing to the fact that God loves us and wanted us to be close to him, to have a lasting rewarding relationship with Him, thus logically the first present given to humanity by God in this moment was these very words spoke by Gabriel, thus adding to Gabriel’s excitement and jubilee; “Greetings, you who are highly favored!”

29 “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'” Luke 1:29-33, NIV Bible.

If it was fear that Mary first felt, then the second emotion must have been the smallness of being mortal, or even more to the point the feelings of being inferior and undeserving. The first question which might have crossed her mind might very well have been; (Who am I to have won such favor with God?) Again many of us today ask this very question when God blesses us with miraculous miracles that we know that we do not deserve; ( Who am I to have won such favor?) This question also would elude to a devastatingly awesome humility that few of us exhibit in today’s time, but Mary was filled with it. In fact it was Mary’s humility which concurred the sin of pride exhibited by Eve in the garden of Eden. It was our beloved mother Mary which redeemed for all time women and their roll in society. Her love which concurred the law in Joseph her betrothed that which kept him from turning her over to be stoned as it was demanded by the Mosaic law of the Jews. This same love that for thirty years fostered in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. All of this told to her by the angel Gabriel to calm her and to ease her for what was to come. Mary’s fear and then humility was honest and forthright and it was qualities which God Himself feel madly in love with. Proof of this can be found in the blessing God bestowed unto her both in life and in death, for what she received no other person has or will ever receive, the chance to give life, to give birth, to be the mother of the most High God. In truth the story of Christmas started nine months before the birth of Christ, as there where many individual miracles which manifested themselves to make this one event possible, all of which was given as foreknowledge to Mary as both a promise and proof of God’s power and unfailing love for her and of all mankind. Truly this is a time of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, mercy, and a season of giving.

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” ~ Luke 1:34, NIV Bible.

On this verse of the Bible, Mary’s concern is one of the worlds not of God, but a fare question as she would have to deal with the repercussions of becoming pregnant before marriage as everyone that she knew would believe she had been with a another man when in fact she had not been. What of Joseph, his disgrace; but how would giving birth to the Son of God be disgraceful? Another valid question which she did not ask, but rather implied with her first and only real question. With no tangible manner in which for Mary to cling onto, the angel Gabriel steadfast in his mission answered her;

” 35 The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” ~ Luke 1:35-37.

If there was any fear or uncertainty in Mary at this point, the Bible does not mention it, again her humility, her nobility in God, and her strength which she is so known for was all that remained. Her questions seceded and her humanity took over, for Mary must have known her unborn child’s mission, and of his fate. The gravity of the moment and its life altering affects also must have loomed large in her mind. But despite these challenges Mary forged on, and accepted it, gave herself to God, and with it the salvation of all mankind.

” 38 I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” ~ Luke 1:38, NIV Bible.

Thus, let it be so that in this Christmas season we celebrate not just the birth of Jesus, but also of Mary His mother who over came fear and doubt, but who also loved us enough to make this sacrifice for all of us. May we remember those gifts which came into this world that might not have if Mary had not been humble and obedient to God. May we give thanks to her bravery and forthrightness in all her deeds in raising Jesus to be who He eventually became.

Amen

If you have been moved by this reflection please do not hesitate to leave a comment, and may your holidays be filled with the love and blessing of our loving God.

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