Tonight, I am reading "Mary's Song" from Luke 1:46-55 for our Church Christmas Eve Service. I have always caught this passage to be some what of a stumbling block for many. One woman seems to be exalted above all others just because of her obedience. Now, don't get me wrong... I do look at Mary's obediance and I am thankful and inspired at the same time. Many call her the 2nd Eve. Because of Mary's obedience...Eve's disobedience is undone! This is a big deal! From this obedience comes the birth of the 2nd Adam.
But in vs. 48 and 49, Mary uses the word "Me" but those statements that are said about her are not just for her to say. She says, "From this time on all generations will count me blessed." Now, the statements that Mary sang are very true about her but they are NOT just true about her. Because of Jesus... they are true for all believers. Christ coming causes a wave of "blessed" through out all generations.
The incarnation made the way for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Because Mary carried and gave birth to the Savior, we all can now carry and give Jesus His Body because of His Spirit indwelling in us.
We too are called to obedience like Mary. We are called to carry and birth Jesus into a broken world by living lives that give him hands and feet in this world today.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Because Christ Lives,
Often times, we read the story of Moses and the Burning Bush and we either feel worlds apart from this scene or we wonder why God doesn’t talk to us through burning bushes. I mean, it would be wonderful if God would start burning in the Christmas Cactus that I’ve managed to keep alive for 8 years now and tell me exactly what my next step is supposed to be, what the correct course of action would be for parenting, and his voice be audible through a plant. I mean, that would be much better than an Amazon Echo. We are going to take a look back when Moses met a burning bush that did not burn up and we are going to ask ourselves the questions, “Where are the burning bushes of today?”
In Exodus 3 and we find Moses in the wilderness making a new life. He ran from Egypt a murder and found a new people in the desert. Here he became a Shepherd. He was out doing just that, shepherding a flock of sheep through a mountain rage. Then Moses saw a bush on fire. Except it was not burning up. And so he went over to see this bush that wasn’t burning up. And the Bush called to him. “Moses, Moses!”
Can you imagine? Going to check out this bush and instead of seeing a reasonable reason for a bush to not burn up instead it calls your name. Can you imagine? So, Moses answers naturally, “Here I am.” I can see him looking around hoping another Moses would jump out of nowhere to be the one this bush was calling to. But the Bush really was calling him.
It wasn’t just the Bush calling him but it was God speaking through the fire that was on the bush. The Lord tells Moses to remove his sandals for the ground he is standing on is Holy. God’s presence and holiness often are surrounded by fire. Moses and the burning bush, Isaiah and the rock of fire that made his tongue clean (Holy). And then in Acts 2, we read about the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost, like wind and fire… we are made holy and equipped for holiness through the Spirit’s dwelling in us. We are on fire in the Spirit but yet not destroyed. We are like the bush on that mountain that the Lord used to call out to Moses to get his attention, to call him.
What does it mean, to be a burning bush?
“The bush was on fire but it was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). It attracted Moses. It caught Moses attention. It was different. It was used by God to speak the Word of God. What does that mean for those of us filled with “wind and fire” of the Spirit? To me it means that we attract those to us. We are different enough that it catches the world’s attention to come see why we are different, why we are on fire but not consumed. We become the mouthpiece to declare the great I Am.
Through a bush on fire, Moses was called to deliver the message that God was going to save His people from the bondage of slavery. Through a Spirit of Fire in us, we are to deliver a message that God can and has saved people from the bondage of slavery to sin. So where are the burning bushes of today?
We are the burning bushes of today. Burn brightly, dear one.
In walking a human life, believers are called to holiness just as Christ is Holy (1 Peter 1:15). In fact, we call holiness Christ-likness for that reason. There have been times when we (the Church, the general church not just one deonomination) have confused what holiness means for a human. Sometimes, we blur the lines so much that we walk away with a theology that almost calls us to be a god or we blur the lines to where we think holiness is not possible in this life.
Some theologies will lead us to believe that just being human is a sin, in the idea, that we just can't help but sin and the only time a believer will get away from sin is at death, at glorificaltion. But just being human wasn't the problem in Genesis chapter 3. The problem was the choice to sin. A willfull choice to choose disobediance was the sin. God said to not eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree and they did. The fruit didn't accidently fall into their mouths. They chose to eat it.
So do mistakes count as sin? What do you think?
My mentor Pastor, Bob Russell the Senior Pastor at Yakima New Hope Community COTN, would use this illustration (on a funny note he just said this to me on the phone and I am sure he has used this same example 4 times to me and it just finally fully clicked):
Your kids are running around playing and your daughter accidentally runs into her brother knocking him down.
Is that sin? Calvanist would say yes. Wesleyan's would say no.
She then refuses to say she is sorry and keeps playing, ingoring the needs of her little brother.
Is that sin? Calvanist would say yes. Wesleyan's would say yes.
If we expect her to not run into her brother while playing, we would almost expect her to know the future and to be perfect. You see, she came around the corner at the same time her brother was and had no idea of knowing he was going to be there. It wasn't a willfull choice to run into her brother, it simply happened because she is not all knowing. But it was the willful choice to not say she was sorry and to not aid him. That was were sin entered the picture.
Sometimes, I think in our pursuit of holiness we forget that we were created to be humans and not God. We make holiness godliness (which we do call it that) but in doing so we expect people, we expect ourselves, to become or to be mini gods in the sense that we become perfect, not in the sense of Christian perfectionism, but in perfect that we know everything. We are not called to be divine. We are not called to be all knowing. We are not called to be omniceient nor omnipotent. But we are creatures made in His image and therefore we are capable of bearing the fruit of that image. The call to be Holy doesn't mean we are free from making mistakes like turning a corner and running into someone. The call to be Holy doesn't mean that we will understand how someone is going to take our words or misunderstand our words. But holiness looks like choosing to do the right things in those situations. To help those we accidentally knock over. To correct our wording and to apologize if we have offended someone.
In this light, what does it look like to be a Holy Human?
It looks like, following Christ. He said, "Come and Follow Me." It means getting out of your boat, like the disciples did in Matthew 4, and following HIm. To be under His teaching, under His correction, under His example. But it doesn't mean you are Him. It means that you are who He created you to be. That you are His. That you love Him so much that you choose His way over your way or the way of the world.
We were not created because God wanted us to be all knowing even though we are capable of amazing intelligence but we were created for love. Being Holy means we "Love God and Love Others." For Christ said those were the two greatest commandments. Being Holy means we choose Love, not sin, Love.
At Bremerton Nazarene we are getting ready for the "Big Give." In Today's sermon, Pastor Sherwin focused on the Magi and how they brought gifts for the Gift. "We give because Christ first gave." The Magi were expectantly looking for this Gift to arrive. And when the Gift was given, He was received by them. They journeyed roughly 1,000 miles (google says that is a 48 day walk) one way to get a glimpse of this Long Expected Jesus.
Today, I had a newcomer at our church ask me the question, "Why is Jesus a gift?" "What did he bring?" "What could a baby do?" These are the questions that every associate and lead pastor long to hear. Questions that are searching for real answers. Questions you can tell are already made in faith because if doubt was there they would not even ask but they come expecting an answer from us and when they ask those questions the Holy Spirit is working!
Why is Jesus a Gift?
The creator of the world breathed life into the creation that would sin against Him. Even knowing that humans would choose idolatry over worship and obedience of the true King... He breathed life into them. But that wasn't the only gift given. You see, He breathed life and then knowing He would have to empty Himself to be born and die for this creation. Jesus is the gift of life. Through His death and resurrection He defeats sin and death. To do that, He had to be born a baby and live a fully human life while still remaining fully God. God Incarnate.
What did He Bring?
Jesus Christ brought Himself. In doing so, He lived a life where He could understand every single temptation. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that, "He was tempted in every way." He understands every single temptation there is and we can lean on Him to get us through those temptations and if we fail, His love is sufficient. Through those temptations, He did NOT sin. He lived the sinless life. The 2nd Adam chose obedience over sin where the 1st Adam failed. No longer does sin bind us to death but now love pulls us to obedience of life.
What could a Baby do?
As I type this, my almost two-year-old son is trying to climb onto the table. And when I tell him, "No, Henry" he smiles at me and then leans over and gives me kisses. Joy. A baby brings Joy... and Hope. (Though, I am sure that Mary didn't have to tell her first born to get off the table as much as I have said while typing this...) Jesus would have to learn how to talk and walk. His starting point would be like our starting points. None of us started as an adult and in that same manner the one who would intercede for us would do the same. For what can a baby not do? Because eventually, babies grow up... (every mother is now either praising this fact or if she is sleeping through the night may be getting teary eyed because that his a happy/sad reality). This baby born King of the Jews would not remain a baby for He would grow to be the greatest teacher, love, and Savior of all.
For The BIG Give, Bremerton Nazarene, I have this to share with you. Many of you have accepted Jesus Christ. You lived expectantly awaiting and are awaiting His Second Coming. There is a lot of work in our local community that we need to do. So for our Christmas Offering we are asking you to give, give a gift to the Gift. Be the Magi of today. The gold given paid for Jesus ministry and the other gifts prepared Him for His burial. I've often wondered what Mary and Joesph did with the gifts that Jesus received for it was not their's... that which Mary knew it belong to the Christ. And I have no doubt that they were used to propel His ministry. So, if you have accepted Jesus Christ.... Give expectantly of His ministry to continue.
If you have not accepted Jesus Christ, a gift that you can give the Gift is the gift of yourself. As I have read the Scriptures, I see this too in the Magi. They had the knowledge of Him, that the King of the Jews was coming... they had knowledge of the Scriptures but when the time came they brought themselves to Him. They had to bring themselves to Him to be able to give the Gift gifts. Jesus Christ does not want your money before He wants your heart. For the whole reason why He came was LOVE. And the greatest gift we can give back is LOVE. He isn't asking for things or money.... He came seeking a relationship and through that relationship, He will pour blessings. But as the Magi, they gave the best they had to offer themselves and their gifts.
This Christmas, let's offer Jesus our best. If you want to accept Him as your Lord and Savior the Bremerton Nazarene staff would love to pray with you and aid you in anyway you need as you journey to Him this Christmas. You can comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office. If you want to give a financial gift that allows His ministry to continue in our local community, you can give online HERE and memo The BIG Give or bring your Christmas Offering with your next week as we celebrate The BIG Give on December 17th. In whatever stage you are of being a Magi, starting the journey to Him or giving the gifts to Him... LET'S GIVE BIG, Bremerton Nazarene!
Oh, Come Let us Adore Him.
Because Christ Lives,