Advent Booklet Tradition Continues
November 4, 2004
As part of our annual tradition, NABS has published a devotional booklet to share with our seminary family. If you would like a copy please call 1-800-400-6227.
November 28, 2004
A Season of Waiting
Professor of Homiletics and Christian Ministry
"Then the angel departed from her," just might be the most poignant line in the entire passage. You can almost hear Mary gulp. "OK, I'm going to have a baby.... What in the world do I do now?"
The mother-to-be finds things to fill her time. She goes on a family visit. She writes poetry. She sings out her hopes and dreams for her child in her praises to God. No doubt there were clothes to be made and things to be gathered.
But, most of all, Mary waits. In the Scripture waiting is never an idle process. The prophet Isaiah says those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Waiting connects us to the one for whom we wait. It anticipates the change that's sure to come.
Every year in Advent we relive Mary's waiting. With her we hear the promise of a Son. With her we dare to hope for better days to come. With her we realize with the passing months that the promise of the Kingdom calls us to be far more than mere passive recipients of God's gift.
Christ can�t come without changing us. From the moment Mary heard the angel's promise, she realized that she could never be the same again. And neither can you or I.
So the ancient story is true again. Christ is coming. And you and I are called to play our part. With Mary, we�re called to risk everything. Wait!
Prayer: Grant us expectant hearts, O Lord. As Mary waited in growing certainty, so let us anticipate with joy the coming of your sovereign reign, through Christ. Amen.
December 5, 2004
A Season of Giving
Director of Current Gifts and Grants, Leadership Foundation
Between the media and local merchants, it would be difficult to ignore the gift giving aspect of the holiday season. However, Christ calls us to look much deeper than a new shirt and tie for dad as we experience Advent as a season of giving.
With servant hearts, Joseph and Mary placed their complete trust in God and dedicated their lives to fulfilling His plan for them and us. They gave all they had in obedience to Him. People are people, regardless of the century. Therefore, the two of them were obviously targets of the Galilee gossip-Mary being with child while professing to be a virgin, and Joseph openly accepting and pledging his love to a pregnant woman.
When it was near time for the birth of their child, they left the comfort and familiar surroundings of their home to journey to Bethlehem completely trusting in God to provide. And, it was there in Bethlehem that the Christ child was born-a child given to them by God and one which they gave, without question, back to Him.
God wants that same obedience from us! Our natural response to God's love should be to give of ourselves - not only money, but also time and talents. God loved us so much He gave His Son, but we seem a little more reluctant to make sacrifices. You may not think you have much to give, but chances are you have something - even if it is not financial - that will help someone else. Just cut down the distance between your words and your actions...and between your heart and your pocket.
Prayer: Lord, sometimes it seems I don't have much to give. Show me how you have blessed me, and how I can use those blessings to help those around me. Amen.
December 12, 2004
A Season of Surprises
Director of Church Relations and Alumni, Leadership Foundation
Have you ever been surprised? Back in the "olden days" when my children were being born, we had to wait until our baby was actually born to know if the child was a boy or a girl. How excited I was on both occasions when I was told, "It�s a girl!" What wonderful surprises!
On other occasions I have been surprised by an unexpected check in the mail or by a surprise birthday party or by a surprise visit from a good friend. And how can I forget so many wonderful Christmas Eve celebrations - opening gifts and being surprised by a new toy or a sweater or tie or good book?
The story of Christ's birth is filled with surprises. Mary was surprised when the angel Gabriel informed her that she had been chosen to be Jesus' earthly mother. Joseph was surprised when he learned that Mary would give birth to a son who would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. The shepherds were surprised when angels lit up the night sky and announced to them that Jesus had been born in nearby Bethlehem. The birth of a KING in an unsanitary cattle shed in tiny Bethlehem is certainly surprising.
The real surprise of this Advent season, however, is not the gifts we will receive nor even the angels and shepherds and the lowly stable. The real surprise of the Christmas story is the message of the Gospel. God loves me in spite of my sinful and rebellious heart.
He loves us enough to provide the sacrifice for our sins and to redeem us back to Himself. That indeed is a WONDERFUL SURPRISE.
Prayer: Lord God, we pray that during this Advent season, you will fill our hearts with fresh joy and excitement. Surprise us once again with the wonder of your grace and love for us. Amen.
December 19, 2004
A Season of Seeking
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Heritage
By this time, it may be that the Magi's quest and question have become our own, "Where is the child?" (v. 2) Many things compete for attention, threatening to crowd the Christ child from our consciousness. There is the "holiday season" surrounding us with stores, sales, and wish lists and with gatherings with friends and coworkers. "Christmas is gone before you know it!" we hear and raise the lament. There is life itself: the routine of church, family, and work that takes up time; the struggles and difficulties, the griefs and concerns, that accompany us whether we want them to or not. We wish we could put it all on "hold," set Christmas aside from all distractions, and just adore the child. "Where is the child?"
It is to this circumstance that Scripture speaks. The Magi were directed toward Bethlehem, a "little town" we think of as lying in perpetual "deep and dreamless sleep while silent stars go by." Scripture tells us, though, that Bethlehem was a place of tension.
The name ("House of Bread") speaks of promise and provision. Yet in Bethlehem Jacob's beloved Rachel died in childbirth (Genesis 35.16-20), to Bethlehem widowed and childless Naomi returned (Ruth 1.1-22), and over Bethlehem now falls the shadow of Herod's treachery. And here, God meets the world in the midst of human life, taking flesh for us and our salvation. And our life stands under this promise. We need not put life "on hold" to seek Christ. He finds us in the midst of our busy and difficult lives.
Prayer: We thank you, merciful Lord, for coming to us where we are. Grant us grace to see and to know you are with us in the midst of our lives. Amen.
December 25, 2004
A Season of Naming
When Jesus was circumcised eight days after his birth, he received the name given by the angel before his conception, the name Jesus. Many names could have been given to him according to the Old Testament - Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) or Signet Ring (Haggai 2:23) or Branch (Isa. 11:1; Zech. 3:8; 6:12) or Anointed One. But it was Jesus - meaning "Savior."
As each of our children entered into the world we gave them names. The first two were names of minor prophets (Micah and Joel). It dawned on us that we had ten more to go if we kept on so we switched to Aaron for the third (only one high priest). Then Sarah came along. All named for Old Testament characters because I was an Old Testament professor and we liked the names. To my wife, Barbie, and me, each was significant in its own way.
Biblical characters received names that reflected their traits and characteristics. Many of them underwent name changes due to peculiarities surrounding their lives. As Jesus is named, a man in the temple by the name Simeon sees the child and realizes that God has done what he has longed for. He looks at the baby boy and says, "my eyes have seen your salvation" (v. 30). So much rests on this child, already seen in his name.
We continue to carry his name as Christians. Is it significant to us? Do others rejoice in what our lives are saying?
Prayer: Lord, as we bear your son's name to the world this Christmas, may they see your gift of salvation and rejoice. In Jesus' name, Amen.