Devotions - December 26, 2010 - January 1, 2011
By, Pastor Jennifer Johnson Wrege
Assistant to the Bishop
Sunday, December 26
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us."
Matthew 1:23 (New Revised Standard)
Much is made in the scriptures of Jesus' name "Emmanuel." In Bible days, names carried with them an image of a person's character, qualities, and/or skills. Knowing someone's name was to know, not just something about that person, but the person themselves.
We learn from scripture that the name Emmanuel means God is with us. I suppose it's possible to hear this promise to be with us as something that may threaten our freedom to do and say anything we want, whenever we want, much like sometimes the presence of a police car with a state trooper in it keeps us from speeding – well, keeps us from speeding more than eight or nine miles over the posted speed limit.
When we hear this name Emmanuel with ears longing for a word of hope or comfort, then we hear the promise ring out loud and clear. God is not far away and unconcerned about us. God is here and ready, willing, and able to guide, comfort, heal, forgive, and love us.
Prayer: Thank you, gracious God for your presence in the world and in my life. Help me to trust that you seek an abundance of blessings for all – and that includes me. Amen.
Monday, December 27
"For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6 (New Revised Standard Version)
When we get into reading the Bible, it doesn't take long to realize that Jesus has a large collection of names. They are not nick-names like we sometimes have. My maternal grandfather loved to call me "tootsie." For him, it was a term of endearment. For me, it was almost always embarrassing.
One of the names that refers to Jesus is Wonderful Counselor. The promise embedded in this name is that Jesus is the counselor that will never lead you down the garden path, never send you off in a wrong or dangerous direction, or cause you to become lost. Others may give us advice that is not helpful. Others may send us off on wild goose chases. Others may steer us in directions that have way less than our best interests at heart. But not the Wonderful Counselor! Not Jesus! We can be certain and sure that this Wonderful Counselor only guides us in the paths of what is faithful, righteous, and good.
Prayer: Wonderful Counselor, be our counselor in good times and in difficulties. Bring your wisdom to our lives that in all we say and do points others to you and your love. Amen.
Tuesday, December 28
They went to him and woke him up, shouting, "Master, Master, we are perishing!"
And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves;
they ceased, and there was a calm.
Luke 8:24 (New Revised Standard Version)
The disciples are in a boat with Jesus who is sleeping and appears to be totally unaware of the wind and waves of the storm surrounding all of them in the boat. The storm is so severe that the disciples, many of them acquainted with life on the seas, are outside of their comfort zones. In fear of their very lives, they call out to Jesus using the name "Master."
The title "master" certainly indicates a power difference – masters have power over servants; masters have power over slaves; a master plumber has more power or authority than journeyman and so on. In the face of danger and death, the disciples recognized and counted on Jesus' power and authority. Jesus did not disappoint them. Upon Jesus' command the wind shut down and waves ceased to rage.
When we recognize Jesus as "master," at the same we recognize his power and authority, including his power and authority to keep us safe whatever winds and waves rage in our lives.
Prayer: O God, our Master and Redeemer, keep us safe from all danger and harm. Enable us to call out to you when we are fearful. Amen.
Wednesday, December 29
So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
John 6:67-68 (New Revised Standard version)
Simon Peter calls Jesus "Lord." In general use back then, the title "lord" was used as a title of respect or honor. It was not used as an indication of divinity. Yet, Peter indicates that Jesus is "Lord of lords" when he states that Jesus has "the words of eternal life" – a gift no other "lord" has to give.
Peter points us in the direction of "the words of eternal life" – the scriptures – the Good News of the gospel of Jesus. We can pick up this word, the Bible, open it up, and begin to read and learn all the promises of this word about eternal life.
Prayer: Lord, you come to us with words of eternal life. We give you thanks for this word and for all your promises proclaimed from generation to generation. Amen.
Thursday, December 30
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute;
and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see.
Matthew 12:22 (New Revised Standard Version)
The baby whose birth we are observing during this liturgical season of Christmas will grow up and be, among many other things, a healer. Many will make their way to Jesus or be brought to Jesus or Jesus will come to them. Their encounter with Christ will result in healing.
Healing happens in many ways. The man in Matthew 12 above was spiritually healed when Jesus dealt with the demon who possessed the man. But he was also healed physically with new eyes to see and a new voice with which to speak. How amazing and stunning to be blind and mute one second and able to see and speak the next. Scary, maybe, in some ways, even if it's what you dreamed of your whole life.
We all have aspects of our lives where healing is needed. Wondrously, the Healer comes to us. The Babe of Bethlehem becomes the healer of our every need. How miraculous is that! No wonder we make the journey to the stable each year to worship and give thanks!
Prayer: Loving and gracious God, you reach out with your healing hand to all in any need of body, mind or spirit. Give us faith to have hearts open to your miraculous activity in our lives.
Friday, December 31
Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:19-21 (New Revised Standard Version)
Jesus is probably the most familiar name to us for the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Lord, Messiah, Miracle Worker and many other references. We pray in Jesus' name. One of the first songs we learn is Jesus Loves Me. We learn that and angel of the Lord visited Joseph and explained the circumstances of Mary's pregnancy and then instructed Joseph to name the baby Jesus.
When we call out to God's son with his name Jesus, it is like we are on a first name basis. We know each other. We've had important conversations with Jesus through prayer. We are part of a relationship – a relationship initiated by Jesus – but a relationship in which we respond. Having this relationship with Jesus makes all the difference for us in this life and later in life eternal.
Prayer: Jesus, precious Savior, we give you thanks that we can call you by name and that we are yours. Continue to nudge us to call upon you in any joy or delight and in every trouble and difficulty. Amen.
Saturday, January 1
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah." Mark 8:27-29 (New Revised Standard Version)
Jesus is wondering what people are saying about him. So he asks his disciples to respond to the question: Who do people say that I am? After listening to some of the speculation going on out on the grapevine, Jesus asks a much more personal question: Who do you say that I am?
We can read and hear Peter's response to that question. What's your response to Jesus' question? Who do you say Jesus is? Is he the Messiah? And, if he is what might that mean to us?
Today is the first day of a new year – 2011. I'm thinking that who we believe Jesus is will shape how we approach many things in this new year. For all of us there are things we are doing well and other things that need to change. As we are changed and transformed by the Jesus, the Messiah, others and the creation itself is also opened to the possibility of change and transformation.
Prayer: Loving Lord, on this first day of the New Year, we worship you in spirit and in truth. Open our eyes, Lord, so we can see Jesus at work on behalf of the world. Amen.