Giving Thanks

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Newsletter Nov 2017 website

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Feast of the Epiphany

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On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:11

Consider the gifts offered by the magi. What gift will you give to Jesus this Christmas season?

Going Deeper

Read Matthew 2:9-12.

While gifts of diapers, baby clothes, and a donkey-compatible car seat may seem more practical, I’m sure the valuable gifts brought by the magi came in handy as the young family traveled to and settled in Egypt. Far beyond their monetary value, though, the gifts of the magi had great symbolic meaning.

Gold is a symbol of royalty. The gift of gold pointed to Jesus’ kingship.

Frankincense was used in prayer and worship. Frankincense was given in recognition of Jesus’ divinity and his priestly role as mediator between us and the Father.

Myrrh was an oil used in embalming. The gift of myrrh foreshadowed Jesus’ death.

If Jesus were born today in the United States, instead of two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, the gifts may have been a little different. Perhaps the wise men would have brought Jesus a presidential seal made of solid gold, a kneeler, and a headstone.

During the last week of Advent, I invited you to consider which of the titles for Jesus most resonated with you. (Flip back to Dec. 20 to refresh your memory.) What gifts would you choose to symbolize the names for Jesus that mean the most to you?

Here are some of the things I might give Jesus:

 

Advent Reflection: What Do You Want For Christmas?

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The Lord was pleased by Solomon’s request. So God said to him: “Because you asked for this—you did not ask for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies—but you asked for discernment to know what is right—I now do as you request. I give you a heart so wise and discerning that there has never been anyone like you until now, nor after you will there be anyone to equal you.

I Kings 3:10-12

What is your heart’s desire this Christmas?

gift

Going Deeper

Read I Kings 3:5-28.

What kind of gifts will be under your Christmas tree this year?

MyHeritage blog reports on the most popular kids’ Christmas gifts.

In 2013:

  1. Furby Boom
  2. Teksta Robotic Puppy
  3. LeapPad Ultra
  4. Flying Fairy
  5. Big Hugs Elmo
  6. Barbie Dream House
  7. Giggly Monkey
  8. Nerf Gun
  9. Ninja Turtles
  10. Lego

In 1913:

  1. Candy
  2. Nuts
  3. Rocking horse
  4. Doll
  5. Mittens/Gloves
  6. Toy Train
  7. Oranges
  8. Books
  9. Handkerchiefs
  10. Skates

The Washington Post shares this year’s Christmas wishes from kids around the world.  Ideas included an electric guitar, comic books, “I want all the dogs to love all the cats,” sneakers, a plastic dinosaur, a pet bunny, and “I want my parents to be friends again.”

If you could have anything for Christmas this year, what would you ask for? Would you like a new car, a bigger house, or an exotic vacation? Do you want harmony in your family, camaraderie in the workplace, and peace in the world? Do you strive for singleness of purpose, a rich and fruitful prayer life, guidance to live in God’s will, and strength to love God and your neighbor—even the one you find most irritating—unconditionally? Or, like Solomon, will you ask for “a listening heart” and the wisdom to “distinguish between good and evil”? Which of the items on your Christmas list would please the Lord? What can you do today to move one step closer to your greatest Christmas wish? (Hint: Prayer is always a good place to start!)

As you reflect on these questions, listen to “Grown-Up Christmas Wish.” There are many versions out there. Here are a few: Amy Grant, Michael Buble, and Kelly Clarkson.

Advent Reflection: Abundantly Blessed

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Jacob then made this vow: “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey I am making and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, and I come back safely to my father’s house, the Lord will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.”

Genesis 28:20-22

Name 5 gifts God has given you. Have you offered those gifts back to God? Do you give God your first fruits, or your leftovers?

jacobs-ladder

Going Deeper

Read Genesis 28:10-22

The covenant that God made with Abraham continues with his grandson, Jacob. God reaffirms his promises in this passage. Jacob recognizes that all he has comes from God. This is the foundation of stewardship—recognizing that everything we have is a gift from God. We can’t earn mercy and grace. We aren’t entitled to a nice car, a warm house, and plentiful food. All is gift. In gratitude for God’s gifts to us, we are invited to use those gifts for his glory, and to share what we have with others. Jacob commits to giving a tenth of everything back to God. As God’s generosity toward you increases, I would challenge you to go beyond ten percent. And don’t stop with a monetary tithe. Your life and your abilities are also gifts from God. Are you sharing your time and talent to serve other people and build the kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in?

I invite you to join me today in my own reimagining of the Stewardship Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola:

Father, thank you for the abundant gifts you have given me—both those I recognize as gift, and those I have a harder time accepting or understanding. I offer all of it to you. Take away anything that separates me from you. Give me what I need to become the person you created me to be. Help me to see and embrace every opportunity to use the gifts I’ve been given to give honor and glory to you, and to bring about your kingdom. I open my entire being to your love. May that love penetrate every part of my life and continually shape me into your image. Amen.

The Greatest Christmas Gift

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Christmas Reflection 12/25/14

God has given us so many gifts. He gave us life. He created this beautiful world for us to take care of and enjoy. Every blessing you have came from God.

The greatest gift God has given us is Jesus. God himself came to earth to show us how to live, and to suffer unimaginably and die so that we could enjoy eternity with him.

Reflect on this gift as you listen to “How Many Kings” by Downhere. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYe9sWYKdo

God has given us everything. The only reasonable response is to give everything back to God. Is there some part of your life that you have not been able to turn over to Jesus? A dark corner that you don’t want anyone to see? A part of your life that you know needs to change, but you aren’t yet willing to let go?

Choose today to surrender every part of yourself and your life to God. Ask the Holy Spirit for the strength you need to turn everything over to God.

Thank you for journeying with me through Advent. I encourage you to continue to celebrate Jesus’ birth throughout the Christmas season, which begins today and ends January 11, when we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.

Have a blessed Christmas season!