A New Year dawns, and because of Christ in the manger and on the cross and in the grave … and risen on high and in our hearts, we can look forward with hope, knowing that He has a perfect plan for our lives and for the lives of those we love.
Nothing is too hard for God.
No prayer is too small.
And no person is too far gone.
Happy New Year. May we step forward with hope and faith, in the knowledge that Christ makes all things new!
This reading is taken from Finding Christ in the Carols, inspired by lyrics from well-known Christmas Carols. Available for only $2.99 this month, this devotional will help you find refreshing moments of devotion and reflection during the busy holiday season.
Lord, help me to follow You today, even if at times it makes about as much sense as following a star.
Let me never fear to seek for You, and to seek after more of You, knowing that You draw near to those who draw nigh to You.
You were called the Bright and Morning Star.
Be my star on the nights that are dark and lonely and cold.
This reading is an excerpt of a devotional from Finding Christ in the Carols, a devotional inspired by lyrics from well-known Christmas Carols. Available as an e-book on Amazon, Finding Christ in the Carols will help you find moments of personal devotion and reflection during the busy holiday season.
John gives the account of Jesus’ impromptu conversation with a woman at a well. In those days the husband initiated divorce: this Samaritan woman had been dumped by five different men. Jesus could have begun by pointing out what a mess the woman had made of her life. Yet he did not say, “Young woman, do you realize what an immoral thing you’re doing, living with a man who is not your husband?” Rather he said, in effect, I sense you are very thirsty. Jesus went on to tell her that the water she was drinking would never satisfy and then offered her living water to quench her thirst forever.
I try to recall this spirit of Jesus when I encounter someone of whom I morally disapprove. This must be a very thirsty person, I tell myself. …
When I am tempted to recoil in horror from sinners, from “different” people, I remember what it must have been like for Jesus to live on earth. Perfect, sinless, Jesus had every right to be repulsed by the behavior of those around him. Yet he treated notorious sinners with mercy and not judgment. – Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing about Grace?
Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts. Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported “saints,” I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.
Recall the story of Jesus’ dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee, in which a woman … poured perfume on Jesus and provocatively wiped his feet with her hair. Simon was repulsed–such a woman did not even deserve to enter his house! Here is how Jesus responded in that tense atmosphere:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for me feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
Why is it, I ask myself, that the church sometimes conveys the spirit of Simon the Pharisee rather than that of the forgiven woman? Why is it that I often do? – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?
“In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.
If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed. If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love. If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.
That, at least, is the vision of the church in the New Testament: a colony of heaven in a hostile world.