Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decorating - Prepare The Way for the Lord

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio


Through the tender mercy of our God; 
whereby the dayspring 
from on high hath visited us,  
To give light to them that sit in darkness 
and in the shadow of death, 
to guide our feet into the way of peace.   
 Luke 1:78-79




This morning I was doing a little decorating of this devotional blog site. I was also trying to fix some problems in the previous post. As a result those of you who get this sent to your e-mail may have recieved a couple of copies of the same post. My appoligies.

I was thinking about how busy we get during the holidays. Given there are only so many hours in a day, in order to make room for new things we must cut back on others. The other option is to run our selves ragged. I'd like to try not to do that this year. So I've been thinking about what is important to me. This season is supposedly to celebrate the birth of Christ. How do we glorify him by becoming so crazy busy that we have little or no time for Him seems odd to me.
How can you and I make Jesus the center, the focus, the reason for how we spend the next few weeks?

I can put up all the holiday decorations around my house and forget to decorate my heart for His coming. We leave Thanksgiving behind and all its reminders to be thankful and follow it with the next 24 days before Christmas day. How will we spend those days, what will we spend them on.

In church we celebrate the Sunday's of Advent. We light a candle each week and someone reads something, a prayer is prayed. Prepare our hearts for your coming. Advent for believers, is a reminder both of the original waiting of the Hebrew people for the birth of Messiah and for the waiting for Christ's return.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:    “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ The writer talking about John the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40:3

What was the message of John The Baptist. I think it gives us some insight in how we are to prepare our hearts for His coming.

First - Repent - To repent means to turn around to change your mind. To realize a choice or choices that you have made have not been in keeping with Gods will and desires for your life. Repenting is not like Back To The Future. This is not an exercise in time travel. We can't go back and un-do what has been done. The choices we make have consequences, they will effect us and they will effect others. Something profound happens however when we repent. Where we have shut God out by choosing to do life on our own terms, repenting invites Him back into the story.  When He is allowed to be part of our life He comes and begins to work for our good, his plans and purposes.

So the question is where have you shut God out? Where have you said "I've got this, I can handle this with out you Lord?" You may think it too trivial to bother the Lord with, or you may have become prideful. Either way you have shut God out of your life in that place. Its not always bad things that are sins. You can avoid all the popular vices only to become a workaholic and neglect the people in your life that God has called you to love. Work it self is a good thing, but it can become an idol of self-sufficiency. 

Why are we told to Repent? Because the Kingdom of heaven is near.
I have been profoundly challenged the lyrics of Rich Mullins song, Live Right. In it he says...

Live like you'll die tomorrow
Die knowing you'll live forever live right
Love like you'll leave tomorrow
Believing love lasts forever live right 

When we become believers we become part of an invisible Kingdom. In that Kingdom things don't work the same as they do in what we call the "real world."  Jesus spent a lot of time trying to help us understand what the Kingdom is like and how we are to function as citizens of His Kingdom. 
In the parables He tells, he is masterfully communicating the culture and defining for us how things work in His Kingdom.

John also tells us to "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." So in a mythic sense I think of how the people would prepare for the arrival of a great king or a dignitary. They clean things up, they decorate, they put out the best they have to offer, the most important thing happening is the King and his coming. We want him to be pleased, we want him to say "Well done". 

What would it look like if you took some time to repent, to do a little heart cleaning, to make the Kingdom and its King your priority during the next few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

"If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself [say no to SELF], 
 and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23

What are some of the selfish or self centered things that you might lay down to make more time to spend with Jesus and some ways you could be his ambassador to others around you. Small things done with great love change the world. You may think what you are doing or could do to be insignificant. We all have a mental image of a rock being thrown in a still pond.  None of us know how far the ripples will go and what ripples they will cause in the lives of others. The same is true of the small acts of kindness and the little blessings we bring into the lives of others. How far might a simple smile or a kind word go?

When Jesus arrived on the he came preaching the good news of God. God's kingdom is here, you can be part of it. Repent and believe the good news.  Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has drawn near; repent, and believe the good news."

Stop trying to make it through this life on your own. Admit you need help. Turn to Jesus and invite Him into those places where you have shut Him out.

I challenge you to resist the hustle and bustle, the obligations, the over spending, the stress. Take time now to invite Jesus to join you in all that you do during this holiday season.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
I invite you into the holiday season. You know those things you are calling me to be part of. You know the people who's lives you want me to touch. Help me to be your hands and feet of love, compassion, kindness and mercy to the lives of those around me.  Let me not be like the inn keeper who had no room for you in his inn. Help me to not relegate you to the barn or the garage or the fringes of my life during this season. Please come and be the center, the focus. I set my heart upon you - may your Kingdom come in my life this Christmas.

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