Bread – Strength

December 23, 2011


Readings for Friday, December 23, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Gal. 3:15-22; Luke 1:67-80; Psalms 93, 96, 148, 150

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Luke 1:68-69, 74 – “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago) …to rescue us from the hands of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear…”

In the NIV translation of the Bible, the word “horn” is footnoted as follows: “Horn” here symbolizes strength. That is why this Bread is called “strength.”

Darwin once said that one of the primary challenges to his theory of evolution was that people often did not act in their best interest – out of love they often in fact act against their best interest. At a time when people have no money for food, they give food away. At a time of great personal loss, they reach out and hug someone who is suffering their own personal loss. They run headlong into a burning building to save someone whom they hear crying for help. They jump into the water to save someone who is drowning. They act in the best interest of people they don’t know, even their enemy. If we had truly evolved from survival of the fittest, then where does self-sacrifice come from? Where does love come from?

We are now celebrating Christmas, the time of year when God acted to become incarnate as a baby. The God of the universe, the creator of all things, the creative Word, the omnipotent, the omniscient, the all powerful, the holy, the One to whom all majesty and honor is owed – He came to earth as one of us in strength of love to save us by the strength of love by dying on a cross in the strength of love so that we might be rescued from Satan and, really, ourselves, so that we might stand before Him at the time of judgment without fear and to serve Him on earth and throughout eternity without fear. All this He did because He is the “strength of salvation.”

We often contemplate the strength of Samson, but how often do we contemplate the strength of a baby? We often contemplate the strength of an army, but how often do we contemplate the strength of friendship? We often contemplate the strength of power manifest, but how often do we contemplate the strength of power self-limited?

God through His strength has raised up a strength of salvation. Now we call that strength a baby Christ. Later, we will call that strength a crucified Christ. Still later, we will call that strength the risen, resurrected Christ. A gift given to us which we do not deserve by a God who loves us more than we can imagine.

A baby – the strength of salvation.

So that we can serve Him without fear. So that we can love others because He first loved us. So that we might be rescued from death into life.

Merry Christmas.

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*Omitted is the reading today from the Apocrypha.

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Bread – Sequence

December 19, 2011


Readings for Monday, December 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zeph. 3:14-20; Titus 1:1-16; Luke 1:1-25; Psalms 61, 62, 112, 115

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The sequence of things is important and today’s readings present a very important sequence in the life of the believer.

In the Old Testament, we have the first step in the sequence – God acts. Because we are in the season of Advent, the beginning of the church new year focused upon the birth of Jesus, we recognize the importance of this prophecy from Zephaniah: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your punishment … The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you…The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.” Zeph. 3:14b-17

In the New Testament lesson from Titus, we discover that the next step in the sequence, the quality of our response, is revealed by how we behave – “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.” Tit. 1:16

In the third step of the sequence, God, knowing our failure, sends people to encourage us in the journey, to help prepare our hearts to truly accept God and become obedient to Him. In this season, that person whom God sent is John the Baptist – “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Lk. 1:17 Therefore, John had a ministry of calling the faithful to repentance, to prepare their hearts for the day of the Lord, to turn them from themselves toward the Lord and, with the strength of the Lord, toward each other.

There is a tendency in this time of year to get stuck in the second stage of this sequence – to be so wrapped up in the preparations for Christmas that we run the risk of denying the very God we claim to worship by our actions. In today’s readings, God reminds us that, during this season, we need to remember that (a) Christmas is the celebration of “God with us” for the purpose of saving us, and (b) we become ready for God, not with frantic holiday shopping, but by repenting, by turning toward Him, by listening to the wisdom of the righteous.

What do our actions today reveal? Celebration of His coming? Preparation for the day of the Lord? Or Denial of His existence and power in our lives?

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Bread – Portend

December 12, 2011


Readings for Monday, December 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 1:7-17; Rev. 3:7-13; Matt. 24:15-31; Psalms 41, 44, 52

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“Portend” means to act as an omen or warning, to act as a foreshadowing or a presage to an event about to occur. It can also be used is the sense of signify or indicate. It is a word which carries a sense of mystery, danger, or momentous circumstances.

The readings today portend something major. Zechariah portends the time when God will “again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.” Zech. 1:17 In Revelation, Jesus portends to the Philadelphia church His return – “I am coming soon – I will write on him [the overcoming person] the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from My God; I will also write on Him My new name.” Rev. 3:11-12 In Matthew, Jesus portends the rise of great evil, “the abomination that causes desolation,” and the appearance of many false religions, many false Christs and false prophets. Jesus also portends His return and mentions a sign of it – “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Matt. 24:24, 27

For a little child, Christmas may seem far off. The Christmas lights, the trees, the decorations, the music, the chill in the air all portend a time of gifts, a time of joy, a time of expectation and excitement. They know it’s coming, but when? The parents on the other hand see the time clearly, see the date and the shortening of shopping days, the less and less time they have to put up the decorations, finish the shopping, bake the goodies, wrap the presents, complete the preparations, attend the parties, practice the music for the Christmas Eve service.

Does the coming of Christ seem far off to you? Are you aware of the preparations but unknowing of the timetable? Or are you in a season of preparation, knowing the times, sensing the countdown toward the date of celebration?

There is a huge difference, of course, between Christmas and Christ’s return. Christmas is actually a day on the calendar, whereas the date of Christ’s return is unknown. It is easy to be a focused adult when the date is fixed, when the target is clearly seen, when even a child can “x” off the dates on the calendar toward the countdown. It is much less easy when you know the event will happen but you just don’t know when.

One of the interesting things about prophecy is that it can simultaneously speak to the present and to the far. As we prepare for the present, the celebration of Christ’s first appearance on earth, let us also be mindful that His birth points to a future event beyond the cross and resurrection. That future event is His return.

Let us be prepared for that as well.

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Bread is sent to those people who have asked that it be sent to them, and maybe it has been forwarded to you by a friend. If you are not on my mailing list and wish to be, please e-mail me at flintg@verizon.net. I also know that many things fill your inbox and, if you would like to be taken off the list, please e-mail me and your request will be promptly honored.

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All Bible citations are to the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

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