Good News of Great Joy

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

When Luke was written, “gospel” or “good news” was not a religious word. It was a political word. That is, “gospel” or “good news” usually referred to some great news about the emperor, the empire, or victory. It was the word used to describe the birth of the coming emperor or the ascension of a new emperor or the victory of the emperor over Rome’s enemies. When the angels used this word to describe the birth of Jesus, it was a powerful word for those Jewish shepherds. The anointed King of Israel, the descendant of David was born. He would be both Lord and Savior of the Jews. Rome would not be able to withstand this King. It was very much a challenge to the politics of the day. It was good news of great joy because finally the real King had been born, and victory over all enemies was coming. What good news of great joy this still is today. Our King was born. He lived. He conquered. He reigns. Follow Jesus today. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. He is the King. He is the Emperor. He is the only way to victory over and salvation from every enemy, including sin and death. And that is good news of great joy.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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Hate is No Surprise

Today’s reading is John 15.

It is surprising to me how many times throughout the Scripture the Holy Spirit prepares us for hate. Considering how good, loving, compassionate, and kind Jesus was, it is amazing that He was hated. But He was. In fact, so hated, He was taken to the cross. This was the very point those around Him didn’t grasp. If He was the Messiah, even if hated, He shouldn’t suffer for it. And this is, perhaps, one of the largest aspects of following Him that we miss today. If we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, we heedlessly believe, everyone should like us. The world and the worldly will be so impressed with our Christlike love and compassion that they will long to hear what we say (if we are doing it right). The world shouldn’t hate us, we think. If they do, we are doing it wrong, we believe. And yet, Jesus prepares His followers again and again and again. It will not be different for us. Hate is no surprise. The world is going to hate us. The world is going to make us suffer for it. Obviously, we aren’t trying to be hated. But be ready. And be ready to keep loving one another and also loving those who hate us. That is what Jesus did when hated.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 16.

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Today’s reading is Jude 1.

If history and tradition are correct, and there is no reason to believe they aren’t on this issue, Jude was actually the biological half-brother of Jesus. Jude and James were sons of Joseph and Mary. They shared a mother with Jesus. Think about what that means for Jude and this letter. If he wanted a surefire way to get everyone’s attention and declare that they ought to listen to him, he could have called himself, “Jude, a brother of Jesus Christ and James.” But he didn’t. He said, “a servant of Jesus Christ.” What humility. What surrender. What discipleship. And what an example for us today. Too often we (read that in the editorial sense of “I”) try to puff ourselves up, make ourselves seem grandiose, convince others we are something special. And we are, we are servants of the King of kings. But we are His servants. Instead of lifting ourselves up, let’s lift Jesus up and be His servants today. Really, is there anything better to be?

Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 1.

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Almost a Disciple

Today’s reading is Mark 10.

In our congregation, we remind ourselves a disciple is someone who honors God, learns from God, loves like God, and leads others to God all while abiding in God’s Word. Here we find a man who was almost a disciple. He comes to Jesus as if to honor, learn from, and lead others to him. But in the end he falls short. And what is the ultimate difference? In the end, he honored himself (Sure, he called Jesus “good” but his own ideas were better). He learned from himself (yes, he called Jesus “teacher,” but when taught what he didn’t want to hear, he went his own direction). He loved himself (whatever it was about the many possessions that attracted him, it was because of what they did for him). He led himself away from God (that one is obvious). Don’t be an almost disciple, because there really is no almost. Be a disciple.

Tomorrow’s reading is Mark 11.

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