Midweek Reflections

The Christmas Donkey

Read:   Luke 2:15-40       

Recently at our church Christmas program one of the children dressed up as a donkey at the manger scene during the birth of Jesus.  Our donkey was active and into his part, making donkey noises as the Christmas story was being read.  It brought laughter and interest among those who were in attendance.  Then the next morning I read a recent Christmas post by author and pastor Max Lucado that spoke of those who volunteer to be the donkey. Here is what Max wrote…

“Beneath a suspended star a baby will be born, the angels will sing, the wise men will kneel and children of all ages will go home telling their parents that next year they want a part in the nativity play. Little boys want to be Joseph. Little girls want to be Mary. Some want to wear the angel wings or bear gifts from a distant land. A few might even offer to be the hard-hearted Herod or the hassled innkeeper.

But no one, ever, as far as I know, volunteers to be the donkey. Which is odd, actually, for what greater honor could exist than to do what the donkey did? He carried Jesus. I know, Joseph is better looking and Mary is quite stunning. Wise men get the cool hats and angels have the hallelujahs. And the donkey? He just stands to the side and chews on hay.

But look at him. Do you not see contentment in those big, brown eyes? A look of satisfaction on his face? He just delivered history’s greatest gift! Before Santa had a sleigh or UPS had trucks, God had a donkey. Thanks, in no small part, to him, the choir can sing “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.”

I know, I know. We’d rather be Joseph, rugged and bearded. We’d rather be Mary, faithful, beautiful, and immaculate. But somebody needs to be the donkey. I’m thinking a donkey at Christmas is a good thing to be.  The Christmas donkey did his work. He delivered Jesus so Jesus could be delivered.  He plodded. He didn’t gallop or giddy-up. He did what donkeys do. He steadily stepped in the direction the master directed.

And, upon arrival, he stepped to the side. He demanded no recognition, expected no compensation. He isn’t even mentioned in the Bible.  He was happy to do his job and let Jesus have all the attention.  Perhaps we could learn a lesson from the Christmas donkey? There is always a place in the nativity, God’s nativity story, for the person who will plod along expecting no applause, bear up under the weight of the long haul, and carry the One who will carry us all.  So here’s to the donkeys of the story. May your ride be faithful and your rest be fruitful. And we will do our best to follow your example.”

… Like always Max Lucado has a way with words.  I hope his story and his thoughts this week can help us to think about the Nativity and the Christmas story in a little different way.

Make it Personal:  No matter who you are, what you do, or what your past looks like, Jesus came to carry you as Max says.  He can carry you and help you through whatever you face in this life.  Jesus, the best gift ever, was sent to save us all.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

Best Gift Ever

Read: Luke 2:1-14
In a recent newspaper article the question was asked, “What is the worst Christmas gift you have ever received?”  Some of the responses were interesting.  A used bread maker, a manual can opener, a ream of printer paper, a glow in the dark toilet seat, and a gift card holder with no gift cards included were just some of the submissions. What would you have shared?

Is it easier to answer that question or the question the newspaper asked the week before: “What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?”  It’s easy to think of this question in a material way instead of a spiritual way.  But which one is truly more significant? 

Some material gifts are very nice and really do bless both the giver and receiver.  But in the Bible Luke chapter 2 shares about the best gift ever given.  In fact, without this gift many things would be quite different for people around the world.  God sending his Son Jesus into the world to save us all is truly the best gift ever!

When the angels arrived to proclaim the good news of Jesus’ birth in verse 11 they said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  No gift can compare to the salvation, grace, and eternal life in heaven that Jesus provides for us.  He is the way, the truth, and the life, and provides hope for all who believe and follow him.

It’s fun to give and receive gifts during this time of year, but as we do that we must remember the best gift ever given.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  My prayer this Christmas is that you will receive this gift from God and cherish it above all others.

Make it Personal:  As we get older it becomes easier to give than receive.  It feels good to give a gift and bless another person.  However, one of the requirements of this best gift ever from God requires us to receive it, believe it, and accept it as the free gift that it is.  We cannot earn it by being good, doing things, or being perfect.  We must simply accept this free gift that God offers through the life of Jesus.

Have a very Merry Christmas Everyone, Pastor Glen Rhodes

Wrong shall fail and right prevail

Read: 2 Peter 3:8-15a

As mentioned last week, the season of Advent is known as a time of waiting, anticipation, and expectation.  Much like people waited on the coming Messiah Jesus to arrive, we wait today for the return of Jesus and his second coming that is spoken of in 2 Peter 3. The question for us should be more about how we wait than how long it is until that occurs.

In 1864, American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the poem which became the well-known Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  In that poem Longfellow shifts from the joy of hearing those Christmas bells to the reality of despair that still exists in the world.

He writes, “hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.”  In the final verse of the Christmas carol we are reminded that the Christmas bells bring renewed hope for peace in this world and in our lives through Jesus.  It says, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Peter reminds us that some day Jesus is returning to bring forth a new heaven and new earth.   He encourages us to not live in despair, but instead live with hope and faith that peace will prevail, wrong will fail, and the righteousness of Christ will be realized.  While we wait for that great day we are encouraged to grow in grace and peace, help others, and share the good news of Jesus.

In “Our Daily Bread” James Bank recently shared about how he ended up being the last one off of a flight recently because his overhead bags were in the back of the plane.  While he waited he decided to use his time to help others with their bags and children.  What a great example of how we can help to bring peace on earth in this time of waiting.  As Peter says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!”

Make it Personal:  How can you help in this endeavor to bring the peace of Christ into a world in despair?  Who do you need to extend grace to?  How can you help someone in need?  Where can you share the good news of the gift that Jesus gives to those who believe?   When these things become important to us, God’s peace becomes real to us.

Have a great week,  Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Wait For It

Read: Micah 7:1-7     

Wait for it… Wait for it… Wait for it… How many times have you watched a Facebook, YouTube, or other video and have heard these words spoken?  We live in such a busy culture that we have to be told to wait for the good part of the video or the punch line that is to come.  What it really comes down to is anticipation and patience.

That is what this season of Advent is all about.  In the weeks leading up to Christmas we anticipate the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth and also his second coming.  Along with that anticipation comes the need for patience.  In patience we find peace, we find calm, and we wait.  When we lack patience we become uptight, hurried, stressed out, and sometimes angry.

Pastor Calvin Emerson in his book on patience shares many stories from his experiences on the highway and in checkout lines at the store that have tested his patience over the years.  I think all of us could relate with some of his stories, but it begs us to ask the question.  Why is it so hard to wait?

The prophets in the Bible had long told about the coming Messiah, and yet the people had to wait hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  In Micah 7 we hear words of confusion, impatience, and pain, and yet in verse 7 he says, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”  He knew, in time, that God would deliver his people.

As I write this week I find myself in the midst of a very busy day in which the virtue of patience has been hard to grasp.  Perhaps I am writing to myself this week as much as anyone else?  But in the midst of my impatience today I hold out hope for a peaceful and patient Advent season ahead.  Let’s slow down, calm down, and wait patiently for what is to come.  A wonderful celebration of God sending his Son Jesus into the world to save us.  Tis the reason for this season!

Make it Personal:     Try to be observant in the month of December for times that your impatience is getting the best of you.  Instead of allowing those feelings to snowball into stress and anger, name them and ask Jesus to help you find the peace that this season is all about.

Have a great week everyone, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

Reasons to give Thanks

Read: 2 Chronicles 5       
November is a month that turns our hearts and minds toward Thanksgiving.  Yes, we should be thankful each month of the year, but following the Fall harvest, the décor and temps, and the many mentions of thankfulness, November is known for the giving of thanks.  However, just like every other month, November has its share of bad news and heartache as well.

Can we find reasons to give thanks in all circumstances as Paul speaks of in 1 Thessalonians?  Sometimes it depends on how we see things.  Pastor Tony Evans tells the story of a man who asked his wife if she would iron his pants for him.  As she ironed them she ended up burning a hole in that brand-new pair of pants that he had just bought.  The husband started to get angry, but then stopped and said, “Lord, thank you that my leg was not in those pants.”  Pastor Evans said, “There is always reason to give thanks.”

No matter what life throws at us, we can always find many things to be thankful for.  The key is focusing on the good and not letting the hard things consume our hearts and minds.  David wanted to build the temple for the Lord in the Old Testament but was told that he must wait and let his son Solomon build it.  Once it was finally built, the Ark of the Covenant was carried in and a great celebration took place.

It says in 2 Chronicles 5:13 that there was music, praise, and thanksgiving lifted to the Lord as that celebration took place.  It took patience, selflessness, and a right attitude on David’s part, so the Lord’s will could be accomplished.  The lesson from that story is that we don’t always see things as the Lord sees them (David died before the new temple was built), but yet we can always see plenty to be thankful for in this life (David gives thanks to the Lord just before he dies) 1 Chronicles 29.

Make it Personal:   As we enter into Thanksgiving this year try to focus on the many things you do have to be thankful for.  Don’t let the hard, difficult, and confusing things blind you from the many wonderful blessings you do have in life.  As the song says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one… and see what God has done.”

Have a great Thanksgiving,  Pastor Glen Rhodes

Those Who Come After

Read: Deuteronomy 6:4-18          

Did you know that you can get free TV?  In a recent Wall Street Journal article, it was reported that 29% of Americans were not aware that you can get local channels on your TV with just a simple antenna.  No cable, no satellite dish, no monthly bill.  Most of those who did not know this were under 30 years old.  They grew up in the satellite era and have been accustomed to paying (or their parents paying) for programming.

Last week I wrote about those who have come before us.  The 500-year anniversary of The Reformation has made us think of people like Martin Luther and others who have truly changed history.  Of course, no one has changed history like God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  He came to live, sacrifice his life, and be resurrected to save all those who believe in Him from sin and death.  This is great news that must be shared!

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 we are reminded of the importance of sharing this great news of Jesus and the things of God with the next generation.  This is how the Message Bible paraphrases those verses. 

“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

It’s too easy to go through life and forget to talk about the things that are really of utmost importance.  Another recent article stated that many children can identify Pokeman characters before they can identify basic animals.  It also said that 50% of High School students thought that Billy Graham preached the Sermon on the Mount.

We can’t be too hard on our children or High School students because it is up to us to teach these things to them.  As the verse says, “Get them inside of you and then get them inside of your children.” 
We must talk about them, teach them, and explain them to those who come after us.  We can’t assume that they will learn the important truths of life on their own.  Knowing about free TV is really not that big of a deal, but knowing about the life changing salvation and grace of Jesus definitely is.

Make it Personal:  If you are a parent or grandparent I hope you will personally make it a point to share your faith, your experiences, and your hopes with the younger generation.  The church can teach and reinforce those things, but it must begin in our homes.  “Train up your child in the way they should go…”

   Proverbs 22:6

Have a great week, Glen Rhodes, Arthur Mennonite Church

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