Lessons in Wise Faith
“The Magi teach us true faith,” said Martin Luther. Given the obstacles they encountered, we would
understand if they had given up altogether!
First, the travelers were “off the mark,” coming to Jerusalem to seek a newborn king in a “royal palace”.
Then, directed to Bethlehem, the wise men found a sight “so utterly out of keeping with a king” — a poor
young woman and child, in a “poor hut” — that one might expect them to head straight home. “But”,
declares Luther, “with a great, strong and full faith they...follow the word of the prophet and the witness of
the star in all purity of heart, “ bowing to worship and honor the Savior.
—Based on Luther’s sermon for the Festival of the Epiphany (1522), Luther’s Works
making small talk at church about the weather or sports? Then follow
Edward Welch’s advice to “enter in” to the lives of your fellow worshipers.
A churchgoer once asked Welch, author of “Caring for One Another”
(Crossway), two simple yet profound questions: “What was the best
thing about your week, and what was the worst thing about your week?”
About a month later, when some issues were weighing heavily on Welch’s
heart, he wondered who’d be willing to pray for him. Immediately, the person
who’d asked him those two questions came to mind. When worshipers
are willing to enjoy one another’s blessings and be burdened by one another’s
difficulties, Welch says, the body of Christ gets built up.
A dove is a prominent symbol of the Holy Spirit. When the
dove is shown flying downward, it reminds us of Jesus’ baptism,
when, the gospel writers tell us, the Spirit descended on
him in the form of a dove. Doves also symbolize baptism in
general, because many Christian denominations teach that the
Holy Spirit and its gifts are bestowed at baptism. Sometimes a
dove is depicted with a three-ray nimbus around its head, indicating
that it is a member of the Trinity. Doves are also commonly used as a sign of peace.
by Phil Leftwich
Come, O Word, made flesh,
into our “dot com” world
with its noisy chatter of keyboards tapping —
hesitant fingers carefully seeking the crafted phrase —
the perfect, well-wrought word —
yearning for the unfathomable made fathomable,
the dues mysterium become hard reality;
in principio, the preface to the beginning,
where breath itself created all that is.
The Word breathes upon the face of the void —
the Hebrew ruach defining life —
the Greek pneuma presuming a Spirit —
your Spirit turned into flesh and blood,
full of grace and truth.
Lift us from the ordinary of ordinary time
into the domain of Advent
where the light shines in darkness
and darkness does not overcome it.
Lux lucet in tenebris —
words of hope against the shadows of early night
where winter’s solstice speaks of cold
and dying embers on the hearth of life.
Come, O Word, where hope resounds
in carol words expectantly sung
and the comfort of old, familiar tunes.
Sound afresh within our hearts the Word
that dwells among us, God Emmanuel,
stated irony of the living Word.
Come, O Word, into our “dot com” world,
and still our fears with your perfect word —
the “perfect love” that “cast our fear,”
that in your love we may abide.
Come, O Word, of perfect love,
into our Advent lives.
Prayer: Come, O Living Word, into our “dot com” world. Come in human forms and through human created
words that we may hear and understand who you are. Come in voices that sound above our clamor;
whisper softly in the night; and resound within our spirits. Come with the force of your love that is of God
who is love. Come and touch us; hold us; heal us, until we are fully yours. Come, O come, Emmanuel.
Kentuckians are More Religious than Most
The Pew Research Center’s most recent Religious Landscape study ranks all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia according to four common measures of religious observance: worship attendance, prayer frequency, belief in God and the importance of religion. According to this latest survey Kentucky is the 13th most religious state. Sixty-three percent of Kentucky residents say religion is very important in their life. Thirty-nine percent attend worship services at least weekly. Sixty-three percent pray daily and seventy-five percent believe in God with absolute certainty. Alabama is the most religious state while Massachusetts is the least religious state.
The Power of Weakness
In Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom describes traveling to Russia during the Cold War — when
Christians were being persecuted — to thank an old woman who’d been secretly translating Christian books
(including ten Boom’s). Ravaged by multiple sclerosis, the woman could move only an index finger. Yet
with it she typed constantly, translating words while praying for people who’d eventually read them.
Ten Boom’s reaction was, “Oh Lord, why don’t you heal her?” But the woman’s husband said God had a
purpose in his wife’s suffering. Although the secret police closely watched other Christians, they left this
woman alone, assuming she couldn’t accomplish anything.
Jesus works through our weaknesses, making his power perfect in them (see 2 Corinthians 12:9). He
doesn’t ask if we’re capable — only if we’re willing.
But What About Here?
At age 4, Anna was starting to make sense of prayer. Her parents had been praying
with her since birth, but now her developing cognitive and language skills caused her
to really ponder what prayer meant for her.
One night, after tucking her into bed and leaving the room, Anna’s dad heard her
voice. He paused outside the door to see if she needed something. But she was
speaking to her heavenly Father: “Dear God,” Anna prayed, “when is the best time
for me to talk to you? I mean, Mama and Daddy say I can pray anytime, and I know
you’re always listening. But when will you be listening especially hard in
—Adapted from The Children’s God, David Heller
Your morning shower can do more that cleanse your body. Retired Pastor Norman Neaves takes time to remember his baptism daily. “As the water is pouring down on me, I reach up and get water all over my hand. Then I close my eyes and make the sign of the cross on my forehead. ‘I have been baptized in Christ,’ I say to myself quietly. ‘This day belongs to him. I am called to be Jesus’ representative whatever I am doing and wherever I might go. Give me the grace, Lord, to represent you well and with integrity.’”