I grew up in a family of three boys. As you can imagine we often had moments of messes and broken things. We wrestled on more than one occasion, and to be honest I am not sure how my brothers and I didn’t break more things. One day when I was probably 9 my older brother and I were playing with a large stuffed animal my younger brother brought home. We did our best WWF style moves and smashed around the family room. While doing this, one of us (I really can’t remember who) smashed into my moms lamp. You know the lamp. The one that was old and had a long family connection. As you can imagine the lamp was in many pieces. In fact so many pieces that we did what any boys do when they have broken something. We ran and hid. We pretended like we didn’t do it. Well mom came home and was upset. No amount of super glue could put it back together. She was disappointed in her boys and quite angry.
Then it happened. You know who came home next. It was Dad. Dad came in the room. He saw what happened and sat all three of us on the couch. I really thought I wasn’t going to make it to my next birthday. He looked at us and said boys this cant be fixed. He didn’t yell in fact he had a large amount of calm. I really was surprised because dad could fix anything. Even he couldn’t get out enough glue and fix it, it would never be right. Instead he did something shocking to us. He went to a special store to buy a new piece. It was quite expensive. For the time over $200 to fix and for our family it was a lot. As a parent I think about how I might have had my boys chip in and help pay for it, but he didn’t. He went and just paid for it himself and mad the lamp new.
As we begin Lent I was reminded of this story. Today is ash Wednesday. It is a day we have ashes put on our forehead to remind us we are dust and to dust we shall return. It is a day to remember the mess we have made of our lives. It has been a mess made from the beginning of time and we as God’s people continue to move and make a bigger and bigger mess. We are marked as people who are a mess. God didn’t leave us in this broken mess. He didn’t just take out some super glue to put us back together. He did something far better. He sent His Son Jesus to be with us and to pay our price. If you go to service today you will have ashes on your forehead to remind you of both these facts. You are broken beyond repair. You are Dust…and to Dust you shall return. The cross reminds us Jesus doesn’t leave us that way. He pays the price and makes us completely new. So on this Ash Wednesday as we consider our sin and brokenness may we be reminded that Jesus has paid through the cross to make us new.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam[c] named his wife Eve,[d] because she would become the mother of all the living.
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side[e] of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
I have a confession to make. I know many of you will be shocked by this, but I am a thief. Every year around this time, I go around my house and take all the Wise Men. I also take them from church if I see them and they can be removed. You might be thinking, “How can you do this? Steve, why would you do such a thing?” Well, let me tell you it is something I have done for the last 25 years and it has a purpose.
Many people don’t know or don’t remember that at the Nativity the Wise Men weren’t there that night. In fact, they did not arrive until Jesus was at least a year old. (Matthew 2:1-12) The only people who visited the young couple that night were the shepherds – the lowly people who were outside of town in the fields, watching their sheep. The Magi were important, but they didn’t come until later. So why steal them?
Well, I actually don’t steal them. I just move them. I move them around my house or around the church. I do it for two reasons. First, I want it to be more biblically accurate. Too often I think Christians may not fully know the story of Jesus. We take it for granted and teach our kids the wrong story. This can be a challenge for kids as they grow up, when they think they were lied to or tricked. Second and more importantly, the Wise Men came during Epiphany. The story of the Wise Men is about a group of people outside the promise of Abraham receiving the promise of Jesus. It is a story worth telling. We celebrate it in the Church 12 days after Christmas. So this year if you come to church and find the Wise Men missing, just know that I or someone else may be trying to teach a lesson.
(P.S. – This year at church, I convinced the pastors that I should be able to move the outside Wise Men around the campus before Epiphany. So if you are around St. John, drive by and see if you can find them. They will travel during all of Advent and make their way to the house on Epiphany.)
I will be honest. I am ready for Jesus to come back. This has been a rough year. This has been a year of anger, and hate. It has been a year of broken promises, divorces and all sorts of pain for many of us. It has been a year with very few moments of joy, and lots of moments as a parent trying to move our family forward. Sometimes it feels like we just have to ignore all the things we missed or weren’t the same. Even as we approach Thanksgiving, and plans change, I am looking at the one thing that helps me deal with all of this. I want to look at the promise of Jesus. Advent is a time to remember Jesus coming the first time, while also looking for His future coming.
I don’t know about you but I have really struggled to stay in the Word this past number of months. With School starting and the new rhythms of life being just as busy, I have found myself struggling to read through the scriptures this year. So as I get ready for Advent this year I decided I am going to read through Isaiah. It is 66 chapters about God’s people, judgement, and the promise of a Savior. I need that reminder.
God’s people waited for generations for his coming the first time. They went through trials, and tribulations during those times. God always provided a time for when he would come and be with them. We also wait for Jesus to come again. If you want to join me in reading through I Isaiah i made a reading plan for myself. I pray this may help us all find hope in His promises.
Most of us will post on social media that we have voted. This is a very important part of our country. In fact it might be the most important thing we do as citizen of this nation today. It is integral part of helping shape our nation. But it is not the most important thing you can do today.
The most important thing you can do today is love your neighbor. This is in fact the most important thing you do everyday. If all you ever did was vote you would miss out on the ways we can serve those around us. Jesus never said to vote. In fact Jesus avoided the politics of the day at every turn. He did however call all of us as Christian to love our God and love our neighbor. That might start with your vote but it shouldn’t end there.
Our part is to be kind to our neighbors who are sad at the outcome of an election. To help our neighbor who is struggling with illness. To help our neighbor who is hurting at the loss of a loved one or hurting because they lost their job. When I serve my neighbor, I am serving my lord. The one who first served me. So today go out and vote but don’t forget to serve those in need today. It is the most important thing we do everyday.
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.