Imagine our world when there was no radio, television, internet, and only dim lighting at night. One form of entertainment was the everlasting invention of the picture book. The value of these books was the colorful images and authoritative text not always so easily or readily available. Our ancestors valued these books so much they passed them down to each generation. Unfortunately not everyone receiving these precious gifts appreciated them.
I recently acquired an antique German picture book presenting the story of the nativity. The cover was dirty and moldy from not being stored properly. Being the curious curator of the dumpster that I am, I brought it home in hopes to improve its appearance and extend its purpose of production.
The date of the book is not indicated but this publisher appears to have been in business during the early 20th century. The art work on the front cover with vines and flowers is characteristic of the Arts and Crafts period 1880 – 1910 so my guess is this book was produced somewhere during that time.
Here are photos before and after my restoration efforts.
The value of light in our world today is most likely a lot less than what it was in ancient Israel, only because we take it for granted. We have lights everywhere you go, except when you get out into the country or the wilderness. The absence of light essentially makes you blind. You can’t see. You feel insecure. You want to see. You are forced to rely on other senses like sound, touch, and smell. Only if you’ve recently experienced a black-out do you have an idea of what life was like before electricity.
Our gospel today presents the two blind men that are healed by Jesus. They both ask to be healed and Jesus asks if they believe He can heal them. Fortunately they have the right answer of “yes” and were healed. These men were in the dark but now they can see. They had faith they could be healed and they were healed. Their faith is now stronger and more genuine than before. Jesus is the light of the world and He gives it freely. Just do what the blind men did. They followed Him and then they asked Him for the healing.
Many cultures and religions understand the importance of light in our spiritual lives and acknowledge it with religious activities. We have the Diwali festival, Hanukkah, and of course Christmas. Do you need some light in your life? Only with light will you really see where you are and truly understand your current position. Advent is an excellent opportunity to let the light of Christ into your life. From a secular perspective we make New Year’s resolutions in January to better ourselves. For Christians we start the New Year with Advent and use the light of Christ to better our spiritual lives.
Like they say, hindsight is 20/20. If only I had known to do this or to do that, I would be so much better off today. The gospel today speaks of building a house and how it should be built on solid ground not sand. I occasionally hear of someone needing foundation work. They have cracks in their foundation or the house is sinking on one corner. Then, after a lot of work and a payment that is generally higher than what anyone would consider reasonable, the foundation is level and the house can be patched.
The message for today speaks of Gods ways as the foundation. God is that solid ground for the house, He is the rock. Not everyone is blessed with the best foundation at a young age. Sometimes it’s offered but completely refused because the youth is a suborned know-it-all. Others may accept the word and ways of God at a young age but leave it when they pursue life’s pleasures.
The season of advent is the time to allow the light of Christ into your life. Face God’s mountain, listen to his ways, and know that He offers a life and lifestyle for you that is better than any other. Storms will come and you’ll be a lot happier and more secure if you’ve already set up on the rock. If you need foundation work in your life, Christ will do it for free, just ask. Remember Matthew 7:7? Ask and it will be given to you.
We continue day 4 of advent with more from Isaiah and we hear more about the mountain of the Lord. In our world today we can view Jesus as the way to the mountain of God. When we walk in the light of the Lord we will find Jesus and we will find hope. Reaching the mountain requires faith and perseverance. Mountains generally appear as if they are easily within reach until you’ve walked or driven several miles, then you realize how small you are in comparison. Today we also hear about the miracle of loaves and fishes. God provided an abundance and the people were full. Let’s continue on our journey this advent toward the mountain of God where we will find steady ground and where our needs are met and there is still plenty for others.
Our readings for today speak of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. The Gospel shows Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit. Advent is the time to renew our life in the Spirit. We hear often at this time of year about someone being filled with the Christmas Spirit. Sometimes we hear someone say they’re just not in the Christmas Spirit. Is there some trick to getting the Spirit? Thus far in advent we’ve heard about faith and following in the ways of the Lord. I plan to take this advent one step at a time and start by simply reflecting on those times this past year when I exercised my faith and those times when I simply did not keep my eyes on Jesus and began to sink. Combining this with a reading of my Holy-GPS, I’ll know where I need to turn so I’m headed straight for God’s Holy Mountain. Will you join me?
Where do you go when you need help? The Roman Centurion with a sick servant, in Matthew 8:5-11, went to Jesus. Maybe you don’t have any servants, but I’m sure you have plenty of other people or things that you rely on like your car, mobile phone, PC, spouse, children, employer, etc. What do you do when something breaks down or someone lets you down?
Driving home on Sunday, the weekend after Thanksgiving, in the dark, during a rain storm, with lots of other weary travelers on the road, forced me to cry out to God. “Jesus – help us get through this storm and get home in one piece”, I prayed several times when I could not see the stripe on the road for all the rain on the windshield. Jesus was greatly impressed with the faith of the centurion. What would Jesus think about your faith? Do you trust in Jesus?
Let us continue this second day of Advent 2013 by contemplating daily life knowing that things break down and there are storms that we must endure until we get through them. Advent is a great opportunity for assessing our level of faith. It’s not hard to live in our society today and be in total darkness and never see Jesus. On the other hand, if you’re looking for some signs of hope when your servant falls ill, know that Jesus offers us hope for a healing.
Today is the first day of Advent and we start out with those words of warning, “…for at an hour you do not expect, the son of Man will come.” We also hear that “…you do not know the day or hour your Lord will come.” Wait just a second. Where is the light? Where is baby Jesus? Is this not supposed to be a kickoff to the happy time of year?
Unlike some congregations, those observing days of Advent see this message as one that makes you think about salvation and the mystery of life on earth with all of its challenges. The message for today includes God’s redeeming work in our lives. The first reading, Isaiah 2:1-5, speaks of climbing the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob. This is our invitation to be transformed and walk in the way of The Lord. We also hear in Romans 13 that it is time to put on the armor of light.
Jesus Christ is the light of the world and when we are transformed into his image we are a reflection of that light. Advent is the time to ask if we are shining the light of Christ or if we need some transforming? Let us begin this joyous time of year by venturing up the Lord’s mountain. Then, when we reach the summit, we will be warmed by the light of Christ and we will be sharing it with others too.
Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot is identified in the Gospel today, Tuesday of Holy Week, as the one who will betray Jesus. When Judas left the others at table, Jesus announces that where He is going, they cannot follow. Peter is disturbed by this and says that he will give his life for Jesus. Here is where Jesus makes the prediction that the cock will not crow before Peter denies Him three times.
What did you do to betray Jesus?
How did your betrayal make you feel?
Did you accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness through reconciliation?
What you must do is Love God with all your heart, strength, and understanding, plus love your neighbor like you love yourself. This is Jesus’ response to which commandment is the greatest. According to the Gospel you’re not far from the Kingdom of God if you believe these instructions. There is nothing else that you can do that is worth more than loving God and neighbor.
Good Friday is in three weeks. Now is a good time to reassess our commitment and dedication to worshiping God. Is our worship out of love of Him? Is our increase in religious activity during lent only temporary or will it make a real change of heart?
Healing is a result of loving God. Not only will we be healed but our relationships with others and our neighbors are healed as we reflect God’s love. Loving God with all our strength and soul and mind will allow us to see the world as the creator intended. What comes to mind now is the familiar verse “I once was blind but now I see”.
As we continue our journey this Lenten season, Jesus speaks of his path to Jerusalem and what will happen when he arrives. We are now starting to hear about the passion soon to come. Are we willing to go on the same journey? For Christ and others it was physical death. Today when we drink from the cup it does not bring physical death but perhaps death to an old self. The new self, will be of service through God to all in need. The Gospel reading today ends with the theme of Jesus coming to serve and not be served. The one who serves others will be the greater in the Kingdom of God. In days past our readings focused on doing good works and the reason behind them. Do we serve to be noticed or do we serve others because that’s just the natural thing to do as a disciple of Our Lord?