got it.

For the Lord has redeemed Israel from those too strong for them. They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts

The average temperature, that night, outside Bethlehem is forty-two degrees. Not exactly summer picnic weather. Shepherds never had an easy life. The average salary of a shepherd – while in that day there wasn’t any – and I’ll get to that – is today only $26,200.  That is less than half of the median household income. It is barely enough to cover housing and a little food. It is the definition of poverty.

I mentioned that shepherds in Jesus’ day did not really make a salary. They were typically elderly or younger family members who couldn’t be trusted in any other role. So they got to watch the sheep.

Cold, in poverty, unwanted and thought useless. They are who we celebrate today. We celebrate them because they were the first to see and get the message. They were the first to tell of it, to spread the Good News. God has entered the world to bring to fulfillment what He spoke through Jeremiah: I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.

This has been a strange Advent and Christmas season for me. A movie, a song – I’d find myself getting emotional. This holds a deeper meaning and lesson. God was teaching me a lesson.

We must never let the cold of the world, the constant just above freezing forty-two degree spiritual environment around us shut down the warmth of our hearts. If the cold of the world has gotten to us – today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let the cold win.

Are we impoverished and weakened, poor for want of physical, spiritual, or intellectual gifts? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let poverty win.

Are we unwanted, estranged, facing deep loneliness, rarely thought of, shuffled into the elderly corner or to the kid’s table? Today we must recognize and acknowledge that God’s got it. He will not let separation win.

We long for so many gifts, as did the shepherds on that hill.  We long as individuals, a community and neighborhood, and as Church. Suddenly, life was different and it IS different now because God’s promise is fulfilled- He has us.

Welcome to true

I love the LORD because he has heard my voice in supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me the day I called. For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Psalm 116 – words that cut so true today. They cut through the gloom and pain of isolation and loneliness. They cut away pain and hurt. They cut the entirety of negativity away so we can clearly see what God has in store for us. Yes, each of us!

So often we feel unworthy. How can God love me? Where is He in my life? I feel so alone and abandoned.

These are not just feelings, brief thoughts that pass through our minds and cast a shadow over our hearts. They can be a reality whether we live alone or with 2, 4, 6, or even 10 other people. They exist whether we work or are retired. Young or old, loneliness, despair, and disconnection are on the rise. Seventy-five percent of Americans admit to feeling a deep sense of loneliness. That isn’t a once-in-a-while thing. That is deep despairing loneliness. The number of Americans with no close friends has tripled since 1985.

That is what today, and frankly every Sunday, is about. It is about God’s house, His dwelling place, His family, His body. St. Paul often used the body as an analogy. If one part of the body needs help, we, the church, are to work together to save it.

Sunday is not just a momentary beginning – a few hour head start on the rest of the week. Sunday is the start of continuous action – to plug-in, to connect, to form and live friendships, to end loneliness and separateness.

In our Psalm, David finds God’s rescue. He sings thanksgiving in response to Divine rescue from mortal danger and from near despair. David knows God heard his cry. God freed him and David’s heart was filled with love – he saw and got it. God’s goodness made sense to him – finally. But David does more than sing.

In response to God’s love, David pledged and confessed faith. That is always the start. If you have never done that, pray along with me: Lord, I believe in You. I accept Your salvation and deliverance. I confess that I have sinned and done wrong before You. Cleanse me. I ask You into my life and acknowledge You as my Lord and Savior. You have been truly freed. Jesus will never leave you, nor will His Church, His people. Welcome to church!

Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday

Just say away!
Please don’t abandon me!

He remained outside in deserted places.

Jesus had just healed the leper who had begged Him for mercy. Jesus instructed the former leper to go show himself to the temple priests and to make the called for sacrifice. But now Jesus was in trouble.

According to Mosaic Law, Jesus could not go near anyone. He had touched a leper, and in the process had made Himself ritually unclean. According to the law, He had to stay away from people, had to be isolated, so that He would not contaminate anyone else.

Of course, Jesus was completely pure and clean, but He abided by the strictures of Mosaic Law.

Jesus came to us, not to be separated from humanity, but to be part of humanity. That meant He was subject to the same feelings, the same temptations, the very same things we face. So today, we learn about Jesus’ experience of isolation.

The whole point of Jesus’ isolation was not to show that He is like us in every way but sin, but to let us know that He is here, to this day, as the remedy and cure for our isolation.

God created us, each of us, to be social, to live in community, to be a real part of each other’s lives. We need people because God designed us that way. Recall what God says in Genesis: “It is not good for man to be alone.

Jesus calls us to repent and follow the Gospel, to fix relationships that are damaged and spoilt because of our own wrong actions and selfish behavior. He also wants us to know that the Father – the maker of the whole world – is a loving person, who desperately wants a relationship with us! It may be unbelievable, but it is true. God is not a power, a force, a feeling, or a distant angry ruler – He is a person, who wants to be a ‘friend who stays closer than a brother’. He is the ultimate Family, the real Lover, and the special Friend. What is more, He can give us a new power inside, to handle life, relationships and problems. He came to heal isolation, to end loneliness, and to be with us, even when we think we are so alone.