Today’s reading from Luke 2:22-40 narrates adoration of Jesus by two elderly persons, Anna and Simeon, who were wrapping Jesus in great expectations. Speaking of Great Expectations, that’s the title of Charles Dickens’ hallowed, 1861 novel, whose central character is an orphan child named “Pip.” Jesus and Pip have something in common, including an adventurous life amid many colorful characters and situations. In some similar sense, Anna and Simeon in the biblical text remind people of faith how wonderful can be the great expectations of God’s blessings, which can bring joy to faithful people of all ages (and despite the hardship of age and fragility).Read More →

God bless you on this marvelous Christmas Eve. Prepare for the Christ child to inspire and empower you this season and beyond. Amid the holiday cheer looms a relevant and serious question: Do you have a [spiritual] life? Christmas is the time when people often focus on birth, including the manger scene with the baby Jesus and all the pastoral trappings of his ancient family. Even more so in the here-and-now, God wants everyone to embrace the wonders of spiritual life that Jesus’ birth represents. Are you ready for a decisive spiritual transformation?  What better time than now to embrace rebirth, renewal and restoration. Jesus’Read More →

Today’s lectionary message from John 1 continues to emphasize John the Baptist’s unusual role. The sense is that John is proclaiming an attention-demanding message as a prelude or preparation for whom he describes as the true Messiah (i.e., Jesus). John the Baptist’s exuberant announcement of Jesus aligns splendidly with the Advent theme of joy. We may never know for sure just how much of an impact John had on the Judaism of his day. Nonetheless, there was something significant in John’s message and methods because the Bible suggests that John was a public sensation, a messenger of God whose form of baptism and repentance attractedRead More →

Today’s selection from Mark 1:1-8 presents John the Baptist. Surpassing his well-known title, John is more than just a historical curiosity. In the context of the gospel story, John is interpreted as a transition to Jesus. “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way. . . ‘ “ (Mark 1:2b). In their looking back, it is likely that the author(s) who collected and wrote Mark perceived John as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. John’s distinctive teachings may have been interpreted as paving the way for Jesus’ Gospel. What is John’s background?Read More →

Today we highlight Jesus’ talk about a universal cataclysm which will end history (Mark 13:24-37). It’s challenging to wrangle such a depressing topic into hopeful holiday cheer. There’s only so much that can be done to transform the last judgment of death and destruction into an uplifting message. What drives some peoples’ preoccupation with catastrophic biblical prophecies? Financial gain and a morbid fascination with enemies’ destruction feed some of the end-time mania. Sensationalist captains of the apocalypse industry create a self-justifying enterprise that builds egos and bank accounts. The culmination is that the horrible end of history has grown into a lucrative endeavor and aRead More →