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Far as the Curse Is Found by Kristin Wooldridge

Psalm 109:16-31
Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love.” (Psalm 109:26-27)

Oh, this hymn . . . Joy to the World. It is one that can be found on the tip of my tongue throughout the year. The feeling of joy and celebration is palatable. It has been a family favorite for generations and it stands the test of time. I remember singing it with my grandparents, parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and cousins in one long pew for Christmas services at our Missouri Synod Lutheran church near Liberty. The boisterous and booming voices raising together - - “JOY TO THE WORLD.” But just a couple lines later was the quieter mumbling of the confusing line - - “For as the curse is found.”

Why are we praising the joy of Christ in one breath and then mumbling about a curse? Well, like most hymns the rest of the story comes from circling back to the Old Testament. The curse is mentioned in Genesis 3:17-18. Here in Genesis 3, God told the first man that the ground itself would be cursed as a consequence of his sin. The hymn reflects the anticipation of the day when the blessings of salvation in Christ would overturn sin’s consequences.

So, Joy to the World is not only about the first coming of Christ, but the second coming. Here a hymn finished in 1719 still stirs us 299 years later. No matter the celebratory singing or the quieter mumbling, we can keep the faith that Christ has come, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again.

May we be joyful, thankful, hospitable and grace-giving all the days of our lives in praise of what Christ’s life has meant to us. Let us be a witness and a testimony of Christ’s ministry to include the marginalized, the widowed, the orphans and anyone poor in spirit and/or pockets.
Kristin Wooldridge

at Saturday, December 15, 2018
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Preparing a Way in the Wilderness by Ron Whited

Luke 3:1-6

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ (Luke 3:4)

As we think of the events of this year we are reminded that our country, world, and yes, sometimes we ourselves, are in the wilderness. The polarization in our society has created huge gaps everywhere, and at the very least, it is unsettling.

How refreshing it is to hear John prepare the way for us, creating a level field, straightening rough crooked roads, and pointing us to Jesus, our baby Saviour.

Is it possible that I can be a voice in the wilderness of today, just as John was in Jesus' day? I have the advantage of knowing the Story and its power to change lives. I know the Power Source and can allow His love to fill me as I make connections in my world. This works. How come I am often surprised (pleasantly, yes) when it does?

Over the years I have grown in my understanding of how God flows through me to touch the lives of others. Maturity has taught me that this process varies from person to person. God gave us a perfect example of this when He flowed into our world as a baby boy, touching all of humanity.

God, give us the grace to see others as you do; the courage to embrace them; the wisdom to follow your lead; and tour open love within us to make a difference.

Ron Whited

at Friday, December 14, 2018
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Memories and Gratitude by Eric Zahnd

Philippians 1:3-11

“Every time I think of you, I thank my God.” (Philippians 1:3)

I remember the Christmas when, as just a toddler, my grandpa carried me in his arms through a gathering at the North Side, people all around, bathed in the red, green, and blue of the Christmas lights.

The North Side was a café, situated on the north side of a rural town square. It was next to the Ben Franklin Five and Dime, where a few years later I would buy red licorice by the dozens for a penny a whip with my friend Tom. The North Side was just a couple of doors away from the Quality Shop, the men’s clothing store owned by that same grandpa and my Grandma Zahnd. 

Now I should tell you about the Quality Shop: The back room stuffed to the rafters with Levi’s 501 jeans and Big Smith overalls, the smell of denim infusing the room while my Grandma sorted through the jeans looking for just my size. 

Speaking of Grandma Zahnd, I might also mention the family photos taken every Christmas night in my grandparents’ living room. One of those photos captures me in Ernie and Bert mittens knitted by my Aunt Judy, that same year I got a really great Lego set.

Wait. That makes me think of more recent Christmases with my youngest son Luke, as we piece together a brand new Lego car each holiday (maybe an Aston Martin this year!).

Most of us have several happy memories of Christmas. And, if you’re like me, one memory will generate a flood of other recollections. My fondest memories are centered on encounters with family and friends I love and am fortunate to have in my life.

Paul was in jail when he wrote today’s scripture passage, yet he was filled with gratitude for his friends at the church at Phillipi who had worked with him to spread the Gospel. “Every time I think of you, I thank my God,” he exclaims.

As we recall the good news of Jesus Christ’s birth this Christmas, let’s take a moment also to remember the people who shape our lives for good, and thank God for them. We are Christ’s people; let us express gratitude for those who embody His love for us.

Eric Zahnd

at Thursday, December 13, 2018
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