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January 10

O Lord, I will praise you; though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. Isaiah 12:1

God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 5:9

Chapter 12 of Isaiah is titled “songs of praise” as the people anticipate the good things that will come to them from a God who loves them. There are two of them, each a few verses long.  In verse one it is probably the whole nation of Israel that is praising the Lord. They have been through all kinds of calamities and are anticipating their deliverance from their enemies. God had every right to be angry with them. They had managed to ignore the laws given them, to worship idols and basically ignore the God who had been with them and made them a nation. In Isaiah chapter 9, God is angry and they hear all the things that will befall them.

Yet through all of this there is an undercurrent of deliverance, of restoration. These are the verses about a child being born, a branch of Jesse that will spring up. These verses include many of the verses we have just heard during the Christmas season; God’s promise of a savior to be sent to all the world.

And this is for all the world, all the people, all the nations, even those that were enemies of Israel.  They anticipate God’s anger being shifted to other countries, to destroy their enemies. But that is not the long term plan. God already had in place a plan of salvation that involved sending His Son as our savior. Though He certainly had reasons to just turn away in anger that is not what happens. God did not create us just to condemn us, rather He wants us to be saved and live with Him forever. We receive this salvation through Jesus Christ, nothing that we can do to earn this; it is totally through the grace and love of God.

All praise and glory to you, Lord, our source of salvation, thank you, Lord, for our salvation. We are humbled, knowing that your anger has been turned away from us. You overwhelm us with your grace and forgiveness. Our joy is magnified as we know you love us unconditionally.  Comfort us in our doubts. Open our eyes to recognize your spirit in one another. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen
Chris Gabel

January 9

My dwelling place shall be with; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37:27

And I saw the holy city; the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among the mortals.” Revelation 21:2-3

Home sweet home is always there deep inside the heart of every living individual. There is a difference between a house and a home. Home is not about the bricks and wood used in the buildings. A home is full of life; it can be a cottage, a tent, a palace, a bungalow, or an RV. Just because you own a bungalow which has no occupants except for s piders and termites, you won’t call it a home. On the other hand, if live in your car, or tent or RV, you just might call that home. A home in England is different from a home in India, and a home in Africa is different from one in Russia. Even in your own neighborhood, homes are different.

Minnesota is my home; it is also home to many people of different nationalities and cultures. It is a place where you can feel safe, where you have the freedom to pursue all your goals, and where the people and  communities are made up of a diverse range of different cultures and backgrounds. Is it any wonder that so many people around the world would also want to call the United States and Minnesota their home?

Many people such as asylum seekers and immigrants are all examples of individuals and families who seek a new and better life. We take it for granted that we actually have a place where we can fulfill our basic needs, as well as be surrounded by family and friends. Where we have the freedom to pursue those dreams and work towards a better life. Those who seek asylum, immigrants who travel the seas, are looking for a refuge, a place of safety – a new residence they can call home, come here to a place where they don’t have to wonder whether they will see their family and friends the next day, or wonder what dangers are lurking behind the next corner. A safe place to call home.

And…….we are not alone; God is telling us that wherever He is, that is our home. In the RV in Arizona, in the tent in India, in the small cottage in England, in our living rooms, where ever we are, all we have to do is ask God to be there, and He will be there for us and for always.

“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. ”John Howard Payne (1791-1852)  

Thank you, Emmanuel, for your steadfast tenderness toward me, toward us, your wayward and faithless people. Your deep mercy will create us anew, person by person, until all the world proclaims your kingdom come as your will is accomplished. Forgive me for doubting you. Dwell in my earthen heart this day. Amen

Susan Hanson

January 3

Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7 

My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 

Psalm 116 is a Psalm of Thanksgiving – for delivery from death, and was perhaps used in the Jewish liturgy to reflect delivery from bondage in Egypt. Verses 1-6 are full of thanksgiving – the author loves the Lord who has heard his voice, he listened, and saved him. Then the Psalmist goes on to say that the Lord is full of compassion and protects the simplehearted.  Then we have verse 7 – a reminder that the soul, the person, can be at rest and at peace. God has been good to us, and He will continue to be good to us as we go through our lives. 

As we start out on a New Year, we may have lots of reasons to be concerned. The past is not always past for us, we keep thinking about it rather than focus on the opportunities of the year ahead. We tend to be troubled rather than at peace. Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians with the reassurance that his God, our God, will be there with us at all times. Just as the gifts from the community to Paul have been an “ample supply” so too will God fully meet their needs as shown in the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ. God will abundantly supply all of our needs. As we go hopefully into this New Year, we can rest assorted in His continual presence, guidance and love. 

Jesus himself told this to the Disciples — Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28We are promised Refuge, rest, comfort.  Our burdens whether heavy or light have been taken care of. We have a place we can go at any time for rest until we achieve our final eternal rest in Christ Jesus. 

Heavenly Father, your presence is always with us. When we are lonely, you offer companionship. When our bodies and souls are weary, you offer refreshment. May we follow your example as we take the time to rest in your Word. Help us to depend on you for all of our needs. To you be all the glory. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

December 29

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
The good news is proclaimed to the poor. Matthew 11:5 (NIV)
Each day we hear anew of the strife and conflict within our world. Often, we feel helpless to even comprehend the magnitude of the suffering there is in too many places. God knows our limitations. Each one of us has only so many abilities to tackle these issues. As we continue to grow our faith in him, he will guide us to do our part in his mighty plan for his world. He knows our abilities and has a plan for each of us. 
We offer what we can do in many ways right here in our Christ the King faith community. When we attempt to list what many in our church are doing, we are amazed at the number of ways our ministries positively affect thousands, both near and far. I think of the day a delivery person stopped by Christ the King and asked for a tour of our church. I did the honors, and when we arrived at the sanctuary the quilts made by Christ the King’s Monday quilters were still on the backs of the pews. I explained the CTK quilting program to the fellow who then replied with a catch in his voice something like, “Do these people know that their quilts may help people all over the world?” He was touched and amazed. This one program gives warmth, warmth not only to those who receive the quilts, but also warmth to the support and fellowship shared among those who quilt affords. This is just one example of the many ways each one of our efforts, no matter how small they may seem to us, reach out to bring good news and service to God’s children, our sisters and brothers in Christ.
Dear Lord and Savior,
Help us, Lord, as we strive to make this world a better place. Help us to continue to grow our faith and trust in you to let you accomplish all that you can through each one of us. Make our hearts contrite so our world may be better and your glory revealed. Thank you for the love that you have for each one of us. Amen.
Florence Smallfield

December 28

“He grants peace within your borders.”  Psalm 147:14

“Christ is our peace.”  Ephesians 2:14

Awhile back we visited an exhibit at the Swedish Institute – “Where the Children Sleep.”  Swedish photojournalist, Magnus Wennman visited refugee camps and photographed children sleeping – or waiting to.  These young people, with no control over their circumstances, could be our own children/grandchildren … but for sleeping in shabby tents, in the forest, some on concrete … no peace within the borders they were fleeing, not much welcome or peace for them within new borders either.  Joseph and Mary fled with their young son for safety in Egypt.  Were they rejected and scorned?  Did they hear “Send them back?”

In a time of cold war and nuclear weapons race bravado, John Kennedy said, “… Is not peace basically a matter of human rights – the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation – the right to breathe air as nature provided it – the right of future generations to a healthy existence?” 

Peace is more than not war.  People become anxious about something – career choice, health care costs, a comfortable retirement.  There is mistrust of strangers, bickering and estrangement within families. I recently heard a discussion on public radio about Americans’ obsession and stress over finding “happiness” which many feel comes with material possessions and comforts, rather than living with a purpose of feeling worthwhile to others and spirituality. 
In all the mix of anxiety to have and will to control, Jesus Christ, our Prince of Peace, came to live with us, to teach us how to love, to live with purpose, to recognize suffering and to act, to take care of the earth, to reflect God’s grace and mercy, to be at peace with each other.

“May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)  Amen

Verla Olson

December 27

A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench. Isaiah 42:3 

This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. Luke 2:12 

Our church has a wonderful service on December 21, the longest night of the year, sometimes referred to as “Blue Christmas.”. This service is contemplative, with time for prayer, lighting candles ad talking with a pastor. It is a time for hearing the Christmas story even if a person is not feeling very Christmassy. People are often hurting at this time of year, it may not be the festive season for all as a variety of memories surface and bring sadness. Perhaps these are people that might be referred to by Isaiah as bruised reeds, or with dimly burning wicks, people that the world might not treat so well. How wonderful to hear the message and realize that no matter how dark, the light of the world has come, already, to all of us. 

Isaiah writes of a servant that will be coming to us. This is how God will approach people – not as some mighty king arriving with a group of warrior angels but rather as a servant. He will not try to break a weaker person, or hurt someone who’s barely keeping it together. Rather, as the rest of verse 3 says “In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; “The note in the NIV study Bible refers back to Psalm 72:2, 4. “He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy.” 

We have just celebrated how God came to earth to do just that. He came as a child, born to an unwed teenage mother who gave birth in a stable. An angel appears before shepherds watching over their sheep with the great news of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.. What are the shepherds to look for? Not a king, or even a child in a beautiful setting, but a newborn child wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger. Then more angels appear as well to praise and glorify God. The angels are messengers of a loving God who has sent His own Son to be a servant and savior for all of us. This is not a message for just one day of the year, but one that we can repeat and experience every day of our lives. 

God who came, who comes, and who is to come, find your resting place in the manger of our hearts. Abide with us and let us find our abiding place in you. Let your birth story become a home for so we may live for the day when everyone will know your great mercy and love. In the name of the holy child of Bethlehem, Amen. 

Chris Gabel

December 22

Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord, and turn away this day from following the lord.  Joshua 22:29

In Emmaus the disciples said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.  Luke 24:32-33.

How is it that we stay in the faith?  Certainly not by doing good works or by going to church every  Sunday or by praying or by bible study.  Those things are good but they won’t get us to heaven by themselves.  How long does it take us to realize that God” grace is free and undeserved?  And how hard is it to know in our hearts that God is with us always?

When we are feeling lost and alone, God is there.  His hand is reaching out here, there and everywhere. His love envelops us if only we could feel it.  But feeling it is not always the answer.  We who believe must know it in our hearts that the Lord does not leave us.

Christmas is close now.  The joyous celebration begins.  Even if we do not feel joyous because of the cares of the day,  we can find within ourselves a deep seated joy that reflects our understanding of the Christmas gospel.  As we sing, let the words ring true for each of us.  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”.

Holy God,  the cares of this world sometimes overwhelm us. But we know of your overwhelming love. Help us to share and to remember all of our blessings.   Amen

Joan Perlich   

December 21

I hope for your salvation, O Lord. Psalm 119:166
It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he came into the temple. Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms and praised God. Luke 2:26-28
We are blessed by the promise of life, because God assured us that his son is the fulfillment of that promise. No matter our circumstances, we know that God is providing grace and forgiveness through the birth, death, and resurrection of his only begotten son.
Think about the fact that thousands of babies are born into this world each day. Even though most are welcomed, loved, and are the joy of their families, there is only one baby born whose birth is so universally celebrated year after year. Even those of other faith traditions know of Jesus’ birth. His birth fills we who believe with hope, love, and anticipation of our own salvation.
William C. Dix said in his hymn, What Child Is This, “…The King of kings salvation brings; Let loving hearts enthrone him…” Simeon was among the early people who was privy to the revelation by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before His own death. The joy in Simeon’s heart still rings out to our hearts these many years later.
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
Even in the bleak mid-winter, no matter what besieges our days and hearts, we live in the promise of grace. Let each of us rejoice in this promise just as Simeon did so long ago.
Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
What a wonder you are Lord, that you bring us promise and hope in the midst of all of our circumstances. Thank you for allowing us to see your light and to be alive. What blessed peace it is to hear the message of the Gospel promise and to believe in your grace and forgiveness. Amen.
Florence Smallfield

December 20

There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. Daniel 2:28 

The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is! or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you. Luke 17:20-21 

King Nebuchadnezzar has been having some very interesting dreams. They are troubling and also keep him from sleeping (not sure how he manages to have the dreams then.)He has no idea what they mean; his advisors are of no help either. Of course the king does ask them to tell him the dream and then interpret it. The advisors are perplexed as they expect to hear what the king has dreamed, and then come up with their explanation. Their comments are interspersed with praise, such as “oh king live forever. We can guess how favorable to the king the dreams interpretation would be, if only he would tell them what he is dreaming about. 

Then Daniel, who has already heard from God about the dream and what it means, is summoned before the king. Daniel tells the king that no human can interpret the mysteries in the dreams that the king has experienced. Yet, God can do this. He is the only one who can explain the mysteries. These are described as secret knowledge revealed only to His chosen prophets. Daniel then proceeds to tell the king what the dream was and what it meant. Not such good things to hear, but a true prophecy about what it to come. 

In the same way we encounter mysteries in the Gospel. Jesus says we do not know the Father’s mind, we can’t know the hour when the kingdom of God is coming. But then he says something interesting, “the kingdom of God is among you.” This is not some big spectacular kingdom we see this is Jesus among us. He came to earth to be among us at Christmas, lived as a human, and died for us. The kingdom is here right now. 

Daniel too tells us of God’s kingdom, one that is here and everlasting: His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:14

This is more than we can truly grasp – God is everywhere, and will be there throughout all of time. The kingdom of God is eternal. No matter what, it cannot be destroyed. What comfort this must have brought to those addressed in the book of Daniel. What comfort to us as we see all the things in our world today that seem to not be God’s kingdom. We just need to remember that we are part of the kingdom, with a loving savior always with us. 

God, I believe you are here in the midst of every circumstance of life and in every common or uncommon part of creation. Help us to be wise and listen for your word. Help us not to seek you in extravagant places or experiences, but to walk with you in every moment, whatever comes, in the assurance of your steadfast promise of love, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Chris Gabel

December 19

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

The night is almost gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12

I love Christmas….the lights, the pageantry, the songs, the anticipation…Advent, a promise of something wonderful to come.For Christians, that something good is God-with-us, Jesus, born of Mary, the Rose of Sharon, as the medieval theologians would say. He comes to us in a feeding trough surrounded by peaceable animals. The sick and outcast come to him. The poor adore him. He is a well of living water in the human desert. He turns that water into wine of endless supply. He multiplies loaves for us in the wilderness. Jesus is for us the graceful well-being promised from of old. And in his presence, as sign and proof that this is the handiwork of the compassionate God, there is singing.

“Gloria in excelsis Deo!” sing the angels to announce his birth. Glory to God in the highest heaven! Everything makes music. And we do too. Our singing is a gift. It is also (to steal a line from Frost) “a momentary stay against confusion.” For when we gather together, we don’t come alone. Along with us come also the power struggles of spouses, the resentments of children, the toxic waste of landfills, the gunfire of our streets, and the injustice of our economic system. When we gather together, the world is always with us. And in these circumstances, and because of all the odds arrayed against Advent’s beauty and promise, we have no choice but to sing. As people of God’s song we are compelled to believe that sooner or later, the tireless rendition of our singing generation after generation will so bewilder the enemies of love that they will have no choice but to give up and turn themselves in. Sooner or later, a crack of light will appear under the locked door of life, and the door will fly open. Sooner or later, the song will be on the lips of all creation, and God’s hope for the world will come true. When we sing we feel the world we can only imagine. Sing as if you believe that at the sound of our songs, one more generous heart will embrace a stranger. Sing as if you believe that by singing, one day the only sound in the whole creation will be a melody of delight – God’s delight in us, and ours in God.Sing, heavenly bodies in your orbits, stars in your exploding light. Choirs of angels, sing. Sing, a song of healing, a song of resistance, a song of peace. Sing, all the earth, and praise His name.

Lord, I praise and thank you for your wondrous ways. You are light and life to me. I claim this day for your glory. May each moment be a gift from your hand lived in the light of your truth, and song. Amen.

Peace,Susan Hanson
p.s. I wrote this a couple of years ago, but it is still rings true today.