By Claudia Mair Burney
Tuesday, the first week of Advent
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 8:8, TNIV
Few of us think deeply about how Mary’s acceptance of Jesus mirrors our own Christian lives, but all believers are meant to be pregnant with Him. After we receive Him into the womb of our hearts, we allow Him to grow by decreasing so that He can increase. But we can’t do this alone. We need grace in order to even begin to be diligent enough to assure nothing that goes into us that will harm the Beloved Child. Prayer, God’s Word, and Love of God and neighbor all nurture Christ within us, and having thus fed and strengthened Him, we may watch in humble wonder as He is formed in us.
Gracious Father God,
The humility of Mary, the mother of our Lord, seems so out of reach. She accepted you without hesitation, but when you want to come to me I’m tempted to look at my life first, to determine myself whether or not it’s good enough for you to enter into. Lord, I’m not wise enough to understand where You may wish to dwell, so give me the faith to say like the centurion, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the Word, and my servant shall be healed” And then I will say with great joy,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
Pray for the families of Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards, the slain Washington State police officers gunned down south of Seattle while sitting in a coffee shop. As I write this, police have surrounded a house where the suspect, Maurice Clemmons, is hold up. God have mercy!
Sometimes we pray because nothing else is worth saying, and no one but God can do anything. This is one of those moments. What about this horrible tragedy makes sense? Where is the justice and mercy and hope God promises? These are questions for God alone, and only he is able to make something redemptive out of this senseless tragedy for the families of these peace officers. That’s why we pray… Nothing else makes sense.
When horrible human events like this crash down upon us we have two options: We can turn on God or we can turn to God. We can blame and accuse and rail against him and hold him liable, or we can separate his heart from the vileness of those he has created and released to their own actions. In prayer we can make this choice, and ask God, without holding him liable, to do something good in response. That’s a choice we can make and prayer is the way to keep our sanity. Without prayer at such a time as this, I’d find no hope for the world…
Pray with me for the grieving, angry, confused families and friends of these public servants who have died senselessly in the line of duty.
“God this is your world. You have set the rules. You have created humans with the capacity to love but also to hate. We don’t understand why men and women do such evil, as the man who just gunned down police officers in Washington State. Still, here we choose to ask not ‘why?’ but ‘how?’ How now can you turn this disaster into something good? Through and past the pain these families are now feeling, reach your hand to show them love and comfort. Draw them toward you and don’t let them turn in anger from the only One who can heal their brokenness and pain. Be present for them. In the emptiness of their sorrow show them steady, faithful kindness. Through this season of hope, give them miraculous hope. We can’t see ‘how’ this can become something good, but you do. You do not will such tragedies, but yes, you can use them. We ask that you would bless the families of the slain police officers Mark Renninger, Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold and Greg Richards. Let your light shine in the darkness. Do not let that darkness overcome your presence! In Jesus name.”
By Claudia Mair Burney
Monday, the first week of Advent
“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you. But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will call him Jesus.” Luke 1:26-21, NRSV
Many Evangelical Christians are fond of saying they’ve accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. The words are often said fearlessly, and sometimes even proudly. How disconnected we can be from Mary’s awe. We can take a few clues from Jesus’ first disciple. She pondered Gabriel’s strange greeting perplexed, before she sat in amazement at his message. It was only then that she believed, even before she became Jesus’ mother. Without her exquisitely reverent hearing, believing, and then acting on God’s directive, Mary would have never conceived Him.
God of amazing grace, Am I really listening to you? And more than listening, am I pondering deeply what You’ve said? I don’t want to lose my reverence and devotion. Help me to know, always, that your indwelling presence is a gift. I did not, and could not earn it. Without Your enabling grace I could never have accepted Christ. Therefore, I must obey you. What good is a gift of such magnitude if I refuse to submit to your will? I pray that You’ll give me both the willingness, and the obedience of Mary, so that I may bear Christ faithfully, rather than abort His inner workings through my doubt and disobedience. “Come, Lord Jesus.”
By Claudia Mair Burney
The First Sunday of Advent
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14, KJV.
The word “advent” means “coming.” But the season is not merely a time to be marked off our calendars amid all our other holiday events. For what is this Advent but an invitation given to us from Isaiah’s prophesy: behold. Look at the miracle of the Incarnation. Christ put on the fragile garment of human flesh; He lived among us, being both God and Man; He suffered and died, and He promised to return. His coming, Advent, begs the questions, what does this mean to me? How do I behold Him?
As we pray through Advent, each week we will focus on one of four ways that Christ comes into our lives, beginning with His emergence into the world He created with a Word, as a helpless infant. May we watch and wait, and welcome Him with joy, allowing His presence to transform us.
My Father in Heaven,
Help me to slow down. So much is happening during the holiday season. I don’t want to miss You while I’m out shopping for gifts, going to parties, or even attending church to celebrate Your coming. I marvel at Your humility to leave riches and glory so profound I’m incapable of imagining them, for such a simple dwelling, the womb of a mortal woman. Give me the humility during this sacred time to reflect on my life, recognize my duplicity and, like your mother, open the whole of myself to You. Then I can watch and wait for Your salvation. Without you I can do nothing, including utter, with a since heart, the words that reflect the longing of the prophets,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”