Several years ago, Betty Caramella gave me a box of ripe peaches and several blue mason jars. She was excited for me to see those mason jars filled with preserved fruit sitting beautifully on my shelves. She was right, those jars did look beautiful and the fruit was worth the effort. Each year as I pull down my mason jars to can the pears from my tree I think of Betty and her excitement over my beautiful mason jars filled with the blessings of God. A mason jar is a simple way to preserve the rich bounty of God’s blessings to us. Whether it is pickles, pear butter, or green beans, mason jars allow us to preserve and enjoy God’s blessings throughout the dark and cold months of winter. Opening up a jar and tasting the contents inside brings such rich joy. This Advent you are invited to prepare for the birth of Jesus through A Mason Jar Advent. This devotional is a way to make Advent simple and focus on what truly matters in life. Each day you will pull a tag out of the jar. The tags invite you into conversation or to take action. Pick up a Mason Jar Advent today in the Narthex (church entryway) or in the office. It is my prayer that you will be richly blessed through this devotional.
Over the past four months I have challenged you to take bite-sized steps towards inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service. This month is our final challenge: invite someone to a Christmas Eve service. Better yet, invite several people. Christmas Eve and Easter are the two times each year that people are most interested in attending a worship service, so go ahead and invite everyone to join us in celebrating the birth of our savior. As I write this article it is barely November (sorry for the late posting on my end from the web guy) and I will be leaving in a few short hours for the Holy Land. I will see where Jesus was born and the field where shepherds were first told the good news of Jesus’ birth. I will look to the stars at night and wonder at the star that led the Wise Men such a great distance to see a newborn king. What would have happened if no one had told the good news of Jesus’ birth? What if a star had not pointed the way? What if angels had not come to the shepherds or the shepherds had not gone and told Mary all the angels said? What if no one proclaims the good news for the world to hear? Throughout Advent we anxiously await the arrival of the greatest gift ever: the savior of the world. While the world is focused on Santa and extravagant Christmas spending, a newborn king enters the world in the most humble of ways. While the world hangs lights inside and out and dons their fanciest clothes, the true light of the world enters to vanquish darkness. While the season says to be happy and jolly, God’s son comes to give comfort and peace to those who feel alone, anxious, or depressed. The world needs Jesus just as much today as it did some 2000 years ago. So, go and tell that Jesus Christ is born. Go and invite them to hear the good news on Christmas Eve.
“Would you like to join me at church this Christmas Eve?” Invite someone you know to come to worship with you. This seems to be the most frightening invitation for many to make. Remember, the basis of our identity as people of God is our new life given to us in Jesus Christ. When we quit pushing that on others and simply be that through caring relationships, we reveal the love of God. And who knows? The neighbor you invited to church might just reveal something about God that you didn’t know before.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar — when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrach of Abilene — during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As 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 way Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rought ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'”
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnershop in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth insight, so that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes though Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a hord of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us — to show mercy to our fathters and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their ins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to this temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit like a refinerer and a purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have the men who will bring offerings who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world , for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things beging to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”
He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the tree. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
“I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.
How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.