Saturday, December 28, 2013

Your Life Is More Important Than You Think

When we consider our role among the 7 billion other people on this planet, it would be very easy to have a low estimation of our value. What is one person among such a sea of humanity? Put in that perspective we feel pretty expendable.

About two thousand years ago a 12 year old boy from the rural regions of northern Israel went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. By all appearances he was just like any other 12 year old – excited to go to the big city and attend his first Passover celebration. He did cause some raised eyebrows at the questions he asked the religious scholars who would hold discussions in the Temple. But after that brief moment of attention, the boy went back home to the country and lived what some have described the common life as “a life of quiet desperation”.

Some 18 years later that same boy exploded on to the scene as a teacher and miracle worker. He spent three years traveling throughout Israel making the most outrageous of all claims: that he was the Messiah, God himself. He was put to death for those claims. But three days after his crucifixion he gave irrefutable proof that his statements about himself were not just empty words – he physically rose from the dead. This one person changed eternity for all people.

Jesus Christ said he was God in the form of a human being. His purpose in doing that is found in the cross and his resurrection. But what we often overlook are the 30 years he spent living like an ordinary human being, doing all the ordinary things of life. Was he killing time, waiting for just the right moment to execute his rescue plan? Did he need to learn something from us before he went to the cross? God doesn’t kill time and he certainly doesn’t need to learn anything from the people he created.

The thirty years of anonymous living demonstrates how God values what we call “common” or “ordinary”. Every daily activity: from work to family and friends to relaxation, when it is done God’s way has a divine purpose and value. Jesus Christ is not looking for any of us to change the world. He is rather offering us the opportunity to join with him on a daily basis in changing lives – one at a time. Can you put a value on that?

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Flicker of Christmas

Christmas is a flicker of hope as we trudge our way in a sin-darkened world.

The person cold, hungry, and lost in the wilderness on a dark night picks up his head at a glimmer of a far off light. He stares at that distant spot lest he lose track of where the brief flash came from. When it reappears, he hastens his step and lifts his hopes. The closer he comes, the more he focuses his eyes in the direction of the light.

He had feared he would have to spend the night in this dangerous place. He worried that he would never find his way out. He wondered if this is where his life would end.

But that flicker of light renewed his hope. Not just a chance that this would turn out all right, but the absolute certainty that everything would be all right! For you see, he had earlier been given a map with instructions. According to the map—and others had confirmed it—a house was waiting on the edge of the wilderness. Its windows were well lit, and the front door would be open. Inside would be food, drink, and friends. There, the once lost would be ever safe.

What we celebrate as Christmas is only a flicker of light from a far away place. It passes by quickly, and soon is again out of sight. Often the cares and fears and the “being busy” that are all around us blank it out. It’s as if we were trying to see a flashlight beam while looking through the tall reeds of a marsh. We think, “Perhaps the next time it comes around we will see it more clearly. Maybe it will come closer. Maybe we can make it out of this swamp!” We can only hope. But that hope is a solid one.

Perhaps this Christmas we can push away the obstacles and get a clear view. Maybe this Christmas we can pause long enough to stare at the wonder of the light, and catch hold of some of the music that drifts in on the wind. Just maybe we might think we see the shadows of some who dwell in the house of peace and joy. We already know the names of many of them. Some we have read about in a Book. Others, we have lived with, and loved, and then lost to the grave.

Had we come to this spot worried and fearful? Had we been tired and discouraged? Had we stuffed our rucksack with regret, and now wonder if there is any hope at all for peace and joy?

Have we not seen that flicker of light from on high? Have we not heard the song of the angels? Have our eyes of faith not peered in through the barn window to see the Christ-child?

And what was stacked behind the Bethlehem scene? Did we not see a cross beyond the manger? Did we not see an open grave? Did we not see the heavens open to receive its King?

Did we not hear the words: “I go to prepare a place for you”?

That’s the house of the lighted windows and open door! That’s heaven. That’s home.

Christmas is the flicker of light that lets us know what’s waiting. And each time Christmas comes around, heaven comes closer.

Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military

Friday, December 13, 2013

Joy or Happiness: Which Is Better?

What do you think about the following quotes concerning happiness?

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”
Gustave Flaubert - French Novelist

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”
Mark Twain

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”
Ernest Hemmingway

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
Charles Schulz

“Happiness is a warm gun.”
The Beatles

“Happiness depends on ourselves.”

Most people will choose happiness over joy because joy has a religious connotation which usually means some kind of good experience based on something to do with God rather than having fun. And to be honest, human beings would rather have fun than have God.
Glancing at the quotes above, however, shows that not only is there a great deal of confusion over a definition of happiness, but some thinkers aren’t even sure it is a possibility!
This Sunday marks the beginning of the third week of Advent – the week of joy. In Paul’s New Testament letter to a group of Christians in the Greek city of Philippi he talks about joy at length. What we discover from his letter is that joy centered on the Christ of Christmas beats human based happiness hands down.
Have you been chasing happiness only to come up empty handed? Maybe what you really need is joy – the joy of Christmas. Join us this Saturday evening (6:00 pm) or Sunday morning (10:00 am) for our weekend worship. You may just find what you’ve been looking for.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Open The Christmas Gift of Love: A Love You Don’t Earn and Can’t Buy

This coming Sunday brings us to the 2nd week of Advent and the lighting of the second candle on our Advent wreath. This candle represents the gift of love which Jesus Christ brought to the world when he entered our time and history more than 2000 years ago.

There is a very famous Bible passage which begins with the words, “For God so loved the world…” Christmas is the beginning of that history changing demonstration of divine love.

Love is hard to come by for most of people. It seems we have to either earn it or buy it. Maybe we don’t actually use money to buy love, but we make payments by doing nice things for the people by whom we want to be loved. Sometimes we even wonder if anyone really loves us for who we are rather than for what we do. How often don’t friends and family disappear when we can no longer offer what attracted us to them? It’s a hard lesson of life to learn.

Christmas love is so very different from the way people define love in our day to day living. It’s different because it’s God’s love. This Saturday evening (6:00 pm) and Sunday morning (10:00 am) we’re going to be comparing God’s love with the way we love each other. Please join us. You will find Christmas love is a gift worth opening, a gift that can make the difference in your life.

Hawaii Lutheran Church (WELS)

My photo
Honolulu, HI
Community Lutheran Church holds protestant chapel services in Honolulu, Hawaii near Pearl Harbor, HI. We are next to the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Hickam Air Force Base, and Fort Shafter Hawaii. Look for us directly behind the Salt Lake, Hawaii, Target.