Top 10 Reasons You’d Never Make It As An Angel. (And one good reason to try)

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An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.   –Luke 2:9-10

TOP 10 Reasons Why You’d Never Make It As An Angel.

Ready?

No. 10  No halos, and no harps.

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That’s right.  If your incentive for being an angel is to acquire some celestial fashion accessories, you can stop right there.  The Bible makes no mention or halos, and of the 49 references to harps, none of them are played by angels.  It’s not a thing!

No. 9  Wings are…kinda weird.

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Wings are rarely mentioned in connection to angels, but Seraphim and Cherubim are described as mystical creatures with LOTS of wings.  Not exactly the lounging on a cloud image we’re used to.

No. 8  Sorry, ladies…

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The angels we read about in the Bible all appear to be men.  Of course, a couple thousand years could have changed the requirements.  The men are often portrayed wearing simple clothing, unlike Mr. Studly, above.

No. 7  You probably won’t get famous.

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Unless your name is Michael, Gabriel, or Lucifer, you’ll likely go anonymous.  Those are the only Angels named in the Bible.

6.  One word:  Drones.

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I’m just saying…the friendly skies are a bit less friendly these days!

5.  The Heavenly Host may not be what you think it is.

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The phrase “Heavenly Host” refers to an army!  The angels were God’s special troops, out on patrol.  So think twice, before you enlist!

4.  You have to work nights.

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So did the shepherds, come to think of it.

3.  THE ANGELS DIDN’T SING.

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That’s right.  No singing. But what about all our Christmas songs?  Have we been lied to? Well, in the Bible the scripture goes like this:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,   “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  –Luke 2:13-14

Catch that?  Saying, not singing?  That one really bothers me.  When you get the whole Heavenly Host together for an announcement like this, I think there should be singing!.  (Sorry, I’m not giving up “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”.)

2.  Let’s face it:  You’re no angel.

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We tend to ascribe a certain level of holiness to the Angels, don’t we?  Well, would we be good enough to be one?  I don’t know.  I’ve done a few devilish things in my life.

And the number one answer why you’d never make it as an angel.  (Drumroll…)

No. 1.  Their primary job is telling the Good News to absolute strangers.

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Most of us tend to be weak in that area.  We have trouble talking about it with our friends and family!  Until we can learn to share our faith more fully, we’ll probably fall a little short in the Angel department.

BUT…

Here’s one angelic thing we CAN do this season.  We can keep four special words on our lips.  And they are…

do not be afraid

Those 4 words, “Do not be afraid”, show up again and again in the scriptures, and in the Christmas story, it’s the angels who deliver that message.

Do Not Be Afraid.  How powerful are those words to hear?  We live in a world that is paralyzed with fear this year.  It threatens to block our experience of Emmanuel, God With Us.

Let me ask you this:  If you can hear those four words and believe them, then could you take on the role of a Christmas Angel, and pass them on to someone else?

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If we can make that our task these next days, I think there may be hope for us yet.  Not to become perfect Angels, but to become true agents of Christmas.  Messengers of Good News.

That’s it! May the season bless you richly for who you are,

and who you aspire to be.

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Have a great week,

Mitch

 

 

Surprise! 4 Days Until Christmas!

 

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“But about that day or hour no one knows… –Matthew 24:36a

At a press conference today in Nazareth, Archaeologist I.M.Fixion holds up a fragile set of scrolls, and makes the following announcement:

“These scrolls were recovered from an ancient rubbish heap outside of Nazareth.  They have been dated to somewhere around 10 a.d.  They appear to be a stack of birthday cards…to Jesus.

“That’s right.  These are cards written to Jesus on the occasion of his surprise 10th birthday party.  One is from an aunt Elizabeth, some are from a bunch of shepherds, and even some very expensive cards appear to come from distant royalty.

“Of course, this is a find of extreme importance, but there’s more.”  He gestures to several of the pages.  “The cards all list the date of Jesus’ birthday.  Adjusting for changes in calendar and so forth, there can be no doubt.  Jesus was born…

“On December 8th.  Thank you.”


 

Surprise! CHRISTMAS IS IN 4 DAYS!

Jesus may (or may not) have had a surprise 10th birthday party, but his birthday has never been a surprise for us.  There it sits on the calendar, bottom of December, circled in red and green.  We know what’s coming, we make our lists, we plan it out.  No surprise.

But what if Christmas showed up unexpectedly, say, on December 10th? What if there wasn’t enough time to do all the million and one holiday traditions we’ve laid out over the course of our lives?  What if Christmas came as a surprise, leaving us to celebrate without all the boxes in our garage, or all the excess baggage in our hearts?

If you had to celebrate the birth of Jesus right away, how would you do it?

Here’s what I think I’d do:
I guess I’d pray.
And give some $ to the church or a charity.
And volunteer somewhere.
And call my family.
And go to church.

What would you do?  In the face of a surprise Christmas, maybe we’d have to let the other stuff go, and focus on what’s most important.  Remember, Jesus doesn’t really need tinsel, or a plate of cookies, or a bunch of parties, or even an overpriced birthday card. If a simpler, more spiritual Christmas celebration sounds as enticing to you as it does to me, maybe we can dial back a little on the pomp and circumstance, and surprise Jesus with an Advent filled with meaning.

This year, for Jesus’ birthday, all he really wants us to send him is our attention, and our devotion.

Those are the real Hallmarks of a Merry Christmas.

Have a great Advent,

Mitch

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O Come, O Come, To Manuels.

 

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Sadie and Wayne Palmer (my in-laws), with my wife Jan.

 

Taste and see that the Lord is good -Psalm 34:8a

Blasphemy warning:  I’m about to compare the Christ Child to a burrito.

But oh, what a burrito.  I’d pay triple the price for one. Actually they just call it “a tortilla”.  The one I had for breakfast a week ago was stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, eggs, beans, and onions.  And topped with a special hot sauce.  Here’s what it looked like.

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The thing is significantly bigger than your head.  And the taste makes you want to shout “Rejoice! Rejoice!”

You’ll have to drive down to Port Isabel, TX, to eat one of these marvels.  And you’d better bring cash.  And no attitude.  And an open mind. Because Manuel’s is pretty much a hole in the wall.

Here’s what it looks like inside.

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The floors are rough and uneven.  The walls are covered in posters for old 70’s movies, like “The Godfather” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, along with pictures of Manuel’s family, especially grandkids who are athletes or cheerleaders.  From the ceiling hangs pennants of college and NFL football teams. It has a strange man-cave charm to it.

But let’s come back to the tortillas, or as I call them, “the Reason for the Seasoning”? 

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Beyond delicious.  I’ve been coming down to this place (adjacent to S. Padre Island) for maybe 15 years or so.  Things change down on the South Texas coast, but Manuels stays the same, like a dear friend waiting with open arms.

If I’m describing this Hole In The Wall as if it were a Holy Place, there’s a reason.  Somehow, despite the rundown conditions, Manuels just feels special.  I’m not the only one sharing that sentiment.  I know because of the walls.  Any place not touched by a poster or a picture bears the signature of someone who’s been there.

 

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If you look real close, you can see the writing on the walls.

Hundreds of signatures fill up the walls, with folks from across the country (and beyond, I’m sure), making their mark.  My signature is there, somewhere, from years ago.  I don’t remember where, but I know I’ve gone on record as a fellow pilgrim to Manuels.

 

Now, if your mouth is watering, and you feel the need to road trip down to South Texas for breakfast this week, let me know and maybe I’ll join you.  But I hope that, as this Advent season begins, you are feeling an even more powerful pull towards the manger.

The accommodations that night in Bethlehem were lousy.  The décor? Non existent.  It was, perhaps, a hole in the wall.  But something Truly Holy draws us in to that cattle stall.  It is an encounter with Someone that makes it worth this journey.

We are called to be counted amongst the millions who pay homage to the Child.  To write our name on the walls of the stable.  To tell the world that we were there.  To proclaim that God is here.

And so, in spite of my love for Manuel (he’s a great guy), it cannot compare to my love for Emmanuel. And as much as I want you all to get a taste of that amazing food, it is eclipsed by my desire that you experience the All Powerful Love of Jesus.

Christ is, indeed, more than a burrito, and even more to be savored.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. He will nourish you long after December 25th…

with zero chance of indigestion.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Advent Psalm

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Oh Jesus,

I know why you were born 2000 years ago, instead of today.

Things were simpler then.

 

No cell phones distracting conversations.

No media spinning things left or right.

The whole world was just a few hundred miles long.

You came to a world that rejected you, but at least you could get a word in.

 

Oh, we’re just as stubborn, but also fragmented and polarized.

Oh, we still have poverty — we pretend not to see it.

Oh, we still have illnesses — and we still have outcasts.

We still have passion — greatly outweighed by our apathy.

 

 

Oh Jesus,

If you came today I fear your voice would be lost.

Your miracles would be pooh-poohed.

And your leadership would be questioned.

Or maybe what I really fear is that the

IMMORTAL AND LOVE GIVING POWER OF THE UNIVERSE

might not cut it in today’s broken mess.

Which is silly.

Just because I cannot picture a God powerful enough to enter into this world does not make it impossible.

It makes it miraculous.

 

Surprise me, then, God of Advent.

Do your very best.  And I will remain in awe

that some 2000 years after your incarnation

you can work another Christmas miracle

For We. Here. Now.

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Wonderful Counselor

 

Christmas Quiz:  Which of the following counts as “Wonderful Counselor”?

A.  Deanna Troi, from Star Trek: The Next Generation

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B.  Carl Jung, founder of analytical pyschology.

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C.  Jesus Christ, Savior.

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D.  All of the Above.

– – – –

I could see why you might be tempted to say “D”.

After all, Counselor Troi was a pretty valuable, if fictitious, addition to the crew of the Enterprise.

And Carl Jung (very much real!) made some amazing advances to understanding and treating the mind.

But of all the counselors in all the world, only Jesus can claim that phrase as a bestowed title.

It’s not just a description–it’s a name!

The answer is “C”.

– – – –

In Isaiah, chapter 9 we read these words:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  –Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

– – – –

Awesome words from Isaiah.  We Christians look back at those words and see them as descriptive of Jesus.

There’s Prince of Peace and Mighty God, and even Everlasting Father.

I can see how those all fit.

But why “Wonderful Counselor?”  What is that supposed to even mean?

Does that mean Jesus wants us to lie down on his couch and talk about our earliest memories?

Not exactly…it helps to look at the Hebrew behind the words.

The word we translate as “Wonderful” is a Hebrew word, pele.  It’s a word only used to talk about God.  It refers to something wonder-filled, that only God can do.

And the word for “Counselor” is yoetz. It means to advise, or guide.  It’s less like our modern understanding of talk-therapy, and more like strategizing.

– – – –

When you put the two words together, a picture emerges of Jesus as:

Our Ultimate Guide.

Our Excellent Spiritual Advisor.

Our Wonderful Counselor.

Isaiah could have used all kinds of words and phrases to describe the Child who is to be born, but the Savior that he describes is the very one we desperately need.

Speaking of… if you’re feeling desperate this season, seek out some help.  Sit down with someone and talk it out.

But this Advent journey is an invitation for everyone to make an appointment…

with the most Wonderful Counselor of all.

(He can see you right away.)

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

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Merry Christmas, Miley Cyrus.

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You know who’s name I’d like to draw for Christmas this year?

MILEY CYRUS.

You bet.  She’d be so easy to get a gift for, because it’s so obvious what she wants.

ATTENTION!!!

Yes indeed, if I had Miley’s name I’d just post a big picture of her on my devotion, (which I just did) and mention her name a couple times (which I just did), and quicker than a hummingbird trying to twerk, my gift giving would be all done.

(I can’t believe I just wrote the word “twerk” in one of my devotions)

Okay, Miley’s easy to figure out because she’s such an attention hound.  But think about it:

Isn’t attention a gift you could give anybody?

I mean, some people (like Miley) seem to have made a career out of asking for it.  And honestly, that kind of publicity seeking can really turn me off.

But even quiet, shy, aloof people want and need some degree of attention.

There are folks who require attention: Medical attention, or nutrition, or counseling, or shelter, or safety.

But there are other, no less important kinds of attention, too:  Friendship, affirmation, support.

Everybody needs that kind of attention.  (Even if they act like they don’t).

You need it too.

During Advent and Christmas we celebrate the attention God paid to us.  The gift of Jesus was given to a world that was desperately in need of attention, and still is.

You can be part of that Christmas celebration by paying a little extra attention to the folks who seem to need it the most.

Send an email.  Write a Facebook post.  Call someone up on the phone.

By giving somebody a ring, you’ll be a Joyful Jingle Bell!

(Which is much better than a wrecking ball).

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Preparing Him Room

We set up the tree! But it wasn’t easy…

We have a decent sized living room.  It’s big enough for a couch and two chairs, and a fireplace, and a picture window…

But not big enough to add a Christmas Tree.

Last year, we solved the problem by taking one of the chairs out of the room, and putting the tree up in the corner.

That worked fine, but it eliminated seating.  So this year we were determined to find room for everything. 

First, we moved the couch from the east wall to the north wall.  We moved a chair over where the couch had been and that left a little space in the southeast corner. But not enough for the tree.

Then, we moved the couch back and swapped the two chairs.  Nope.

We put the two chairs together along one wall.  Nope.

We shoved one chair way into a corner and set the tree up in the entryway.  Terrible!

We tried everything we could think of, and nothing seemed to work.

In the end, you know what we did?

We put everything back the way we had started and set the tree in front of the window.

It looks perfect.

The moral of this story?

“Preparing him room” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rearrange your whole life.

(or your whole living room…)

You just have to shine the light where others can see it.

Have a great week,

Mitch.

(top image via http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15)