DayBreaks for 12/22/17 – The Man Who Loved Mary

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DayBreaks for 12/22/17: The Man Who Loved Mary

Matthew 1:19 (ESV) – And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

He is the forgotten man – the man in the shadows. The man who takes a backseat at every Christmas season and yet he is there quietly supporting his beloved, Mary. He is never mentioned by Paul in any of his writings, and the earliest gospel, Mark, does not mention him either. Some look to Joseph as the patron saint of workers as he was a laborer. Some translate his work as “carpenter”, but the term means laborer or craftsman meaning he could have been a carpenter, stone mason, metal worker or some other artisan. He was last mentioned in Scripture in Luke when Jesus was twelve. Had he been present at the crucifixion, he would have been responsible for the body of Jesus, but that job fell to Joseph of Arimathea. Most believe that he died long before the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

This morning, as I read the verse above from Matthew 1, I was struck in a new way as I read about Joseph. When I’d read it before, I tended to just skim over it, but for some reason, not today. Joseph was a just man – a “good” man, if any can be called that. I tried to imagine the feelings that must have welled up inside him when he heard that Mary was with child. I would imagine that there was some anger initially, yielding to disappointment and heartbreaking pain as he had to have assumed she’d been with someone else (at least until his visit from the angel informed him otherwise). Do you know how that must have felt? Can you imagine it?

But the scripture goes on to say that he was unwilling to put her to shame. Why? There can only be one reason that I can think of: he loved Mary. Deeply, passionately and without reservation – he loved her.

And then comes the visit from the angel and his soul is flooded with relief – at least partially. The relief in knowing she’d not slept with someone else had to be palpable, but yet there was a lingering problem – a problem that would only grow for nine months: Mary was pregnant and it could not be hidden. So when Joseph accepted the words of the angel at face value, he was also accepting the fact that he, too, would be the object of scorn and ridicule, that he would be suspected of having defiled Mary prior to the wedding. So why did he willingly accept it? I believe there are two reasons: 1) he was a just man – a good man who didn’t want to bring shame to Mary and have her bear it all by herself; 2) he loved her with all his heart.

Christmas is a season that is all about love. We speak often of God’s love for us in sending Jesus. We see the beaming face of Mary, alight with the glow of the star and oil lamps as she cradles her newborn Son and we can see the love in her eyes at the miracle she holds. And there, in the background where he has been content to be for two thousand years, stands Joseph, a just man who loved Mary.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the example of love of this man of the shadows, Joseph. May we love so selflessly! In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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DayBreaks for 12/20/17: Christmas Surprises

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DayBreaks for 12/20/17: Christmas Surprises

Who doesn’t enjoy opening presents on Christmas day? Let’s be honest: we all love it, don’t we? We wonder what’s inside that package, box or envelope. We love surprises!

Under a cultural-exchange program, rabbi Alan Abramsky and his family in Roanoke, Texas, were hosts to a rabbi from Russia at Christmas time. They decided to introduce him to a culinary treat that was probably not available in his country: they took him to their favorite Chinese restaurant.

Throughout the meal, the rabbi spoke excitedly about the wonders of North America in comparison to the bleak conditions in his homeland. When they had finished eating, the waiter brought the check and presented each of them with a small brass Christmas-tree ornament as a seasonal gift.

They all laughed when Abramsky’s father pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “Made in India.” But the laughter subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. Concerned, Abramsky’s father asked the rabbi if he was offended because he’d been given a gift for a Christian holiday.

He smiled, shook his head and said, “Nyet. I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!” A time of miracles. A time for stories.

From time to time we hear someone say, “Wouldn’t it be great if it could be Christmas all year long.” Surprise! That was God’s intent. That is why God invaded our planet and gave us the gift of God’s Son. There is only one thing that stands in the way of celebrating Christmas all year long: you and I. Let’s agree to not stand in the way of anyone celebrating Christmas all year long!

PRAYER:  Jesus, we don’t want to cause people not to celebrate Immanuel all year long, year after year, decade after decade. Let us never lost the sense of the miraculous that is so present in this season. Let us overflow each and every day out of lives that are filled with wonder. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/19/17 – The Three Gifts

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DayBreaks for 12/19/17: The Three Gifts

Matthew 2:11 (ESV) – And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Have you ever really thought about the three gifts (there may have been more, but those three are specifically mentioned)?

It is worth noting that these were not gifts like socks or a tie or a box of candy. They were “treasures” – treasures that belonged to those who brought them. That gives us an indication that these visitors from the east were wealthy personages. And unlike the socks you may get for Christmas this year, their gifts were treasures – valuable and costly.

The first one mentioned is gold. Gold was considered an appropriate gift for a king. Why did they bring gold? Because they knew that the one being born was a king – they’d told Herod as much. (And with Herod being as crazy and deranged as he was, that had to set him off on his desire to kill the newborns!) They brought a gift suitable for a king.

What about the frankincense? Frankincense was used in the temple worship as part of the incense that was burned that filled the place with a fragrant, pleasing smell. As the incense wafted upward, it represented the prayers of the people as they ascended as a gift for God. So, frankincense was thought to be a gift that was suitable for a god/God. Little do I think the magi really grasped this part of Immanuel.

That leaves us with the myrrh. Myrrh was used for various things, including the anointing of the bodies of those who died. While this gift foreshadowed the anointing of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion, there is perhaps an even more poignant point that we would do well to consider. Myrrh was also somewhat of a pain killer, an antiesthetic, if you please. Do you remember what the soldiers offered Jesus while he was on the cross? Vinegar mixed with “gall”…but what is that “gall”? Literally, it is myrrh. It wouldn’t kill much pain, but would take a tiny bit of the edge off and the Romans probably did it more in jest than out of compassion.

So, here’s the kicker: myrrh was gifted to Jesus at his birth, and it was used during his anointing for burial. But when he was on the cross, what did Jesus do when offered something to dull his pain? He refused it. Why? I don’t really know, but on Sunday, the preacher posited that it was because Jesus wanted to take the full brunt of the pain that was due to us so there would be none left for us to have to bear. He drank the “cup” that the Father gave him, but not the “cup” that the soldiers offered that could have made his suffering less.

This is an indicator of how much Jesus wanted to bear our pain, the pain we should have had to bear for our own sins. If that doesn’t make us appreciate him even more, perhaps nothing will.

PRAYER: Jesus, I am awestruck that you were willing to go to the cross and take the full agony of the pain due to me for my sin and failures. Make us all grateful this Christmas for your enormous gift and sacrifice! In Your name we pray, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/18/17 – Daniel…and Christmas

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DayBreaks for 12/18/17: Daniel…and Christmas

Matthew 2:1-2 (ESV) = Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.

We don’t really know who the wise men were. We don’t even know how many there were other than they were “men”, plural. The tradition of three wise men comes from the fact that three gifts are mentioned: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We don’t even know for sure where they came from, but most believe they came either from the area of ancient Babylon (modern Iraq) or Persia (modern Iran). Regardless, it was a long journey of about 1000 miles taken on foot and perhaps camel (the mode of transport for the wealthy). The words for “wise men” in Latin is magi, short for magician, sorcerer, astrologer, one who could supposedly divine events and the future by looking at the stars. They may have been of a priestly class who served the palace of their home land. We simply don’t know. But we do know they made a very, very long journey because they saw a star – and they followed it.

It could be that they were just curious at the appearance of this new star, but how many would undertake such a time consuming, arduous and dangerous journey just because of seeing a light in the sky? So why, we are left to wonder, did they do so?

We perhaps have a clue in the story of Daniel, the prophet of God who was taken into exile and who rose to greatness in the service of the Babylonian king. When Daniel interpreted the dream of the king, the king promoted him: Daniel 2:47-48 (ESV) – The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

Do you see it? Daniel was the head over the “wise men” of Babylon. He was their leader and most likely their instructor. Could it be that while serving in the palace of Babylon, he told the other “wise men” of the prophecies of a coming deliverer, a king, born to rule mankind and that such a birth would be heralded by a star, or that the baby would be born in a land to their west? And those wise men passed along that knowledge for 500 years until the time of Christ’s birth?

We don’t know. It is very possible, I think, but maybe that’s just because I want to believe it is true.

It caused me to wonder: if the life of the man Daniel played a role in these pagan people coming to Jesus could have such an effect over 5 centuries, what will the impact of my life be on those I interact with?

What impact are you having this Christmas on the lives of those who also need to come and worship the King?

PRAYER: God, your ways are unsearchable, yet You always accomplish your purposes. I pray, Lord, that our lives will shine the way to Jesus this Christmas, so that those near and far may come to worship Him! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/01/17 – What to Value

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DayBreaks for 12/01/17: What to Value

From the DayBreaks archive, November 2007:

Can you believe it?  Tomorrow is the first of December.  I both hate and love this time of the year.  I love the smells of Christmas – cookies, hot apple cider, turkey and pie.  I love the sounds of Christmas – carols have always been among my favorite music – the laughter of children, the sound of friends greeting one another with “Merry Christmas!”  I love the sights of the holidays – the colorful lights up and down the main street and on the homes in town, the decorations on the tree.  I love the feel of Christmas – the cold nip in the air, the freshness and the feeling of warmth while bundled up in spite of the temperature outside, the fire in the hearth.  What’s not to love?

Well, for ministers, this is a very, very busy time of the year.  Each year, my wife and I say, “Let’s keep it simple this year.”  We’re not talking about just our own Christmas, but also the Christmas that we will share with the congregation God has blessed us with.  Yet, there are certain expectations – Christmas music, perhaps a skit or play, decorations, and the thing I dread perhaps more than any of the rest of it: putting together Christmas sermons!  I don’t mind the shopping that much, but it is the busyness that floods over my soul, and so by the time the holidays are over, I’m worn out, worn down and flat.

It is enough to make one pause to reflect on what is really important. 

It was reported that 11 millionaires went down on the Titanic.  Major A. H. Peuchen left $300,000,000 in money, jewelry, and securities in a box in his cabin.  “The money seemed a mockery at that time,” he later said.  “I picked up 3 oranges instead.”

This year, I pray we will have the sense to pick up oranges – to stay focused on what is of value and what brings the peace and joy that we are to find in this season of remembrance.  Let us value the Who of Christmas.  Let us let go of other things that have so little value as to be meaningless in light of the coming of the One promised from the garden of Eden to take away our sins. 

I know it’s rather early for a Christmas DayBreaks, but if you don’t enter into this month with firm conviction and principles about how you’ll live this month, you’ll likely find yourself right back in the same frantic rush – and perhaps miss the real Value.

PRAYER: Give us discerning hearts, dear Father, to do what is important and not do anything that has no real value, especially at this time of the year.  Give us the wisdom to say “No” when we need to in order to stay focused on the things which really mean something!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/28/16 – The Dusty Ones

DayBreaks for 12/28/16: The Dusty Ones

The ancient Egyptians had a name for the Hebrews who lived in their land and who built their cities and granaries. They called them the Hapiru. The word, literally translated, is “the dusty ones”. You can imagine how they got the name – working day after day under the hot Egyptian sun in the dust and dirt of Egypt. It was a name of scorn and derision intended to bring shame to the Hebrews.

It is interesting that God’s people were called the dusty ones as a name of ridicule. Mankind was originally formed of the dust of the earth. Maybe it was appropriate that God’s people were given a name by the Egyptians that reflected that original truth.

But it is even more interesting to me that God chose not to leave His children alone as “the dusty ones”. He found it necessary to become a “dusty one”, too – to get right down with us and walk the dusty roads of Palestine, to get His feet “dirty” Himself. God chose to be like His children, His people. He didn’t consider it beneath Himself to become like us.  And in fact, when he was here, he also washed our feet to remove the “dust”.  Maybe we should see something very significant in that – his children are no longer “the dusty ones”, but “the chosen ones”, the washed ones, destined not for dust, but for eternal realms.

When you think about the humiliation of God it almost takes your breath away to realize that He was willing to do it. And I often won’t go the slightest bit out of my way to help someone else because I am too proud or self-conscious about how I may appear to someone watching.

God did not worry about those things. He just did it. We can learn from a God who will become a dusty one Himself. We are to become “dusty ones”, too.

Get involved. Humble yourself. Get your feet dirty in service to God and others. Get dusty! Help us to walk in your footsteps! PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for getting “dirty” so we could be cleansed! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/23/16 – We Were All There

DayBreaks for 12/23/16: We Were All There

In my most recent DayBreaks, I mused about what I would have noticed had I been in Bethlehem the night the Christ Child was born. For a different perspective, read on:

In her wonderful children’s picture book We Were There: A Nativity Story, Eve Bunting (illustrator: Wendell Minor) turns Christmas upside down for us in ways that are revealing.

The simple story shows us first a slithering snake, then a warty toad, a scary scorpion, a shiny cockroach, a swooping bat, a hairy spider, and a furry rat all on a journey. Each creature introduces itself and then concludes with the words “I will be there.”

As the book ends we are shown more common nativity creatures: fuzzy lambs, doe-eyed donkeys, gentle cows. But as those traditional figures in the stable stand around the manger in which the Babe has been laid by his mother Mary, we see in the corner, unnoticed, that small gathering of the snake, toad, scorpion, cockroach, bat, spider, and rat.

Bunting has found a lyric way to remind us that the coming of the Christ is not all about the traditional and cozy trappings in which we have for too long wrapped the Christmas story but that this is a story for all creatures and that Jesus came to embrace and renew the good, the bad, the ugly; the expected and the unexpected.

A simple children’s story like this reminds us of the paradoxes and unexpected twists of the season, that Jesus came not just for those whom might have been considered righteous and good, but for derelicts like me and recluses reeking of alcohol. He came that night not just for those who would readily receive him – he also came for those who would reject him – the spiders, the snakes, the bats and cockroaches of humanity because his love for us would not permit him to do otherwise.

What a wondrous time of year this is – so full of reminders and lessons for us all. Let us take a lesson that Christmas isn’t just for the neat and tidy – but if Christmas is for anyone, it is for all of us. May we share that love with those we may find repulsive and ugly – for we are that way, too. The greatest act of grace ever witnessed was viewable in a manger to human eyes.

May you be filled with the wonder of CHRISTmas!

PRAYER: For your love for human snakes and cock roaches – for us all – that brought you from eternal glory to a cold manger in Bethlehem, we give you our praise and bow in wonder and amazement! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.