DayBreaks for 12/25/18 – What Would I Have Seen?

Image result for nativity story

DayBreaks for 12/25/18: What Would I Have Seen?

I wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night. It is a question that annually haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids? Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind. Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by?

I am convinced that had two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life is this way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God’s way. Thus, one person can say “It’s a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence.”

Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance.

In one of the All in the Family episodes that aired some years ago Edith and Archie are attending Edith’s high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate by the name of Buck who, unlike his earlier days. had now become excessively obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful conversation about old times and the things that they did together, but remarkably Edith doesn’t seem to notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, when Edith and Archie and talking, she says in her whiny voices “Archie, ain’t Buck a beautiful person.” Archie looks at her with a disgusted expression and says: “You’re a pip, Edith. You know that. You and I look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp. Edith gets a puzzled expression on her face and says something unknowingly profound, “Yeah, ain’t it too bad.”

Would I have seen and recognized the eternity shattering events in Bethlehem for what they were, or would I have let it passed unnoticed? I hope that today, you see the babe in the manger in a new light, a heavenly light that shines like none other and that you take time to worship the Incarnate One.

Merry CHRISTmas to you all!

PRAYER: Jesus, we fall silent in wonder at the events surrounding your birth. Be born in us anew this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2018 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

Advertisements

DayBreaks for 12/24/18 – Searching for Hope

Image result for Bethlehem shepherds and sheep

DayBreaks for 12/24/18: Searching for Hope

(NOTE: This was written by a dear friend of mine, Janine Boyer, earlier in December. Used by permission.)

Our trip to Israel had already exceeded my expectations and then I saw them. “Look! Look! Those are real sheep and a real shepherd,” I said to Dave from inside our bus. As we passed the hills of Bethlehem, they were just like I had pictured in my mind, a mixture of grass and rocks, steep for those cute little sheep and windy for a donkey to have to travel. Tomorrow I would get to visit the place where Jesus Christ was born.

But in a matter of a day, the scene changed. There was some unrest in Bethlehem overnight, and it wasn’t safe to visit. I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to this part of the trip and experiencing what it must have felt like for Mary and Joseph over 2,000 years ago.

Things didn’t work out as I had expected; and almost a year later, I can still feel that disappointment. But as I thought about that, I also thought about how Mary and Joseph must have felt. Because of the census being taken, they had to leave behind everything that was familiar to them and start over in a new place. What did it feel like when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, desperately looking for a place to stay, only to be turned away?

I imagine Mary was not only searching for a place to deliver her baby, but also desperately searching for relief from that pain, searching for rest and searching for help. Who of us cannot relate to those feelings in one way or another? Our lives can change in a moment, often times leaving us feeling desperate and disappointed. But if we stop there, we miss the blessings of the unexpected.

Mary and Joseph continued searching for a place to stay. What did they find? A stable. Straw would become the blanket upon which Jesus Christ would be born. Not soft and comfy like the blankets on our beds, but itchy and scratchy for this tiny baby. Maybe that’s not what they were looking for, but that is what they found.

Often times what we are looking for is different than what we find too. Life’s circumstances can change the way we feel. But we can’t stop there. We desperately need to keep searching for God in the midst of all we feel. While Joseph and Mary searched, they never lost hope. As a result, what did they find? They found God turned that stable into a place of glory, a place that was lit up by a star in the sky, a place where people who were desperately searching, would find hope and peace. A place for all of us.

I don’t know what you are feeling this Christmas season. I don’t know your life events. But God does. That tiny little baby, God’s Son, felt everything we feel. “For unto 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)

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for giving us a place to come and find hope and peace. Give us the courage to choose to make room for you no matter how we feel today, whether we be full of joy or full of sorrow. Help us to feel the amazing wonder of Your Son and His birth, His life and even His death. Help us to be like Mary and take the stable that was offered to her and turn it into a place where YOU, King of all Kings, would be born. In Your Hopeful name we pray, Amen.

DayBreaks for 12/21/17 – A World of Impossibilities

Image result for impossible

DayBreaks for 12/21/17: A World of Impossibilities

Matthew 1:18 (ESV) – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

This is a story of impossibilities. Consider the impossibilities Mary faced in this story: she is a virgin and pregnant – she is having a child while she is a virgin. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen! Joseph has to follow through on the marriage after he discovers Mary is pregnant. Impossible! Mary must avoid being stoned to death when the neighbors hear the news. Impossible!

Consider the impossibility Elizabeth faced. She was well past the childbearing age, and yet God says she is going to conceive and bear a child. This impossible news left old Zechariah speechless. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen!

This is a story of biblical impossibilities. We love to ponder them because we all long for some impossibilities in our own lives, don’t we? But, what are the impossibilities in our world? What would you label “impossible” in your life? Peace in our world. Impossible! No way! Won’t happen! Christian values returning to our nation, morality becoming the norm? Impossible! Our church reaching our surrounding community and making our world different? Impossible! Restoring relationships, healing past hurts in our lives. A relative or friend entering a relationship with Christ. Breaking an addiction and overcoming past hurts and disappointments? Impossible!

We find ourselves with the same troubled mind as Mary, wondering over the impossible. We even ask the same question Mary asked, How will this be? To us it seems impossible! No way! Won’t happen! The real question for people today is “How can the impossible become possible?”

Let me encourage you to take heart this season if you are facing what seem to be impossibilities. This season is a reminder that nothing – absolutely nothing – is truly impossible!

PRAYER: Father, we delight in knowing you are the Master of all that is impossible and that the word doesn’t even exist in your vocabulary. Help us to not lose hope even for the things that seem impossible, because if this season shows us anything, it is that there is no such thing when you are inclined to intervene. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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

Image result for christmas star

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 12/23/16 – 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.

DayBreaks for 12/22/16 – If I Had Been There

_mg_1659

Church of the Nativity, January 2016, by Galen Dalrymple

DayBreaks for 12/22/16: If I Had Been There

Not quite a year ago, I stood in Bethlehem. Across from the church of the Nativity the bright, colored lights were still lit in celebration of what had occurred in that little village nearly 2000 years ago. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have heard had I been there that night when Jesus was born. It is a question that haunts me. Would I have heard the choirs of angels singing or simply the sounds of barnyard animals shifting around? Would I have seen the star in the sky that night or simply two poor and very frightened kids? Would I have understood the hushed silence of the divine presence, or simply the chill of a cold east wind? Would I have understood the message of Emmanuel, God with us, or would the cosmic implications of that evening have passed me by as it so often does even today?

I am convinced that had any two people been there that night in Bethlehem it is quite possible that they could have heard and seen two entirely different scenes. I believe this because all of life seems to be that way. God never presents himself in revelation in a manner in which we are forced to believe. We are always left with an option, for that is God’s way. Thus, one person can say “It’s a miracle, while another says “It’s coincidence.”

Certainly very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night. The choirs of angels singing were, for many, drowned out by the haggling and trading going on in the Jerusalem bazaar. There was a bright star in the sky but the only ones apparently to pay any attention to it were pagan astrologers from the East. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own problems to offer any assistance to a very pregnant woman and the man who accompanied her.

Even now, what do I see when I see little children act out the story? Do I just see a cute play with cute children, or do I see the unveiling of the greatest story ever? When I hear the carols, do I just hear pretty music, or do I hear the whisper of God in my ear and my heart?

Christmas is getting so close. Am I letting Christ get close to me this year? Will I recognize him when he arrives? Will I hear him when he speaks? Can I hear the angels still singing his praise and pouring honor on him? The time is almost here, people. Let us look for the star and be led into wondrous worship for the One who came to earth.

PRAYER: Jesus, I want to see you this Christmas as I never have before. I want to hear you and worship you deep in my heart! Please don’t let this Christmas be like every other Christmas – let this Christmas be a time when it becomes more real to us than ever before! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016 by Galen Dalrymple.

DayBreaks for 12/18/15 – There We Leave You

DayBreaks for 12/18/15: There We Leave You

It isn’t too common at Christmas time to speak about the cross.  Christmas, it seems, is filled with images of a baby in the manger, adoring wise men, stunned shepherds, a virgin mother and gentle animals with soft sounds and warm breath.  We sing Christmas carols that focus on angels, shepherds, wise men and that Baby.  It seems that we just can’t get away from that Baby (and, I can’t get too upset about that!) 

But Christ didn’t come so that we could have Christmas carols to sing, Christmas fudge or even bright, shiny wrapping paper and ribbons.  Christ came not for the manger, but for the cross.  He didn’t come to entertain the animals.  He didn’t come to resolve the curiosity of the wise men or shepherds – he came to save them from their sins.

The great writer, John Donne, perhaps put it best, when he wrote: “There we leave you in that blessed dependency, to hang upon him that hangs upon the cross, there bathe in his tears, there suck of his wounds, and lie down in peace in his grave, till he vouchsafe you a Resurrection, and an ascension into that kingdom which he hath purchased for you with the inestimable price of his incorruptible blood.  Amen.”

There’s only about a week now until Christmas day will dawn.  There’s nothing wrong with the celebration of his birth.  As we sit in the shadow of the tree, let us also reflect on the shadow of the cross that lay over the manger.

TODAY’S PRAYER: Almighty God, I pray that we will truly celebrate Christ this Christmas.  May we remember that he didn’t come here for his own pleasure, but for our salvation, to die and take away our sin.  Help us to remember the cost of Christmas to our Savior.  In His name, Amen.

Copyright 2015 by Galen C. Dalrymple.