A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6, Common English Bible).
Until a few years ago, I never imagined myself as a poet. I was never all that thrilled about studying poetry, much less writing it. Since then I have written new lyrics to several tunes and on two occasions I have written two new complete songs.
I was preparing to play a small show at a local assisted living community, when inspiration struck. I thought I would share those lyrics with you. I wrote the lyrics to play with the hymn “The Gift of Love.”
No hope in life, It’s hard to trust
No peace within, is our God just?
No joy in life, no room for praise
When all seems lost, love’s light is raised.
When Gabriel spoke, she stopped to hear,
Would she trust God, let go of fear?
This would be hard, she’d yet to wed,
But, “may my life, be as you said.”
Joseph did dream, the angel saw,
His heart was hurt, his spirit raw.
Still, he’d say yes, it was God’s call,
He did his part, God saved us all.
The sheep and cows were first to see,
The shepherds came, hearts filled with glee
The magi brought gifts of great price,
The gold and myrrh, and gifts of spice.
He came for me, he came for you.
Our sins in life, forgive he’ll do.
This Christmas may we see things through,
That in our hearts, He’ll be born anew.
That is my Christmas wish for you. May He be born, in your heart anew.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace, Keith
Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. 2 The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.3 By faith we understand that the universe has been created by a word from God so that the visible came into existence from the invisible. (Hebrews 11:1-3, Common English Bible)
So, are you ready for Christmas? What am I asking, of course you aren’t. Well, you aren’t unless you are one of those unusual people that bought all of their gifts for family and friends back in March or something.
I realized about fifteen minutes ago that I had been busy enough with Christmas prep that I had not written a post today (I really am trying to be better than I have over the past two years). So, I put all the Christmas I have worked on for the past week or so, off to the side so there would be room in my lap for my laptop. And then, as if I wasn’t already behind enough, my allergies decided to make their twice a year appearance. So, today, to make sure I had a voice to preach tomorrow night, I carved out time for a trip to the doctor.
I had a friend, he passed away a few years back. He would intentionally waited until Christmas Eve and then braved all of the others who were just like him. One year, he called me two days before Christmas. He asked “I’ve got good news and bad news, which do you want first?” The Explorer Scout post I belonged to, scheduled a ski trip to New Mexico and Philmont Scout Ranch where we would stay. When Hank started talking about bad news, my fears went to the ski trip. We didn’t want to miss it.
Hank was saying, “No, No, the trip is still on. We leave Christmas night.”
So I bought into Hank’s original question. He made it sound like terrible news. And, if he had been truthful, he would have stopped and laughed at us right then. He didn’t. “What is the good news?” I asked.
“Well it would seem I have finished OI have finished my Christmas shopping and there are two days to spare.” he responded.
“I wouldn’t consider that news, much less “God News,” I said. “Is it a deal? Yes. But, a deal, No.” Then I mock shouted out, “Stop the presses, hold your children close hug the rest of the family. Get this story in the Houston Chronicle, the world has to know this story so they can save themselves, and children and their furry friends.”
I turned and started to walk away but then stopped.”OK, ” I turned and asked him, “Then what is the bad news?”
“When three sales clerks saw me walking across the store They passed out where they stood. Paramedics came and got them, took them to a nearby hospital where they are receiving treatment for shock. Hopefully they wukk be home in time for CHristmas.
“Hank, ” I said, “that’s terrible. What an awful thing to have to witness.”
“I’m just glad the ladies will be OK. I’ll be returning to my old Christmas shopping habits. I can’t take that kind of risk again.”
It was typical Hank. It was rare for him to be fully prepared for much of anything. It is also typical of many of us.
This time tomorrow night, parents all over the country will be up putting bicycles and other “some assembly required” gifts from Santa together. I do not miss those days. And, it is safe to say, I was not prepared.
Even if everything else was ready for Christmas at my house, I still wouldn’t be ready. I am not ready. I am ready for worship, don’t get me wrong. My sermon was ready a week ago. With all the stuff, I am ready, well, close but I actually have until Friday when my family gets together to get finished.
But, it is exactly that, all the stuff that falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that might be done, but yet I am still not ready for Christmas. I need to hear those words, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all. For unto us is born this day, in the city of David” (my paraphrase).
The thing is, the world wasn’t ready for him either. Since that time, there have always been those who, no matter the time, will never be ready.
I think that is what makes the Luke 2 story so important. God knew we weren’t ready, but God also knew our need and came to bring us life, light and peace. If nothing else comes my way this Christmas, may I be satisfied.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace, Keith
Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved
No doubt about it: children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a divine reward. 4 The children born when one is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. 5 The person who fills a quiver full with them is truly happy! They won’t be ashamed when arguing with their enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127: 3-6, Common English Bible).
This morning before church, as happens fairly regularly on Sunday mornings at the Broyles’ home, we watch CBS Sunday Morning. Cindy really enjoys the show. During at least part of the show I watch while I eat breakfast. Much of the rest of the time I am reading my sermon again for the last time.
Fortunately, this morning, they told the story of Lamont Thomas. When he was 48-years-old, Thomas was a divorced father of two grown kids. He was an empty-nester, when Michael Perez entered his life. Michael was about to enter the foster care system. Lamont couldn’t bear the prospect of this “good” kid getting lost in the foster care systems as happens all too often. Before long, Lamont Thomas adopted Michael who has since left home working as a nurse in the Buffalo New York area.
Michael was only he beginning. Over the next 15 years Lamont fostered more than 30 children, adopting five of them. He did this all on his own. He was still (and still is) as a single parent. When the last child was gone and he was an empty-nester again and said he was ready to go fishing!
His fishing trip, however, was not one for the ages, or even looking beyond the next week or two. It didn’t take long before this foster parent was back answering his call again. He learned about a set of siblings that got into his heart. These kids are, Zendaya, Jamel, Nakia, Major and Macaela. Learning that the state intended to split the siblings up, permanently. The thought broke is heart. Lamont heard his call again. He also listened again. He responded again. He stepped up for Zendaya, Jamel, Nakia, Major and Macaela. He stepped forward and brought them into his home, keeping them in foster care, at first. There was food, drink, clothing, and a roof over their head because Lamont Thomas stepped up in a time of need. As a result, he now was taking on parental duties.
The one thing Lamont knew was still true. There were no guarantees in foster care. At any time, the state, who had permanent custody of the children, could return and take the children away, splitting them up as they pleased. So, at a time when Cindy and I are starting to think about how we want our pensions divided up, Lamont is taking on five new children, none over the age six. From a man of leisure and fishing to a man who could impact the lives of children, in his own community by bringing them into his home and making permanently and officially part of his life.
“No doubt about it: children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a divine reward. The children born when one is young are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. The person who fills a quiver full with them is truly happy! They won’t be ashamed when arguing with their enemies in the gate. “
Even if you don’t count Lamont’s 30 previous foster children, adopting 10 and having two natural born of his own so 12 kids, that is a pretty full quiver. If you include his 30 plus foster kids, he might need to be careful that some of those arrows don’t fall out of his quiver.
Lamont is a man who has to have a heart for kids. Cindy and I fostered one child for a few months several years ago. Our young man was great, a loving and caring first grader. It was a challenge to say the least. It is one I would do again, but we knew going in that we were talking about a few months. For Lamont, it became a permanent lifestyle change. Five siblings under six years old. More than 30 others over a lifetime have experienced it as well. All while Lamont has been a single dad. Think about that for just a second, a foster dad who was also a man with great family, great friends, and a great church giving him support. And, that is a good thing.
Lamont is a man who answered God’s call. Lamont is a man who demonstrates for us that there is no such thing as retiring from the work of God. Lamont demonstrates too that we are still to work for children and even children of faith. Oh, and as far as I am concerned, Lamont Thomas should be father of the year, every year!
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11, New International Version).
Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Tomorrow, congregations around the world that use Advent wreaths light the fourth candle, the “Love” candle. Traditionally, the Church has assigned these four theological necessities to the four candles on the outside of the Advent wreath. This year, possibly more than any past year, I have found myself reflecting on their meaning in current American society. Can we really say these things are our desire?
Cindy’s favorite verse in the Bible is part of the passage above. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I understand why she likes it so much. It’s words, however, are words easily forgotten in our polarized society.
As we have witnessed this week with the impeachment of a president on the one hand and the cries of “do nothing Democrats” on the other, it should be enough to make us all question not only the relevance of these four concepts but even their existence. Are they extinct?
For those who think I started talking about the Advent candles and now I have gone political, no, not really. But, I do remember back to one of the Presidential debates during the 2016 campaign. A citizen, a voter asked both Secretary Clinton and President Trump to say something nice, something they respected about each other. To me, it was one of the extraordinary moments of that debate for sure, and really to the entire campaign.
Secretary Clinton said she admired the now President’s family, their loyalty to one another, the way they honored their commitments and more. She said what she admired about President Trump’s family pointed to Mr. Trump himself.
President Trump said he admired Secretary Clinton’s tenacity. He said she was a fighter and she never gave up.
Before this question in the debate both candidates threw a great deal of mud at one another and this Kum-ba-ya moment didn’t last long. They were back at each other’s throats in a matter of moments. But, at least to me, it was a moment of fresh air during a time of unprecedented mire and muck by both candidates. And, three plus years later, we seem to be right back in the slop.
To me, with Christmas less than a week away, in a time when polarization is so present, not only in our politics, but in so many places in our society. We can see it on the streets, in our clubs, and even in the Church where we continue to see divisiveness on a number of issues at every level.
Is there hope? Can we find peace? Do people have joy in their lives today? Where’s the love? It seems to me that all these things are co-dependent on each other. Is there hope when there is no peace, joy, or love? Can we find peace in a world without hope, joy and love? How can we have joy if we do not also have hope, peace and love? And, if we are to believe Scripture, love really isn’t possible without the other three.
Most importantly, however, the only way any of these things become possible is through the birth of a tiny baby who would come into the world bringing all four. That fifth candle, the one in the center of the Advent Wreath, the white candle, the candle that represents Christ makes the other four possible. We have hope because of the One born of a virgin. We have peace because of the one given the name Jesus. We have joy because this baby would grow into a man who became a Savior. That Savior, Jesus Christ, gave us the ability to love, because as we are reminded in 1 John, He first loved us.
As I was writing this, I was also watching an awards show I had not even heard of before. I am not usually a person who watches award shows, EVER. When we turned the television on, it happened to be set to the station showing “The Musial Awards,” named after and honoring the late baseball great, Hall of Famer, Stan “The Man” Musial. The awards that carry his name to honor those who exemplify great sportsmanship and sacrifice.
When we first turned it on, they were telling the story Darius Kruah and Aaren Crane, two boys from different elementary schools in North Augusta, South Carolina. They were part of running clubs at the schools and competed against each other in the 100 meter sprint, assigned to lanes next to each other. Before the race the two had never met. The race started and the boys were in a virtual dead-heat for the lead when, for Aaren, the unthinkable happened. He tripped and went crashing into the track. He put his arms out in an attempt to break his fall. He ended up breaking his wrist. That isn’t the important part of this story. Darius, now, with the elimination of his closest competitor, was going to win the race. No one would catch him. Well, except for one thing. Darius, in a show of sportsman ship, sacrifice, and I would argue love, stopped, turned around, and went to check to make sure his fallen competitor was OK. He gave up his chance to win to check on another competitor who became his friend.
The Musial Awards were filled with such stories. The two runners who were both struggling and joined hands to encourage each other to finish the Pittsburgh Marathon.
There was the Forest Lake Christian School volleyball team. They were in the state tournament semi-finals and scheduled to play the girls from Paradise High School. Two days before the match, wildfires, so common in California destroyed the entire town of Paradise. The Paradise girls had lost everything, including their uniforms. No one really expected the Paradise girls to play with their entire community devastated. In a team meeting the Paradise girls decided overwhelmingly that they would play. That was when the Lake Forest girls went to work. They got donations from all over to help their competitors with what they needed. They also got Paradise new uniforms, with the girls names on the back. They got every number correct.
Then there was Henry Farsca, a nine-year-old Boston Red Sox fan. Henry got the chance to go to Fenway Park and watch his beloved Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles. Before he went to the game Henry sat down and wrote a fan letter. It wasn’t to one of the Red Sox as we might imagine, but to Orioles’ first baseman, Chris Davis, who was in the midst of a Major League Baseball record hitting slump. In his past 54 at-bats, Davis had not gotten a hit. A term often used in baseball is “picking someone up.” That is what Farsca did for Davis. Farsca wrote a letter to Davis and gave it to the right person, who passed it on until it got to Davis right before the game began. In part it said, “The way you play baseball has nothing to do with how good a person you are. Also, you are incredible. You played in the MLB for a long time, and everyone goes through a slump. Don’t give up. We’re rooting for you.” Davis read the letter before the game, went to bat in the first inning and hit a two-run single.
Those are but a few of the stories from The Musial Awards. Should you get a chance to see them, I commend them to you. There are many heart-warming stories.
In all these stories we can see evidence of the Advent candles, of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. I have no idea of the faith of any of those involved but I do know, the One who gives Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love is in the midst of all of us, giving us all these great gifts and so much more. The One who gives us these things also gives us the tiny baby whose coming we celebrate in the days to come.
I want to leave you with a challenge and I pray it carries forward for longer than Secretary Clinton’s and President Trump’s few kind words to one another in the last election. I want you to add someone to your Christmas list. This isn’t someone you already have there. It isn’t someone that is your friend. Find a rival and do something for them. You don’t need to go buy a gift, but do something that says you see the good in them.
Jennifer Dukes Lee said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Such an act would be an act of kindness. It is also something of an example to our polarized society. It might even be the beginning of how we change the world.
Have a blessed day and a Holy Christmas.
Grace and Peace, Keith
Copyright 2019, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved.