Today's Lectionary Text
“But they and our ancestors acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey your commandments; they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them. Even when they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud that led them in the way did not leave them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night that gave them light on the way by which they should go. You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. And you gave them kingdoms and peoples, and allotted to them every corner, so they took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. You multiplied their descendants like the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land that you had told their ancestors to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the peoples of the land, to do with them as they pleased. And they captured fortress cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses filled with all sorts of goods, hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive orchards, and fruit trees in abundance; so they ate, and were filled and became fat, and delighted themselves in your great goodness.
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Christmas every year?
After all, you would think that once you have accepted the story of the Savior’s birth that there would be no need to hear it again. Nothing changes; the characters are the same, and so is the message. Perhaps we need to hear the message again. We all need to be reminded that there is hope in the world.
However, when we fall out of love with the hope that the baby brings, then we are like the people in Nehemiah’s time. They acted out of arrogance believing that all that came to them came as the result of their own effort. They ignored the grace and gifts that God had provided in the past and focused only on their future. When times got rough, they then worshiped other gods. Whichever of these so-called gods promised the most for the least effort received their allegiance. But when that failed they again listened to the one God. Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one.
And how did the Lord respond? God loved them as wandering children come home. There was no punishment --- only love; no remembrance of loneliness without God for God is always with us– even when we rebel.
That is why we celebrate Christmas each year. We celebrate to revel in the joy of being found, forgiven and loved. Like children, let us revel in the gift of grace remembered.
-Rev. Don Noble
Spring Hill, TN
Prayer for Reflection
Lord, help us remember that you always love us even when we forget past mercies. Amen.
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