Mission Devotional - December 29, 2016

Opening Prayer: Help us, O God, to join our voices with those of the heavenly chorus, proclaiming your glory, and celebrating your entrance into our dark and broken world. Glory to God in the highest, and peace among those with whom he is pleased! Amen.

Scripture: Luke 2:8-21

Journal: Where are you in this story? Have a conversation with the shepherds today. Let them tell you what it was like to see God's glory revealed.

Reflection: On Christmas night the shepherds are addressed by an angel who shines upon them with the blinding glory of God, and they are very much afraid. The tremendous, unearthly radiance shows that the angel is a messenger of heaven and clothes him with an incontrovertible authority. With this authority he commands them not to be afraid but to embrace the great joy he is announcing to them. And while the angel is speaking thus to these poor frightened people, he is joined by a vast number of others, who unite in a "Gloria" praising God in heaven's heights and announcing the peace of God's goodwill to men on earth. Then, we read, "the angels went away from them into heaven." In all probability the singing was very beautiful and the shepherds were glad to listen; doubtless they were sorry when the concert was over and the performers disappeared behind heaven's curtain. Probably, however, they were secretly a little relieved when the unwonted light of divine glory and the unwonted sound of heavenly music came to an end, and they found themselves once more in their familiar earthly darkness. They probably felt like shabby beggars who had suddenly been set in a king's audience chamber among courtiers dressed in magnificent robes and were glad to slip away unnoticed and take to their heels.

But the strange thing is that the intimidating glory of the heavenly realm, which has now vanished, has left behind a human glow of joy in their souls, a light of joyous expectation, reinforcing the heavenward-pointing angel's word and causing them to set out for Bethlehem. Now they can turn their backs on the whole epiphany of heavenly glory - for it was only a starting point, an initial spark, a stimulus leading to what was really intended; all that remains of it is the tiny seed of the word that has been implanted in their hearts and that now starts to grow in the form of expectation, curiosity and hope: "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." They want to see the word that has taken place. Not the angel's word with its heavenly radiance: that has already become unimportant. They want to see the content of the angel's word, that is, the Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. They want to see the word that has "happened," the word that has taken place, the word that is not only something uttered but something done, something that cannot only be heard but also seen. (Into the Dark with God by Hans Urs von Balthasar)

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

E is part of a team that has translated the New Testament for a large South Asian language group. Beyond this goal of translating the New Testament is the larger goal of seeing the scriptures systematically read and studied by individuals and groups. Pray today for E and for a situation regarding growth of anti-Christian sentiment in the countries where she serves.

Core Leadership is a ministry of spiritual formation and leadership development. Its mission is to help strengthen and encourage the life of leaders, in the Knoxville area and beyond, by the means of spiritual nurture and leadership development. Jim Branch is the director of Core Leadership and is actively involved in the lives of people all over the city of Knoxville and beyond, as well as being active in the Powell community, where he lives. Pray today for Jim and his family that they might have a time of refreshing and reflection during the holiday season.

Closing Prayer: Jesus Christ, our newborn King: we rejoice that you came among us in all your glory, taking on our life so that we might share in yours. In your conception and birth you've come to remove our sin - ours since we were first conceived - delivering to us the hope of new life. Make your home among us today and always. Amen. (Seeking God's Face by Philip Reinders)