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2015 Daily Devotions

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas
Senior Pastor

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through God, and without God not one thing came into being. What has come into being in God was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was one sent from God, whose name was John. John came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe. John was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. The Light was in the world, and the world came into being through it; yet the world did not know. The Light came to what was its own, and yet its own people did not accept it. But to all who received, who believed, power was given to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of humanity, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen its glory, the glory as of God’s own Child, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-15 (Inclusive Version)

A Word of Hope
The Reverend Dr. Neil Cazares-Thomas Today is Christmas Day and following the services of Advent and Christmas Eve we come today to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.

Not to get into any theological debate over when the actual birthday of Jesus might or might not have been, suffice it to say that regardless of how we got to choose December 25th as the day, it is the day that we commemorate and celebrate.

In opening verses of the Gospel of John we are told that the Light of the World has come into the world. It is the Light that will illuminate the hidden places, the dark places, the oppressive places, the places of injustice and bring about the ultimate “grace and truth.”

As I take a moment today to celebrate the birth of Christ, I also call myself to the life and ministry that God set in Jesus. God challenged the life of Jesus to be a life of light. God would open up the dark spaces of oppression and injustice and through its light challenge humanity to return to ways of goodness.

As a follower of Jesus, I call upon the Light within to use me in the same way that God instructed Jesus and reflect the Light within to become the Light without. It is a shared mission that God invited Jesus to and that God invites followers of Jesus to today.

On Christmas Eve at Cathedral of Hope we lit the Christ Candle and invited the Light of the World into our worship, into our church and into the hearts and minds of those who choose to welcome that Light today. This is a somewhat difficult mantle but one that we carry not alone, but with the “grace and truth” of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a Light that the world is in desperate need of and one that will complete the story of Christmas when God’s realm, the realm of values such as compassion, forgiveness, love and acceptance are the values of all those who seek to be in good relationship with God, one another and self.

As we light again and again the Christ Candle of Christmas, perhaps we can light again and again the Light within us, casting this Light through us, like Jesus, into the world so that the world might be transformed by it.

The Light has come into the world – it is in you and it is in me. Together we can co-create with God the world that God hoped for in Jesus.

Merry Christmas.

Light of the World, help me to understand that the Light was passed from Jesus to those who are Your followers. Help us to ignite that light again today as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus who, full of grace and truth, demonstrated the Light of God in his daily life and experience. Call us, as followers of Jesus to shine brighter today, and tomorrow as we transform ourselves and transform the world. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Isai Thomas-Cazares

“So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel.” (God-With-Us). Isaiah 7:14 (MSG)

A Word of Hope
Winner Laws Christmas Eve is a complex day to encapsulate. It is a day full of anticipation and conceivably, it is a time of great pain for those women whom might find themselves like Mary in the labor of bringing new life into this world.

The scriptures make birthing sound so easy and the truth is that the pains of labor are just that, pains. I was blessed to be present through the birth of Sofia. I watched Christina go from comfortable to screeching pain. At the end of it all, a child of light. I stood in awe at the strength of women. Mary was seen with favor to suffer the pangs of birth, and bring salvation into this world.

Following the Guadalupe Service that night, a Facebook posting on my page railed at the attentive act of our church’s decision to shine her image on the bell tower. This individual further more reminded me of the Protestant stance on Idolatry. (I felt darkness and pain coming right through that social media post. I was angered and saddened.) After some thinking, honoring Mary for her courage and role in the salvation of humanity is not idolatry for me let alone a sinful act of gratitude coming from an entire cultural group. This poor FB post was yet another reminder as to why Christ came into this world. The birth of Christ reminds us of the humility ironically idolized in the very manger.

I confess that I am guilty of idolizing women. My empirical understanding is that women are at the top of this creation cycle. They harbor and nurture life until it is ready to come into this jarring, cruel, dark under-bellied existence juxtaposed by the resilient, mesmerizing, and magnificent world that often finds its pendulum swinging into the darkness as evidenced by the recent terrorist acts in the United States and Europe.

The prophet Isaiah says, So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway. He writes, in 9:6 (paraphrased), that this child will be born to challenge the workings of this earths government. Burdened shall he be to bring enlightenment to this government. This child called Immanuel is to bring peace to this conflicted world.

Thank you Mary for saying yes to the Angel and the Holy Spirit. She was truly a believer of the Christmas we celebrate today. The day when a baby born into the messiest environment, symbolized by the manger and animals with all their filth, was to cry out at birth and pierce the darkness echoed by the prophet Isaiah with a cry of peace, hope, joy, and love!

Creator, Father, Mother, Yahweh, Jehovah, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, restore in us that desire to find hope, joy, and peace, and love in our hearts and lives. Like the innocent pure vessel Mary, reminds us of the willingness that is required to act in faith and action. May we say yes to the Christ journey in our lives that requires courageous and gentle actions to reflect our faith in a God of hope, joy, love, and peace. Amen

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dr. Pat Saxon
Prayer Ministry Volunteer

Be born in me, be born in me. Trembling heart, somehow I believe that you chose me. I’ll hold you in the beginning. You will hold me in the end. Every moment in the middle make my heart your Bethlehem. Be born in me. Francesca Battistelli

A Word of Hope
For centuries artists and people of faith have been imagining into that world- altering moment: when Mary said yes. Imagining the place, the divine messenger, the girl, her reaction. Fra Angelico depicts a feminine Gabriel with multicolored wings bowing to a stunned and thoughtful Mary in an Italian loggia. Pre-Raphaelite John William Watterson’s beautiful blues offer calm to a clearly shocked Mary, kneeling on an oriental rug on a stone porch near a garden while a graceful, refined Gabriel-woman tries to reassure her.

Texas artist John Collier’s piece was a favorite of our Advent class last week. His Mary is a girl dressed in a long blue jumper and saddle oxfords, her school uniform. She looks as if Gabriel’s visitation interrupted her homework as she peers, with some nervousness and perhaps suspicion at the male angel, his wings sculptural, his bow humble before this girl who will be mother of God. (Hear Collier discuss his work here: https://vimeo.com/17911380 )

Another resonant painting by the people of Mafa in Cameroun bathes the scene in warm sunlight. Mary, a young village woman, greets Gabriel as a guest as she stirs a pot over the fire outside her thatched hut. Gabriel is tall, statuesque, and the gentle curve of his arm towards Mary invites her affirmation.

Poet Denise Levertov’s “Annunciation” stresses Mary’s courage and the importance of her consent: no matter the range of feelings and thoughts which coursed through her, she trusted the call and the extraordinary blessing. Had we been there, we might have heard all creation hold its breath as God waited for her answer.

We too have our own annunciations, moments when we are invited into shaping the beloved community of Christ. May we, like Mary, step into that holy, though not uncomplicated future, with “unreasonable willingness” (Barbara Brown Taylor). With trembling heart may we somehow believe that God chooses us, in our frail glory, to be Christ bearers.

As the birth of our Lord draws near, let us feel the breath of Heaven once again, Holy God, and hear the singing skies. Here the hope of new life is stirring as you are born again in us. Halleluiah! Amen.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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40...come to me to have life.” John 5:30-47

A Word of Hope
I’ve been thinking about what John’s Gospel says to me, and I always race ahead to, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (Jn 14:6) and to Jesus’ promise to Philip, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that [God] may be glorified in the Son.” (Jn 14:13) These words give me so much hope.

When we encounter Jesus in John 5, he is in Jerusalem and has just healed a man who had been sick a long time. His reputation as a teacher, healer and miracle worker attracts large crowds—also the scrutiny of the Pharisees, who confront Jesus about healing on the Sabbath and asserting he is the Son of God. (Jn 5:18)

Jesus asks them to look beyond the Law: “39You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life… 40Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

Are we not now engaged in that same struggle? As Jesus, through his life and works, revealed his true nature, he was met with unbelief, persecution and death; yet, he triumphed to walk again with Thomas and Philip offering them solace, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” (Jn 14)

Today, it seems those who profess belief but offer unbelief. Persecution and death surround us—they trouble our very world. How easily we become distracted pursuing the glories of this world, when it’s God’s glory, alone, that is everlasting.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 12:2. It reminds me that this world, and all we pursue, is illusory, but the will of God is perfect—and I find renewal in Jesus’ words, “…come to me to have life.”

God of mercy, your love is everlasting. Even when we act as unbelievers, you are there to renew our minds, so that we may be transformed to walk in the way of Jesus. When our hearts are troubled, help us to know that when we walk with Christ we fulfill the perfection of your will. Amen.

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