Prepared to Meet God

Scripture Focus: Amos 4.12
“Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
    and because I will do this to you, Israel,
    prepare to meet your God.”

Luke 24.32, 36
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”

Reflection: Prepared to Meet God
By Erin Newton

We have entered into another prophetic book, Amos. Considered one of the first writing prophets, his prophetic period overlaps the ministries of Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. Amos opens with a list of Israel’s, and various nations’ sins: social injustice, inequality, idolatry, and every form of corruption possible. 

God let the people suffer through hardships with hopes of their repentance. Instead the people trusted in their own success. Their hearts lusted after other gods. They saw the poor and abused their weakness. 

Their hard hearts refused to be swayed by pain and discomfort to call out to God. In return, God declares the coming force of his presence. The ominous phrase, “Prepare to meet your God,” is meant to strike fear. The omnipotent God of creation is ready to meet humanity face to face. But humanity isn’t ready.  The proximity of humanity to the presence of God could result in death.  Soldiers died with a mere touch of the Ark of the Covenant (2 Sam 6.6). Priests were in immediate danger by their access to the Holy of Holies (Ex 28.35). Now God warns the people to prepare themselves for this fateful encounter. 

Only God could protect the lives of those who asked to see him face to face. 

Yet, this changed with the incarnation of Jesus. Just as it was in the beginning, God and humanity could walk together, talk together, and break bread together without the imminent threat of death. Death was conquered through the crucifixion. Peace came through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the days following the resurrection, God the Son continued to meet with the disciples. 

Instead of the threat of God coming in full force to judge the sins of the people, the people marvel at their experience with Jesus. Their hearts burn within them feeling the vibrancy of life and excitement of connection with Spirit. Jesus comes not riding upon the clouds as a warrior of wrath. He speaks words to calm their hearts. They see the face of God and he tells them, Peace. 

Amos records the warning from God for the people to prepare to meet him. It is still a message to us today. Through the mediation of Jesus, we can prepare to meet God with confidence. Our sins have been atoned and the wrath of God has been paid.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. — Psalm 36.5

Today’s Readings
Amos 4 (Listen – 2:21)
John 6 (Listen – 8:27)

Read more about Prayer, Our Tent of Meeting
When we pray as Jesus taught, we enter into God’s presence through the torn curtain of the Tent of Meeting, and hear his voice because of his atoning sacrifice.

Read more about The Last Shall be First—Resurrection Appearances
Paul describes himself as the “last” to see the risen Jesus and the least of the apostles but he became much more than that.

The Interruptions of Easter

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Scripture Focus: John 20.15
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

John 21.5
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.

Luke 24.17
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

Reflection: The Interruptions of Easter
By John Tillman

Some of my favorite words about Easter were written by N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope and we return to them frequently. 

I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday…and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration.

… Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom? It’s long overdue that we took a hard look at how we keep Easter in church, at home, in our personal lives, right through the system. And if it means rethinking some cherished habits, well, maybe it’s time to wake up.

Eastertide is a season of the church calendar that celebrates Christ’s resurrection over 50 days leading up to Pentecost.

We don’t go back to “normal” after Easter. Normal would mean Mary Magdalene mourning and searching for Jesus’ body. Normal would mean Cleopas walking back home to Emmaus. Normal would mean Peter and his friends going back to fishing. Jesus interrupted all of that. (John 20.1-18; Luke 24.17-25; John 21.4-7)

The resurrection interrupts normal. Normal died. Jesus lives. And in him, so do we. Let Jesus continue to interrupt your normal. Let Jesus interrupt your sorrow as he did for Mary. Let him interrupt your disillusionment as he did for Cleopas. Let him interrupt your guilt as he did for Peter. 

Respond to Jesus right in the middle of your fears, sorrows, doubts, and guilt. Joyfully run to preach the gospel, turn back to encourage others, leap out of your boat to swim to Christ, and learn to feed his lambs and care for his sheep.

If we are to live in Christ, it must be a new kind of living but often we trudge back into our old ways. The risen Christ has something to say to you today. Let him interrupt you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again!

Today’s Readings
Amos 2 (Listen – 2:12)
John 4 (Listen -6:37)

Read more about Easter—The Happy Beginning
Easter is a season in the church calendar, not a day. But in our lives, it can be an evergreen season that blooms throughout the year

Read more about Who is this King of glory?
Jesus was not the king they were expecting. And Jesus is not the king we often wish for either.

Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses

Scripture Focus: Psalm 145.1-4
1 I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
2 Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
3 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
4 One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.

1 Chronicles 15.29
29 As the ark of the covenant of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David dancing and celebrating, she despised him in her heart.

Luke 19.39-40
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Reflection: Daughters of Saul and Sons of Moses
By John Tillman

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we celebrated Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem and the week leading to the crucifixion and resurrection. (Matthew 21.1–11; Mark 11.1–11; Luke 19.28–44; John 12.12–19)

Like David’s procession of the Ark of the Covenant entering Jerusalem, Jesus’ processional was met by a joyous crowd. In both cases, there were those who wanted to steal the joy of the moment.

Michal, daughter of Saul and wife of David, critiqued the celebration. (1 Chronicles 15.29) She claimed to be concerned about propriety and modesty, but David’s response implied that her moralizing concealed a concern about power. (2 Samuel 6.20-23) The daughter of Saul despised this lowly king.

Likewise, religious leaders objected to crowds singing about Jesus “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 118:25,26) They publicly voiced concerns about blasphemy but privately they were concerned about power. They didn’t want to upset Rome. (John 11.48) The sons of Moses despised this lowly teacher.

Psalm 105
is the Psalm listed in Chronicles as one David (or Asaph at David’s direction) sang on the occasion of the Ark’s entry. (1 Chronicles 16.7-11) However, despite Psalm 145 not having a date or event attached, one could certainly imagine its celebratory tone going well with the procession David led or the procession of Jesus the Son of David.

Those traveling up to Jerusalem would sing psalms on their ascent, preparing for and celebrating being in the presence of God. We can pray and sing these psalms with the same sense of anticipation. Jesus comes to us as he came to Jerusalem, humble and lowly. We can welcome him with shouts, cries, and joyous abandon that some will not understand.

Welcome him this week and every week as the only rightful king of our hearts. We must depose our affection for other Saul-like kings. We must abandon vestiges of religion which grasp at power rather than righteousness.

Do not let daughters of Saul or sons of Moses steal your joy in the lowly king, the humble teacher. Let us exalt him with pure praise and abandon. Let us ensure the next generation joins in with us.

“I will exalt you, my God the King; 
I will praise your name for ever and ever. 
Every day I will praise you 
and extol your name for ever and ever. 
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts.”

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
…They cried out: “Blessed is he who is coming as King in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!” Some Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Master, reprove your disciples,” but he answered, “I tell you, if these keep silence, the stones will cry out.” — Luke 19.37-40


Today’s Readings
Hosea 12  Listen – 1:51)
Psalm 145  (Listen -2:19)

Read more about A Way Back for Strivers
If we wrestle with you God, you will bless…If we will return to you, God, you will heal

Read more On Psalm 145: Praying as Music
If music is a universal language, prayer can be similarly described.

Good King Wenceslas — Carols of Advent Love

Scripture Focus: 3 John 3-6
3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Reflection: Good King Wenceslas — Carols of Advent Love
By Jon Polk

In 921, the Duke of Bohemia (in modern Czech Republic) died when his son Wenceslas was only 13 years old, too young to rule. Wenceslas’ late grandfather converted to Christianity under the influence of Byzantine missionaries and his grandmother had seen to his education, so she was made regent in his stead.

At age 18, Wenceslas was made Duke of Bohemia and his reign was characterized by his Christian heritage. He became known for acts of charity and almsgiving, winning the admiration of his subjects.

Historian Cosmas of Prague wrote about Wenceslas in 1119:

His deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; rising every night from his noble bed, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched.

Wenceslas’ legacy helped shape the medieval concept of the righteous king, whose power is based on great piety in addition to regal authority.

Written by English hymn writer John Mason Neale in 1853, the carol “Good King Wenceslas” recounts one incident of love and generosity by the good king.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gathering winter fuel

The king orders his servants to gather food, drink and firewood and summons his page to help him deliver the goods to the poor peasant. 

Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

As the weather worsens, the page insists he can go no further; the king suggests that the page simply follow boldly in his footsteps. Upon doing so, the page discovers that he is warmed by the sod where snow had melted under his master’s footprints.

The Christmas season often prompts many people to engage in acts of charity and kindness. There are toy drives, meals served in soup kitchens and generous donations made to notable causes, all our expressions of God’s love.

Unfortunately, however, our generosity usually ends on December 26th.

While the carol recounts only one incident at Christmastime, Wenceslas was remembered for a life of generosity and love for those in need.

We follow a Righteous King who lived his whole life as a servant. He invites us to simply walk boldly in his footsteps, serving others not only for a few weeks during the Christmas season, but consistently throughout the year.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Listen: Good King Wenceslas by Downhere
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 8 (Listen – 3:02)
3  John 1 (Listen – 1:51)

Read more about Supporting our Work
We are thankful for our donors’ gifts because they contribute to improving the spiritual discipleship of readers around the globe.

Read more about He Became a Servant — Love of Advent
Jesus is our perfect and complete picture of what God is like. He is still among us as one who serves and we are to be like him.

Away in a Manger — Carols of Advent Love

Scripture Focus: 1 John 5:1-5
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Luke 2:4-7
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

From John: Once again, I have been looking forward to Jon Polk’s Advent contributions related to music related to this time of year. Jon has always been a key source through whom I learned about unique music and artists worth discovering. Jon is a music connoisseur and collector with a massive collection of music, both on his shelves and in his heart. This week, please enjoy his exploration of the carols of Advent.

Reflection: Away in a Manger — Carols of Advent Love
By Jon Polk

One of the world’s favorite Christmas songs is the lullaby-like carol, “Away in a Manger.” A 1996 Gallup Poll ranked it as the second most popular of all carols. The simple, saccharine lyrics are beloved by both children and adults alike.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.


First published in a Boston newspaper in 1882 with the title, “Luther’s Cradle Song,” it was accompanied by a notation which read, “The following hymn, composed by Martin Luther for his children, is still sung by many of the German mothers to their little ones.”

The great German reformer himself, known to be generally rough and abrupt in manner, penned a sappy, sweet Christmas hymn?

Actually, no. The song is nowhere to be found in any of Luther’s hymn collections or theological writings. Furthermore, linguists have compared the English and German versions of the hymn and concluded that the German is the translation not the original. Not only did those German mothers not sing “Away in a Manger” to their children, but they had never heard the song until hundreds of years after Luther’s death.

(Most likely, the song was written for and became attributed to Luther in connection with events surrounding the 400th anniversary of his birth in 1883.)

If its pedigree is not attached to the famous Martin Luther, why is this sentimental little song one of the world’s most favored Christmas carols? Its staying power may be found in the universality of parent-child relationships.

The parent-child relationship is the only human relationship that is unchangeable, permanent, and exists from cradle to grave. Friendships may wane over time, work colleagues come and go, and sadly, even many marriages end in divorce.

However, a parent will always be a parent to their child. A child will always be the child of their parents. The biological relationship is forged in eternity. More importantly, the love of a parent for their child is like no other. Ask any parent of a newborn to describe that love and they will be at a loss for words. It is in a word: indescribable.

Father God has called us his children. God’s love for us will never change. It is permanent, infinite, all-encompassing, unlike any other love. It is in a word: indescribable.

When we sing “Away in a Manger,” we are reminded of a parent’s profound love for a tiny, innocent baby and in turn, reminded of the infinitely more profound love that God has for us, his children.

I love you, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
And stay by my side till morning is nigh.


Listen: Away in a Manger by Shane & Shane (familiar US tune)
Listen: Away in a Manger by Lauren Daigle (familiar UK tune)
Read: Lyrics from Hymnary.org


Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 6.11-42 (Listen – 7:17)
1 John 5 (Listen – 3:00)

Read more about Supporting our Work
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Read more about How Are You Waiting? — Hope of Advent
When we do the joyful work of anticipation and preparation for Christ’s Advent, we may find that it is actually we who are coming home.