Saturday, December 26, 2020

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased! Luke 2:14

God’s glory in heaven and peace on earth go together. The peace that God brings is a peace between us and God. There is no more enmity. His peace extends to all the peoples of the earth. In lives of love, we spread peace, shalom, that lifts up the downtrodden and rebuilds the lives of those who were in the depths of despair. The child, the Greatest Gift of life, is the source of this love and its sure and certain foundation. In sharing Christ’s peace with one and all, and with life in Christ grasped by faith, God is truly glorified!

Younger brother Harry Bailey shows up to the party and gives the toast: “To my big brother George, the richest man in town!” As George and his family stand near the Christmas tree looking at the gifts before them, they see Clarence’s book, with an inscription: “Dear George: – Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.” George’s riches are marked by the blessing of so many dear friends. Together, they sing the song to welcome in a new year: “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.” A bell rings on the tree, and a winged Clarence joins the song. The child is our Lord, our friend, our brother! Every year is made wonderfully new by his life, his love, his hope and his peace—the Greatest Gift of God for us all!

Father in heaven, thank you for the blessed joy of Christmas and the child you have sent to be our Greatest Gift! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Friday, December 25, 2020

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. Luke 2:13

What starts out as a solo voice is now a chorus. A multitude of angelic messengers join in on the joyful praise of the birth of our Savior. It is a heavenly chorus; what begins in heaven in the divine plan of God now comes to earth in the promising song. There is no restraining its volume, nor diminishing the light that illuminates the night sky. Joy is catching!

“It’s a miracle!” Mary exclaims, as she bounds into the house, as joyous as George. She is filled with excitement by the generosity of their friends in Bedford Falls, who are willing to go to overwhelming extents to express their love for George Bailey and his family. A huge crowd—it seems the whole town—pours into the living room of their home, all with bright smiling faces, eager to spread more than enough kindness and generosity to cover the sadness and sorrow that once reigned here. On cue, little Janie picks up the song she had been practicing all night: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”! And all these angels themselves are singing, full of joy. Even those who would be judges cannot hold back their smiles and song!

Father, by sending your child, you bless us with an abundance of joy and grace! May our lives be filled with songs of praise to you! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Thursday, December 24, 2020

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

The shepherds of Bethlehem were not expecting anything new. Most of the news in their lives would have been the same old news as always: the wealthy and powerful rest in palaces, but shepherds, as all who are poor or without status, rest on the hilly grass under open skies. Yet to those poor shepherds, an angelic messenger appears. Calming their great fear before the presence of the divine, this messenger announces good news of great joy. But this message is not only for them. It is for all the people. The saving gift of the Christ Child has come, born and lying in a manger!

George Bailey is running through the streets of Bedford Falls on Christmas Eve as a man possessed. He is noticeably full of great joy. “Merry Christmas!” he proclaims loudly to one and all, even to old Mr. Potter. Yet his message and his life, reborn in the child whose birth he now proclaims, is more like Easter! He has a spirit of triumph and victory in the face of all adversity. The bank examiner, the sheriff with a warrant and the reporters present for the scoop of his arrest are all taken completely off guard. Their somber agenda has been overturned in favor of the good news of great joy that God’s agenda of promise reigns on this night and all nights and days to come!

Lord, fill us with the promising good news of the Christ Child, overwhelm us with great joy, and turn us loose to spread it over every hillside and town! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven …Isaiah 55:10

The prophet Isaiah gives us a parable of hope. As rain and snow come down from heaven, they come down with a purpose. They water the earth, causing plants to grow and sprout, and from this produce there is seed for the sower and bread for us to eat. So, the prophet continues, the Word of God accomplishes that for which it is sent. God sent the Word into the world, and the Word dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. And from this Word we have all been blessed!

George Bailey returns to the bridge, where he now offers one final prayer: “Please, God, let me live again.” As soon as he utters these words, snow begins to fall! The snow falls on George—from whom much will still grow and spout and bring blessing to the lives of many. God’s Word comes to us in the child of Christmas with a promising mission. We see it unfold and rejoice for all the blessing he brings for our lives and the life of the whole world. Hope is born!

Lord, send down from heaven your water of life. Cover us in the blessing and comforting tenderness of your Word. Then send us out to be a blessing to others! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Isaiah 49:15

The people of Israel complained that God had forgotten all about them. The prophet gave them instead an example of unforgettable love: a mother with her child in her lap. They would not have to look too hard to find such love in their daily lives, nor in their childhood memories. Abraham was shown the stars in the sky, too many to count. The stars are still there, and the people are still the descendants of this promise. God uses beautiful images from nature to spark our faith. And even if these are not enough, we have the promise that God could never forget his own people.

George believes that his own life is meaningless and useless. “I wish I had never been born.” But how much would have been lost if this were true? People would drink to forget about life in a cruel, baseless town renamed after George’s adversary. There would be no friends, no family and no wife, nor any of the joy George brought into their lives. George stands pained at the door of the Bailey house where his own mother does not even recognize him, for he was never her child. Bailey Park, a place of beautiful homes, would only be a cemetery with the grave of his own younger brother, who would never have been saved by George. For all the people whose lives George had touched with love and hope, the messenger reminds him: “You really had a wonderful life.” There is no life when you are forgotten. Yet even if all had forgotten you, there is a mother with a child in her lap this Christmas, a faithful reminder of the unforgettable wonderful life God has given for you. And it will never be taken away.

Lord, when we think we are without purpose or forgotten, hold before our eyes the child in the lap of this world in whom no one is ever forgotten or unloved. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Monday, December 21, 2020

For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

The Psalmist knew how dangerous and demonic the world can be. He also believed that God can be trusted over anything that would harm us. Faith trusts that we have a relationship with God. Through faith, we dwell in the shelter of the Most High God; because God is our refuge, no evil can befall us. God can be trusted to be with us, even to send his holy angels to watch over us and bring us to his reign of love and mercy. God sends his Son as a child, that we might all come into God’s kingdom as his own divine children.

Clarence is George’s guardian angel. Even as a second-class angel without his wings, he still has plenty of divine presence. The man who guards the bridge falls over and flees from Clarence—just as the guards at the tomb of the risen Lord were frightened by the holy messengers. For all of Clarence’s seemingly childlike simplicity, he bears the wisdom of God. Evil is not to be feared, for God is always watching over us. Clarence carries the book Tom Sawyer, in which the main character was thought to have drowned, only to show up at his own funeral to the delight of many and even to the glory of God. Perhaps this is an overture to what is yet to come for George on this Christmas Eve. We, too, drown from our sin through baptism in the water, only to rise again in the promise that we are forever children of God. Through Jesus the Christ, we enjoy great divine connections! God never goes back on a promise. The child has sealed our lives with his own life, death and resurrection.

Lord, let your holy angel be with me so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2020

O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Matthew 14:31

Peter doubted when the choice had to be made between Jesus and the chaos. The same Peter claimed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, but then immediately failed to understand why Jesus must go the way of suffering and death. Peter also said he would never deny his Lord, but did just that, three times before the night was over. In all cases, Jesus never gave up on him, regardless of Peter’s doubts and denials. The child of God will exercise his dominion over chaos and death; he will always be present with us, even to the end of the age. He is called Emmanuel, which means: God is with us.

When George Bailey is at his lowest point, about to jump into the watery void, someone else jumps in first—crying for help much like George’s younger brother Harry did decades ago. George jumps in to save him. We soon learn this one who jumped in first was God’s answer to George’s prayer. Through this angelic emissary, God will save George in a most unusual way from the despair that would have led him to throw away his life. George is more precious than he realizes. Jesus is present with us when we are lost in the void. He jumped into our broken humanity to save us all from drowning in despair. With Christ in our midst, we trust and cherish his life as the Greatest Gift, even in the face of chaos and death.

Lord, you are ever present to bring us back from the brink of our despair. Give us faith to trust your power over death and all evil, and to rest in your abiding love. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Psalm 69:15

When the Psalmist cries for help, it is in his most desperate hour. Gazing into the depths of Sheol, he is already in the grasp of hellish forces prevailing upon him. Like the Psalmist, one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, faced the prospect of a hellish grave. In the temple, he cast down the thirty pieces of silver—the money he received to betray his Lord. Those funds would be used to buy a potter’s field for the death and burial of foreigners. Judas would find no solace and give in to his despair. But the Psalmist would hope in such damning depths that the Lord would help him, and a song of thanksgiving would be on his lips.

George himself is at the crossroad of death. He stares over a bridge into the abyss of a watery grave. He has spent his entire adult life rescuing people from the hellish existence of despair. He built new and beautiful homes for people who lived as slaves in Potter’s Field. But now, in this moment, nothing seems to matter anymore. He is about to sacrifice his own life. Is there no one to rescue us from death and the grave? I thought you’d never ask! The child is with us, even here as we stare into the abyss, and the gates of hell will not prevail against his promise of love.

Lord Jesus, holy child, you came to us in the darkness of night in Bethlehem, and you are with us in our darkest hour. Bear us up through the time of trial and let hope reign for us always. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Galatians 3:13

Like all of humanity, Jesus came into this world born to a human mother. This child, born in the fullness of time, also came to share our existence as people under the law. Because we cannot stand up under the judgment of the law, we became a people cursed by it. But Christ came to bear that curse for us. Through his body on that tree, we are redeemed from our sins. Through his body on that tree, we become children of God.

George Bailey, despairing, distressed and perhaps a bit inebriated, should probably not have been driving on Christmas Eve. In doing so, he hits a tree with his car. The old owner of the tree is enraged, for it is a very old tree, one of the oldest trees in town, planted long ago by his ancestors. This old man with his old tree joins the chorus of those accusing George for his failings. How long has the old family tree of the law been criticizing us, accusing us of all the ways we have fallen short of the law’s demand? Indeed, we can find no rescue from the judgment of the law. But Christ came to bear its curse, so that we can bear his blessing. This night of Christmas, before all is said and done, George will come to hear the bell of blessing upon him. So may we all on Christmas Eve.

Lord Jesus, in our fallenness, we come to the tree on which you would hang for our sins. Grant us the blessing of your Greatest Gift for us through your body on the cross. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Thursday, December 17, 2020

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Luke 18:7

God hears our cries in the midst of pain and anguish. That is why the Greatest Gift came to us. He came as the one long promised to save us from all that would leave us cold and abandoned. He formed us as his own people, his chosen ones, and invited us—yes, even commanded us—to pray and never lose heart. He himself prayed constantly, especially in his own great anguish and trial. Ask, seek, knock, he said. In our times of struggle and trial, we may find that no one will truly listen to us or no one can help us. But faith looks unceasingly to the Father. The child is with us in our prayers, with promises that our loving Father will hear us.

George Bailey is in a time of deep trial. He finds no relief from his despair and has no strength to go on. No one will help him; he may even think no one can. He sits in a pub and prays: “God, oh God, dear Father in heaven … I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way.” What that way will look like, we do not always grasp, but we trust God is faithful. A dejected and penitent prodigal returns home, not expecting his father’s full embrace. Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for his cup of suffering and trial to pass, but leaned most especially on his loving Father to be with him and trusted in the Father’s will to bring about the salvation of the whole world. How it would all unfold comes through the passion and the resurrection. We, too, cry without ceasing, trusting that the Father hears our cries with greater love and compassion than we can possibly imagine.

Dear Father in heaven, hear our cries and petitions, and help us to wait for your loving surprise and embrace. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced. Isaiah 54:4

It is bad enough to suffer, but to suffer with shame is even worse. Those who heard the prophet’s proclamation knew full well the damning shame of their exile. Yes, they suffered in their captivity; but worse, they were the laughing stock of nations in their defeat. The child who would carry our cross and hear the scorn of those who mocked him took his place with us not only in our suffering, but in our shame before our critics, even before God. The Word of the Lord says not to fear shame or be disheartened by disgrace, for the child restores us with the honor of his presence and encourages us to grasp the joyous vindication of God’s love.

George Bailey is suffering from the anguish and embarrassment of the awful predicament of “misplaced” company funds meant for deposit. We all know those funds were literally “misplaced” in the lap of Mr. Potter, who apparently kept the money like a thief. But that does not stop Potter from making George suffer with shame. “You were going to go out and conquer the world!” Potter says scornfully to George. When George holds up his life insurance policy as his only available collateral to offer, Potter demonically suggests that George is “worth more dead than alive.” We should never confess our sins to the devil, who only seeks to accuse us and get us to accept the lie that we are nothing more than people of shame and disgrace. The Greatest Gift of the Christ Child gives us full pardon in the righteous worth of his life over death. As St. Paul exclaimed, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

Lord, when we are desperate and ashamed of our sins, lead us to trust the cross of Christ. Give us courage in the midst of our fear and the enduring promise of your love, which covers all our disgrace. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom. Isaiah 35:1

The people of Israel experienced the bitter pain of their long exile. Their hopes and dreams faded into despair, and their spirits had become as dry as the desert sand. Can God possibly fix the life of his people and make them whole? Can God bring the flower of our lives back from the dead? Isaiah gives a resounding “yes” in response. The liberation of the people of promise will be like a new spring day after a very long winter. The servant of God will raise the dead and heal those sick from all kinds of diseases. And his new life will lead us all to rejoice and blossom.

Little Zuzu Bailey is confined to her bed with a fever. Yet when her father comes into the room, all she can talk about is the rose she received from her teacher at school. When she shows him the flower, a few of the petals fall off; and with their falling, the very flower of her spirit fades. “Daddy, paste it!” In a tender display of care and love, George places the fallen petals in his pants pocket without her noticing. Then putting the restored flower in a glass of water by her bedside, he whispers to her to go back to sleep so she can dream about “a whole garden” of flowers. On Christmas Eve, a father seeks to plant a promising vision in the heart of his daughter, confined to her bed with illness: more beautiful days are coming, little girl! Our Father in heaven sends the child of Christmas so that we, too, may grasp that promise.

Lord, when our spirits are dried up and unable to bloom and grow, open the eyes of our hearts to see the unfading and joyous garden of new life in you! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Monday, December 14, 2020

A little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6

While the world is surely wondrous, it is also filled with many dangers. People and all creatures alike hide or seek shelter from their predators. But Isaiah speaks of a peaceable kingdom that will come, which will bring the reign of God upon the earth. And in the midst of it will be a child, one who will reign over all, who shall bring an end to all hurt and harm and violence, who will wipe the tears of all who have been afflicted and oppressed, and who will lead us all in the path of love, hope, joy and peace. In a brief interaction, we see the calming effect of a young child.

George is clearly distraught, but he hugs and kisses his youngest child, Tommy, holding him close to his tearful face. Perhaps George thinks he will never see this child and his family again. But the real gift, the lovely humor, is how the child covers George’s head with tinsel, icicles of Christmas. Like George’s apologies to the whole family that will come later, this interaction provides a moment of peace in the midst of all the threats of danger. As caring parents, we might seek to shield our children from the threatening dangers of this world. This is no place for a child. But the child who comes for us, into the midst of our places and even our no-places, sprinkles Christmas upon us, and chases the danger away.

Lord, thank you for being in our midst and for covering us with your peaceable reign. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Third Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2020

All we like sheep have gone astray. Isaiah 53:6

The child was born in a manger, a place for sheep to feed. How appropriate, given that he is food for us all. This child would behold later in life how the multitudes of the earth were like sheep without a shepherd. They were lost, and so are we. The prophet Isaiah says that we all have gone astray. We all wander away from God, the very source of our life and being. And no one knows this more deeply that the child who came for us all. But this shepherd in the line of David will call us and bring us together to himself, to nurture and feed us in his life and his love.

In a scene depicting the primal nature of our sinful lostness, we find George Bailey on a very uncharacteristic rampage. He is frantic, and by his own admission, has lost his way. He demonstrates violence and rage toward Uncle Billy. He shouts at his children. He demeans Zuzu’s teacher, Mrs. Welch, and threatens her husband. He is lost because of what he and Uncle Billy have lost. He even strives to leave the blame elsewhere, though he cannot escape the hard truth of his own responsibility for his actions and his company’s loss. Still, there is the child, the shepherd of the lost sheep, who looks upon him with love and seeks to bring him back into the fold. This child is with us, too, in all the ways we have gone astray.

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. James 1:17

Generosity comes from the heart. It’s the intention of giving that matters, not the giving itself. We may recall when Jesus called his disciples together to witness how a poor widow put two small coins into the temple treasury. While others gave from their abundance, she gave all she had to live on. What we should especially witness from this is how Jesus is the widow’s offering for the world. The child came into the world to give all that he had—even his very life—so that through his poverty in death, the world would have life in abundance.

We see generosity of the heart in the life of George Bailey, who spends his whole life for others. He will never leave the Building and Loan but instead looks for ways to help those who need it most. He even gives the last few dollars in his pocket to Violet, who plans to leave town for what she hopes will be a promising career—something which always escaped George and now is no longer the meaning of his life. Our Father in heaven sent the gift of his Son to brighten our lives with the brightness that lit up the night sky over Bethlehem. This perfect gift comes down from heaven so we may have life to enjoy to the fullest.

Lord, as you have so generously graced us with life, help us to be witnesses of your life by opening our hearts and sharing our gifts with others. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Friday, December 11, 2020

They may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

The prophet Isaiah saw a day coming when the people who have been brokenhearted and oppressed would find a new description. Their heads would be covered with garlands of joy and they would be anointed with the oil of gladness. They would be a people strong and sturdy, oaks of righteousness, planted back in their homeland. The child, the Greatest Gift, was coming into the world to bring life to those who for so long had been lifeless. If we look penitently into our spirits, we would all have to confess that such lifelessness is within us. But the child comes to bring us life, to turn our mourning into joy, and to raise up those who are faint with the praise of righteousness.

When there is pressure and hardship upon us, when we are captive to the demands and judgments of others, we can have trouble seeing life as rewarding. George Bailey, much like his father, feels the pressure of Mr. Potter bearing down hard upon him. But that doesn’t stop George from boasting about life in the midst of it. His younger brother, Harry, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor during the war, and is coming back to his hometown for a celebration of this achievement. It’s front page news, good news, for the Bailey family and for the community. Other pressures and temptations to despair may come; days of mourning and faint spirit may return. But our hearts are planted in the good news that the child of life is planted in our midst, in a manger and on a cross, to bring a day of promise and glory.

Lord, you shower upon us the grace of your glorious righteousness. Make us bold to proclaim your promise in the face of all adversity. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Thursday, December 10, 2020

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Isaiah 2:4

God is a God of peace, shalom. The child who comes for us to bring justice to our world did not do so with vengeance and hostility, but with love and compassion. This servant of God will not break the bruised reed or extinguish the dimly burning wick. He restores us when we are oppressed and worn down by the forces against us. He forgives his enemies. Nations are invited to see with the merciful eyes of God, not to engage in war and violence, but to build up one another as brothers and sisters.

In times of war, people will unite to fight a common enemy. But the greatest enemy of sin and hostility is often within us. George Bailey cannot go off to war because of his damaged ear, but he supports his friends and neighbors the best he can. He weeps and prays when the war is over in Europe and Japan. He longs to see those he loves come home. When we fight the good fight of faith, we fight with the weapons of the Spirit for all people, even for those who are vanquished. Through our tears and prayers, we long for that new day to dawn—a day when the child’s peace and justice will reign for us all.

Father, through your Son our Lord keep us safe in your love. Help us to shed all our hostility and embrace your promising new day with eager longing. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. Luke 1:31

Mary of Nazareth received a surprise. The angel Gabriel announced that she would be the bearer of Jesus. The child would bring the peaceable kingdom to his people. Mary trusted this good news and then shared it with her relative Elizabeth. Together with John in the womb of Elizabeth, they rejoiced in the coming of the Lord. Joseph, too, would come to celebrate this gift for all humanity with his spouse Mary.

Mary of Bedford Falls also has a surprise. Heavily burdened by the trials of the day, George asks Mary why she bothered to marry someone like him when she could have had any other man in town. She unveils the surprise by telling George that she doesn’t want any other man in town; she wants her baby to look like him. Realizing what Mary is announcing, George is overcome with joy. The Bailey family begins with a son named Pete, followed by Janie, Zuzu and Tommy. The birth of a child is always a time for celebration. But the Greatest Gift comes for us all and conceives in us a deep and resounding joy. Such joy overcomes the worrisome grief of all our burdens.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the greatest bundle of joy for our lives and setting us free from all sadness. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

They fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

The journey of the wise men was marked with reverence; and only before the child would they bend the knee in worship. Herod vainly promised to do the same, but that was never really his intent. Yet what these magi give in their gifts and treasures would pale in comparison to what the Greatest Gift would give to them and to all the very corners of the world they represent. Most especially, the Greatest Gift is given to the “least of these” who have little or nothing to bring. This is the child whose star rises in the East and who illuminates the whole world with peace and joy.

In this world, there are many who worship power, wealth or status. They do not bow down to the child but expect that others should bow down to them. In a vain attempt, Mr. Potter tries to buy the services of George Bailey. Potter wants to see the end of the Building and Loan as much as Herod wanted to see the end of his kingly competitor. The lavish praise Potter heaps upon George—that he’s a rising bright star in Bedford Falls who deserves a salary ten times more than he currently makes—is all a ruse. George will not succumb to that tempting deception and the false worship it represents. One bows down to the treasure of the child, the true source of life. And with our tongues, we confess his lordship over all.

Lord, what great gifts we have from you. When temptations come, save us and lead our hearts to seek only you, the gift we treasure most. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Monday, December 7, 2020

I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 2 Samuel 7:9

This promise of greatness was made to David. David had conquered many enemies, including the mighty Goliath, and sought to build a house for the ark of God’s covenant; but God, instead, promises to build a house in David’s name. In the line of David is the child Jesus. He fulfilled his name in saving us from our sins, from death and from all evil. His death would be the final victory over all that would harm us or seek to separate us from God’s love. And so God exalted his name above every name.

George’s name is not as important as what he does—building on the earth places not for himself but for his many neighbors. Bailey Park is a place for people who otherwise would have little or no place in this world. George’s joy is in seeing the happiness of those who get a home to live in. By all appearances, his friend Sam looks more successful, with all his affluence, a chauffeured car, fancy clothes and a prominent business in a bustling city. George has his same old car on the dusty roads of Bedford Falls, not the best of clothes, his same old business at the family Building and Loan and a home which he himself called a drafty old house. Yet George is successful in his life in the eyes of those who came to experience his compassion, something even his opposition can behold. Whether people see it or not, the greatness of our name is in the connection we have with the Greatest Gift. With our names joined to his, we, too, get to rejoice and live in his greatness.

Lord, we place our hopes and dreams in you. Help us to always trust that the measure of our greatness is in the greatness of Christ’s name for us. Amen..

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2020

Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11

The Greatest Gift was born in Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” In his life, the child would feed people by the thousands, shepherding them with his love and making sure all were satisfied. He would feed us through the centuries with his grace and mercy. He still feeds us today, with bread and wine, words and water. Even as we pray for our daily bread, as he taught us, we seek the open and loving hand of God to feed us when we are in need. As his disciples, we seek to be extensions of that loving hand for a very hungry world.

Just married, George and Mary are on their way out of town, until they pass what appears to be a run on the banks. George rushes back to the Building and Loan to address the panicked crowd outside; shortly after, Mary follows, bringing the money intended for their honeymoon. Soon, all the people are given what they need. Broke from giving all he had, George is called to come home to 320 Sycamore—what used to be the old Granville house. His friends have prepared it as a bridal suite. Mary stands in the dining room by a table beautifully set for dinner, with romantic music and a chicken roasting on an open fire. “Welcome home, Mr. Bailey.” Daily bread can come in very unexpected ways. But the love of the child which feeds the world is still seeking the hungry and homeless.

Lord, give us what we need each day, and lead us to feed the world. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

A desert can be a lonely place. Perhaps the journey in the desert, after many years in exile, only reminded the people of Israel of when they wandered for forty years looking for the promised land. It was also a time when they grumbled against God and wished to go back to Egypt. But Isaiah points them in a new direction. For all of God’s wandering people, there is a new thing happening! The desert will not be a lonely place, but a road to hope and fulfillment. In place of wandering, we will have a place in the loving arms of God!

George is wandering outside the gate of Mary’s home. Mary invites him in. She puts out her sketch of George lassoing the moon and plays the old song that should have stirred memories from four years ago, when romance was in the air between them. But George does not grasp it. When Mary receives a phone call from a mutual friend, Sam Wainwright, she holds the phone so that she and George, standing within inches of each other, can both hear Sam. Yet George is still wandering, even as love stares him in the face. Sam offers George an opportunity to get in on a new deal, “a chance of a lifetime!” Only then does George see with the same eyes of love as Mary, and sees this as his chance for a truly new thing in his life—a life with his beloved. The Greatest Gift, our Lord and Savior, looks upon us with eyes of love in the midst of our desert, and waters our soul with new life. Do you not perceive it?

Father, open our eyes to see the newness of life you present to us in the gift of your Son! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Friday, December 4, 2020

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

The Greatest Gift comes to us in tremendous humility. Though divine, the child did not grasp or cling to his divine form, but “emptied himself” in becoming one with us, born a human being and sharing fully in our humanity—in our life and also in our death. Because of the gracious depths of love this child brings, all our days of living and dying are joined with him. Because we trust this child and we perceive this path as one of promise, our lives are conformed to his humility on behalf of others.

George Bailey waits eagerly for the train to come. His brother is coming back to town after having gone to college with the funding George had saved for himself. Now, George thinks, it is his turn. Yet when the train arrives, he learns that Harry is recently married and has the opportunity to begin a new, promising career in his father-in-law’s business. Though George could have insisted on his rights, he will not quash this time of newness for Harry and his bride. At the celebration for the return and marriage of his younger brother, George hears the whistle of the train leaving the station. In his eyes, you can see the struggle, as his personal hopes dim in favor of the hopes and dreams of others. But this does not mean he will be without hope or promise. On the contrary, the promise will continue to unfold for him, and for many others, whose lives will be changed for the good. Life is not about insisting or demanding our right—as we so often do in the world. Life in the Greatest Gift is about making right for all in the world through the promise. We bear God’s promise in our humility and love for others, and give thanks for the child who emptied himself for us all to make us right.

Lord, help us to regard others as better than ourselves. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Thursday, December 3, 2020

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son. John 3:16

At the heart of the gospel is the message that God so dearly loves us all. God’s plan for the world was not carried out from a distance, but among us and with us. God sent his Son as the greatest gift of love. He sent him to live in a particular time and place, and yet to share in all times and all places. God sent his Son to be the Bread of Life and the Living Water for those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. God sent his Son to grant blessing to those who had no hope, to raise up those carrying the heavy burden of their sins and those trodden underfoot by the powerful.

Peter Bailey ran the Building and Loan of Bedford Falls for many years. He cared for the poorer people of his community, taking risks in granting them loans so they could have a meaningful life and a place to call home. Mr. Potter, the town’s wealthiest citizen, only sees Peter Bailey as a “starry-eyed dreamer” seeking to do the impossible, showing unwarranted compassion for those whom Potter calls the “discontented lazy rabble.” Peter’s son, George, really wants to shake off the dust of his hometown and do something “important” in life, yet he also shares his father’s values. When his father dies, George is confronted with the ultimate prospect: either leave town once and for all or embrace his father’s world. George chooses the latter. It is the beginning of his vocation. The poor are his friends. The “rabble” are human beings needing love. For their sake, it is important that he stay with them in Bedford Falls. That choice will make all the difference in the world.

Lord, as you sent your Son to be our Greatest Gift, so send us to gift all with love in our time and place, for the sake of your whole world. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever. Luke 1:55

Mary sings with hope and joy about the child she bears. Even though she is an unmarried, pregnant young teenager without any meaningful social status, she claims that this child is the fulfillment of the promise Abraham trusted long ago. This child will lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with good things, while those who have oppressed the powerless will be humbled by the power of God’s promise of peace and mercy. Such bold claims are the acts of faith.

Another teenager named Mary is singing and dancing “by the light of the moon.” With her lifelong beloved, George Bailey, by her side, her heart is light with hope and joy. She makes a promising wish as she throws a stone at the old Granville house, keeping it secret until the day of its fulfillment. She hopes this old decaying house will become a beautiful home for her and George and their family. She carries that faith even in the midst of the many obstacles they will face in their life together. Our faith is rooted in a promise: that the child who comes for us will lead us on the path of hope. Faith gives us the power to sing even when the world and all its powers seek to silence us in despair. Faith gives us the power to bear love for all who have been downtrodden and afflicted. And faith gives birth to the joy of Christ’s kingdom that cannot be taken away.

Lord, give birth to your promise in our lives. Fill us with such trust in you that our hearts overflow in song! Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42

Tuesday, December 1, 2020Title of book is Our Greatest Gift A Wonderful Life In Christ, church, snow trees, bridge and small town

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. Isaiah 53:4

The Christ Child does not come into a world that is pure and undefiled. On the contrary, the world has been deeply infected – with infirmity, disease, sin, sorrow and death. All of us have come to experience the pain of infirmity and disease. Yet none of us could do what this child has done for us. This child, in his life and death, bears the burden of our infirmities and our diseases. If we truly understand this, the prophet says, we would “hide our faces” to even look upon him, for he bears the truth of ourselves in his death (Isaiah 53:3). Bur for our sake, and the sake of the whole world, he makes these infirmities and diseases his own, so we may share in his mercy and love.

On the counter of Mr. Gower’s pharmacy lies a telegram bearing tragic news: Mr. Gower’s son, Robert, has died. Robert was a casualty of an influenza, as were so many others who suffered this most tragic pandemic. Mr. Gower, distraught and drinking on the job, mistakenly puts poison in a prescription. George Baily sees it all, and even at this young age recognizes Mr. Gower’s deep pain. George comes to his aid by not delivering the prescription as Mr. Gower ordered. Though at first deeply angered and even abusive toward George, Mr. Gower comes to recognize the truth of his mistake. Humbled, he falls to his knees and embraces the young George Bailey. Through his tears, Mr. Gower expresses his deep gratitude. George never speaks of the incident, as if it were a confession buried in the depths of promising absolution. The life of a child can rescue the lives of others.

Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to bear the pain of all our infirmities and diseases, and making us whole. Amen.

Used with permission, Creative Communications for the Parish; September 15, 2020; ASIN: B08H4R9J42