The Gift of God

The Gift of God

December 7, 2019
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Readings for Today

Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor—Memorial

“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8b

What is it that we have received “without cost?”  Well, we have received every good thing for free.  It’s true!  All that is good is a gift from God.  And it’s a free gift from Him.  There is nothing we can do to earn His blessings in our lives.  Do you believe that?

The above Scripture quote is part of Jesus’ exhortation to His Twelve Apostles as He sends them out to preach, heal and cast out demons in His name.  He reminds them that all they have received from Him is a free gift and that they must, in turn, give the Gospel free of charge to everyone.

Advent is a time when we should especially focus upon the coming celebration of the Gift of Christmas.  Christmas is a time when we give and receive gifts, but it’s important to understand the difference between a “gift” and a “present.”  A present is something that is expected.  For example, your spouse or child expects a present on their birthday or on Christmas.  But a gift is something that is much more.  A gift is something that is freely given, unearned and undeserved.  It’s given out of love with no strings attached.  This is what the Incarnation is all about.

Advent must be a time when we ponder the truth that God came to Earth to give us Himself in an unmerited and free way.  His life is a totally free Gift to us and is the greatest Gift we have ever received.  In turn, Advent must be a time when we also reflect upon our calling to bring the Gift of Christ Jesus to others.

Reflect, today, upon the giving and receiving of Jesus in your life.  Let your heart be filled with gratitude this Advent so that you, in turn, can give the Gift of Jesus to others.

Lord, thank You for the Gift of Your life.  Thank You for coming to Earth to enter into my life.  Thank You for the joy of knowing You and loving You.  May I allow this joy to so transform my life that I may continually seek to give You to others.  Jesus, I trust in You.

Saturday (December 7): “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”

Daily Reading & Meditation

Saturday (December 7): “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”
Scripture: Matthew 9:35-10:1,6-8  

9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every  disease and every infirmity.  36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  38 pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” 10:1 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. 6 “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And preach as you go, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 30:19-21,23-26

19 Yes, O people in Zion who dwell at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he  hears it, he will answer you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your  eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your silver-covered graven images and your gold-plated molten images. You will scatter them as unclean things; you  will say to them, “Begone!” 23 And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and grain, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your cattle will graze in large pastures; 24 and the oxen and the asses that till the ground will eat salted provender, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25 And upon every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the LORD binds up the hurt of his people, and heals the wounds  inflicted by his blow.

Meditation: Who doesn’t want a life of good health, peace, and well-being? Isaiah foretold that God’s kingdom would overcome sorrow and adversity and bring true peace and prosperity to God’s people. Jesus understood his mission to bring the kingdom in all its fulness to us. The core of the Gospel message is quite simple: the kingdom or reign of God is imminent!

The kingdom of God is imminent
What is the kingdom of God? It’s the power of God at work in that society of men and women who trust in God and who honor him as their King and Lord.  In the Lord’s prayer we dare to ask God to reign fully in our lives and in our world: “May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 5:10 ). Jesus’ preaching of God’s kingdom was accompanied by signs and wonders. People were healed not only spiritually, but physically as well. Do you believe in the power of God’s kingdom for your life? Let his word transform your mind and heart that he may reign supreme in every area of your life.

Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry on the works which he did – to speak God’s word and to bring his healing power to the weary and oppressed. Jesus said to his disciples: Freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). What they had received from Jesus (all free of charge) they must now pass on to others without expecting any kind of payment or reward. They must show by their attitude that their first interest is God, not material gain.

The kingdom of heaven comes to those who receive Christ with faith
Jesus’ words are just as relevant today. The kingdom of heaven is available to those who are ready to receive it. We cannot buy heaven; but if we accept the love and mercy of Jesus we already possess heaven in our hearts! The Lord brings his kingdom or heavenly reign to those who receive him with faith and obedience. When the Lord returns in his glory he will fully restore his kingdom of everlasting peace and justice. Do you pray and watch with confident hope for God’s kingdom to come in all its fullness?

“Lord Jesus, rouse my spirit from complacency and stir my faith to see you act today. Give me boldness to live and proclaim the message of the kingdom of heaven and to be a prophetic sign of that kingdom to this generation.”

Psalm 147:1-6

1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God;  for he is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our LORD, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground.

Daily Quote from the early church fathersIn remembrance of heavenly life, by Bede the Venerable, 672-735 A.D.

“Why should the lunar reckoning be calculated from the noontide hours, seeing that the moon had not yet been placed in the heavens or gone forth over the earth? On the contrary, none of the feast days of the law began and ended at noon or in the afternoon, but all did so in the evening. Or else perchance it is because sinful Adam was reproached by the Lord ‘in the cool of the afternoon’ (Genesis 3:8) and thrust out from the joys of Paradise. In remembrance of that heavenly life which we changed for the tribulation of this world, the change of the moon, which imitates our toil by its everlasting waxing and waning, ought specifically to be observed at the hour in which we began our exile. In this way every day we may be reminded by the hour of the moon’s changing of that verse, ‘a fool changes as the moon’ (Sirach 27:11) while the wise man ‘shall live as long as the sun’ (Psalm 72:5), and that we may sigh more ardently for that life, supremely blessed in eternal peace, when ‘the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days.’ Indeed, because (as it is written) ‘from the moon is the sign of the feast day’ (Sirach 43:7), and just as the first light of the moon was shed upon the world at eventide, so in the law it is compulsory that every feast day begin in the evening and end in the evening (see Exodus 12:18). (excerpt from THE RECKONING OF TIME 3.43)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Daily Reflection

In the midst of this fallen world, is God really always with us?  During the many trials of our lives, that question certainly seems to haunt us more than we would choose to admit.  Today’s scriptures provide solid direction for those times when we catch ourselves feeling abandoned and hopeless.

In Isaiah’s message, we see God speaking to the people of Israel.  They are experiencing hardships of many kinds and they seem confused about where to turn for help. Isaiah reminds them that God has not forgotten them and that He will provide all their needs.  He will never forget them nor forsake them, even when they are suffering, even when they seem to have forgotten all the ways that they have been blessed.   God has always been at their side.

We too need this constant reminder.   It is so easy to forget all the instances in our lives when God has brought us through trials, hardships and heartbreaks.  We get trapped in the “what have you done for me lately” mindset, when it should actually be so easy to keep our focus upon God, simply be remembering all His blessings throughout our life’s journey.  Today’s Psalm further reminds us to maintain our focus upon our mighty God and all that he continues to do in our life – even when His plan and His timing are difficult for us to understand.  We are called to simply wait for the Lord in faith, trusting in His everlasting presence.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus provides us with a clear example of what it means to follow Him.  Jesus spent time in this world traveling “around all the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom”.   These were likely the things He did every day.  Perhaps not too different from us as we go about the daily routines in our life.  But Jesus taught us a very important distinction.  While doing his daily work, he specifically took the time to notice those around Him.  He did not let His daily routines crowd out  the importance of the people around Him.  His heart was moved by their suffering.  He didn’t simply notice them, He did something about it, curing their diseases and illnesses.   However,  meeting the needs of those in direct contact with Him  was not enough, for He noted that the need for compassion was great – the “harvest is abundant.”  And then Jesus made a remarkable observation – “the laborers are few;” so, Jesus sent out his disciples to “Go to the lost sheep” and while proclaiming the good news, actually helping them in their troubles.

It is hard to miss this stark example, this directive.  Rather than focusing on our trials, we have the responsibility of seeking Jesus’ eyes and ears, to notice those He has placed in our lives.  To see their hurts and to actually do something about them.    We know that Jesus’ care and love will always be with us throughout every moment of our lives.  Jesus clearly reminds us that we are to extend this care and love to those we encounter each and every day.  We need to take this directive seriously – as the harvest is indeed abundant in today’s world.  How will you choose to answer this call?

Dear Heavenly Father  open my heart to the hurts and needs of those I encounter each and every day.  Help me to focus upon them in lieu of whining about my problems.  Thank you for your care, your love, and your eternal patience.  In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.

December 7

MORNING

He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. II Cor. 5:21

The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isa. 53:6

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. I Pet. 2:24

As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Rom. 5:19

After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom. 8:1

The LORD our Righteousness. Jer. 23:6

EVENING

I will be as the dew unto Israel. Hos. 14:5

The meekness and gentleness of Christ. II Cor. 10:1

A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench. Isa. 42:3

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. Luke 4:18192122

And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:6162

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Isa. 40:11

Daily Advent Prayer

Entrance Antiphon:
To you, my God, I lift my soul,
I trust in you; let me never come to shame.
Do not let my enemies laugh at me.

Collect:
G
rant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming, so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever .
 *

Today’s Readings

Daily Meditation:
Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem dwell secure.
We begin Advent coming to the Lord who promises to keep us safe. In awe we say:

“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul!”
Psalm 25

Let’s begin this week with a deeply felt prayer.
Even if we don’t know exactly what we need or long for,
today, let’s try to express our desire for God’s help and assistance.

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah  Jeremiah 33

He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.

Psalm 25

Today’s Daily Reflection

Intercessions:
To God our Father, who has given us the grace
to wait in  graceful hope for the revelation of
our Lord Jesus Christ, let us make our prayer:
Show us your mercy, Lord.

Sanctify us in mind and body,
– keep us without sin until the coming of your Son.

Make us walk this day in holiness,
– and live upright and devout lives in this world.

May we be clothed in our Lord Jesus Christ,
– and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help us to stand watchful and ready,
– until your Son is revealed in all his glory.


Closing Prayer:

Lord God,
I sense your power, your might
and I stand in awe, painfully aware
of how poor and weak I am before you.

As I begin this Advent journey,
teach me to turn to you in my fear and sorrow.
I don’t want to keep making my heart hard against you
turning a deaf ear to your invitation.

Only you can help me to soften,
to be like the clay in your gentle potter’s hands.

May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
Amen.