A Prayer for our Service Men & Women

May 4, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Politics, Prayer, Thankfulness

Today was the National Day of Prayer. Our local pastors gathered at McEuen Park for our annual lunch time prayer gathering. I was asked to pray on behalf of our service men and women. This was my prayer:

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!

Almighty and Everlasting God, unless You guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain; so we come seeking Your guidance, Your protection, and Your blessing on our service men and women.

Guide them, O Lord. Give them wisdom to know the right and honorable thing to do in any and every circumstance. To the commanders: grant that they would submit the might of our armed forces to the principles of right and justice which You have revealed in Your eternal law; that we might never, as a people, permit the ends to justify the means and that we would declare war and wage war justly. To all our service men and women: grant that they would be brave, courageous, and conscientious amid conflict; that they would be a credit to this nation and to the principles for which we stand.

Protect them, O Lord. Some men trust in chariots, some trust in the horse, but we will depend upon the Name of Christ our Lord. Protect them from the hand of the enemy; protect their marriages from the stresses of military life; protect their children from the absence of a parent; and protect their minds and hearts from the terrors of war.

Bless them, O Lord. Bless their plans and their strategies. Grant our generals wisdom and insight. Grant our service men and women satisfaction in their labor, joy in their service, and excellence in their calling. Grant that they might never have cause to be ashamed of serving this nation – that we would reflect the honor and courage to which we call them.

Finally, we ask Your forgiveness for increasingly placing our women in combat roles and even considering drafting them for military service. Forgive us, and grant us men willing to sacrifice their own lives and reputations to protect the women and children of our society. All this we ask in the Name of Christ our Lord,

Amen.

Called to Contentment

August 15, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Meditations, Thankfulness
Philippians 4:10-13 (NKJV)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
On several occasions I have shared the ancient Roman proverb, “Who is it that has the most? Is it not he who desires the least?”
What Paul and this short proverb are endeavoring to communicate is that our contentment and happiness are directly proportionate to our expectations. We imagine that we need more, deserve more, are entitled to more and so we are not content with what we already have. We set our expectations so high that they are never met and so we are never content. And our discontent reveals itself in a lack of thankfulness to others and to God. For thankfulness is an expression of contentment—an expression that the expectations we have set have been fulfilled or even exceeded.
These expectations come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Sometimes they focus on our circumstances – if I only had more money; a nicer car; a newer phone; a bigger house; a larger budget. Sometimes they focus on our relationships. We can set unreasonable expectations upon our spouses, our employers and employees, our children, our friends—and so we never thank them for the meal on the table, for the folded towels in the closet, for the daily labor at the office, for the opportunity to work, for the work performed, or for the frequent sacrifices made on our behalf. “It’s his or her job to do all those things,” we say to ourselves, and so we never express thankfulness—never look at others with a twinkle in our eye and a full heart and say, “Thank you.” Our expectations are set so high that no one could ever possibly meet them. We demand of others what we would never demand of ourselves. Consequently, no circumstances however favorable could conspire to make us content.

But this was not Paul’s situation. He tells us that he had learned the secret of being content. What is that secret? Paul came to understand that what is most important in life is not our circumstances but the God who has given these circumstances to us. Let us ask ourselves, when tempted to be discontent and unthankful – Is God sovereign? Is God in control of every event in our lives both good and bad? Has God orchestrated our circumstances as He sees fit? Has God promised in Christ to sustain me in the midst of every circumstance? Clearly the answers to these questions are, “Yes!” And since this is the case, and since the God we serve is the same God of love who has revealed Himself in Christ, ought we not to trust Him? To rest in His good providence and be overflowing with gratitude? As Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” True contentment comes not by having high expecations of our circumstances but by trusting the goodness of our Heavenly Father who has given them to us and promises to sustain us in them.

Reminded of our failure to trust the Lord in any and every circumstance and our failure to be thankful, let us kneel and confess our sins in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thankful to Preach

August 7, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Ecclesiology, Meditations, Thankfulness, Word of God, Worship
Philippians 1:3–4 (NKJV)
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,
As I return to the ministry of the Word today, I wanted to thank you for the time that you have afforded me year by year to sit as one of you and listen to the preaching of the Word. As a congregation, we are blessed to live within such close proximity to several sister churches from whom we can draw an array of qualified and talented men to preach the Word to us. And the opportunity you give me to sit and to listen and to meditate on the Word helps remind me why we’re doing what we’re doing. I hope also that it reminds all of you that what we’re doing is far larger than any one of us, including me. It is important to emphasize regularly that this is not “my” church but Jesus’ Church and our church. We are the body composed of many members, each serving an important role.
So during my time sitting and listening to the Word, it has been a joy to observe the work of God’s Spirit in our midst. I have witnessed the way in which folks have stepped forward and served in various roles. I have witnessed your mutual love, affection, interaction, encouragement, exhortation, and comfort. The intensity of your joy and delight in one another is almost palpable – and so, like Paul, I just sit back and “thank God upon every remembrance of you.”And the reason that I thank God is because the joy and enthusiasm and energy and love and hunger to learn and grow that are present in the congregation are gifts from Him. His Spirit is at work. So since He has given us these things, it is fitting that we give thanks.
And this is one of several reasons I take July out of the pulpit – it is all too easy for us to begin taking one another for granted, getting into a rut, and failing to let joy and thankfulness characterize our interaction with and attitude toward one another. We can become bitter and resentful or we can simply become disinterested. We begin to look upon worship as routine, fail to give the attention to the Word that it deserves, overlook the needs of others, and take for granted their acts of kindness. Taking time off helps shake things up and remind me to be thankful.
So what about you? Are you thankful? Thankful for your brothers and sisters here at Trinity Church? Thankful for the opportunity to gather week by week and worship the Lord? Thankful for friends and family gathered around the throne of grace? Thankful for the preaching of the Word? Thankful to have your sin exposed, your idols broken, and your compromises crushed? Paul was thankful and we have much for which to be thankful as well.

But as we come into the presence of the Lord, I think that we must confess that often we fail to be thankful as we ought. We often take His gifts for granted, ignore them altogether, or even view them as curses and not blessings. So as we enter into the Lord’s presence, let us kneel and confess our ingratitude.

That Thanksgiving May Abound

May 1, 2016 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection, Thankfulness, Worship
2 Corinthians 4:13–15 (NKJV)
13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? This is the question we have asked during this time of Eastertide. As we anticipate Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday in the weeks to come, I would like to close our observations on the resurrection today. In our text Paul helps us understand the significance of the resurrection. Why did Jesus rise from the dead? Jesus rose from the dead so that we might be thankful and praise our God.
To make his point, Paul quotes from Psalm 116, a psalm of thanksgiving. In this psalm, the psalmist cries out to God in the face of death: “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow.” But the psalmist trusts God – God is capable of delivering him from death and so he cries out to God in these words: “I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’” He trusted God so he cried out to God, “God help me!” And glory be to God, the Lord answers his prayer: “For you have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” God delivers him, so he does the only thing he can rightly do: praise and thank the Lord for His mercy: I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
The faith and thanksgiving manifested by the psalmist are a pattern for us. The psalmist trusted the Lord in the face of death. When God delivered him, what was his response? He praised and thanked God. This is our calling in light of Christ’s resurrection. Even as God delivered the psalmist from the fear of death, He has delivered us from the fear of death. How? By raising Christ from the dead. Why does this give us hope? Because He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.Death is a defeated foe; Christ is Risen, so we too shall rise. So what ought we to do? Precisely what the psalmist did: praise and thank the Lord.
You see, the end goal of Christ’s resurrection is that praise and thanksgiving might abound in all the world to Yahweh, the living God. Jesus came in order to restore rightful worship. Jesus rose from the dead in order to restore rightful worship. In other words, Jesus rose from the dead so that you would be here this morning, joining your voice with the voices of all God’s people and thanking God for his mercies, thanking God that He has delivered you from death.
So, brethren, how eager are you to be here? God raised up Jesus so that you would be here this morning; so that you would lift up your voice in company with the voices of your brothers and sisters; so that you would worship him. So how ought we to approach this morning? With sloth? With mere formality? With mumbling and inattention? May it never be! Let us join our voices week by week in thankful acknowledgement of God’s mercies toward us in Christ – Alleluia! Christ is risen! So let us worship.

Reminded that Jesus rose from the dead in order that we might worship Him together, we are also reminded how we often approach worship with insufficient joy and delight. So let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

A Bestial Vigil

December 1, 2015 in Coeur d'Alene Issues, Homosexuality, Politics, Thankfulness, Tradition

I recently wrote another Letter to the Editor which the Coeur d’Alene Press was kind enough to publish on page C2 of Tuesday’s paper. For those who don’t get the paper, here it is in pixels:

Well it’s Thanksgiving season and that always makes me more than usually happy and grateful to live here in America. We have a glorious heritage. President George Washington remarked in his first Thanksgiving Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor… therefore, I do recommend and assign [a day] to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country…

Washington recognized our dependence as a people on the Creator of all and called upon us as Americans “to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue…” Virtue, Washington believed, is essential for our survival as a people and for securing the continued blessings of Almighty God.

It is for this reason that I read with much concern the article in the Coeur d’Alene Press reporting that our mayor and at least one member of our City Council attended a candlelight vigil to remember and honor transgendered people who have been murdered. While these murders are certainly tragic, the action by our city officials, by the Human Rights Educations Institute, and by Heather Seman, the leader of Community United Methodist Church, to glorify and laud the supposed “courage” of those in the transgendered community is appalling. They would like us to believe that the transgendered are the new martyrs, the heroes whom we are to extol and whose virtues we are to imitate.

But are they really? Is transgressing sexual mores really a display of courage? Or is it not rather a display of profound confusion, weakness, and sin? After all, if it is a sign of courage then why limit ourselves to the transgendered community? Why doesn’t the HREI sponsor a vigil honoring all those who’ve been killed for practicing bestiality? The bestial man killed by a local farmer because he just couldn’t suppress his longing for the farmer’s lambs. The bestial woman trampled to death by the bull with which she was attempting to mate. Are such people worthy of remembrance; are we to praise their virtue and courage?

In his Farewell Address, President Washington reminded us that “religion and morality are indispensable” to a free republic. A people who do not treasure virtue, self-control, and the moral law of God are a people doomed to destruction. Transgressing sexual mores is no more an expression of courage than murdering those who do is. We do not praise the “courage” of the thief, the “courage” of the adulterer, or the “courage” of the child abuser. Instead we condemn their violation of the moral law and their lack of virtue. Candlelight vigils should be reserved for those who truly deserve them – those who embrace virtue despite others’ opposition, those who give their lives to keep others safe, and those who restrain their passions and desires in order to honor their Creator.

Abounding with Thanksgiving

August 17, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Heart, Meditations, Thankfulness, Worship

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Last week we learned that not only is our walk with Christ to be conducted by faith but it is to be conducted by faith in a specific person. Faith in itself is no virtue. For faith to be virtuous it must join one to the Christ revealed in Sacred Scripture; for trust in any other is not virtue but idolatry.
Today I want to develop at more length Paul’s admonition that we are to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. To abound, we said, is to overflow, to know no limits. Imagine a glass full to the brim with water on your kitchen table. When you bump the table what comes out of the glass? Water. Bump the table really hard and what comes out? Water. Why does water come out of the glass each time? Because that’s what is in the glass.
So too with thankfulness. We are to be abounding in the faith with thankfulness. Thankfulness is to fill our lives. If we were to picture one another as drinking glasses, the beverage swirling in the glass is to be thankfulness. And when we are abounding in the faith with thankfulness and someone comes along and bumps our table, bumps our life, if our glass is full of thankfulness, what will come out? This isn’t rocket science is it? If our hearts are full of thankfulness then when we get bumped thankfulness will come out.
So you were driving down the road and the little old lady in front of you was driving excruciatingly slow – what came out? You faced challenges at work – what came out? Your son or daughter disobeyed – what came out? Your mom or dad disciplined you – what came out? You found out you have a serious illness – what came out? The Supreme Court of the United States made another vile ruling – what came out? Bump, bump, bump. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thes 5:18). Notice Paul’s qualifier – in everything give thanks. In prosperity, in adversity; in sickness, in health; in peace, in war. Give thanks in everything. How is this possible? Only if our hearts, only if our glass, is full of thanksgiving before our table is bumped. And our hearts will only be full of thanksgiving if we meditate deeply on the character and works of God – God who created us, God who redeemed us, God who has placed us at this time in history and who so numbers the hairs of our head that not one falls to the ground apart from His Fatherly care. When we meditate on these things, our hearts will be filled with thankfulness and we will be enabled to give thanks in everything for the wisdom of our Heavenly Father – not just when it appears wise to us but when it is in fact wise, namely, always. Of all people, Paul insists, we should be the most thankful, the most joyful, the most riotously happy for we serve the God who rules and governs all things.
But instead of being known for exuberant bubbly thankfulness, we are often known for our restrictions, our uptightness, our angst, our frustration, our grumbling. Paul calls us to something different – he calls us to thankfulness. So where are you?

Reminded that rather than abound in thanksgiving we often complain and grumble, let us kneel and confess that we are an unthankful people.

So Walk in Christ

August 10, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Creeds, Meditations, Thankfulness, Worship

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Here in Colossians 2 Paul begins to deliver a series of exhortations to the Colossians. Our fathers in Colosse were being tempted to move away from the message that their pastor Epaphras was preaching in favor of some new teaching that was tickling their ears. Hence, Paul urges them to continue in Christ even as they began in Him.
In other words, he warns them lest they move away from the Gospel they originally heard: the good news that though we were dead in transgressions and sins, estranged from God because of our rebellion, God Himself took on human flesh and dwelt among us; He sent His only Son to rescue us from our sin and slavery and to restore us to fellowship with Himself; Jesus lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, was buried for us, rose again from the dead on the third day for us, ascended into heaven for us, and has sent His Spirit to give us faith, make us more holy, and assure us of our own resurrection. This is the message you heard – now, Paul says, cling to it tenaciously.
Notice that Paul calls us to be faithful to the faith as it was handed down in the churches, to (in his words to Titus) hold firmly to the traditions which we have been taught. Like Jude, Paul wants us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
One of our practices as a congregation is to recite one of the ecumenical creeds together every Lord’s Day – in a moment we will be reciting the Nicene Creed. Why do this? So that by memorizing and corporately confessing these confessions of Christ, we be rooted and built up in Him. Each Lord’s Day, we grow in our knowledge of Him – where did He come from? He was eternally begotten of the Father before all worlds. Who is He? He is God of God, light of light, very God of very God. Is he a creature? No, for he is begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. What has he done? Through Him all things were made, who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried, the third day He rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
This, brothers and sisters, is the Christ we worship. The very one who is worthy of all glory, laud, and honor. The very one who created all things and to whom it is right and fitting to give praise. And it is in this One that we are to be rooted and grounded and in whom we are to grow.
And note that Paul insists that it is not enough to recite this faith, not enough to know who Jesus is and what he has done; he commands us to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. To abound is to overflow, to know no limits. The words we recite or sing each Lord’s Day should come from hearts that are in the full flood of thanksgiving – thanks for rocks and trees and good friends and green grass and fresh honey and butter and flashlights and honorable men and lovely women and cheese and forgiveness and resurrection.

And so, coming into His presence, let us kneel and confess that we have failed to appreciate fully His glory and to honor His name by rejoicing in the faith as we have been taught.

Abounding in the Faith with Thanksgiving

January 18, 2015 in Bible - NT - Colossians, Confession, Creeds, Meditations, Sanctification, Thankfulness, Word of God

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Paul’s admonishes us to walk in Christ in the same way in which we received Him – and this, of course, means that we are to walk by faith. We are to reject all attempts at self-deliverance or self-justification; we are to reject moralism and legalism; we are to acknowledge our weakness and need for grace. In that posture, relying upon the help that only God can give, we are to do that which is good and pleasing in His sight.
Christ is the center: He is the center of history; He is the center of the biblical story; He is the center of our own personal lives. He has done for us what we could not do for ourselves; and, by the power of the Spirit, He continues to do in us what we cannot do on our own. So Paul urges us to be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith just as we have been taught. Paul calls us to be faithful to the faith that was handed down in the churches, to (in his words to Titus) hold firmly to the traditions which we have been taught. Like Jude, Paul wants us to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
This injunction that Paul gives the Colossians is one of the reasons that we, each Lord’s Day, recite one of the Creeds together. Our goal in reciting them each week is that these summaries of Scriptural teaching rest in our bones and become part of us through corporate confession. The goal is that each week we grow in our knowledge of Christ and our thankfulness for what God has done for us in Him.
You see Paul wants us not to be just rooted and built up in Christ, not just established in the faith we have been taught, but established in a certain fashion. And what is that? Note what he says: he wants us to be abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. First, consider that he calls us to be “abounding in the faith.” To abound is to “exist in large numbers or amounts.” Paul doesn’t want us just holding on to the faith; not just enduring; but abounding. Abounding in our study of the Word; abounding in our devotion to prayer; abounding in service to God, to His people, and to the world. So are you abounding? Are you striving to grow, week by week, year by year, in your knowledge of the faith and service to Christ?
Second, he wants us to be “abounding in it with thanksgiving.” It would be easy to work really hard and so appear to be abounding but to have an attitude in our work that is resentful or frustrated or bitter or empty. We are not to be abounding in the faith with bitterness, or with burn out, but with thanksgiving. How is this possible? Only if we recall, once again, that it is God who is at work in us to will and to do for His good pleasure. We walk by faith – faith in the Son of God who gave Himself for us and who poured out His Spirit on us.

So this morning as we enter into God’s presence, let us confess that we are often not abounding in the faith with thanksgiving. And let us kneel as we confess our sin to the Lord.

God Chose Mary

December 26, 2014 in Bible - NT - Luke, Christmas, Church History, Confession, Election, Reformation, Singing Psalms, Ten Commandments, Thankfulness
Luke 1:46–50 (NKJV)
46 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. 49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”
Christmas is a time to reflect on the particular blessings that God has bestowed on each of us and to lift up praise and thanks to God. We see this modeled in Mary’s Magnificat – her song of praise written while staying with Zacharias and Elizabeth.
Has it ever struck you that God gave a gift to Mary that He did not give to any other human being on earth? Consider this for a moment: don’t just let the Christmas story pass you by; consider what’s happening. God chose Mary to be the mother of our Lord. God chose Mary – a girl in the city of Nazareth who was betrothed to a man named Joseph; who had a sister named Salome; who had a mother and father whose names are not recorded. God chose Mary – a girl who had a certain color hair and eyes; who was of a quite definite height and weight; who had skin of a particular shade. God chose Mary.
Now doesn’t that seem a trifle unfair? Why Mary? Why should she get the honor? Shouldn’t Mary perhaps feel a little guilty for being chosen? Don’t you and I have the right to be a little jealous, perhaps?
After all, let’s consider this: here God bestows on Mary a privilege that He had bestowed and would bestow on no other woman ever in all of human history. God chose Mary. Shouldn’t Mary feel guilty? Shouldn’t she realize that this was a trifle unfair and bemoan the gift that God had bestowed on her? Shouldn’t she perhaps have flogged herself? Felt guilty every time that babe leapt in her womb or sucked at her breast? Been apologetic to the various other women she met in the course of her life? “Sorry, sorry, sorry – so much wish it could have been you… Sorry.”
And shouldn’t you be a little jealous? After all, because God chose Mary, He didn’t choose any other to have this honor. Have you considered that? God did not choose Mary’s sister Salome. He did not choose Herodias – for which we’re grateful! He didn’t choose Mary the wife of Clopas or Mary Magdalene or Elizabeth or Anna the prophetess or Susanna or Joanna the wife of Chuza. God chose Mary. And consider that what this means: it means that God didn’t choose you. If you’re a woman, God passed you over; He simply did not choose you to be the mother of Jesus. God chose Mary. And, if you’re a man, God eliminated you from the running before you were even out of the gate. God chose Mary. Shouldn’t you be a little jealous?
I ask these questions because they have great relevance for us on Christmas day. You who stand here today have been given many remarkable gifts from God. If you are in Christ, you have been given the gift of salvation, a gift some men will never receive. If you are an American citizen, you have been given gifts of liberty, constitutional government, and incredible prosperity, gifts that others, who remain subject to tyrants and who are starving even as we speak, can only long for. If you are a husband, then you have been given the gift of a wife, a gift men some will never have. If you are a mother, then you have been given the gift of children, a gift some women will never enjoy. If you have Christmas gifts at home, then you have been given a measure of prosperity that millions have never known. Should you feel guilty?
And some of you aren’t getting the same gifts as others. Perhaps your brother got the Lego set you wanted? Perhaps the neighbors drove up in their brand-new Cadillac Escalade? Perhaps you find yourself unmarried still? Perhaps that other lady just announced that she’s having a baby and you’ve never had one? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps… Perhaps you should feel jealous?
But guilt and jealousy are both unbecoming and sinful responses to the Lord’s gifts. God is the Creator; God is the Giver of all good gifts; God is the Sovereign Lord; and God is not fair. He simply does not give gifts equally. But that inequality is not to move us to guilt and jealousy but to praise and thanksgiving. Listen to Mary’s Magnificat:
My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”
Notice, first, that guilt is not the way to respond to God’s gifts. After all, none of us deserve the gifts which God gives us. We all of us have forfeited God’s favor – including Mary. God chose Mary in His mercy, Mary tells us. And in this mercy, God gives sinful, undeserving men and women gifts; He lavishes kindnesses; He bestows graces – to one this and to another that. And the one who fears God learns to receive these graces not with guilt but with gratitude. Solomon reminds us, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it” (Pr 10:22). So today receive the gifts that God has given with praise and thanksgiving. Lift up your heads! Don’t feel guilty – give praise to God! Don’t feel guilty – give thanks to God! And in that praise and thanks imitate Him by loving those with less.
Jealousy is just as unbecoming as guilt. Our Lord forbids covetousness – for covetousness, greediness, makes us small of heart and small of soul. The angels rejoice with Mary – they who long to know the things we know and cannot; Elizabeth rejoices with Mary – she who was chosen to give birth merely to the forerunner, not the Messiah; Anna rejoices with Mary – she who had never had a child and whose husband had been taken from her when a young woman. They were large of soul, rejoicing in the good gifts that God had given to Mary. God chose Mary – and they rejoiced!

So Christmas is here – rejoice, give thanks, and sing. Put away guilt; put away petty jealousy; rejoice in the good gifts of God, sing of His mercy, and share His kindnesses with others.