Beyond the Manger: December 9, 2015

Matthew 5: 43-48 (NRSV)

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5: 43-48 (The Voice)

43 You have been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.[a] 44 But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you— 45 in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven. He, after all, loves each of us—good and evil, kind and cruel. He causes the sun to rise and shine on evil and good alike. He causes the rain to water the fields of the righteous and the fields of the sinner. 46 It is easy to love those who love you—even a tax collector can love those who love him. 47 And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! 48 But you are called to something higher: “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Devotional Content

Do you have an Advent prayer list?  Are there people you have been lifting in prayer as we approach the celebration of Christmas?  Perhaps you have a family situation that is close to your heart.  Or you might have a friend at work who is in need of prayerful encouragement.  Maybe you are focused on needs that are unfolding around the world as you pray your way to the Birth of Jesus.

Your prayer list might be long, short, focused or open…but do you pray for those who persecute you?  You may not have persecutors but I am guessing you have places where relationships have been difficult.  Do you lift them in prayer and seek the best for their lives?

The Christ child of Bethlehem always invites us into a spiritual journey that challenges our typical way of thinking and behaving.  For Jesus, it is all about doing things that honor God, bless people, and demonstrate our faith.

The invitation is simple today.  Take a few minutes to give thanks.  Give thanks for the beauty of the season, for the joy of life, for the gift of faith, and for the people you love.   Then take a few more minutes to jot down the people who rub you the wrong way, who disagree with your approach, or who have been separated from your life for one reason or another.  Then, begin to pray a gift of blessing upon their lives. Ask God to grant them a beautiful day.  Seek the best for them.  Do it with all your heart and the Child of Bethlehem will rejoice at your faith.


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