Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Day 7

“…to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 NRSV

I think this statement was more reassuring to the shepherds that anything else the angel could have told them. God’s anointed is born today in the city where someone just like you came from! Again, we must remember that the angel didn’t say this baby was born in the town of Bethlehem but that this child was born in the city of David. This is where David’s roots, the kingdom roots are. This is not Jerusalem where David built the royal palace or even God’s own holy of holies. This is the little town of farmer and shepherds, the place where the simple folk live. God thinks so much of these shepherds, that God has chosen their hometown, their humble beginnings as the place to begin God’s Kingdom.

And God thinks so much of you that God wants to be born in your heart. Simple, direct, to the point. God wants to be where you are, where you live, where you work. Begin now, today, and invite God in completely in your heart. Don’t hold back, don’t make excuses, and don’t even make a list of resolutions. Just say yes and let God take hold this day.

God, I invite you in to my heart completely, without my usual reservations. I say yes and surrender completely this day. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Day 6

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people….” Luke 2:10 NRSV

This part of the story can be interpreted in this way: “Hey, don’t worry, I’m not hear to kill you or to condemn you for all time, I am hear to tell you some exciting stuff that is not just for you but for everyone!” The angel is God’s messenger – bringing the good news. Now good news in ancient times was usually about the outcome of a battle or what the gods had done. Here the good news is about what God has done – given God’s people and all people the Messiah, the Savior.

But what I find particularly interesting is that the angels don’t appear to everyone. They appear to the shepherds. But the news is for everyone. Right away it is evident that this is not something they are going to be able to keep to themselves. This isn’t a story that keeps them focused inward. This isn’t a personal message for self-improvement. This is a report to be shared with the whole community. Yes, it begins with the shepherds but it is meant to be shared with everyone.

God, we keep too much about You to ourselves. We don’t want to bother or insult anyone or be rejected. But the angel didn’t tell the shepherds that this birth was just for them but for all people. May we finally hear the angel’s message. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Day 5

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:9 NRSV

Here we have a group of shepherds, trained and experienced to kill wild animals, afraid of one angel. Somehow, I don’t think this is a small cherub with rosy cheeks and a golden harp. This is more like the vision that Isaiah had when he saw the Seraphs in the temple (Isaiah 6). Those seraphs were serpentine creatures, associated with fire and sprouting three pairs of wings! This gospel does not describe the angel but the terror it gives the shepherds clues us in to how disturbing this messenger’s appearance was. We tend to think of angels as rather tame, comforting and kind creatures. For us, they are guardians of a sort, protecting humans from harm, flitting about, watching over small children, teenage drivers and the faithful. They are awesome but beautiful to see.

But the Christmas story gives us a totally different version that we often miss. Just as God’s nature is truly awesome, and to be in God’s presence is to quake in fear, so God’s own messengers are just as terrifying. No sling shot or club that would bring down a growling mother bear would be in any way effective against these creatures of our Lord and King. In this birth story, we, like the shepherds, meet our fears head-on and are forever changed.

God, thank you for your life-changing gift. Shake us up Lord, even while you assure us of your love and mercy. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Day 4

…Keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8 NRSV

Somehow this gives us an image of a couple of shepherds standing around a huddle of sheep while leaning on their shepherds’ crooks. However, the shepherds slept on the job! During the daytime they were searching for good grasslands and decent water supplies while watching for straying animals and dangerous terrain. So at night the precaution of herding the sheep into an enclosure with at least one open entrance was taken. This “pen” could have been a cave, natural rock formation or other natural materials constructed by shepherds long ago or just that evening. The shepherds would have lain down across the entrance to the enclosure, forming a living gateway, and discouraging predators. In addition, these light sleepers would have a handy weapon within reach. So, the shepherds weren’t “on guard” as much as resting vigilantly.

During Advent we are told to wait and watch. Most of us have probably spent the season being extremely busy. But now that Christmas is here, we are most likely exhausted and worn out. Forget being on guard, we need our sleep! How can we live vigilantly, prepared yet resting, guarding yet recovering? Spending time such as this in God’s presence is one way.

God, we have been way too busy and now we are worn out. We are grateful for this time set aside to spend with You. We pray that this will become a regular habit in our life. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day 3

“Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’ And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. The Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.’” I Samuel 16:10-12 NRSV

Okay, so here in the midst of the Christmas story, I have us skip back into the Old Testament to a story about Samuel in which David is introduced. We know who David will become – the greatest King of Israel and the man after God’s own heart. Yet, here is Samuel, looking to anoint the next king that God has chosen and where is this royal person? He is in the fields looking after the sheep! Yep, the most famous and best loved king of God’s own people enters the story out in the fields keeping watch over his father’s sheep. He wasn’t even called in to the big sacrifice and feast. He was being treated as a hired hand, definitely not only the youngest but the least of Jesse’s sons.

Not only does this place in our minds the connection between Jesus, David, and the shepherds, it also reminds us that often the ones who seem to be left out of the big event are the exact ones that God calls to do extraordinary things. We might be overlooking those about whom God is saying: “This is the one!”

God, give us new eyes to see. May we not overlook those persons that you call to be your people. Open our hearts to your will and way. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day 2

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Luke 2:8 NRSV

Even if we know nothing about shepherds, this one verse speaks volumes about their influence and stance in society. Living in the fields means that they are pretty much homeless, or should be considered nomads without a permanent type of shelter. They are manual laborers with terrible hours: their blue-collar job is 24/7. And it is a dangerous occupation of protecting sheep from wild animals and other dangers. Thinking about our own economic system in the states, this sounds like the kind of job an illegal alien might take. Who else would want it?

A bigger question, however, is why do these powerless down-and-outers show up during God’s own entrance into the world? They aren’t important, they don’t have any influence, they aren’t going to be big monetary contributors, they aren’t particularly religious and the probably don’t even own any Sunday-type clothes. Yet, God invites them to the biggest birthday event ever. Perhaps this means that God really does care about the poor, the least and the lost. Do we do the same?

God, forgive us for caring more for those who have power, influence, money and prestige. Help us to share your love for those who have the least. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

In that region there were shepherds….glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…. Luke 2:8a, 20a. NRSV

In the entire pageantry of the Christmas story, the shepherds often fade into the background of the hay and the barn. We get caught up by the glory of the angels, the gifts of the wise men, the obedience of Mary, the shining star and even the music of the drummer boy. The shepherds are barefoot, don’t give any presents and are most likely pretty smelly.

Yet, in the book of Luke, the angels appear to these poor men and not only eradicate their fear but get them to take action. Even in Matthew’s gospel, the wise men not only visit Jesus long after his birthday but they slink away back to the east without reporting on what has happened. It is the shepherds who praise and rejoice. The shepherds don’t hold back, there are no secrets with them and they are not afraid to tell others about their experience.

Their experience of Christmas is so overwhelmingly powerful and life changing that they are moved to share.

God, we pray that this experience of Christmas will be so such a powerful life-changing event for us that we will have no choice but to share fearlessly what You have done in the world. Amen.

Copyright 2008 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift of Life

God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. I John 4: 9 NRSV

Tonight many of us will go to our church or a local worshiping community and celebrate the birth of Christ. Carols, candles and communion will be part of our worship as we glorify God and thank God for the birth of Christ. We celebrate this gift of life and our gift of life that we receive through Christ. May we all be thankful this Christmas for this gift of life everlasting.

God, thank you for Christmas Eve and all the pageantry that surrounds this night. Help us even in this time of celebration to be grateful for the gift of life you have given us through Jesus Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One Minute Fixing

Today's reading: Revelation 22

Let the evil doer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy. Revelation 22: 11 NRSV

I am by nature a fixer. I want to fix things for other people. I probably began writing these devotionals so that I could in my own way fix you too, gentle reader!

But at the end of the day, and possibly the end of the year, there is really not much I can fix. The evil doer will still be doing evil things. The filthy will still be filthy (love the imagery - does he mean physical or spiritual?). The righteous will still be doing the right things and the holy one will still be living a holy life. I cannot do it, even through a one minute daily devotional!

Only God can bring about change in an evil doers' life.

Only God can bring about change in a filthy person's life.

 Only God can bring about change in any person's life.

Even yours.

And mine.

God, you are the one in control. You are the one who gives us all your love, minute by minute, every day of our lives. Help us to spend time with you each and every day that you have blessed us with. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Things

Today's reading: Revelation 21

And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Revelation 19: 5 NRSV

As this year draws to a close, I am thankful to God for all the devotional ideas and the courage to continue writing these throughout this year. I plan on doing something new in this next year. I know I will be spending at least a year in the Psalms. I dream of also doing a podcast! Certainly, I will be doing some new things and reading some new books in my other blog, Faith In Books. All sorts of new ideas occur to me for sermons, leadership possibilities, retreats and Bible studies.

As John's visions come to a close, he is assured by God that all things will be made new. Perhaps John was thinking about his own imprisonment and suffering. These new things that God would be doing would free John in more ways than one! He was probably pretty excited and looking forward to seeing all the new things God would be doing in the world.

What new things are you expecting in this next year? What kinds of things do you think God is going to make new in your life?

God, thank you for your trustworthy and true words. May we all look with expectation for the new things you will be doing in our lives and throughout creation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Forgive Us Our Sins

Today's reading: Revelation 20

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. Revelation 20: 12 NRSV

This is a scene of the final judgment. In this vision, all the dead are waiting to be judged. All their deeds are recorded in a book. But this is not just about works righteousness! John mentions another book - the book of life. That book is God's grace and forgiveness. That is the book that was printed when Christ died for our sins. That book is about our faith and belief. We may be judged according to our deeds (or lack thereof) but God's grace is always present and his forgiveness will be the final word.

What deeds or lack of deeds do you need to ask God's forgiveness for today? Let's spend sometime in confessing our sins and receiving God's pardon this day.

God, forgive us our sins. We especially ask for your mercy for _____________________________. Forgive us we pray. Help us to accept your forgiveness and go forth in your peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, December 20, 2010


Today's reading: Revelation 19

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying out, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns." Revelation 19: 6 NRSV

What a loud noise!

The voice of a great multitude. Think of a cheering football stadium!

The sound of many waters. Imagine the sound of a mighty waterfall.

The sound of mighty thunderpeals. Remember the noise of a particularly fierce storm.

Now put all these together: cheering football fans, roaring waterfall, rumbling thunder. What a noise that would make! And to imagine all of those sounds combing to praise God and give God the glory!

Noise to our ears. Music to God's ears.

Take at least one moment today to call out in a loud voice to God:  "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns."


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Following God's Will

Today's reading: Revelation 18

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, so that you do not share in her plagues...." Revelation 18: 4 NRSV

In this part of John's vision, Babylon - really Rome - is the subject. Her fall is great and is lamented by merchants, seafarers and kings. Her iniquities have truly been awful and her punishment is incredibly violent. And in this verse, people who live there are warned to leave so that they too are not tainted and punished.

How tainted are we by living in this country?  Do we participate in a sinful way of life without realizing? Is it truly possible to turn this country around and back to God? Do we need to leave in order to avoid punishment? Where would we go?

These are hard questions and I have no easy answers. I do think we all should be careful in our balance of being patriotic and followers of Christ. Christ should always come first. Sometimes that means we will rub up against the American thing to do. At other times, we will be in sync with our country. Following God's will is essential to who we are as Christians and we need give our allegiance to God. If we do so we will avoid taking part in our country's sins.

God, led us and help us to discern your will. May we follow you before any other person, law or nation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lord and King

Today's reading: Revelation 17

"...They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for his is Lord of lords and King of kings and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." Revelation 17 NRSV

There is no blessing or spiritual protection that will keep non-Christians from attacking Christians, churches and our beliefs. In fact, in John's day, Christians were suffering and dying because of this. But the vision that John is given assured believers that Jesus is truly Lord and King over all the leaders of the earth and he will have the final victory.

Do you find this helpful for your own life events?

I know I need to listen to this because I tend to get incensed and angry when attacked. I act in a very non-Christian manner when faced with injustice and mild persecution. I need to be better about letting God be in control. I need to understand that acting in a hateful manner will not win any souls. I should focus on the fact that Jesus will be the final victor, no matter the outcome of my own situation.

How about you?

God, thank you that Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings. To him be the final victory and may we be those with him who are called, chosen and faithful. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ready for Christ?

Today's reading: Revelation 16

("See, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and is clothed, not going about naked and exposed to shame.") Revelation 16: 15 NRSV

John's vision continues. The bowls of God's wrath are being poured out on those who refuse to repent and recognize God's sovereignty.  The armies are gathering on the plains of Armageddon. And in the midst of all this chaos, judgment and agony comes the voice of Christ straight to the reader's listening ears.

What is Christ saying to the churches and to us? You don't know when I am coming. I will be like a robber. I can enter at any time and you don't know when or where to expect me. However, if you are prepared, if you are staying awake and if you are clothed in the robes of righteousness/the armor of God, if you are not exposing yourself to shame, you will be blessed!

At Christmastime, most of us know if we are ready for the big day or not. If you looked under our tree at this time of year you would know we aren't really ready for Christmas. However, I can't tell you how many conversations I have begun by asking, "Are you ready for Christmas?" Why do I want to know if others are far more prepared for the holiday than I am? Perhaps what I should be asking folks (no matter what time of year) is "Are you ready for Christ?"

Do you consider yourself ready for Christ? What do you need to do to be prepared? Take some time this week to really begin preparing for Christ!

God, help us to be ready for Christ. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Great and Amazing Deed

Today's reading: Revelation 15

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations!" Revelation 15: 3 NRSV

What is one great or amazing deed that God has done in your life or the lives around you this year?

What have you done to share that deed with others? If you haven't shared it, why is that?

Have you attempted to spend some time in praising and thanking God for that great or amazing deed?

In Moses' day it was the song of Miriam sung on the banks of the Red Sea, giving God praise for not only bringing the people out of Egypt but also for saving them from Pharaoh's army. In John's vision it is those who have conquered the beast (really Rome and its powers) standing on the banks of the lake of fire (soon to become the place of the second death's torment) giving God this song of praise.

Today, let it be ourselves standing on the bank of 2010, giving God the praise and glory for all the amazing and mighty deeds God has done in the world and in the lives of those around us this year and in years past.

Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! We thank you and give you the praise and honor and glory! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Today's reading: Revelation 14

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12 NRSV

In high school I learned to identify and articulate the main thesis of stories, poems and novels. Verse 12 of chapter Fourteen gives us the main thesis of the book of Revelation. Revelation is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.

The entire book of Revelation is for those who believe and are hanging on to the faith by their fingernails. It is a letter to encourage the saints (all who believe in and follow Christ) to continue what on their path to salvation. Despite all that is happening around them, the saints are exhorted to endure.

I don't know about you, but I don't see myself as having to endure in my faith. Perhaps I face a challenge or two occasionally. But rarely have a seen a time to simply endure. Even with the wayward morals of our Western society I don't see many opportunities for Christians to endure. Persevere, perhaps, but not to endure. Endure sounds like trying to live through torture or on the brink of death. Maybe that is why John received this vision. And maybe why I (perhaps you too) have such a hard time with it's message.

God, you have called us saints to endure since Jesus' ascension. Yet, we find ourselves in a place and time where endurance is not called for. What does this mean, Lord? How are we to act according to your will in the here and now? Guide us, we ask of you, God. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mark of the Beast

Today's reading: Revelation 13

...So that no one can buy or sell who does not have the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. Revelation 13:17 NRSV

It is certainly fitting in this season of buying and selling to be looking at this particular verse.

We modern Christians have absolutely no idea what it was like to be a Christian in the era of the Roman Empire. In order to do business, you had to worship Caesar. You needed to be a pagan for people to buy your goods. If you were not a believer in the Roman gods, you may have trouble even buying what you needed. That is what John seems to be referring to in his vision. And the early Christians would have understood this. In those days, there was a statue to a god every few steps along the street and it would be quite obvious to the whole market if you walked through without worshipping any of them. You may not have a physical mark on your hand or forehead but it would have been quite evident that you were a Christian. Becoming and being a Christian had very clear economic consequences in those times. And all the readers of John's letter would have known this.

Where do you shop? Who do you do business with? Have you ever been refused service for any reason? Has anyone not done business with you because you are a Christian? How did that feel?

God, we are so fortunate that we don't have to be marked with the name or number of the beast to buy or sell goods. However, we do need your guidance in all our purchases and our business. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Story?

Today's reading: Revelation 12

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and take to God and to his throne. Revelation 12:5 NRSV

This verse is a Christmas story and yet not a Christmas story. It is reminiscent of the prophecies concerning Jesus' birth. In addition, we know that Jesus is to rule all the nations. And Jesus was taken away in the ascension.

The passage is also part of a longer vision about the conflict between good/God and evil/Satan. The child is snatched away in order to protect him from evil. The woman must flee and her other children are in danger. Even in her distress the woman is being provided for in the wilderness.

In the midst of the Christmas story, we sometimes forget the larger story of poverty, politics, death and survival. These elements are there in the presence of the shepherds, the wise men, Herod and the other children of Bethlehem. God breaks into the midst of all these things with the birth of Jesus. Despite the danger, God is willing and eager to share his mercy, life and grace.

God, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. Thank you that you continue to offer your Gift in our desperate circumstances. In Jesus name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Kingdom of our Lord

Today's reading: Revelation 11

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11: 15 NRSV

At this time of year, when we are in Advent and are preparing the way of the Lord, it is wonderful to hear these words: the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord!

We think of Revelation as a book of destruction when it fact it is all about the new creation. God creates something new right here in the old place. The old world becomes the new world. The kingdom of the world morphs into the kingdom of our Lord and our Messiah.

Think of all the things that you wish would be changed for the better in our world. The poverty, crime, destruction and misery that God would change to riches, joy, contentment and love.  What would that new kingdom of God look like? What kinds of things would you like to see?

And when that happens, God will reign forever and ever!


Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Looking at an Angel

Today's reading: Revelation 10

I often wonder where we get our cultural understanding of what an angel looks like. Most of the time it is that sweet cherub creature or the towering figure in flowing robes with wings. But in today's reading there is no mention of robes or wings.

And I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs, like pillars of fire. Revelation 10:1 NRSV

This angel doesn't have wings but he is "wrapped in a cloud." That makes sense. If clouds float about in the sky, then you might expect to see an angel wrapped in one of them.

There is no halo but a nimbus of multi-colored lights around his head. John speaks of this as a rainbow (in fact all of his descriptions of heaven and heavenly beings is quite colorful).

All of this is fine until you get to his face and legs. His face was like the sun and his legs are like pillars of fire. So, his face must be so bright you can't look at it directly. Perhaps his legs are filled with the motion of the Holy Spirit. It reminds me of the burning bush and the voice that comes out of it that tells Moses to take off his feet because the ground is holy. Maybe the angel's feet would make any ground he touched holy.

In any event, this is not a warm, fuzzy creature or anything like another human being. This is a messenger of God who has a loud proclamation to make. God's messenger is very much set apart from the rest of us.

God, what are we to understand about angels? Today's scripture is so different from how we think of your messengers. Thank you that you care enough about us to provide ways to get your message to us. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, December 10, 2010

What We Worship

Today's reading: Revelation 9

The rest of humankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands or give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. Revelation 9: 20 NRSV

Even though it is the end of the world and death is around every corner, there will still be humans who will not repent.

The important thing for you and me is to make sure we aren't one of them.

What I am saying is that we need to look carefully and make sure that we aren't worshiping that which could be considered a work of human hands.

Money would be one of those things.


A pristinely decorated, perhaps also immaculately clean, home.

Football. (Ouch).

Our spouse.

Some famous celebrity. Fame would be the guiding word here.

What do you think could be something you worship? How can you give up worshipping that thing and turn to God instead?

God, we sometimes don't think we worship things made of human hands because we don't have these little statues of gold or silver. But you know what we are really worshiping. May we repent and turn to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 Minutes of Silence

Today's reading: Revelation 8

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Revelation 8:1 NRSV

As each seal is opened, something very dramatic happens.  The suspense intensifies as the seals get closer and closer to the seventh seal. Then, when the seventh seal is reached there is....about a half an hour of silence.

Anti-climatic? Possibly

Biblical? Definitely.

In the book of I Kings, the prophet Elijah has gone up the mountain of Horeb to meet with God. While up there, several things happened. First there was a great wind that was so strong it broke stones. The second was an earthquake. The third was fire. And after the fire there was sheer silence. It was in the silence that Elijah realized God was present.

Something very holy and God-filled happens when the Lamb breaks the seventh seal. It isn't dramatic and doesn't involve anyone crying out or making a proclamation. Instead, it is pure silence. No angel or saint sings to God or praises the Almighty. Silence reigns instead.

Makes me wonder if I could spend about half an hour in holy silence today. How about you?

God, thank you for the silence. May we open our hearts to you to day in the quiet. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Lamb is now the Shepherd

Today's reading: Revelation 7

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17 NRSV

The Lamb will be their shepherd.

Do you catch the irony here?

The Lamb will be their shepherd!

One of the flock will lead them. But not just any old lamb. This is the Lamb who was slain, who was literally slaughtered, who was sacrificed in their stead. He died for the sheep, to save their lives. Now he leads them as their shepherd. And what leadership!  Guiding them to streams of living water where no sadness will ever be again.

God, thank you for such images of hope. May we appreciate Christ's sacrifice so much more. In His name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Today's reading: Revelation 6

"...For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" Revelation 6: 17 NRSV

These words of pure terror come from the mouths of both rich and poor when the sixth seal is open and God's wrath is clearly evident. All this occurs in John's visions of the end times. Again, we must remember that he was writing about visions (which are rarely clear) and in code (he was in prison, after all).

So, what should we make of this verse in this section of John's letter?

For me, this verse is actually humbling as well a frightening. I don't automatically assume I am one of the saved. Perhaps I should. But this verse reminds me that no one can stand in the face of God's wrath. Even those who are saved. I also wrestle with the idea of the God who can forgive us for killing his son and the God who is going to come back and destroy people. Will God become that vengeful in the end times? Or will God try to save us all? Perhaps somewhere in the middle of those two?

What does this verse or passage mean to you?

What do you do with this vision of God and God's wrath?

God, we have a hard time interpreting the Book of Revelation. Some folks will tell us this and others that. We really don't know what to think.  Be with us God as we struggle. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, December 6, 2010


Today's reading: Revelation 5

They sing a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation." Revelation 5: 9 NRSV

Jesus died for you (a saint).

Jesus gave up his life for me (a saint).

Jesus ransomed his blood for every tribe, language, people and nation (saints, too).

Talk about inclusivity!

God doesn't want anyone to be left out, no matter what your genetic structure or cultural heritage. Sometimes we focus so much on our own personal relationship with Jesus that we forget his worldwide reach and desire for everyone. Jesus' reach is deep and wide. His love is truly for everyone. Even those that we have grudges or prejudices against. May we cast aside those feelings and embrace God's worldwide mercy!

God, help us to see your love for the saints in every tribe, language, people and nation. In the name of the one who is worthy. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Giving God the Glory

Today's reading: Revelation 4

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelation 4: 11 NRSV

John's vision of revelation includes this glimpse of heaven in which 24 elders respond to the singing of the four living creatures around the throne by praising God.

"You are worthy, God, to receive our praise and worship because of your creative power!" They chant prostrated around the throne.

I don't find myself falling to my own face in God's presence. I neglect to give God praise and glory and honor. Instead, I have another list of requests and someone else who needs God's presence.

How many times are my prayers a list of requests?

And when I am not asking for something from God, I am thanking God for something God has blessed me with in my life. No praise there. That isn't giving God glory and honor.

Perhaps I need to rethink my priorities during my prayer time.

How about you?

God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Open the Door

Today's reading: Revelation 3

For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Revelation 3:17 NRSV

In this season of excess and spending, we need to be reminded that our supposed wealth and accumulation do not really mean anything in God's sight. In this passage, Jesus is addressing the church at Laodicea, trying to get them to see their true situation. They are neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. They have no fire but neither are they completely burned out. The church is apparently resting on their laurels: they see themselves as wealthy. They think they do not need anything from God. Their money will buy whatever they need.

I have known a lot of churches and not too few people who think of themselves in that same manner. And I must include myself in that second group. Often I think my money, my effort, my control will save the day. Instead, I should be on my knees asking God for help. I need to realize that I need God. My money and my own power will never be enough to save.

Later in this chapter, Jesus gives us the image of himself standing at the door and knocking.

How come we often neglect to let him in when he so desires entrance?

God, we think of ourselves as rich, prosperous and in need of nothing. But you see us as wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. May we open the door and invite Jesus in. In his name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Friday, December 3, 2010

Do you have an ear?

Today's Reading: Revelation 2

To anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Revelation 2:29 NRSV

To anyone with an ear?

Is this sarcasm in Revelation?

Don't we all have ears? Well, yes, although some with ears can't hear. And some people won't hear. Selective hearing, you know.

Okay, we know that we all have ears. So we are asked to listen. And not listen to just anybody but the Spirit.

The Spirit is not speaking to us as individuals, however. The Spirit is speaking to the churches, the worshipping communities of Jesus Christ.

This is a message for the community. The entire message that John is sharing is for the churches. Not for individuals.

What does your own community of believers need to hear from the Spirit at this time?

God, we have ears to hear. Help us to listen, not just to society or one another. Help us in our worshiping communities to listen to the Spirit. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Mystery

Today's reading: Revelation 1

I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 1: 9 NRSV

John was in prison. And not just any prison. This was the Alcatraz of the first century. He was considered so dangerous that he had to be placed on an island prison.

Now, if you are considered dangerous and are being incarcerated in a special prison, do you think you can just write any letter to anyone saying anything?

Of course not!

In fact, the whole of the Book of Revelation is actual quite humorous because it is anything but a revelation. It is written in code.

That's right. In code.

You have to know your Bible and lots of churchy language to begin to interpret this book. Even then much of it will remain a mystery as we have lost that whole First Century language and mindset.

You cannot, I repeat, cannot, take this book of scripture on face value. There are too many hidden messages.

Despite its various mysteries, we are going to attempt to see what this book can teach us throughout this December. May we be reminded that life has many mysteries, many of which we will never understand until we are face to face with God.

God, thank you for the mysteries of life. May we appreciate anew this Advent season that you still have hidden messages for us of things to come. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

But you, beloved....

Today's reading: Jude

But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 20-21 NRSV

Many churches have scripture readings during Advent that talk about the end times and the second coming. Jude is such a book. I admit I have never studied it much. Reading it today makes me feel like I am missing some important information about angels and demons as well as Biblical characters such as Enoch.

These two verses are actually the more positive and helpful part of Jude. Jude give instructions on what the believers are to do even when it feels like the end times are engulfing them:

Build up your faith.

Pray in the Spirit.

Keep loving God.

Look forward to Christ's mercy.

Those four things are what we all need to concentrate on during this season of preparing for Christ's birth.

God, we thank you for all the gifts you have given us but none is as wonderful as Christ's mercy. In his name we pray. Amen.

Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims