Matthew 12:9-13 (NLT)
Then Jesus went over to their synagogue, where he noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)
And he answered, “If you had a sheep that fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you work to pull it out? Of course you would. And how much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Yes, the law permits a person to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored, just like the other one!
A hand is essential to life. With it, we hold those we love. With it, we carry burdens. With it, we earn a living. With it, we feed ourselves.
Without it, we are separated from our community; we cannot shake another’s hand in greeting or wave goodbye. We cannot carry a brick or pick up a hammer. We cannot hold a spoon, break bread or drink from a cup.
Matthew 1:18-21, 24 (NLT)
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.
Joseph’s position is problematic. His situation is serious. Mary is carrying someone else’s child. And it’s hard to think this is a good thing.
Mark 1:4-8 (NLT)
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.
John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”
There’s something about the end of the year that makes one nostalgic. Perhaps it is the Christmas music playing on the radio. Or the crisp winter air that turns our breath into frost. Or it could be the decorations that light the night in festivity. Whatever the cause, we become reminiscent of the “Good Ol’ Days” every year at this time.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
If you read through the 11th chapter of book of Hebrews, you find a list of the grand heroes of the faith. The charged verses tell the story of humble men and women who gave hearts, their minds, and their souls to the service of God. Many gave their very lives.
The Church often recognizes these folks with sainthood. But you and I know many who never obtained this elevated status but died in obscurity and yet changed our lives by their witness, their example of grace and love. All Saints Day is a celebration of those who have led us to the presence of God through their faithful words and deeds.
Today is an opportunity to think of those who took us to the throne; those in your own life, who are your own cloud of witness, living lives of faith and service.
Lord of all the Saints, both recognized and obscure, we are so grateful for those who have led us to your thrown, lived lives full of your grace, exhibited compassion and faith in each of their days. May we emulate their examples, honor their sacrifice, and be faithful followers servants to the Kingdom of God, that we might be a true witness to those in our own lives.