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Archive for December, 2022

After the Waiting …

Today we box up Christmas … some of us figuratively some of us literally.

But, Christmas doesn’t have to be over. We don’t have to put it away. Christmas can live with us every day all year. The babe, who came in the manger came to save us … it was not just for one day, not just after death, but today as we’re going through whatever we’re going through.

For that precious babe in a manger, so highly anticipated, so greatly loved even today …

thirty odd years later, he walked a different road. Not a road to star shining in the sky and angels, singing, and a mother, looking at him adoringly, but a road that lead to a price to sacrifice to his real purpose for coming. For his purpose in life was to die, so that we would live.

Stay tuned… another series will come when the Lenten season begins.

“Have you been quieted by his love of late?
Have you simply sat singing to yourself:
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so?”
Have you submerged beneath the surface
to discover the heart of God towards his bride?
We forget to marvel …”

Greg Morse
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Advent … Day 29 of 29

“Don’t pre-mourn me …”

Though the words were not spoken by someone I knew, thought they were not spoken to me …
they have been reverberating through my mind and heart for days, weeks, months. I am so glad my friend shared these words of her mum, when told her cancer was terminal.

After almost three years of fighting, struggling with and against that dreaded diagnosis (cancer), my brother was told just a couple of weeks ago that they estimate he has only eight weeks left …

and, as he spoke these words, over 5000 km away, I heard in my heart those words …

don’t pre-mourn me

And now you are thinking, this is an odd message of encouragement for Christmas Day …

And I would say,

nope!

For today, we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, as told in Luke 2:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

As Christ-followers the birth of the Christ-Child is the only the beginning of the story which leads to the cross, to the empty tomb. It is the story of the greatest sacrifice, our redemption story.

But …

We cannot, should not, jump from advent to the cross …

for God sent his Son as a babe,
born of a young, human virgin,
in a humble stable,
with a human dad to raise him.
The first birth announcements delivered to the shepherds,
out in the remote quiet of fields,
outside of Bethlehem.
All of this under a star.

God is in the details and we must sit with those details awhile, letting the significance of each and every one pierce our hearts. We must linger here awhile, looking on the innocent babe.

Yes, he is a like the perfect, spotless lambs that were born to be sacrificed,

but He is also a baby beloved. With ten tiny fingers and toes, with air in his lungs, with lips pursed in sleep.

He, the babe, was a bundle of possibility. He was born to fulfil the prophesies, but he was also born … like you and I … with choice.

No pre-mourning today!

Come, let us adore Him, just as he was in that manger … a babe, a precious, miraculous infant … a gift of God.

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Advent … Day 28 of 29

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and they will call him
Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:23

Those three words …

God with us

Those words beat any other trio. They speak the meaning of three other words … I love you, but are infused with love beyond our human comprehension.

It is with those three words that hope entered the world as Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. For he was the hope of the world, the hope that we would never be alone in this world, or the next.

Emmanuel means “God with us”

In the ER
In the divorce lawyer’s office
During finals
Changing diapers
In prison
On the first date
During the ugly cry
In the drop-off line
In therapy
At the check out
In the delivery room
Doing dishes
On the bus
At the custody hearing
At the table
In AA
In the waiting room
During chemo
In recovery
At the funeral

Today
Tomorrow

On December 25th
And every day after

And God not only wants to bring peace to you
He wants to bring peace through you

There are people your life and work with who’s lives are broken. You have loved one’s who’s dreams have been shattered.

You have neighbors who have gone through tragedy and are trying to pick up the broken pieces.

You likely live in a country that’s fractured by division caused by fear and hatred.

The peace that God has for you
is also a peace he wants to shine through you.

Jesus said to his followers,
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

Let’s push back some darkness.
-Ian Simkins

“Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”
Luke 24:29

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Advent … Day 27 of 29

Though today is not the last day of the advent season, it is the last post I write in this season and I am writing it the day before, yesterday.

I sit in the quiet of morning, with the bright East Coast morning sun shining behind me, pouring into the small kitchen of the home of my childhood. My mum, still sleeping. A cup of steeped tea at my right, a muffin made by my aunt, delivered by my uncle. I inhale the moment, the quiet.

Tomorrow will not be quiet.

Tomorrow our family will descend for the feast, for the laughter and awkward moments that are family gatherings. We will poke fun at each other and someone will be offended at some point. The meal will be met with great anticipation and the gravy may or may not be a success. There will be gifts, surprises, celebrations. There are rules this Christmas season … no perfumes, no standing hugs (for unsteady feet and legs), no sad talk. For one in our midst (my brother, a partner, dad, son, brother, friend) … he has been told his end date is near … his (our) season of waiting has been decreased and this will be his grandest, most special Christmas of his life.

I take so much delight in the silence of the men in the Christmas story,

Zechariah can’t speak.
Joseph doesn’t speak.

While the words and emotions of Mary and Elizabeth are unapologetically centered.

The sound of Advent is the voice of women.

Cole Arthur Riley

And I sit here in the silence, thinking about the past, about the future … and the silence speaks to my heart in ways words do not.

And I think of the woman who has held fast to my brother’s side. Who, despite her own health issues, has been a rockstar of perseverance, help, trust and care. She has loved him.

And I think of tomorrow. How the white elephant will be in the room and we will be silent about it, Its whiteness is only because it is there and we all know it. But, for tomorrow, we will celebrate … celebrate Christmas, celebrate life … celebrate living.

This one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) will be on our minds. It is the gift of life that we all received at birth, preordained by the God of Creation.

In the silent moments, in these last days of advent I think about the women of the Christmas story, so used by God to love and nurture Jesus and the one who came before him (John the Baptist). Though they too were mostly silent in the telling of their parts in this grand story, their actions spoke more loudly than words.

And we breath in … inhale
And we breath out … exhale

Life is precious … sometimes you have to be silenced to be reminded of the beauty of this gift.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver

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Advent …. Day 26 of 29

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 15:1

it is always darkest before the dawn

A simple yet profound proverb … yet, most experts would say that it is not true that it is physically darkest just before the dawn.

I think it is a saying because we so desire the hope in believing that that things will get better, when we are in our darkest places.

Today is the day after the winter solstice … the day after the longest day. From this day on, the days get longer, lighter. Light is on its way. The thought of more light makes me feel … lighter.

“Quiet my mind when it is already certain that nothing could possible be different.”

Kate Bowler

When the heaviness of the dark comes, whether that dark has to do with time of year, or situations in life, sometimes one has to realize that we have no control in the situation … except our response. For darkness, it just comes, seeming to push out light. But, we do not have to embrace the darkness. Maybe we have to learn to live with it, but we can also choose to focus on the light.

Advent doesn’t deny the dark within us
Advent isn’t afraid of the dark around us
Advent doesn’t rush through the dark ahead of us
Advent sits in the dark and yearns
for the light of the only One
who went to the the Tree of Calvary
-Ann Voskamp

The light is coming. It is coming to the Northern hemisphere, it is also coming to us through the advent season, as we await the celebrations of the coming of our Messiah and as we await his return. He is the light of the world. He comes to brighten our world, to take away sin, heartache, disappointments, disease, struggle, death. For now he has paid the exorbitant price of our human sin. When he returns, he will make all things new, a new garden.

And so, we look toward the increasing light of the Son.

I am writing a new commandment to you,
which is true in Him and in you,
because the darkness is passing away
and the true Light is already shining.”

1 John 2:8

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Advent … Day 25 of 29

King David lamented,

“How long O Lord”

We lament still today. He came once and we still await his return.

And while we wait, we lament.

We lament and we rejoice, simultaneously.

Lament and rejoicing go together, for to lament is heavy, hard and heart rending. To end lament with rejoice is to infuse hope into a situation where we do not see any.

As I hear the Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I hear lament. I hear the story of longing for a redeemer. We are still longing.

As I read Isaiah 64, I also hear lament, right from the first verse:

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
    How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn
    and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
    Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
When you came down long ago,
    you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
    And oh, how the mountains quaked!
For since the world began,
    no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
    who works for those who wait for him!
You welcome those who gladly do good,
    who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
    for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
    how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
    and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Yet no one calls on your name
    or pleads with you for mercy.
Therefore, you have turned away from us
    and turned us over to our sins.

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are the potter.
    We all are formed by your hand.

Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
    Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray,
    and see that we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities are destroyed.
    Zion is a wilderness;
    yes, Jerusalem is a desolate ruin.
11 The holy and beautiful Temple
    where our ancestors praised you
has been burned down,
    and all the things of beauty are destroyed.
12 After all this, Lord, must you still refuse to help us?
    Will you continue to be silent and punish us?

O God, our help in ancient past … our hope for years to come,

You are our God, the only wise God, who does what must be done for your whole of Creation … us as well.

We come to you with expectancy of your return, of your righting all that you created, all that you love.

May we continue to seek you as we wait with groans and yearnings.

Amen

*gaude – to rejoice
*nascetur pro te, Israel – be born for you, Israel

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Advent … Day 24 of 29

As the advent season began, it began in the dark.

Jonah had been given a task by God and he didn’t like it, not one little bit.

As he attempted to flee his calling, things went from bad to worse (he had to know that would happen!!) and he was swallowed up by a whale.

From inside the whale, Jonah reflected on his situation.

It was dark and damp and dank. There was not even a hint at light … figuratively or literally.

He was stuck with nothing to do, but reflect … and pray. And pray he did!

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God
(still his God, even in the dark)

He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me
.
(he prayed about his distress and how God answered his prayers!)

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
(Jonah acknowledged God’s listening)

You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit
.
(He recognizes God as his salvation)

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,

    to your holy temple.
(

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.
’”

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah 2

Despite the fact that God had asked Jonah to go to a place and people he didn’t want to go. And despite the fact that God allowed him to be swallowed up by a whale, Jonah prayed and called and remembered and praised God. Not only that but he said, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah knew that he could only truly live if he understood that the God who wanted him to go to Nineveh was the same God who was his salvation.

And, Jonah was spit out onto dry land … back into the light, just like how the end of advent comes with the presence of the light of the world. Even when our lives go dark, yet we can praise him.

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Advent … Day 23 of 29

Be joyful in hope
patient in affliction
faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

Joyful in hope …

That’s easy to say … sometimes.

Other times it is more of a challenge. Until we remember that to be joyful is not necessarily happy, but to be living in the assurance that we are not alone, that we only see a part of the picture, that happily ever after is a human construct, not an eternal reality.

For, Jesus himself is the one that said (John 16:33),

“in this world you will have trouble”

So … we need to understand that joy is about Jesus in us … happy is just about us.

“People speak of hope as if it is this delicate, ephemeral thing made of whispers and spider’s webs.
It’s not.
Hope has dirt on her face, blood on her knuckles, the grit of the cobblestones in her hair, and just spat out a tooth as she rises for another go.”

-Twitter Post by Matthew @CrowsFault

I love that quote (above) about hope. Because hope is formed in the trenches, in the hospital rooms, and funeral homes. It is present in the offices of bosses, and bankers, and lawyers. It sits with us at big family gatherings, and office parties, and on the streets surrounded by people, but fighting to feel the presence of (the) one who cares.

Hope is messy.

Christmas is messy. Advent is messy.

Waiting for saving is to sometime be in a position of rigidity from our head to our toes, hands formed into fists, teeth clenched tight. It is then when we are holding onto hope with a death grip … truly holding on for our life.

And, that’s okay. That is what Christmas is about too. So that we have the One who is our Hope in troubled times.

Whether a holy or a broken one, hallelujah is to praise joyously … there is hope in both.

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Advent … Day 22 of 29

Week 4
Let the Light In

“I realized that
songs,
good feelings,
beautiful liturgies,
nice presents,
big dinners,
and many sweet words do not make Christmas.
Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to something beyond all emotions and feelings.
Christmas is saying ‘yes’ to a hope based on God’s initiative …
It is into this broken world that a child is born
who is called Son of the Most High, Prince of Peace, Savior.”

Henir Nouwen

There is so much to like about the Christmas season. The cheery moods, the delicious foods, the gift-giving, the parties, the concerts and church services, the music, and on, and on, and on.

Though it is all good, it is rather hollow, rather meaningless, without a relationship with the one who is celebrated this season.

I recently read a writing that went something like this …

stop to ponder the babe in the manger
stop, really stop
just be still, quiet
and think of his human, infant form
think of the parents near him
think of his father in heaven

now, stop and think about why he came

who he came for

let it sink in
how personal this gift is to you (and I)

If you try this. If you stop and ponder this babe, I think you will be amazed at how the truth will hit you, how much thankfulness fills your soul.

If you are reading this. If you think you hear whispers in your soul. If you need to thank the one who came (and will come again). If you need to live for something other than just good feelings and emotions. If you need real hope …

So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”

Hebrews 3:7-8

Open up your heart, yourself, to the One who came at Christmas.

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Advent … Day 21 of 29

Week 3
Faith

“Is God a good god?
Faith is not just that god is
but that he is good,
he mean us well,
he know more than we do?

Max Lucado

Is God a good god?

Can we trust him?

We are now days before the end of the waiting season, the advent season. Days away from the celebrations that mark the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah and the hope of his return. This Son of God who was all human, all God. This God who had to turn his back on his Son … for you and me.

It’s messy … this advent, Christmas, Easter trifecta. But that is what it is … a three-part whole story, for there is no advent without the birth, no anticipated birth without the crucifixion …

and none of it makes any sense at all, without his rising from death.

So all of it,
from the darkness, the sin
to the waiting,
to the birth,
to the life,
to the arrest, trial, torture and death

has meaning.

Is God good? A tough question that we can only answer when we consider the whole story.

“Malachi prophesied about a coming Messiah.
And for 400 years, they waited.

There is purpose in your waiting too.
God’s silence doesn’t mean his absence.

Often when life feels darkest, God is nearest.

Ian Simkins

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