Day 20 Advent Love – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

20 loveMerry Christmas!

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.

Christmas day is messy business. I’m talking about families. Bringing those people together – in groups, large or small can be a time of excitement and joy or high expectations that may or may not be fulfilled. Stress, they tell us is a good thing – or a bad thing – depending.

Frankly, I am part of some gatherings that I love, some I endure and some I dread. I’m just being honest. The hard and difficult and unpredictable (or oh too predictable) get-togethers I would avoid if I could. They just aren’t “my people” even if we do share the same bloodline.

Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t feel like me. “Pleased as man with us to dwell” the song says. It pleased Him to join us in this broken place we call earth. God took on flesh so He could be with us.

It wasn’t because “He” and “us” had much in common or because we were just “his people”. Nope, it was because He loved us in spite of all that separated us from Him, in spite of all that made us different and unacceptable and hard and difficult and oh too predictable in our behavior. He was looking for a way to connect again and so He was happy about coming.

Lord Jesus, because you are with me, I can love and be gracious and forgive and offer grace. I can overlook disappointment and see instead people who need to be loved and accepted just like they are. I can offer peace for turmoil, joy for despair, and hope for a future good that seems illusive in that person’s current situation. Because You are with me, I can do whatever is needed without frustration. Thanks for reminding me of Your game plan. Thank you for your indwelling Spirit. Amen.

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Day 19 Advent Love – Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-7; Matthew 1:18.25

19 love“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…

Mary saw an angel. Joseph heard God’s instructions from an angel in a dream. They both welcomed the news and without delay embraced God’s plan for their lives. Pretty amazing earthly parents God chose to care for Jesus!

I think I would have asked 20 questions…but maybe not. I say maybe not because it is clear they each recognized God’s voice in the messages brought to them. They weren’t expecting angels or longing for a word from God, they were just doing their everyday stuff…going on with their lives. But when God spoke they knew it. They knew it was something different from anything they had ever experienced. So they followed His words. They welcomed His words – then and every day forward.

Mary and Joseph were set on a mission that would encompass their whole lives but they didn’t stop to figure it out. They were called. They followed.

“Lord, give me ears to know your voice. Give me a heart and mind that will respond with the same certainty of Mary and Joseph. I am just going on about my life here but if You show up and have something to tell me, I pray all my world will stop while I listen. And Lord, wherever those words take me, let me honor You with my obedience. Amen.”

Day 18 Advent Love – Galatians 4:4-7

18 loveBut when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Just in time…just at the right time…when everything was fully in place…at the exactly right time – that is when God sent his Son.

I know God is outside of time. Time is a convention he established for us. He set it in place as early as the days of creation – evening and morning, sun and moon, seed time and harvest – cycles and order out of chaos. It is only because of “time” that we wait for anything – otherwise all things would just run together. (Wow. That’s a crazy thought.) God must have some intention for time to be our frame of reference. So it is one of the many things we are called to trust him for.

Jesus has come – in the fullness of time, He was born, lived, died and was resurrected. All of that was the plan to rescue His precious family from slavery. There is still more to His plan. ..a new heaven, a new earth – total restoration.

Until then, I wait. I try to wait with hope, peace and joy – knowing that because of his great love, there is a set time when all will be fully ready.

Lord Jesus, I await your coming.  I long to be faithful in how I live in the waiting. Maran atha (“Our Lord has come.”) and Maranatha (“O Lord, come!”).

Day 17 Advent Love – Psalm 89:1-37

17 loveYou rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.

I don’t know when I first realized how many times during my son’s recovery, God has rescued us from surging seas. He did it again today. There is nothing a human can do about the sea. If it has tsunami size swells or lies flat as cement – we are powerless to effect any change in her disposition. And the sea can be terrifying in her power and her sheer size.

Since yesterday afternoon, my sea has been churning. The trouble is a familiar one – coordinating doctors, drugs and pharmacies – and it is also beyond my reach. I can make calls and plead cases but ultimately other people decide our fate and usually at their own whim. Again today, I begged God for a favorable outcome that only He could bring.

He made things work – again. Not because He had to but because of His great love, He saved us. There is no other explanation.

Day 16 Advent Love – Isaiah 53

16 love…with his wounds we are healed.

All that Isaiah tells about the suffering of Christ is not for the faint of heart. My very human heart finds this hard to hear this morning. To be honest, I feel like our family lives are being tried on so many fronts. We are crossing a wide valley of shadows and it is painful for all of us. There is nothing we can see ahead but gray.

I am learning not to waste my time searching for answers in the fog – like everything being well depends on my discoveries. Instead I think I’m supposed to watch for the sunrise and hold hands with these words: with his wounds we are healed.”

All is well, and all shall be well.

Day 15 Advent Joy – Book of Common Prayer

15 joy

…to give them songs for sighing, their darkness turn to light,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… – Ecclesiastes 3

 

We have such grand expectations for Christmas. Besides the secular hoopla and pressure of gift finding, gift affording and gift giving – as believers we have spiritual expectations. Some of which we place on ourselves.  After all, Christmas is a time when even the most ardent anti-God among us will grant space for a baby named Jesus in a children’s play. Family of all stripes will gather, even in a church service, because it will please Mom or Grandma or it’s a family tradition. It’s our chance to proclaim the “reason for the season” by our cheerful countenance and generosity.

I am grateful for the years when my emotions and plans fit nicely into the aforementioned packages. But this year…well, it’s just not our reality. I’m hearing it from lots of people. They are feeling badly that they can’t get in touch with the joy of which we sing. Peace is illusive. And hope? … well, hope for any kind of change is unlikely. Next week’s focus will be love and so far, we’re not feelin’ it.

We are sighing. There are a bunch of us just taking deep breaths and sighing. And I think what God is saying to that collective longing for something more is, “It’s okay.”

Advent is about longing. This morning it occurred to me that there were 400 years of silence between the promises of the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus. When Mary sang, she declared the Lord had done “just as he promised our ancestors.” This keeping of His promise is the lynchpin of our own personal enduring. Hope leads to peace, peace to joy and joy to love but not without the wanting of it all. Not without the longing.

It is not a renouncing of faith to not “feel it”.

I think it is rather a proclamation of faith that what we feel is longing. Longing for our fulfilled promises – longing for all those good emotions to overwhelm us like Mary. Longing for the hard things to be done and for all the darkness to be overcome by LIGHT.

And this too will come, because He will come, just like He did before – we have His promise.

Day 14 Advent Joy – Luke 1:39-56

14 joyElizabeth: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Mary:”…his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.”

The key to joy in our waiting is to believe that what God has told us will, indeed, come to pass. Right now, we are waiting for a family member to cross into heaven. We are waiting for a young person to find their way. We are waiting for a parent to be willing to accept the exceptional care they need. And we are waiting for our world to be made right and new and whole once again.

So, in these we ask for hearts and minds to believe – to trust in the ONE who claims to be faithful – to trust in the ONE who has promised. With Mary, we want to proclaim above all the things that seem to shout something else – HIS MERCY IS FOR THOSE WHO FEAR HIMfor our generation. For every generation.

Day 13 Advent Joy – I Peter 1:1-13

13 joyTo those who are elect exiles

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter has a lot to say in these verses but I’m not sure I would have thought to put them together with Advent. Silly me! I’m grateful for these words, today especially.

Things are tough around here. .. way beyond the normal Christmas chaos and busyness. There are many responsibilities falling on our shoulders and they are heavy things all coming at once. God knows the list and the concerns that go with each name. I don’t have to list them.

Right now, we feel extremely like exiles – trying to negotiate a foreign terrain. It is uncertain ground – even where we have travelled before, we know will not be the same outcomes. We walk by faith that these are the ways He has chosen for us to go.

But God…always. God has given a beacon out in the distance to guide us home. It is a great mercy and comfort for waiting rooms of every kind – just to see a glimpse of our destination. It is in seeing the Light – though far out in the distance – that we can hold on to our JOY.

Nehemiah tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is indeed. From a pinpoint of Light, hope builds. We become supernaturally filled by the Spirit. Instead of weakness comes renewed energy. God prepares our hearts and minds for action. He sets our course anew.

Keep your eyes fully on His Grace…on His coming!

Thank you for Your Word this morning, Lord.  Keep my focus on watching for You.

Day 12 Advent Joy – Psalm 40:16

12 joyI guess if you read today’s picture it summarizes why my thoughts today are about JOY:

As for me, I am poor and needy,  but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

“Grandma’s pushin’ the BBQ!”

That’s the term we use when there are lots of left-overs of one thing and I’m trying to get someone – anyone – to eat them so I don’t have to throw them out. Left-overs are not a big thing at my house much anymore. However I feel like I’ve been pushin’ something else this last week or so – “humility.”

Someone dear to me has stopped by on a few different days because they needed to “talk”. They are looking to make some big decisions in the direction of their life. They seem motivated but the choices are hard and long range. There is a lot of fear. You know you actually have to let go of the past in order to grab the future? It’s like hand over hand on the monkey bars of life (I might have once said “latter” but monkey bars seem so much more like reality.) You cannot move forward without letting go of somethings that, right now, you are afraid to lose. It’s hard.

I know because I’ve been there – and if you haven’t, then as Jen Hatmaker says “just live longer”. This life is filled with choices that aren’t easy or painless. What I’ve found is that a lot of that pain comes because we don’t have anyone who can offer us a guarantee. A guarantee that things will actually become what we hope for.

That is the crazy thing about knowing Jesus. He is the great guarantor. Oh, not necessarily in the little trivia of leaving Florida for Cali but in the big giant important things like help, deliverance, a future and a hope. We don’t have the answers but He does and if you want answers you’ve got to ask the answer-er.

So that’s where pushin’ humility comes in. Until we can see that our control of our own life is already proving to be not that great, we clutch our own understanding with both fists. This passing of the power from ourselves to someone we believe we can trust is essential. A.A. sums it up in the first three steps:

  1. We admit we are powerless over… and our life has become unmanageable.
  2. We have come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him.

David puts it this way:

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

Day 11 Advent – Joy – Isaiah 9:1-7

11 joyFor to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,

If you live in the good ole U.S. of A., you cannot miss all the people clamoring to have the responsibility of our government put on their shoulders. It’s doesn’t really matter how good, honest, intelligent or right that one person may be, they will be supporting an enormous weight. They will not be up to the whole of the task. They will, we can only pray, do the best job they personally can.

Surprisingly, even in what is touted as the “greatest country in the world” we will not have a perfect or righteous leader because that leader will not be God Himself.

But one day…when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returns to claim His Kingdom in all His fullness – that will change. He, Jesus, is uniquely perfect to carry the weight of governing. Moreover, He will reign in Peace with Might and Wisdom for all of eternity. Not just on David’s throne but on the throne of Heaven and over all the nations of the earth.

Greater than one could ever imagine will be the time when darkness will rule this world no more. We will be translated into the Kingdom of Light to live in justice and righteousness forevermore.

Truly, Joy will have come to the World!

Heaven and nature and angels and all mankind will indeed have cause again to sing!