#Advent14

#Advent14 — In The Midst

A reading from Paul's letter to the Thessalonians.

Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in. This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t downplay prophecies. Take a close look at everything, test it, then cling to what is good. Put away every form of evil.

So now, may the God of peace make you His own completely and set you apart from the rest. May your spirit, soul, and body be preserved, kept intact and wholly free from any sort of blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus the Anointed. For the God who calls you is faithful, and He can be trusted to make it so.

— 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (VOICE)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Somewhere between the promise of rescue and the actual rescue, we will find ourselves in circumstances where life really sucks. That place where grief is pressing in. Where hurt and pain are rampant. Where it seems impossible to imagine a Rescuer is even on the way at all.

In times like these it's easy to wonder about God. What is He up to? Why can't all things just work together for good now and not someday? Where is the comfort and peace and life and love?

Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes. Famines. Death.

We learned over the weekend of the death of a dear saint. We didn't know Sheila well, but we did know that her life was one of incredible devotion and service and love. She lived at the YWAM (Youth With a Mission) facility in Colorado Springs. She loved the children on that campus and they loved her. Yet, over the weekend she passed from this life to the next. Passed from living life in the in-between and into the fulfillment of the Kingdom. The very Kingdom that she had labored throughout her life to bring to earth.

Now, Sheila sits with that great cloud of witnesses and cheers on those children that she loved. And, we mourn, yet we mourn with hope. We mourn not as a people for whom death is a finale, but rather we mourn as a people for whom death is just another beginning–Easter People.

Yet, Easter is just another Sunday without Advent. Without the hope and the waiting and the manger and the angels and the wise men and the shepherds and a humble young girl and an obedient husband, there is no reason to grieve with hope.

For Paul and these Thessalonian believers, pain and war and persecution and struggle was a reality of life. These believers needed to hear that in the midst there was ability and reason for rejoicing and prayer and thanksgiving. They needed to hear that there was a reason to trust the prophecies of renewal and resurrection. They needed to know that Jesus would return to bring the fulfillment of His Kingdom, yet they also needed to know that His coming might not be next Thursday as they had penciled onto their calendars.

And, we need to know that as well. For Sheila, the fulfillment came last Saturday. For you and I, it might come tomorrow or next Thursday or in 10, 15, 25, or 50 years. Between now and then, life will suck at times. Yet, rest in hope and assurance that even in those moments where life is at its ugliest, the Messiah stands by. Ready, not to airlift us out of the problem, but rather to parachute in–Emmanuel. God with us. In the midst. In the in-between.

So, to my dear friends at YWAM-Colorado Springs, I know that life is hard right now. Yet, I also know that life will get better and then hard again. I know that even in the midst, Emmanuel will step in. Not to remove us from the problems and pain and grief, but rather to walk alongside us through it.

I know that the God who called you, and Sheila, is faithful and He can be trusted to make it so.

Rest in Peace and Joy, Sheila. I enjoyed our brief conversations while I watered those plants that were too high up for you to reach. I loved watching you talk to our children. Enjoy the Kingdom!!

 

#Advent14 — God, Do It Again!

A reading from the Psalms.

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion’s exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations—”God was wonderful to them!” God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.

And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest, so those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Psalm 126 (MSG)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Exiles. Those for whom home is not where they are, but a place they most desperately want to be. Somewhere between the place of their dreams and the place of their hopes.

Not quite here.

Not quite there.

As someone who has never been forcibly removed from my home, I can’t even begin to imagine the indescribable joy that must come from returning to a place that once seemed so far away. Trapped in a foreign land. Trapped under rules and regulations that make you only slightly more free than a prisoner.

When we pull in the driveway of our home in Edmond after a few months overseas, my heart skips a beat or two. My own bed. The familiarity of smells and sights and sounds. The view of pasture and neighbors–not too close–press into my eyes.

Even more sweet than that, is that first service when we are back home at Acts 2 UMC. The worship band sounds better than they ever have. The message refreshes and brings deep wells of life. And, communion–the family dinner–is the most precious moment of all.

Until last week, that was the closest that I could come to imagining the joy of the exiles returning home. And, then, I met a pregnant lady living in the basement of a church. She, and her family, are Christian refugees from the conflict in Iraq. She has a six-year old and a three-year old. She pointed to her six-year old daughter and said through the translator, “When I was pregnant with her, I had to flee my home because of war.” Then she pointed at the three-year-old son and said, “When I was pregnant with him, I had to flee my home because of war.” Then she smiled and said, “Now, I’m pregnant again. And, fleeing again.” As I fought back tears, I hugged the daughter and kissed the son on the forehead.

And then she said the most unexpected thing, “I’ve never known joy until I came here to this church. I am home.”

As I read today’s scripture, I kept thinking about this precious lady and her beautiful children. I thought about her statement. While I know that she’ sound a place of safety and peace in the midst of the conflict, I also know that she is stuck somewhere between the dream of home and reality of home. And, I wondered how much joy would be in this woman’s heart and in her family when she really does return home.

And, so we pray, for this family and the millions of other refugees around the globe. These modern day exiles. We pray that they will return home. That they will no longer be trapped between the now and the not yet. We pray for peace–not the absent of conflict–but the presence of Emmanuel–God with us.

Even in midst of the conflict, we pray that more and more of these exiles will be able to say like this dear lady, “I feel like I am home.”

Our prayer for them all resounds, “God, do it again!”

 

#Advent14 — …and this is the Kingdom…

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

The Lord God’s spirit is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and a day of vindication for our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for Zion’s mourners, to give them a crown in place of ashes, oil of joy in place of mourning, a mantle of praise in place of discouragement. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, planted by the Lord to glorify himself. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore formerly deserted places; they will renew ruined cities, places deserted in generations past.

Isaiah 61:1-4 (CEB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

…and this is the Kingdom of God…

We bring good news to those who are poor. Sometimes, good news comes in the form of food. Sometimes as money. Sometimes as a bed in our basement. Sometimes as a meal around our table.

…and this is the Kingdom of God…

Our family has a dear grandmotherly friend, Jeanne is her name. Even at 92 years old, she is involved in many ministries in and around Edmond. One is a prison ministry. They collect freshly baked cookies and take them to the prisons. Something small and sweet to say, “You are loved.”

…and this is the Kingdom of God…

In the past three years, we have met hundreds of men and women and boys and girls who proclaim the message of the Gospel. In some of the darkest corners of the world, they stand and share that the Lord's favor–unmeasurable grace–has come. In jungles, and rain forests, and deserts, and big cities, they proclaim that the Kingdom has come, and is coming, and is yet to come.

…and this is the Kingdom of God…

Over the past couple of weeks, I spent several days meeting with Pastors and relief organizations who are working–and in some cases living–among those who have been displaced by war in Syria and Iraq. I watched as a Priest hugged children who had lost everything they have ever known and are living in a 150 square foot room (made from blankets strung over wire) with their parents and three, four, and five siblings. Yet, as this Priest hugged these children their faces would light up and the love of Jesus would flood their hearts.

…and this is the Kingdom of God…

Aaron, Pastor Steve, Jeanne, these countless workers and this dear Priest are the “Oaks of Righteousness” of whom the Prophet speaks.

The Prophet ends this section with talk of rebuilding and restoring and renewing. The truth is that as the Kingdom of God is proclaimed, things are renewed to the original design that God had for them. Things are made new–brought back to how God created it in the first place. And we, you and I as Kingdom Citizens first, get to partner alongside God in the restoration of His beautiful creation.

And, it is very good.

…and this is the Kingdom of God.

 

Advent14 — Come, Lord Jesus!

A reading from the Gospel of Mark.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son, happened just as it was written about in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Look, I am sending my messenger before you. He will prepare your way, a voice shouting in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight.”

John the Baptist was in the wilderness calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. Everyone in Judea and all the people of Jerusalem went out to the Jordan River and were being baptized by John as they confessed their sins. John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. He announced, “One stronger than I am is coming after me. I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8 (CEB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

John the Baptist is one of my favorite men in the Bible. I've written about him in other places on this blog. He's one of these people who loom much larger than life. He towers above other characters.

Camel hair.

Locusts.

Leather belt.

Wild honey.

And, proclaiming a message unlike any ever heard: “Prepare the way!”

Last year, when we were in Central Asia, we were privileged to witness the baptism of a new indigenous believer. It was amazing to know and see one more person entering into the Kingdom. Beginning that walk that leads from the cross to eternity. Beginning his new life in heaven now, yet also anticipating a life that goes on for eternity.

Occasionally, when I take communion, especially in creative access nations, I think of this man and his baptism. I think of how communion is that family dinner that spans time and space. Together with all the saints. Those who have come before and those who are yet to come.

And, John comes to prepare the way. He comes to proclaim that the time is now ripe for Messiah. Like a herald in a medieval castle. He comes to proclaim that all things are ready. The King is coming.

We look at the world today, and hear it screaming out in pain. The UN tells us that millions of Syrians are refugees or internally displaced peoples. Another couple of million have fled from Iraq to Kurdistan. Children are without education or even the possibility of education. An entire generation stands in the balance.

Men and women and boys and girls in so many places on the planet cry out for rescue.

For redemption.

For a new kingdom.

For a home.

And, Jesus stands at the ready. Yet, he wants you and I to partner with him in bringing Advent–hope, peace, joy, and love–to these people.

We bring Advent with every prayer we pray for them.

We bring Advent with every dollar we give.

We bring Advent with every worker we send.

We bring Advent with every water well we drill.

We bring Advent with every preschooler and mother we teach.

Somedays, it seems that the road to the manger will never end. It seems that we will always be stuck between a promise of redemption and actual redemption. We stop at places along the path and stand in sacred silence with nothing to say except “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The hope of Advent is that the Messiah is on the way. He brings with him peace, and joy, and love. He comes to bring justice–the setting right of all things

And, so, we cry out, “Come! Lord Jesus!”

 

Advent14 — Bounty and Blessing

A reading from the Psalms.

I can’t wait to hear what he’ll say. God’s about to pronounce his people well, The holy people he loves so much, so they’ll never again live like fools. See how close his salvation is to those who fear him? Our country is home base for Glory!

Love and Truth meet in the street, Right Living and Whole Living embrace and kiss! Truth sprouts green from the ground, Right Living pours down from the skies! Oh yes! God gives Goodness and Beauty; our land responds with Bounty and Blessing. Right Living strides out before him, and clears a path for his passage.

Psalm 85:8-13 (MSG)

This is the Word of the Lord.

How we live matters. Living a life that is built on the principles of the Kingdom will be a life that proclaims the Kingdom. It will be a life that shines light into darkness. It will be a life that spreads life and the desire to live similarly to others.

In the New Testament, we call that discipleship. Teaching–by example–how to live Kingdom life. Teaching–by example–even those who are not yet citizens of the Kingdom.

When we live based on the principles of the Kingdom, we change the world around us. People will see and choose to live differently. They will ask questions. They will wonder what makes you different.

Living based on Kingdom principles will even impact the environment–the physical world around us. We will be concerned with the beauty of a place. Not to make it into a show, but to make open the throat of the the environment to proclaim the goodness of God. Because God's goodness is not intended to only impact you and me. It is intended to impact every element of creation.

Advent isn't a time of waiting for just us Followers of the Messiah. It is for a time where all the world waits in breathless anticipation of something better than. Something other than. For a lot of the world, advent–this season of waiting–isn't just a month long. For parts of the world, it is a season that has gone on for millennia. Waiting for the other than. Waiting for the better than.

Let's be honest. The world isn't in the greatest of shape. Wars. Rumors of wars. Earthquakes. Famines. Over utilized farm and ranch land. Sickness. Disease. Floods. It's a mess.

And it's into this mess that God desires to proclaim goodness and beauty, and the land responds with bounty and blessing.

Remember the other day when I said that eschatology matters. Here's why. If our eschatology is one that says, “it's all gonna burn up anyway,” then our lifestyle will walk out with that belief as our foundation. We will work to keep people from burning up, but we won't work to keep the planet from burning up. We're only walking out half of the story. We will live as if Heaven will be only a place for those who die, and not a place to be walked out today.

God's intention is that people should life full lives. Lives where all they need is provided. Where life is full of joy and peace and goodness. Yet, He also intends for the land to be full of bounty and blessing.

I met a rancher in Nebraska a few months ago that understands this. He understands the importance of caring for the land. The importance of proclaiming the beauty and goodness of God. And, the land has responded with bounty and blessing. He has a ranch that has won awards for it's ability to produce strong and healthy cattle, but not at the expense of creation. He conserves the land. Plants trees. Manages the water consumption. And, in the lean years, his ranch continues to produce. After spending time with this friend, the phrase, “the Kingdom of God is like” rang through my ears. And, the land has responded. Beauty and goodness. Bounty and blessing.

As citizens of this new Kingdom that was ushered in from a manger in Bethlehem so long ago, we should live out a life that proclaims God's goodness and beauty. And in so doing, the people will be blessed, the culture will change, and the land will respond with bounty and blessing.

Yet, first, we must embrace the Kingdom Life. The “with God now” life as Dallas Willard calls it. We live life with God now. Waiting, yes, for the Kingdom to be completed in it's fullness. Yet, knowing that when the Christ child came, He brought with Him the Kingdom. Because, when the King comes, so does the Kingdom.

Here.

Now.

But also, not yet.

And, in between, we wait. In between, we live out our lives as Kingdom citizens first. Kingdom citizens above any other citizenship.

And we proclaim the goodness and beauty of our God. And, even the land responds with bounty and blessing.

 

Advent14 — Prepare The Way!

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

“Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God.

“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and announce to her that her time of forced labor is over, her iniquity has been pardoned, and she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”

A voice of one crying out:

Prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; make a straight highway for our God in the desert. Every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be leveled; the uneven ground will become smooth and the rough places, a plain. And the glory of the Lord will appear, and all humanity together will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

A voice was saying, “Cry out!”

Another said, “What should I cry out?”

“All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”

Zion, herald of good news, go up on a high mountain. Jerusalem, herald of good news, raise your voice loudly. Raise it, do not be afraid! Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Lord God comes with strength, and His power establishes His rule. His reward is with Him, and His gifts accompany Him. He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.

— Isaiah 40:1-11 (HCSB)

This is the Word of the Lord.

This is one of my favorite prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. Israel has been in exile. They are in a land not their own. Living in captivity. Hoping and praying for rescue. And, the message comes. Your time in captivity is over.

But, the message goes on. And, gets even better.

Not only is your time in captivity over, but things are about to get a whole lot better! Rescue is coming. Renewal is on it's way!

That doesn't mean that it's time to just sit back and relax. No! It's time to get up and make things ready! Prepare the road through the wilderness! The King is coming!

I've come to see these verses as more than just a prophecy that later is used to describe John the Baptist. I'm coming to see these verses as the message for each of us. It is what we as Kingdom citizens do. We prepare the way for the King.

When we feed the hungry, the way is prepared. When we shelter the homeless, the way is prepared. When we drill a water well in a village and stop water-borne illnesses in their tracks, the way is prepared. When we sit with the one who is grieving, the ay is prepared. When we love the unloveable, the way is prepared. When we lay down tools of destruction and pick up tools of construction, the way is prepared.

Prepare the way!

And, the King comes. The mountains are brought low. The hills are flattened. The rough terrain is smoothed. The uneven ground is made level. The Kingdom comes.

When the King comes, the mountains of depression are turned to fields of joy. When the King comes, the hills of bitterness are turned to strips of love. When the King comes, the rough terrain of grief is turned to joy in resurrection. When the King comes, the unevenness of fear becomes the foundation of faith.

When the King comes.

So, climb high up onto the mountain and shout. Shimmy down into the pit and proclaim. Stand tall on the hillside and let it ring out.

Shout it from every street corner in Ferguson. Proclaim it in every refugee camp in Turkey and Iraq and Jordan and Lebanon. Yell it out from every tall hill in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Let it ring out loudly from every corner of the globe!

Prepare the way! Feed the hungry. Comfort the widows. Speak peace to the conflicts. Shelter the homeless. Father the orphan. Prepare the way!

Prepare the way for the King!

 

Advent14 — The Eschatology of Advent

A reading from the Gospel of Mark.

“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Mark 13:28-31 (ESV)

The Word of the Lord.

I've often struggled to understand why during the first week of Advent we read scriptures that have been interpreted in modern times to relate to the end times. It has always seemed odd to me that we enter into this season of waiting for the birth of a baby–The Baby–and this week of hope with Scriptures about the end of it all.

I read a tweet from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove the other day that gave me a new perspective on the selection of eschatological scriptures for this first week of Advent.

And, there it began to make more sense for me. Our eschatology matters not just for the now and later, but for the past as well.

On this blog on Tuesday, I mentioned how Advent is like this epic novel that we're reading for the second or third or fourth or twelfth time. We know the ending. We know the beginning. But, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Somewhere between the beginning and the ending. Straining to remember how the story will resolve, yet waiting patiently to find out.

Advent is a lot like that. We know that Messiah will come. Yet, we force ourselves to stand between the knowledge of that coming and the actuality of that coming.

And into that mix, we add a further and deeper knowledge. The knowledge that Messiah doesn't just show up once in the story. Yet, He returns.

And, we remember that our eschatology really does matter. It matters not just for the future, but also for today.

And, so in this season of hoping for the Messiah, we hope for the Messiah to return again. To bring to its fullness the Kingdom that was introduced in a manager in Bethlehem. A Kingdom that seeks not to destroy planets and people, but rather it is a Kingdom that seeks to renew people to their original God-given intentions. It is a Kingdom that restores relationships.

As citizens of that Kingdom, we work now to bring that restoration and renewal to the people and places around us. We seek to restore broken relationships. We seek to feed those who are hungry. We seek to bring health and healing to the sick. We seek to bring peace to the war-torn and war-weary. We seek to bring life.

Our eschatology matters. Someday, King Jesus will return. And when He does the Kingdom will no longer be a place where we sit in tension between the now and the not yet. When He returns, it will all be made right. It will be renewed. It will be restored. It will be resurrected.

So, here in this first week of Advent, we long for the Messiah to come. And, we long for the Messiah to come again.

We wait.

And, in our waiting, we bring the Kingdom to every place go and to every person we meet. Every interaction brings a little more light. The darkness gets a tiny bit less dark.

Until…

 

 

Advent14 – Hoping for the Finale

A reading from Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives.

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

— 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 (The Message)

This is the Word of the Lord.

What encouraging words that Paul writes to the believers at Corinth! He reminds them of who they are now that they are citizens of the Kingdom. All things that they need, they have access to through Jesus. And, they wait expectantly.

Hope–confident and joyful expectation in the goodness of God.

Knowing that God is good and because He is good, He will act good. He will do good things. He will meet the needs of His children. And, we expect Him to do this. We expect it with confidence and joy.

That doesn't mean that life will be nothing but roses and sunshine. There will be hard times. There will be pain. There will be suffering.

But!

We wait expectantly with confidence and joy for the Finale. For that moment that the Kingdom comes in fullness and all that was once wrong is made right.

And, until then, God walks alongside us. Not airlifting us out of problems and struggles, but parachuting in to walk alongside. He understands suffering. He understands pain. And, He knows the process. So, pain, suffering, hurt, death will happen. And, in the midst of it, the Kingdom comes, and will come, and is coming, and has come.

As we walk the path that leads us from here to a manger in Bethlehem, we yearn for that moment when all pain and suffering stops. When death is no more. When lions and lamb play together. When all swords (or drones and tanks and bombers and nuclear devices) are beat into plowshares. We yearn for that Baby King to immediately make things right. Instead, He enters the world quiet and unassuming. He grows up and then commands us to be Light and Salt and to bring the Kingdom with us as we go.

Until that day.

That day for which we hope.

 

Advent14 — Identity

A reading from the Psalms.

Turn us again to yourself, O God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.

Strengthen the man you love, the son of your choice. Then we will never abandon you again. Revive us so we can call on your name once more.

Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.

Psalm 80:7, 17-19 (NLT)

This is the Word of the Lord.

I love the imagery in the Scripture of God's face shining down on someone. The idea is that God gazes at a person as if that person is the only one on the planet. God gazing deeply at you. His eyes locked onto yours.

It is a way in which God marks us as His child. It's a mark of identity. Like a good father would do for his son or daughter. Look them eye-to-eye and say, “You are my child.”

There's something about the affirmation of a father to his children. It's an means whereby the son or daughter learn clearly and eternally who they are. Without a doubt, I am the son of…

It's also something missing in the world today. Throughout the world, we are faced with an epidemic of fatherlessness. We are finding that father are either entirely absent from the lives of their children or they are mentally absent–wrapping themselves up in technology or television or career or sports or pornography.

It's a situation that we as the church must address. We must begin to speak life into these circumstances. We need both natural fathers to step into the role they have been given by God, and spiritual fathers to help fill the gaps where the natural fathers won't take their role seriously.

Into a fatherless society, we, as Kingdom citizens, are called to speak hope. We are called to proclaim to the orphan that there is a Father who loves them. And, our proclamation is to be backed with action. Action that speaks value and identity to the orphan.

When John baptized Jesus, we find identity being spoken in that moment. There comes a voice from heaven that proclaims Jesus as a Son who is well-loved. In that moment, Jesus is affirmed in His sonship. A sonship that He clearly recognizes even as a young boy in the Temple. Yet, even though He knew He was a Son, the Father still felt it important to affirm Him again at His baptism. You are My Son.

As we travel from country to country, we find that there is great need for the affirmation of a father to their son or daughter. We see young people who have been wounded by the absence of their father–some of the fathers have been absent doing the work of the ministry even. These young people need us–all of us in the Kingdom–to step into a role of affirming and blessing and calling them out as sons and daughters who are well loved.

As we find ourselves reflecting on this Advent season, we will be faced with Joseph. A man who stepped into his calling as a father to one who wasn't his child. He nurtured. He trained. He discipled. We know little about Joseph after the birth of Christ. Yet, we know that he chose to accept this Son of God as his own son. The ultimate example of one fathering a child that wasn't his own.

Who will we father this Advent. What young person will we speak life and blessing and make our face shine upon?

My son

My son

 

 

Advent14 — The Epic Novel

A Reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

If only You would rip open the heavens and come down to earth–its heights and depths would quake the moment You appear, like kindling when it just begins to catch fire, or like water that's about to boil.

If only You would come like that so that all who deny or hate You would know who You are and be terrified of your grandeur.

We remember that long ago You did amazing things for us that we had never dreamed You'd do. You came down, and the mountains shook at Your presence. Nothing like that had ever happened before–no eye had ever seen and no ear had ever heard such wonders, but You did them then for the sake of Your people, for those who trusted in You. You meet whoever tries with sincerity of purpose to do what You want–to do justice and follow in Your ways.

But You became so angry when we rebelled and committed all sorts of wrongs; we have continued in our sins for a long time. So how can we be saved? We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We're drying up like a leaf in autumn and are blown away by wrongdoing.

And it's so sad because no one calls out to You or even bothers to approach You anymore. You've been absent from us too long; You left us to dissolve away in the acrid power of our sins.

Still, Eternal One, You are our Father. We are just clay, and You are the potter. We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth. Don't be so angry anymore, O Eternal; don't always remember our wrongs.

Please, look around and see that we are all Your people.

Isaiah 64:1-9 (The Voice)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Advent.

The waiting game begins.

It begins in a yearning for help. A yearning for rescue. A yearning for something new and better. A yearning for something other than.

Yet, it also begins with a memory. The memory of Advent past. The memory of a King and a Kingdom and a promise to set all things right.

Between the two we now stand. Remembering the times past where the mountains trembled. Yet, longing for them to tremble again.

It's all a bit like an epic novel that you've read before. You know how it will end. You know the story. You know in the end all the loose threads of the story will merge into one beautiful tapestry. Yet, you begin the novel again.

“Once upon a time…”

And, as you near the middle of the book, you are caught between knowing the promise of hope will be fulfilled and the actual fulfillment of the promise.

A good novel will draw you in. It will make you feel and think and believe that you are the main character. You are Shasta riding into battle at Anvard. You are Bilbo discovering the secret of the ring. You are Harry running toward a wall in Kings Cross Station.

Here we find ourselves. Along with Isaiah, we are in the middle of an epic story. Somewhere between. Not quite at the end, yet knowing the end. Not quite at the beginning, but remembering the beginning.

Longing.

Hoping.

Waiting.

Remembering.

And, the story is not yet finished. The Author continues to add pages. And, we continue to live the plot and the twists and the turns. Like clay in the hands of the Potter, we yield to the Author. And, we walk out the story longing for the fulfillment of the promise.

So, now, we begin our walk to Christmas. In our walk, we yearn for a fulfilled Kingdom. Yet, we know that the King has come. And, somewhere in between we find ourselves. Confused by the hurts and pains and death and illnesses of this place. And, from somewhere off the page, we hear the Author whispering, “Trust me.”

This isn't to say that the Author writes into the story all the pain and suffering and hurt and confusion and murder and suicide and hurricanes and floods–becuase He doesn't. But, it is to say that while these things happen, they don't catch the Author by surprise.

The Author wields the pen, and from within the midst of all the mess of the world, He writes a story of life–life to the fullest. He writes a story of missing things found and broken things fixed. He writes a story of Kingdom come.

And Kingdom that has come.

And Kingdom that is yet to come.

So, here we stand on the precipice of Christmas. Not yet there, but not so far away. From that precipice, we can see the Kingdom. We can see the joy and the peace and the life and the fulfilled promise.

And, that is what gives us the ability to hope.