Advent: Day 17

(full disclosure: this was for yesterday)

My sweet children love to know what their names mean.  Lately they’ve taken to adding the meaning to the recitation of their names… i.e.  “I’m Margret Pearl” or “I’m Louisa Joy Mighty Warrior.”  It makes us laugh, but also rejoice.  The meaning of names is vital.  My eldest, the Pearl, loves that her name means something beautiful.  My current youngest, to no surprise, fits the warrior bill quite well as a second child and feisty two year old.

My imagination runs wild with ideas when I see my own children playing with their names.  What did a 2 year old Jesus do.  “My name is Jesus Immanuel Prince of Peace Horn of Salvation Tender Shoot Lion Of…..” and then he’d be interrupted by his parents.  I can only imagine that this was the conversation that Joseph had with Jesus as he was putting him to sleep and trying to tiptoe out of the room.  You parents out there know that when you’re moving to the door the sneakiness comes out.  “Papa, tomorrow I….. want….. toooooooooooo” and the thought never really finishes, but you feel beholden to lend an ear.

I love the names of Jesus and as a kid made ornaments out of paper, coloring in a picture of one of the names.  Each of us brothers as well as mom and dad were given a few names of Christ to draw up on a small circle of paper.  We could do it in any way we wanted.  These were then “framed” with red construction paper and strung through with thread so they’d hold on a tree.  They never ended up on our tree, but we had a marvelous garland in the kitchen where they would be added after reading the corresponding passage at the dinner table.  It was a wonderful memory and my parents still have them.  I think we’re a few years and for sure one, but maybe two children away from doing the same at our household.  Many blogs and websites have their own templates for doing this sort of thing.  I’d encourage any and everyone to make an effort on this.  There are fewer more important things than knowing the depth of who Christ is.  The importance of the meaning and history of a name can’t be understated.  What a great transition from the meaning of each child’s name to the meaning of the Maker.

Advent: Day 16

Again, a little behind.  But as Christmas approaches I have no doubt that that will be a struggle.

As the events of the weekend settle on the community, state, nation, and world I can’t help but cry out, “Come Lord Jesus.”

More than 2000 years ago, Jesus came and began this whole redeeming thing.  The cries then were that of now.

“Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

Advent: Day 15

Acceptance is a big word.  A big one.  A cultural buzz word along with Tolerance and Diversity.  Not that those are bad words, just that it’s hard to go anywhere without hearing them.  While searching for what to write about, reading, re-reading, I came across a simple heading.  A heading placed on a set of paragraphs in the version of the Gospels penned by Matthew.  It was added by a publishing house acting, undoubtably, with Joy and Jesus in their hearts, but the words are far from canonical.  Needless to say it stuck with me.

“Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son.” Those are indeed huge words.  Nowadays we men are part of the birth.  We’re often in attendance, whether on the ground or not.  A portion of society opines that there is no choice in whether you accept a child born to you, it is your child, plain and simple.  There are countries, and opinions, and talk-shows that would deem otherwise, but largely we accept our children.  Not so, once. So how monumental is it that Joseph, this father who had nothing physical to do with this child, would out of trust, accept this boy as his son.  I think far more than we know.

Advent: Day 14

I have been more fascinated than ever about the portion of the birth story regarding Elizabeth and Zechariah.  In part, I’m sure, because I sit down intending to read the full story and end up stuck in Chapter One.  There are beautiful truths, astonishing statements of faith, and the beautiful language of the speechless parents.  Take the ending of Zechariah’s Song… the prayer for his son.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.  –  Luke 1:76-79

How gorgeous.  Can you see a new, but old, father, cradling his only son whispering prophetic future to him?  What recognition his son would have!  I believe that in that moment Zechariah knew about the camel’s hair and the honey and the grasshoppers.  He knew about the “Repent for the Kingdom is near!”  He knew his son would wander into the desert and disappear.  But also, he knew that right then, he was in his arms.  Perhaps being rocked to sleep.  The language is both forthright and soft.  Gentle and strong.  “Prophet of the Most High” and “tender mercies.”  “Give his people knowledge” and “Shine on those living in darkness.”  Zechariah is a good father.  He would lose his temper, to be sure.  He’d probably flip out when John said he was going to the desert.  He’d be frustrated nearly to the point of yelling with all of John’s doddling.  He’d wonder if he was going to get more than 5 hours of sleep ever again.  Yet, he knew his son would herald the grace and peace of the Most High.  He knew that he was now inextricably linked to the forgiveness of sins, even in a sideways way.  Grace, peace, mercy, and joy were coming to his people.

Zechariah and John - art by Jonathan Case

Zechariah and John – art by Jonathan Case

Advent: Day 13

A day late… but we had a night of sleeping all together under the Christmas tree.  The girls loved it and how could you not.  It’s quite magical.

Here’s a Christmas Carol.  One I don’t know the music to, but that is beautiful beyond words.  Melding nature in quite an abnormal way with Advent.  Just the words here, no mp3 or anything.

 

Carol of the Birds by Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins

Whence comes this rush of wings afar,
Following straight the Noel star?
Birds from the woods in wondrous flight,
Bethlehem seek this Holy Night.

“Tell us, ye birds, why come ye here,
Into this stable, poor and drear?”
“Hast’ning we seek the newborn King,
And all our sweetest music bring.”

Hark how the Greenfinch bears his part,
Philomel, too, with tender heart,
Chants from her leafy dark retreat,
Re, mi, fa, sol, in accents sweet.

Angels and shepherds, birds o’ the sky,
Come where the Son of God doth lie;
Christ on earth with man doth dwell,
join in the shout “Noel, Noel.”

Advent: Day 12

Delivery: “The act of giving birth” (definition #5)

Delivery: “The act of releasing or rescuing” (definition #7)

What’s amazing to me is how these two are so woven into the Advent story.  God’s story of deliverance was needed because of sin’s curse in the garden.  The curse that bound man to the ground and the woman to the pain of childbirth.  It was then that pregnancy ended in delivery, in deliverance from the pain, from all of the things inherant in giving birth.  Now we have delivery rooms.  Rooms to provide shelter during the painful deliverance.  I pondered this word this morning as I listened to Pastor Ron Block read from his rewritten Advent Narrative.  His emphasis on deliverance beginning so long ago and culminating in the birth of Christ.  The word wove through and beyond just the deliverance of the Mother, but deep into the deliverance of the people of Israel and of all those who believe.  While Mary was being delivered, the world was as well.  Definition #7 via definition #5.  Both macro and micro.

What a beautiful narrative!  What a phenomenal God we serve!

Advent: Day 11

Did you know that once, a long time ago, Jesus was the exclamation point at the end of a sentence?  He was the final “so there” of an argument?  He was the Charlie Brown’s “Good Grief” of the prophet Isaiah?

I decided today to read back in Isaiah 7, where the prophecy of the Virgin Birth was located.  The context made me laugh and wonder aloud.  Ahaz is under siege.  The city of Judah is being waited out by the kings of Aram and Israel (do not ask me about the whole Judah vs. Israel thing… no idea) and the people are worried.  The sieging kings have made a treaty with Ephraim and this treaty has made the “hearts of Ahaz and the people were shaken, as trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.”  Isaiah is told to meet Ahaz and encourage him with a word of the Lord.  A word basically saying, “Believe!  Have faith!  This will not come to pass, but only if you have faith!”  Then Isaiah tells him to test the Lord.  Let me rephrase that.  The Lord tells Isaiah to tell Ahaz to test Him.  Ahaz refuses, citing pious reasons.  Reasons I’m sure I would have said in the same scenario…. “I will not put my Lord to the test!”  Sounds good… unless the Lord is asking you to do it.

ahaz

The Lord, thru Isaiah, lashes out with Jesus.  He lashes out with faith, with future faith, with future deliverance and future glory.  It’s such a small blip among so many pages, that it’s easy to miss the whole context.  Easy to quote the part about the virgin birth and throw the rest of the passage out with the compost.  Here’s my rewrite of what Isaiah said (I’ll follow it with the actual passage).

Isaiah: “Okay, okay, okay… listen to me pipsqueak.  Human patience is only so long… Are you really trying the patience of God… my God… yours too?!  Fine, here’s a sign.  You want to worry about these so called ‘Kings’?  Peh.  The Lord himself is going to blow your mind.  A virgin, got that… a virgin will give birth to a son and will call his name… wait for it.  No stop shaking your head.  They will call him “God’s Here”  Immanuel.  He’ll barely be eating by himself when he’ll know enough to choose not to do stupid stuff.  Not to lie or cheat, but to be compassionate and give.  And you know what?!  Before even that happens, the two kings your pooping your pants about, will be dead.  Their lands will be desert.”  and so on.

Isaiah 7:13 – 16  –  “Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[c] a sign: The virgin[d] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[e] will call him Immanuel.[f] 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. ”

The rest of the passage is a bit more depressing.  How the King of Assyria will come and be worse than any nightmare.  But that’s for more scholarly folk to address.

The point of all this is that the Lord, through Isaiah, made a point of reference in the future based on Jesus.  His plan for redemption was in full swing and the Lord of time was letting slip vital hints.  Isaiah walked up to Ahaz and slapped him with Jesus.  The virgin will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.  One of my favorite names for Christ.  God with us.  God… with … us.  Isaiah said to Ahaz, “Stop worrying.  God’s coming.”

I’d love to see the look on Ahaz’s face.  Would have been priceless.  “God with us.”