Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I have hot coffee next to me, steaming in my red snowman cup. All of my Christmas lights are on. Christmas music is playing softly. You say, "Christmas is over!" Is it now?

Did you know that contrary to much popular belief, the Twelve Days of Christmas are not the twelve days before Christmas? They are actually the twelve days from Christmas until Epiphany, January 6th.

And this makes me glad.

How we have all hustled and bustled and cleaned and baked and spent and wrapped to be ready for Christmas Day! Like a meal you prepare all day long, that gets consumed in about ten minutes flat, before we know it, that day we've fretted about, saved up for, sweated every small stuff, is gone in the twinkle of a tabletop Santa's eye.

Like a breath of fresh mountain air, like the sun on your skin on a hot summer day, like a drink of ice cold water to a parched tongue, today we can breathe. Go ahead and exhale.

But don't let Christmas go just yet. If we let it out of our grasp and our thoughts too soon, I think we may have let ourselves succumb to the world's view of Christmas. Chuck and I stopped into the local CVS on Christmas Day. Valentine's Day merchandise was already being put on the shelves. Christmas trees are out on the boulevards, tinsel blowing in the breeze. The wrapping paper hasn't even been picked up from the trash, but we are done. Ready to move on to the next thing.

Isn't that how we are? Always ready to move on to the next thing? We even pray that way, don't we? We ask. We receive. We briefly thank God for answering, then move on to the next thing.

But what if the next thing was to be still? To sit with a hot cup in the light of the Christmas tree and breathe it all in. Breathe Him in. The One who came. The One born in the fullness of time. The One whose birth we've supposedly just celebrated. What if, now that the hectic is over, we could really meditate on what it all means?

What if we could sing those songs and really listen to the words now, and mean them?  What if we could open our Bibles, maybe for the first time, and read the age-old story of His coming. Word made flesh. God dwelling with man. God with us. God with me. 

Oh, don't you think we need this?

In a minute, or so it seems, we will hang our calendar and a new year will begin. A new year that holds only Heaven knows what. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Trouble will surely come. There will be moments of unbridled joy, mixed with moments of gut-wrenching grief. There will be days ahead, 365 of them, full of life. Good times and bad times. Sun and warm breezes and rain and torrential storms.

We will need to be filled for the journey. We will need minds renewed, hearts restored, spirits revived.

I will need this for the days ahead.

For the days when it will all seem impossible, I will need to be filled with the story of the virgin, giving birth to the Son of God, to remind me that miracles really do happen!

For the days when I stumble and fall and feel worthless, like I just can't get it all right, I will need to be filled with the truth of His journey. Wooden manger turned blood-stained Cross. Forgiveness for me.

When I walk through the valley of the shadow, I will need to be filled with the truth of the Resurrection, that nothing is utterly dead until God says it's utterly dead.

I don't know about you, but I need to hold on to this. I need to not ever let it go. I need to hold on for dear life to the One who was born. To die. For me.

So go grab that hot cup, and hear Him say,

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls."

Oh, aren't we going to enjoy these Twelve Days of Christmas?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

No Ordinary Christmas

It's very early this Christmas morning and all is calm. I was just thinking about that first Christmas, so many years ago. I wonder if all of creation came to a halt when the baby Jesus took His first human breath. Or surely, when Divinity entered planet Earth's atmosphere, the ground must have shook? At the sound of His first cry, certainly the trees and the mountains bowed.

Truth be told, as the radiance of the Father's glory made His grand entrance into our world, life was going on all around Him. Except for one radiant star, that only a few would notice, it was business as usual.

Bethlehem was overcrowded with people in town to register for the census. Animals roamed the streets. In the pre-dawn hours, street vendors were busy setting up their wares, in hope that the many travelers would spend a farthing or two. Some were still sleeping, some were getting the jars ready for their morning trip to the well. The inn was full. Just another night in Bethlehem. No one even noticed.

No one noticed that in the town of David a baby had been born. No one heard the voice that would one day speak to a raging storm and say, "Peace, be still", let out His first cry. No one noticed. No one cared. Lowly. Humble. Understated. No fanfare. No trumpets. No earthquakes. But I'll bet that all of Heaven ROCKED!

I imagine the Father and all of His angels peering over the banisters of Heaven. Holding their breath. Waiting for the sound. And when it came, that first cry, there must have been cheering and shouting and rejoicing at near biblical proportions. And the proudest Papa ever turned to everyone and said, "That's My beloved Son. And I am well pleased."

It's very early this Christmas morning. Children will be waking soon to see what Santa brought them last night. Families will be getting together today to celebrate. And for many it will just be another Christmas Day. Status quo. Business as usual. Much like that first Christmas. I am so sorry, Lord, for what we have made of this day. So different from that first night.

Christ is not making His grand entrance into planet Earth this time. But He will make a grand entrance into our hearts if we will but receive. There will be no trumpets today. No earthquakes. No moving mountains. But He is here. He is God with us. Emmanuel. If we will just slow down. Listen. Reflect. He still comes quietly. He is still meek and humble of heart.

And one day He will come again. And this time He WILL come with a trumpet blast and with tens of thousands of angels. He will come as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And not only will Heaven be cheering, but all creation and every knee will bow.

Merry Christmas, dear ones! God loves you so, so much. He sent His only Son. And the earth stands still. All of Heaven is rejoicing. A Son is born. A child is given. The Prince of Peace has come. May His peace be yours today and everyday.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Promise Fulfilled

Four hundred years had passed.
Four hundred silent years.
No prophets spoke.
No God-words from burning bushes.
No messengers sent from Heaven.

The people waited.
They ate. They drank.
They married.
They lived. They died.


They knew the promise. They remembered.
They waited. It had been so long.
So long that some stopped passing on the promise to those who would come after them.
Some stopped looking.

In the fullness of time.

On a day like any other. The Promise.

With the cry of a newborn baby, the promise was fulfilled.

The Promised One inhaled the very air He breathed into existence.

Word made flesh. God born dirt. Clothed in flesh and bone.

Lowly shepherds bowed before the baby.

Wise men came with gifts for the child. 

From babe to child to man.
He breathed our air.
He walked our sod.

They misunderstood Him.
They rejected Him.
They sought to end Him.

They beat Him.
They bruised Him.
They nailed Him to a tree.

They killed Him.
They buried Him.

He rose again!

Years have passed. Silent years.
No prophets speak.
No burning bushes.
No angel visitations.

We wait.
We eat. We drink.
We marry.
We live.
We die.


Where is this coming He promised?

We know the promise.
We remember.
We wait.

We wait so long that we forget to pass the promise on to those who come after us.

We stop looking.

But in the fullness of time. 

On a day like any other.
The Promise will come again.

No baby's cry, but a cry of command, 
with the voice of an archangel
and with the sound of the trumpet of God, 
the Promise fulfilled. 

No swaddling clothes but a robe dipped in blood.

Eyes blazing like fire, 
and on His head many crowns. 
A sharp sword coming from His mouth 
and an iron scepter in His hand. 

King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

Not only lowly shepherds. 
Not only three wise astronomers.

At His Name, the name of Jesus, EVERY knee will bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

No one will misunderstand this time. 
No one will escape.
No one can beat Him.
No one can bruise Him. 
No one can nail Him. 
No one can kill Him. 

He is coming again. 

Every single prophecy about His first coming was fulfilled. 

Jesus Christ, 
the same yesterday, today and forever, 
has also promised His second coming. 

It's a certainty. 
It's as good as done.   

Are you ready?

If you're not sure today if you're ready for Jesus' return 
or if He should choose to tarry, that you will go to Heaven when you die, 
don't wait another minute. 


Monday, December 09, 2013

"What Child Is This?"

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2: 12)

What child is this who laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?

This child was a sign. In the Greek, that word meant that He was the finger-mark of God. He was Savior, Christ and Lord all in one verse (v.11). He shone with the radiance of the Father's glory and was the exact representation of His being. (Heb. 1: 3)
This child was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, not in a palace as would have been befitting a King.
His little eyes would one day weep over Jerusalem and her sins. They would cry over the death of a friend.
His little hands would one day touch the blind and they would see. They would touch ears and they would hear. Those hands would cleanse the leper and drive out the fiercest demon. When His hand would raise, storms would still and winds would lose their breath.
His cry would turn into a voice that would stop hurricanes with a single "Hush." His voice would comfort an adulteress. Speak with love to a sin-full woman. Laugh out loud when the lame started dancing. Call men to follow Him. Teach multitudes. Pray to His Heavenly Father. Cry out in unimaginable pain nailed to a Roman cross.
His heart would be filled with compassion for the hurting, the poor, the abused, and the down-trodden. A heart that bursts with everlasting, unconditional, out of this world, love for you and me to this very day.
Those little feet would one day walk the dusty roads of Galilee, searching for anyone who would dare to listen to His words. They would be anointed with perfume from a broken woman's alabaster box. One day those feet would walk the road to Calvary.
What child is this?
This is a child that angels watched. Shepherds greeted. Kings worshipped. Learned men listened. Fishermen followed. Sinners dined. Crowds cheered. Blind men and lepers called out. Crowds jeered and cursed. Officials flogged. Governors condemned. Roman hands crucified. Women anointed. Gentle hands buried. A stone rolled away. A tomb empty. A Savior alive!
What child is this?
It was written about Him in the ancient Hebrew scroll. "Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9: 6)
He was anointed to preach good news to the poor. He was sent to bind up your broken heart, and proclaim freedom for whatever has you captive. If your world is dark today, He came to give you blessed release. (Isaiah 61: 1) He came to turn your ashes into beauty, your mourning into gladness, and array you richly in a garment of praise, to replace that spirit of heaviness you've been wearing for so long. (Isaiah 61: 3)
What child is this?
He is the one who read those very words on that scroll in the synagogue one Sabbath evening, and sat down saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
What child is this?
"Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. And they sang a new song, saying:
   "You are worthy to take the scroll
   and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
   and with your blood you purchased for God
   persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
   and they will reign on the earth."
 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
   "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
   to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
   and honor and glory and praise!"
 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
   "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
   be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"
 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5)
What child is this? He is The Christ, the Son of the Living God. The child who began His life in a wooden manger and exchanged it for a wooden cross. The child who began His life in a stable and exchanged it for a throne.   
This is Jesus the One and Only!
Wishing you a blessed and exceedingly Merry Christmas from our house to yours! May you know His abundant love, mercy, and grace. May you make it your life's passion to seek Him with all that is within you, worship Him with every fiber of your being, believe Him always, and to chase hard after Him until you see Him face to face.