Tuesday, November 30, 2021

As Advent Begins, Let's Remember

 This last Sunday was the beginning of the Advent Season; the season in which we all begin to anticipate Christmas. It is so easy to get focused on planning holiday meals, and decorating the house, shopping and gift wrapping. It is also easy to get focused on both the good and the hard of getting extended families together as we deal with different personalities, values, and dysfunction. And as we repeatedly hear the phrase, "Jesus is the reason for the season," we all try to contemplate the  meaning of Christmas. 

We find ourselves thinking about the angel telling a young girl she would bear the Son of God and the beautiful words she penned in response: 

 "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to His offspring."

We find ourselves thinking about the virgin bride and the man betrothed to her, traveling far to pay their taxes. We think think about the virgin, heavy with child, being turned away and directed to rest where animals rest, giving birth in the dark of night. We think about the newborn babe lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. We think about the irony of shepherds being surprised by an angel announcing the birth of the Lamb of God and their trek to Bethlehem to the beat of the angel Choir singing praises to God and we can envision those shepherds kneeling before the Lamb in the manger bed. 

We think about the star-gazing Magi who believed in prophecies, recognizing the Christmas Star and following it all the way to Bethlehem, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh worshiping at the feet of the young King. 

But the truth is, these are just part of the beautiful story we call Christmas. There are many other stories in the Bible which are just as much a part of the epic redemptive saga. The stories are like chapters in a book where each individual chapter is needed to grasp the fullness and the richness of the story.

Christmas is also about God fulfilling the promise He made in Eden to destroy the Enemy. We all know the Enemy for he is the one tempting and taunting us with blatant, ugly lies. He is the one seeking to destroy us through addictions, pornography, and other strongholds of sin that never satisfy and have a deep grip on the soul. He is the one trying to destroy our relationship with our Creator by drawing our attention away from the One who loves us completely, purely, and sacrificially. He is also the one trying to cast doubt on God's goodness by twisting His truth so it looks like rules of deprivation rather than the carefully crafted protection. He is trying to cast doubt on God's faithfulness by by convincing people that the hard we face in this life is proof of God's lack of care. He is trying to cast doubt on God's grace by adding all sorts of legalistic man-made rules to the gospel of grace.    

Christmas is also about God being a keeper of covenants. It is about Him keeping His covenant with Noah, promising to never again destroy all life with flood waters. It is also about God keeping his covenant with Abraham, promising to give him a son, land to call his own, and enough descendants to make a great nation through which all families of the earth would be blessed. Christmas is about God revealing and then fulfilling the dream of Jacob's ladder, providing mankind a gateway to the courts of heaven. It is about Him changing Jacob from being a deceiver and manipulator to one who wanted nothing more than to be blessed by God.   

Christmas is about preserving the life of Joseph while he was living in Egypt so that He could preserve Israel through a famine. It is also about God then freeing Israel from the slavery that they were forced into. It is also about God walking them all the way back to the promised home land, drowning Pharaoh's army that was in hot pursuit.

Christmas is about the prostitute Rahab being saved as she clung to the hope promised in a scarlet cord hanging from her window as the walls of Jericho came crumbling down around her. It is about her being taken from the life of prostitution and being placed into the family line of the Savior.  

Christmas is about Ruth finding grace in her mother-in-law's family, enabling her to give birth to the grandfather of David.

Christmas is about the covenant God made with David, promising that through David a King would come whose throne would never end. It is about the King who would reign in righteousness, love, power, truth  and grace unlike David who, though passionate in his pursuit of God, stumbled and fell. 

Christmas is about the fulfillment of prophesies given by the God who wants us to know His Son. He told us Jesus would be born to a virgin in Bethlehem. He told us He would be from the tribe of Judah. He told us He would be from the family of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, which in all honesty is a family as messy and dysfunctional as any one of ours. He told us Jesus would spend time in Egypt and Nazareth, while the enemy would slaughter many children in an attempt to kill Him. He told us Jesus would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty Prince, and Emmanuel. 

The Father told us Jesus would be tempted by Satan and not give in. He told us Jesus would be rejected by His own country and He was as they accused Him of being crazy, the Spawn of Satan, and a liar. He told us Jesus would speak to crowds through parables and would heal the brokenhearted--the lady at the well, the woman with a bleeding issue, the adulteress cast at His feet, the lepers, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the demon possessed, the harlots--all people separated and marginalized by sin, deformities, or illnesses were made whole and brought into His fold. He told us Jesus would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, falsely accused, illegally tried, spat upon, hand-slapped, mocked, hated without cause, and crucified between criminals. His hands and feet were pierced and His side stabbed just as God said it would be. God also told us Jesus, the forsaken One who prays for His enemies, would be a sin offering and bear the wrath of God for each of us so by faith we could be imputed with His righteous.
    Christmas is also about future prophesies. Our Jesus will return for His bride, the church--not as a the Lamb--but as the Lion of Judah. He will come on a white horse and be called Faithful and True. He will make war on evil as He judges in righteousness and truth. His eyes will be like flames of fire. On his head will be many crowns. He will be clothed in a robed that is dipped in blood and He will be called The Word of God, the King of kings, and the Lord of Lords. From His mouth will come a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations and He will rule them with a rod of iron. As He reigns, He will make all things new and there will be no more sickness, no more death. He will be the ultimate Comforter as He wipes away every tear from our eyes. Things that are evil will no longer be called good, lies will not longer be viewed as truth, love will overcome hate. Those made righteous by the blood of the Lamb will rule and reign with Him forever and ever. Death will be nor more. Sin will cease. Relationships will be ruled by love, not power and abuse. And addictions will be nor more. 

    And, this, all of this and so much more is Christmas. 

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    Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!