Advent

Advent #6: The Glorious Replacement

Luke 2:14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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The glorious arrival of Christ signals the necessary departure of self. The kingship of HE must replace the kingship of me (and of we).

luke 2 angelic host gloryThe kingly glory of Jesus Christ, this glorious majesty of God, shined brightly in indescribable splendor and brilliance, and it trumpeted his arrival by birth at Bethlehem to those unsuspecting shepherds that day. “Glory to God in the highest”, the angelic host proclaimed.

The Greek word “doxa”, translated glory, has a definition that of the “kingly majesty of the Messiah”, and this is also the root of our liturgical term “doxology” (literally glory-sayings) regarding Christ.

This word “doxa” is also used in many places of note in scripture: For instance, this glory is the same astounding and transformative kingly glory that the apostles Peter, James, and John witnessed at Jesus’ transfiguration (all 3 synoptic gospels), as well as the same glory of Christ, our lamb slain on our behalf, later witnessed in vision by the Apostle John in Revelation.

And today, Dec. 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, we’re reminded from the book of Acts that after Stephen preached to the religious leadership (Sanhredrin) on the death of Jesus, the people responded by angrily roaring out to stone him to death. But before being killed, filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen looked up to Heaven and saw this same “doxa” glory of God with Jesus at his Father’s right hand (Acts 7:55) giving Stephen the peace and inspiration to let go and forgive his murderers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.

Sound familiar?

Glory creates a paradigm shift towards mercy and grace.

#Wade

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Not Alone

Isaiah 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

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The name Immanuel means “God with us”.

Implied in this is that there was a time (and still seems to be many times) when it feels like God was not (and is not) with us. That we’re all alone.

immanuel-isa-7-14But this is not true. Even when we “feel” alone, experientially, we can know that we are not alone at all.

There was that moment in time, prophecied here in Isaiah 7 (and then reiterated years later in the gospel of Matthew 1:23), when God would indeed prove this to all creation.  When God the Son willingly came to our earth to incarnationally live among us and to sacrificially give his life for us; on our behalf.

And Jesus remains with us. He continues to teach, lead, comfort, convict, and love us by and with his Holy Spirit.

So maybe you’re a college freshman away from home for the very first time, or maybe a stressed-out middle-aged dad or mom, or maybe you’ve recently been torn by a painful divorce; maybe you’re one struggling to overcome cancer or another terrifying disease, maybe a senior who has lost a spouse, who misses children who live miles away, or one who is simply afraid of dying, possibly even afraid of living!  And maybe you feel all alone in your struggle or pain.

So to each and every one of us, remember this good word:  Immanuel. It is to remind us that we are not alone.  …

GOD!
God WITH!
God with US!

#Wade

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Advent #4: From Humble Beginnings

Micah 5:2  2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. “

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Since we get so enthralled with the newest/biggest/loudest (and this spills over into our spiritual lives), we find it intensely difficult to wait, to settle for less, or to find beauty in the small, slow, or seemingly insignificant things, places, or people.

But here in Micah’s prophecy, we read a clue that this is exactly what people were to expect in the coming Messiah. And later in the gospels, we learn that Jesus was indeed born into the most humble of parents and circumstances. Not what people expected.

And so, while his deeds and words revealed truth and power, many rejected him outright; while others, eventually.

bethlehem micah 5-2The Christmas hymn/carol ‘O Little town of Bethlehem’, along with the “kenosis” (self-emptying) passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:5-11) should remind us that beauty, majesty, and royalty can and does indeed come from something small and unexpected.

From the bumble podunk village of Bethlehem (which literally translates from the Hebrew as “house of bread”) bursts forth the royal one himself; Jesus the Messiah, the ruler, the eternal one from everlasting.

And our Jesus, who self-identifies himself as THE “bread of life” (Jn 6:35), who was born in that Bethlehem (that “house of bread”), offers you and me not a small morsel of bread crumb, but instead offers himself fully; broken on the cross, and then resurrected as our glorious ruler and king.

Not what anyone expected, but exactly what everyone needs and, deep down, longs for.

#Wade

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Advent #3: From The Darkness, Light!

Isaiah 9:2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

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deep-darkness-light-isa9-2Not just any darkness but DEEP darkness; even a “tsalmaveth” darkness which translates from the Hebrew as a “death shadow”. And both of the Hebrew words for darkness here in Isaiah 9:2 are used most of all in the book of Job.

In the familiar Psalm 23, David says confidently and peacefully that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”. David is comforted in the midst of his extreme personal and societal darkness. Also, the Prophet Amos (5:8) used that word “tsalmaveth” when referring to God creating light out of darkness at the very point of creation.

So we do indeed have hope; great hope. In our darkest days, and even in our darkest sins, we (individually and as a community of faith) have the creative life-bringing light of our Lord Jesus who brings us dazzlingly alive by his grace and love.

#Wade

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Advent #2: Painful Prep Work

Malachi 3:1-3  1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lordyou are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can standwhen he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness

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refiners fire jpgThe prep work necessary for an upcoming celebration can be exhausting and overwhelming, but it’s necessary.

Same with the Spirit’s sanctifying work in our hearts. We don’t always welcome it and often, in our lack of humility, rail against it in anger and frustration. Why me? Why us? Why now?

May we receive with repentance and open hearts the coming of our Lord and let Him refine, wash, and shape us to His glory.

#Wade

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Advent #1: Redemption Through Brokenness

Jeremiah 33:14-17   ‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  ” ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.’ For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel

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righteousbranch

Our family vacationed in Yellowstone National Park sometime soon after the big fire of ’88. This was the fire, or rather the cluster of many fires, that was caused by the perfect storm of drought, wind, and heat.  Official reports list that about 1.2 million acres were scorched and 793,000 (about 36%) of the park’s total 2,221,800 acres were completely burned. Driving around, it all appeared surreal like a dead-zone or a moonscape with no ecosystem to speak of. No plants, no animals, just mile after mile of blackened stumps and (what appeared to be) scorched dead earth.

For Yellowstone to bounce back seemed insurmountable at the time, but our God is a God who is able to, and very pleased to, bring beautiful life out of ashes, scorched earth, and deadness. He brings the dead to life.

Many centuries before the coming of Christ, the Old Testament Jeremiah prophecied that the coming Messiah would be born through the lineage of David, the son of Jesse.

At first glance, that seems impressive.  After all, wasn’t David a King and one known as a “man after God’s own heart”?  But we need to dig deeper in order to find the depth of the riches of grace embedded into this genealogical statement.

The dark backstory of the human lineage of Christ includes overt and dark sin; actions seen in those (listed for instance in the Matthew 1 lineage) such as the prostitute Rahab, the adulteress Bathsheba, and even the victim Tamar (who was raped incestuously).  And lest we forget, even the most admired saints of the Bible had a very dark sinful side:  Let’s recall Abraham, the liar (saying Sarah was his sister to save his skin),  Jacob, the conniving manipulator (stealing his brother’s birthright), David, the adulterer and accessory to murder, Rehoboam, the oppressor and violent force against his own people, and so on.  Plus all the numerous polygamists living self-serving lives contrary to God’s clear mandate for marriage (one man, one woman, for life).

So let’s stop and consider this:  How amazing is this lineage that our Lord has been born into?  More importantly, how astounding that our perfect savior Jesus would choose to self-identify with the human family of sinners which includes the scorched earth of all these prostitutes, outsiders, power-hungry oppressors, adulterers and even murderers.  He could have done it another way but instead chose THAT way; the beauty of restoration and grace.

yellowstone rebirth

Back to Yellowstone: About 12 years after that devastating fire of ’88, our family once again traveled to Yellowstone to visit.  Within a mere decade, you would not believe the change. The new life was everywhere.  The lush landscape was green and thriving, the park animals (buffalo, deer, moose, elk) were roaming everywhere, and the new growth was becoming mature.  The park had been reborn! A glorious restoration of grace.

While we wait during the season of Advent with great expectation and joy for our Savior Jesus to come (past, present, and future), may we see the clear and overpowering tone of grace of this message.  Within the framework of our human lineage of brokenness and sin, our God-man Jesus broke through to bring healing, redemption, and new life.

Where it had been charred, dry, and appeared dead… now green, lush, life.

#Wade

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Waiting and Groaning

Romans 8:18-23  18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

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I doubt you need any convincing that we are living in a broken world and that we humans have been fractured to the core. The news we receive daily from TV, blogs, our doctors, and environmental scientists all simply confirm what we have subconsciously already known:  Our humanity is severely fragmented, all our human systems are flawed, and even creation itself has been deeply damaged; everything is in need of restoration.

creation-groansThe Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:22 that the, “whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

So they waited and we too also wait. And wait.

It takes time; but it’ll certainly come in God’s perfect timing.

Until that point, all of humanity plus all God’s creation continue to groan over the suffering, the sin, and the pervasive disintegration both seen and unseen, both in the world and also inside ourselves. Together we all wait with great expectation for that joyous day when our Lord Jesus makes all things perfectly right. When all things will be remade anew in their pre-Fall restored perfection.

In this Advent season, may we (with humility and expectation) quiet our souls with both a meaningful remembering of His Advent, which points directly to that final great restoration in Jesus Christ, and may we take solace that He is with us now daily via His Holy Spirit.

#Wade

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