Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Light of Christmas {O Holy Night}

Just in time for Christmas, the snow has faithfully fallen, covering this northern land with a blanket of white. The landscape is peppered black and white with trees their branches hanging low laden with snow.

To celebrate the season, I'd like to sing you a song, my favorite Christmas carol. It goes like this.....

O Holy Night

Ok. I'll spare you my singing. I'd like you to come back again sometime.

This writing of a whole continuous story over the last few weeks has been quite an adventure and full of surprises, for I knew not where this was headed when I started. I have never done such a thing as this before, yet the Lord is gracious, and done it and has brought you along for this Christmas journey.

It does seem fitting to sing "O Holy Night" for our conclusion, don't you think? The words really summarize everything we've talked about in the Light of Christmas. Maybe you're like me and have sung this song all your life long and yet never gave one thought to the words. So instead of singing it, let’s just read it, and let the words really sink in to our hearts and minds.

O Holy Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

It was a holy night because God came to earth.  Emmanuel, God with us.  His mere presence made the night holy.

Long lay the world
In sin and error pining

We wonder aimless, in sin and darkness.  Pining refers to the suffering of mental and physical decline, but also refers to a deep longing for the return of something.  Unable to fulfil our purpose, the reason we were created, we lay pining for something we can’t grasp.

Till He appeared
And the soul felt its worth

The thrill of hope
A weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new and glorious morn

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace

He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world and to bring peace, completion (you know, the thing we’re pining for).

Chains shall He break
For the slave is our brother
And in His name
All oppression shall cease

One day, one glorious final day, all oppression shall cease, injustice shall be no more.

One day, one glorious final day, all mankind will cry out:

Christ is the Lord

And finally and forever, those of us who have chosen to accept His merciful gift will be able to do what we have been created to do:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name;
Christ is the Lord, Oh, praise His name forever!
His powr and glory evermore proclaim!
His powr and glory evermore proclaim!

Indeed it is a holy night.  So whether you have a blanket of pure white down fallen from heaven covering the brown death of fall, or whether your grass is green and flowers are blooming, won’t you stop, pause, reflect,

On the beautiful, humble mystery

That 2,000 years ago

Eternal God became a man

For one purpose

To die for you

So that you may live with Him


Fall on your knees,
Oh, hear the angels voices!

O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
Here's a beautiful version if you'd like a listen:

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 9 {Born to Die}

continued from part 8
Peace.  We talk about it a lot at this time of the year.  Verses like “peace on earth, good will to men” sing out in Christmas carols and cards abounding.  But all you have to do is turn on the t.v. to know that there isn’t much peace on earth, what with death, destruction, war, and most recently utter and unbelievable carnage in a small and once peaceful town.
When we think of peace we often think of a state of mind, of tranquility or quietness or the ‘freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts’; but the Hebrew word for ‘peace’ in the Bible has a broader context.  Shalom means ‘to be complete’, as in a right relationship.  The Hebrew word also refers to victory over one’s enemies.
Jesus, the Prince of peace, was born in a stable manger.  He walked the earth with a rag-tag group of men.  Some of the last words He spoke to His disciples were, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33
That in Me, you may be complete
That in Me, you may have victory over your enemy.
Jesus was born for a reason.  It wasn’t Plan B of God’s design.  It was God’s design.  That Jesus came from on high to dwell among men was God’s plan.  His plan had a purpose.
Jesus came to bring light to the world. (John 12:46)
Jesus came that we might have life. (John 10:10)
He came to save His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21)
He came to give us peace. (John 16:33
He came to give us eternal life. (John 3:16)
Yes, for all of these things the Son of God was born, but they are results of a greater purpose.  These secondary effects are accomplished through the main reason Jesus lived on earth as a man – His death.
Jesus was born to die.  For you and for me.
He died so we could have life. (Rom. 5:8)
He died to take the punishment for our sins. (Is. 53:5)
He died so his blood would be shed on the cross so we would have peace in Him. (Col. 1:19-20)
He died, so He could rise again from the grave – because God cannot die – so our punishment could be born by one other than ourselves, so wecould finally do what we were created to do – glorify YAHWEH and enjoy Him forever, eternally.
John Piper puts it this way in his advent devotional 'Good News of Great Joy', “The reason Jesus became man was to die.  As God, he could not die for sinners.  But as man he could.  His aim was to die.  Therefore, he had to be born human.  He was born to die.  Good Friday is the reason for Christmas.”
“For it pleased the father that in Him (Christ) all the fullness should dwell, and by Him (Christ) to reconcile all things to himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”  Col. 1:19-20
Do you have peace?  Is your peace tranquility and quietness, and thus temporary?  Or is it the peace brought through the blood of the cross, made possible by the birth in a humble manger; the peace of a relationship made right; the peace of being complete? 
This peace of completion is not a peace that comes from a frame of mind, or meditation.  It’s a peace that transcends all understanding and only comes by faith and repentance.  John the Baptist said it, Jesus said it, Paul said it, “Repent and believe.”
The path to peace is to accept, by faith, the gift of salvation.  Believe, trust, surrender.
Yet some will say, “Yeah, but I need to really know.”
And God says, “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:3)
It is by faith, and faith alone, that we each are justified, made right and have peace with God, our Creator, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two thousand years ago, a babe was born in a barn because the world had no room for Him.  He came to die so He could save the world through His death.  His birth and life and death is not about condemnation, it is about loving redemption.
He is stretching out His hand to you right now saying “Come”.  All each one of us has to do is take hold of it and say, “Yes, Lord!”. 
When we believe, we receive peace, not condemnation.  It is when we reject His way to mercy that we find ourselves in trouble, in sin and error pining.

We each have a choice to make.  What will yours be?
"And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19)

To be continued......

Monday, 17 December 2012

Light of Christmas Pt. 8 {No Room for the Unexpected}

Continued from Part 7

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.   So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:1-7
One thing I’ve learned in my journey with the Lord:  being in His will generally means that things do not go as I would have expected or planned.  That’s the great thing about being in the Lord’s will – He’s in control, not me.
I can’t help but think of Mary and the circumstances surrounding the birth of her first-born child - the Son of God - and that things were maybe not going as she had expected.  I wonder what Mary and Joseph would have been thinking as this point.  They both knew, because of the appearance of Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, that this child just born was the long awaited Messiah.  The One Israel hasbeen waiting for, Immanuel, God-with-us, Jesus, who will save His people from their sins.
I can't help but wonder if Mary ever thought,'This is not making sense!  Is this the way it really should be?'.  The King, redeemer of Israel has just been born, and he was brought forth in a barn, and laid in a feeding trough in strips of cloth, because no one would make room for them at the local inn. 
A carpenter, a young servant virgin, and the long awaited Messiah, huddled in a stable; subtle enough for the whole world to miss it.
But God made sure the whole world didn’t miss it.  He made sure some heard and would come to see. He didn’t go to the high priests at the temple in Jerusalem; He didn’t go to the powerful religious group of the nation, the Pharisees; He didn’t go to the ruling king or the rich merchant.  He went to poor and humble shepherds for, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8)
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around then, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!’ 
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger......
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”  Luke 2:8-16, 20
And so it was, a prophecy fulfilled, one dark but starry night in Bethlehem, not the way Israel was anticipating.  And because it wasn’t as expected, it was dismissed by all except a few humble, faithful hearts.
But isn’t that the way with God?  His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”, says the Lord.
And so, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Is. 9:2)
Yet, the saddest words in all of the Bible, penned by the beloved disciple, proved true during the next days, months and years, while the Messiah walked with the people he came to save. 
“..the true Light which gives light to every man...He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and his own did not receive Him.”  
A beautiful promise follows these poignant words, a promise for those who would choose to see:
“But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 7 {Silence Broken}

continued from Part 6

Before I became a Christian, I avoided the more exuberant ones I knew as much as possible.  They could be an intimidating lot always preaching wrath and judgement and sin and what I needed to do to avoid it and did I want to come to church on Sunday.
This God they spoke of, well, He scared me.  I didn’t know much about Him but He sounded like an old guy with a beating stick watching and waiting for someone to do something wrong.  Guilt was his weapon and punishment his payback.
Yet for some reason I could not explain, I was drawn to these people I knew who went to church and seemed so joyful, so not-about-to-fall-apart-at-the-drop-of-a-hat like I was. 
Then one morning, with the lazy days of summer past, and the routine of fall setting in, I decided to darken the doorstep of church for a second time. 
The God I saw and heard about in this church was not the god I had drummed up in my own imagination, He was different.  He was loving, forgiving, gentle, patient, humble, personal.  Following that first Sunday, I kept being drawn back, as if my heart was being beckoned by words I knew not, the gentle calling of Jesus, “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matt. 11:28)
Four Sundays I entered that small country church.  On the fourth Sunday, something familiar happened.  The message was on faith, the words of the preacher once again spoke exactly what I was feeling, thinking,fearing, living.  Words of a forgiving God got through and pierced a deceived, cold, hard heart and deaf ears. 
The familiar extending of a gift from invisible hands, this time accepted with a humble heart and open hands.
I left that day forever changed; a new heart, a new purpose, a new creation –
something brought forth from nothing;
life brought forth from death;
light into darkness. 
“For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  2 Cor. 4:6
My silence was shattered with peace, love and forgiveness.  A silence, a darkness, I could not break myself.  It reminds me of the silence that was broken over 2,000 years ago.  Four hundred years of silence, finally God spoke.  An angel appeared and shattered the silence with,
“Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:13)
Those are not words of a fierce, spiteful god with a punishing rod watching from the sky.  Those are words of a
father to a child;
a protector to one exposed to harm;
a redeemer to one in need of redemption.
Four hundred years of silence was broken by a gentle, humble reassurance.
The promise was coming, the Dawn was on the horizon, bursting forth to a people living in darkness; a people trying to find their way, their own way on their own wisdom, by their own hands, but completely unable to bridge a void the size of eternity.
There was one who could make a way, who could bridge a void the size of eternity, and He did it for love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
The first Christmas gift was a gift of love, mercy, and grace - a gift of unearned favor - as a newborn’s cry rang out from a manger stable in the dark of night, lit only by a shining star.
“Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.”  Ps. 112:4
To be continued......

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 6 {Gentleman God}

continued from part 5

Waiting requires patience.  Patience is not a word I emulate very well (despite the name of this blog).  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines patient as: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation; not hasty”; and patience as “the capacity or habit of being patient”.
Waiting is defined as the act of “looking forward expectantly; to be ready and available”.
Have you ever had your patience tested in the waiting for something?   You know, you’re looking forward expectantly, and you are bearing the pain calmly as you wait for a call from the job interview you had last week, from the doctor who ran tests.  Whatever it may be, you’re waiting.  Expectantly.
Starting out we wait in expectation, prepared.  As we wait a little longer than expected we maybe begin to get restless.  As more time passes, we start to build anxiety, fear (not so forbearing) as our mind builds possible scenarios of the outcome; we begin to focus on other things (not so ready and available); and our patience soon turns to impatience as we take control of the situation, attempting to change our waiting circumstances.
Waiting patiently requires relinquishing control.
But God says, “Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”  Is. 30:18(b)
The Old Testament is filled with promises of a coming Messiah, a Savior, one who would crush the head of the cunning serpent.  God said, “Wait for it”. But we are an impatient lot we humans, fallen and labouring in vain.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of men who didn’t bear pains and trials so calmly, who complained often, who were very hasty in doing things their own way, trying to be in control, not so patiently waiting for God to do it His way in His time.
For God promised, "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel".  The Israelites understood the meaning of this sentence.  Names, they were important in the Hebrew culture, they spoke meaning or personality or a trait of the name-holder.  “Immanuel” means “God-With-Us”.   Israel knew God was coming, in the form of a human child.
For God promised, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”  (Is. 9:6-7)  Israel knew this child would be a king.
The promised redemption seemed to take a long time; longer than expected.  Yet the Lord isn’t on our timetable, to Him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day.  He said wait. 
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak and not lie.  Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”  Hab. 2:3
Some waited patiently, trusting, believing in His promise.  Some didn’t, instead making their own way, their own terms, their own holiness, their own religion, for they could wait no longer.
We like to be in control.  Do it our way.
And that is just what the Israelites did.  For over a thousand years they did just what they wanted.  It was a gradual thing, just like it is with us as we wait.  They first waited in expectation.  Then they grew a little restless, and in this noticed their neighbors worshipping gods they didn’t have to wait for, whom they controlled.  And so their patience turned to impatience and plain disregard as they wandered toward gods they could see, touch, and manipulate; gods that made them feel good, and didn’t make them wait.
In an interview following 9-11, Anne Graham Lotz, daughter to Billy Graham, spoke these words in answer to the question, “Where is God in all of this disaster?”  She said, “ a sense have shaken their fist at God and said we want you out....And God, who is a gentleman, has just quietly backed out....”.  This was spoken in 2001 describing America and their desire to have God out of everything (schools, government, markets, etc.).  Yet it is exactly the same sentiment which occurred in Israel 2,400 years ago.
Israel was making their own way, doing their own thing.  Isaiah describes it, and the consequences, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” Is. 29:13-14
Israel wanted God out.  And so He left.  The result was 400 years of silence.
For four hundred years there was no word from the Lord. 
For four hundred years there was only silence.  No word from the mouth of a prophet, no visions, no appearing of angels. 
For four hundred years there was nothing but silence and darkness in the land of promise.
to be continued.....

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 5 {A Gift Rejected}

continued from Pt. 4

I married my high-school sweetheart  two days before my 24th birthday, and we began our own Christmas traditions in a war-free zone.  Each year I greeted the season with excited anticipation, joyful singing of words-I-did-not-understand-called-carols, and a temporary peace as once again the daily bustle stopped in reverent awe. 

Each year Dec. 26th came with familiar dread, a pit of emptiness, unmet expectations and a greater searching for some unknown thing, feelings I would bury underneath the busy routine of life.

The waves that tossed me to and fro daily grew higher and stronger.  The let-down of Christmas grew heavier and heavier with each passing season, burdened now with the guilt of over spending to feed a void which would not be filled.
Each Christmas I groped more urgently in the dark for a light I could barely see, reaching for something or someone, but not knowing what it was.  I was like a blind man reaching, flailing, fumbling in the dark for a steady hand I sensed was there, but knew not where to find it.
For “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?”  Rom 10:14
My first born was three years old the first time I dared darken a church doorstep at Christmas, and I made sure it wasn’t a preaching service.  You see my mother-in-law had begun taking my son to Sunday school, and this day was the Christmas play.  My son had learned his one-liner of the Christmas story, “they presented gifts to Him; gold, frankincense and myrrh” .  In his three year-old shyness and mumbling, the audience heard, “anannah, annnan,nanananna.”   He smiled, and bowed and walked his white-haired, blue-eyed face off that stage just so proud.
Then, to my chagrin, the preacher got up to say a “short word”.  He said “Thank-you”.  Then quickly got to a sermon before anyone could escape and began preaching about the real meaning of why we were all gathered.  Trapped in the front row, all I could do was listen. 

I don’t remember what he said, but he quickly had my attention and it wasn't his loud voice that spoke with booming power that had captured my focus.  That random person he spoke of in his mini-sermon, it was me, described to a ‘t’ – so much so, that I was wondering how on earth he could know what I was going through, what I was thinking.  
Something took hold of me that day.  Something the preacher said made sense, the words got through, if only for a moment.  There was a temporary peace surrounding me as I left that church carrying my shadow with me from its doorstep, words of a preacher echoing deep within me.
It was as if He said to me that day, “Awake, you who sleep.  Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” 
And I said, “Maybe”. 
Then I said, “No thanks”.
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” John 3:120
He was willing to give, but I was not willing to receive. 
And a gift cannot be given, if it is not accepted. 
I chose to reject the gift.
to be continued..... 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 4 {Waiting for the Purpose}

Continued from Part 3

Have you ever noticed that things don’t work very well when they are not used for their intended purpose?  I speak from experience:
A high-heeled shoe does not make a very good hammer.
A dog does not make a great vacuum cleaner because she leaves behind vegetables and dog slobber.
Hand soap does not equal shampoo as a cleaner of hair.
So one must wonder as we look around this planet, “what on earth is the purpose of man?” for are we not a mess?!  Surely the God who created a perfect creature intended more than this?
“Man is born for affliction, like the sparks fly upward”, cried Job ( 5:7).
Job knew affliction.  He lost everything he had in just a few days - his livelihood, his children, everything.  The only thing left was his wife.  And she told him to curse God and die.
The Israelites knew affliction.  Sold as one child slave (Joseph) by his brothers, the nation of Israel was increased to a mighty population within Egypt. They knew God had promised them a great and fertile land for their own, and this was not it.  When God did lead them toward it, they complained and grumbled and so were left to wander aimlessly in the wilderness for 40 years.
Injustice abounds the world over and has since the fall of mankind.  Adam, created in the image of God, bore a son, created in the image of sinful Adam, and then another.  The first born son of Adam killed his own brother.  Why?  Because he was evil and his brother was righteous. With the first murder injustice was born.  What started with Cain has continued and increases seemingly more each day.
Solomon in his wisdom lamented, “Moreover, I saw under the sun:  In the place of justice, wickedness was there; and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there.”  Ecc. 3:16 
Sparks from a fire do fly upward, but was man really born for affliction?  Were we created to bear the burden of oppression, poverty, injustice?  Or were we created for something better?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism assures us that actually man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  So what are we doing then?
Enjoy God?  Like Adam and Eve who walked in the garden with him, enjoying his friendship, his company, his greatness. “You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Ps 16:11
Glorify God?  Like the heavens which “declare the glory of God, and the skies the work of his hands”.  Declaring God’s greatness, enjoying His presence, loving Him for who is really is.
For that we have been created.  That we do not do.  No wonder the world is in such a state of affliction, we are not fulfilling the purpose to which we have been created. 
Like the high-heel which breaks when used as a hammer, man is afflicted when he tries to be God.
We have been blinded by the darkness, the sin.  The deception of the serpent which first spoke to Eve still speaks, still blinds us.  And so as a fallen creation, we cannot do what we were created to do and God “makes [us] wander in a pathless wilderness.  [We] grope in the dark without light, and He makes [us] stagger like a drunken man.” Job 12:24-25
He answers those like Jeremiah who cry out “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”, and David who asked, “How long, O Lord?”. 
He answers with this precious promise:
“Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; he calls then all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing. 
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God?’  
Have you not known? 
Have you not heard? 
The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Is. 40:26-31
God had a plan. To enable the blind man to see; to re-establish His created purpose within man; to bring light for those grope in the dark.  
But for a time he said to those who would listen, “Wait patiently, the Light is coming.”
“Arise, shine; for your light has come!  And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.  For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.  The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Is. 60:1-3

To be continued.....

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 3 {Eve's Choice)

Continued from Part 2

Decisions.  Choices.  I am not very good at either.  Terrible actually.

This job, that job?  Go here do this, or there and do that?  Please this one and upset that one or the other way around?  Chicken for supper again, or beef for a change?
Lay it out for me, tell me what to do, how to do it, and when – it’s all good.  It’s easier that way isn’t it?  No thinking required.  Just following while someone else leads. 
I think I’d like that for Tuesday night supper and Saturday afternoon multiple-task options, but in reality, as much as I don’t like making decisions, never having to make any would be pretty boring.  Things would quickly become kind of pointless, empty and robotic in its process don’t you think? 
That’s because God created man to make decisions, to choose whom they would serve.  So fellowship between Creator and creation wouldn't be pointless, empty and robotic.
The Bible records man’s first encounter with chosing what they wanted in Genesis Ch. 2&3.  God had finished his creation and was well pleased with it.  Then it says,
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend it and keep it.  And the Lord commanded the man, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”  Gen. 2:15-17
God gave man a choice.  Eat freely from an abundance of options, trees and fruit abounding, and remain alive and in perfect fellowship with God, or eat the fruit from the one tree off limits and surely die, a spiritual death, eternal separation from a perfect Father.
One command.  One choice.  One decision to make.
They believed the lied told by the cunning serpent.  They chose to disbelieve God.  They chose to eat the forbidden fruit.

Then they eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  Gen. 3:7  (It didn't take long for man to try to cover his sin and get to God on his own terms, did it?) 

Sin entered the world.   And all these years later, sin still abounds.
“Therefore, just as through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin, and this death spread to all men...”  Rom 5:12
Adam and Eve exchanged the truth for a lie; God for Satan; perfection for sin; light for darkness; life for death....”because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Rom 1:21
One word brought light into darkness. 
One choice brought darkness into light. 
Now man...”walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”  1 John 1:11b
Vanquished to the now cursed creation outside the garden, man toils in vain until his body dies and returns to the dust, destined for futility. 
Or so it seemed.
Within the curse set upon creation, there was hidden a promise, a glimmer of hope, a distant light in the darkness.
”And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  Gen. 3:15
To be continued....

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 2 {A Dim Light Shining)

Conitnued from Part 1

Christmas is my favorite time of year.  It always has been.  As a child, it was a comforting, safe, peaceful season, though only really lasting a couple of days.  The anticipation of the peaceful few days always lengthened the season for me.
Protected and warm under a fresh blanket of white snow, the earth quieted, its sounds dulled, absorbed by the pure down fallen from heaven, the deadness of fall covered and cleansed. 
And for 24 hours or so, my family would gather together, warmed by a fire, eating, wrapping, laughing, listening, reminiscing, and giving and receiving.  For 24 hours, the warring stopped.  The thick heavy air that hovered constantly in our home lifted, replaced momentarily with inexplicable peace. 
Christmas was a refuge from the storm as life as I knew it came to a brief halt.
There was no church in our holiday tradition, no “Christ” in our Christmas, only Santa Claus and lots and lots of presents, including a seemingly never-ending stocking formed from long-johns, not socks.  Yet in all this absence of Christ, there was still an unspoken sacredness to it.  We would sing the traditional carols – the words I could not comprehend though sung over and over again.  I learned to play my favorite carol on the piano, “O Holy Night”, and each time I played, it stirred something inside me, a reverence, a place or thing longed for yet not reached.
Each year on Dec. 26th, my father’s neglected birthday, life would return to normal.  Family would scatter and retreat as the thick resentful air quickly filled the house making room for fewer and fewer people.  The war of silence once again commenced.  Life was filled with more stuff from a big-bellied guy in a red suit driving a sleigh, but was still somehow so empty.  
With the anticipation and expectations of Dec. 24th once again unmet, I faced Dec. 26th with dread in my stomach, a vacant void in my heart, and a quiet empty house. 
The light of hope which had dimly shone for a day was now extinguished to bitterness.
“The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.” 

Yet at the same time,

“the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Each Christmas I sensed a dim light, a momentary hope. 

Each year for 24 hours. 

Each year for 24 years.

To be continued.....

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Light of Christmas Pt. 1 {The Rest of the Story}

Have you ever started reading a book then peaked at the ending, only to have to put the book down and move on, 'cause now-you-know-how-it-ends-so-what's-the-point-in-reading-the-whole-thing-anyway?  I've done that before, and missed great stories because all I got was the end.  And somehow the end just isn't the same without all that leads up to it - the rest of the story.

I'd like to share a story with you over the next several days.  A Christmas story.  The reason I write this story is because I feel like Christmas has become like skipping to the end of a good book, just to get the highlights.  By doing so we overlook what leads up to the climax and miss the whole meaning of the story. 

Christmas isn't really the end, more like the middle, but all the focus seems to be on this one small part - and these days much distorted.  So I'd like to start my story not at the end, nor the middle, but where it all began, and hopefully the climax of the story, Christmas, will, when it's all done, have more signficance to you.  Let's go back, not to a general once upon a time, but specifically.....
In the beginning
There was
God.  His Son. His Holy Spirit.  As One.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.”  Gen. 1:1-4

He spoke.  By His powerful word.  And it was.

"Ex nihilo".  Something from nothing.  No human can do that.  No animal.  No computer.  No robot.  Nothing can bring forth something from nothing.
No one
God.  His Son.  His Holy Spirit.  As One.
In the beginning God spoke light into the darkness.


“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made.”  John 1:1-2
Nothing was made without Him.  Stars that fill an endless sky.  He made them from nothing and He calls them out each night by name.

Flowers delicately painted, grass, seeds, trees of unending variety, created to grow for the cattle, for the service of man that he may bring forth food from the earth.  The sea full of innumerable teeming things.  Man, perfect, made in the image of God, the pinnacle of this creation. 
In wisdom He made it all.  God.  His Son.  His Holy Spirit.  As One.
His invisible attributes clearly seen in His creation, the heavens declaring His glory. 

Can you see Him?  Look around if you will, for all things were created by Him.
Including you.  Including me.
He knit each one of us in our mother’s womb.
Fearfully and wonderfully we are made, you and me.
His eyes saw our substance, yours and mine, being yet unformed, and in His book all of our days were written before even one of them came to be.  His thoughts of you and me, precious, how great is the sum of them.
We are not one in billions, insignificant.  We each are one, specially formed with a purpose.  In the image of God, our invisible creator.
Yet even though all things were made through Him, even though in Him was life and the life was the light of men, even though the light shone in the darkness, we who live in the darkness, cannot, do not comprehend it, Him, the light 
The darkness is as light for us, and we like it there - a deceived heart does that.
I remember when my heart was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face it; when the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep waters of a deceived, cold, hard heart pumping blood through my veins, but not really alive.
In the beginning.....

To be continued......