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  • HOW ADVENT AND EASTER CONNECT

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…

    To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made use kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory, dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

    Revelation 1:1a, 5b-6

    Christians are a people rooted in Easter — rooted in the resurrection of Jesus and rooted in the hope of the resurrection of our bodies to future glory.  However, Christians are also an Advent people.  We grasp onto the Incarnation and how God-enfleshed suffered alongside humanity.  We also cling to the hope of Christ’s Second Advent– when he will come again to right the unjust powers and principalities.  When he will send the rich and powerful away empty and fill the portion of the powerless and poor, as the Magnificat reminds us.  Until then, we wait for when he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

    Yes, as an Advent people, we wait.  We wait in humility knowing full well that God’s time is not our time.  We wait in humility knowing full well that we sound like fools, claiming for centuries that Jesus will return.  While God might have waited for the fullness of time for the Incarnation of the Word in Bethlehem centuries ago, he also waits longing for all to come to faith.

    Yet in all of this we wait.  We wait.

    O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
    Our spirits by Thine advent here
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
    And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

    __________

    Photo Credit: BarrySherbeck via Compfight cc

  • THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF WAITING (PT 2)

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    As mentioned in my previous post, waiting can be tough, but it can also have an unexpected upside to it.  Here are a few other things I have begun to notice in this season of waiting:

    Waiting creates an opportunity for us to get brutally honest with God.  As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s OK to tell God how it is or how you feel.  But in our honesty, it’s important to know that grumbling behind his back is not the best idea.  Just as in other relationships, the healthy way of dealing with conflict is directly to the person, not talking trash about someone to other people.

    Waiting also unearths what’s going on under the façade of success.  When pillars of health, wealth, family, and social networks are shaken or erode quickly, we suddenly are left with the inner monologue.  There is a clarity that emerges, affording us the opportunity to see what drives us, for better or for worse.  This monologue can tell you that you are worthless or you are loved.  I hope you discover the latter— that you are loved in Jesus.

    Waiting helps to prioritize our lives and offers the space to contemplate what matters.  It’s gut check time—what is important in your life?  Take time to wrestle with this profound, fundamental question.

    Waiting nudges us into the direction of recalling what God has done for us in the past.  As the ancient people of Israel did long ago, they frequently reminded themselves of what God did for them through festivals and altars.  Waiting in the middle of the uncertainty can lead us to remember how God lead us in the darkness in the past, and it might remind us that he very well could be at work in our lives today.

    Yet, with the upside of waiting, there also is a downside.  As the Book of Proverbs states so simply, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”  Waiting can give us a heavy heart.

    In all of this, please understand that waiting is not passive, it’s a call to action and a new way of being.  Waiting is a heavy burden borne alone and can create hurt, especially when our expectations are off.  For example, if we expect God to give us “the one” to marry, yet we sit alone in our house all day, then we will more than likely be hurt down the road without “the one” (which doesn’t exist, but that’s another topic for another day).  If we expect God to give us a job when we are unemployed and are not actively seeking new opportunities, then we will likely end up crushed because we thought that God was like Santa and drops unexpected opportunities with little effort on our part.

    Friends, the only thing that comes freely to us is grace and God’s salvation.  For other things, I think he wants us to just do something already.  Wait on him, get angry at him, talk to him, listen for him, but for God’s sake, get moving.  As Mordecai told Esther, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  Who knows, maybe God wants you to wait for him and get going.  Who knows, perhaps he will guide your steps and lead you as you walk ahead.  As St Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please.”

     

  • THE UNEXPECTED UPSIDE OF WAITING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story

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    In my previous career, I attended a lot of groundbreaking and ribbon cutting ceremonies.  What I found in those momentous events was an abundance of speeches, veggie trays, and watered down fruit punch, yet the hosting parties anticipated the great reveal of what could be and what something will become.  However, rarely do we find people celebrating the murky middle, the time in between the pouring of the foundation and the unveiling of a completed project.  For most of the project, these people just wait.

    Currently, I find myself in a similar situation: I’m waiting.

    Waiting for the birth of our son.  Waiting for the completion of a total loss accident claim with our car insurance company.  Waiting for answers to big career questions that will mean whether or not we move.  Waiting for God to act in pretty sizable ways.

    As I wait, I cannot help but think about the way Jesus must have felt as he waited.  Waited in a womb for 9 months.  Waited to walk.  Waited to potty train.  Waited to take up the family trade of carpentry.  Waited for 30 years to start his public ministry.  Waited through a trial, execution, and burial all while knowing who he was and that he will be seated at the right hand of the Father.

    During this season, I take comfort in the words of Psalm 40,

    I waited and waited and waited for God.

    At last he looked; finally he listened…

    Soften up, God, and intervene;

    hurry and get me some help,

    So those who are trying to kidnap my soul

    will be embarrassed and lose face,

    So anyone who gets a kick out of making me miserable

    will be heckled and disgraced,

    So those who pray for my ruin

    will be booed and jeered without mercy.

    But all who are hunting for you—

    oh, let them sing and be happy.

    Let those who know what you’re all about

    tell the world you’re great and not quitting.

    And me? I’m a mess. I’m nothing and have nothing:

    make something of me.

    You can do it; you’ve got what it takes—

    but God, don’t put it off.

    For me, this is how I feel while in this season of waiting: I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for God to act, waiting for him to show up and intervene.  But does that always happen?  Is there an unexpected benefit to waiting on God?  Let me tell you about that in my next post.

    What are you waiting on?

    Photo Credit: Will Chen via Compfight cc

  • WHEN GOD TAKES FOREVER

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    A really really bad day

    O come, O come, Emmanuel

    And ransom captive Israel

    That mourns in lonely exile here

    Until the Son of God appear

    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

     

    Do you ever ask God to show up?  Do you ever ask him to help you and it seems as if he forgot or perhaps overlooked you?

    I wonder if the ancient people of Israel felt that way, when they found themselves in the position of perpetual invasions, exiles, and enslavement.  I wonder if they felt that way when prophets told them about a coming messiah who would come and lead them to peace.  They must have cried out to God in the darkness of their souls.

    How long, O Lord?  How long? 

    This cry, this yearning is something at the core of my heart.  How long until God acts to save his people and remove the crap that is in the world?  When will the wars, hatred, illness, and pure evil that contaminate the world be removed?  Lord come quickly.

    O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
    Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
    From depths of Hell Thy people save
    And give them victory o’er the grave
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

    As a people of the Way, we wait.  We wait for Jesus to return and right the world.  We wait for the Kingdom of God to set up a permanent home, so that his will might be done on earth is it is in heaven.  In the season of Advent, we wait. 

    Come Lord Jesus, come.

    O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
    Our spirits by Thine advent here
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
    And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

    How do you stay sane during the wait?

    Photo: TheeErin via Compfight

  • WAITING ON MY LIFE TO CHANGE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Growth, Story

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    A really really bad day

    I again have the privilege of guest posting on More Than A Beard.  Here’s an excerpt of my post on waiting out the birth of my little daughter:

    If you think about it, life is filled with waiting.  We wait years to go to school, then we wait years to get out of school.  We wait for a romance to be fulfilled, then we wait for the awkward breakups.  We wait for the next car to finish ordering so we can place our Happy Hour order at Sonic and we wait two hours to board a roller coaster.  Life is filled with waitings and expectations.
     
    Sometimes, we need to slow down and pause, otherwise life will flow right on past us as we look for the latest and the greatest.  

      Or as Ferris Bueller would put it,  “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” Read more here.

     Photo: TheeErin via Compfight

  • WAITING, AND WAITING, AND WAITING.

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Story, Theology

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    67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

    68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
    69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
    70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
    71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
    72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,
    73 the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
    74     that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
    might serve him without fear,
    75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
    76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
    77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    in the forgiveness of their sins,
    78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
    79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

     Luke 1:67-80

    Have you ever waited for something?  Have you ever sat in your chair, waiting for something to come to fruition?  A flight to board, a proposal for marriage, a job offer, or a long expected call from a friend?  Unless your superhuman power is patience, most of us get a little weary from the waiting game.

    Now with that impatience in mind, let’s turn to the song above.  Israel was under domination for years.  They experienced empire after empire, new king after new king as they waited.  They waited under the rule of foreign leaders.  Just imagine being promised liberation for years and it never comes to fruition.  Revolutions failed and freedom fighters lost their battles, and you were still in your occupied homeland.   Then finally, at just the right time, a prophet was born.   This above song came from Zechariah, a priest who fathered John the Baptizer.  John would be the one who would go before the Messiah, he would prepare the way “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.”  John would prepare the way for the one who would give light to those sitting in darkness and guide those to the way of peace.

    Read over those verses again, waiting for the long expected Messiah.  Waiting for your issues to be resolved.  Bring those things to God.  Bring those frustrations to him. Light a candle and pray to him, bringing those longings to God in an open and honest way.

    O come, O come, Emmanuel
    And ransom captive Israel
    That mourns in lonely exile here
    Until the Son of God appear
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

    What have you been waiting for?

  • COSMO KRAMER AND THE COMING OF CHRIST

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy

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    Kramer: Do you ever yearn?

    George: Yearn? Do I yearn?

    Kramer: I yearn.

    George: You yearn?

    Kramer: Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often I sit… and yearn. Have you yearned?

    George: Well, not recently. I’ve craved. Constant craving.

    (From Seinfeld “The Keys” Season 3 Episode 23)


    As Cosmo Kramer would ask George Costanza, do you ever yearn?  What have you intensely longed for in your life?  A graduation? Grandkids, perhaps?  Something that I yearn for is the second Advent.  Let me unpack that.

    Advent is the season in the Christian calendar (yes, dear non-denominational Christian, there is such a thing as the Christian calendar and it’s not bad) that looks to the past and to the future.  It looks back at the first coming of Christ, when he was born in ancient Israel.  It also looks forward to the return of Christ, when he will come again in glory and right the world.  Advent is about eagerly anticipating the return of the King.

    Eric Metaxas at Breakpoint commentary wrote that it is a time of reflection and repentance.  It is rooted in a hope of God completely righting the world one day.  It is also a thought that provokes dread.  Because with Jesus comes a righteous judgment, and that is pretty unnerving!

    Like Metaxas exhorted at the end of his post, I also encourage you at the start of this Advent season.  Don’t let the holiday debt, consumerism, and the madness at the mall ruin the forward looking nature of this season.  I encourage you, as we look to Christmas– the celebration of the birth of the long expected Messiah– and look forward to the return of the King, stay focused on Him.

    O come, O come, Emmanuel

    And ransom captive Israel

    That mourns in lonely exile here

    Until the Son of God appear

    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

     
  • ADVENT AND WAITING

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Liturgy, Theology

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    Waiting

    The holiday season could not be further from this word.  School programs, movies, lights, parties, shopping, and much more are so jam-packed into a few weeks that we really have zero time when it comes to reflection and catching our collective breath.  Even when we have time to sit, the air is filled with sweet (and not so sweet…) music.

    Christmas is the celebration of God coming to us.  Advent is centered on this and it looks forward to the return of Christ.  While we might not make a good habit out of being still in silence, a common thread in the narrative of the Bible is that of waiting.

    Waiting captures the forward looking nature of the people of God.  It is about looking forward for God to act in redemption.  Even from the beginning, we are able to see the promise that God would crush the serpent in Genesis 3.  Yet from the very beginning to the time of Jesus, centuries filled the historical chasm.  Waiting for Abraham’s promise of blessing to be fulfilled.  Waiting for deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus.  Waiting for a Davidic king to take the throne after the exile.  Waiting for God to act, as He once did in the Exodus.

    Then, it happened.

    When the fullness of time had come, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).

    Christmas came when the fullness of time was met.  The waiting ended and those who were dead, were made alive.  The drama that began at Eden reached the pinnacle thousands of years later.  And now we wait again.  This time, we wait for the full consummation and a renewed earth and heaven when Christ returns. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel captures this sense of longing perfectly,

    O come, Thou Key of David, come,
    And open wide our heavenly home;
    Make safe the way that leads on high,
    And close the path to misery.
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.

    But for now, we wait.