Saturday, December 31, 2005

Advent: Not So Silent Night

Did you realize that Advent continues through January 7th? Yup.

Today Phil Yancey (in Watch for the Light) looks at the incongruency of the warm and fuzzy Christmas cards he receives and the reality of what was taking place when Jesus was born. He says...

Sorting through the stack of cards that arrived at our house...I noted that all kinds of symbols have edged their way into the celebration. Overwhelmingly, the landscape scenes render New England towns buried in snow, usually with the added touch of a horse-drawn sleigh. On other cards, animals frolic: not only reindeer but also chipmunks, raccoons, cardinals and cute gray mice...And yet when I turn to the gospel accounts of the first Christmas, I hear a very different tone, and sense mainly disruption at work...

Yancey delineates the political unrest at the time and how even Mary's song refers to rulers being thrown down and proud men being scattered. He said that in contrast to what the cards imply, Jesus being born did not make life better or simpler. In fact, for Mary, becoming an unwed pregnant teenager was only the beginning of her trials.

Then Yancey looks at the book of Revelation where the birth of Jesus is talked about in apocalyptic terms. When God's child is born the devil's space is invaded and a mighty battle begins in the heavens. So, whether on earth or in heaven, Jesus' birth did not bring such a silent night at the song says.

As Jesus said himself, he didn't come to bring peace but a sword. His presence was never meant to lull us to sleep but to call us to action. What action has his coming prompted in you?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Advent: You are a Manger!

These are my closing comments from our Christmas service regarding the manger.

I want you to consider one last thing about this manger. Look at it. Look how simple it is – just a couple of 2x4’s and plywood. Every day of the year it holds grain and hay. Nothing special. Very ordinary. But then, suddenly, it becomes the throne of God. The moment that Jesus was placed in that manger its role changed. As common as it was its sole purpose was to feature and honor Jesus.

Have you ever considered that God wants us all to be mangers? We are all very common. And most of us perform very mundane tasks on a day to day basis. But when we receive Jesus that all changes. We become a throne for God. Suddenly we are called to feature and honor Jesus in all that we do. We’ve gone from being common to royal simply because we are holding Jesus.

As you leave today or as you wake up tomorrow, I hope you’ll consider that. I hope you’ll consider how you can receive Jesus into your life if you haven’t yet done so. And if you have, I hope you’ll consider how your purpose in life is radically different than it was before. Your daily tasks may be just as mundane as they were before but your purpose is different. You are now the showcase of God. (Note that I didn’t say that you are showing off for God.) God wants to use you to reveal to the world that he is approachable, condescending and subtle. So subtle that he’s working through you! Will you accept that role? Let me pray for you...

Father, thank you for breaking into history. I never would have done it like you did. Who could even conceive it? Yet you knew what you were doing. Nothing was by chance or coincidence. You were making a statement to the world, even in having Jesus placed in a manger. Father, I pray for everyone here to receive you into their life just like that manger did. As common as we are, might we embrace you and let people see Jesus in our lives. Thank you that you are willing to meet us where we are at. Thank you that you aren’t offended by us. Might we have eyes to see you and ears to hear you so we never miss what you are doing. Amen.

You can visit the Cedarbrook website for the full text of this message.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas services are over now. I enjoyed seeing so many people at the Mabel Tainter Theatre. If you weren't there I shared my reflections on the manger. The following is a brief summary (I'll be posting the full message later this week).

God revealed three aspects of his character when he had Jesus born in a stable and placed in a manger.

First, God is approachable. There's nothing more approachable than a baby. Place a baby in a room and everyone gathers around. There's something about a baby's vulnerability that draws you to it.

But just coming as a child didn't make Jesus approachable. He had to also be accessible. Jesus could have been born in a palace with guards. To be fully approachable Jesus was born in a stable. Stable hands don't check I.D.'s screening people at the door. And that's why Jesus was born there. Everyone is welcome. God is approachable.

Second, God is condescending. That's a negative term when applied to a human but it's a compliment to God. God is willing to humble himself and come down to our level. Jesus emptied himself of his divine nature to meet us where we are at. He didn't hold any special privileges in coming. He didn't require a clean hospital or guards at the door. And that tells me that if God is willing to come into a dirty stable he's willing to come into my dirty life. It doesn't matter who I am or what I've done. He'll lower him self to whereever I'm at to relate to me personally.

Third, God is subtle. Jesus didn't come with a parade or fireworks or a trumpet fanfare. It was the opposite. It was almost a secret. God seems to take pleasure in revealing himself only to true seekers. He won't shake us until we believe. He can only be seen by those looking for him. I'm sure it was tempting for the shepherds to leave the stable. It didn't LOOK like God was there. But something inside of them told them to stay. God, indeed, was there.

We too need to have that same kind of discernment to see God where others don't.

Merry Christmas!