December 1 2012
Here begins Advent – a time between – between Autumn and Winter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, between not yet here and already come.
I also think of Advent as sort of the Winter Lent.
As a kid, Advent meant that we opened small doors on a glitter-infested picture, called an advent calendar. It was a formalized countdown to Christmas. For me it served to build excitement and anticipation for the eventual arrival of Christmas.
For me, Advent means that it is a legitimate time of the year to bring out Christmas carols. But not before we sing a few Advent hymns.
The hymn by Charles Wesley, which we sing to a couple of wonderful old hymn tunes; Stuttgart and Hyfrydol . Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus has a verse reminding us of the long anticipation of waiting for the Messiah and one that looks forward to the end – when Jesus finishes our rescue, and we are home with him.
Come, thou long expected Jesus
1. Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
2. Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.
I have difficulty in getting into the spirit of waiting for Jesus to be born. Here’s why:
- I know that Jesus was born – amazing! that the Creator, The One who created the world, would limit and wrap himself in created flesh in order to make himself known to his rebellious people.
- I know of his life on earth and his execution and burial.
- I know that after that, he appeared to many people alive.
- I know that some 40 days later, he went up from the earth and disappeared into clouds. The people who were there were told that he would come back in a similar fashion, someday.
- I know that Jesus is alive and ruling, and that his work is finished, and that he is still is working through his Holy Spirit and people who listen to him.
- And I know that he is planning to come back to earth and gather us up and take us home to be with him.
– and I know that to people who don’t know Jesus, all that sounds pretty weird….
So in Advent, what are we anticipating? What’s the deal?
For what, or for whom are we waiting?
Is there something that you want Jesus to do?
Is there something that Jesus is saying to you?
Is there something that seems hard to believe?
I suggest that we stop and think about those things, and pray – talk to Jesus. Here is how you do that: “Jesus, is there something that you want to say to me?” or “Jesus, I find _______ hard to believe.” or just talk with him. He doesn’t need us to have everything figured out – or to have all the right words.
(the name, in a way sanitizes what happened),
Jesus’ death; painful, unjust, undeserved- is what Lent has been all leading towards. We say that ‘Jesus died on a cross for the sins of the world’, but that hardly captures it.
My words are inadequate. Tomorrow, I am going to:
– attend a Good Friday service at a local church,
– read some of the Bible sections that tell about the crucifixion
– see some friends
– marvel at the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice
See you on Easter!
Your World Delivered
Broken bread and poured wine
Broken bread and poured wine;
A supper that means
Much more than
Food and drink.
Broken bread and poured wine,
Arranged, pre arranged, by Jesus
Who would follow him,
Deny and abandon him
Just as we do.
Feet washed- a routine task
Now infused with grace.
The Master serves,
How we are meant to live.
Broken bread and poured wine –
A meal with close friends,
Before his loneliness.
When all fall away
Despite fervent promises.
JM April 5, 2012
fixing our eyes
Hebrews 12:2(NASB) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
fixing my eyes
Lord, my eyes
There is no need to go
Jesus, you have begun
And completed my faith.
You wrote my story long ago,
And you write it with me
Now, step by step,
Day by day.
You endured the cross
And scorned its shame,
Yet I let my focus fade
For mere discomfort,
And look away from you
Ignoring the suffering,
Averting my gaze from you.
I want to pray,
“Lord fix my eyes,”
But it is my heart
That is not right.
Lord, break my heart
That I may fix my eyes –
As I fix my eyes on you,
the author and perfecter
of my faith,
let me gaze on
what you endured,
This morning at church, we heard a sermon on the description of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Luke (19:28-40). Jesus was coming as The King, but he turned out to be not the kind of king that many were expecting. He looked like something less than they wanted, but turned out to be way more than they could imagine.
Zechariah 9:9 (NIV)
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
When the pharisees told him to quiet his disciples. Jesus replied that if they were to be quiet, the stones would basically take up singing his praises.
The more I think of it the less difference there seems to be between Lent and Advent. Two sides of the same coin? I wonder.
A poem that I wrote for Advent a few years ago seems to be just right for Lent right now:
When we sat in darkness,
You came to us in light.
When we lived in helplessness,
You came to us at night.
Yet you were not what we expected.
We had hoped for something else.
God, you came to us the unexpected saviour.
We waited for a warrior;
You came the prince of peace
We sought a mighty power
Which would set our captives free.
You are not what we’d expected;
Helpless babe in young girl’s arms
Lord, you came to us an unexpected saviour.
We sought an end to poverty
You preached to us good news
We wanted vindication
Forgive me if I seem confused.
You are not what I expected
I had prayed for something else
You came to me an unexpected saviour.
Jesus, yes an unexpected saviour.
I long for ease and comfort
You expose my naked soul
And the life I’ve built so carefully
Tear down to make me whole.
You upset my money tables,
Drive my demons into pigs
You are not what I’d expected in a saviour.
Jesus, Heavenly Father,
Holy Spirit, Lord of Lords,
My dreams and hopes and wishes
Are idols I can ill afford.
Come to me so unexpected
Take my rags, but make me yours.
I welcome you Lord Jesus, unexpected Saviour!
JM November 2009
In the sermon this morning told we heard that even though stones are not known for being smart, they would still be able to recognize Jesus as King of Creation. Could we do any less?
Every time I enter the mall
I have an expectant sense
That there might be
Something here that I need.
If I looked carefully
Or searched long enough
Or asked the right question,
Would improve my lot in life.
For all my shopping,
The only thing
I can never find at the mall
July 11, 2010
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
God is speaking,
Speaking in the sounds that you
try to ignore.
in the scrape squeak,
clatter and rumble
of human activities.
created in His image,
doing what hands
have found to do.
God is speaking,
in the silent spaces,
in the music.
the anxious thoughts
the crazy zigzagging
of my to-do list.
Be alone with your thoughts,
and let them pass
Lord, in these quiet moments,
While robins chirp, and the sun creeps
Higher in the sky,
I reach out to you –
To your infinite self and strong love,
Knowing, too that it is you who are
Reaching out to me.
I am awake at your bidding.
I seek you because you move me.
I respond to the beauty of this moment
That you have put there.
I listen for your voice,
And I hear a crow calling – nature singing,
The clock ticking – time passing,
Aeroplanes, cars and busses – the city coming to life,
And all is held and moved by you.
Breathing in and out,
Thoughts darting this way and that,
Like small trout in a
Alive, and in your care,
I listen and wait and pray,
And try desperately to
Be still and know
That you are God.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
March 24, 2012
Psalm 40:6-10 (NIV)
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened —
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, LORD,as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.
“Women Change”, declared the sign as I walked down the hall from the men’s change room at Hillcrest Pool just before 8:00 this morning. Groucho Marx could almost be heard to say “they soitenly do,” tapping his cigar. Relaxed and feeling good after a swim and hot tub, “odd sign,” I thought to myself. Glancing back, just to check where I had been, sure enough, the other sign proclaimed “Men Change.”
Just two words: no punctuation. The message of that sign turned over in my mind. Several meanings, other than the original intended message, occurred to me:
– command- “you, woman / man! Get changed!”
– description / declaration: Men and women are in the habit of changing their clothes.
– have you any change?
Waiting for my wife to change, I thought of the hope embodied in those two signs. Both men and women can, and do, change. We are not stuck in one stage or place.
For me this is a hope to which we look forward. We are not stuck in the troubles and trials of the moment. Change happens. Growth, learning, healing and development are all dynamics at work in people. I have no right to keep others in the place where I think they ‘belong’. I need to make allowance for the fact that people change. Even within aging, degeneration, disease and loss, we have seen people change and grace at work.
Much can be done through effort of will, work and self discipline, but there comes a limit to what we can change. There are the brick walls of life, against which no amount of pushing makes any difference. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other twelve-step programs refer to a Higher Power – a power greater than us – being the something needed when all our other resources are not sufficient.
As a Christian, I have a name for that higher power. God has made himself known in the person of Jesus. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ (Jesus), he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (ESV))
The message of Lent is looking to Jesus for the change that we cannot bring ourselves.
dead end road sign crucifix
In Rome recently, I came across a dead end road sign that had been creatively altered to become a crucifix. I like these quirky graphics in the style of Clet Abraham, so I eagerly took a picture of it.
I thought about the image and what it means to me. The juxtaposition of “dead end” with the crucifixion, being Jesus’ “dead end” came to mind.
Jesus’ life ministry was lived with the cross in view. Early on in Luke’s Gospel, (Luke 9:51) we read about how Jesus determinedly set his sights on Jerusalem. Jerusalem was where he had to go to complete his mission. Jesus knew what had to be done. He knew that he was heading into a dangerous dead end, but he willingly went to Jerusalem and to the cross.
In life there are ugly, dangerous things that we would never want to meet on a sunny day, let alone in a dark alley. Jesus looked all those things full in the face, and proceeded. Jesus saw all the evil that Satan could throw his way and went step-by-step towards the cross – his dead end.
When he was eventually nailed to the cross, Luke records Jesus’ last words as “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” This is the dead end response – to commit my life into The Father’s care.
John’s Gospel records Jesus’ last words as “it is finished.” Jesus has died. His physical life is over. Jesus faced all our sin and the ugliness we have made. He willingly took our sin upon himself and was executed – the only just way to deal with evil. He suffered and died, but thank God that the history does not end there!
On the third day after his brutal death, Jesus came back to life! He was dead, and buried, but death could not keep him! That is what all the excitement of Easter is about!
The evil in my life is, for me, a dead end, but Jesus walked into that blind alley for me, and dealt with what I could not handle on my own.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.