When the Right Time Arrived

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It was a mess. A world of division, compromise, corruption, and religiously followed traditions and rituals detached from roots of love and relationship. A hodge-podge of imperfect plans by imperfect people.

Tyrants, sycophants, miscreants, occupants,

masters, slaves, overlords, conscripts,

builders, destroyers, collaborators, rebels,

haves, have-nots, hopeful, hopeless.

This was the society Jesus was born into, because the time was right.

As they had many times before, the people not in control cried out for a saviour. They wanted freedom from the will of Roman conquerors. God sent them a saviour, but not to free them from man-made power ploys gone astray. He sent them Someone who could save them from something much more enslaving – their own sin.

As he had done before, he sent his answer in a form few recognized. He sent his son who set aside his godhood to live as a human. He sent a baby.

I often wonder why he chooses the weak of the world to confound the wise. Why does God frequently skip the well-bred, the educated, the credentialed, and those endowed with position and privilege when he wants to turn the tides of history? More than once people have said, “This can’t possibly be from God!” More than once they have been wrong.

“I see your plight,” he said. “This is my response.”

Then he sent a wanderer and his half-sister wife,

a wheeler dealer opportunist,

an insensitive spoiled brat turned slave turned foreign government official,

a stammering old man with a stick,

a stern mother,

a slave bride with a hammer and tent peg,

a scared unimportant farmer from a long line of scared unimportant farmers,

a lewd, crude, rule-breaking strongman,

a boy raised in a temple with a weak mentor and drunken, corrupt priests as companions,

a shepherd with a slingshot,

a runner given to depression,

a reckless prince with a bad driving record,

a left-handed messenger with a knife up his skirt,

a bizarre performance artist,

a beauty pageant queen who slept her way to influence,

a ploughman,

a child king with clueless teachers,

a eunuch in service to a despot,

a choir director,

a poet.

For the greatest mission of all time he introduced the bearer of his heart as a helpless baby. A baby.  A baby who so terrified the principalities and powers who knew their time would soon be up, that Herod killed every child close to fitting the toddler’s description.

Not even the ancient prophets who each told bits and pieces of the truth they held could see the entirety of God’s plan. Jesus gradually explained it, to those who could listen, over three years. Many heard and believed. Many did not. Before his death and resurrection the book of John tells us the Messiah spoke plainly to the credentialed experts whose education put limits on their understanding.

I tell you the truth; I AM before Abraham was born. (John 8:58 The Voice)

We are subject to change. He is not.

Trust him. He created the plan. Keep your eyes on Abba. Expect the unexpected.

When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law) to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Because you are now part of God’s family, He sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts; and the Spirit calls out, “Abba, Father.” You no longer have to live as a slave because you are a child of God. And since you are His child, God guarantees an inheritance is waiting for you.

(Galatians 4:4-6)

Seeing the Gold

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When I awoke this morning, I watched gently falling snow transform my garden into a winter wonderland. By the time I showered, dressed, tied back hair desperately in need of a good cut, and made a thermos of hot coffee, snowflakes had morphed into rain. A giant serving of mushy porridgy slush replaced fresh deer tracks on a blanket of white on the street. Wet blobs of snow dropping from branches reminded me more of the glistening on the face of a toddler in need of a tissue than an invitation to a sleigh ride in the lane. Clouds seemed to slouch lower in the valley.

A day that started with Christmas card-worthy potential, photographically speaking, turned into a dull lull on this the shortest, darkest day of the year.

I decided to stay home. I put my camera away and instead plunked myself down to check out social media feed. Socializing there appeared to be as messy as the streets outside. Messier. The minions whose job it is to set up miscommunication, offense and division  apparently have been busy.

Troubles. Conflicts. Obfuscations. Insults. More dismal predictions. Hope sliding into the ditch.

Sadness wrapped itself around my heart. I stared out the window and remembered  another soggy winter day like this one. I know I took photos. I looked for them.

On that day I trudged through the woods looking for something out of the ordinary when I saw something out of the ordinary. Off the main path I caught the glint of a golden Christmas bobble hanging on a little tree.

People sometimes chop down little trees to take home for Christmas, but who decorates a tree and leaves it in the woods? When I asked around later, I learned some local people do this in memory of loved ones who no longer join them at the festive table. The forest provides a quiet place of remembrance for them to go. It felt like finding unexpected gold in the tearful territory of grief.

I’ve been meditating on Psalm 50 lately. I somehow feel it is important for the times we live in. In this psalm God tells his children he is about to deal with their lax attitudes toward sin. Perhaps the time has come to “have a little talk with Papa” and for an adjustment in attitude. The psalm begins with images of the beauty of his creative expression in nature and desire to communicate with us, but soon becomes somber.

“Do I need your young bull or goats from your fields as if I were hungry?
Every animal of field and forest belongs to me, the Creator.
I know every movement of the birds in the sky,
and every animal of the field is in my thoughts.
The entire world and everything it contains is mine.
If I were hungry, do you think I would tell you?
For all that I have created, the fullness of the earth, is mine.
Am I fed by your sacrifices? Of course not!
Why don’t you bring me the sacrifices I desire?
Bring me your true and sincere thanks,
and show your gratitude by keeping your promises to me, the Most High.” (verses 9 to 14 in The Passion Translation)

Then this golden invitation and promise (I hear it in a loving, gentle, yet firm Father’s tone):
“Honor me by trusting in me in your day of trouble.
Cry aloud to me, and I will be there to rescue you.” (verse 15)

He also speaks to the downright wicked, those who disregard his words and think they can continue to get away with crimes against humanity. It includes serious warnings not to mess with him or take him for granted.

“The sins of your mouth multiply evil.
You have a lifestyle of lies,
devoted to deceit as you speak against others,
even slandering those of your own household!
All this you have done and I kept silent,
so you thought that I was just like you, sanctioning evil.
But now I will bring you to my courtroom
and spell out clearly my charges before you.
This is your last chance, my final warning. Your time is up!” (verses 20 -22)

It ends with another appeal and a promise.

“The life that pleases me is a life lived in the gratitude of grace,
always choosing to walk with me in what is right.
This is the sacrifice I desire from you.
If you do this, more of my salvation will unfold for you.”

There it is, like an unexpected beautiful tree of remembrance of a loving relationship hidden deep in the woods on rainy day. This is what his heart desires.

“A life lived in the gratitude of grace.”

This is not about behaviour, or rules, or sacrifices. The way out of the mess we find ourselves in is to renew our relationship by turning to our Maker with gratitude, by receiving his empowering grace to be all he sees when he looks at us, and trust in him in the day of trouble.

He is our hope. He has a plan for our good, because he is good and because he loves us more than we can ever imagine.

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The old carol says: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”

Come, Lord Jesus. Be born in us today.

 

 

 

A Throne Forever

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Of the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before—
sustainable peace for all time.

This child: God’s promise to David—a throne forever, among us,
to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken.

He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always.

The intense passion of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies,
will carry this to completion.

(Isaiah 9:7 The Voice)

Be careful who you follow. There is only one Messiah. His name is Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace

Essential Travel

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Conditions are not ideal for travel this time of year, yet many people make the journey back “home” or the to the people who represent home. Sometimes a joyful reunion lies at the end of the trip; sometimes a duty-motivated sojourn stirs up painful memories. We still go.

Joseph and Mary made the journey back to the place of their roots. Conditions and timing were not ideal, yet this essential travel was part of God’s plans, not only for them, but for the world’s sake. Many people find themselves on paths they had not anticipated this time last year. I am one.

Sometimes I have been a reluctant traveller, but it is on this path that I am discovering the faithfulness of God and his majesty in the unexpected. I can honestly say he has never left me. When I offer him child-like trust he takes me by the hand and teaches me things that I could not have seen on my previous route.

It’s not an easy road, but it is a beautiful one.

Lord, direct me throughout my journey
so I can experience your plans for my life.
Reveal the life-paths that are pleasing to you.

Escort me along the way; take me by the hand and teach me.
For you are the God of my increasing salvation;
I have wrapped my heart into yours!

(Psalm 25: 4, 5 The Passion Translation)

It’s A New Beginning

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This morning, about the time I was being rescued by the man with the shovel and bucket of kitty litter, the earth passed the point of increasing darkness.

Right about that time, my tires gained enough traction with the help of the kitty litter to overcome the frustrating inertia of being high-centered in the middle of our street. Right about that time, when I began to feel freedom from the clutches of ice snow and started instead to move the direction I intended to move, something shifted.

The Earth.

Winter solstice happened today. In the Northern hemisphere that means from this day the hours of daylight (or seconds of daylight, if I don’t want to annoy detailed-oriented readers) increase instead of decrease.

The hardest part of northern winter for me is not the cold or snow. It’s the darkness. Every year, on this day, I celebrate a new beginning. I know New Year’s day is not here yet, but for me, this is the sign of a new year.

Change! The bright day will soon be longer than the dark night.

These lines from a song by Stuart Townend are my holiday carol today.

Your mercy reached into the darkest night to find us,
Your blood has freed us from the curse of sin that bound us,
Your truth delivered us from all the lies that held us down
When we were overwhelmed.

Oh, out of the darkness You rescued us,
You have rescued us.
Oh, into the light of Your love for us,
Lord, You rescued us.

Here we stand, held by grace,
Knowing every day
Is a new beginning.

His light broke through the darkness and he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow and snapped every one of our chains.
(Psalm 107:14 The Passion Translation)

It’s dark outside as I write this, in late afternoon, but rejoice! The light is growing brighter and brighter! God promised.

And He never lies.

 

 

 

Glories Stream

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Lord, your name is so great and powerful!
People everywhere see your splendor.
Your glorious majesty streams from the heavens,
filling the earth with the fame of your name!

You have built a stronghold by the songs of babies.
Strength rises up with the chorus of singing children.
This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth.
Childlike worship will silence
the madness of those who oppose you.

Look at the splendor of your skies,
your creative genius glowing in the heavens.
When I gaze at your moon and your stars,
mounted like jewels in their settings,
I know you are the fascinating artist who fashioned it all!
But when I look up and see
such wonder and workmanship above,
I have to ask you this question:

Compared to all this cosmic glory,
why would you bother with puny, mortal man
or be infatuated with Adam’s sons?

Yet what honor you have given to men,
created only a little lower than Elohim,
crowned like kings and queens with glory and magnificence.

(Psalm 8:1-5 The Passion Translation)

Yes, She Knew

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I love the song, Mary Did You Know? I was thinking about how much Mary knew as I wondered and wandered out in the valley with it’s traffic-muting hush of new fallen snow.

I also love The Magnificat, Mary’s prophetic response of praise after her cousin, Elizabeth gave her prophetic confirmation:

You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed!  And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me!  As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me.  How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.

Mary responded with her own prophetic declaration:

My soul lifts up the Lord!

My spirit celebrates God, my Liberator!

For though I’m God’s humble servant,
God has noticed me.
Now and forever,
I will be considered blessed by all generations.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
holy is God’s name!

From generation to generation,
God’s lovingkindness endures
for those who revere Him.

God’s arm has accomplished mighty deeds.
The proud in mind and heart,
God has sent away in disarray.

The rulers from their high positions of power,
God has brought down low.
And those who were humble and lowly,
God has elevated with dignity.

The hungry—God has filled with fine food.
The rich—God has dismissed with nothing in their hands.

To Israel, God’s servant,
God has given help,

As promised to our ancestors,
remembering Abraham and his descendants in mercy forever.
(from Luke 1 The Voice)

Did Mary know?
She knew.

Elizabeth knew too. These two women had a greater understanding of God’s magnificent plan than the religious specialists around them. In the Christmas story God spoke through women as well as men and angels.

He still does.

A song of joy, great joy:

Save

And We Beheld His Glory

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I prayed that God would show me his glory. I prayed and prayed for both an intellectual and experiential understanding of glory. “Show me!” I cried.

He did. He showed me a child, a child born to parents who were told they could not conceive a child. Shortly after that I read an explanation of God’s glory. It is however he chooses to express himself (I believe it was Paul Manwaring who wrote this.)

I wonder sometimes if God is setting us up when we continuously look for the grand and he responds with the simple. He has done it over and over again. Through his prophets he said, “Expect something really, really big. Your Anointed One is coming!”

What could fit our image of a mighty delivering King less than a helpless newborn baby? The book of John explains to us in the first chapter who he was.

So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 Phillips)

This baby was The Word, the Voice that spoke all into being.

But not everyone recognized this marvelous gift to the world, even when he grew up and told them.

That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. (John 1:9,10)

Mary caught a glimpse of the Kingdom and the way God works when she exalted him with her prophetic song of praise which said, in part:

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has swept away the high and mighty. He has set kings down from their thrones and lifted up the humble. He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands. (Luke 1:51-53)

God’s ways have often been to do the unexpected, to choose to work through the humble, the broken, the underdog, the less-than-mighty. Jesus himself danced with joy when he saw how his Father chose to express his glory through the seventy ordinary folk Jesus ordained to go ahead of him, healing the sick and casting out demons.

At that moment Jesus himself was inspired with joy, and exclaimed, “O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, I thank you for hiding these things from the clever and the intelligent and for showing them to mere children! Yes, I thank you, Father, that this was your will.” Luke 10:21-22

I read a prophecy the other day which said, essentially, “Expect great things in the coming year. Prepare to be surprised!” My tendency (after overcoming some skepticism) is to say whoo-hoo and prepare to look for the grand, the spectacular, the really big show. The surprise could be a a mass choir of shining angels, but I need to remember it could just as easily be a scruffy child with a lunch of buns and fish – or a baby born to a couple who were told they could not have a baby.

I don’t know what the Lord’s provisions for us in the coming year will look like. This I do know, they will be full of grace and truth, because that’s who he is.

And, if we pay attention and stay humble, we will see his glory. Expect the unexpected.

But Jesus, knowing what they were arguing about, took a little child and made him stand by his side. And then he said to them, “Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.” Luke 9:46-48

May we become like little children. May we never lose our wonder.

Branch

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But on this humbled ground, a tiny shoot, hopeful and promising,
will sprout from Jesse’s stump;
A branch will emerge from his roots to bear fruit.
And on this child from David’s line, the Spirit of the Eternal One will alight and rest.

By the Spirit of wisdom and discernment
He will shine like the dew.

By the Spirit of counsel and strength
He will judge fairly and act courageously.

By the Spirit of knowledge and reverence of the Eternal One,
He will take pleasure in honoring the Eternal.

He will determine fairness and equity;

He will consider more than what meets the eye,
And weigh in more than what he’s told.
So that even those who can’t afford a good defense
will nevertheless get a fair and equitable judgment.

With just a word, He will end wickedness and abolish oppression.

With nothing more than the breath of His mouth, He will destroy evil.

He will clothe himself with righteousness and truth;
the impulse to right wrongs will be in his blood.

(Isaiah 11:1-5 The Voice)