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Posts Tagged ‘Immanuel’

This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn
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“It’s because of the Jewish people that I know
that a holiday can be a holy day,
and still be rollicking good fun.
I’ve been to a Passover Seder,
where there’s so much liturgy, drama, food and family around the table
that children ask, “Why is this night different from other nights?”
It’s a night, like the weekly Sabbath,
when God gives us permission to close the door on the frenzied demands of the outside world long enough to sense His presence.”

Christmas Eve. I’ve lived through 22 Christmas Eves, and hope by midnight tonight to make it 23. In four different states, at least, I’ve attended Christmas Eve services. So the last few years, I haven’t been that interested in going. Tradition has its value, I guess. But if one is participating in tradition for its sake, I’d hope that the tradition was started because it meant something. The problem with my aversion to Christmas Eve services is that I have been unable to defend it. I haven’t known why I don’t want to go, or what I would rather do instead.
Now I think I have an answer. I don’t like Christmas Eve services because they are formal and liturgical, full of presentation and lacking in sincerity. Churches use them as times for evangelism. In my experience I’ve been instructed to leave quietly after extinguishing my candle, in solemn reflection on the incarnation. I don’t know about you, but I cannot reflect on the incarnation without humble jubilation. Winter may be for silence and meditation, but Christmas is for feasting and music and lights.
And I miss fellowship on Christmas. I know that traditionally Christmas is a family time. Your own or even your extended family gathers for gift-giving, music, candles, Christmas trees, conversation, and candy. I guess traditionally Christmas Eve is the time to spend with one’s church family. But I want to be laughing with them, asking them about their holidays, heightening enthusiasm, and dispersing the gifts I’ve prepared for them. Being sent to quietly retrieve my coat and exit towards my car prohibits that sort of community. But I don’t want to defy the instructions, or intrude upon others who appreciate the meditative hush of typical Christmas Eve.
So I like Elisabeth’s insight from Israel, on how the Jews (quite biblically in this instance) know how to have a holy day: it is also a feast day. Both a sabbath of rest and a reunion of merriment, even with the solemnity of meaning, sacrifice, atonement, and repentance. Jesus unites those things in His incarnation: King of Righteousness, Prince of Peace, Lord of the Sabbath, our Rest, and our Joy. That’s what I’m celebrating this Christmas Eve: a God big enough to be seriously happy, and who invites us to feast at His table.
This is totally unrelated, but another thing Elisabeth says in her article is, “Have you ever thought about how quiet light is?” I thought it was beautiful, and had to share that line, too.
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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“O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!”
– Isaiah 40:9

Based on Isaiah 40:1-11:
When God delivered Israel from Egypt, “different” was a glorious privilege. Isaiah was a prophet to a people who had become ashamed of being different. It had been centuries now, and Judah wanted to be the same as the wicked nations around her. The prophet’s message, however, was one of peace.

In our world today, peace is something almost no one has: nations war; businessmen rush to work; moms hurry from school to soccer to laundry; and people wonder during the quietest times, “Am I believing in the right thing? Will tomorrow work out ok?” As Christians, we have those answers. We have peace to offer a hectic world. But so often we are afraid to tell others about the difference God has made in our lives. Isaiah tells us not to be afraid to proclaim the message of peace – not only to say it, but from a high mountain, with strength, so everyone can hear.

What are we to proclaim? “Behold your God”: that God came to be with us and to lead us as our Shepherd. When God is with us, no one can stand against us. We can have peace. That is one of the things Jesus came to give us. He is called Immanuel: ‘God with us’ because His life and death allow us to have a relationship with God. How can you not shout it from the mountains?

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Isaiah 64:1-12

“And there is none that calleth upon Thy name,

that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee:

for Thou hast hid Thy face from us,

and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

 ~ Isaiah 64:7 

Isaiah had been a prophet for a long time. He had visited the throne room of God and written the prophecies of Messiah in chapter 53. Now he saw the need for God’s presence among the people, because the people continued in their ways. No one stirred himself up to take hold of God, literally: to fasten onto God.  Everyone was perfectly content with their same sinful ways. But Isaiah remembered God’s awesome deeds and wasn’t content with anything else. His prayer in chapter 64 reveals his hope for more – God’s very presence in their lives. Only God’s presence could restore their peace. Today we need God’s presence in our lives as much as ever.

For years, each December I’ve written out a Christmas wish-list. I wanted clothes, toys, or candy. But Christmas is about God being with us, Immanuel. As Christmas approaches again, we should be hoping for God’s presence in our daily lives. Jesus told us He would be with us always, but how often to we realize that? Like a child Christmas morning who opens one gift and is no longer satisfied with it five minutes later, our weekly doses of God are just not satisfying. Jesus is the only gift that completely satisfies. Spend every day in His presence. Hope for it. Put it on your Christmas list. God will do awesome things for which you do not look!  

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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