Tag Archives: Christmas

WAR!

21 Dec

Seeing pastoral nativity scenes every December fills me with a warm Christmas glow and almost lulls me into a sentimental stupor in which I conveniently forget what really happened the night Jesus was born.  What took place in the spiritual realm when God was born as a human baby reads more like the plot of a sci-fi fantasy-thriller than a nostalgic Christmas card:  A red dragon pursued a woman giving birth while his dragon-army fought Michael’s angels in heaven.  The dragon, not able to overpower Good, was hurled to the earth where he chased the woman and her Child.  Then, frustrated that the pair escaped, he turned on the rest of her offspring—“those who hold to the teachings of Jesus”.   His demise, foretold long ago, was accomplished by the Baby who crushed his head, but not before the serpent struck the baby’s heel.

So much for syrupy “Baby Jesus, meek and mild” Christmas stories—this is war!!

Easter is the ultimate triumph, but not the incredibly amazing part of the story.  At least, not to me.  If Jesus really is God, what is so surprising about Him rising from the dead??  I would expect God to be able to do that.  The part that devastates me is that He would set aside all his glory, privilege, and power to become a helpless, finite human baby; that He, the Creator of the world, would so completely reduce Himself to pursue me.

As He entered the world, the time-space continuum and all other realities couldn’t help it; they erupted in strange behaviors.  A supernaturally bright light burned in the sky; prophecies converged in fulfillment; heaven was ripped open; angels spoke to shepherds; and then all was quiet.  But everything was different.

The curse was broken; the dragon defeated.  Hope became tangible.  Our slavery-yoke of sin… shattered.  Light put out darkness.  God was approachable.  And people were drawn to Him.

He came to us so that we could come to Him.  And although He ascended to the Father, He still promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.  The book of Job contains a concept of what that looks like: Leviathan, the great creature of the deep, is covered with scales so near one another that no water or air can come between them.  They are so close that the two most pervasive materials on earth cannot sneak in.

The red dragon is still at war with us, but his Vanquisher is our Champion:
Immanuel.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

The above post is from my ordinarygirl blog. It continues to challenge me and is appropriate for us as worship leaders, especially at Christmastime. There is a place for quiet, Silent Night, moments during this time of year, yet they often come out of hard-fought war. War on cultural Christmas. War on my own expectations. War on busyness. And war on the enemy.

The hill we must take this Sunday is Awe and Wonder, the awe and wonder the enemy has stolen from us that keeps us doing and thinking anything else but worshiping God. Failure is not an option, for there are many who will be in our services this weekend who have stopped fighting and have no human ally who will fight for them.

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The snowflake kaleidoscope above is made from a paper cutting of a dragon crafted in Hong Kong. It represents both the red dragon and the scales of Leviathan—a reminder that with Jesus’ birth, the dragon is defeated, and that we can be so near to Him nothing can come between us. Luke 2:8-18; Matthew 2:9-11; Revelation 12; Genesis 3:15; James 4:8; Job 41:15-17; Isaiah 9:1-4

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God of the Shadows

14 Dec

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Seeing God in the blaze of a sunset or a still afternoon as snowflakes float straight down or in the deep, clear eyes of a newborn child is easy for me.

I think it’s easy for most people to sense God in the moments that take our breath away. Transcendent glory breaks into our existence and our spirits soar– exhilarated and enthralled– thrilled and captured by a moment so real all else seems inconsequential.

But  life spans the gamut– from peak to valley and every place in between. Most of life is much less.

Or is it?

Finding joy in the ordinary transforms common moments into divine. Again, this is attainable for most people, although it does take practice and intentionality.

And then there there are the Dark Places. Valleys so deep there are no mountain tops. Empty aches so crushing life stops, stands still without release.

“In a place of faithlessness and doubtfulness and godlessness, God gives God. The God who can reveal Himself wherever, whenever, to whomever; the God who is never limited by lack or restricted to the expected; the God who is no respecter of persons but the relentless rescuer of prodigals; the God who give the gift of faith in the places you’d most doubt. That is always the secret to the abundant life; to believe that God is where you doubt He can be.” (1)

Breathless moments wait in the shadows, too.

God is harder to see in the dark; but when my eyes adjust and He becomes visible, dark is destroyed.

And He is all I see.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

The holiday corridor from Thanksgiving through New Years is a really tough time for many people. Expectations are high. Everyone, it seems, talks about wonderful family times painting a Norman Rockwell scene. TV ads display the perfect Christmas that everyone else is having….

The distance between the darkness that some are in becomes that much darker in the presence of so much gaiety and celebration.

While I greatly enjoy the glimpses of God through the wondrous, His unmatched Glory is all I see when surrounded by dark. When I see Him where I doubted He could be my spirit flies.

Some in our gatherings tomorrow will need a reminder and help seeing God in the shadows.

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1. The Greatest Gift; Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voskamp, p. 101-02

In and Out

7 Dec

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My eyelids were closing.

“Are you up?” my son whispered through the crack at my bedroom door.

Any parent of a teen recognizes this phrase as the I-need-to-talk signal. It almost never comes when I’m fresh in the morning, or after dinner. The invitation comes when I’m spent.

Wisely, I replied, “Sure. What’s up?” and there on my bed a tale begins to unfold through the chink in the aloof adolescent facade. A heart-journey with twists down dirt trails with me following in search of clarity. (I get that way when I’m tired.) The ins and outs of the story start accumulating, revealing what’s hidden. Grateful for polysyllabic communication, I’m now wide awake.

———-

The story had been told along the paths and around life events since the beginning. Waiting children of Abraham knew the details well. On the night God worked his way through the birth canal, no one needed more of the story. They, we, needed his heart.

The heavenly host wasted no time. No declaration of histories and prophecies– just his heart:

Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased. Luke 2:14

God’s glory and man’s peace. The essence of Immanuel.

God shrouded himself in mortal flesh and blood, fitted his immense omnipresence into an infant that opened a virgin’s womb, for the two foundational aspects of the universe that were compromised when the first Adam let sin into the Garden.

Adam and Eve exchanged God’s glory for their own superiority, and their peace evaporated before the first swallow of the forbidden fruit.

And there was no going back.

The quest for peace began in the Garden. Adam and Eve knew true peace– which made the loss that much more heart-breaking.

But there was going forward.

Jesus’ birth announcement was that much more wonderful because of what had been lost! PEACE has returned!

What is peace?
The Greek word in this passage, eirene means: one, peace, quietness, rest, set at one again.(1) The comparable word in the Old Testament, shalom, has a similar meaning: peace, completeness, prosperity, and welfare...well-being, welfare or safety of an individual or a group. (2) Well-being and wholeness show up in all the resources I consulted.

This is the peace declared by the angels when Messiah entered into humanity– restoration of what was destroyed in the Garden, God’s heart-intention revealed.

At the birth of God’s Son, heaven could no longer contain the message, giving the shepherds who heard the heavenly host (and us) God’s clear meaning immediately. God’s Christmas gift to the world is shalom peace. Not the kind the world gives, dependent on the intentions of a corrupted world, but perfect peace given by our flawless Creator who is Shalom Peace.

This is the same peace Jesus prayed for his disciples before he went out to the cross, what he left with his disciples.

Peace was his gift as he came into the world and when he went out of it. The journey toward God leads down the trail to his heart, our Peace.

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READY FOR SUNDAY

The craziness that is the Western Christmas season can be anything but peaceful – especially for church worship leaders and teams. What does his declaration of peace mean in our context? How can I have this peace amidst the added rehearsals and productions that are performed to share this peace with the world?

Perhaps more than any other time of the year, making time to spend with our Peace, our Savior, is crucial to our interaction with Him… and with the people who are also harried whom we lead in worshiping our Peace.

There is more at stake here than we realize.

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1. Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, 1515. εἰρήνη ĕirēnē.
2. Wikipedia Shalom“.

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