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Thursday, December 23, 2010

On The Glory of God at Christmas

Luke 2:8-15

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 "Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Sometimes in the busy-ness of finishing up a semester, turning in grades, anticipating spring semester, buying Christmas presents, planning travel, participating in December work and church activities...well maybe it's just me but sometimes the manic schedule can seem overwhelming at a time when we are supposed to be reflecting on the enormous impact of Immanuel, God dwells among us.

Tomorrow night, while worshiping with my friends and family for Christmas Eve services at University Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, I will read the Christmas story. Luke 2 tells of the shepherds and the wonder and awe they experienced at God's activity among humans. I feel I am sometimes at risk of letting the majesty become mundane.

My computer Bible has a daily devotion that pops up when you open the program. The devotion for this morning was written by Charles Spurgeon. As you read Spurgeon's words which I respectfully re-print, get alone for a minute. Get quiet in your spirit. Pray the expectancy of the shepherds. Then let these devotional thoughts return your spirit to the truth of what God did through Jesus...let our hearts prepare Him room.

When first the life of grace begins in the soul, we do indeed draw near to God, but it is with great fear and trembling. The soul conscious of guilt, and humbled thereby, is overawed with the solemnity of its position; it is cast to the earth by a sense of the grandeur of Jehovah, in whose presence it stands. With unfeigned bashfulness it takes the lowest room.

But, in after life, as the Christian grows in grace, although he will never forget the solemnity of his position, and will never lose that holy awe which must encompass a gracious man when he is in the presence of the God who can create or can destroy; yet his fear has all its terror taken out of it; it becomes a holy reverence, and no more an overshadowing dread. He is called up higher, to greater access to God in Christ Jesus. Then the man of God, walking amid the splendours of Deity, and veiling his face like the glorious cherubim, with those twin wings, the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, will, reverent and bowed in spirit, approach the throne; and seeing there a God of love, of goodness, and of mercy, he will realize rather the covenant character of God than His absolute Deity. He will see in God rather His goodness than His greatness, and more of His love than of His majesty. Then will the soul, bowing still as humbly as aforetime, enjoy a more sacred liberty of intercession; for while prostrate before the glory of the Infinite God, it will be sustained by the refreshing consciousness of being in the presence of boundless mercy and infinite love, and by the realization of acceptance "in the Beloved." Thus the believer is bidden to come up higher, and is enabled to exercise the privilege of rejoicing in God, and drawing near to Him in holy confidence, saying, "Abba, Father."

"So may we go from strength to strength,
And daily grow in grace,
Till in Thine image raised at length,
We see Thee face to face."

From Spurgeon's Daily Devotional, December 23

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Lighting the Candle of Love

On Lighting the Candle of Love--Fourth Sunday of Advent

As I was walking this morning (yes I was walking/shuffling instead of running) I couldn’t help pondering the paradox between the majesty and accessibility of Jesus. I was reminded of an old drama, set in heaven as a dialog between two angels.

One of the angels mentions a rumor that God is about to intervene in human history or as one of them explains, “He’s planning to straighten out the situation down there.” One of the angels is astounded that the rumor is that “He’s going down Himself.” The other angel assumes that Jesus will go to Rome to take over the government, but the other angel corrects him:

“I hear He’s planning His entry as a baby.”
“A what?”
“A baby. A humanette.”
“Incredible! But Isn’t He taking a big chance? The security will be fantastic. Why, we’ll have to form a couple myriads of bodyguards 24 hours a day.”
“He’s going to be on His own.”
“And turn Him loose with that pack of ‘crazies’?”

The dialog goes on for a while with the angels discussing the choice of a birth mother, Jesus’ birth in a stable/cave and the choice of shepherds as the witnesses to the miracle of His birth. They talk about what an unorthodox plan it is that Jesus would grow up as a human and somehow convey a message. They discuss how fickle humans are (yet the Father loves them) and the possibility that this plan could go horribly wrong and that Jesus could even get Himself killed.

In the poignant final exchange between the two angels, one says, “But what if the humans don’t listen? What if this plan doesn’t work?” The other angel somberly replies, “There is no other plan.”

Sunday morning, I want to look at two of the most amazing passages of Scripture, which have special significance when placed together and examined at this time of year.

From John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And from John 3, “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son , that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

That’s worth lighting a candle to celebrate.

Monday, December 6, 2010

On the Music of Christmas

It’s about the music. My iTunes playlist is rather eclectic. I have a lot of Christian music, a good bit of classic rock and roll, a smattering of country, some classical and a couple of selected hip hop that my children or other teenagers told me I couldn’t live without.
My favorite playlist though, is my Christmas collection. I have everything from Bing Crosby to Mannheim Steamroller to Handel to Alvin and the Chipmunks. While a lot of Christmas music is sort of fluffy and not very inspirational (did I mention Alvin and the Chipmunks?), most of the rest of it lifts my spirit like few other kinds of music. For me, the specific worship of the incarnation through music is a language of adoration.
The music of Christmas seems to cross lines of age, tradition, background, and even language. During World War I, British and German troops in Ypres, Belgium, put down their weapons, sang Christmas carols and met in ''No Man's Land'' to exchange gifts in what later became known as the Christmas truce of 1914.

It’s all about the music. But the music is all about Jesus.