Are You Ready to Receive the Gift of Advent?

One day, the Gift of all gifts was carried into a public space.

Although the Gift could have come with a transcendence too glorious for human eyes,
It came instead in the arms of a young Jewish woman.

No one noticed,
For the Gift was small,
Unexpected.

Besides–
No one was looking for a Gift that day. . .

No one but Simeon.

We don’t know when Simeon’s vigil began or how he discerned that the wait was finally over,
But he was there, standing watch at the Jerusalem Temple.

His life had been lived in anticipation of an arrival, and
His leading was no less compelling than an angel appearance,
For the Spirit was upon him,
Communicating with him, and
Compelling him to take his post.

With roots planted in the thin soil between the Testaments,
Somehow Simeon grew to hear the voice of God.
Did it come with audible clarity?
Or was it more like a raised eyebrow,
A nod, or the lift of a chin to point in a certain direction?

Seeing the Child,
Simeon sang his dismissal from duty,
a new psalm from Jewish lips
with lyrics of hope that moved beyond
the great salvation of Mary’s song;
With a wider circle even than
Zacharias’s anthem of redemption and blessing.

Simeon’s cameo appearance trumpeted
Revelation to the Gentiles AND
Glory to Israel,
A Divine Fiat of both/and,
Intended to rebuke an either/or culture that had all but forgotten Old Testament prophecies of Light to the Gentiles.

“How silently, how silently the Wondrous Gift was given,”
for even now, the Gift of all gifts goes unseen and unheard.
We are out for flashing lights,
Our gifts are mired in the moment, and
The lyrics to our songs get it all wrong.

After all, a message with a sword running through it is hard on the ears.

Mission fulfilled, Simeon was dismissed from his post,
But his shadowy sword-words concerning those who would “speak against” the Babe in his arms came to pass, and the sword would, indeed, flash through Mary’s heart,
Leaving the human race still divided, but along a new fissure–
the line between darkness and light.

Unbelievably, my eyes, too, have seen God’s salvation
And Simeon’s words, spoken over a tiny Baby, have been fulfilled:

Jesus has revealed the true God and the true Way.

The question is, are we
(Am I?)
ready to welcome Christ as He really is?


Celebrating the Season of Advent with Joy,

Michele Morin

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by DiEtte Henderson on Unsplash

 

Advertisements

A Day Like No Other Day

It was a day like any other day in the life-long ministry of Zacharias the priest.  With Elisabeth’s goodbye kiss still warm on his cheek, he went about his business, reporting for duty in his scheduled commitment to serve in the Temple.

It was a day like no other day when the honor of entering the most holy place fell to Zacharias, and his aging eyes found the burning incense eclipsed by angel light. Startling and strange, the heavenly messenger’s words hooked unbelief, earning Zacharias a nine-month sentence of mute pondering.  God’s four-hundred year silence was broken, leaving an elderly couple blinking and gasping at this new way of understanding the word impossible.

“Well stricken in years” is the delicate, traditional rendering, a state that would have made for a challenging pregnancy in any era — even if you are carrying the forerunner of the Messiah.  Like a spavined barn with tar paper siding, Elisabeth’s olden frame would have been covered with skin already stretched and sagging, but with joy she bore the bone-on-bone pain of an aging back and a heavy load.

Did she understand that her glorious passage from barren to fruitful was more a rending of history than a miracle of gynecology?

//

It was a December day like any other.  There was dog hair that needed to be vacuumed.  There were lessons that needed to be prepared.  There were emails unanswered and dishes unwashed.  By my calculation, Advent season includes the routine preparation of at least seventy-five meals on top of all the other holiday baking and decorating.

It was a December day like none before. Sitting at the dining room table with my Bible open to the pages between the Testaments– the ones that follow the scalding prophetic words and precede the red letters of grace–I imagined myself into the sandals of the faithful. Pausing in this liminal space, I wondered about waiting and the nature of a sinewy watchfulness that keeps on trusting in the fulfillment of a centuries-old promise in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

From the outside, I think it must look like everyday life:
–Elisabeth, hands resting upon implausible roundness as she tries to decipher Zechariah’s chalkboard scribbles;
–Mary, silently pondering a secret that would rock her teenage world and send the tongues of Nazareth wagging;
–Anna, keeping her open-ended vigil, not knowing that the waiting would soon be over and her eyes would see salvation in an infant’s small appearance.

Attending to the faithfulness of these women of Christmas puts parentheses around a moment, as I try to identify with the generations who lived their days in the in-between. Sure, God had promised that a Messiah would come, and those who knew the Scriptures seemed to have a lot of details about it. Even so, for those who held the promise close to their hearts, it must have seemed as if God had pressed history’s pause button, and they had been left standing in a freeze frame, waiting for deliverance.

Fast forward over two thousand years from the dawn of Anno Domini, and we’ve lost that connection between expectation and faith. High-speed internet and Amazon one-day shipping are relics of my forward-leaning Religion of Next. I wear my hurry like an ill-fitting cassock, proclaiming by my words and deeds the counterfeit gospel that God is in the slowest hurry I’ve ever seen. In a fast-forward life, anticipation fades like childhood memory and the long-forgotten sound of Christmas bells.

When Christmas becomes separated from Truth, it lands in my December like a burden–just one more thing in the multitude of things that need to be checked off my list. But, if I stay present to the wonder of Word made flesh, my blunted perception is sharpened just enough to hear God’s present-day proclamation in words that bypass angel lips and star song, but land in power on the believing heart:

Nothing shall be impossible.”
God is with us.”

Words spoken into that long ago in-between resonate for today’s waiting.
Simple Truth schools me in the authentic gospel of expectation in which the power and the presence of God bursts through all the shallow frippery and hoopla of a holiday run amuck.
Entering the holy place of the in-between, Truth feeds an advent of belief. For, like Elisabeth, I, too, live in hope for that which is yet unseen, my heart pregnant with anticipation of the Coming that is yet to come.

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

This post appeared first at SheLoves Magazine.

Image credit

Loving My Mid-Life Christmas

For the past several years, change has been the only constant in our Christmas celebration.

Grown up sons marry, pack up their collection of treasured ornaments, and hang them on their own trees. College guys come home when they can and join in the fun on an intermittent schedule. Teens branching into individualized creativity grab an ax, stride manfully into the woods, and return bearing a Charlie Brown tree for their bedroom, which they will festoon with enough lights to interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Our Christmas gatherings have become a moving target with a schedule that requires both flexibility and diplomacy, but I’m learning to appreciate the Christmas that is and to let Christmas past be past — fondly remembered but not slaying my enjoyment of the here and now.

Alexandra Kuykendall, author of Loving My Actual Christmas, struggled with loving “Christmas present” as well. Visions of Pinterest perfection left her exhausted and so done with Christmas that she finished the season by stripping the decorations off the tree and stuffing them into their boxes, not caring if she ever saw them again.

In addition, Norman Rockwell gatherings around a flawless feast didn’t match the reality of the recent loss of her father and the empty chair at the table

Alexandra wanted to make some changes that would bring joy back into her celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She conducted an experiment which she hoped would help her to capture the essence of the season, and Loving My Actual Christmas is her lab report. Each of the four weeks of Advent and the lighting of each of the four candles represents a theme, so the Kuykendalls implemented those themes as the framework for their actual Christmas.

Who among us doesn’t appreciate a little more Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in our celebration of Jesus?

I’m sharing my review of Loving My Actual Christmas over at The Perennial Gen, so I hope you’ll click on over and join us there. Insights from the book may be just what you’re looking for to align your own celebration with the reality that surrounds you, and while you’re visiting, be sure to check out the collection of other posts.

You’ll be inspired by the wisdom there as you put down solid roots into the dirt and light of midlife.

 

//

Additional Resources

Alexandra shares even more details about her Christmas experiment on her own podcast, The Open Door Sisterhood. She also engaged in a soulful and enlightening conversation on the Ears to Speak podcast, episode 5 in which she discussed the Christmas realities of budgets and complicated relationships, planning realistic and joyful traditions, and her journey of discovering how to live out a Christmas that is full of love and is spiritually intriguing to the people around you.

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Word Made Flesh — A Celebration of Reading for Advent

In the month of December, the Christmas story often stands alone, lifted with huge parentheses out of the New Testament — maybe delivered in Linus’s hushed boy soprano, and then tucked away with the durable resin nativity set and the white twinkly lights until next year. It’s a great story, so it’s easy to see why authors of every creed are drawn to its rich narrative.  Left in context, of course, it holds a pivotal place in redemptive history, and since it is a Word that was given to us (John 1:14), it is natural to use words and the magic of story to give substance to our celebration.

For me, every holiday is made more festive by the inclusion of books that heighten my understanding and appreciation of the occasion and that encourage me to enter in, to be present to the beauty. That’s why I’m sharing a collection of books that will bring the sacred into your everyday celebration of Advent. Click on over to the Redbud Post to read a joyful sprinkling of content from A.W. Tozer, Madeleine L’Engle, Sarah Arthur, and Luci Shaw.

Letting our hearts rejoice in the incarnation reminds us that even within the hectic pace and hoopla of Christmas celebration, we, too, can make the Word become flesh once again, in our lives and in our deeds.

I hope you’ll join me, and may your heart be encouraged in joy!

Redbud Writers Guild

For regular encouragement, like the Redbud Writers Guild page on Facebook!

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Weeping Woman of Ramah

(Matthew 2:16-18; Jeremiah 31:15; Isaiah 61:1-3)

There was no angel appearance to my husband —

No timely warning granted for us to flee the danger and death of Herod’s sword.

Know that I, too, would have fled.

I would have flown to the ends of the earth to dodge the flash of steel that ended my young son’s life, snuffed out to satisfy the jealous angst of a paranoid king.

Tricked out of a positive identification of his rival by the stealth of the wise men, Herod reduced a precious population of baby boys to a disposable demographic:
male child,
in Bethlehem and its districts,
two years old and under.

 My son.

Yes, my tears were foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, and the Messiah survived to live and die in the manner God had ordained.
(Is it ironic only to me that my boy died in the place of the savior of humanity?)

God’s economy is strange.

I would never have removed a creature so fine as he before his time.
There is a great hole in the universe now.

But I am a daughter of Deborah, a woman of the Covenant, and I know Who it is that sits at the Potter’s wheel, Who molds the clay.
I am the work of His hand.
My son was also His vessel.

God is building His kingdom; I know this in my head.
But I am a mother, finite, and I see through a glass darkly.

And I would trade all that promise of righteousness, all that prophetic fulfillment
for one more day with my boy.

Is there ever an era or a set of circumstances in which a bereaved mother does not
sob ragged to frame these words:
Why my child?
Why not some other?

I do not understand, and Jeremiah was cruelly accurate in his prophecy,
for I will not be comforted:

Not by time.
Not by the kind consolation of thoughtful words.
Not by the probing questions, thinly veiled queries, which, over the years
have come to revolve around a single theme:
“Isn’t she over this yet?”

Weeping, I wait for my heart to heal.

Weeping, and finding no ready answer to the evil in the world—the evil in me—
I discover that my suffering creates a space in which I wait for the deep comfort promised by another ancient prophet:

Healing for the brokenhearted.
Consolation to those who mourn.
Beauty.
Joy.
Praise.

I wait for another coming of this Jesus, and I long to believe,
for I know
that shortly after I see His face,

I will see, once again, the face of my boy.

_____________

A few verses in Matthew are all that are granted to the tragedy of slain baby boys following the birth of Jesus. As the mother of four sons, I’ve never experienced this depth of loss, and I find myself wishing with all my heart that these women could have been among those who “sorrow not even as others who have no hope.”  I love to think that there may have been those who knew from their exposure to the writings of the prophets that a Messiah would come to live and to die and to give beauty for ashes.

This post first appeared at SheLoves Magazine where we were writing for Advent 2015 on the theme “Paused and Present.”

//

Image credit: Guilherme Yagui

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

The Power of a Single Word

Receive . . . Enjoy . . . Let go

Freighted with meanings and memories, associations and reflections far beyond their official definitions, words can be an invitation to pay attention.

Watch . . . Accept . . . Resist

Marilyn McEntyre has chosen fifteen words as the basis for fifteen weeks of daily meditations, as Word by Word, she challenges readers to let the word of the week become a focus for prayer and for biblical meditation.

Allow . . . Be still . . .Follow

There is a delight to discovering that “words may become little fountains of grace,” and Marilyn’s brief daily musings amplify the voice of the Spirit, sending me back to the Source.

Rejoice . . . Ask . . . Dare

For those who believingly follow Jesus Christ, meditation begins, not with an empty brain or a blank slate, but with revealed Truth.  Our use of language is a mark of the image of God, and the words we use are the basis of our communion with ourselves, with one another, and with God in prayer.

Leave . . . Welcome . . . and my favorite:  Listen

Word by Word reminded me again (I’m a slow learner) of the need to listen with humility and openness, to “notice what I notice,” which is sound advice indeed, especially in the pursuit of Spirit-breathed wisdom.

Throughout Scripture, the faithful found that the voice of God often emerged from the silence.  In this season of Advent, I find myself listening in to the four- hundred-year silence between the testaments, the pause that was broken by startling birth announcements and accompanied by angels.  John’s first epistle identifies this “manifestation” as The Word of life, a reminder that God’s ultimate self-expression and His message are so inextricably linked that they have been identified by a single term:  The Word.

Of course, it should be clearly understood that listening is a risky business, because the listener may be required to act upon what she hears.

Those who dare to engage in the counter-cultural practices of listening, pondering, and praying will find that it turns down the volume on this kingdom of noise and clears the deck for a habit of stillness and a continuing practice of listening — really listening — as we read Scripture in the manner in which it was given:  word by word.

//

This book was provided by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”

Till We Have Faces is a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

More details to follow!

//

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

 

A Very Tozer Christmas

My growing-up Christmases were heavy on Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.  Linus’s hushed tones filled me in on the true meaning of Christmas via our first colored t.v., but I wanted that story to take center stage for my own children.  The celebration of Advent has been key for our family in spreading out the teaching, the excitement, the special family activities, and the wonder of the incarnation over the entire month of December.

This year, for our daily Advent devotional, we are gathering around From Heaven, a 28-Day Advent collection compiled from the sermons, books, and editorials of beloved 20th century pastor and writer, A.W. Tozer.  As we light the candles and sing the carols, we will be savoring the familiar story against the backdrop of Tozer’s unique insights:

On the Incarnation

“Nobody has ever seen God, but when Jesus Christ came He showed us what God is like.”

“The Word became flesh . . .What we have here is one of the darkest mysteries of human thought:  How the Deity could cross the wide yawning gulf that separates what is God from what is not God.”

On the Meaning of Christmas

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning, but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

On the Gospel

“If the tender yearning is gone from the advent hope today there must be a reason for it:  [we] emphasize the utility of the cross rather than the beauty of the One who died on it. . . What He did for me seems to be more important than what He is to me.”

On Jesus’ Mission

“It could have been very easy for God to have loved us and never told us.  God could have been merciful toward us and never revealed it. . . . The eternal Son came to tell us what the silence never told us. He came to tell us that God cares and God loves and God has a plan and God’s carrying out that plan.”

On Christ’s Second Advent

“We live between two mighty events — that of His incarnation, death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and the glorification of those He died to save.  This is the interim time for the saints — but it is not a vacuum.  He has given us much to do, and He asks for our faithfulness.”

Blessings to you at the beginning of this season of advent as we celebrate Jesus’ coming to Earth From Heaven — and as we anticipate “the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” (I Peter 1:7,8).

//

This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.