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

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Keep On Drawing Near

A couple of weeks ago, my grandson walked into our house on his own two feet for the very first time.  There was snow on the ground — an indescribable delight to a sixteen-month-old — and, although he is still working on balance, he strode manfully across the lawn.  The expression on his face revealed that he was fully in the moment, completely unaware of the miracle of physics and biology manifested in his teetering steps.

My approach to Hebrews 7 this week feels a little like that toddling journey across my driveway.  With barely a thimbleful of scriptural information available as background, the mysterious Melichizedek holds sway over the chapter and demonstrates the amazing ability of the author of Hebrews to connect the dots between Old Testament shadows and New Covenant reality.  The truth is exquisite, the implications are breath-taking, and I am fully in the moment, enjoying them — all the while being dimly aware that I am barely scratching the surface of this topic.

Here’s what we know:

  • Genesis 14:18 – Melchizedek was a contemporary of Abraham, thus pre-dating the Levitical priesthood. His name meant “King of Righteousness,”  and he was the king of Salem — an ancient name for Jerusalem, which also gives him the designation “King of Peace.”
  • Psalm 110:4 – David speaks of the coming Messiah as a “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”  This unending priesthood supersedes the traditional Jewish priesthood which ended in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple.  These words of God to the Son elevate Melchizedek’s role to that of a pointer to (or type of) Jesus.
  • Hebrews 5 – Picking up these strands of truth, the author of Hebrews tightens the weave, presenting a whole cloth of truth in which Jesus emerges as The Superior Priest, not a flawed human being who requires a personal sacrifice for his own sin before he is qualified to represent the people before a holy God.  His is not a veiled heart whose selfish neediness prevents Him from entering into the needs of those He represents.
  • Hebrews 7 – Here the author, dipping his paintbrush into what he knew of Melchizedek, reinforces the truth that Jesus, our King and Priest, has completely superseded the traditional priesthood, the shadow of the former now being replaced by the solid reality that had been pre-figured.  Jesus was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah; not temporary but eternal; not a hopeless merry-go-round of many priests, but a “better hope through which we draw near to God” through a “better covenant” based on Jesus’ indestructible life.

At Hebrews 7:25, the author guides us to a magnificent conclusion with the word “therefore”:

“Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

As theologically and historically fascinating as all this is, there are three excruciatingly practical truths embedded in this one verse, corresponding to the three clauses:

  1.  Christ is able to save forever.  Filling up the word “save” with biblical meaning brings me back to the truth that God is infinitely holy — and I am not.  My own righteousness is insufficient, in itself, to take me into the presence of God.  John Piper describes Jesus as our “Asbestos-like Priest” who can take the believer into the center of the fire of God’s holiness.   There would be no “coming to God” without this great salvation.
  2. He can save forever because He “always lives to make intercession.”  Jesus’ on-going role as intercessor adds depth to my understanding of His role as Savior.  While it is imperative that He died and rose again at an actual historical point in time, it is equally imperative that He continues to serve in the role of Advocate, Intercessor, Great High Priest.
  3. He “saves . . . those who come to God through Him.”  Just as Jesus’ role was not a one-dimensional point-in-time, over-and-done-with deal, my role is also on-going.  I am to keep on drawing near, every day looking back at the anchor that secures my hope, and then entering into the minute-by-minute journey of enjoying God.

How would your relationship to God change if you lived in the realization that it is not a static, past-tense transaction but a living, ongoing work?

How would your day be impacted by embracing this statement:  “I, today, will draw near to God through Jesus Christ”?

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Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book.  These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. This is the seventh week in the series, and if you’re interested, here’s last week’s blog post.

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An Urgent Rest

Author Marilynne Robinson offers a stunning and succinct summary of the Old Testament in one sentence:  “Stop doing this to yourselves!”  The endless downward spiral of a nation is difficult to read.  The voice of God comes to the people and they disobey.  He forgives and rescues them from their mess — and they rebel again.

The book of Hebrews picks up on this theme in Chapter 3, and last week, we were reminded of the importance of encouragement in preventing the same declension in our own community by holding one another accountable:

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

It is this supporting web of relationship that holds us upright in our life of faith and that strengthens our striving to enter into the rest God offers to those who believe.  Hebrews 3 ends on an ominous note for it was unbelief that kept the people of Israel wandering for forty years.  The message is clear:  Stop doing this to yourself!  Live in faith!  Enter His rest!

The writer of Hebrews gathers up this lesson and carries it into the next chapter.  Notice the “therefore” in Hebrews 4:1.  It was unbelief that kept a whole generation from entering the Promised Land.  “Beware!  Don’t miss this!”

Christ spoke of rest for the believer in Matthew 11:28, an end of the ceaseless striving for righteousness.  John MacArthur describes this rest, this easy yoke, with a five-fold definition.  Rest is:

  1. Ceasing from work or labor;
  2. Freedom from whatever worries or disturbs you;
  3. Being settled, fixed, secure;
  4. Remaining confident, keeping trust;
  5. Leaning.

Each of these facets of rest is visible in the rest that the author of Hebrews urges his readers to secure:

  1.  Put an end to all your strategies for self-salvation.  Stop comparing and concluding that you’re not enough.
  2. Enter the perfect peace that comes with forgiveness.  Understand that you are free from legalistic bondage to appearances. Stop wishing yourself away.
  3. Fix your mind on truth and make your home there.  Let Scripture be your heart’s true north.
  4. Let go of fears that throttle your creativity and your enthusiasm for following God’s call upon your life.
  5. Lean hard.  There is no safer Resting Place.

This is the essence of the Christian life, an hour-by-hour trust in His promises.  Furthermore, it is this perseverance, this faithfulness to ongoing relationship with God, that bears witness to the reality of a believer’s conversion experience, thus putting an end to fear and uncertainty of one’s salvation.

As you read Hebrews 4 this week, rejoice in God’s provision of rest:

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.

Then believe — and enter:

For we who have believed enter that rest.

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Thanks for joining us in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  My Sunday school class and I will be landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book.  These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday.  It’s not too late to catch up by reading Hebrews 1 -3, and, if you’re interested, last week’s blog post.

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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