Hearing the Music

in Advent

Let's Party

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’Tis the season of the Christmas party. We have parties at the office, parties in the neighborhood, parties with close family, and parties with extended family. Parties that we are glad to go to, as well as a few that feel like a chore. Why so many parties? From a secular perspective it is about the here and now, a festal time to pause our work rhythms and celebrate a little. From a Christian perspective, we know what we are celebrating. We celebrate the greatest gift ever given. Christ has taken on flesh to dwell among us, and to redeem a people for Himself!

One thing I try to remember in this party season is that every party is a precursor to the party that is prepared for us by our God and Savior.  Listen to what God says through the prophet Isaiah: On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isaiah 25:6–9)

As children of God, all of our Christmas parties are a reminder that we are headed for the greatest party ever thrown! There will be no sadness or tension. We will all be delighted to be there and delighted with one another! The food and libations will be like none we have ever experienced. And all this because the Lamb will be in our midst, He will be the life of the party! We will be caught up in His Glory!

This week we will look at John 2 and John 11 as we contemplate what it means that Glory is unleashed in the person of Jesus. We will be drawn in to the power of Glory and what it means for the story that we are in. And while it may be true that our parties are like an acorn compared to the oak of The Party to come, may our senses explode with the fullness of a life in Christ! "This is the LORD; we (are waiting) for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

in Rest

Held Fast

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One of the gifts during the Thanksgiving holiday was a focused time to reflect on how thankful I am for those that are persevering in the face of particular difficulties of life.  I know that in one sense this describes all of us on our “pilgrim” journey, but many in the body of Christ, both at Christ Church and more broadly, are either bearing particular difficulties right now, or are walking with those in the throes of the fight.  

I am grateful for sustained faith.  I realize that sometimes it may seem weak to those in the midst of the trial and all faith is always hard fought. But it is a true testimony to the power of the Gospel and an encouragement to those observing from the outside. 

St. Augustine said many years ago commenting on the faith of the martyrs in a sermon entitled, On Reprimand and Grace

In fact, greater freedom is necessary against so many great temptations that did not exist in Paradise --  a freedom defended and fortified by the gift of perseverance, so that this world, with all its loves and terrors and errors, may be overcome. The martyrdom of the saints has taught us this. In the end, using free choice with no terrors and moreover against the command of the terrifying God, Adam did not stand fast in his great happiness, in his ready ability not to sin. The martyred saints, though, have stood fast in their faith, even though the world ... savagely attacked them -- in order that they not stand fast … where does this come from, if not by God's gift? 

We are no longer in paradise, and we know the “savage attacks” of this world … but praise God, His grace is sufficient. What a gift! And it truly is a gift. All of us walking through the fire, being acutely aware of our frailty, will readily attest to the giftedness of faith. But what a testimony to see God’s children held fast, even if by a thread, proving the Gospel is real.  So let me say thank you to all walking through the deep waters while keeping their eyes on Jesus.

in Advent

Waiting and Watching

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It is a quick turnaround this year from clearing the Thanksgiving plates to hanging the Advent calendars. As we think about Advent and all that goes with it, it is good to remind ourselves of where we are in The Story. I like this description from my friends at the Daily Prayer Project:

Advent is the first season of the Christian year. It is the season that waits and watches for the second coming of the Lord Jesus, the Son who will descend from heaven (1 Thess 1:10). As another year arrives and we begin to tell The Story of Jesus and the church over again we start at the end. The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventist which means a “coming” or “visitation”. During the season, the church longs and waits for the end of The Story while living in the dramatic and painful tension of the present, the “already and not yet”. This waiting frames our experience in this preparatory, somber, penitential, and joyful season before the great and luminous celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany. Over these four weeks of Advent we slowly move from darkness to light. This season is also one in which we read and remember Israel's time of waiting before the first coming of the Messiah, when Habakkuk cried out “O Lord how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2) and Zephaniah proclaimed “the great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast,” (Zeph 1:14).

We, as God's people, know where the story is going - “all things new” (Rev. 21:5) - and so we acutely know how unfinished it really is. Therefore, we look and love into a world with holy impatience, wanting our hearts to mirror the King’s and longing for the earth to mirror his Kingdom. “Come Lord Jesus.” This is the heart of Advent.   

As we wait and watch we will be looking through the lens of Glory. "Glory to God in the highest" is what the angels proclaimed as they announced the incarnation to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14). We will start here this first Sunday in Advent as we journey together toward the light of His Glory!


Photo by Aaron Thomas on Unsplash

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