Monday, December 11, 2006

2nd week of Advent

For all who have ever wanted to skip the Christmas season, because they hated the commercialism and innane Christmas music that pipes over ever station, Advent is redemptive. This season that originates from the sixth century takes the "season" of Christmas and over a four week period takes the believer on a journey through the scripture in order to reflectively embrace Christmas in all of its mystery and wonder.
I've celebrated Advent, and to a certain extent so has our family, for over 15 years now. I can't tell you how much I look forward to the coming of the Advent season. I remember a few years ago wondering if I might have an Advent book inside of me...just because I love this season so much and long for believers to "enter into" the joy of what it is all about.
This year, I began to write a series of Advent meditations. I meant to post them last week at the beginning of Advent, but frankly got lost in the busyness of other things. Personally, my times in the morning are sacred, and so I was able to do these reflections myself, and I prepared them for the students in our Training Community.
It's with that in mind that I post these today for this week. If you were on the mailing list, you'll notice that this was what I sent out last week. Yet, this is now the second week of Advent, so these meditations are for the following week -- beginning yesterday on Sunday, the 10th.

Advent Meditations – Week 2, Dec. 10 - 16

Advent is anticipation, the waiting of believers for the one who is coming. The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ that speaks of his desire that all of creation might be reconciled to himself. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,

And Ransom Captive Israel.

Who mourn in lonely exile here

Until the son of God appears.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall Come to thee, O Israel.

In the first week of Advent we celebrated the PROMISE of His Coming. His promise is based on our need. We were made in his image, but there is emptiness in our soul that is the result of the Fallen nature of sin. We lit the first candle to remind us that the promise of God is that the one who would come as Messiah would come to a people “in darkness” and that he would be a “great light” (Isa. 9:1-6). Jesus came as the “light of the world”, the one who would take away the curse and the darkness around us.

In this second week of Advent we celebrate FAITH in his Coming. Our faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence which is not seen” (Heb. 11:1), and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Yet, when we look at the first Advent story, we see ordinary humans who are surprised by God and have to deal with their own questions and unbelief…just like we do.

Sunday –

Read: Psalm 100

Here’s a thought: Fans at a game shout because they are excited at “what might happen”. Ask yourself, “In what ways do I demonstrate that I’m excited about Jesus’ coming?” Today is our opportunity to “enter into his courts with praise”. I want to do that intentionally, purposefully, and excitedly…because He has made me for Himself and I want to declare that He is mine.

A Prayer of Praise and a Song:

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Monday -

Read: Micah 5:2-4, Isaiah 55:1-13

An Advent Reflection

Did you notice in the readings how God’s promise is to change that which causes sadness and loneliness into something that is joyful and secure. How?

“He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.”

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Is Advent a season of rejoicing? Is it – for you – a time of security and a time of peace?” For many, it is not. Christmas can mean nothing but stress, busyness, a time of running until we’re exhausted trying to meet the expectations of everyone else…except God.

Here’s an Advent Reflection from Jack Hayford:

“Christmas month begins. And again I find myself watnting to reach out to help people who can’t, by themselves, “unwrap” Christmas. It is, you know, “wrapped” for many:

  • Wrapped in the bandages of bygone hurts and disappointments
  • Wrapped in the plastic of sophistication which shuns childlike wonder
  • Wrapped in the tinsel of materialistic binge
  • Wrapped in the confetti and streamers of empty partying
  • Wrapped in the busy-get-ready preparations

The ghost of Christmas Past returns to haunt numberless now-redeemed members of the Father’s forever family, but without the beneficial results produced by Scrooge’s specter.

The wrappings represent the cluttered residue of a man and woman’s childhood pain. Christmas ruined in other times, at other places. Sadly, the impact carries on, souring year after year. I’m speaking of people who –

  • Had a heartbreak in their family one year and now associate Advent more with the pain than with Christ.
  • Have been burned out over family stresses surrounding the holidays, so that now these days are dreaded instead of anticipated with joy.
  • Have become wearied with the carnality of superficial gift giving and the have-to-get-something-for…. That becomes dread instead of joy.

How many people? How many varieties of death wrap a God-appointed celebration of faith and hope and love?

I come to you today, my disappointed friend, in Jesus’ name. And I come with this word: “BE FREE!”

Confront and reject these false thieves of the past. Through Jesus – the baby become King, the Son become Lord, the child become Christ – in his mighty name, lay hold of this season by faith. Refuse to let the prince of darkness smother this season of light. The one who sought to murder the Baby in Bethlehem now seeks to ruin your celebration of HIM.

Resist him with JOY, with resting in the security of His mercy, His love, His grace.

Be untied. Be unfettered. Be Unwrapped!

Take my hand and together let us “go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”

Tuesday –

Reading: Psalm 24, Psalm 17:6-8

WONDER… Children “wonder”. “Mom, where do the stars go during the day?” “What does God look like?” “Is Santa Claus real?”, and on and on they go. Children have a curiosity that cannot be quenched. They make us realize that we were born for wonder – to ask questions, to ponder, to learn.

May I remind you…Jesus said, “Unless we become like little children, we cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Go ahead….WONDER!

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky
How Jesus the savior, did come for die
For poor ornery people like you and like i
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky

When mary birthed Jesus, twas in a cow stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
And high from gods heaven a starlight did fall
And the promise of ages, it then did recall

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of gods angels in heaven to sing
He surely could’ve had it, cause he was the king

That You Came is a Wonder:

That you came is a wonder to me –

That you came in a manner so lowly,

Came to the earth to live; came your life to give.

That you came changed all of history.

That you came brought the glorious word –

Son of man, named Jesus, the Savior.

What a gift the Father gave,

His only Son He sent to save me.

That you came changed my destiny.

That you came is a wonder to me!

A Prayer:

“Father, I have grown up…forgive me. I have become sophisticated and dulled by what is normal, the routine. I ask you in the name of Jesus, to open my eyes to Your world – full of wonder. I ask you to show me the child within me. Lord, if growing up means I’m no longer surprised; that I am routine and my faith is hollowed by the world that I’m fixed on, then please birth me again…in wonder and joy, that leads to more wonder and more joy! Make me a child again…give me a tender heart, a childlike trust; let my spirit be reborn. I want a faith for you Father – and your heart – that believes in me. In this Advent season, make me a child again.”

Wednesday –

Read: Galatians 4:4, Luke 1: 5 – 22

The cast of characters in the Advent drama are few: An aged priest and his can’t-bear-children wife, a virgin teenager and her confused, but obedient husband, some shepherds on a hillside who were unlucky enough to do “night” duty, and one didn’t-have-a-clue-what-was-about-to-happen innkeeper. THESE were the people God chose to introduce his Son into the world.

Isn’t it true, God has a sense of humor?

It is truly a humbling experience to read back through the Old Testament and see how frail and imperfect all the "heroes" actually are. Abraham, the coward who cannot believe the promise. Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everybody. Joseph, the immature and arrogant teen. Moses, the impatient murderer who cannot wait for God. Gideon, the cowardly Baal-worshipper. Samson, the womanizing drunk. David, the power abusing adulterer. Solomon, the unwise wise man. Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough. And finally, a cast of not-very-amazing- people living in Israel “at just the right time”.

Look at Zechariah…meditate on this passage.

· There were 18,000 priests and all had a chance to get selected, but the odds of one out of 18,000 is still pretty large…and yet, on the night he pulled duty to burn the incense.

· There are 30 Zechariah’s in scripture, but this one…this one is specific…the Zechariah that God knows – a child of Aaron’s line, and a man who tried to order his life around God, a man whose name means Yahweh Remembers.

· God remembers was something he had to exercise as faith…because his country was occupied by a foreign power – a mark of shame…and he was childless – a mark of personal shame.

· Angels aren’t on every page, so when they appear something usually quite amazing is being announced – and in this case, it’s Gabriel, the one angel closest to God the Father who appears.

· The announcement seems improbable to Zechariah… “You kidding me?” Personal disappointments can weigh anyone to lose sight of God and faith.

· Gabriel says, “Be Silent” then…

So…what do we do with Zechariah? An author I read said:

“It never ceases to amaze me why God could not have chosen "better" people to do His work in the world. Yet if God can use them, and reveal Himself through them in such marvelous ways, it means that He might be able to use me, inadequate, and unwise, and too often lacking in faith that I am. And it means that I need to be careful that I do not in my own self-righteousness put limits on what God can do with the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of circumstances. I think that is part of the wonder of the Advent Season.”

AND so here we are…in a season where we are challenged to ask:


Did you think you were little in the universe? Ah, look…for here God shows that he is more than capable of bringing the universe to each of us…to you! Believe this: YOU WERE NURTURED IN LOVE THROUGH ALL OF THE AGES FOR THIS TIME…BREATHE THIS IN AND RECEIVE HIS HEART, HIS THOUGHTS TOWARDS YOU, HIS PASSION FOR YOU RIGHT NOW!

Thursday –

Read: Luke 1: 5 – 22 (again)

An Advent Reflection

Angels from the realms of glory

Wing your flight over all the earth

Ye, who sang creations story

Now proclaim Messiah's birth

Come and worship, come and worship

Worship Christ the newborn King

When Zechariah met the angel Gabriel in the temple, he must have been startled, surprise, caught off guard. And, being told that his response was not what the Angel called a response of faith so he would be mute must have made him both awed and terrified at the same time.

Moses had written before: You cannot see my face, no one can see me and live.” Did he think he was going to die?

NO…you’ll not die, but you will be silent…mute…not able to talk…because you did not believe.

I’ve been a Zechariah a number of times. Have you?

More importantly… Is there in anything in my life right now that I’m being a Zechariah? God has spoken to me…I hear the promise… I know his heart is for me…

My Prayer: “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

“O Lord…Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…and my Father…

Hallowed (Holy) are you…

When you see the world, you are not overwhelmed, like I often am…

Stir up my heart.

Let heaven intrude upon my earthly affairs to rip my attention from the world to you again.

Advent means you invaded the earth…came to set the captives free…launched an all out assault on complacency and unbelief…

So even now….I pray, stir up my heart…Immanuel, be with me and free me.”

Friday –

Read: Luke 1: 5 - 22 (again), Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6

An Advent Reflection

How long had Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a child? For years? Had they given up praying? Had they said, “It’s just never going to happen, we will have to learn to be content without children.”

"Zechariah”, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Did your parents pray for you?

Did your Grandmother, or someone else hold you in their heart as a promise for God?

“John” = “Yahweh has given grace”.


Because God has a heart for parents and children.

What you got was from people whose faith may not have been all that great… BUT, you’re here now aren’t you? So, something happened…God made something happen. And what is that? That in every generation, the hearts of the fathers are turned towards the children, and the hearts of the children are turned towards their parents.

A Prayer: “Lord, my prayer in this Advent season is for my parents/my children for this…” (Finish this)

Saturday –

Read – Luke 1: 5 – 22 (one last time! J), Psalm 46 (all of it, but mostly vs. 10)

At the end of week 2, one last thought from Zechariah:

Zechariah can’t believe it…or doesn’t. Ok, here’s a sign that accompanies that; “You shall be mute until the day these things come to pass.”

God keeps his word…he keeps his promises.

It wasn’t all that bad that Zechariah was mute. Embarrassing at first, and strange to those who wanted to know what happened to him “in there”.

Unto us, Jesus said, “Surely I am coming soon.” (Rev. 22:20)

And what do we say to the promise of that second Advent? Are we more consumed by the world around us that we cannot believe we’ve been courted for a wedding? Does the bride disbelieve the date of her wedding? No…she anticipates, prays, and dreams of what the wedding and marriage will be.

Let us be a people who are like a bride awaiting the day of her wedding. Let us anticipate, dream and pray for our bridegroom to come… “Even so, now, Come Lord Jesus”

A Saturday Prayer:

Father, Grant me a heart that is pure, wide-open in faith towards you, even as I anticipate coming tomorrow together with others to worship you.

Jesus, I long for you to come…I want my life to serve your Kingdom and to await your second Advent…even as now, I celebrate your first Advent.

Spirit, Grant to me a heart full of faith and wonder. Help me, guide me into truth, and show me anything in my heart and mind that prevents me from saying yes to you Lord God, three in one.

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