Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Jesus!

May you all have a joyful Christmas day! Here are a couple more poems to celebrate His birth:
The Risk of Birth (Christmas, 1973)
by Madeleine L’Engle

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn-
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn-
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.


Thank you, God, for being born,
You who first invented birth
(Universe, galaxies, the earth).
When your world was tired & worn
You came laughing on the morn.

Thank you, most amazing Word
For your silence in the womb
Where there was so little room
Yet the still small voice was heard
Throughout a planet dark & blurred.

Merry Christmas! Wondrous day!
Maker of the universe,
You the end, & you the source
Come to share in human clay
And, yourself, to show the Way.

-Madeleine L’Engle

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a poem by Luci Shaw

This time of the year
the new-born child
is everywhere
planted in madonnas’ arms
hay mows, stables,
in palaces or farms,
or quaintly, under snowed gables,
gothic angular or baroque plump,
naked or elaborately swathed,
encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,
garnished with whimsical
partridges and pears,
drummers and drums,
lit by oversize stars,
partnered with lambs,
peace doves, sugar plums,
bells, plastic camels in sets of three
as if these were what we needed
for eternity.

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.
There are some who are wary, these days,
of beards and sandalled feet.

Yet if we celebrate, let it be
that He
has invaded our lives with purpose,
striding over our picturesque traditions,
our shallow sentiment,
overturning our cash registers,
wielding His peace like a sword,
rescuing us into reality,
demanding much more
than the milk and the softness
and the mother warmth
of the baby in the storefront creche,
(only the Man would ask
all, of each of us)
reaching out
always, urgently, with strong
effective love
(only the man would give
His life and live
again for love of us).

Oh come, let us adore Him–
Christ–the Lord.

Why is this season different from all others . . ?

The season of Christmas holds a unique place in our culture. No other time do you find people of all ages throwing caution to the wind and plunging headlong into giddy anticipation for a single day. The traditional becomes familiar and one bats an eye as we bring out the throngs of evergreen, epilepsy-causing flash of twinkle lights, bulging tins of sweets, and jolly-induced tunes. But what makes this season any different? What causes us to embrace these schemes that deplete our pocket books and cause our nerves to fray.

Many things can be credited to our dear friend, Tevye the milkman's wise word: TRADITION! We do these things because that's just what you do. And for my family, who wisely does not embraces a commercial Christmas, the value of tradition remains the same. It is our annual trend to drive to Colorado for Christmas--to spend time with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. But this year, for the first time in ages, we were knocked off our pedestal of familiarity and made to re-examine the intelligence of driving through the Midwest's winter storm. Needless to say, survival out-ranked tradition. And though our hearts are sad, we have been given the opportunity to re-examine Christmas's place in our hearts, not just our geographical location on this special day.

What folly we find ourselves in when all we can think about is what we have done in all the years past. God is not above shaking things up when we lose track of His Son.
So, this year we will celebrate our Savior's birth in a Midwestern winter wonderland with a beautiful Charlie Brown tree, and enough Christmas hymns to last all evening. Traditions are good, wonderful, in fact, but this Christmas I am grateful for the detour God has placed in our hearts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"I Celebrate the Day" by Relient K

This year, I have discovered a love for what I call Christmas ballads. These are usually contemporary Christmas songs that have a message or tell a story, but aren't necessarily your traditional "carol." I really like this one by Relient K. The lyrics are profound. And you can upload it for FREE from!

"I Celebrate the Day" by Relient K

And with this Christmas wish is missed
The point I could convey
If only I could find the words to say to let You know how much You've touched my life
Because here is where You're finding me, in the exact same place as New Year's eve
And from a lack of my persistency
We're less than half as close as I want to be

And the first time
That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior
And the first breath that left Your lips
Did You know that it would change this world forever

And so this Christmas I'll compare the things I felt in prior years
To what this midnight made so clear
That You have come to meet me here

To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me
In the hope that what You did
That you were born so I might live
To look back and think that
This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Sunday, December 20, 2009

God will not abandon the work of His hands

During the mundane weeks when my days are simply filled with going to work, cooking dinner and checking facebook, I find myself wondering if I am really following God’s purpose for my life. Advent brings to sharp focus the arc of God’s plan in history, but what does that mean for my simple day-to-day?

Over the summer I found a verse from the psalms which has stuck with me and reminded me that even in the mundane, God is at work. Psalm 138:8 says, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.”
I often don’t feel like I am doing anything noteworthy, much less noteworthy for God’s Kingdom . . . but God’s love endures forever, and that good work that He started, He is not going to cast it away.

I wonder if Mary felt the same pull at her soul though . . . a desire to honor the Lord and live a life pleasing to Him, but at the same time feeling trapped by the mundane day-to-day survival. Throughout history and throughout Scripture we see that God is a God with His own standards. He did not choose Mary to be the mother of the Savior for her status in society, her talents, or even her friends (although her family line had something to do with it). The Master of the Universe chose a simple girl from Nazareth because her heart was open to her Heavenly Father’s will.

As much as I would love to claim this same humility, this past week I have found myself lacking Mary’s mindset. Instead of fearing God, I find myself caught up in the fear of man, and seeking to push ahead by my own strength. What folly! If God can breathe the galaxies into existence (Genesis 1), and the Holy Spirit can grow a child in Mary’s womb, then why do I fear? What do I have to feel anxious about?

I want to be like those shepherds out in the fields of Bethlehem. I want to be surprised by the Joy of my Savior’s birth. I want to run without abandon to see His precious face. I want to know and remember deep in my soul that God became human for me. Since the beginning of time, God will not abandon the work of His hand. And with the angel choruses I say, “Amen!”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

He did not wait till the world was ready . . . He came with love.

First Coming
by Madeleine L’Engle

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Census

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. -Luke 2:1-4

The other day I saw a poster announcing the 2010 United States Census. Being a life-long student of history and an aficionado of genealogy, my ears always perk up when I hear anything about the U.S. census. Starting in 1870, the United States began taking a census of its citizens. Even decade since people have registered where they live, who they live with, how old they are, and where they were born. Censuses tell a story--even if it is just a snapshot of someone's life--by recording a person's existence in time and place.

I have often wondered at God's plan of having Jesus born in Bethlehem. After all, His mother and earthly father were both living in Nazareth when the Angel announced that God's Son was to be born. How momentous to call an entire nation home-ward in order for a baby to be born in a lowly manger in a stable. But God is a God who sees, and He was fulfilling the prophecies inspired by His own words:

"The days are coming," declares the LORD,"when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. -Jeremiah 23:5

It might have been enough that Jesus was to be born from the line of Judah, the descendant of King David, but God took it a step further and decided that His Son was going to be born in the very birth place of His lineage. For it says in Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. "

The Gospel of Luke (the only Gospel to discuss the census) does not mention whether Joseph really did register for the census. (Yet can you imagine what that record might have looked like! Jesus in a Roman census!) What began as a journey to appease Caesar's rule became the birthday of a Savior. Jesus did not need a scribe's ledger to record His birth. The Angels loudly proclaimed His very existence, and the heavens burst forth with joyful light. That very night, God recorded something far more miraculous than a census. With His first brilliant cry, our Lord Jesus humbled himself so that one day our names would be inscribed in His Book of Life. God's ultimate census--a record of our status at the feet of the King.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"The Nativity" by C.S. Lewis

Many of you are familiar with the wonderful writings of C.S. Lewis. This weekend I found a Christmas poem he wrote. On the C.S. Lewish Foundation blog they wrote: "Rather than anthropomorphizing the beasts by giving them a ‘glad spell’ which allows them to participate in the human spirit of Christmas generosity, he inverts the familiar sentiment and wishes that he was able to respond to Christ’s presence with the virtues which symbolically belong to these same animals." (


Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting for Peace

As believers, we live in a state of expectation for Jesus' return. This morning I was wondering what it must have felt like long ago to wait for a Messiah who had not yet come. Living under oppression and opposition, they sought a Messiah King, a righteous ruler who would smite the Romans and bring peace to the nation of Israel. Jesus did come to bring peace, in fact He was peace. But His' peace was a little different than what they expected.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (John 14:27)

Open your heart to Him, and may the deep peace of Christ be with you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Are you leaving baby Jesus in the manger?

Sometimes on Sunday mornings my mind begins to wander as I am listening to the sermon. Not usually a good thing. But last Sunday I began thinking about something the pastor said. He said, if Jesus has just come as a baby, He would have failed His mission.

So many people celebrate Christmas, and even recognize that it is Jesus' "birthday." But do they also leave Him in the manger? He is not just a baby once a year, but fully man and fully God forever, who lived and suffered on this Earth, who tasted Hell so that we might experience salvation. That is one powerful Jesus.

I have recently fallen in love with Brandon Health's new Christmas song, "The Night Before Christmas." (You can upload an MP3 of it for free from, btw!) Anyway, here's the chorus:
And the world didnt know mercy was meek and so mild.
And the world didnt know that truth was as pure as a child.
The night before Christmas.
The night before Christmas.
And the world didnt know, redemption was sweet and so strong.
And the world didnt know salvation was writing a song.

The night before christmas.
The night before christmas.
The night before christmas.
Empty manger, perfect stranger, about to be born.

As we celebrate this season and look to His birth, remember that Our Savior left the manger more than 2000 years ago. And He is mightily enthroned on High. Isaiah got it right when he prophesied:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I think Advent brings out the best poetry

I'm taking a quick break from the genealogy of Jesus to bring you a poem by one of my favorite writers:

The Glory
by Madeleine L’Engle

Without any rhyme
without any reason
my heart lifts to light
in this bleak season

Believer and wanderer
caught by salvation
stumbler and blunderer
into Creation

In this cold blight
where marrow is frozen
it is God’s time
my heart has chosen

In paradox and story
parable and laughter
find I the glory
here in hereafter

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And Ruth begat . . . Jesus, the Messiah

If you would allow me to explore a certain idea for a few days . . .

For at least the past eight months, I have found myself in the presence of the book of Ruth. In the past, I simply thought of it as one of those beautiful stories in Scripture, but recently I have read, and been taught from it in a new light. The theme of redemption is so prominent. And during this time of Advent, it is becoming more and more clear that Ruth (the great-grandmother of King David--the line from which our Savior was born) lived and breathed a Truth that could rival the message of the Prophets. Ruth stepped out in faith to join the family of God, and by doing so became a vital participant in the lineage of God's Son. Much like Mary (Jesus' mother), Ruth was an active respondent to the Lord's will.

As a person who has studied history and researches family history as a hobby, I have an obvious fascination with the genealogy of Jesus. But this is not just about all those wacky names and linking one person to another. The lineage of the Messiah is unlike any other ancestry in history because Jesus was the Son of God. Those who came before Him were fully man (not divine), but they were unique and called participants for God's plan. They were not better qualified to beget a Savior, they were normal people who humbly (and sometimes not so humbly) sought after their Heavenly Father.

We'll continue this more later. Try reading through the book of Ruth (it's pretty short) and then Chapter 1 of Matthew. See if any connections pop out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Isaiah knew what he was talking about . . .

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

The theme of this first week of Advent is HOPE. This is most clearly seen in the words of the Prophets who spoke throughout the Old Testament about the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah paints a picture of the Messiah's lineage and gives a hopeful message of His work here on Earth.

CHALLENGE: Read the rest of Isaiah 11 and see if that gets you motivated to work on your "Jesse Tree."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thought for the day . . . more to come later

A friend and I were recently chatting back and forth about God's plan for us and faith. After I interjected that I just wanted to know my role in God's story, she reminded me that all I am required to do is be faithful in reading in between the lines of what God is doing.

He is in fact, in the details. One cannot look at the Biblical narrative--from creation to the foretelling of Christ's return-- without seeing an awesome and all-knowing Hand at work.

Revel in those moments when God spoke to you from in between the lines of His story. It is from there that your testimony will form.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A carol to prepare the way . . .

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree . . .

This is a topic very dear to my heart: the Christmas tree.
For those of you who know my family, you know that Advent always begins with a trip to the Christmas tree farm. Once the tree is safely in the driveway, there's the issue of the hauling of it from the top of the car into the living room--imagine an elaborate pulley system on the front porch (if you are getting flash backs to a certain scene from "While You Were Sleeping" then you're on the right track). The tree is then decorated with dozens of strands of white Christmas lights, and weighed down by a multitude of memorable ornaments. Some are homemade; some are from our trusty Advent calendar (yes, we have an ornament calendar--quite spiffy); others are annual gifts from our parents so that we can have a collection of meaningful ornaments when we grow up.

As you read this, I bet you can imagine what it looks like--all those sparkly lights and red glowing balls. But there was one thing I neglected to mention, and it makes all the difference.

Every year my family selects a "Charlie Brown" tree to grace our home. It is never plush, it usually has a few branches missing, and it is often too tall, forcing us to chop off the top (adding to it's akwardness). But it is always the best tree. Just like the tree in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," it is not about what the tree does--how well is serves as a gift repository--but what is symbolizes. For Charlie Brown, the rejection of his tree causes him to ask, "Does anyone really know what Christmas is about?" Enter Linus, our trusty voice of reason who replies with his timeless quotation of Luke chapter 2.

*So a challenge to all of you who only see your tree as only a place to lay your gifts: Look at your Christmas tree with new eyes and see the beauty of God's creation, redemption and grace.

But there's more. The traditional Christmas tree is not the only shrub that can point us towards our Savior's birth. Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? Most of your probably haven't, but much like our trusty tanenbaum, a Jesse Tree is decorated with ornaments. These ornaments serve a specific purpose, however. Each item tells a story of the genealogy of Jesus, the HOPE of His coming, and (you've guessed it folks) a LINEAGE OF EXPECTATION.

*A second challenge: make a Jesse Tree this year. It doesn't have to be an actual tree--in fact, throughout history it has often appeared as a illustration or mosaic, somewhat like a family tree. Remember the history of God's promise, and examine the key players/events in the story.

Keep an eye out for some of these. Later this week I am going to introduce a few of these key players. Most of the time we dread reading through the lists of names in Chronicles and the beginning of Matthew, but these are all important characters in the story leading up to Jesus' arrival.

You mean it's not about consumption?

To really understand Advent, we cannot have a consumer mindset. We must be receivers--joyfully awaiting the Father's free gift of His infant Son. This is completely counter-cultural. Every direction you turn during this season, the Western world is telling you to BUY, BUY, BUY. But NEWSFLASH: that is not what Christmas is about.

I think the Advent Conspiracy ( gets it pretty right. Their concept? "To worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all."
Watch this VIDEO to see what I mean.

I'll close with an Advent prayer by Henri Nouwen.

Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

An Introduction to Advent and the Lineage of Expectation

Dear friends (and those who find that they have stumbled upon this oddly titled blog by mistake),

I would like to introduce you to Advent. In latin adventus means "coming." For those who embrace Western Christianity, Advent is the season of four weeks leading up to Christmas--the celebration of Christ's birth. It is a time of joyful expectation and preparation. The four weeks are marked by the four Sundays, on which the candles of the Advent wreath are lit. Each week/candle carries a theme: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.

And so each week I will be writing about these themes. My field of study is history, and as many of you know, genealogy is a hobby of mine. Recently (in the last few months), I have become fascinated with the genealogy of Jesus--especially as traced from Ruth. In poetic terms, Christ's ancestry was a Lineage of Expectation. In the following days and weeks I will do my best to delve into this theme and draw us closer to Christ's birth. In addition to my own thoughts, I will include poems and reflections from some of the great writers in Christendom and list scripture passages that point to the coming of the Messiah.

Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. I'm excited, and I hope this brings meaning to what the world calls "the Christmas season."