Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

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

 (This was my Christmas card this year. Hope you enjoy it.)

The Night Before Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 

But the angel said to them, 
     “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, 
praising God and saying, 
 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another, 
“Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
--Luke 2:8-15


Thursday, December 23, 2010


When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other season, not the same, on the same earth
Then saving and calamity together make
The Advent gospel telling how the heart will break  . . .

– C.S. Lewis (from “Launcelot”, Narrative Poems)

If you think too deeply, it is rather overwhelming that the Lord of Heaven and Earth was born. And still more perplexing that it was a common birth—one with sweat, fear and pain.  His very act of being born confronted the curse which Christ was sent to vanquish (the pain of childbirth—Genesis 3:16)

 How ironic that God would send His Son in such a way. Growing up among peasants and refugees – that he might adopt us as his own. Learning the trade of his earthly father –that one day he would shape our human hearts. Communing the Father and healing lowly people—to teach us how to love. I guess it’s not much of a surprise that He would be born. How else would he teach us how to live?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 4th Sunday of Advent: Love

I had meant to write a post for today, but time got away from me. Here is a poem to quench the wait.

The House of Christmas
by G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost - how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky's dome.

This world is wild as an old wives' tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

a poem

I'm sure I posted this last year, but it's a good one.

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.

Monday, December 13, 2010

“The season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious.” --Joan Chittister

That Holy Thing
by George McDonald

They all were looking for a king

To slay their foes and lift them high;
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.

O Son of Man, to right my lot
Naught but Thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road Thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea Thy sail!

My how or when Thou wilt not heed,

But come down Thine own secret stair,
That Thou may’st answer all my need-
Yea, every bygone prayer.


I have been reflecting quite a bit on change. I recently re-read Madeleine L'Engle's The Young Unicorns, one of her bizarre yet brilliant young adult novels involving the Austin family. In the book, the father and his daughter Vicky have this conversation:
“You’ve gone on in high and lofty tones at the dinner table about freedom, haven’t you?” 
“Well, yes,” she said, trying to sit up straight on the couch which was soft and invited relaxation. “I think it’s important, people being free.” 
“So do I, Vicky. But we aren’t free to remain static, to refuse to change. That isn’t freedom. That’s death, death, either for the individual person or for the family.”
“You’ve gone on in high and lofty tones at the dinner table about freedom, haven’t you?” “Well, yes,” she said, trying to sit up straight on the couch which was soft and invited relaxation. “I think it’s important, people being free.” “So do I, Vicky. But we aren’t free to remain static, to refuse to change. That isn’t freedom. That’s death, death, either for the individual person or for the family.” 

In the Old Testament, the people of God, even when they were oppressed and exiled, were commanded to not stay static but to live-- to marry, raise families, work, and rest.  To toil in such a way that they would have great joy in the harvest. 

C.S. Lewis, in his beloved Chronicles of Narnia, speaks of this same passage from brokenness to wholeness with the stories of Edmund and Eustace. These are the great "eucatastrophies" (a word coined by J.R.R. Tolkien, meaning, a sudden turn of events at the end of a story which result in the protagonist's well-being)--the epic transformations turning darkness into light.

Isaiah chapter 9 reminds us of this joyous event. That out of the deep darkness came a strong shouldered "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace!" What more can we do then but step out in faith, risking our life into the hands of our Almighty God? Is static-ness really death? After all, Jesus did not come that we be comfortable on this earth, but that we would have everlasting comfort in His arms.

Some things to think about.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent: Joy

Happy third Sunday of Advent my friends. If you are anywhere near the Midwest, be safe out there in this crazy weather.

Here are some good scriptures for today:
An appropriately enough, the passage from Isaiah is all about Joy.

Joy of the Redeemed

 1 The desert and the parched land will be glad;
   the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
   it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
   the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
   the splendor of our God.
 3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
   steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts,
   “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
   he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
   he will come to save you.”
 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
   and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
   and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
   and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
   the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
   grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
 8 And a highway will be there;
   it will be called the Way of Holiness;
   it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
   wicked fools will not go about on it.
9 No lion will be there,
   nor any ravenous beast;
   they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
 10 and those the LORD has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
   everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
   and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Perfect Timing, as always.

Advent is about joyfully waiting. But this year my heart is weighed down, waiting for the Lord to open the great “full time employment” door. I am sure my motives could be more pure; my spirit could be more hopeful. But I am waiting just the same.

A couple months ago—back when the weather was still warmish—I was having an especially rough day. So after work I decided to go for a walk along Loyola University’s lake shore path. It was just about dusk when I sat down to finish watching the sun go down. I was having a quality vent session with Jesus when I looked over and saw, suspended from a railing, a rather large spider. It was surrounded by a brilliant web, which, I thought to myself, must have taken quite a long time to construction. At this point, one such as my sister would have booked it across campus. But I am not one to be extricated by a bug. In fact, I was quite fascinated by the scene. And then it was God’s turn to speak. 

In that little corner of creation, the spider had everything he needed: a home, a way of catching food, a way of defending himself and caring for his offspring. Pretty simple, but that’s all an arachnid really needs. And I got to thinking. Do I have all I need, right here in front of me? If yes, then why am I so inclined to want more? I’m pretty sure I am allowed to have hopes and dreams. By maybe the better question is whether these hopes are God-inspired or me sinfully coveting my neighbor’s “greener grass.” 

I am not sure I have come to a conclusion yet. But I do know that scenes like this stick in my mind for a reason. Micah the prophet spoke in a similar way when he said: 

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
.” (Micah 5:2)

Basically: Though you are silly little sheep, faith-wavering, and fearful, the Lord has decided to produce abundant fruit from your life. 

His promises are sound, my friends. The Lord has us where He has us—in this time and place—for a reason. I am not sure what that reason is yet, but then again, I am pretty sure no one in rural Bethlehem, much less Mary, expected the birth of a Savior that night. But He came anyway. He didn’t wait until we were ready. He came just as we were beginning to think our expectations would get dashed. 

Perfect timing, as always. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A thought from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes… and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent. ”
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The people walking in darkness
   have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
   a light has dawned. 
- Isaiah 9:2