Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Mighty Mercy"

Being a history nerd, I am often struck by the depth and intricacy of time in Scripture. God's providential hand lies outside of human time (as C.S. Lewis and M. L'Engle, some of my favorite authors, so fondly focus), making His movement on Earth all the more mysterious and sovereign. Today I stumbled upon a poem by John Piper, written about this very topic. With permission from his website desiringgod.org, I'll share it with you now.

God loves to "magnify His sovereign strength." This is the answer to the question John Piper poses in the poem "Mighty Mercy": Why did God choose such "strange and roundabout" providence "[t]o get Messiah where He must be born?" This poem exalts God's absolute sovereignty in the "flukes of history."

By John Piper, December 19, 1982

Why did He choose a northern maid
From Nazareth, who had to trade
Her Galilee for Judah just
To get Messiah where He must
Be born? A strange and roundabout
Procedure for a God, no doubt,
Who values His efficiency
And rules the world from sea to sea!
Why not a girl from Bethlehem?
Well half the girls in town would stem
From David's line. And carpenters
Aplenty there could bear the slurs
And gossip on a virgin got
with child, who blushed and said she'd not
Once kissed her man this whole year past.
Why not? Because God's power is vast,
And in one little virgin birth
His sovereign joy and mighty mirth
In saving us from evil bent
Could never, never rest content.
Instead He turned and set His sight
To spangle Rome with all His might;
And took a girl from Galilee
To magnify His sovereignty.
And made the Roman king conspire
With God, to serve a purpose higher
Than he or any in the realm
Could see—a stroke to overwhelm
A few with faith and cause their heart
To know the truth, at least in part,
That, though God loves efficiency
And rules the world from sea to sea,
He does not go from here to there
By shortest routes to save His fare.
He'd rather start in Galilee,
Then pass a law in Rome, you see,
To get the child down south at length,
And magnify His sovereign strength.
God rules the flukes of history
To see that Micah's prophecy
Comes true. Why did He choose a maid
From Nazareth? Perhaps she prayed
That endless mercy might abound
And take the longer way around.
The mighty mercy we adore
As we light advent candle four. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

“. . . For Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming?”

This is a poem by Luci Shaw. Enjoy!

“. . . For Who Can Endure the Day of His Coming?” Malachi 3:2

When an Angel
snapped the old thin threads of speech
with an untimely birth
announcement, slit
the seemly cloth of an even
more blessed event with the
shears of miracle,
invaded the privacy of a dream,
to ravage the dark silk of the sky, the
innocent ears
with swords of sound: news in a new dimension demanded
The righteous were as vulnerable as others.
they trembled for those strong
antecedent fear nots, whether goat-
herds, virgins, workers in wood or
holy barren priests.

In our nights our
complicated modern dreams rarely
flower into visions. No
contemporary Gabriel
dumbfounds our worship, or burning,
visits our bedrooms. No
sign-post satellite hauls us, earth-bound but
star-struck, half
around the world with hope.

Are our sensibilities
too blunt to be assaulted
with spatial power-plays and far-out
proclamations of peace? Sterile,
skeptics, yet we may be broken
to his slow silent birth
(new-torn, new-
born ourselves at his
beginning new in us).
His bigness may still burst
out self-containment
to tell us—without angels’ mouths—
fear not.

God knows we need to hear it, now
when he may shatter
with his most shocking coming
this proud cracked place
and more if, for longer waiting,
he does not.

-Luci Shaw

The Waiting is Hard, But the Hope is Secure

The first candle around the Advent wreath symbolizes Hope. It tells the stories of the Old Testament prophets and the heavenly promises they foretold.

Hope? When I read these prophecies and think about the thousands of years on Earth before Christ entered as a human baby, I don't think of hope, I think of waiting and wandering, complaining and compromising. The word hope comes to mind as I see the story unfold. The angels, the fear, the promise, the journey, the glorious announcements. My faith in God's story seems to require some sight. And that is not right.

What the God of the universe set into motion when the Earth, just born, was tainted by sin--it can only be described as Hope. Back in Eden, Adam and Eve most likely felt fear, anxiety and gloom. Their future was no longer garden-fresh and secured, but colored by toil and sin.

Skip ahead a few thousand years and I feel the same. Where waiting is hard and hope is just another word to describe the fear and the feelings all jumbled inside. And I know I'm not the only one. . .  How do we get to the point in this life where anticipation brings joy and not stress or disdain?

Anna and Simeon knew how to hope. They longed to see the Lord's promised Messiah; the fulfillment of prophecies from Micah and Isaiah. (Read Luke 2:22-39) They had waited; God's Hope came down.

So this is what I think: It is not up to us to hope. If it were, our expectations would ever be dashed. It is our job to call on the One who is and was and will be our Hope. He is the One they were waiting for, thousands of years ago. And He is the One we are waiting for, today. If there's one thing to learned from Advent this year, it's this: The waiting is hard, but the Hope is secure.

"In the First Light"

This weekend I am in Wisconsin to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. At some point after the actual Thanksgiving festivities of sibling cook-offs, What-I-am-Thankful-For's, and turkey left-overs, we jump in our trusty minivan and drive to the Christmas Tree Farm.

It was not a very bright day. In fact, it was rather dreary and wet as we set off. I don't know if we've ever gone Christmas tree hunting in the rain, but that did not stop us. As we pull off the highway onto the one-lane country road edging towards the farm, we traditionally plugged in my iPod to listen to some GLAD. The all-male acapella group of the '80s and '90s just gets it right when it comes to beginning the Advent Season. Below are the lyrics and a link so you can listen for yourself.

     In the first light of a new day 
     No one knew He had arrived
     Things continued as they had been
     While a new born softly cried.

     But the heavens wrapped in wonder
     Knew the meaning of His birth
     In the weakness of a baby
     They knew God had come to earth.

     As His mother held him closely,
     It was hard to understand
     That her baby not yet speaking
     Was the Word of God to man.

     He would tell them of His kingdom,
     But their hearts would not believe
     They would hate Him and in anger
     They would nail Him to a tree.

     But the sadness would be broken
     As the song of life arose
     And the First born of creation
     Would ascend and take his throne.

     He has left it to redeem us,
     But before His life began
     He knew He´d come back not as a baby
     But as The Lord of ev´ry man.

     Hear the angels as they´re singing
     On the morning of His birth
     But how much greater will our song be
     When He comes again
     When He comes again

     Hear the angels as they´re singing
     On the morning of His birth
     But how much greater will our song be
     When He comes again to Earth

     When He comes to rule the Earth!

As you listen and read the words, remember why we set aside so much of our yearly schedule to celebrate on this season.  

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Welcome Back to Advent

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

I would like to re-introduce you to Advent and this blog. 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. 

In poetic terms, Christ's ancestry was a Lineage of Expectation. In the following days and weeks I will do my best to reflect on 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 Christian history and list passages of Scripture 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."