Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Key of David

I’ve been posting large chunks of others people's writings lately. It’s not that I don’t have my own words to say, I’ve just found in these devotionals, articles, and blogs such resonance for what I am thinking and feeling this Advent season. 

Below is a segment from Rebecca D. Martin’s blog post, “Key of David,” shared on the Art House America blog:

I have been reading about Advent. In one place, I read that we decorate trees and hang lights because this is a season not just of light, that great and beautiful light, but of light in the dark. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That resonates. There is so much darkness. Dark, evil acts being done in other countries driving people from their homes across dark, cold waters in thin, damp boats. Dark, evil acts being done in our own country, in big, awful ways with guns, and in small, selfish ways with fearful, mean thoughts and words, and in cold, empty ways in our own chilly, closed hearts, in our absence of action or love toward our neighbor. There is so much hurt, out there and in here. . . . And when the sky grows dim by five o’clock, I aim to push back at the night, or at least warm it up, in this little space that I own, this home that I manage for our family, for the three people out of all the world who live here with me. 

With this intention, I have been making an Advent calendar, slowly stitching embroidery floss to felt. It will hang like a banner across our wall. We will see it when we walk in the door. It took me some time to decide what it will say. Joy to the world? Glory to the newborn king? Jesus Christ is born today? But no, Advent is not only about what has happened; it is about what we still need to happen. It is about waiting, about that quiet, anticipatory, mildly uncomfortable moment before the song starts up, the lights come on, the guests arrive. Advent takes place in the dark. In the Advent season—my rendering of it, at least—we are remembering the long historical moment before the Prince of Peace got here. And we are remembering that we are still waiting for him to get here again. There may be eager expectation, but creation still groans. The dark remains very dark: the people on boats, without homes, without loved ones; the lives lost to strangers waving guns in what should be safe places; the stoniness in my own heart that declines to care about my neighbor. “Have mercy,” we cry. The wail rises from my daughter in the back seat of the car; the pleas resound from as far off as an island in Greece. “Come, Lord Jesus.” Quickly. Make this right. Ease up. Give us peace. For heaven’s sake.

I looked and found the right words for my calendar from deep in the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”: 

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.

. . . I sit at my dining table in the bedtime quiet, cutting felt for this calendar I am making, the rhythm of measure-and-slice, measure-and-slice like a kind of Protestant rosary. Consider my blessings, calm my thoughts, peace, peace, peace of Christ to you. It is night, and the day has been long. The children are finally in bed, and my husband, walking by the table, asks, “Do you want to watch something?” I tell him, “Yes, but in a minute,” because I am in a hurry. I want to finish cutting these squares so I can stitch them together tomorrow and get this good reminder hanging on our wall. 

I keep cutting, and he goes upstairs, and then I hear Christmas music coming from the bedroom, and I know he is watching Piano Guys on YouTube, and I know in this moment that he is happy and he doesn’t mind that I am still downstairs, so I pull across another sheet of felt, red, soft, wool felt. And I look up, and suddenly, I am happy. . . I am sliding the rotary cutter down a thick strip of rich fabric, and there are toys strewn across the rug, and there is a wall in the dining area that needs to be patched and painted, and there are the grimy window shades the old owner left behind. It may not be the heavenly home I am waiting for in the long term, but right now, it is just right, and so good that it feels unfair. There are people across dark seas on cold waters, endangering their lives in hopes of finding better ones, of finding some light instead of darkness, and this seems unfair, very unfair, what I have here. In this late moment, there is not much I can do but keep cutting and waiting and hoping, and I do that, and the words that will go on my calendar repeat themselves over and over in my mind: “Come, thou key of David, come.”

The phrase "Key of David" can be found twice in Scripture: in Isaiah 22:22, and again in Revelation 3:7 (making reference to the Isaiah passage). It speaks of Jesus’ role when He comes again. But it is also deeply rooted in this first Advent. It was no mistake or coincidence that Jesus’ was born in Bethlehem. It was carefully prophesied and strategically engineered. Not only to fulfill that which was said about His birth, but also about His rule and reign in Heaven, and what will happen when He comes again. A full-circle glimpse at why His' truly is a lineage of expectation. 

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