Silent Treatment

The prophet Malachi wrote the last word of the Old Testament sometime around 430 B.C. Then came four centuries of silence. No prophets spoke, no predictions were proclaimed, no judgements were called down on the wicked, no blessings were promised to the faithful. 

Nothing. 

Silence.

Most Bibles have a blank page between the Old and New Testaments. It’s there for a reason. Turn that page — and voila! — four hundred years have passed. A lot happened in the world during those forty decades. Empires rose and fell, wars were fought, discoveries were made.

But God didn’t speak.

It’s astounding that God’s people continued to watch and hope and pray for centuries. Somehow, each generation kept handing down the instruction: Wait. He will speak again.

Then He did. 

His first word after all those long years was,

“Waaaahhhhh.” 

He cried. 

The priests weren’t prepared for a baby’s wail. They expected God to sound more like a thundering voice coming out of smoke and fire. So they missed it. If we’re not careful, we could miss it, too.

Lord, give us ears to hear Your voice this Advent,
in whatever way You choose to speak.

Be Prepared

PB was a Boy Scout. He can still recite the Oath and the twelve points of the Boy Scout Law. More importantly, he continues to live by the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.

My man isn’t a full-on prepper, but he has a little stash of canned food, water, and toilet paper. He keeps extra fuel on hand and has plenty of wood cut. It’s comforting to know we will be okay for a while if there’s a blizzard, or a food shortage, or a complete collapse of the American economy.

This is the season of holiday prep —
the yearly push to get the decorations up, purchase the gifts, send out the cards, etc.

This is the season of Advent —
a more essential aspect of these days as we prepare our hearts to welcome Him.

In 1719, English minister Isaac Watts wrote the poem “Joy to the World” after reading Psalm 98, which is a raucous celebration full of singing and shouting and jubilation. Even though we consider the hymn to be a Christmas carol, Watts didn’t have the birth of Jesus in mind as he wrote those inspired words. He was thinking about the second coming of Christ, complete with trumpet blasts and shouts of joy. Watts anticipated the sound of trees and mountains singing, rivers clapping their hands, seas resounding in praise. He relished the thought of God’s glorious righteousness breaking the curse of sin.

Jesus came the first time in meekness —
quietly, incognito, as a human infant.
Heaven sang,
but earth didn’t pay much attention.

Jesus is coming again in power —
loudly, indisputably, as Mighty God and Prince of Peace.
Earth will receive her King,
as both heaven and nature sings.

What a day that will be!

In the meantime,
we wait.
We anticipate.
We prepare.
This Advent,
let every heart prepare Him room.

He Came

Joy to the world, the Lord is come…

joy

Jesus came to earth
which means
He had to leave heaven.

I’ve been thinking about what it was like for the Father to send the Son off on this holy mission. I’ve been wondering if the heavenly hosts threw a going away party or if He slipped away quietly with little fanfare. I’ve been pondering what heaven was like without Jesus for the thirty-three years He spent on earth.

Did they miss Him? Was something a little “off” in the heavenly realm without the Son? Were the angels on the edge of their seats in the unseen world, watching over the birth, the life, the death? Did the Father count the days until His Son’s return in a glorious, resurrected body?

Jesus left the splendor of heaven
to be born in a barn,
sleep in a pile of hay,
hang with stinky fishermen,
take a lot of abuse,
and be misunderstood.
Why?
For love of us.

How kind of the Father to lend His Son to earth for a time.
How generous of the Son to leave His home to come here.

The return trip can’t be far away.
Let every heart prepare Him room.

He came

A Grand Nativity

What do you do when you’ve got eight kids
ages five and under
in your house on Christmas morning?

Dress them up in biblical costumes, of course.

And have them stand in front of the Christmas tree
while ten adults go to great lengths
to have all eight children look at ten cameras
and smile at the same time.

We had a proud Joseph and a lovely “Momma Mary”.

We had two beautiful angels and two handsome shepherds.

We had a precious little lamb.

And we had a sweet baby Jesus. Wearing Pampers.

It was a bit chaotic and unpredictable.

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Joseph and Momma Mary kept a close eye on the baby.

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The shepherds had to work hard to keep the lamb from crawling away.

Mary was so happy. (And a little surprised.)

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The angels rejoiced and played with the baby’s toes.

Baby Jesus cooperated with the whole enterprise.

I don’t imagine it was much different that night in Bethlehem.

Except for the Pampers.

On Mute

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“And now you will be silent and not able to speak…” Luke 1:20

Gabriel zapped Zechariah’s tongue and rendered him mute.

Me too, I thought.

I could use a silent Advent, a season of calm, an absence of words.

“…until the day this happens…”

Zechariah had to wait, wordless, until the birth of his son, John.

“Immediately his mouth was opened

and his tongue was loosed,

and he began to speak,

praising God.”

Luke 1:64

After months of making signs and writing notes,

something immediate happened.

Words of praise exploded out of his opened mouth.

A Holy Spirit song burst from his loosened tongue.

Me too, I thought.

Advent has come.

My wordless wait is over.

With the angels let us sing Alleluia to our King.

Glory be to God on high.

Go, tell it.

unmute

 

Shhh

November has been noisy.

kid

So many, many words flung here and there.

So many, many opinions, weighty statements, impassioned posts.

I felt myself drowning in the sea of words,

so I stopped using them for a while.

Why add to the noise?

Shhhhhh.

candle

It’s Advent.

Be still.

And know.

That I.

Am God.

Remember?

He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Don’t forget!

The government will be upon His shoulders.

Reminder:

Prepare Him room.

vacancy

Let’s scooch over a little bit, away from the focus on ourselves.

Let’s toss out some of the clutter in our minds and hearts.

Let’s turn the volume down and lift our eyes up.

Make some room for Jesus.

He’s on His way.

He couldn’t come at a better time.

Star of Wonder

star of wonder

I couldn’t resist closing out the Advent series on stars with this song.

JJ Heller is one of my favorite artists, singing about one of my favorite topics, the Star of Wonder.

This week, this is my story, this is my song.

Starstruck – Day 16

stars in uni“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Philippians 2:14-16

I’m so grateful to Matthew for writing his account of the Wise Men following a star to the Christ Child.  I’m thankful that this story is re-told every year at Christmastime to remind us of their arduous journey, their exceedingly great joy and their profound worship.

Of course, this is not just a story.  The star was real, the Magi were real and the baby was real.

Today, we find ourselves somewhere between the first stars of Genesis 1 and the Bright Morning Star of Revelation 22.

For the time being, it’s our job to shine like stars in the universe.

How do we do that, exactly?

Stop complaining and arguing.

Hold out the Word of Life.

Shine.

Our little rays of light are exactly what this crooked and depraved generation needs.

Your spark may be just the thing to lead someone to the Savior.

Thanks for going on this star-studded journey with me through Advent.

Merry Christmas!

 

Starstruck – Day 15

sun moon

“God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night.

He also made the stars.” Genesis 1:16

 The stars were not made to govern.

The stars were not great lights, or even lesser lights.

Were the stars after-thoughts of the Creator?

Did they get thrown in as a bonus by the Designer?

In an outburst of Holy laughter, did the stars come tumbling forth?

Did these insignificant twinkling pinpoints have a purpose?

The Bible says the starry hosts were made

“by the breath of His mouth.” Psalm 33:6

Far from being insignificant,

“He determines the number of stars

and calls them each by name.” Psalm 147:4

Job 38:7 tells us that while the foundations for the world were being laid

“the morning stars sang together.”

Perhaps God needed a soundtrack for the Creation event.

It seems the Father has a soft spot in His heart for heavenly night lights.

Stars are sprinkled throughout the Holy Scriptures.

So, how fitting for God to point us to His newborn Son with a star –

a celestial singer,

energized by the exhale of the Father,

and known by name.

When we feel small and unimportant,

wondering if our little bits of light blinking out into a dark world

make any difference at all,

we must remember that we have our Creator’s breath of life within,

that He knows each one of our names,

and that we have been made to sing His praise.

Oh My Stars-Day 14

gold star2“Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts…” Matt 2:11

The Wise Men came to worship.  It’s as if God said, “My Son will be worshiped. If Israel won’t respond to the birth of their Deliverer, then I will drag a bunch of people from Persia to acknowledge Him.”

God has a way of getting things done.

If we don’t cooperate, He will find someone who will.

The Magi traveled hundreds of miles over several months.  You’d think the trip alone would have been offering enough.  But they didn’t come empty handed. They came prepared to give magnificent gifts.

Toward the end of our church service, the ushers come forward with gold offering plates. They make their way down the aisle, passing the plates through the rows of people. For many, that’s the cue that our worship service is about over. There is some chit-chat as people whisper about dinner plans or what time the game starts.  We forget that opening our treasures (our checkbooks) and presenting Him with gifts is a high form of worship.  The offering is not something tagged on at the end of a service in order to pay the light bill. Instead, it is an opportunity to express our love for, dependence on, and trust in our God.

The Magi didn’t sing praise songs or hymns.

They didn’t share joys or concerns.

The Wise Men bowed down,

opened their treasures,

and presented gifts.

The star may have directed them to the Christ Child,

but once they found Him, the Wise Men knew exactly what to do.

God is still looking for worshipers.

“…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  John 4:23