Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘..Christmas’ Category

This past week I’ve been pulling Christmas decorations out of those boxes… you know, the ones stored at the bottom of the closet (or up in the overhead storage racks in the garage). I’ve been unwrapping bubble wrap and tissue paper, opening tupperware, smaller boxes, and ziploc bags. Strands of untangled white lights now twinkle all over our tree, glittered keepsake ornaments gently reflect their light, and the scent of fresh evergreen fills the air with a pungent pleasantness. Ahhhh yes… it’s beginning to “look a lot like Christmas” here!

Relishing my day off, I spent much of yesterday afternoon cozied up on the couch just enjoying this Christmas aire. The fireplace gently flickering in the background, I let my body relax and my mind wander…

You see, lately there’s been a word – a concept – softly echoing in my mind and heart: “Emmanuel”. I’m sure you know it.. it’s mentioned in old hymns, Mathew’s gospel Nativity account, and even on select Christmas cards. Translated from Hebrew as “God with us”, it’s kind of become the theme of Christmas for me this year. God here as a man, with us: divinity blended with humanity. It’s surreal to think about…

The greatest king born in a simple barn. If you will, GOLD mixed with STRAW.

I sipped my coffee – swirled with cream & sprinkled with sugar – as I sort of stared at the olive wood nativity scene perched on the fireplace mantel. The figures were so neat and clean, smooth and polished. I thought about what the actual stable must of been like that famous night in Bethlehem. Was it cold, damp, breezy? Was the hay itchy, were there splinters? Was it smelly, crowded?

Jesus left the majesty of heaven to come and be with us… and yet the birth of Jesus feels – dare I say it – in a way… so ungodly. Doesn’t it?

Jesus could’ve been born in a royal palace, attendants assisting the birth, and wrapped in embroidered cloths. He could’ve slept soundly by a warm fire, and grown up surrounded by people with extensive education, influence, and comfort. But Jesus wasn’t born like a king. He was born in a stable.

Though his birth, life, death, and resurrection have been part of God’s plan through the ages, there SOMEHOW wasn’t room in a comfortable place for Jesus to be born that night… it seems weird, right? But God doesn’t make mistakes or lose track of details; he chose to come this way. And while there is much humility, and HUMANITY, in that stable… the ROYALTY also cannot be missed. Jesus was miraculously conceived by a virgin, his birth was announced by angels, predicted by prophets, and he was worshiped!

Royalty and simplicity. Divinity and humanity. GOLD and STRAW.

The bible says Jesus was fully God and fully man. In him, and only him, divinity and humanity impossibly blended together. I love how we can see that blend even in the account of his birth. God put skin on, was born in a stable, and lived among men… “God with us.”

“But after [Joseph] had considered [divorcing Mary], an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet [Isaiah]: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel‘ (which means ‘God with us’).” -Matthew 1:20-22, NIV, emphasis mine

Jesus was fully God. He had the authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7; Luke 7:48-9), he accepted worship reserved for God (Matt. 8:2, 14:33; John 9:38, Acts 10:25-6), spoke of existing before Abraham (John 8:57-8), raised from the dead (Mark 16:6), raised others from the dead (John 11), performed many miracles, ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11), and spoke of judging the world and assigning the eternal destiny of all people (Matt. 25:31-46). Yet, he was born in a stable into the arms of an ordinary couple (Luke 2:22-4) who lived in an unimportant town (John 1:45-6). What a God we serve!

Thank you Jesus for loving us, for loving me, so much that you willingly gave up the splendor of heaven for the squalor of a stable here with us.

Read Full Post »

I love carols… it’s like a candlelit Christmas Eve service is wrapped into the music… steeped in hope, bursting with joy, the words paint a picture… each hymn a different piece of the incredible Christmas story…

…We three kings of Orient are… bearing gifts we traverse afar…

…field and fountain, moor and mountain… following yonder star…

“…Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked [King Herod], ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1b-2)

…O Star of wonder, star of night… Star with royal beauty bright…

…Westward leading, still proceeding… Guide us to thy perfect light…

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” (Matthew 9-11a) The biblical account doesn’t specify how many magi there were, or much about who they were, but I love what their gifts foreshadow about Jesus

…Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain… Gold I bring to crown him again…

…King forever, ceasing never… over us all to reign…

They brought GOLD… gold was used to pay tribute to a king, to decorate the homes of kings, and to adorn King Solomon’s temple. The gospel of Matthew, where the story of the magi is found, begins by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from the royal line of King David. The magi came looking for a king, and when they found him they “bowed down and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). Oh, that we would do the same!

 …Frankinsense to offer have I, incense owns a deity neigh…

…prayer and praising, all men raising… worship Him, God most high…

They brought FRANKINCENSE… priests used this incense in ceremonial offerings (Exodus 30:34). Precious in the ancient world, frankincense was harvested by slicing the bark of certain trees and allowing the resin to bleed out and harden in the sun. According to Herodotus, these trees were often home to snakes, so obtaining the sap could be dangerous. He wrote that people would light a fire by the tree in order to drive away the snakes with smoke. Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), defeated Satan on the cross. Indeed, the curse of the serpent in the Garden of Eden was fulfilled in Jesus, “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

…Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume… breathes of life, of gathering gloom…

…sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying… sealed in the stone-cold tomb…

They brought MYRRH… this was used for embalming and perfumes since its strong fragrance masks odor. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used a mixture of myrrh and aloes to prepare Jesus’ body for burial in the tomb (John 19:39-40). Myrrh was also believed to have medicinal properties, possibly providing pain relief. When Jesus was nailed on the cross, he was offered wine mixed with myrrh but he refused it (Mark 15:23). Jesus was to be the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

…Glorious now, behold him arise… King, and God, and sacrifice…

…alleluia, alleluia… earth to heav’n replies…

 

A couple of years ago, the church I was a part of went through a “Carols” series… it was a way of preparing for Christmas, of using a few traditional carols as the backdrop to bring the biblical story to life. This blog post is almost entirely from of the sermon “Bearing Gifts We Traverse Afar” from Dec 12, 2010 at Willamette Christian Church in West Linn, OR (by John Furman, I believe). Sorry, it doesn’t look like the podcast is online anymore – just in my journal. : )

Merry Christmas friends!!

 

 

 

Lyrics to “We Three Kings” from http://www.lyricsforchristmas.com/christmas-carols/we-three-kings/

 

 

 

Read Full Post »