Jesus was brave. We don’t often use this word for Him, certainly not during Christmas, but He was brave. He was scared, of course He was, but that didn’t stop Him. He was sick with fear at the Garden, He was in agony at the cross, sometimes I wonder if as a crying baby in a manger He was crying for the future and what was coming to pass. Don’t say that a baby couldn’t know those things, that weight was His reason for being here on earth- He was born to die. He knew what was coming yet He spoke anyway, He knew what it would cause yet He healed and prayed for people and loved the rejected, and prepared for what was coming. From the Manger to the cross Jesus was brave. I can only hope that in this dying world that wants to kill off anything that is still alive, that I will be brave too. Just like Jesus.
Fly free souls and know that He is coming again, this world is not ours, this death is not ours, this pain is not ours, because of a baby born under a star in a barn in a small town called Bethlehem. That baby was called Emmanuel, and He is still with us today.
Follow that star that burns so bright, flee from it dark night, onward my feet and chase after it, there is something about it that I need but don’t have yet. Faster and faster, don’t slow down now, what’s that up ahead? It seems like a crowd. Braying sheep press close to the walls for warmth, a glow comes from inside, almost invisible because of the star’s great light. Feet you may sting and knees you may tremble but don’t turn back now, press through the wooly crowd, see you are not the only one who trembles – they all are at the presence here. So much power from someone so little and dear. He coughs in the cold and His Mother wipes His soft cheek, He is who the star drew me to, its Him whom I seek. Sleepy eyes turn and look my way, I back up, I am afraid. I am so dirty, so lowly so raw, I fall to my knees in the damp straw. A soft nuzzle tickles my toe, a little lamb has joined me as he escapes the cold. Fearless it lies against my knee. Now I get it, now I see. He is so perfect as He lies there unmarked, someday for sins He will be scarred. I can sit here dirty and blemished and broken, in the presence of one so pure, only because He will be broken for me and then my soul will be clean once more. Only because of His perfection do I stand a chance, only because of the love in His feet and Hands. I can walk away, soft lamb in my arms, because the lamb in the manger will shatter the dark. I will always seek Him, star or no star, because He is someone I need, He is hope, He is God.
They say we are all hiding or running from darkness. Darkness within us, darkness around us, just the dark in general. They say that is why when winter comes we tend to light candles and plug in our Christmas trees- to drive away some of the darkness. Maybe that is true, maybe not, but the permeating darkness is very real. I like summer. Long days of sunshine, lighting when it rains, full brilliant stars (though are stars these past few winter nights have been pretty amazing), in honesty the Christmas tree lights are about the only thing that keeps me happy in the midst of the darkness of winter. Though I do enjoy the brisk nights when the stars are shining and I’m out with my horse and we are the only living things awake in our yard, that’s a pretty spectacular feeling. The difference is that summer darkness is shorter and it’s warm, where winter darkness is long and cold so it’s not as enjoyable. Sort of like the darkness in our souls. A long- cold darkness. A darkness there since birth. The darkness of being without a savior. They say light brings joy, isn’t it fitting then that our Lord would come to earth in a quiet manger under a brilliant -bright star? And that when the Angels appeared there was a bright light, some Bible translations say it was blinding. When the one who would drive out darkness and give us joy and hope came to earth He was the cause of so much light that the light is still remembered so many years later. We who are striving to flee from darkness already have the hope of a brilliant and blinding light- One that is warm and loving and full of hope- I call Him Jesus, some call Him Emmanuel, others call Him Yeshua, or Rabbi, or Abba, Friend, Teacher. No matter what name He is going by He will always be our Savior and He is here to bring light to our darkness.
I am just one of the legion.
Legion -if I recall correctly- is an army of more than 1000. The Bible speaks of legions upon legions of angels in Heaven, waiting to come down from Heaven and battle for us. We have people around us empowered by the Holy Spirit who are here to fight on our behalf also, somedays we are the soldier fighting on behalf of others, somedays we we are fought for- we are all part of God’s army.
Dark skies loom, daylight doesn’t exist as the shaking of armor is deafening your forces. You look around and see others who look like you, frightened, a dull glow flowing around them. Then you focus on the blinding white lights of the angels around you. No dull glow of a soldier of Christ being held back by human weakness but the powerful light of the fully acknowledged Christ warriors. You look at yourself and feel the power of God’s glow in you growing and connecting to the glow of those around you until you are one body of light. Your weak human glow empowered by the Holy Spirit, its not by our power, but by the power of God through the Spirit. If we could see the battle around us and the forces that fight with us and against us, I wonder if it would look like this.
We are just one small light in a legion of soldiers- angels and people standing together serving God. I hesitate to speak on angels because they have developed an odd reputation, even to the place where people worship and pray to them, which we are not supposed to do, only God is to be worshiped, the angels themselves said that. That being said we must not forget them. They are God’s special soldiers who are empowered by God to do amazing things. We are part of an army that is made up of God’s Heavenly army and His earthly one. I once heard two powerful preachers being called generals of God’s army, I like that. We are soldiers fighting for one cause, we are part of the legion. Angels came to the shepherds and the light grew, this was the two fellow sectors of the army of God coming together. The glorious angels and the lowly shepherds. Both serving God’s army in similar ways but by different methods. The angels came to the shepherds and the light grew. We are just part of the legion, when we look around afraid we need to open our eyes to the army that surrounds us, fighting for the same cause. We are not alone. Pick up your weapon and fight for your family, your friends, your neighbors and yourself! You do not battle alone, your light is attached to the light next to you and to the one next to you is attached to the one next them until it is a blinding light of Christ, because we are one body in Christ, standing together- bold.
The first candle of Advent
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2-7 NIV
These are the words that begin Christmas for so many of us. However we rarely read the whole verse. We do the ‘unto us part’ and leave out the rest. God saw the sin and death and destruction and pain and bloodshed and said to Himself, ‘I have to send somebody,’ God knew He had to send His son because He was the only one who could right the wrongs caused by the devil through people, He knew that only Jesus could save us, and He knew the pain they would both feel for the sake of our souls. He knew all this and loved us enough to create us anyway, He knew all this and yet loved us enough to send His most beloved treasure to save us. The prophet speaks of more than a baby and a king, he speaks of God ending the darkness and sending His light, and he also is speaking of a Father’s love for His broken and lost children.
One Christmas tradition that often gets over wrapped in tinsel and stage perfection is the tradition of having a Christmas pagent.
I used to love the pagents. Every year but one I was a sheep, and everyone knows that the sheep has the best role. We get to go all over the stage and crawl on our knees and bahh every so often. No elaborate speaches or moments of forgetting lines. Just being there, part of the show.
Perhaps that is the problem with Christmas these days. We get so caught up in what we should do we forget to just be part of the story. We feel we need to put on a great spector of glitz and glory more suited to the glittery gifts of the Wisemen but we forget to be the lowly sheep, on our knees before the King. No words to say. No spotlight. Just there. Part of God’s story.
What is one big thing that marks the Christmas season? Christmas music!
Songs that most people only listen to one season a year. Why is singing and music so important to us? Not why the scientists say it is, but why do you say it is? I can’t help but wonder if it’s all the angel’s fault that we break out in song on the street while walking in the afternoon, or that we hum while doing the dishes. When Jesus was born the angels didn’t beat box, or recite a pledge, or do the hokey pokey- as far as we know. What the angels did do was sing. Angels we have heard on high ring any bells? Lot’s of the old hymns and some of the new ones are based on specific scripture verses. Which is why dancing to ‘oh come let us adore Him’ or ‘away in a manger’ makes me uncomfortable. They aren’t just songs to sing, if that is all they are worth you might as well just listen to ‘boogy woogy Santa’ and get it over with. No. The carols were written from a connection to the Biblical and spiritual birth of Jesus Christ. The angels sang because? Who knows? Because they were filled with profound awe at their king’s sacrifice? Because He was a baby and they knew He would love the music? Perhaps because they knew that every great story starts with great intro music? I think they sang for the same reason most of us do, because they didn’t know what to say, how to phrase their emotions, and when you don’t know what to say, you sing. Right? They sang to praise their king, our king. Why do we sing at Christmas? Is it for Jesus? I’m not saying not to spin in the snow and belt out ‘winter wonderland’ absolutely do that! I do that often. But when you sing a carol, a song based on scripture, what does it mean to you?
Molded by His hands
Ginger bread houses. One Christmas tradition that we love is making gingerbread houses. Crafted by hands that desire ingestable art. If you ask the child with the house that has broken walls and missing gummy lights if their house disappoints them do you know what they will tell you, “it still tastes good.” Even with it’s missing parts and broken hearth the gingerbread house still has the quality of tasting good. And the artist loves that part of it, so the artist loves the whole of it. Just like how God loves us. We are His. That’s enough. He loves all of us, from our shattered dreams to our scarred pasts, He still loves us. Why? Because we are His. And He knows that we still have the chance to become what He wants us to be, and He hasn’t given up on us. Just like our gingerbread house, falling apart on one side, we still can serve our initial purpose. We can still, “taste good” no matter what we look like, it’s what’s inside that counts.
Let’s build a snowman!
Since the beginning of time people have loved to create. Not just useful things to our survival but wonderful things that grab our attention and hold us in awe. We even create fleeting things, like snowmen. Why do we build something that is just going to fade with the sun? Why does the ball shaped man bring us so much joy when he smiles? Good questing. Perhaps it’s because all throughout every other season God is constantly creating. He makes flowers and babies, He causes the leaves to change color and the grass to grow, and grow and grow and grow, if you live where I do. When winter comes, however, everything goes dormant. It’s almost like God is letting His creative arts take a break. Outside of the beauty of sunrises and sets, and the horror frost, nothing new really happens. We are so used to creating that the pause makes us sad and restless, so what do we do? We create while waiting. Now we see snowmen and forts and garland on trees. Why not? We aren’t as amazing as the Creator but we love doing it, and it gives us a small look into what God does every day. We feel the snow crunch together under our fingers and soon there is a snowball fight. We find the perfect carrot in our fridge and we begin the human construction of a snowperson. Without God having created the snow we wouldn’t have anything to work with. But because He has we suddenly have a new world that we can play in.
Where faith may fail
Do you ever feel as though your faith has failed?
Ya, me too.
You build yourself up with courageous words and scripture verses to make your heart feel okay, but deep down you still feel faithless. A nagging voice says, ‘you know God doesn’t operate like that anymore! You know that those kinds of miracles ended before the 20th century began. So why pray for it? Why run after something that you will never catch? You’ll just end up looking silly for trying so hard. Give up. Faith has no ground.’
Wow. Say ‘hello Devil, when did you get here?’ because that’s the voice I hear when I hear such words. It is clearly the Devil saying such things; eating away at your Faith like a monster devouring flesh, but that doesn’t stop us from believing such wicked and common lies. We hit a wall where our Faith feels powerless and we just can’t fight through. I realized something the other day. Why do we fight with our Faith? Faith isn’t a weapon. It’s a shield. The Holy Spirit is the weapon! Our Faith feels battered because we are using it to beat down our enemy. We drop our sword, take our shield in both hands and smack our enemy with it with all our strength! And we get knocked back on our belt of hard truth. The truth is that with our own strength we can’t do anything. But if we attack our enemy with the sword of the Spirit the enemy will fall! Because we are using God’s strength to win! Our Faith gets battered because we wield it as a weapon. Which it isn’t. But as a shield, as our defense, our Faith is unmatched in power because our Faith is in the unmatched, powerful God. Whose name is Jesus.
So then, put on the full armor of God-Ephesians 6:10