Tag Archives: advent wonders

advent wonders 8, Boxing Day 2020, muted voices

26 Dec

Tim Keller, ‘wonder is involuntary praise, joy…wonder, even for 15 minutes each day, to develop praise’ Isaiah 9:1 – 7 ( 12/23/07 )

As we, I, finish ‘advent wonders 2020’, I cannot help but see how this season has been a silent season, a time of voices being muted.
Mute comes from the Greek, myein “to be shut.”
Some writers see muted speech as the powerful expressions of total emotions. Emily Dickinson wrote the “best grief is tongueless,” and Thomas Wolfe defined mute as “choking exasperation and wordless shame.”

As I write this day, the news reports are laced with stories of the pandemic virus Covid-19 mutating in London, South Africa and France. Mutation occurs when one life form is ‘shut down/off’ and another begins. In this time of seemingly endless lockdowns, fractured economies and where breathes are taken and deaths given, living hopes wane.


And yet, … Jesus’ birth story is one of voices, songs, angelic words of eternal hope: a prophecy, the Messianic prophecy fulfilled.


For over 400 years before Jesus’ birth the voice of the prophets in Israel were muted, silent. The people longed to hear God’s words, his voice. But there was nothing.
Silences. Silence.


And then … and then, angels speak: they speak to the elder priest Zechariah; to the virginal teen Mary; they speak to Joseph and Magi in dreams; they speak, sing, to shepherds in fields. And the spirit speaks also, to Anna the Prophetess and to the waiting elderly Simeon in the temple.


There is an after story, a Boxing Day story, to Advent: we are all to speak, sing, shout, as shepherds who function as angelic messengers, for,

when the angels had left them and gone into heaven, shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

In, for all advents, we are to speak to one another; go to our Bethlehems; see him deeply and worship. We are to sing Jesus’ name, as Joseph did that first advent.

And as we return to our everyday after this Christmas, let us glorify and praise God for,

‘For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given, Isaiah 9:6

Jesus, our Messiah is given. And so, shepherds, angels, peoples sing.


I sing- Jesus. I sing Jesus. Jesus.

advent wonders 6, songs for angels as they, we, journey

21 Dec


My wife, Priscilla, sang Mary’s song in our church when she told me, and loved others, she was pregnant with our first child. A Lupus survivor in her thirties, no one, not even herself, could believe we were having a child. Moved, with her angelic voice and a 12 string guitar she sang Mary’s song,
My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things(for me— Luke 1: 47 – 49

Angels visit, speak, call, exclaim In the Old and New Testaments. Their words are never actually called ‘song.’

But their appearances always are poetic. And Poetic songs, words result. Appearances that from angels inspire song. From Hagar’s response to her Angel visit, ‘the God who sees sees me.’; ( Genesis 16:13 ) to Mary’s song, and to how she sang ( I believe ) with Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem, …. In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…. And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.’ ( Luke 2 )


What did Mary and Joseph say to each, how did they speak, sing to each other and to their baby?
I think they spoke and sang Psalms: David’s songs and words; his prophecies and prayers.
And then, warmed by the hot breathes of the manger animals, ….
I think they sang these words from Psalm 2,
‘ I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, ‘You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.’
8Ask of me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.’

This is the first of David’s Messiah songs. Mary and Joseph would have heard, sang it in synagogues. They would had been thinking of David as they entered Bethlehem, his hometown.
And then, in the midst of their son’s birth night, angels appear to them, through the shepherds who enter into the borrowed manger. The shepherds would proclaim the angelic words which surely echoed as they quickly ran through the night to this animal manger. What were these words?

First, from a solitary Angel,

‘I bring you good news at will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

…and then from a great Angel company,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2: 10 – 14

El Roi, the God who sees and hears. He sees all. He sees Hagar and Mary; he sees Priscilla and Charles. He has his angels visit shepherds. He is a God who loves to sing, as the prophet tells us,


The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.’ Zephaniah 3: 17

Mary, angels, shepherds sing because the God of the universe first sang over us.We can sing, because He sings.
This Advent, sing.

“Joseph, listens, speaks, sings” – advent wonders, 5

17 Dec

Joseph’s song, his one word song,

St Joseph with the Christ Child in His Arms– by Guido Ren

‘This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.’

‘“But after he had considered this, 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:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’ Matthew 1

It is, and has always been, easily noted that Joseph never speaks verbally in the Gospels. Yet, he does. Here, he does not just speak, he sings.

How?

Joseph’s song is in his thoughts and heart as he listens to Mary’s narrative on how she came with this child; his lyrics are his plan to put Mary away, quietly, without shame; his music is in his dream when the Angel tells him to take Mary as his wife. And his builders’ hands forms, creates, a heavenly and an earthly family.

But this is not the family song he believed Mary and he would together sing. It ,though, is the hymn their Lord his heaven them, and handed to Joseph.

The hymn is the name, the person, of Jesus.

Jesus’ character is formed by the Lord’s placing of this, his son, in Mary’s and Joseph’s hands. We see his earthly character forming in his choices. Jesus chooses disciples and friends like Joseph, like his mother Mary, his family- working men and women. Fishermen and builders; caring women and mothers who design households. I can imagine their songs as they work. But …

What then is Joseph’s song? We know Mary’s song, but what of Joseph’s?

His song is love. A love freely given, first to Mary. But then taken from him as her hears of Mary’s pregnancy. Yet, this love is restored to him, through him, and not just for him. It is also for us. He first hears it from the angel in a dream. Then he acts, Joseph moves, he sings.

Joseph’s singing is in his actions, his considering, his taking, and his giving. Joseph’s song is one word. It is the first only word we know for sure he speaks. It is Jesus. Joseph’s song is Jesus. The angel gives Joseph task, the naming of Jesus. Mary listens as Joseph names, sings. This is how she knows Joseph believes, accepts her pregnancy story. This is how she knows her Joseph still loves her.

Joseph gives, calls, speaks and sings this child Jesus. He names, he sings, love. Joseph sings,

‘Jesus’

My prayer, Lord, this Advent, please help me sing as Joseph, help me to act, sing, love,

‘Jesus.’

angelic words, angelic songs — Zechariah’s silence; Zechariah’s song – advent wonders – 2 of 8

4 Dec
angelic words


Who, what are angels? I may as well ask, who, or what am I? A husband and father. A teacher and a principal? Or a grandfather? A Writer?
Have what I have done, or may do in the future, define who I am? No. I think not.
I believe I am formed, defined, by what I truly, fully hear. Words, sights, sounds I open to, absorb shape, have shaped my life. Bruised fruit shapes other fruit it comes in contact with. Abuse can bred more hurt. Love seeds greater loves. Life sends me words, feelings, hurts and desires…. messages.

Angels are life’s messengers. Wikipedia tells us that the name, the itself word comes from the medieval Latin masculine name Angelus, which is derived from the Greek word ἄγγελος (angelos) meaning “messenger”. Their name defines them, as an agent, a speaker for God. And how we, others hear them, define us. Defines me. Zechariah is the first person to hear a biblical angel in over 400 years. How he hears, speaks of how we hear today, this advent. 
Luke’s gospel narrative begins with the angel, Gabriel, coming, coming, to speak, 

“ Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of appeared … When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid,Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.

He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the their appointed time.” Luke 1

A priest who cannot speak? Who cannot sing or pray? Who can not read the scriptures? Who can only now hear his own inner voice asking over and over, “How can I be sure?” 

How can I know? 

Gabriel tells him: on the day this happens; at this appointed time; you will see, feel the truth of my words. Then believe.

And then John is born. And then Zechariah hears. And this silent priest now sings. Sings this song of praise, this prayer for us, to Luke, to Jesus, 

“He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.”

Zechariah’ angelic song

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness…”

From silence to song, from unbelief to faith, a priest sings as angel. He hears and sings at the right moment, the appointed time. Zechariah sings.

And as we hear, so will we sing angelic songs.

This advent sing of Him, His wonders, sing His life song.

Sing as an angel. Sing.

advent wonders, angelic voices, the smallest, the first song

30 Nov
Bethlehem’s hills

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,…
from ancient times.

“He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5 And he shall be their peace. “ Micah 5: 2 -4

I have walked the hills and fields surrounding Bethlehem and in the town itself. The people there are Palestinians thru and through.  All places, for me, are composed of their peoples. Here, the fields have its shepherds, flocks and farmers; the town its small businesses and restaurants. Merchants and tourists walk together here. Bethlehem is a place one should pass by and not stop at. But I didn’t. 
Bethlehem’s peoples love to speak. A friend shared with me that they were people of ‘tent’; and people who love to gossip, ‘ who speak as the winds, always moving, blowing.’ 
Bethlehem, before Jesus, spoke in the softest, the gentlest of voices. Micah, a prophet ( grouped with others called by academics, the ‘lesser prophets’ ) speaks God’s, words, calld to us. Less calls to, speaks of less. And I am of the least. I walk.
In my thoughts, my memories, my life, I am small, really somewhat insignificant. Forgotten, rejected, betrayed by others and myself, I – in truth – grow smaller with time and peoples. Yet, in Bethlehem-
I am as a sheep on a hill, in a pasture. Precious to my shepherd as I stand, as I walk.
Advent is a time of unspoken expectations; silenced worries and concerns. For me these moments, these Advent times, have always been laced with sadness. Visually, trees have let go of their leaves; dark nights come as days let light fade. And in 2020 people await a vaccine, a small liquid to cure an invisible and even smaller virus. We wait for a saving, a cure: a return of, to peace.
Israel, Bethlehem also waited. And Jesus came. 
He came as a baby, the softest and smallest of things that can be held. He came into a broken marriage that needed resurrection. He came to the smallest of towns, Bethlehem, from the most broken of worlds. Why?

He came to give a physical form to prophet’s words; Jesus came to listen those silenced and to those self-silenced; he came to speak for the sinner and the meek. And he, Jesus, still comes. And Micah’s soft angelic prophetic voice sings


‘Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.’

Jesus comes with Micah’s whisper,

He faithfully trends, covers all sin, hurts. He hurls diseases away.


Walk with him, me, others this Advent.
Advent comes. Jesus has been, is and will always be faithful to his promise embedded in Bethlehem of his birth: my sins and sadness; my rejections and betrays. Silences and my own sins and self-silencing is gone.
Trampled underfoot, hurled away, my sins no longer shout unto me.

In Advent comes the softest of sounds, the silence of peace, ‘forgiveness.’
Advent wonders: songs, mercy, forgiveness.

this is the first of 8 meditations of Advent wonders, our next one will be published 7 December

advent wonders 2020

10 Nov
an image of the priest, Zaharias

beginning Sunday 15 November my yearly series on Advent will be published here with a prologue.

‘angelic voices’ is the theme of 2020 advent wonders, and, in draft form, their 8 publishing dates are:

Friday, 4 December ‘a soft voice’

Monday, 7 December ‘a clear voice’

Friday 11 December ‘Mary’s voice’

Monday 14 December ‘ancestors’ voices

Friday 18 December ‘manger’s sounds’

Monday 21 December ‘lament’s cry’

Thursday 24 December ‘love’s voice’

Saturday 26 December ‘silence’

Angels are mentioned in only one of the above titles by design. These pieces look, move and, hopefully, will touch very familiar texts in a different form. Angelic voices, as a trope, a metaphor, is embedded in unexpected places throughout the Advent scriptures. From prophets to priests; from Micah to Zaharias; to Mary and Joesph, we hear. We hear sorrows and joy; lies and promises; cries and silences. People here speak as angels speak. Answers, promises, warnings and directions are in these angelic voices. All speak.

And sometimes there are also silences.

Yet, what all these voices have in common is God and his love through, to and within his word. His voice is love, angelic love, and in this Advent we hear, experience, live his love

1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he gets loved us.

We love because his angels always speak to us. They aways speak. Always.