Tag Archives: advent

2; two, his advent, his coming

3 Dec

2 Corinthians 9:15 ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’

Paul is always attempting to describe his experiences with the Lord. From his fall on the road to Damascus to his immediate blindness; from his journeys to Jerusalem, Corinth, Colossi etc.; to his stay in Arabia restudying the scriptures. In all his letters, his writings and his speeches, Paul seeks to describe the indescribable: the gift of the gospel – Jesus’ coming as both the the proclaimer and the proclamation, the gospel made flesh itself.

People respond to this indescribable gospel in many different ways. For example, some, when approached by the idea of a miraculous birth, are stuck mute ( Zechariah in Luke 1 ) while others sing as the Angels of Bethlehem’s fields. Some see those being released from demon possession as a miracle, while others see the work to the evil one himself. ( Matthew 12: 22-28 )

The good news of the gospel evokes then many diverse reactions, from fisherman immediately leaving their nets to angels stopping down from the heavens to reflect continually ( 1 Peter 1: 12 Weymouth New Testament )

But, what about the messenger? the proclaimer? As Jesus handles the precious gift of the gospel, his words and his actions; his heart and mind; and even His physical body, reveal essential attributes of the gospel, the gift . As Jesus answers John the Baptist’s disciples when they ask, Are you the one?

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:

This is how Jesus reveals, proclaims the gospel: by His actions and His words. He is both messenger and the message at the same moment.

And Luke tells us how Jesus views both His mission and the good news of the gospel, ( 4 )

40 ‘ At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41 Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak,because they knew he was the Messiah.

42 At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. 43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44 And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.’

On this, His first journey after being tempted by the evil one in the desert and then rejected and driven out of his hometown, Jesus moves on. And His moving, His unstoppable coming journeys reveal the gospel: God so loved the world He must proclaim the Kingdom of love and mercy to all.

In Capernaum and surrounding towns Jesus heals at sunset; and He prays at the sunrise in a solitary space. He is at His Father’s, and their collective works: loving us.

We both are the receivers of the indescribable gift of the Gospel and the transformed of the gift. That is whom the angels stoop to see: us, living out the good news. And Capernaum’s people show us power of indescribable gift. They never want to see their gift leave.

Now, instead of threatening and driving Jesus away, the peoples come to Him and try to restrain Jesus from leaving them. And how does Jesus respond to outpouring, this overflow of love? He leaves. Why? He tells them,

“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

Jesus must leave this love feast because his mission is to proclaim. He must go. I am sure that his leaving was one of his daybreak prayer concerns. It is hard, so hard to leave those who love you, especially after trials and rejections. But leave Jesus must.

His proclaiming the good news of His, of our Kingdom, is why He was sent. The indescribable gift of the gospel is both the proclaimer and the message. And both have to be sent out. And to us. So,

44 “And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.”

Jesus’ words are still read and taught; still mediated on and spoken aloud.

So is his life. Why?

Because ‘ he kept on ‘. He kept on giving, giving, living, the Gospel. Even to the cross where he died for it, for us.

My prayer: daily my Lord, help me to see more, to stoop down deeper, into understanding the indescribable…

Our life with Him; the Gospel.

Matthew 11: 15 ‘He who has ears, yet him hear.’

advent 2021, his coming, week 2 – Jesus’ proclaims

29 Nov
Jesus’ sharing from Isaiah

Recently, I was in a church and a lyric from one of the worship songs was, “I speak Jesus; over every heart and mind”

The story of Advent is the the story of how Jesus’ name was given, spoken in essence, proclaimed, proclaimed to all.

In my two Advent reflections last week, we looked at the nature of Messiah by examining Old Testament peoples’ expectations of the promised Messiah/Saviour ( a king leader; mighty warrior of justice ). Yet, the Old Testament also hints at another attribute of the Messiah, that of a marred, suffering servant.

Our Jesus comes to proclaim that these two views are not in opposition to each other but, that in an essential truth, they describe in unity the Messiah with us: a servant warrior. Jesus.

And how is our Messiah to both serve and fight for righteousness, for justice, for us? Jesus teaches with parables and probing questions; Jesus eats and sit with sinners; Jesus heals and comforts, challenges and accepts questioning. But Jesus primary purpose as he seeks the lost is proclaim the good news, the gospel.

By Old Testament proclamation and prophecy, Jesus comes as Messiah; by proclaming Jesus speaks, claims the truth. And when he is in public teaching, Jesus calls to and claims his people, his sheep, his kingdom. When Jesus proclaims, He is fulfilling

Isaiah’s prophesy of the coming Messiah is as one who proclaims,

61 ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…’

As in a worship song’s chorus that repeats as in a prayer a key verses over and over again, ( I speak (( proclaim )) Jesus ), Isaiah repeats the key verbal action of the Messiah: to proclaim.

Webster’s dictionary defines proclamation as, – ‘to declare publicly, typically insistently, proudly, or defiantly and in either speech or writing’

A proclaimer then speaks a message strongly, as a leader warrior. Proclaiming is a specific speech genre. Not an indirect message as in a parable, but a direct message of import. Speaking forcefully, a proclaimer reveals the truth to all. And Jesus comes to proclaim good news, favour, love. He comes to proclaim the radical gospel of love of God, love for neighbours, and love of the lost.

Jesus comes as the Word, the proclaimed word so that His love can became the life, the flesh of all.

My prayer: help us, help me, to listen my Jesus. Listen.

Advent Wonder 2021, reflection 2, ‘his coming’ – the suffering warrior

26 Nov
Magi

Jesus’ coming was a living and troubling paradox for the people of his time. Was he to be a great warrior king who comes to lead? Or was the Messiah to be a servant who teaches, heals and loves as he serves?

Peoples of the Mid East, those belonging to the Magi’s Asian country, the Greeks, the Romans, all believed in warrior Messiahs, all powerful Gods. In principle, their common belief was that an all powerful King/priest would appear and lead all to a safe place, a kingdom, of righteousness and peace.

The Magi are exemplars of such a belief. ( Matthew 2 )A group of scholars who studied skies and ancient scrolls as their family and community directed for centuries, believed that a great warrior king from the heavens would come to earth to be worshipped as the chosen to make all wrongs right.

The Old Testament describes such a warrior king in paradox, as both a warrior and a suffering servant: ( Isaiah 42:13 “The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.”

But Isaiah also depicts a suffering servant as Messiah – ( “he was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” Isaiah 53: 12 ).

How can a Saviour Messiah be both warrior and a servant? Jesus shows us how at the beginning of his ministry in his hometown Nazareth’s synagogue, ( from Luke 4 )

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovering of sight to the blind to set at liberty those who are oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth….

Jesus boldly picks up Isaiah’s scroll and reads the prophetic description of a Messiah who will come to heal, to make wrongs right, and to proclaim the year of Jubilee, of favour.

Here,as a warrior teacher, Jesus then follows his reading by sitting and breathing these words, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Speaking his words with Isaiah’s can only be heard, seen as Jesus laying claim to being the Messiah. But what type of Messiah? The text describing the people’s reactions reveals the, this Saviour’s nature:

At first the people of his hometown are excited and in awe at his words. But when his words challenge their past understanding of the warrior Messiah, their hearts and minds reverse from awe to anger,

….all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Such a Saviour, such a Messiah, wars against brokenness by speaking with truth- the whole complete truth: the saviour will suffer and heal; the saviour will be a lamb before the slaughter and a zealous might warrior; our saviour will come as the word made flesh: the way, the truth, the light …

And he does it by risking rejection and brokenness himself. He does it to be experiencing death and resurrection.

He comes to complete and solve our greatest paradox: by dying in belief, I live. From everlasting to everlasting, I will live with Him.

my prayer: come this 2021 Advent to us, to me, again my Jesus; deepen my understanding of how your love answers all paradoxes.

Come my Jesus, come.

1 Advent Wonder, his coming, from Isaiah 61

24 Nov

The Book of Isaiah has different ‘voices’ for the people of Israel at deep points of their journey, from their exile to their return; from judgements to healings. Yet all these voices have one central theme: a Messiah is coming. And He is coming in power. Thus Isaiah’s book is a song of power; it is a book of promise.

What is promise? It is the coming Messiah’s promise: all will have an everlasting relationship from, with, an all powerful saviour.

These are words of joy,the song of joy and it is a healing voice of joy.

Wikipedia also speaks of the power of Isaiah words as the ‘5th gospel’ and how this book influenced culture ‘from the libretto of Handel’s Messiah to a host of such everyday phrases as “swords into ploughshares” and “voice in the wilderness“.’ Yet, for the people of the 8th century BCE, they heard one voice: a voice describing the coming, the advent of a saviour, the Messiah, as here,

Isaiah 61

“ The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor….”

In exile the people were in silence and loneliness. They are, were, separated from their lands and homes. Their capital’s, centre city Jerusalem’s walls were destroyed. A city without walls is a as child alone, without a mother, a parent. And yet, here, they have returned and Isaiah both acknowledges their despairs (‘ darkness; ashes ‘ ) and, speaking in the voice of the Messiah, promises healings: a ‘ crown of beauty ‘ & ‘ year of favour ‘.

It is telling. Why?

Isaiah writes of the coming blessings before he acknowledges the hurts. Comforts and joys promise comes in his text before the mourning of the past. On their return they daily see their devastated homes and temple. ( verses 2 & 3 ). Yet while these aches and absences of the past are quite present, the Messiah focuses on future healings, promises and love,

“…And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,

    and everlasting joy will be yours.

8 “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.”

Their Lord loves them and justice. He will be theirs as one essential word repeated twice in these closing promises: ‘everlasting’ – everlasting joy and covenant.

They, we, will never be separated from Him. He will be theirs, and ours, from everlasting to ever everlasting- together, we hear His voice.

This is Advent: This everlasting is coming.

Rejoice.

“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.’

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

‘quick, angelic voices, advent wonders 2020 – a prologue

28 Nov
Rembrandt

Advent has always been a time of ‘quickness’”,’ a quick season. People, presents, preparations. All has to be done quickly. Even more so for this 2020.

For 2020 ‘haste’ is what is greatly desired: a quick end to lockdowns; a smooth transition in political manners, leadership; fast ‘black friday’ deal shoppings; and, especially, a quick vaccine to end the Coronavirus, A quick passing to this year of virus, for Black Lives Matter deaths, to immigration global injustices, this economic recession, and our own isolations from others. And especially from ourselves.

Advent 2020 is a time to see and be seen; to hear and be heard; and a time sing with angels. To sing angelically.

How will I sing this Advent Season?

By reading, meditating, and conversing with God’s word and other others around me. And especially myself.

And I am to do it quickly. So, Three ‘quick’ Bible passages for us today,

• Luke 15:22 NIV – the Prodigal’s father first word his returning son hears from his father’s is ‘quick.’

Genesis 18: 6 NIV

• Father Abraham, to his soon to be in-with -child wife Sarah, he speaks-‘quick’ for her to prepare a meal for 3 heaven sent visitors. And, David-

• Psalm 38: 22 ‘Haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation’ YLT or another translation

‘Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.’ NIV

What is striking in common in these three passages is the desire to serve, to hear, and to then act ‘quickly’ in the Lord’s presence, or his seemingly absence. David, Abraham and our Prodigal Father are all quick and respond to God with spirit led haste. How?

The Prodigal Father stops his son’s apology in mid-sentence. Speaking to his servants who followed him to the son’s return, he commands, ‘Quick!’ He desires a ring, a robe and a fatted calf meal for the lost. His word is an act. This father runs, embraces, loves and forgives ‘quickly.’ He wants his servants to have loving and quick hands.

Abraham, though, does not have his servants feed, water or prepare a meal for his heavenly sent visitors. His and Sarah’s hands act. He gives cool water in the heat of the day; Sarah bakes a fine meal. And they do so from the love of God that has been quickened in their hearts.

In the same spirit, David sings his prayer of his heart’s desire and need to feel his Lord God. Here, David’s voice is as quick as hands touching his musical instrument. Haste ( present tense )

Sound, as hands, reach out to his Lord asking, pleading for a quick God.

My prayer: as we begin Advent 2020, Lord let me, let us, pray with hands and heart. May our voice be as an Angel’s to you and others. Please, come.

Come quickly our generous Lord. Come.

Amen.

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.