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Posts tagged ‘Christ’

Advent: The Divine Silence Broken

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639

Waiting is a part of life, often an unwanted, unavoidable reality. The silence that comes with waiting can be deafening. The silence so real, we hear it echoing in our minds when we pay it heed.
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The Heart of Advent

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The most basic definition of advent is a coming into being. In preparing for Christmas this year, I wonder how do we “…come into being…” this Advent? How do we rekindle our focus on the greatest advent the world has seen, that which culminated in the birth of the Son of God? Drawing near to God is crucial, but how do we draw near to God during this time of wonder? All the trappings of Christmas are tradition and no doubt a welcome enjoyment. But how do we see beyond the bustling with tinsel, lights, cookies and presents?

In the Christmas story, Mary experienced a “coming into being,” an advent of her own. “Do not be afraid,” the angel declared Christ’s coming birth to his young mother. An encounter of the simple with the divine and the whole world would be changed forever. What faith Mary had answering the angel, “Let it be as you say. I am a bond-servant of the LORD.” A bond-servant. Not just a servant, but one who sells themself into servitude. She had the freedom to choose. Yet, she chose to accept the circumstances laid before her. The public scorn would have been tremendous for a young pregnant Jewish bride. The cost so great, she likely would lose her husband in the process. Her life would be changed forever. None of that mattered. She took the angel’s words to heart, believing she needn’t fear and that she was “…most highly favored…” by God himself.

Mary offered herself to be a dwelling for the Christ child; in the womb, through infancy, toddlerhood, boyhood, and manhood. She even followed him to his death on the cross. She had to have known the prophecies about Israel’s Messiah King, perhaps even knowing that one day he would ultimately pay the greatest price for his people. Yet, she took on the role of the mother of the Christ child with wonder in her eyes. We’re told she pondered these things in her heart. Mary willingly became a dwelling for the King of Kings, despite any pain she might endure. In doing so, she was blessed to experience the closeness of a relationship with the divine.

At the crux of coming into being this Advent is a willingness to be a dwelling for God. Like Mary, to experience being with him, not doing for him. Come near to me and I’ll draw near to you, he tells us. Emmanuel – Christ with us. A revolutionary concept today, just as much as it was two thousand years ago. All the power of the divine rests in Christ. Christ’s birth should be celebrated, not because it gives us the opportunity for all kinds of Christmas revelry. It should be celebrated with joy and thanksgiving, because it turned the whole created world upside down with an offer of divine proportion. The God of the universe extended an open invitation for every man, woman and child to enter into a living and life-altering relationship with him.

The heart of Christmas isn’t merrymaking, it is life itself. And that life is in Christ. “I am the way, the truth and the life. I’ve come to give them life and life to the fullest,” he tells us. “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy burdened. Come to me and I shall give you rest.” The traditions of Christmas aren’t sufficient balm for the ache of living in a world fraught with great difficulty and pain. Who but God himself could meet us in our darkest moments, bringing us healing tenderness, strength and comfort? For the orphans hidden deep in third world squalor; for those facing down a terrifying sickness in a loved one; for those broken with guilt over what they’ve done; and for the loneliest of the lonely – there is one who can meet you where you are, one who desires to know you. As the angel declared, he was born “…for you…” on Christmas day.

Come near to him and delight in the divine. Allow him to dwell in your heart and you will experience his transforming, life-giving power. Come experience his rest in the midst of the worst turmoil this world can throw at you. His peace is real and never-ending. The greatest present ever given – Emmanuel – God with us. Walking with us, carrying us, filling us with the hope that can only come from the divine. Come near and experience him this holiday season. Come to the manger, he’s waiting.

Photo by Maija/KIIW – DeviantArt

Swallowing Rejection

Rejection. An unwelcome part of life on planet earth. I haven’t met a person yet who isn’t affected by the rejection they face. Wounds run deep from some rejections, others maybe just a surface scratch. Either way, we’re all marred by rejection. Some of our most vivid memories come from those we received as children. Memories of being the only one not chosen for the team; left out of a birthday party; ignored or snubbed by a friend, or worse still by the one who’s supposed to help build your impressionable spirit – a parent.

As a parent, I’m deeply aware of the rejections my children face and will face. I can still remember the ache in my heart the first time my oldest came to me, “Mom, he hit me.” Silence. “I thought he was my friend.” I knew this was a momentary clash and their friendship would sustain the hurt. It has. They’re still friends. Nevertheless, the sting was still real.

One way or another, rejections follow us into adulthood where we face even more each day – on the job; from a spouse; or waiting in line at the store with other busy people rushing through their day. It happens to everyone. It happens to you. It happens to me.

In one of the books I’m reading for Lent I was surprised to read in the very first entry the author talking about this very thing – rejection. Henri Nouwen is refreshingly honest about the impact of the rejections he faces each day and his desire to not let them define him. I don’t know why I found his words so moving. Perhaps it’s his willingness to open his life up to scrutiny in hopes that someone will see themself and commit alongside him to let go of these rejections, making way for a divine healing of sorts.

Nouwen writes, “I have slowly become aware of what my Lenten practice might be. It might be the development of some type of ‘holy indifference’ toward the many small rejections I am subject to, and a growing attachment to the Lord and his passion. I am constantly surprised at how hard it is for me to deal with the little rejections people inflict on each other day by day…This atmosphere often leaves me with a feeling of being rejected and left alone. When I swallow these rejections, I get quickly depressed and lonely; then I am in danger of becoming resentful…But maybe all of this is the other side of a deep mystery, the mystery that we have no lasting place on this earth and that only God loves us the way we desire to be loved.” (Lent and Easter – Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen)

If you’re facing rejection today, rather than swallowing it, why not give it up to the only one who is big enough to swallow it without resentment – Jesus. Even though he experienced the ultimate rejection, he never rejects us. Only he can take it upon himself and all while loving each of us perfectly, as we were created to be loved.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him.”
1 Peter 2:4

Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com

Living the Half Life

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2

As a follower of Christ, I seek to deepen my relationship with him – most times. Sadly, I don’t live this out at all times. Lent provides an opportunity to look inward to expose those dark areas that have taken up residence in my heart. Like exposing an open wound, this is a painful process, but not one that’s in vain. Jesus talked to his disciples about cutting away what wasn’t fruitful on the vine. Not for the sake of cutting, but that the vine would ultimately bear much greater fruit.

Yesterday, I took cutters to the misshapen hydrangea tree in my front yard. The tree badly needed pruning. Although it’d grown in stature since first planted, it was uneven and vastly overgrown. Pruning the branches, at least three feet off of some of them, was painful for me. Those branches had yielded full and fragrant blooms last summer. Although I knew it had to be done, the question of whether or not it would bloom fully again this year made me hesitant.

God, however, is never hesitant to prune out the areas of our lives holding us back from bearing the fruit he created us to bear. He knows the process is painful for us. Thankfully, in His infinite wisdom He also knows all that we can be, even if we haven’t a clue. And so, he prunes. We, unlike, my hydrangea tree, have a choice to make. As we go through a season of pruning, we can stop in our pain and refuse to go any further, never to experience the life God intended for us to live.

Or we can choose to let go of whatever darkness is hindering our relationship with God. He doesn’t expect us to do it alone, but with his help and in his strength. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 Jesus goes so far as to say that without him, we can do nothing. We simply cannot be fruitful apart from him.

As the spring sunshine warms my hydrangea tree, shining its rays on the newly sharp cut edges, the tree will burst forth with buds that will grow into emerald leaves. The pain of the cutting will disappear into a multitude of sweet fragrant blooms. Like the sun’s light, God’s light shines healing rays of truth into the hidden areas of our hearts that are most in need of healing and growth. We were made to live fully in the light of God’s love and truth, free and abundantly fruitful. Anything less is living the half life.

Photo courtesy PhotoXpress.com