When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:1-3)
Our anticipation of the coming of Christ the King should move us to reflection but the busyness of the cultural trappings of Christmas tends to deflect our meditation until Sunday. In the same fashion, the hustle and bustle can affect our joy and our feelings and actions toward others. Without our joy, our love for our neighbor becomes dry like the desert sands.
Take a few moments to reflect on Psalm 126 this week, a reading from the liturgical calendar. God through David knew that we would need to be reminded of our days in exile. The days we walked in a desert of our own making, winds of self-absorption swirling around our souls, sin directing our feet. At the moment we were redeemed by the Master, we knew a joy at being found, at being led from the desert but our Self was not willing to give in that easy. We often tread back out to the desert, sin a dangerous beast lurking in the shadows.
We must remind ourselves not just this week but every week that we are being led back home. We must allow our mouths to be filled with laughter and allow songs of joy to come from our tongues. When we observe that the Lord has done great things for us and know it, truly believe it in our deepest soul, we want others to know it as well. We will love and our steps will follow a new path.
Our anticipation looks forward to the entry of Pure Love into our world. He came for you and me, and He came for our neighbors. His love is our love and our love needs to be our neighbor’s. Help someone else find their way out of the desert and do it in love.
This announcement popped up at an institution I serve and as I started to let it just slide by, it occurred to me that perhaps God didn’t find our humor so funny.
Putting theology aside for a moment, does the mother of our Lord deserve a bit more respect? Are we guilty of treating worship too casually? Maybe it’s just me. What do you think?
Look…up there at the top of the page…in the menu bar, I’ve added a page for this season with links to all of posts I’ve written to bless you during our weeks of anticipation. I hope you’re blessed by anything you find there.
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the gracious promised I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.’ (Jer 33:14-16)
On our first Sunday of Advent, we watch and wait in anticipation of the fulfillment of the promise. Our perspective however, is much different than that of the exiles. Imagine being far, far from home with only this promise to hang on to. When the Lord says that the ‘days are coming’, you don’t know if it will be tomorrow, four weeks, or forty years. You only know that He has been completely faithful to you and your people since you fell under His protective gaze.
Our modern perspective is much different. We know how the promise has been kept and we live in the danger of taking that for granted. Our anticipation is muddied, our vision of eternity filtered through a thick San Fernando haze. The Advent season can become just another tradition in which we ‘remember’ historical acts but fail to apply it to our lives. We can restore the joy and the quickening that comes with anticipation. We can restore the memory and the life of faith that comes with a Kingdom that has come, but not yet.
Let us lift ourselves out of the busyness and the stresses that the culture has inflicted on this season and aim our sight into eternity. We can rediscover our purpose and anticipate its completion. We can separate ourselves from the worry and strife of daily life and look forward into a new heavens and new earth. The Messiah promise has been kept. The promise of new life is yet to come. Celebrate both.
In logical ordering of the world God created, the darkness must precede the light. We must endure the night to know the sunrise and warmth of a new day. This ordering extends to the extension of God’s mercy; our repentance leads to the light of the Lord’s mercy. Reading the words of the prophet Micah paints a vivid picture of this contrast. The Lord rebukes his children and follows it with the promises of mercy to be received by those who turn away from their sin. The greatest promise is a featured part of the Advent tradition,
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. (v 5:2)
Mary too knew the sweet longing of anticipation. Carrying the precious gift she bore closer and closer to His birth, Mary was overwhelmed at the change that was about to take place in the world. She was perhaps at a point similar to those moments just before the crown of the sun breaks the horizon, when the purples mix with the deep blue and black of the night sky and the sliver of light pushes the sphere of darkness to the west; though many weeks would still pass the day of the birth of the Lord was nearer than farther! Her heart sang,
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name. (Lk vv 1:46b-49)
The day is near for us as well, rejoice for Immanuel!
Israel longed for the promise of being made whole again after their internal corruption had ripped them asunder. Micah brought this promise to them but also reminded them that they must remain in the crucible a bit longer in order to reach the necessary purity.
I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel.
I will bring them together like sheep in a pen, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people. (v 2:12)
No matter what our personal situation may reflect now, the anticipation of the birth of Jesus kindles hope within us of a personal restoration. His gift of the Holy Spirit can gather our fractured souls together and restore us to what God had intended for us to be. We won’t be perfect, not in this lifetime but when we are all gathered home. . . that is a gift worth receiving.
Our thoughts in this season must move beyond this personal gift and extend it to others. When we become a part of a single body we move together as the representative of the Savior on earth. We become this face of restoration as we bind up the broken and invite them into the sheepfold to enjoy the love of their Restorer.
The Prophet Micah spoke a message that is ultimately about hope. Though difficult times must come upon God’s people, in the end, the just nature of God will overcome all and His people and His world will be restored to their proper relationship. The advent season can be a joyous, hopeful season but for some people, it can also serve to magnify their distress and hopelessness. There are numerous reasons that people feel this way but one cause that the Bible teaches us to address with His blessing is injustice. We can be the hope bringers in situations of injustice. God’s grace can be transported to these situations and they can be transformed…if we are willing. One of my favorite passages regarding worship describes in the voice of God himself the direct relationship between justice, mercy, and adoration.
He has showed you, O Man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (vv 6:8)
In this season of longing and anticipation, we can turn to one of Micah’s passages of hope as a prayer of our own. We can trust that God will restore justice in His time. Until that day, we can carry His message on our own.
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.
You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (vv 7:18-19)
The season of anticipation is upon us beginning today. The liturgical year begins anew with the first week in Advent. The break with the old year and everything that may have accumulated during the period is marked with a return to looking forward with a positive sense. Christians look from within the kingdom to the new heavens and new earth to be ushered in by the Lord. For now, we prayerfully look to the record of His coming and to those who pointed the way.
Isaiah often takes center stage in the readings but this year I’d like to turn to his contemporary, Micah. The prophet compresses the cycles of travail and hope and points the way to the coming King.
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Mic 4:1-2)
Living in the kingdom after the Messiah has come gives our anticipation a similar focal point. The Spirit guides our prayers in the now but not yet kingdom of God which we inhabit and serve. We too look forward to a peace that can only be realized as the worship of God floods the world and replaces our brokenness with wholeness.
May the Lord bless you with an aching heart.
An aching heart that beats with His as He longs to gather all of His children,
as He surveys the discord amongst His family, and the condition of His Church.
May the Lord bless you with burning eyes.
Eyes that travel to and fro and view the troubles of the world as opportunities,
eyes that see the people that are often unseen, and eyes that can look forward more than they look backward.
May the Lord bless you with a deep, abiding sorrow.
An anguish at the numbers of lost, of the found who have fallen aside, and for the found who continue to deceive themselves.
A sorrow at allowing doubt and mistrust into our souls and within our community.
May the Lord richly bless you with a childlike humility to know that the Spirit within you knows no boundaries.
May He simplify your thinking, replacing doubt with trust, and move you to change the world.
To sooth the aching heart, salve the reddened eyes, and turn sorrow to Joy.
Merry Christmas and God’s rich blessings on you and yours…
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:13-14)