Called to Advent–watching

photo by Nate Gibson

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Luke 2:8-9

Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak.

Luke 12-35-38

The shepherds weren’t ready, yet they kept watch around the clock because it was their job to do so. They were understandably terrified at the unexpected announcement coming out of the blue. Interpreting glory-filled praise from a heavenly host was definitely not in their job description.

We, like the shepherds, are to be watching and prepared for the second advent. It is in our job description–even in the middle of the night, we are to be poised to answer the knock on the door in an instant, in order to joyfully welcome Him back. The message clearly is: be ready. Keep watch.

We’re keeping the lights on for You.

Christ is the sun, and all the watches of our lives should be set by the dial of his motion.

Thomas Brooks

Called to Advent–voicing

photo by Josh Scholten

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Romans 10:17-18

Tonight the annual Wiser Lake Chapel Children’s Christmas Program blessed the folks who attended and especially the children who participated. Once again the rickety manger was pulled out of storage, with its baby Jesus doll wrapped in swaddling cloths. Yet another generation of children is draped in forty year old white sheet angel costumes with tinsel halos and striped shepherd bathrobes with terrycloth towel head coverings and loopy yarn beards. The familiar songs are sung, the story of the nativity read and acted out by the children. Young voices were raised in “Away in the Manger” and those tender notes went out the double doors of that little Chapel, to the ends of the world.

Did you not hear? Yes, of course you did. And will again.
And shall we, can we, ever be silent again?

Doth not all nature around me praise God? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Doth not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Doth not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Hath not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?
Charles Spurgeon

photo by Julie Garrett

photo by Julie Garrett

photo by Julie Garrett

Called to Advent–unfolding

photo by Josh Scholten

The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.

Psalm 119:130

What is revealed by the unfolding of our faith is the depth and width and height and completeness found within. Unfolding means no longer staying hidden, but opening ourselves up for all to see.

We become the page upon which God writes, the palette upon which God paints, the instrument that God plays, the song that God composes. We become beautiful in His hands.

If God is adding to our spiritual stature, unfolding the new nature within us, it is a mistake to keep twitching at the petals with our coarse fingers. We must seek to let the Creative Hand alone.

Henry Drummond

In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in the unfolding of His divine plan. Nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its particular fitness for its place in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.
B.B. Warfield

Called to Advent–treasuring

photo by Josh Scholten

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19
Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Luke 2:51

A heart is never completely empty of blood. Only a portion is pumped out of the ventricles with each contraction of the muscle, with some small residual remaining behind in the chamber. The larger the residual, the less effective the pump mechanism is, which becomes known as heart failure, resulting in less oxygen to the body. A normal healthy heart always holds on to a bit of life blood, sending the rest out to circulate and nourish the rest of the body organs.

It seems Mary had a great deal to hold in her heart–it must have been a very strong and powerful organ to handle so much in her lifetime. It was her repository for memories that were precious to her, things she never wanted to forget, events she wanted to tell someone to write down on her behalf someday. It was her storage space for her wonder at what took place before her eyes–the glorification of her son at His birth, the acknowledgement from others that she held God in her arms, that she was able to gaze into His face. He, from a very young age, would teach her more than she could ever teach Him. Her heart literally fed Him during her pregnancy, His heart beating beneath hers. During His childhood and later, her heart poured out love for Him and eventually His heart bled out for us all.

She shows us how we must store up the treasures most precious to us–not worldly things like money and jewels, but the memories of family, the nurture of trust and faith, the healing balm of sacrifice and grace. A heart full of that kind of treasure can never fail.

Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness.

You must keep all earthly treasures out of your heart, and let Christ be your treasure, and let Him have your heart.
Charles Spurgeon

Mary and Jesus painting by Pierre Mignard

Called to Advent–sowing

photo by Nate Gibson

Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
Ecclesiastes 11:6

Sowing and sown. We become sower, soil and seed, as well as fertilizer, harvester, storage manager and consumer. We become farmers when it comes to the planting, feeding and watering of the Word in fertile hearts and minds.

It’s what you sow that multiplies, not what you keep in the barn.
Adrian Rogers

The almost impossibly hard thing is to hand over your whole self to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves” – our personal happiness centered on money or pleasure or ambition – and hoping, despite this, to behave honestly, and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you cannot do. If I am a grass field – all the cutting will keep the grass field less but won’t produce wheat. If I want wheat…I must be plowed up and re-sown.

C.S. Lewis – Essay on “Is Christianity Hard or Easy?”

Called to Advent–rejoicing

photo by Josh Scholten

…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Luke 1:47

(As servants of God)..sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:10

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.

John Calvin

Americans must be the most privileged people on earth yet we still grumble despite living in freedom in relative security. There is so little joy in our modern age of abundance. Is our cup half empty or half full? Why do we groan about what we lack and not stop to appreciate what all we have been given?

Rejoicing is expressing delight at what is, and having no regrets about what is not. There can be joy in times of sadness, we can be enriched by sharing what we have, and fulfilled without accumulating every material possession. As Augustine says: a happy life is rejoicing to God, of God and for God. He didn’t mention a larger house, faster car, exotic vacations, or the best plastic surgery.

So we read the words of profound joy expressed by Mary when her life is suddenly turned upside down and her body no longer in her control. She is happy and willing because she trusts the Lord despite all the unknowns. The shepherds, the lowest segment of society just above lepers, were first to be given a message of praise and glory from the heavens. Once their fear abated, they became so joyful and excited, they wanted to share all they had heard and seen with anyone who would listen.

It is our turn now. It is time to be gruntled, not disgruntled, happy to be alive instead of sorrowful, so we might rejoice mightily in the infinite gift we’ve been given.

This is it; there is no other.

And this is the happy life, to rejoice to Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this it is, and there is no other.


Adoration of the Shepherds by Correggio

Called to Advent–quieting

photo by Josh Scholten

He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17b

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1Peter 3:4

When worries overwhelm and fretting becomes fearsome, I need quieting.
When the noise of news headlines screams for attention, I call out for quieting.
When there is sadness, conflict, tragedy, illness, estrangement in family and friends, I long for quieting.
When too many balls are juggled at once, and the first one is dropped with three more in the air, I desire quieting.
When the ache lasts too long, the tiredness lingers, the heart skips a beat, and one too many symptoms causes anxiety, I am desperate for quieting.
When tempted and ready for surrender, forgetting confidence, conviction, commitment and faith, I pine for quieting.
I need to freeze in place, be unmoving, and stay completely still so I can be a reflection of the depths of restoration and rest
Found in the call to quieting.

Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.

Thomas Merton

If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a glass slipper on a gouty foot.
John Bunyan

Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.


photo by Josh Scholten