God Was Here: Till Breaking of Dawn

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I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
 My soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Psalm 130: 5-6 from a Song of Ascents

 To wait is a hard sweet paradox in the Christian life.  It is hard not yet having what we know will be coming.  But it is sweet to have certainty it is coming because of what we have already been given.  Like the labor of childbirth, we groan knowing what it will take to get there, and we are full to brimming already.

The waiting won’t be easy; it will often be painful to be patient, staying alert to possibility and hope when we are exhausted, barely able to function.  Others won’t understand why we wait, nor do they comprehend what we could possibly be waiting for.  We must not wait like Herod waits, with dread and suspicion, willing to destroy what he cannot control.

Yet we persevere together, with patience, watching and hoping, like Mary and Joseph, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, like the shepherds, like the Magi of the east, like Simeon and Anna in the temple.

This is the meaning of Advent: we are a community groaning together in sweet expectation of the breaking dawn of morning.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25

 

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How do you capture the wind on the water?
How do you count all the stars in the sky?
How do you measure the love of a mother
Or how can you write down a baby’s first cry?

Chorus: Candlelight, angel light, firelight and star-glow
Shine on his cradle till breaking of dawn
Silent night, holy night, all is calm and all is bright
Angels are singing; the Christ child is born

Shepherds and wise men will kneel and adore him
Seraphim round him their vigil will keep
Nations proclaim him their Lord and their Saviour
But Mary will hold him and sing him to sleep

Chorus

Find him at Bethlehem laid in a manger
Christ our Redeemer asleep in the hay
Godhead incarnate and hope of salvation
A child with his mother that first Christmas Day

Chorus
~John Rutter “Candlelight Carol”

 

 

 

God Among Us: Turning Darkness Into Light

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For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4: 6

The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon.  This love reveals sin and overcomes it.  It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53).
~from the editors’ introduction in Watch for the Light

 

On this morning before the longest night of the year, I look out the window eagerly desiring a post-solstice reprieve from interminable darkness.  I seek that promise of being led back into the light, even if it will take months to get there.  It is a promise that keeps me going even if I will barely perceive the few minutes of extra daylight tomorrow.  It is from the simple knowledge that things are changing — getting lighter and brighter — that I harvest hope.

God made light through His Word, not once but twice.  In the beginning, He created the sun and the moon to penetrate and illuminate the creation of our hearts and our souls.  In the stable He came to light the world from below as well as from above so those hearts and souls could be saved from self-destruction.

I am showered with His light even on the longest night of the year and forever more,  lit from the glory of God reflected in the many faces of Jesus: as newborn, child teacher, working carpenter, healer, itinerant preacher, unjustly condemned, dying and dead, raised and ascended Son of God.

Let the dark days come as they certainly will.  They cannot overwhelm me now,  lit from within no matter how deeply the darkness oppresses.

I know His promise.
I know His face.
He knows I know.
~EPG

A spotless rose is blowing,
Sprung from a tender root,
Of ancient seers foreshowing,
Of Jesse promised fruit;
Its fairest bud unfolds to light
Amid the cold, cold winder,
And in the dark midnight.

The rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary purest maid;
For through our God’s great love and might,|
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter’s night.

A tender shoot has started up from a root of grace,
as ancient seers imparted from Jesse’s holy race:
It blooms without a blight, blooms in the cold bleak winter,
turning our darkness into light.

This shoot Isaiah taught us, from Jesse’s root should spring;
The Virgin Mary brought us the branch of which we sing;
Our God of endless might gave her this child to save us,
Thus turning darkness into light.

 

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A Canticle for Advent: Born for a Reason

photo by Julie Garrett

photo by Julie Garrett

There is silence around me in the peaceful winter night.
From the church down in the valley I can see the candlelight.
And I stopped for a moment in this winter paradise,
When I heard a choir singing through the darkness and the ice.
And the rays from the lights behind the window’s vaulted frames,
Have united the souls in hope that something great is waiting.
And I know that those who have left us here had the same thoughts as I.
We’re like flames in the darkness and stars up in the sky.

And I can see how they sparkle, and they fade before my eyes.
And the truth is coming closer like a wonder in disguise.
We are caught here a moment like an imprint of a hand,
On an old and frosted window or a footprint in the sand.
For a while I’m eternal, that’s the only thing I know,
I am here and we share our dreams about our destination.
It is cold out here, and the snow is white but I am warm deep inside,
I am warm ’cause I know that my faith will be my guide.

Now there is silence around me, I have heard those words again,
In a hymn of grace and glory, saying: nothing is in vain!
I can sing- and believe it, let the message reach the sky.
Oh silent night, let your promise never die!
And I long for the others, it is peaceful in the church.
He was born for a reason, and that’s why we’re here together.
Holy night, I feel like a child inside, and believe He was sent.
So I’m lighting a candle each Sunday in Advent.

~English translation of the Swedish carol Koppången

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 2
Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

John 12:27-28

There are so many people on earth who have never known what it is like to be part of a body of believers who worship together
through thick and thin, good times and ugly times, through disagreements and joyful reconciliation,
even if we would rather be doing something else on a Sunday.

Sometimes we are troubled and want to be saved from the responsibility and accountability
of being part of Christ’s body, of showing up and following through with our part of God’s covenant with His people.
Yet that is why He came to us, when we were in our most dire need and turning away.
He showed up because He was sent, He followed through even when He had doubts,
He came for a reason and purpose
to glorify the Father,
to show us the Father in the Flesh,
His Flesh.

Thank you to Carla Arnell for sharing this lovely Swedish hymn.