While the world
hurries through these sacred days,
holy scripture is erupting in song.
Isaiah is singing.
The Psalmist is singing.
Mary is singing.
They are moved by the mystery and the magnitude of this moment.
May you slow down and listen well and join their song.
[ inspired by Psalm 96 ]
The time is near.
Can you feel it?
A bursting-forth of new life, of fulfillment of ancient prophecy, of cosmic change and geographical shifting, of the realization of a plan established in eternity past…
It’s a birth. A whole new reality. This will change the way you sleep and eat and think and live. Forever. And it’s close. Her sounds are changing. She’s bearing down.
There’s a moment, in childbirth, when gears shift and sounds change and intensity builds. The baby is pressed into the birth canal. It’s often called “transition.” My wife calls it “transformation.” Change is fully-engaged, lunging forward. There’s no turning back, now. Life is coming hard and strong.
Isaiah sees the Messiah. He comes as a warrior-champion. He is painted for war, brave-hearted, muscles flexed and hungry for battle. He will set free those imprisoned in darkness. His voice will roar victory above the chaos.
And so He comes, this warrior-king, through blood and water, waging the war that will defeat death itself, a newborn baby, born in a barn.
[ based on Isaiah 42:10-16 ]
Whenever I read this passage I’m struck by John’s crystal clear understanding:
He understands who he’s not:
Are you the Christ? No. Are you Elijah? No. The Prophet? No.
He understands who he is:
He’s just a voice testifying about Jesus, whose “sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
And he understands his place in the story.
He understands that he’s part of a long line of faithful people who have looked to God in their search for shalom.
What we don’t get to hear is how John came to the place of clarity. That must have been a fascinating process.
“Miracles may show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself… Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”
– M. Raymond, O.C.S.O
May God bless your process of understanding of your identity and your place in this great story.
Today’s reading, the first 18 verses of John’s gospel, is, in my view, the most important “Christmas” passage in the Bible.
- John starts his story in the beginning, the very beginning:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
- He clearly and powerfully articulates the mind-blowing, history-changing reality of the incarnation:
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- And he tells us why it all matters:
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
The opening words of John’s story of Jesus are worth soaking in for a long time. May we be moved by the wonderful mystery of God’s great love for us. May Christ’s coming powerfully proclaim God’s desire to make Himself known.
Magi from the east declare, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
“When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2)
Why was Jerusalem disturbed? What had they to lose?
Herod feared for his throne. But the people? Why weren’t they celebrating the arrival of the Deliverer long-awaited, the Savior promised by prophets? Why were they troubled?
Because they had grown comfortable. And they feared the disturbance of their comfort.
John Chrysostom (4th Century) wrote this:
Although troubled, they nevertheless did not try to understand what was happening. They did not follow the wise men or even take any particular notice. To this extent were they both contentious and careless.
Contentious and careless.
They chose annoyance over adoration. Disdain over devotion.
Don’t disrupt the status quo, Jesus. We like it as it is. We prefer bondage to a police state which tells us what to think/buy/feel. Don’t mess with our comfort, Jesus.
Worship is too high a price to pay for freedom.
There probably isn’t a week in the year that’s more important to make time for God than the week before Christmas. After all, this is the week we celebrate God coming to “be with us.”
And yet there probably isn’t a week in the year that’s more difficult to find time for God.
In her book, One Thousand Gifts
, Ann Voscamp puts it this way, “God gives us time.
And who has time for God?
Which makes no sense.”
This Sunday I’ll teach our community how to have more time. This is not a time management sermon, it’s a spirituality of time sermon. I’ll talk about the element of time we cannot control (no matter how hard we try) and the one part we can. I’ll share a Biblical view of the relationship between the significance of time and the significance of things. And I’ll share several practical ideas for slowing down time in your life this week, one of which we’ll practice together.
You need to be at Emmaus
Church in Lincoln this Sunday.
In fact, you don’t have time to miss it.