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Advent Reflections

This advent season has been a special one for my wife and I.  If you our familiar with our story you would know we have waited a number of years for our family to fill out.  We were blessed beyond measure with Abbie in 2015 but still longed for another. On October 11th, 2017 we added our sweet Olivia to our flock and a rush of peace entered our hearts. Olivia's mere existence settled my heart in such a way where I felt I was really able to pay attention to the state of my soul and connect with the Lord in an unhurried fashion. We had our girls and all felt right in our world. 

So this Advent season I was intentional about working through an advent reading plan. For those curious, I used this book as a scripture and prayer guide to follow along with. I have always found it help to enter into someone else's written prayers to see what prayers may surface from my own heart.

One of the scriptures that has been churning in my heart all season long is Psalm 85:8-12 which reads: 

Ps 85:8   Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. 9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.  

Ps 85:10    Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. 11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. 12 The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  NRSV

Verses 10 and 11 are absolutely captivating to me. There is a mystery here  that I think we need to pay attention to, at least I know I do. There is something beautiful about the union of these words that seems to unlock some of the mysteries of the Kingdom for me. 

Let's look at these verses a little bit more closely. What does it look like to have steadfast love fused with faithfulness? In my heart, it begins to paint a picture of commitment and covenant that far supersedes our flighty emotions but shows us a love that will remain regardless of our circumstances. It shows a love that we can actually trust. For me, love that I can trust is one of the most precious gifts I can receive - so a pretty big deal. 

Continuing on the psalmist writes, "righteousness and peace will kiss each other." Pause, and let you imagination wrap your mind around this picture. Kissing is very intimate action to incorporate here as the two words our intertwined with each other. So how/why are the concepts of righteousness and peace knit together?

The idea of righteousness can be broken down in simple terms as "right" living or holy living; meaning, we live in such a way that considers others first, where our words hold weight and kindness/sincerity mark our interactions with one another. We move towards others with grace, because we hold a deep awareness of God's love for us. It is with this type of "right" living that peace is able to overwhelm our hearts in an intimate way.  Personally, when I am peaceful I feel confident, secure, trusting and easy. I am not second guessing or looking over my shoulder - I am confident that the Lord is for me and with me. So our promise here is we would choose to live "rightly" in this world the gift our Father gives us is peace. 

As we think about what it means to Form our Character, I think we need to reimagine what righteousness is really all about. On the surface, Forming Character looks like we should do a whole list of things that we don't really want to do, but reluctantly do, because - well, we are Christians and all - so we should. This outlook paints the  Christian life as just being filled with drudgery and burdens. If we are stuck with this mindset, you missed the boat.  The fruit of faithfulness is covenantal love and the fruit of righteousness is peace. Both things our souls are desperate for!

My prayer for you as you enter into 2018 is for you to consider how well the ideas of faithfulness, covenantal love, righteousness and peace mark your life. There is a better way of living available to  each of as we embrace the values of the Kingdom

 

Behold Your King

Christmas Day is almost upon us and it seems that every year we as Christians struggle to keep Christ at the center of our family traditions and celebrations.  We find ourselves pushing back against a world view that has determined to make Christmas just another day in a holiday season that stretches from Thanksgiving into the New Year.  So, how do we keep Christ in Christmas?  I would suggest that we use these last few days of Advent to reflect on this question: who was this babe born in a stable to a teenage girl named Mary some 2,000 years ago?  

From the beginning this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary child.  Luke's Gospel relates that the birth of Jesus was foretold by the angel Gabriel.  He declared to a virgin named Mary that the power of the Holy Spirit would conceive the child and "The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."  All Israel had been waiting for this moment since their return from exile in Babylon some 500 years earlier.  It was an event prophesied 250 years before when Isaiah declared that a child would be born who would be called "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace", and that he would reign over David's throne and kingdom forever.  The arrival of a king in ancient times would be heralded by trumpets and a royal procession attended by the elites of the nation and crowds of cheering subjects.  In contrast, the birth of Jesus was revealed to shepherds, the lowest caste of Israelite, who were beckoned to see the coming King not in a palace in Jerusalem, but in a horse trough in a barn in Bethlehem.  The call to the shepherds came not through human design.  They witnessed the veil of heaven open and angelic messengers of God bringing the "Good News" that Messiah had come to free the world from the bondage of sin and evil.  These were not chubby babies with little wings from a Renaissance painting but powerful and awe inspiring heavenly host declaring "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 

As we ready ourselves to celebrate this Christmas Day, let's begin to envision our Nativity scenes as more than just an idyllic family gathering around a newborn child.  God has come to dwell with us.  We can and should celebrate with great joy the Advent of Jesus our King who has come to establish God's Kingdom of righteousness and restore God's good creation.  More than the blessings of "Merry Christmas" let us declare this Christmas to the world: "Behold Your King!"            

Posted by David Jacobs with

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