glow in the dark (day 15)

Facebook friends of mine may already have seen this picture. It’s of our new Christmas lights. We wanted to be festive and decorate the front of our house while at the same time not wanting to go overboard, not wanting to fill the garden with flashing Santas*, light-up reindeer, snowmen, and so on. We wanted something that said, “Happy Christmas” to our neighbours.

And nothing says “Happy Christmas” like a nativity scene.

I did see a light-up inflatable nativity scene that looked really cute, but with the windy weather we’ve been having it might have ended up in Norway! So we went for the rope lights. But they only comes on in the late afternoon and evening. You can’t see the lights in the daylight.

John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Light dispels darkness. Every time.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*read that how you want!

o come o come Immanuel

(This bloggage was sent around the EBA Ministers as a ‘Thought for the week’ last week.)

bus stop 14
This is from a bus stop, where many people have waited…

This is the time of year when we sing the Advent carol ‘O come, O come Immanuel’. The words are lovely, helping us capture a sense of the mind-set of those who were waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the Messiah. The words also help us anticipate what the Messiah will do. Each verse picks up and aspect of who the Messiah will be from scripture while the mournful tune adds to that sense of sadness that nothing seemed to have happened yet for those anticipating the Messiah.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O Wisdom from on high,
who ordered all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in its ways to go.

Refrain

3 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

Refrain

4 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

Refrain

5 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

Refrain

6 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

Refrain

7 O come, O King of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind.
Bid all our sad divisions cease
and be yourself our King of Peace.

Refrain

The carol was originally sung in Latin based on an 8th century poem, and was sung antiphonally rather than in verses. The music comes from a 15th century French Requiem Mass. It was translated in the middle of the 19th century by John Mason Neale. There is so much that is rich and deep in the carol. And I enjoy singing it. (Although there are occasions when, usually if it is played too slowly, the carol sounds miserable; the ‘rejoice’ refrain sounds despondent; and it seems never ending. At those moments I really struggle with the concept that such amazing concepts about the Messiah we anticipate could be made to sound so glum and dour.)

Consider for a moment the names given to the Messiah expressed in the carol:

Immanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14)

Wisdom from on high (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Great Lord of might (Adonai – Exodus 19:16)

Branch of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)

Key of David (Isaiah 22:22)

Bright morning star (Luke 1:78-79)

King of nations (Revelation 19:16)

Roll them around in your mind and savour them. Spend some time with them.

They are astonishing names that reveal the identity, lineage, nature and destiny of the Messiah. Sometimes the way we sing the carol makes them sound like a mournful eulogy rather than a joyous declaration (compare the way the last verse is sung with the Hallelujah chorus, for example – both have the same theme!). But there is something significant about the gentle, haunting melody of this carol that reminds us of the waiting, longing, anticipation for such an amazing One. And that is a theme that many find helpful, especially those for whom the Advent / Christmas season is difficult as it reminds them of loss, unfulfilled hopes and dreams and past pain. It is worth bearing this in mind in the tinsel twinkling carols-by-candlelight ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ descant moments of this season. This carol reminds me that Christmas is a season for all, but only if we make space for all.

w-eight-ing

As I type this bloggage I am also in a ‘Virtual Waiting Room’, waiting to see if I am able to buy some tickets to see a singer in concert. The idea (a good one if it works) is that those in the Virtual Waiting Room are assigned a place in a virtual queue and when that place becomes available I will be able to select from the remaining available tickets.

At the moment the message says, “It will be your turn soon.”

waitingIt has been saying that since the ticket office opened 20 minutes ago.

I am reminded of our fruitless attempts to buy tickets to watch an event (any event) at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. We entered our details and waited. And eventually were told that we were unsuccessful.

But there would be a second ballot and all of those who were unsuccessful the first time would be at the head of the queue the second time.

So we entered the second ballot. And waited.

And were unsuccessful.

But the Paralympic tickets would soon go on sale, and we thought we surely ought to get some of them so we entered the ballot. And waited.

And were unsuccessful.

In the Virtual Waiting Room there is a bar (no not that sort of bar, a long line on the screen) along which creeps a blue line showing that it is checking my ‘Waiting Room Status’. The blue line fills the bar and there’s a pause at the end, each time with the hope that I might be next in the queue. But each time it goes back to the beginning. Just like our fruitless attempts to buy 2012 tickets the anticipation builds each time, only for hopes to be dashed.

The season of Advent is about waiting. Anticipation. Hope. Because we know that Christmas Day will happen on 25th December we perhaps lose some of how it felt over 2000 years ago when people were waiting for God to send his Messiah, the Christ, the One. Many times their hopes were raised when different rebel leaders took on the oppressors of the day and people wondered if he was the One. And each time the blue line reached the end of the bar and their hopes were dashed. It wasn’t now.

“It will be your turn soon.” promised the Prophets.

But it never seemed to happen.

I wonder if that’s how you’re feeling about a prayer you have been praying for years and there doesn’t seem to be an answer. Or perhaps you have been waiting for a promise from God to be fulfilled and it hasn’t happened yet.

**Doorbell rings, I had to leave my desk, aaargh, what if I get to the front of the virtual queue right then? Ah… it was just a delivery. Check status. “It will be your turn soon” (26 minutes and counting)**

Among the many different messages of Advent and Christmas is this: God’s timing is perfect. Waiting is an aspect of faith. Don’t give up. The answer may not be when you were expecting it, or what you were expecting, but it will be God-given so you can be confident in it.

If you doubt this, have a look at Luke 2:22-38…

Be blessed, be a blessing*

 

 

*Did I get the tickets – you’ll have to wait to find out!

( 51 minutes and still waiting)

are we there yet?

One of the things we do in our Team within the Eastern Baptist Association is share a ‘thought for the week’ with Ministers in the Association. It is sent by email each week. This week it was my turn and, in the spirit of recycling, I am posting it here too. If you are an EBA Minister and have already received this by email I am sorry that you have had it twice…

20140327_121204The family car is finally packed. The children are finally strapped into their seats with their favourite toys. The journey has started and everyone is finally able to relax. And then, from the back seat, come the chilling words that will be repeated all the way for the rest of the journey:

“Are we there yet?”

At the start of the season of Advent (this Sunday) we reflect on the promises of God.

Isaiah 2:2-5:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple 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. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

“Are we there yet?”

It was because the destination was so wonderful that the Advent expectation, anticipation (and impatience) was so high by the time of Christ. Consider it for a moment: in the last days God’s reign will be obvious to all; people from all nations will stream to him to learn from him and follow his guidance;  his word will be proclaimed; his justice will be experienced; his peace will be universal.

“Are we there yet?”

Well, no. But we are on the way. Advent is a season of hopefulness and anticipation. We have the advantage of knowing how God will bring all of this about (starting with a baby in a cattle feeding trough). But we also have a call to make God’s reign obvious, to learn from him and follow him, to proclaim his word, to seek his justice and be agents of his peace today so that his Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Be blessed, be a blessing