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Monthly Archives: December 2019

“Away in a Manger”

“Away in a Manger”

Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head
The stars in the sky
Look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle
‘Til morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to Heaven
To live with Thee there

https://youtu.be/_gxgrAqxPcI

Dear God, I most associate this song with children bits not really a children’s song, but I think there’s something about it that is comforting to children. It’s almost like a lullaby.

I was thinking about this song yesterday and thinking once again about your alternatives for Jesus’s earthly experience. I say once again because this is something I’ve thought about before.

In terms of Jesus’s family you could have chosen a wealthy family. You could have chosen to make him David’s actual child. You could have made him the child of the high priest. You had a lot of choices. If you’d have asked me to lay out the plan I’d have probably picked the best high priest I could find. That would make sense, right? Instead, you chose a girl and a man who seemingly had nothing going for them. But you needed not only their humility and character to be Jesus’s parents. You also needed the flexibility and obedience. They had to be willing to escape to Egypt to avoid Herod. Also, Jesus in the home of an important person would not have grown up with an up close and personal look at the poor.

Then there’s how he was born. “Away in a Manger.” Why were the only witnesses shepherds? Why was he in a barn, sleeping on hay? Would it have been so bad to have been in an inn? Starting with the shepherds, I just love the fact that they are they ones the angels went to. They didn’t appear to the church leaders and say, “Unto you is born in the city of David…” They didn’t appear to Herod. They went to shepherds. And even though the Bible indicates that after they saw the baby they went all over town telling people, it doesn’t appear that the word really got out about Jesus. It says in Luke 2 that “all were amazed” when they heard the shepherds’ story, but I have to wonder if they weren’t respected enough to really be believed. But by appearing to these guys and having them show up, I’m sure it was a huge encouragement to Mary and Joseph. And you know my theory that Mary and Joseph had probably been camping near Bethlehem and might have even been known by the shepherds. I’m sure they knew that particular barn.

Father, all of this is to say, your ways are not my ways, and your wisdom is much grander than mine. I would have done this very differently and it would have been a mess. So as I look at my own life, the personal and professional decisions I have to make, and even how I evaluate the decisions of others, help me to lean not on my own understanding, but to lean into your wisdom and listen for your still, small voice.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“Angles We Have Heard on High”

“Angels We Have Heard on High”

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heav’nly song?
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the newborn King
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See Him in a manger laid
Whom the choirs of angels praise
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid
While our hearts in love we raise
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

https://youtu.be/WHWqj6gKS9g

Dear God, this has probably become the most ubiquitous Christmas hymn of our generation. If I were to survey all of the Christmas Eve services in our town, I would bet that over 90% of them would use this song. It is as much of a standard as “Silent Night” (which I’m saving for Christmas Eve).

So let’s see what we have here. First, I’ll just say that I love the idea of spending some time with the shepherds. In this song, the angels show up in the first verse and I presume we are singing from the shepherds’ perspective because they are the ones who heard the angels singing o’er the plains.

Next, a part of the story that is often overlooked is how the shepherds went throughout Bethlehem telling people what they had seen the night before. Did they start singing too? The writer of this hymn seems to think they did.

The third verse is apparently the shepherds inviting people to come to Bethlehem to see what they just heard the angels singing about. And they recognize the baby is to be worshipped because they call him Christ and of the bended-knee part. And I just made sure that in Luke 2:11 the angel does, indeed refer you Jesus as the Messiah.

As far as verse four goes, I’ve always liked the idea that the shepherds’ arrival and story would be a great affirmation to Mary and Joseph, who had to be scared and insecure about how this night had turned out. Personally, I can think of several times that you have given me an affirmation that I’ve needed

Father, as I close, I have an old friend from my Waco days who is in the hospital for intestinal blockage. Please be with him. Be with the doctors. Heal him. Clear the blockage and make him as comfortable as possible. Strengthen his wife and his children. Give them encouragement and affirmation in the midst of this trial. Help them to tangibly feel your presence.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts

“Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts (Arr. from George F. Handel)

Joy to the World! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and Nature sing
And heaven, and heaven
and nature sing

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns
Let me their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat
The sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as
The curse is found

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of
His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders
Of His love

Dear God, here’s a classic that I remember hearing a lot when my mom would play Christmas music when I was little. I have to say that I listened to several versions of this on YouTube before I found the link above, but the only one I wanted to hear was the full choir version. It’s just the one that I know best and that sounds right.

So let’s see what I notice in these lyrics that I’ve missed before:

  • Verse 1: This one is just straight forward and the one that most people reading this will know without having to look at the words. But what’s it implore us to do. First, we should be full of joy because you came to earth! We should receive you. On an individual level, we should “prepare” room for you. Sidebar, I think the idea of preparing room for your is important. We don’t just welcome you into our heart, but we prepare the space for you like space is prepared for a guest staying in our home. We clean. We purge. We throw things away. The same is true for our hearts. We need to prepare room for you and that includes repenting and turning from sin. And, of course, while we do this, heaven and nature will be singing about this wonderful news.
  • Verse 2: This verse makes me think of the verse in Luke 19:40 when Jesus says that if the people stopped praising then the rocks would cry out. We need to praise you with songs and acclamation because the fields, waters, rocks, hills, and plains are already doing it.
  • Verse 3: Going back to verse 1, this verse gets into preparing our hearts (the soil of our hearts) for you. This reminds me of the journal I did several weeks ago about the parable of the sower and how we need to be continually weeding and removing the thorns from the soil of our hearts to ensure that your Spirit has a place to grow and return the highest yield possible.
  • Verse 4: I’ve got to say, I don’t know about this verse. Perhaps this is post-tribulation, but it doesn’t feel like you are ruling the earth. Of course, you are the author and creator. You made us all. And you are truth and grace. But right now the nations are not proving the glories of our righteousness or the wonders of your love.

Father, once again, I am left thinking that I need to constantly be preparing room for you in my heart. It’s a moment by moment thing and not just something I do once. And I also need to remember the joy of all of this. You came! You lived! You Sacrificed and Won! You will reign forever! Let me be filled with joy!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

“O Little Town of Bethlehem” by Lewis H. Redner

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O Morning Stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in the world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin, and enter in
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel!

https://youtu.be/CwfkGj51S2c

Dear God, I copied this from a Baptist hymnal from 1956 (this song would have been less than 100 years old then). As I typed it, what I found most interesting was the use of exclamation marks. What does Redner emphasize?

  • O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! He finds it remarkable how still the town is on that night. Now, he doesn’t know this, but that’s how he envisions it. Just another night in a little town. They have no idea what is happening. How still everything is!
  • O Morning Stars, together, Proclaim the holy birth, and praise sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth! The star. Sometimes I forget about how the stars aligned that night to fulfill the prophecy. And through their alignment, they were announcing peace on earth! What does that peace mean? Certainly not between ourselves. But it does mean the potential for peace between all of us and you.
  • How silently, how silently, The wondrous Gift is given! Again with the silence of the whole thing. The unassuming nature of the whole thing. Somewhere in town, a woman gave birth. Later in the night (or the next morning), some shepherds would be going around and talking about what they saw, but, in the meantime, the most amazing Christmas present ever had finally arrived and it came in relative silence.
  • O holy Child of Bethlehem! Just an emphatic proclamation of who Jesus is and his worth. The exclamation point there turns that one sentence into worship.
  • Be born in us today! This verse is the first time Redner brings the song into our modern times and out of the period. This is the verse that gives the pronouns “we” and “us.” We become participants in the story. As we sing, we ask that you not only be born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but that you will be born in us today!
  • O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel! And this is our prayer. We acknowledge the story. We accept the story. And now we ask that you will become part of our own story. The other verses have one exclamation point each. This one has three. I don’t think that is coincidence.

Father, be born in me today. Cast out my sin and enter in. Abide with me, my Lord, Immanuel.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our savior
Was born on Christmas Day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

From God our heav’nly Father
A blessed angel came
And unto certain shepherds
Brougth tidings of the same
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by name

O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

“Fear not, then,” said the angel,
“Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior
Of virgin pure and bright
To free all those who trust in him
From Satan’s pow’r and might.”

O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place
And with true love and charity
Each other now embrace
This holy tide of Christmas
Is filled with heav’nly grace

O tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy

Dear God, I’m not sure why I picked this hymn this morning. It’s never been one of my favorites, necessarily. I just heard it yesterday and the phrase, “To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray,” struck me and I thought that maybe there was something here I should notice.

  • Verse 1: I’ve never noticed the word “rest.” Don’t be anxious. Don’t be dismayed. Rest. Rest. Just remember that Jesus was born to save us from all of this, even when we are gone astray, and rest. Hmm. I like that. And we don’t rest ourselves. You are the one that has given us rest.
  • Verse 2: You told the shepherds to rest too. They were like us. Working. Surviving. Struggling. And the good news that the angels brought them was to give them rest and tidings of comfort and joy. Not just joy, but comfort. The same is true for us in verse 1.
  • Verse 3: This whole verse is a quote from the angels (as written by the author). Fear not. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is born of a virgin to free those who trust in him from Satan’s power and might. I don’t know why this says about salvation, if anything, but I do know that the key to being free of Satan’s power here on earth is to trust in Jesus and receive the grace he provides.
  • Verse 4: So now that we know this, we are to worship you, love each other, and extend charity.

Father, help me today to worship you, love others, and extend charity. Thank you for this glad tidings of comfort and joy.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“O Come, All Ye Faithful” (“Adeste Fideles”)

“O Come, All Ye Faithful” (“Adeste Fideles”) by John F. Wade

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of angels
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Sing choirs of angels
Sing in exultation
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God
All glory in the highest
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Yea, Lord we greet thee
Born this happy morning
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n
Word of the Father
Now in flesh appearing
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
O come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

https://youtu.be/z51apErmAuw

Dear God, okay, I already saw a couple of things in this song while I was typing out these lyrics (as provided in a Catholic hymnal) that I hadn’t noticed before.

  • This first verse is inviting the humans to come and see what has happened. But not just any humans. The faithful ones. And when you come, don’t only come joyfully, but triumphantly as well. This child’s birth (and eventual life, death and resurrection) has given us the victory. The victory over our own sin. The victory over Satan. The eventual victory over death. And don’t be deceived by the fact that it’s a baby. This baby is the King of angels. We should come and adore Him because He is the Christ.
  • The second verse is for the angels. Sing angels! Sing in exultation. If you’re a citizen in heaven, it’s your turn to sing too. Now we get a phrase we hear a lot in Christmas songs when it comes to the angels singing: “Glory to God.” Yes, all glory to you, Father.
  • In the third verse we get to sing directly to Jesus and greet the new baby. Not only to the angels give you glory, but we give it too. And then here’s the thing I never noticed before. We get John 1:1 here: “In the beginning was the Word…” I never realized that the write of this song referenced John 1 at the end of verse three: “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” The Word become flesh.

Father, I want to learn how to adore you, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit more and more. I want to be one of the faithful. I want to really adore you, and I want to encourage others to do the same. As always, I ask that you help me to draw closer to you through my worship of you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2019 in Christmas Hymns, Hymns and Songs

 

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“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favoured one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born
Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Charles Wesley and George Whitefield/ Felix Mendelssohn

https://youtu.be/lCt1s44cfMM

Dear God, I was at a a Christmas concert last night, and it was so worshipful it occurred to me that it might be fun to do a series on Christmas hymns. This is one that always sticks in my head, so I thought I would start with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

I want to start by saying I recognize these songs are not scripture so I won’t treat them as such. What I’d like to do with these songs is try to put myself in place of the author and look to see what they want to call out in the Christmas story.

I’ll start with the fact that this song is pure joy. When you sing it, even if you don’t know the words and you just hear the music, Mendelssohn communicates joy. When the authors of the lyrics (I think many tweaked them over the years, but Wesley and Whitefield are largely credited with the original lyrics) picked this tune, they must have been drawn to something they wanted to use to bring out the glory of angels appearing and bringing news beyond imagination.

In the first verse, the angels are credited with saying, “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled. Christ is born in Bethlehem. Glory to the newborn King!” Then the rest of the words are apparently the authors’ charge to us.

  • Joyful all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies. With angelic hosts proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem: The angels are here with great news. Amazing news. We must join them in their joy and rejoicing.
  • Christ by highest heaven adored. Christ the everlasting Lord. Late in time behold him come. Offspring of the favoured one. — Now the authors are telling us who Jesus is. His identity. He is adored by the highest in heaven. He is everlasting. He is also the offspring of Mary.
  • Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with men to dwell. Jesus our Emmanuel. — I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the phrase “veiled in flesh the Godhead see.” That is great poetry and says so much. I don’t know that I’ll ever sing thing song again without thinking of that one phrase. How beautiful. And it is declarative with the rest of this verse: Jesus is God and part of God.
  • Hail! the heaven-born Prince of peace! Hail! the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings. — More declarations about who Jesus is, but this one gets into his righteousness and ability to heal and save us. It uses the word “risen.” He brings light and life. This is great news the angels are telling us here.
  • Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth born to give them second birth. — And this is why Jesus came. He laid down his glory so that we might have hope. He was born to raise us and give us second birth.

Father, thank you for this inspiration. Thank you that you gave these men these lyrics. Thank you that you gave us this truth. And thank you for my hope. It makes all of the difference in my day.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2019 in Christmas Hymns

 

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Deuteronomy 18:15-18

Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you yourselves requested of the Lord your God when you were assembled at Mount Sinai. You said, ‘Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God anymore or see this blazing fire, for we will die.’ “Then the Lord said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.
Deuteronomy 18:15-18

Dear God, it is easy to criticize your leadership style. Speaking through flawed and frail humans instead of speaking to us directly. Giving us a collection of books written over the course of hundreds (thousands) of years with inconsistencies that can be glaring (two different creation stories back to back in Genesis that are different?). Sending Jesus to live, die, and come back to life to atone for our sin. You allow all of this suffering to happen in the world–from human on human crimes to natural disasters. These are just a few examples.

But what’s the alternative. What would be a better way? Would it be better if you actually spoke to us directly in an audible voice, gave us a 100-page instruction manual on how to live, made us work for our atonement, and made earth heaven, removing all obstacles in life as well as our free will? I’ve thought about this some in the past. Yes, sometimes this system of yours can be frustrating, but it is always better than any alternatives I can come up with.

Father, thank you for your gentleness. In terms of your prophets and scripture, thank you for a chance to get to know you in a more personal way through both stories of your interaction with people over millennia and through the life and examples of Jesus. And thank you for the struggles. Yes, there are times when I’d love to ask you if you regret free will, but I know the world would be pretty miserable without it. In the end, I suppose it come down to the fact that I trust you, and I also trust that this vague system that leaves room for flawed interpretations of your nature and how I should live my life also leaves enough latitude for me to be wrong and still be in relations with you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in Deuteronomy

 

John 15:5-8

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
John 15:5-8

Dear God, I thought of something this morning. Whenever Jesus compared ya to anything it seems like it’s always vegetation. He didn’t say, “You are the Lion and the world is your prey.” Or, “Be like the camel, which can go for days without water.” I suppose he did compare us to sheep, but that’s because they are too dumb to live without a shepherd. Without leadership, they will just stay in one place to eat until the last remnants of the grass are destroyed. They can’t see the consequences of their foolishness. The branches need the vine to give them nourishment. The sheep need the shepherd to point them in the right direction. In none of these illustrations are the examples pertaining to us on the attack. They are attached to you and need you to move them.

When I’m at work, my tendency is to think that I/we have a duty to be moving and growing. Should we add a new program? Should we strike out in this area? The push is coming from an outward sense of duty and not from the connection I have to you through the vine. It’s not your still small voice I’m listening for, but my own desire to be seen as an effective leader by my board and by the community that drives me. Ah. There it is. It’s my ego that drives me.

Father, I’m sorry for my ego. I’m sorry for my insecurity. I know I can be a fool. Guide me. Show me. Help me to hear your still small voice. My commitment to you is to try to make more room in my life to be able to hear you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2019 in John

 

Second Sunday of Advent

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!Clear the road for him!’”John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”
Matthew 3:1-12

Dear God, having grown up in a church that didn’t really observe the church calendar (Advent, Lent, etc.), I’m still figuring out the different Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas and what they mean. It was my wife, who grew up Episcopalian, who first taught me about some of these things. I had hear the word “Advent.” I had hear about “Lent.” But I didn’t really have any idea what they were about.

So now I’m here on the second Sunday of Advent. I’m preaching later this morning and it’s apparently time to talk about John the Baptist. I prayed through the verses above earlier this week as part of my preparation for this sermon. Now it’s time to make sure I have what you want me to say crystalized in my mind so that I can give someone this morning the message that you have for them. So what is that message?

Much like earlier in the week, what has stuck with me from the passage is the people who came to hear John. What were they looking for? What did they find? I think they were looking for happiness. But happiness is a pretty vague term. The Declaration of Independence calls the pursuit of happiness one of the unalienable rights you endowed to us. I doubt even they could have articulated it. They just knew their souls were unsettled. They were not at peace. Word had gotten to them that there was this weird guy out in the wilderness preaching and dunking people in water (he called it “baptizing?”). Now those people were telling their friends that they were experiencing you and life in a ways they never had before. They were happy.

There were other people, of course, who were watching. They were the people who were worried because they had never been able to give people happiness before. Why? What was the difference in the Pharisees’ teaching and John’s preaching? A few words come to mind: grace, mercy, love. John expected no less of the people than did the Pharisees. He expected them to repent and sin no more. But he added something that I don’t think any of them had ever seen–a symbolic cleansing. Come and be bathed as an outward expression of true repentance. Don’t just ask for forgiveness. Turn and sin no more. Abandon yourself. Humble yourself. Let go of yourself and live! Let me say that again–Let go of yourself and live! 

Father, as I finish my outline and get ready to be your ambassador, move beyond my weaknesses. Move beyond my failings. Use me despite how evil and selfish I can be. Use me beyond reason. Yes, I guess I’m asking you to work a miracle this morning. Use this vessel to reach that one person who needs to hear about the happiness you have in store for them.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2019 in Matthew

 

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