ADVENT WORDS: Week Two

DAY EIGHT:     Story     December 8, 2013

“The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth STORIES— the very thing the whole STORY has been about.” — C.S. Lewis

I once read (and don’t ask me where – tried to find the quote and couldn’t – so if any of you remember – or can find it…LET ME KNOW) that a “people” are remembered by the STORIES they remember and tell.

Today the 8th Word of Advent is: STORY

It has been one of those winter days. The ice storm that was forecast for NC never really happened in Saxapahaw, but the temperature never went above 35 either. Rain and 33-34 was enough to keep me and the pups home, so I got busy preparing the home for the return of the husband, playing with dogs between raindrops, cleaning things that I ignored for the past two or three weeks, answering phone calls from my 5 year old granddaughter who had lots and lots of STORIES to tell me, half listening to the half-baked Christmas STORIES that seem to have the same theme just re-worked, re-packaged and re-dundant, and moving decorations in the new house because the original place just wasn’t working. Today’s STORY in a nutshell. My STORY, an individual STORY of a collective STORY……hmmmmm……just like the Bible.

STORIES repeated through generation to generation – varying little – kernels of history and truth wrapped in the warmth of familiar words and thoughts….STORIES.

“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their STORY— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,” Ps 107:2

Christmas – Advent – it is Our Father’s STORY. The beginning of a timeless STORY – an analogy of unending love. A STORY that has been repeated by angels, prophets, disciples (“Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story…” Acts 11:4), rabbis, mothers, fathers (“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered…” Luke 2:6), tiny children… and even the rocks themselves…(“I tell you,” He replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Lk 19:40) That is how desperately God wants to tell His STORY to His children. The original gift – present – STORY.  Familiar words…repeated in STORY – poetry – song – I think Longfellow said it best:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

DAY NINE:     ROCK      December 9, 2013

christmas_rocksThe Advent of Words continues to surprise me.  But isn’t God just like that?  Ya think you got a plan, and then God winks…you blink…and your plan is completely eschewed.   Then again, sometimes…duh…like right now…I’m wondering, “What word is next?  How will I recognize it?  Will it be the word God intended or contrived by my own desire to say, “Yea, I did it!”?  Other times…like yesterday…I wonder if I will ever discover the word that God intends for me to find…only to discover that it was there all along, I just had to open my eyes a little wider.  That is when David’s prayer echos in my mind:  “From the ends of the earth, I call to You,  I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the ROCK that is higher than I.”  Ps 61:2

Madeleine L’Engle (Winkle in Time trilogyintroduced me to this wonderful verse a few years back when I read her devotional:  The ROCK that Is Higher:  STORY as Truth.  (Notice yesterday and today’s words are in that title…God is so laughing at me because I never noticed that until right now.)  Anyway…last night as I cuddled with my puppy, I wondered, “What would ROCKS sound like if they began to sing?”  Then I drifted off to sleep.  Funny thing, even though the Bible verse used the word ‘STONE”, I had already changed it to ROCK in my mind.  God is like that.  He is automatically fine-tuning His dial, trying always to align our thoughts with His frequency.  (BTW – still wondering what a song sung by ROCKS would sound like.)

While I could recount all the times today that a ROCK kept popping up in my path — a white, bbbbbiiiiiggg rock that I tripped over as I walked my choc labs by the lake — the hard, ROCK-like head of the third grader who was so frustrated by his math homework that he couldn’t hear me —the puppy who carried a ROCK into the house like a trophy…

Yet – with all of this miscellaneous – you still might be wondering how does the word, ROCK, apply to Advent?  Jesus used the word more than a few times…”He is like a man which built a house, and dug deep, and laid the foundation on a ROCK: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a ROCK.” Lk 6:48   …  or …    “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this ROCK I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  Matt 16:18

bethlehem-stableNeedless to say, Our Father gave us a ROCK on which to rest our faith as well.  He placed this ROCK in a stable – a ROCK in Zion – a foundational ROCK – a tried ROCK – a “precious” ROCK…and that…is what a ROCK has to do with Advent.

“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation…'”         Is 28:16

DAY TEN:        OBEDIENCE          December 10, 2013

Three years ago I made a bet.  I threw it out there thinking it was no big deal.  Little did I realize that everyday would become a battle.  I want a drink…a drink that tickles the back of my throat and satisfies my craving for bubbles.   Quit laughing and no, it isn’t champagne.  Yeah – I know – in the scheme of things – craving a “certain name brand soda which shall remain nameless” doesn’t sound very addictive.  Yet – for me – it is something I think about every day – if not twice or three times a day.  When I made the bet, I had no idea that this was something that was really a challenge between me and My Father.  I was one of those people who drank soda for breakfast as I ran out the door to work (You know – that unwritten rule –  if you don’t drink coffee, you’re allowed to get your caffeine via a bubbly drink)  Drank it mid-day to keep me on my toes for the afternoon – drank it in the evening – just because nothing else tastes so good…and the justification rolled on and on and on…

What I didn’t realize is that when the bet fell apart on this physical plane, Somebody was still pushing me.  I still craved it – still wanted it – but somehow the wages of the bet had changed.  Now it was between me and My Father.  Did I desire to drink Him in as much as I wanted the bubbles of the world?  Did I want a temporary smile to eternal laughter?

The crazy thing is – I never realized this until recently.  He never demanded my change.  He never punished when I opened the world’s refrigerator and went for the bubbles.  He just waited for me to find the strength and wisdom to shut that bulky door for myself…and that brings us to today’s word:  OBEDIENCE.

George Macdonald was a novelist, poet, essayist, and preacher in all written forms.  His themes varied, but he did return to one theme over and over: OBEDIENCE.  “Whosoever…will do the will of God—not understand it, not care about it, not theorize it, but do it—is a son of God.”

Mary and Joseph didn’t understand anything that was laid out before them in the nine months prior to that tiny stable.  Can’t say they didn’t care – for both of them questioned…  ‘How is this possible?” and tried to justify…  “Joseph being a just man was minded to put her away privily…”  For the rest of their lives, maybe they didn’t understand anything.  How do you explain such things in human terms?  A son that was wholly God and wholly man?  A son that would be grace to the world?  A son…a brother…a gift… “For God so loved the world…”  Jn 3:16

In the end, they didn’t care what the world thought.  Joseph became a father; Mary became a mother; together – they had a son.  They didn’t theorize it, didn’t try to understand it, didn’t try to make it fit the world they lived in.  Instead – they took a trip together.  I guess you can’t ask for any more than that.  Someone who will walk with you in OBEDIENCE with Our Father’s plan.  Later…I’m sure those age old questions, theories, and concerns resurfaced in their lives, but you get the idea that for both, Mary and Joseph, obedience won over the wisdom of the world.

DAY ELEVEN      TESTIMONY       December 11, 2013

Last night when I went to bed I thought today’s word would be a different one, but there are times when the mind is out voted by the Spirit…again.

Everyday, when I take our dogs to walk in the woods and swim in the lake, I see the TESTIMONY that others leave…broken glass and empty plastic bottles, beer cans bobbing along the shoreline, trash cans up-rooted and tossed on the ground…

The list could go on and on. It is easy to find the negative TESTIMONY in our world and rant and rave against it. Not so easy to find the good TESTIMONY. The path carved by a master craftsman that allows the traveler an easy passage. Small improvements made by the local boy scout troop last weekend. A cedar bench that welcomes a traveler to rest and observe the blue heron just off shore. TESTIMONIES come in many different ways. It is up to us to decide what TESTIMONY we will share about ourselves.

“My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Ezekiel 37:27

TESTIMONY: Amazing…God wants a relationship with us…sinful – prideful – selfish – destructive and yet…He continues to seek a place among us.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14testimony-evidence-background-concept-178b061

TESTIMONY: a sentient being who would represent everything God had been trying to tell the world from the beginning of creation

“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt 3:17

TESTIMONY: God’s words – not an angel’s words…not man’s words…God’s words.

TESTIMONY.   Your’s  –  God’s  – negative – positive – choice…

DAY TWELVE :      Prayer      December 12, 2013

Zacharias was a priest – descended from a  line of priests.  He PRAYED often – it was his job – his calling – and every now and then he got do observe the holiest of PRAYER times in the temple.  His wife, Elisabeth, – also descended from a line of priests – PRAYED as well.  “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” Lk 1:6   And yet – their prayers for children went unanswered.  “They were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.” Lk 1:7

prayerThe age old question comes into play at this point, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  By all accounts that we know, this was a great couple.  They came from good families; they did what they believed was the right and proper because they had a relationship with God; and they PRAYED.  

Needless to say, I identify with Elisabeth more than I do with her husband.  I’m a woman, I am married.  I wanted kids.  I had kids.  I PRAY.  But prayers don’t always get answered.  Ever whine?  How about pout?  Cry?  Get angry?  Walk away from your relationship with God,,,just because your prayers weren’t answered the way you wanted them to be answered?  Zacharias questioned, doubted – Elisabeth hid herself away.  They were old – set in their ways – not comfortable with the way things were shaping up at this stage in their lives….change was coming…BIG TIME CHANGE.  (HMMM….maybe that should have been the word of the day – 😛 )    Yet – and here is the important thing – they continued to PRAY – to talk with God.  They modeled the faith they lived and continued to PRAY.Man-praying-at-the-Western-wall-in-a-traditional-Tallit-or-Prayer-Shawl-_-by-Beggs_crop

PRAYER:  communication with our Father

PRAYER:  modeled by the baby that Elisabeth carried when he leapt for joy at Mary’s voice close to his mother.

PRAYER:  An Advent word that will add depth to the season.

DAY THIRTEEN:     SHOOT         December 13, 2013

Earlier this summer, we cut a plum tree out of the yard. All summer the stump put out SHOOT after SHOOT until my husband ground the roots into mulch. =( I have a hard time condemning a tree to be cut down…ask my husband, we’ve had this argument for most our married life. Even now – we have another tree in the yard that my husband says needs to come down. He probably knows best since that is his livelihood, but I beg for another year – maybe it will be stronger because I have another year to pray over it. Strong roots…reaching deep…holding firm…pushing upward ISAIAH 11 – Enough said.Tree-Stump-3

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples…”

DAY FOURTEEN:      Wonder       December 14, 2013

“O Woman, you may keep the gold; the child we seek doesn’t need our gold. On love, on love alone he will build his kingdom. His pierced hand will hold no scepter; his haloed head will wear no crown. His might will not be built on your toil. Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us; he will bring us new life, and receive our death. And the keys to his city belong to the poor.” King Melchior in Amahl and the Night Visitors

Earlier this summer, I found one of the 1950’s version of  Amahl and the Night Visitors by Carlo Menotti. In black and white, this was one of the earliest Christmas traditions that I remember, and I WONDER at the miracle of that early tv age which brought opera, symphonies and classic literature into my life. It also brought the first Disney cartoons, Frosty, Rudolph, etc. 

I saved watching Amahl until yesterday. I knew I would cry. Actually, I WONDER that I’m still not crying. So many memories…curled into my dad’s side…mom singing softly along…me trying to sing Amahl’s part… Ironically, later, I was the understudy to sing the mother’s part which added a whole nother level of memories.

I WONDER at the beauty of a simple short story – WONDER at the power of music – WONDER at the inspiration that Christ brought to this world with His advent into it – WONDER at such love that would send His son for the sake of me and you….

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