Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas III

This is the final installment in a series of three. Please read the previous two before this...

And then, when it seems like dusk has set out irrevocably for night. When despair is palpable, something changes.

Off the beaten path, in a forgotten town, in a stable, there is a young pregnant girl, nervous, eyes squinting as she fights off the beginning pains of labor. People have judged her for being pregnant before marriage. Rumors had spread. Even with an angel’s assurance their was challenge and heart-ache. Now, on the ground of a stable the pain continues...

Next to her is a young man. His eyes dart around, nervous. He holds the girl, as if protecting her. He gets up. He walks back and forth, around the donkeys and other animals in the stable. A few days ago he had a vision of an angel, it was bright startling and reassuring. Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:20-21).

But that was a few days ago; all the reassurance that gave, it faded in the face of the pressure and pain of the coming birth. It was almost as if both the young man and the girl were aching with the question “Where are you now God? Sure there was a vision of an angel. Sure. But how about now, in this manger. On this cold night. Where are you?” The cry in the very heart of humanity since the garden: “Where are you God?”

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
(Matthew 1:23)

The answer to not only Mary and Joseph’s cry, but humanity’s cry of where are you is answered in the manger amidst animals and a nervous and scared young married couple. Immanuel: God with us. In Jesus God tells all of creation: ‘I am with you.’

11 May all kings bow down to him
and all nations serve him.
12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
Psalm 72:11-14

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2-6

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Unless a person is acquainted with trembling awe, reaching down to the very ground of his being, at the thought of God's nature, he will not be ready for the contemplation of Jesus Christ. At the least, he will need to prepare himself in the school of the Old Covenant. Otherwise he will be in danger of coming to Christ like someone blind and dumb, finding nothing more in him than an example of perfect humanity; such a person would not be contemplating God, but man, i.e., himself. Anyone contemplating the life of Jesus needs to be newly and more deeply aware every day that something impossible, something scandalous has occurred: that God, in His Absolute Being, has resolved to be made manifest himself in a human life [...]. [The believer] must be scandalized by this, he must feel his mind reeling, the very ground giving way beneath his feet; he must at least experience that ecstasy of non-comprehension which transported Jesus' contemporaries.

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sermon Manuscripts Courtesy of Gospel Coalition

Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition has rightly awarded Tim Keller the most unique sermon manuscript. For Keller's and others (including Driscoll's) check this link out.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Eyes to See, Ears to Hear

Here is something I (Matt) wrote for our school newsletter.

Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth...

Last week, a group of choirs got together at the Nordstrom flagship store in downtown Seattle, and at the cue of the store pianist, proceeded to perform the closing song of Handel’s Messiah, the “Hallelujah Chorus” taking shoppers by surprise on what was just a normal December shopping day for them. This type of “random act of culture” has been somewhat of a phenomenon lately. Choirs and opera companies have been doing this in different cities across America, and its technical name is a “flash mob”. (A ‘flash mob’ is a is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual act for a brief time, then disperse.)

Hallelujah! The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ...

An internet video of one of these Hallelujah Chorus flash mobs has been circulating around our school. (You can find the video by searching “Hallelujah Chorus food court” on the internet) Originally passed from one teacher to another and used in our teacher devotion time, it has now been seen by most classes at school. The video portrays a normal mall food court at a meal time. A girl with a cell phone stands up and starts to sing, then a man joins her, standing on his chair on the opposite side of the room, then others join, and all at once there is a company of over 100 professional singers singing the Hallelujah Chorus to normal people in a mall food court. By the end of the song, many people are standing, as is the tradition of the Hallelujah Chorus, and people are visibly impressed. It brings tears to your eyes, to see this beautiful piece of music performed in such an ordinary place.

And He shall reign for ever and ever...

Why do the tears come? Why the emotion when watching a video on the internet? It could be nostalgia for those wonderful things that surround the Christmas season. I hope that it is because we have the ears to hear the words. But do we really hear and do we really see? There are people in the video that are more concerned with their burger and fries than with the beauty happening around them. Is that true of us? A few others are trying to get back to their shopping, and don’t have the time to stop and listen– its as if they don’t even hear or see what is going on. What can we really say to them though? Do the words make more of a difference to us because we have tears in our eyes? It seems that the King of Kings has come, and I’m hungry for a milkshake. The Lord of Lords has arrived, and we’re checking our watches. This King’s reign will never end, and we’re worried about everything from Christmastime expenses to what someone said to us yesterday!

King of kings, and Lord of lords, and He shall reign forever and ever...

The King of kings has come– what better news could I hope to hear? What better sight could I hope to see? Does my celebration of this King’s coming show up in my ordinary everyday words, thoughts, and actions, or just around Christmastime? This world has been visited by its true King. He came to our world– to this real ordinary world, even as a baby in a forgotten corner of the Middle East. And even then , His coming invoked worship- real worship. The angel armies stood and shouted- “Glory to God in the highest!” and the shepherds trembled- and then went to Jesus and worshiped. Right in the middle of there ordinary lives came the omnipotent King of all the universe. They heard, they saw, they went, and they worshiped. This King coming to us is like the Hallelujah Chorus being performed in a food court. What is our response? Will we go and worship this king like the shepherds did? It is my prayer for the Everett Christian School family that the good news of this King would cause us to worship and to follow Jesus in every ordinary detail of our lives.


Christmas II

Christmas doesn’t begin in a manger, it’s roots go to the beginning of time, to the depth of God’s persistently loving heart, to the depths of humanity’s great and expansive need.

As God’s ‘where are you?-searching-love’ echoes throughout time, through prophets, in covenants and promises. Humanity cries a similar cry. Abraham and Sarah cry ‘where are you God?’ as they hope for a child--when it looks like hope is gone and the promise trampled and forgotten. Jacob cries ‘where are you God?’ on a road by himself, away from his family, on the run from his older and angry brother. Leah cries ‘where are you God?’ when her husband Jacob looks at her with disgust. Joseph cries ‘where are you God?’ when his brothers nearly leave him for dead, then sell him into slavery. ‘Where are you God?’ Moses’ mother cries as she sends her oldest son away, hoping that Pharaoh won’t find him. ‘Where are you God?’ Israel cries out in slavery. ‘Where are you God?’ Israel cries out in the desert, as it wanders seeking a land of promise. In exile, away from their homes, Israel cries ‘where are you?’

‘Where are you God?’ is a question that echoes in hearts from Abraham to Nehemiah, in places from Egypt to Babylon. like a son that longs for his father’s provision, like a daughter that wants her mother’s arms creation cries out “Where are you God?”

God cries out: “Where are you?” with a deep longing love.

Humanity cries out: “Where are you?” with a great expansive need.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas I

The scene is not Bethlehem, but a Garden. There are no wise-men, no mangers. There is a man and his wife. She has taken a bite of a fruit, she has passed it on to her husband. Suddenly shame fills them both. Some call this “the Fall”--look closely you can almost see a spike driving apart creation from it’s Creator.

It was evening when “the man and his wife heard the sound [... of] God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”’

If you listen closely you can hear the pain in God’s voice, where are you? “Where are you?” He asks as the man and woman hide among the leaves. A question that is not, of course, fully a question, because God knows the answer; He asks where are you? The way a loving father looks into his disobedient son’s eyes. Where are you? The way a patient mother looks into her reckless daughter’s life.

The story of Christmas that begins not in a manger, but a garden, not with the smell of frankincense, but the tasting of a fruit, as God paces around the garden. This “Where are you”-love resounds in covenants, promises and prophets. It spans centuries and generations. Throughout time God’s love echoes. This love, His fastidious-searching-where-are-you-love knows that reconciliation--sure, fixed and definite--will eventually come like a spike in His heart.