Heaven Moves

Perfect love.

Pure community.

A vision for expression.

Empty. Dark. Barren. 

Generative speech.

Creativity tramples the void.



Water and warmth.

Light and life.

Plants and beasts.



Man. Then woman.

Perfect partners. 

Wonderful wholeness.



A question posed.



Word against word. 

Doubt and decision.

A fateful fulcrum.

Hiding. Shame. Sorrow.

Death is born. 

Pain rides death’s wake.



Yet, a promise.

Hope’s seed.

Divinely sealed.

But not now.



First a flood.

Then a tower.

And bondage.



Wild wandering. 

Conquest and settling.

Cycling generations. 



Judges. Kings.

Captivity. Release. 

Remnant. Rebuild.



Courageous voices stir atrophied hopes.

To remember.



Oh Lord, how long?

The silence is deafening.



In time…

Heaven moves.



Angelic pronouncements.

Startling words. Heavy words. 

Fantastic words. Terrible words.

Ancient, but fresh words.

Life-giving words.

About The Word.

To a priest. 

A girl. 

And a man.

Great expectation initiates unexpectedly. 

Perfectly timed.

Unassuming, yet shocking. 



Man. Woman. Spirit. 

A mystical incorporation.

Fragile, but unbreakable.

Their faith – steadfast.

Their contentment – inspiring.

Their obedience – courageous.
 


Hope’s seed.
Sprouted and growing.

Setting roots in a maligned cove of Palestine.

Human life.

Flesh and blood. 

Crying. Dirty. Bloody. Helpless.

Beautiful.

A birth for our re-birth. 

Our rescue.

Our redemption.



First a child. 

Then a man. 

Always God.

Jesus.

A promise fulfilled.

Hope made real.

A crush to the curse. 



He cried at birth.

He would cry in His death. 

Again dirty. Bloody. Helpless.

Alone.

His life for ours.

A fantastic swap.

We crowd His Cross to wash in grace.

Salvation, sprung from a manger.

Profoundly simple.

Mysteriously complex. 

Soulfully wonderful.

What selfless limiting. 

What sacrifice.

What love.

What joy!

His joy.

Our joy.

He is our ransom. 

He is our God.

Who is with us.

Emmanuel. 


My Favorite Day

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.

The lid is closing on last minute prep. The practicing is over. It’s time for the big game.

For me, Christmas Eve is like standing in a big stadium tunnel. I’m suited for play. The band is performing their pre-game routine. The crowd builds – in number and noise. I bounce lightly on my feet, extending and curling my fingers in a slow, methodical rhythm. My body is tight and alert with adrenaline. I feel powerful. Giddy. Ready. The big game is moments away.

Bring on the assembly of plastic toys!

The big game (i.e. Christmas) causes homes to buzz with a wonderful tension. Laughter is more frequent. Conversations ripple with excitement. Niceness coats parent-child relationships. Children wear-down the carpet in front of the tree as they ponder, prognosticate and speculate against their naughty or niceness. Sleep loses the battle with wonder. There’s food and feasting. We share, remember and anticipate.

Anticipation makes the celebration all the more sweet. Our stored hope feeds the outpouring of gratitude as we express our joy. Christmas is the annual expression of humanity’s longing for a Redeemer conjoined with a collective, eternal “Hallelujah!” for the gift of God veiled in flesh.


At Christmas, we give gifts in honor of our Heavenly Father who gave to us with exceptional, undeserved generosity. He gave a gift to fulfill His promise. A gift anticipated, and now here.

We give gifts to celebrate the birth of the long expected Jesus. A Man pleased to dwell among us. To be our friend. Our rescue. Our Savior.

So we celebrate on Christmas Day – and every day – with an out-pouring of joy for the gift of salvation that is Jesus Christ!

May your anticipated Christmas Day celebrations be rich, warm and expectant for the day when we see face-to-face the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:14

How Long Would You Wait?

Two weeks until Christmas. These days are torture. It’s a type of no-man’s-land. Christmas Day is close enough to foster frenzied anticipation, yet far enough away to breed frustration. The ‘teens’ of countdown calendars seem to linger like a bad cold. Presents under the tree taunt me. Holiday movies, class parties and endless Pandora Christmas tunes only froth my desires. Oh Christmas – come quickly!
Waiting can be the hardest part (cue the Tom Petty song). Especially when what’s waited for is deeply desired. Remember waiting to get your driver’s license? To graduate? Land that first job? Get married? How about waiting for a child to sleep through the night? Or become toilet-trained?
As I wait for Christmas Day I’ve been pondering the promise of Christmas. A promise first spoken to humanity’s parents – Adam and Eve. A promise given in the midst of failure and disgrace. But in that moment of death came the promise of life. A commitment to rescue and restore. It was a scene both terrible and wonderful. Tragic and hopeful. It was all around incredible as in the mire of despair God promised to fix our mistake.
But not right away.
We had to wait. For thousands of years. Years filled with suffering and confusion. Years of wandering, wondering, fear and pleading. Doubts found energy in the waiting. Was the promise real? Why hadn’t it come yet? And if it was coming, why not now?
Prophets – God’s town criers – rekindled the hope of the promise with encouragement, stern warnings and calls for faithful, patient obedience. Some listened. Some doubted. Some gave up – the waiting was too much.
Then God went silent.
For centuries. I imagine it was a cold, painful, trying silence. With dimmed hopes. Intense longings. And in the most despairing moments, tears of suffering. The waiting was agony. God’s silence, dreadful.
But then God spoke.
His first words were profound proclamations to a pair of unlikely women. An old woman; her younger relative. The seed of promise began to sprout. Humanity’s greatest failure was about to meet its Kinsmen Redeemer. The buds of hope were swelling.
A short time later, the promise blossomed. The void of silent anticipation was filled by angel shouts, shepherd gasps, a mother’s joyous cries and a father’s relieved sigh. The promise was here.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Christ’s incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass… It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator himself to become a creature.” An amazing promise kept in a miraculous way. Mankind’s failure became God’s great victory.

The promise of Jesus was long in coming, but worth the wait. And we continue to wait. We long for the day when that child – now King Jesus – will return to the earth He left and consummate His Kingdom. Bring restoration. Healing. Justice and peace. It will be Christmas all the time.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Jesus’ Dad

Our teaching pastor (here’s his blog) made a statement that rattled me. To paraphrase, he said Jesus needed an earthly father. Really? I thought Jesus didn’t need anything? He is the Son of God, after all. You know, fully God and fully man. But the statement kept circling back: Jesus needed a dad. He needed Joseph.

Joseph. That mystery man without a speaking part in the original Christmas pageant. The one who forgot to make reservations at Bethlehem’s Holiday Inn. The one who stands in nativity displays with a staff and coy smile – the “third wheel” of the holy family.

I don’t intend disrespect with my tongue-in-cheek musings. The truth is Joseph was chosen by God to participate in a promise fulfilled – the Word becoming flesh. I find it amazing God delivered redemption within the context of family. It’s seems so understated. He could have brought salvation in a much more spectacular, attention-grabbing, Fourth of July kind of way. Instead, He infused the common with something unexpected. A young virgin. A baby. And Joseph.

I confess I’ve sometimes thought of Joseph as weak, even a wimp. A passive man who followed behind the spectacle of Mary and her miraculous baby. A stage hand to the “big show”, left to carry diapers, push the stroller and be at the ready with an open wallet. I know, now I’m adding blasphemy to my prior disrespect. Thankfully, my pastor’s statement brings productive pondering and causes a reconsidering of the real Joseph – Jesus’ dad.

A dad is a role model. An influencer. A challenger. A trainer. A lover of his wife. Someone who works and provides. A protector and keeper. Scripture tells us Joseph was just, obedient and patient in dealing with Mary and her blessed calling (Matthew 1:18-25). I wonder how I would have responded. Honestly, the whole setup was a little “out there.” Angel visits, a miraculous conception and the God-Man baby. Mary’s baby. Joseph’s Mary. Certainly there must have been lots of “why?” questions. But in the midst of the miraculous, Joseph models astonishing faith and prompt obedience. Mary’s man was no wimp.

Tacitus, a first-century Roman Senator said, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” I bet Joseph felt the pull toward the safe and familiar. All men do to varying degrees. I sure do. Scripture tell us Joseph planned to divorce Mary quietly. That would have been safe, and acceptable. But God called Joseph to leave the predictable and join Him in the enterprise of Incarnation. To be a dad to a child not his own – an exceptional child who would require exceptional parenting. To love a baby who would disrupt plans and shatter dreams. After all, despite his pedigree, Jesus needed a dad.

If Jesus needed a dad, what does that mean for me – as a dad? I’m thankful none of my children are divine, although displays of divine character are always welcome. Divine or not, my children need a dad. They need me. They need my love, leadership, discipline and nurture. They need to know I am proud of them. They need my time and energy. My patience. A listening ear. They need to observe my successes and failures. My laughter and tears. I must be committed to their mother, and our God. Jesus needed the same things from Joseph.

The father who stands quietly smiling at Mary and the Christ-child in our nativities was a courageous man. He wasn’t just a place-holder to round-out the holy family. Joseph was a man who protected and risked. A man who sacrificed. He was a good father, a good husband. Faithful. Obedient. A real man. A dad. Thank you, Joseph, for being Jesus’ dad.

Nativity Mischief

Nothing says Christmas like a nativity. The room I’m sitting in right now has seven forms of nativity. Some expensive. Some handmade. All are valued. I’m trying hard not to miss the mini pewter nativity that has my name on it at my parent’s house and remain content with those that I have.

Years ago, friends who are missionaries in Kenya gave us a Banana Bark Nativity Set (BBNS) which I quickly fell in love with. I’m not much of an Early Christmas planner-type but by the end of October, I find myself thinking about the BBNS and begin to count the days until it will come out of its box.

My children are fond of it also but in a different way. While I am drawn to the story behind it and the thoughtfulness of special friends, my children have assigned a state of mischief to the display.  Every week after we clean, the child-duster in our home has re-set the pieces. And there are others who modify the collection’s stance. They are crafty, these children. They wait until I’m not looking or out of the room. Then as I go about my business it comes over me that something is different, has changed and though I want to be indignant, when I see the transition, I find I can’t. I don’t know if there’s been a time I have not laughed out loud. And sometimes my laughter brings the kids into the room and we all crack up together, the perpetrator glorying in his success.

So now my BBNS is not just about friendship and the African continent but it’s wrapped in memories of play and cleverness and isn’t that what Christmas is for? To unite us in experiences and to be image bearers of creativity and to bring joy to the celebration of Christ’s birth?

Here are some of our past and present favorites—some of the pictures taken in real time and others recreated. (if you received this update via email and can’t see the photos, click here to go directly to the blog)

The BBNS
 Mom’s Setup
 Cheerleading for the Christ-child
 Jealous Donkey, Shocked Sheep
 Donkey’s Eye View
 Holy Family Conga 
 Joy Ride for Jesus
 Sheep Mob