God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer. . . You've always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all...... And I'll be the poet who sings Your glory!
Psalm 61:1, 3, 8 The Message
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty. Psalm 104:1 NASB
In ancient Roman times, emblems of evergreens mean peace and joy and victory, while early Christians use these symbols to reflect that "Christ had entered the home." Now days, decorations of evergreen branches trim porches, mantles, and banisters; evergreen wreaths hang on windows, over fireplaces, outside doors. While these symbols reflect the celebration of the Advent season, this time of longing for the Messiah, the evergreens give continuous, unspoken reminders of God's endless mercy, everlasting life, eternal Hope. Since the first sin of mankind, throughout thousands of years, century after century, darkness waits for redemption, waits for the light that only Christ can reveal. Jesus' birth, rich with prophecy and promise, only unfolds part of God's Grace story. There is more, much more! This forgiven heart eagerly anticipates the conclusion of His story, the Second Advent of Christ, when Faithful and True returns for me.
At Jesus' birth, Mary wraps Him in cloths and lays Him in a manger because there was not room for them in the inn. After Jesus' death, with permission from Pilate, a man called Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus from the crossand wraps it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. Coming from a virgin womb and wrapped in cloths, Immanuel becomes grace to harsh world, and when the cruelty of the people crucified Him, the Lamb of God, wrapped in linen cloths, lay in a virgin tomb. Politics and power, greed and guilt, denial and death will never define the immutable life of Jesus; instead, the Messiah's victory over death and promise to return for His people enlarge God's never-ending story of Grace. The promise of Christ's Second Advent fills the mind seeking wonder and hope, stills the heart living grief and fear, and thrills the soul knowing grace and peace. Earthly wrappings can never tell the whole story of Advent!
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse,
and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, ...
He is clothed with robe dipped in blood,
and His names is called The Word of God...
And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written,
"KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS."
Revelation 19:11-16 NASB
Clothed with splendor and majesty, Christ will come again. Surrounded by angels, His glory will illumine space; there will be no more darkness. LORD OF LORDS, the title declaring Him Lord over all, reigns forever. Jesus Christ - the Light of the World, the Messiah, KING OF KINGS - now waits in Heaven until the holy appointed time. Jesus waits for us to call on His name, waits for us to cry out in need, waits for us to share His Love, waits for us to speak His name. Listen! Every day the Word of Godquills the story of everlasting peace and unfailing grace. Believe! Every day find Immanuel, God with us. Wait! Anticipate Advent every moment of your everyday. THIS is the Christmas Story! -dho
They are my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear Your name. Jeremiah 15:16
This 3rd Sunday in the Advent season sometimes is called "Gaudete Sunday" from the Latin meaning "rejoice". Others call this candle "joy", which is sometimes pink. Joy-full celebrations in the Christmas story show angels singing of great joy, shepherds telling with holy awe, wise men worshiping in humble adoration. The expectant waiting in Advent leads us to celebrate Christ as the Messiah, to seek Christ more every day, to know Jesus as our source of joy.
In Philippians 4:4, Paul reminds, "Rejoice in The Lord always, again, I will say rejoice!" The world continually bombards us with crisis and chaos, disappointment and doubt, fear and fatigue. The contrast between Paul's words and our realities appear to clash. How can we rejoice when difficult circumstances prevail, when constant hardship lingers? God's word provides His wisdom, reveals His promises, offers His hope. Reading and studying the Bible teaches us how to pray, who to love, and where to serve. We can only find real joy in Jesus.
In the Nativity, Hope comes quietly, Love comes small, Joy comes gently, but with the Crucifixion, Hope faints, Love chooses, and Joy weeps. These two events cannot be separated, the sweet and the bittersweet. The emotions born with Jesus' coming crash into the harsh realities of the cross; the Messiah comes because the world needs Grace. With His Resurrection, Hope shouts, Love lives, and Joy reigns! Through Grace, Christ brings us abundant joy. God's word instructs us, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." [Colossians 3:16] Discover and devour God's word. Then, and only then, can we Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in Him. -dho
The season of Advent, meaning "to come," finds us waiting to celebrate - once again - the arrival of the baby Jesus on Christmas. This promise of the Messiah spans generations, but when He does arrive, the first Advent, it changes everything. Tender manger scenes contrast the glorious angels singing. From the moment Truth enters human history, the story celebrated becomes Jesus loving us with compassion and tenderness while all of heaven celebrates Perfect Love. We light the second candle to celebrate with all of heaven that salvation for mankind comes into the world, comes for us. From before time until time to come, God envelops us with love.
Incarnation describes God's glory dwelling with His people. In the Old Testament, God's Glory, His shekinah, represents His presence in the tabernacle. John introduces Jesus as the Word that becomes flesh and dwells with the people. He is both holy and human, infinite and incarnate. Jesus manifests God's Glory on earth and desires an everlasting relationship with us. Grace comes through Jesus Christ, chooses us, calls us, completes us.
Throughout this week, let your spiritual celebration retrace the Incarnation. When Jesus becomes human and makes His home among us, remember the Bethlehem crowds leave no room for Jesus. After all those years of waiting for the Messiah, into the hurried, overflowing, populous Bethlehem, Grace simply comes. Today's world is no less hectic, occupied or crammed with busy. Does your life leave room for Jesus? Have you found Jesus in your Bethlehem? Know the unmeasured Grace and faithfulness of Perfect Love when you invite Jesus to dwell in your tabernacle. It changes everything! Love! ~dho
Advent offers us time to refocus on the promise, birth, redemption, and return of Christ. The Christmas season brings lights and gifts, love and joy; it retells the stories of prophets and angels, shepherds and magi, Mary and Jesus. All the wonders of Christmas open our imaginations to promises and possibilities. From before time until time to come, God embraces us with hope.
During Advent, we light four candles, one each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Some say they symbolize the four centuries of waiting, of silence between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. Some name them hope, love, joy, and peace, while others remember prophets, Bethlehem, shepherds, and angels. What we call them is not so important. How we spend these four weeks IS! This journey of spiritual celebration begins with understanding God's infinite love and His desire for each one to experience everlasting life.
This week celebrate expectation as you consider God's magnificent plan to bring reconciliation to His people. After God creates mankind, the history of rebellion begins. From the beginning, God recognizes the spiritual needs of people and promises Jesus. Prophets foretell of His coming throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament, John the Baptist fulfills OT prophecy and introduces Jesus. Remember the thousands of years of endings and new beginnings, the thousands of years of waiting, the thousands of years of hope. Begin today, to seek the possibilities of God, to see endings as opportunities for God to bring new beginnings. Hope! ~ dho