Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for December, 2015

What Are We Singing?

clip_image002Carolers appear at our gate every evening during this time of year. A few offer beautiful music, either vocal or instrumental.  Others beat on a can and shout something indecipherable, always followed by “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” That’s our cue to come out with a treat. 

Of all the standard Christmas carols, the two we hear are “Joy to the World” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”  And one wonders, as the garbled words emerge from enthusiastic throats, do they understand what they’re singing?  Especially when it’s in English, which most of these children wouldn’t understand.  (I must say that it’s usually sung a second time in their own language.) 

Then I have to ask myself, do I really understand the same song when I sing it?  Do I think about it or does my mouth go on autopilot while I’m thinking about what’s for lunch?

Take this line from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”: 
God and sinners reconciled.  Unpacked, these four words contain the whole story:

–A former perfect relationship between God and humankind
–People becoming sinful and separated from God
–God’s provision of the means to restore that relationship.

It was done by God setting aside His divine privilege for the sake of the estranged human race and becoming one of us!  Coming down and reaching out to pay the  death penalty we deserve and restore us to the place He intended for us when He made us.

What love!  This is why we celebrate.  Would you turn down such a gift?

christmas-gift-with-big-bow

Four Hundred Years of Waiting

How long is 400 years?  Just about that long ago the Mayflower set out with its load of pilgrims to settle the New World.  A long time!

As the Advent season begins, we step back into the sandals of the Israelites 400 years before Christ.  The last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, had finished his work, and no word came from heaven during those four long centuries.  How dark!  Were they still expecting the promised Messiah to come?  Had they given up hope?  Maybe some did, but from people’s response to Jesus when he did come(“Could this be the Messiah?”) we know that many were still watching for Him.

Another period of 400 years in biblical history was the Israelites’ time in Egypt, much of that under slavery.  What a long time!  By the time God sent Moses to rescue them, had they forgotten God’s promises to Abraham to make them a great nation?  If they had, God certainly hadn’t, and He fulfilled that promise.

Still another 400-year period stretched from the beginning of the Israelite kingdom under Saul until the northern half of it toppled to the Assyrian army.  (The southern half lasted for 125 years longer.)  What were God’s people doing during this time? Following God at times, but drifting farther and farther away until the predicted punishment for their treachery against God was upon them.

At the end of each of these 400-year periods came a sudden, climactic event.

–After the Israelites’ slavery, they were suddenly freed, through the Red Sea on dry ground, and on their way to their own homeland.

–After the 400-year kingdom, during which they thought the threatened punishment would never happen, they were suddenly destroyed by Assyria and taken into forced exile.

–After the 400-year “silent period” between the Old and New Testaments, suddenly came to live among them as a man, fulfilling the hopes and promises of millenia!

Which is why we celebrate this time of year.  These hopes and promises are for us today.  And while we celebrate Jesus’ coming as a baby and then dying a horrible death to provide forgiveness for our sin, we look forward to the day when He comes in awesome power and glory to set everything right.  May we never get tired of watching for Him.  Let’s be ready whenever He makes His appearance!

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