Something about that name…

…The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:6b‬ ‭ (NLT)‬‬

There’s just something about these titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I can’t help but hear them in my mind as set to music by Handel, every time I read them on the page. 

And my heart just swells – with hope. This is who I place my hope in: One whose every name brings me new reasons for hope. 

One who commands grandiose titles, and yet chose to be born a baby. 

One who is bigger than history, outside of time, vast, limitless – yet chose to put on frail human flesh. 

One who is immortal, and yet chose to become mortal and then to submit himself to death. Even death on a cross. 

For you. For me. 

This is where our hope belongs. 

This Advent, may you be awed by His titles and touched by his humanity. May you put your hope squarely where it belongs. May you know that there’s just something about that name. 

Unlikely…

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
‭‭Micah‬ ‭5:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One of the things I love about the Bible, is how often it’s the little guy, the underdog, the longshot who ends up being the hero of the story.  David wins against Goliath. A bunch of unschooled fishermen bring the Gospel to the world. The savior of the world is born as a tiny, helpless baby. 

The story of the Bible is the story of hope being found in the most unlikely places and the most unlikely people. 

So hundreds of years before the baby is born, the prophet Micah wrote about the ruler who would come from the unlikely town of Bethlehem. Small among the clans of Judah, no one would expect this backwater to be the place where the Messiah would be born. 

But that’s the thing about hope – sometimes it comes from the most surprising sources. 

This Advent may you be surprised by hope. May find it in the unlikely cry if a tiny baby born in a unimpressive little town, who would grow to become the savior of the world. 

Shining in the night…

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

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

There’s a song many of us who worship in Presbyterian churches love, it starts, “Hope is a star, that shines in the night – leading us on, until morning is bright.”

Because hope is like a light that shines in the darkness…it doesn’t vanquish the darkness entirely. But it shines. And it guides. And it leads us forward to a time when morning has come, and all is bright.

The days are dark at this time of year. The night comes early (4:42pm, according to my Weather Network app). We get a little starved for light. Maybe that’s what’s behind the lights we string on trees and around the edges of our houses. Maybe that’s why we light candles during the four Advent Sundays – we just NEED a little extra light in our lives at this time of year.

A lot of darkness has seemed to gather in 2016. Every once in a while it’s like our world goes through something where the darkness just seems more prevalent than it has been. As a race, we seem to experience fear, shock and despair more often as the events of the day are reported. 2016 has been one of those times. It’s dark out there, right now.

And in times of darkness, hope become even more powerful. Even more necessary.

I cling to hope – like a star shining in the night, leading us on until morning is bright. My hope is in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. The One that the prophet was writing about when he wrote that the people in darkness have seen a great light.

This advent, may you experience that hope. May you know that hope placed in the promises of God is never disappointed. May you hold to the light that shines in the darkness. May you know that the darkness CANNOT put it out.

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Beginning…

For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
Isaiah 9:6a (MSG)

 

Today marks the beginning of the Advent Season – it is the first Sunday of Advent, the Advent Sunday of Hope. For some it might seem early for the Season to begin (my Dad refuses to let my Mom put up a Christmas tree until it is ACTUALLY December…she got her Nativity set up, though, so her decorating has begun despite my Dad’s best efforts!).

It is still November – our friends in the States have just celebrated Thanksgiving. It may seem early for a beginning. But I love the first few days of Advent. Right now it’s all anticipation – there are so many thing to look forward to, so many celebrations to be had.

As a church leader, this can be a time of year in which the pressures get to us. I have friends and colleagues who swear that the joy of the Season has been robbed by the demands and pressures of our work. And for ten years, I have worked very hard to not allow that to happen to me.

Instead, I jump in with both feet. I decorate the house BIG (two trees! Snow globes! Greenery on the banister! Red ribbons wrapping the doors!), I listening to Christmas music in my car, I indulge in the Seasonal drinks (ok, the skinny version…but still!) at Starbucks. I keep my eyes open for opportunity to bring joy to others (finding, as I always have, that is the best way to bring joy to myself).

I was touched by the Rev. Douglas Rollwage’s reminder that the child was born FOR US, during his sermon at St. Andrew’s, Brampton today. That God did all of this – Jesus’ birth, life, teaching, death, Resurrection and the salvation we find through it – FOR US.

I am convinced, that as long as I keep that message in my heart – and you keep it in yours – we will not be able to feel anything less than grateful, humble joy throughout the Season. May you (and I!) be so blessed.

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