Cosmic Christmas – Revelation 12:1-5

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This is a Cosmic Christmas.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne…       Revelation 12:1-5 ESV

The Woman clothed in the sun with the moon at her feet and the 12 stars represents the people of Israel.  Do you remember Abraham’s call, that he would be a blessing to the nations? (Genesis 12)  That his descendants would be numbered with the stars? (Genesis 15) Well here we see that out of this nation a special child is born.  Of course Mary is the individual who gave birth, but Jesus is the child of the nation of Israel.  Through him the nations of the earth have received a blessing.

But there is a dragon!  Who lets a dragon in where a baby is being born?  But this reminds us that Jesus came to defeat the Liar, the Deceiver.  It was the serpent who deceived the man and his wife in Paradise. And this child is the one who will crush the head of the serpent.

John shows him as a great red dragon.  The dragon does what he can to get rid of Jesus.  Herod is moved to do him in. but they escape to Egypt. Then it is another Herod and Pilate who will have Jesus put to death. But their victory is their defeat. It is by his death that we receive salvation. In seeming defeat, the great victory is won.

Advent is more than a quietly sleeping child in a Manger.  (How did he sleep thorugh the Angel’s loudness?)  It is the birth of a king, it is the seed of God’s ultimate victory in the world.

All the dragons are slain by that child.

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Resonance – Genesis 22 and Advent

Abraham-e-Isaac-sacrifican (1)In our Christmas Eve service, we read Genesis 22

Why should we read this story at Christmas?  Genesis 22 is maybe the most provoking passage in the Bible.  We wonder why God would challenge Abraham with this.

My answer is that it resonates with the Christmas story.  If you play a note on a piano that same string on a violin or a guitar, if they are tuned the same, will resonate.  The likeness will cause a vibration.  Consider a few facts:

Isaac was a long promised child.  We know that the Messiah was promised from the time of the Garden of Eden, later in the promise of a greater Moses, and then through he prophets in a variety of ways.

Isaac was a miracle child.  Sarah had Isaac at 90 years of age. It was so unlikely that she laughed with the Angel told Abraham that she would have a child.  It was so fantastic that his name “Isaac” means laughter.  Jesus was born as a miracle – no human father and yet Mary gave birth.

Isaac was a beloved child.  God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac and go to the region of Moriah…”  When we speak of Jesus as the Son of God, we capitalize it since he is the only one.  God took his son, his only son, whom he loves – Jesus, and sent him into our world.

Isaac was obedient to his father – as was Jesus who submitted to the will of the Father when he became a sacrifice for sin.

There was a substitute – Isaac was spared and a ram found nearby was his substitute.  Jesus was not spared, but he became our substitute.

The sacrifice was on a hill.  In fact there is good reason to believe that this hill was in the same area and perhaps the same hill where Mt Zion sits.

Are all these just by coincidence?  No.  Did we pull them out of the text when they are not really there? No, they are there.

Genesis 22 points us to John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

            God the father did what Abraham did not have to do.  If we want to imagine the gift of God, consider how hard it must have been for Abraham – and multiply it many times.   Abraham had waited a matter of years to have a son, but God and the Eternal Son had forever.

Jesus the Son came willingly.  Isaac was willing to obey his father, but he did not know what his Father was planning to do.  Jesus knew his destiny before his birth.  He fully and willingly obeyed the Father.

What string does this cause to resonate in you?  We all desire to know Love. Can you begin to feel the love of God?  Can you feel in your heart the incredible depth of his love?  With long planning and total sacrifice, he sent his son to the world to rescue all who will believe.

Jesus v. Santa Smackdown

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Yes, this is how I think of Advent. In our present state of missing the point of Christmas, I think of Advent as a way to fight back – a Jesus v. Santa Smack down.

“In this corner, weighing in at well over 200 pounds, and dominating the retail scene from Halloween to December 24 is Santa Clause, also know as the Reindeer Runner…in the other corner is the Lord, trim and already a victor.  This will be a 27 rounder, from November 27 to December 24…”

Advent give you a chance to read and reflect on the history of the Promise from the earliest days (Genesis 3) through the prophets and down to the birth of Jesus (Luke 2).  The story is not over until He returns.  There is a lot there.  So I encourage you to find a reading plan and follow the story.

Here is a place to start –Readings

Here are some more – More Readings

 

Advent Poem – “The Nativity”

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I have carved a few nativity figures.  The Nativity scene as we know and celebrate it has its roots in the ministry of St. Francis.  His love of nature and animals has made some impact on our Christmas decorations at least.

In this poem, C. S. Lewis imagined the story through the eyes of the creatures of the nativity.

“The Nativity” –  C. S. Lewis

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)

I see a glory in the stable grow

Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length

Give me an ox’s strength

 

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)

I see my Savior where I looked for hay;

So may my beastlike folly learn at least

The patience of a beast.

 

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)

I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;

Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence

Some wooly innocence!

Advent Poem – “The Risk of Birth”

I love this poem.  1st Century Palestine was not filled with precious moments figurines, but busy people trying to make a life under the leadership of Rome, masters of power.  The world today is also not such a safe place.  I once had a friend honestly say that he did not think it was right to bring a child into such a troubled world.  The Almighty did not think that way…

The Risk of Birth

 

This is no time for a child to be born,

With the earth betrayed by war & hate

And a comet slashing the sky to warn

That time runs out & the sun burns late

 

That was not time for a child to be born,

In a land in the crushing grip of Rome:

Honor & Truth were trampled by scorn—

Yet here did the Savior make his home.

 

When is the time for love to be born?

The Inn is full on planet earth,

And by a comet the sky is torn –

Yet love still takes the risk of birth.

Madeleine L’Engle

 

The Threads of John 1:1-18

logo4One can consider John 1:1-18 as the overture of the book.  It establishes themes that are picked up later in the book.  I also think you can compare it to a weaving.  There are themes, like colored strands of wool yarn, woven along the duration of the text.  The book is not outlined and linear like a book on Organic Chemistry.

Why is that?  It seems to me that life itself is complex.  We weave in and out of places and situations all the time.  On one day you can be at home, in the Lord’s presence during your quiet time, with your housemates at breakfast  with your fellow commuters and co workers during the day, with your Face Book Friends during break, then back home, maybe you go to a meeting or eat out and all along there are calls to make or emails.  Life is more like a tapestry than it is like a text on Organic Chemistry.

John starts with the invasion of the Eternal into the temporal.  Jesus comes to weave his thread into the human story and “to those who will receive him” into individual stories.

Thus the Sermon theme in December, the season of Advent is based on John 1.  We are picking out the threads of “Word”, “Wisdom”, “Light”, “Flesh” and “Lamb” among others and exploring them as they develop in John 1 and further into the text.

This will be part of a Slow Read of John, that will take us through Easter Sunday in sermons and in class discussions.  So I will be posting the schedule of readings if you want to join it.

December 25 – Isaiah 61:1-2

What is the mission of Jesus?

This is what he said at his first recorded message, from Isaiah 61:1-2

                                The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,

 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…

Luke 4:14-20

 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,  and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”