Wednesday, December 24

So, this is Christmas........

“No one has ever heard, no one has paid attention, and no one has seen any god except you. You help those who wait for you. You greeted the one who gladly does right and remembers your ways. You showed your anger, because we've sinned. We've continued to sin for a long time. Can we still be saved? We've all become unclean, and all our righteous acts are like permanently stained rags. All of us shrivel like leaves, and our sins carry us away like the wind. No one calls on your name or tries to hold on to you. You have hidden your face from us. You have let us be ruined by our sins. But now, LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our potter. We are the work of your hands. Don't be too angry, LORD. Don't remember our sin forever. Now look, we are all your people. Your holy cities have become a desert. Zion has become a desert. Jerusalem is a wasteland. Our holy and beautiful temple, where our ancestors praised you, has been burned to the ground. All that we valued has been ruined. Despite these things, LORD, will you hold back? Will you be silent and make us suffer more than we can bear?” (Isaiah 64:4-12 GW)

“No eye had ever seen such a God as Yahweh; one who so richly rewarded those who put their trust in him.” Albert Barnes says in reference to Isaiah’s writing, “In the Hebrew, the word rendered ‘O God,’ may be either in the accusative or vocative case, and the sense is, that Yahweh was a more glorious rewarder and protector than any of the gods which had ever been worshipped by the nations.”

Paul references this scripture in 1 Corinthians 2:9; “But as Scripture says: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him." (GW)

The Hebrew text and Septuagint do not have the phrase “no one has paid attention”, which in other translations is rendered “neither hath it entered into the heart of man,” and the other “no one has ever heard,” is repeated without emphasis; “nor perceived by the ear,” after, “never have heard”. The apocryphal books, Ascension of Esaiah and the Apocalypse of Elias have both phrases.

As we gather in our homes, I cannot help but wonder how secularized even the Christian celebration of the birth of our Savior has become, even within the boundaries of my own home. There is not, atheist or religious, any one who does not know what the ‘Christian’ meaning of this celebration is. Yet, we celebrate this birthday with frantic shopping, drink and song; acting as different people amid the snowy covered streets and decked halls. We have truly lost the entire ‘reason for the season’ amongst the ‘expectations’ of our cultural identity.

Yet, it is mankind that has received (whether taken or not) the invaluable gift that was born out upon a cross some thirty plus years later, in Jerusalem, at the desire of the very people who hoped for the Messiah promised in the sacred text. Some, like the apostles, received the doctrine of Christ as Divine and saw not a plain, boring history of a good man or awesome teacher but the deep and loving design of a Heavenly Father who was delivering on His promise. But it is the text in Isaiah that draws me this Christmas eve.

What was hidden from the sinful world of Christ’s time, seemingly plainly spoken in distant prophecies, was revealed during that time of Christ’s ministry on this world to the people of all ages, all nations and all cultures. That He was the Lord of glory, a title that no man (or woman) could ever honestly attain. But, do we truly believe it? Do we, all people…even myself…honor the birth of Christ with the weight and understanding now available to us? Or do we speak the very thoughts of those who knew Christ, “Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?” and nothing more?

I know some do; those have come into my life with an impact that is undeniably Christ inspired and God directed. With understanding and love that is beyond the human reasoning for its existence, they have given of themselves to a man who is struggling like so many others without reservation and cause; simply because the wisdom of God has directed them to do so, even though that man struggles with the weight of the trials set upon him; imperfectly and brokenly.

There are many things we, as children of God, would not do and would do if the understanding of the wisdom of God, the love of that Heavenly Father, was truly realized in the core of our beings.

Some mock the very idea that God, this all-powerful Being, would chose to deliver the ‘salvation of the world’ in the form of a human baby….to a poor family of modest origins in the cultural climate of a captive nation. That the wisdom of this Creator, work through the human form of Christ, would not impact the world with the undeniable power of His abilities but rather would cause His only Begotten Son to be born in such a manner as this. And yet, He did.

God, with an understanding that has been revealed to us throughout the ages, brought to the world the salvation that it needs because of the anger and sorrow caused by the original sin that has stained the landscape of our lives from the moment of expulsion from the Garden through the actions of our forbearers, Adam and Eve. But, this was only the beginning of the plan that God has for us, and only the start of the blessings that He will render to us if we will only partake, if we will only open the present presented to us thirty-three years later upon a cross of tremendous pain and sorrow. These things God has waiting for those who love and wait for Him to return……but do not wait until that return to be rendered. Waiting under the Tree of life, wrapped with pretty bows and garnished ribbons……

“If we were more consistent, more devoted to the Lord, and more zealous for His Kingdom and righteousness,” T.M. Moore, Principal of the Fellowship of Ailbe, says “then we would not be able to keep from calling for the repentance and renewal our generation of Christians sorely needs.”

Instead of trying to rewrite the Scriptures, to gain a human understanding of the Divine, it is those who take the Words of God, understood or shrouded in mystery, as fact; regardless of the harsh, anti-cultural way it appears that will realize those prettily wrapped presents under the Tree are in fact to be opened in the continual celebration of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Lord and King of all Creation and kinsman to those who believe. And the biggest present of all, beautifully wrapped and proudly displayed as the centerpiece amidst the decorations, is yet to be gotten to………

To partake of those gifts is to partake of the suffering, the pain, that our Savior endured; in the birth as a human baby, the long life lived in that human form with the power of His Divinity, and His willful death of immense torture and pain for those who had denied His rightful title and those yet to be born. In our own lives, to pick up the rough cross of abused wood, coarse and painful in its embracing, and trod in the imprint of the steps of the One we claim to follow.

“I consider that what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. All of creation waits with eager longing for God to reveal his children. For creation was condemned to lose its purpose, not of its own will, but because God willed it to be so. Yet there was the hope that creation itself would one day be set free from its slavery to decay and would share the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:18-21 GNB)

Like children all around the world who eagerly await the coming day, when those garishly wrapped presents in multicolored paper, adorned with ribbons and bows, and labeled with their names can be opened and the contents within revealed………we who know the Lord and His Father, feel the quickening in our hearts fired by the power and whispering of the Holy Spirit as the blessings of our Father are revealed amidst the pain and suffering of the current age. We spend our time in a constant state of alertness and expectation for that time when we will open the greatest present of all……….

The coming Kingdom of the One and True King to renewal all of creation once broken because of man’s sin and the redemption of all of His children.

Kind of makes that Playstation, the HD TV, that hard-sought gift or the needs of today pale by comparison, doesn’t it?

May you have a warm celebration gathered with families and friends this Christmas day. May the blessings of the Lord and King be wrapped around you as a warm, fuzzy blanket…giving warmth and love among the blowing storms of this life. And as we watch those we love and cherish open the presents, eat the food and bask in the reflection of our love; remembering those who are far away from home, those who have gone to their eternal reward and wait for us to join them and those who are broken and hurt in our community with job losses, financial strains and worldly worries; let us truly realize the celebration we partake of that day….and every day following.
Born to us this day, a child, promised and purposed to deliver to all of mankind the greatest gift of all……..

Eternal life

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