The silence of the night was broken by the bleating of new lambs being born. It started out in the distance. One or two at first. The birthing of hundreds of new lambs was beginning. It was going to be a long night. Everyone knew it. Nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. This was the biggest birthing season of the year. Everyone had to … Continue reading Advent Series 2012, Pt. 6 | Shepherds in Search of a Lamb
I can’t think of any character more mysterious than the man who became the earthly father of the heavenly son. Of all the people in and surrounding the story of Jesus’ birth Joseph stands alone as the most awkward and underscored entity. He does not appear to have a role or a proper place in the story. Even the writers of the Gospels dismiss him … Continue reading Advent Series 2012, Pt. 5 | Who’s your Daddy?
Before people scream “heresy” or “blasphemy” I would ask you to consider the plain and simple truth that Mary was the mother of God, even if she did not fully understand that to be the case. As a Protestant I do not believe that Mary should hold some elevated status. She was a simple and frail human being just like the rest of us. I think that there are some within the Christian family that have gone too far in seeking to praise Mary for her role in the Christmas story. However, I do believe that those of us on the other side of the family do not go far enough in recognizing the remarkable fact that Mary was the one chosen for this sacred task.
I have often asked the question to myself, “why did God choose Mary?” I will admit that we will never fully know why God chose Mary. That isn’t for us to know. But, we can get a sense of what God was thinking based on the way Mary interacted with the angel Gabriel. The Bible provides for us a clear and concise depiction of Mary and her response to what God was placing upon her young shoulders. There are two characteristics I believe highlight God’s choice of Mary. These two attributes are seen in Mary’s response to the message brought by the Angel of God.
In part two of this Advent series we looked at the sweet baby Jesus. The truly human characteristics of his life and ministry on earth are remarkable and confounding. The word, “amazement,” would only slightly capture what the doctrine of the Incarnation represents. The Christian faith is subsumed in this mystery.
My goal in the previous article was to look at the human side of Jesus. However, there is another side, equally present and infinitely more difficult to comprehend. The apostle Paul records an early hymn of the church describing what Jesus “did” in order to come and take on flesh. I placed the word “did” in quotation marks because I have no better way of explaining what happened. Paul reminds the Philippians of Jesus humility and journey toward earth in the second chapter of the letter.
5 ;Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 ;who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 ;but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 ;And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 ;Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 ;so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 ;and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
From the very beginning the church has sought to understand what it meant for God to enter into the human narrative and secure the redemption of the entire race.The phrase that captures my mind and speaks directly to this mystery in these verses is found in verse 7. What does it mean that Jesus “emptied himself?” The very thought ties the mind in theological, intellectual and philosophical knots. I want to state right from the start, I am not claiming to have the definitive answer to this question. I do, however, have strong reasons for believing what I am going to offer.
Where has 2012 gone? Another year almost in the record books, but we still have one more month to go. December is an amazingly busy time around the church. There is a lot going on, but one of the realities my mind turns to around this time of year is the fact that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was born in the home of ordinary and humble people. I think that we take for granted that there was not anything overly remarkable about Jesus earthly parents. I don’t know if Mary and Joseph fully understood what it meant that the baby born in the stable that first Christmas night would be the Messiah. I am not fully convinced that they fully could comprehend what God was going to do through their faithful obedience. What they did know was that this little, precious bundle of joy was going to change their lives forever! I think every parent understands this even if they are not sure how.
The mystery of Advent (what us church nerds call this time of the year) is that God became like one of us. The technical term for this is “Incarnation.” When we talk about Jesus coming into the world as a baby we are saying that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took upon himself something that he did not have before the moment of conception! The Trinity existed as spirit. But, after Jesus descended into the womb of Mary he no longer exists in this way. The great miracle and mystery of this truth is that Jesus voluntarily confined himself to the body of a human being so that we can enter into fellowship with the Father.
From now until Christmas I will be taking another look at various ideas, places and characters of the story of Jesus’ arrival hear on earth. The reality of what God was doing and is doing in the world is, I believe, best demonstrated in the events surrounding the birth of the Messiah. We must not be surprised that God’s approach to the affairs of humanity … Continue reading Advent Series 2012, Pt. 1 | Seeing Again For The First Time