[For those of you not interested in the upcoming football game, or those interested but looking for something to do until it begins, here’s what I’m thinking about using as the introduction to the chapter of my Gospel book on the coming of Christ and how that relates to God’s OT promises. And yes, I realize it’s the wrong time of year for a post about Santa Claus. Oh well.]
My daughters don’t believe in Santa Claus. They never have. That’s mostly because my wife and I are evil parents and we told them from the very beginning that Santa Claus was not real. (If this is news to you, then please accept my apologies for breaking the news in such a heartless way.) We’ve always been careful to point out that there’s nothing wrong with pretending that Santa is real; it can even be kind of fun. So, sometimes at Christmas we’ll go ahead and pretend that Santa Claus is coming, even though we all know he isn’t. And, we’ve also warned them not to say anything to other kids about Santa. We really don’t want to have to deal with a bunch of angry parents who want to know why our kids just ruined their Christmas fun.
Although I like how we’ve handled our Christmas traditions and I wouldn’t want to do it differently, it’s hard not to notice that my daughters never approached Christmas with the same kind of anxious anticipation as other children. There were no eager questions about “When will Santa be here?”, whispers of “I think I hear him”, or little footsteps as they slipped quietly over to the window to see if that was the shadow of a sleigh they just glimpsed in the sky. There’s an element of expectation that comes with the story of Santa Claus that has a nearly irresistible sense of childish delight. And, in the morning, all of that pent up expectation, all the anxious hours of waiting, all the uncertainties and anxieties, they all explode in the delighted yell, “He came!”
Somehow we need to recapture that same sense of eager expectation if we’re going to appreciate what it was like to live on the verge of the New Testament. In the last chapter, we focused on the amazing promises that God offered his people throughout the Old Testament: a new king, a new sacrifice, a new spirit, a new heart, a new creation, and more. For centuries, God’s people had fed on a steady diet of God’s promises, knowing that he had not abandoned them, fearing that he had done just that.
Is the promised one really coming?
Yes, he’s coming.
He’ll be here soon!
Is that him?
No, not yet.
Where is he?
No, that’s definitely not him.
He’ll never come.
Yes, he will. I know it. He’s coming.
As we turn the page from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we pass through the time of anxious waiting, arriving at the moment when hope becomes reality, when promise becomes present, when not yet becomes now.
Let the just rejoice,
for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.
~Augustine of Hippo (354-440)
O Lord our God, you wanted to live not only in heaven, but also with us, here on earth; not only to be high and great, but also to be small and lowly, as we are; not only to rule, but also to serve us; not only to be God in eternity, but also to be born as a person, to live, and to die.
In your dear Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, you have given us none other than yourself, that we may wholly belong to you. This affects all of us, and none of us has deserved this. What remains for us to do but to wonder, to rejoice, to be thankful, and to hold fast to what you have done for us?
We ask you to let this be the case in this hour, among us and in all of us! Let us become a proper Christmas community in honest, open, and willing praying and singing, speaking and hearing, and let us in great hunger be a proper Communion community! Amen.
~Karl Barth (1886-1968)
The feast day of your birth resembles You, Lord
Because it brings joy to all humanity.
Old people and infants alike enjoy your day.
Your day is celebrated
from generation to generation.
Kings and emperors may pass away,
And the festivals to commemorate them soon lapse.
But your festival
will be remembered until the end of time.
Your day is a means and a pledge of peace.
At Your birth heaven and earth were reconciled,
Since you came from heaven to earth on that day
You forgave our sins and wiped away our guilt.
You gave us so many gifts on the day of your birth:
A treasure chest of spiritual medicines for the sick;
Spiritual light for the blind;
The cup of salvation for the thirsty;
The bread of life for the hungry.
In the winter when trees are bare,
You give us the most succulent spiritual fruit.
In the frost when the earth is barren,
You bring new hope to our souls.
In December when seeds are hidden in the soil,
The staff of life springs forth from the virgin womb.
~Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306-373)
- Adam McHugh argues the need for A Counter-Cultural Quiet in Advent.
In our world, quiet is counter-cultural. I’m not only referring to quiet on the outside, but also quiet on the inside. In fact, it may be easier to shut out the external voices than it is to silence the internal noise. It’s often those inner voices, especially the unacknowledged ones, that compel us to fill our lives with movement and agendas and spending and eating. Our behaviors and hurry are echoes of our inner doubts about our worth. Sadly, in many ways the nature of our holiday celebrations reveal how incompletely we have embraced the actual message of Christmas.
- iMonk reflects on Living in the In-Between.
It can be frustrating living in-between. Any blessing, sustenance, attainment, contentment, or security we latch on to now is imperfect, incomplete, and temporary. That’s not to say we can’t enjoy the crumbs we taste now, it’s just to look at them honestly and identify them for the crumbs they are. And when we or others around us don’t even get to enjoy many crumbs at times, it casts a shadow on the whole enterprise.
- Brian McLaren discusses how to plan a preaching ministry around the “lifespan” of your congregation. HT
- Christianity Today wants to know if we should ban Christmas carols with bad theology.
- Koinonia is giving away a copy of Harry Lee Poe’s The Inklings of Oxford. The NLT blog is offering a chance to win two NLT study Bibles and some money for a ministry you nominate (HT).
- You can now download for free the audio and video from D.A. Carson’s 14-part series on The God Who Is There, an overview of the Bible’s storyline.
- And, Google’s new online bookstore should be opening soon. Whether it will be the Amazon-killer that people have suggested it could be, has yet to be seen.
Google Editions will have a significantly different sales model from most competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle store or Apple’s iBookStore. Instead of purchasing books through a single online store, Google will let users buy them either from Google or from independent bookstores and then tie them to a Google account, which will enable them to read the books anywhere and on any device they please.
Let Your goodness Lord appear to us, that we
made in your image, conform ourselves to it.
In our own strength
we cannot imitate Your majesty, power, and wonder
nor is it fitting for us to try.
But Your mercy reaches from the heavens
through the clouds to the earth below.
You have come to us as a small child,
but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts,
the gift of eternal love
Caress us with Your tiny hands,
embrace us with Your tiny arms
and pierce our hearts with Your soft, sweet cries.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)