Category Archives: Advent

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Scripture and Song

Of the Father’s Love Begotten[1]

The best songs are those which amplify the words of holy Scripture. We see this so beautifully in the songs we sing during Advent and Christmas, and an excellent example of a song drawing on the Bible for its lyrics is the Advent hymn, Of the Father’s Love Begotten. This 3rd century text, set to a 12th century plainsong melody, brings together the scope of scriptural truth about the foretelling and the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Let’s let the words of Scripture and song aid us in meditation on the advent of our Lord. The Scriptures come from the New Living Translation.

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega, He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been, and that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes (Ephesians 1:4 NLT).

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13 NLT).

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15-17 NLT).

O that birth forever blessed, when the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race;
And the babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore.

The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – which means “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35 NLT).

This is He whom heaven-taught singers sang of old with one accord,
Whom the Scriptures of the prophets promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines the long-expected; let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen! (Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT).

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:10-14 NLT).

O ye heights of heaven adore Him; angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him, and extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent, every voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:6-11 NLT).

Christ, to Thee with God the Father, and, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving and unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion, and eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore.

Enjoy an a cappella rendering of this Advent carol.


[1] WORDS: Aurelius C. Prudentius (348-413); translated by John M. Neale (1854) and Henry W. Baker (1859). MUSIC: DIVINUM MYSTERIUM, Plainsong, 12th century. https://youtu.be/cOF9JLJkPis

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, God the King, Hymn devotional, Incarnation of Christ, Praise

THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Making Preparations

Prepare the Way, O Zion[1]

The season of Advent calls us to both anticipation and preparation. The Old Testament has many hints and promises of the Messiah to come, so we feel with ancient Israel the anticipation of Messiah’s coming. It’s like the excitement we feel looking forward to an upcoming special event, or the arrival of someone important to us. We unite our hearts with ancient Israel in their longing and hoping for Messiah’s arrival. But preparation? How do we do that? What do we do?

Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Frans Mikael Franzen, in this Advent hymn Prepare the Way, O Zion, calls on “Zion,” the people of God, to give attention to preparation for the coming of Messiah. He echoes the words of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, as she praised God for her son and the mission God had for him.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways . . . (Luke 1:76 NRSV)

Both Elizabeth and Franzen bring to mind the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (NRSV)

In ancient times, preparation for the arrival of royalty would include people going ahead of the royal procession to prepare the road that would be traveled – removing obstacles and filling holes in the road to make the way “straight” and smooth. It was to this kind of “preparation ministry” that John the Baptist was called – to remove false ideas about what made people right with God, and to issue a call to repentance and preparation of the heart for the coming of Messiah. This was important because the Messiah Israel was to prepare for was not who they thought he would be.

He brings God’s rule, O Zion; he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.
Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Israel was anticipating Messiah to be their king and deliverer. That’s what the prophets seemed to say.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19 NRSV)

Thus says the LORD the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Isaiah 49:7 NRSV)

But Messiah’s kingdom was not to be a political kingdom – not a kingdom of this world. Messiah would be bringing heaven’s kingdom values to bear on earth. As Franzen wrote: “His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.”  God’s kingdom is built on the foundation of truth and justice. It operates on the principle of love, and it offers peace and freedom to all who will receive it. It was to prepare the hearts of Israel for this King and kingdom that John was called. And it is to prepare our hearts for, and to make known to those with whom we have influence, this King and kingdom, that we are called.

Fling wide your gates, O Zion; your Savior’s rule embrace,
And tidings of salvation proclaim in every place.
All lands will bow rejoicing, their adoration voicing.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Is there any better message to give to a troubled world – to our family, friends, and acquaintances – than the announcement that the true King of this world brings peace, freedom, justice, truth . . . and that He loves them very much? Is there any more important choice to make than to receive this King and His rule into your own life?

Prepare the way! Your Savior’s rule embrace! Tidings of salvation proclaim in every place!

O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name!

Follow this link – https://youtu.be/yZDqBt7qqsg – to enjoy a performance of this hymn.

==================================

To subscribe and receive A SONG TO THE LORD in your email, just follow this link: https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community. A SONG TO THE LORD is just one of the audio resources that are available free at the website of The Fellowship of Ailbewww.ailbe.org. T. M. Moore, the Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, and Rusty Rabon host THE AILBE PODCAST which you can find on The Fellowship of Ailbe website. The website has many printed, audio, and video resources for individual and group study available free of charge.

Rusty Rabon also hosts a Zoom book reading program called READING GREAT BOOKS five nights each week (Thursdays through Mondays). The Zoom link and current book information are available here on The Fellowship of Ailbe website. Rusty has written two collections of devotional meditations – on for Lent titled “Do All to the Glory of God” and the other for Advent titled “Lift Up Your Voice and Sing.”  Click here to purchase one of these books. You can follow Rusty Rabon at www.rustyrabon.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rusty.raabon.9/, and on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/RustyRabon.


[1] TEXT: Frans Mikael Franzen (1812, revised 1819); translated Augustus Nelson, 1958, adapted by Charles P. Price, 1980. Copyright Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL, 60188. MUSIC: Bereden Vag For Herran with refrain. The Swenska Psalmboken, 1697. https://youtu.be/yZDqBt7qqsg

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, God the King, Hope, Hymn devotional, Incarnation of Christ, Praise

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Looking and Longing

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus[1]

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

The season of holidays that begins with Thanksgiving and continues through Advent, Christmas, and the New Year is filled with moments of anticipating an arrival; like the one sung about in the traditional children’s holiday song written in 1844 by Lydia Maria Child:

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top for ‘tis Thanksgiving Day.

Gathering with our families for a special celebration can be a joyful time, and the anticipation creates a longing and desire for it. If we have such great anticipation for the “advent” of special people in our lives, imagine the longing and yearning of the ancient Hebrews for the advent of their promised Messiah to fulfill the promises God had made to them for centuries through patriarchs and prophets. An overarching theme of the Bible is that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah that Israel looked for. Charles Wesley, in his hymn Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, combined the truth of Jesus as the Messiah with the yearning of Israel for Him to come.

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Jesus was born through the miracle of the incarnation – God the Son becoming a human being.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NKJV)

Jesus was born to bring hope to his people.

. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NKJV)

Jesus was born to set us free from fear of God’s judgment because of our sin. As Pastor Rich Villodas writes, “The good news, simply stated, is the recognition that Jesus is Lord over all things and invites us to a life free from the shackles of bondage.”[2]

. . . He Himself likewise shared in [flesh and blood], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NKJV)

Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose Kingdom comes now in the hearts of all who believe in Him but will one day come in its visible fullness on earth.

. . . The Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:4 NKJV)

Jesus satisfies the deepest yearnings and desires of everyone everywhere. As Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”[3]

The ancient Israelites looked faithfully for their Messiah’s advent for centuries. Even so should followers of Jesus faithfully look for his return – his second advent. “One of the earliest recorded prayers of the Church is the Aramaic word Maranatha, which literally means, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). The Latin word adventus means the same thing: ‘come.’  Advent is a season of waiting and wanting, looking and longing, inviting Christ to come once more into our lives and into our world.”[4]

Thank you, Father, for loving us so much that You sent Your Son to save us. Maranatha! May Jesus be born again amongst us this Christmas.
Thank you, Jesus, that You came before, and You are coming again in glory. Maranatha! We long for You to return and make all things new.
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for filling our lives. Maranatha! May the Lord Jesus Christ be born again in us today.[5]

Sing along with the worship band Lexington Road’s presentation of this hymn by clicking on this link – https://youtu.be/p8E9G763Ibs


[1] WORDS: Charles Wesley. TUNE: Rowland H. Prichard. https://youtu.be/p8E9G763Ibs

[2] Rich Villodas, “The Deeply Formed Life,” (Waterbook / Random House Publishers, 2020), p. 211.

[3] https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/ourheartisrestlessuntilitrestsinyou/

[4] LECTIO 365 devotional for November 28, 2021. www.24-7prayer.com

[5] LECTIO 365 devotional for November 28, 2021. www.24-7prayer.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, Hope, Hymn devotional, Worship

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Pondering the Incomprehensible

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent[1]

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35 NKJV)

The doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is foundational to Christianity. Jesus Christ, God the Son, became a human being, going through the normal process of nine months in a woman’s womb.  After He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit,” He was “born of the virgin Mary,” as the Apostle’s Creed puts it. A hymn from the first century describes it this way:

Though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV)

What must have the reaction of the hosts of heaven been in the moment that the young woman Mary was impregnated with God the Son by the Holy Spirit? What do we think today when we ponder the wondrous mystery of God in flesh? It is impossible to understand that which is beyond understanding – Almighty God taking on a human body – but how do we respond to such a great and incomprehensible truth?  Scripture offers counsel here.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm 62:5 ESV)
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

Silence. Stillness. Worship. Good and appropriate responses as we ponder the incarnation.  Gerard Moultrie used words from the fifth century Liturgy of St. James to craft a hymn that calls us – and all “mortal flesh” – to worship as we ponder the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand;\
Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.

The apostle Paul wrote that “. . . being found in human form, he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV).  Jesus took on human flesh for the purpose of giving his body as a sin offering on our behalf. As God provided manna from heaven for the wandering Old Testament Israelites, so the sacrifice of Christ’s body on the cross provides the heavenly “food” of forgiveness of sins and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

King of kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture, in the body and the blood,
He will give to all the faithful his own self for heavenly food.

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said. “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 ESV).  He who was the Creator and the essence of light and life came to show us the way out of the darkness of sin. The psalmist knew this to be true: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9 ESV)

Rank on rank the host of heaven spreads it vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish as the darkness clears away.

Heaven was filled with the praises of God before Jesus was born on earth, “. . . when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7 ESV). He enjoys such praise today as our glorified King and Lord. It should then be our joy to join the heavenly chorus in praising and giving thanks to God for Jesus.

At his feet, the six-winged seraph; cherubim, with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence, as with ceaseless voice they cry,
“Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, Lord Most High!”

Follow this link to enjoy Fernando Ortega’s recording of this hymn. A beautiful choral and congregational rendition can be enjoyed by following this link.


[1] Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence. Words from the Liturgy of St. James, 5th century. Adapted by Gerard Moultrie, 1864. Set to the tune PICARDY (French melody, 17th century), arranged by Ralph Vaughn Williams, 1906 in TRINITY HYMNAL. Suwanee, Georgia: Great Commission Publications, 2006, #193. https://youtu.be/DVJ4tlC0q_g

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Hymn devotional, Incarnation of Christ, Knowing God, Worship

A Prayer Thanking God for Coming at Just the Right Time

Alleluia!  Alleluia! We praise you, Lord!

Blessed Savior, our Redeemer!
You are the Savior of the world, Lord Jesus!
You came to us at just the right time – when the course of world empires intersected the path of divine ancestry – it was just then that you were born a human baby!

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord!

King of kings, Lord of lords – the one to whom every knee will bow one day in humble, adoring worship.
You are the highest name of all –

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord![1]

Because you have come to us, Lord Jesus, now all is well – all is well.
We rejoice because in your coming darkness fell – darkness fell as the glorious light of the Son of God began to shine on earth.

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We praise you, Lord!

And because you continue to come to us moment by moment through the Holy Spirit –Because you have promised your unfailing presence –
Because we experience your deep, deep love –
Because you daily cover us with amazing grace and mercy –
All is well – all is well.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.

There is no longer a barrier between us and you –
Peace has replaced adversity –
Peace has replaced animosity –
Peace between people is now possible –
Peace on earth, good will to men.

And now it is our turn –
We must pick up the mantle of the shepherds –
We must go and tell –
We must lift our voices and cry out –
“Christ has come!”
Hope is come – Life is given – deliverance from bondage is possible –
All through the one whose first cries came from a manger.[2]

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel

 Emmanuel, Emmanuel, His name is called Emmanuel . . .
God with us, revealed in us, His name is called Emmanuel

 We know you are with us –
Now may you truly be revealed in us –
And through us –
May the beauty of Jesus be seen by all who see us

Because you are worthy to receive all honor and praise –
You do all things well –
You have made all things well –

Alleluia!  Alleluia!  For this we praise and thank you, Lord Jesus!

Amen!

[1] A Christmas Alleluia. (C) 2015 sixstepsrecords/Sparrow Records
[2] Michael W. Smith / Wayne Kirkpatrick – All Is Well lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, Worship

An Advent Prayer of Praise as a Child of God

With all the angels who filled the sky so long ago, we lift our voices, our Father, to proclaim your praise and say, “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”

You are worthy of praise because you are the everlasting Lord.

You are worthy of praise because you are the King that outlasts – and is far above – all earthly rulers and leaders.

You are worthy of praise because you do great and mighty things for our good and your glory.

Lord Jesus, you have taken on yourself the weight and shame of our lostness and sin and delivered us from it by your great grace.

You are worthy of praise because you give us life and all the good things that go with life.

  • Treasure – a treasure greater than the gifts of the wise men – Jesus, you are that great treasure to us.
  • Mercy – undeserved but without which we would be doomed – Oh God, we have life because of your mercy.
  • Peace – O how we thank you for peace – in the midst of our storms – no matter how desperate our circumstances – Jesus, you give us peace as you give us yourself.
  • Joy – joy that we have hope beyond the trials of this life – joy that comes in knowing the hard times here have meaning and purpose – Jesus, you are the giver of true joy.
  • Love – real, genuine, self-sacrificing, never-ending, love – not matter who we are or what we have done – O God, how we are amazed by your love.

You have given all who believe in you the privilege of being your children.

Born to raise the sons and daughters of earth
Born to give them second birth

We are children of God – yes, we are!
We are chosen and not forsaken
You are for us and not against us 

You have given us a true home – a place in your house – in your kingdom – so how can we not shout with a loud voice from a full heart –

  • “Let us adore Him!”
  • “He alone is worthy!”
  • “We’ll give you all the glory.”

Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.  Thank you for receiving us as your children. 

Jesus, thank you for coming to be our Savior and help us know the truth about God.  Thank you for living the life we could not live and paying the debt we could not pay.

Spirit of God, thank you for helping us to know our Messiah Jesus, and to receive Him as our Savior and Lord and Treasure.

We celebrate this season because of you!

Amen!

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, Worship

Feelings and Facts at Christmas

The Christmas season can be tough.  For many people, the sights, sounds, and aromas of Christmas can resurrect painful memories of heartache, disappointment, or loss.  The transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, or the “perfect” Christmas kiss at the end of a favorite Hallmark movie, may cause some hearts to flutter, but will bring tears of pain or guilt or deep sadness to others.

I’m one of those people for whom Christmas brings a mixture of emotions.  I have some great memories of Christmases past, especially of the Christmas music concerts of my church and high school and college choirs.  Before the “advent” of CDs and digital downloads, I always looked forward to pulling out the Christmas records (remember those?) and playing favorites from Bing and Frank and Dean and Burl.  During my years in radio, I loved it when we began playing all Christmas music right after Thanksgiving.  When my kids were small, I enjoyed taking them riding to see the lights around town, and still enjoy doing that with the grandkids.  Christmas can indeed be filled with joy.

But some of my most painful memories are also of Christmases past.  I remember a year when a family crisis stretched from Thanksgiving through Christmas into the new year.  While that was over 25 years ago, the memory still haunts me.  There is also the memory of a Christmas with a 4-year old and a 1-year old, and the only presents we could afford were the cheapest things available at K-Mart.  When my son brought a toy identical to one of those cheap ones (a plastic bowling set) on vacation a couple of years ago for his kids to play with, just the sight of it brought tears to my eyes – 30 years later.  Christmas can truly be filled with pain.

The pendulum of emotions swings widely this time of year.  What is a person to do if the inner response to all the joyful sounds of Christmas is a painful groan in the soul?  I don’t have a formula which will take away the pain, but I do have a suggestion that I think will help all of us work through it.  Let’s spend this Christmas season giving focused attention to the life truths that we learn at Christmas, especially in our moments of pain.

You see, Christmas teaches us that the God of the universe – the God who gave us the breath of life – loves us.  We may feel that no one really loves us, but the fact is that “. . . God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16 ESV).  Because of His great love for us, God the Son took on human flesh in order to take care of our greatest problem and greatest need – our sin.  We may feel that no one really loves us, and this season may create feelings of loneliness, but the fact of Christmas is that we are never alone, we are infinitely loved by God, and we celebrate Christmas as proof of that love.

Christmas teaches us that we don’t have to be good enough to earn or merit any blessing from God.  In fact, we can’t.  Sure, we’ve made some messes in our lives – some of us a complete mess.  But what matters to God is that Jesus’ life was perfect, and when we trust Jesus as our Savior, God credits His perfect life to us.  “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB).  We may feel condemned by others, but the fact of Christmas is that, in Christ, we are accepted as God’s children.  Christmas celebrates that God is on our side.

Finally, Christmas teaches us that God is never late and never forgets.  We read in Scripture that “. . . when the right time came, God sent His Son . . .” (Galatians 4:4 NLT).  Think of the long centuries that faithful Jews had looked and hoped for their Messiah to come.  God had promised, and God is never late.  He is right on time.  No matter how we feel, the fact is that God sovereignly controls His world, and whatever comes – or has come – or will come – into our lives comes to accomplish His good purposes for us.  The fact of Christmas is that in the fullness of time the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.  And we can trust that, at just the right time, God will be right there with us – no matter where we are or what we are feeling.  At Christmas, we celebrate God with us!  Emmanuel!  Merry Christmas!

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, Emotional Health, Spiritual Growth

An Advent Prayer Praising God for His Faithfulness

Mighty God, Loving Father, our Sovereign Lord,

We exalt you!  We give praise to your holy Name!

The awesome things that you do are wonderful, and in this special season we remember and celebrate the plans and promises you made so long ago – plans for our redemption through the promise of a Savior – plans and promises you completed in perfect faithfulness.

We take comfort in the truth that our Lord Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. There is no heartbreak, sorrow, misery, grief or loneliness that we experience which is beyond your understanding.  Lord Jesus, you lived on earth as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  You experienced the loneliness of Gethsemane.  On Calvary’s cross, you bore our sins and carried our sorrows, and you continue to carry them today as we yield them to you.  Truly, “no pit is so deep that you are not deeper still; with you, even in our darkest moments, the best remains and the very best is yet to be.”[1]  In this season where lives are empty and sadness of heart runs deep – even with all the glitz and superficial gladness – teach us to run to the comfort you offer in the midst of the struggles we face.

We are moved to worship because our Lord Jesus is the Mighty God.  God incarnate – the Word made flesh – one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit – revealing the glory of God – worthy of all worship and praise.  The angels sang of this to the ancient shepherds, and what a wonder that the greatest announcement ever made – the greatest news coming directly from heaven – was given first to the must humble and despised of people.  How amazing that your glory is best seen not in places of wealth and power, but in hearts and lives of faith and humility.  Oh, how we want people to see you in us.  We want to faithfully display your glory!  Help us, O God, to live and reflect you as you truly are.

We also have great confidence because our Lord Jesus is one with the Everlasting Father.  You are truly a father who never leaves us – never forsakes us – never fails us – always acts toward us in love.  You know every need we have.  You know every problem we face.  You are present in these things doing good for all who love you.  Your care for us is beyond understanding, and because of this we can face life with the confidence that we are never alone.

Which is why we rest in the truth that you, Lord Jesus, are the Prince of Peace who gives us peace that passes all understanding.  Peace – rest – the Shalom you promised your people of old – peace that means more than just an absence of conflict.  You are at work to make everything like it should be – to replace the things in our lives that are missing – to bring our lives and this world to the completion of your plan and purpose.  You have restored our relationship with the Father and one day you will restore all of creation to your original design.

And this gives us hope!

As the ancient Hebrews waited with anticipation and expectation for the coming of Messiah, so we wait with anticipation and expectation for your return to make all things new.  We look forward to the time when things will be better than they are today – but not just at the end of time.  We anticipate what you will do today.  We live in eager expectation of your faithfulness tomorrow.  And our hope in you continues day after day after day, because the wonderful plans you formed long ago – the wonderful promises you made long ago – Father, you fulfilled them with perfect faithfulness in Jesus – and you make our lives complete through your perfect faithfulness to us every day.

And for that we humbly offer our worship and praise!  Amen!

[1] Corrie Ten Boom

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Christmas, Prayer, Worship