Saturday Song: Christmas Medley

Come Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free…

Just as we long for Jesus’ second coming, others longed for his first. The story and songs of Christmas are reminders that he faithfully kept his promises in the past, so he will be faithful to kept his promises for the future.

Songs (with links to lyrics): Come Thou Long Expected JesusCome Thou Long Expected Jesus, Angels We Have Heard On High, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful

By God’s grace, arranged and played by Katie W.

He Ordained Peace

 

 

O LORD, you will ordain peace for us; you have done for us all our works. Isaiah 26:12

Peace.

I doubt whether there is anything so sought after or valued in this world. Peacemakers are commended, both in Scripture and by society.

Why, then, is there not peace? War and conflict spread overwhelmingly and unceasingly around the world, which begs the question, “Is complete peace possible?”

And yet, God promised peace in Isaiah. Even more than that, the Sovereign Lord decreed, commanded, ordained that it should be so. Peace for us.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14

Around 700 years after Isaiah told of God’s promised peace, angels descended on the hills of Bethlehem to declare that peace had come to those of God’s favor.  What peace was this? This peace was Jesus, the Christ, who did our works for us. The Messiah who was our righteousness, became our sin, took our judgment, and delivered us from death.

And he ordained for us peace. Peace with God the Father through forgiveness. Peace because Christ has overcome this world — including sin and death. Peace that guards our hearts and minds. He is the Prince of Peace. Since it is his sovereignty that has ordained peace, peace must, therefore, be ours.

That must also mean, then, that wars and sin struggles are not the end. Senseless violence will not endure.

God has ordained peace.  By His Spirit we have peace with our God that our hearts can feel even in this war-torn world. By His perfect peace and strength may we persevere as peacemakers even as we await the fulfillment of time when the people at peace with God will live in a world of peace.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you.

Trust in the LORD forever, for the the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 

Saturday Song: Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)

Longing. Hoping. Fulfillment.

“What fear we felt in the silent years. Four hundred years… Can he be found?
But broken by a baby’s cry,
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground!
Emmanuel. Emanuel. God Incarnate here to dwell!
Emmanuel, Emmanuel. Praise his name- Emmanuel!
The Son of God here born to bleed.
A crown of thorns would pierce his brow.
And we beheld this offering,
exalted now the King of kings.
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground!”
Emmanuel
(Hallowed Manger Ground) by Chris Tomlin

The confessions of a New Year’s Scrooge

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I’m about to confess something that may make me wildly unpopular, but here goes: I don’t really like New Year’s Eve/Day as a holiday.

Author’s note: Please filter this post with the understanding that as I write this, I am by turns smiling, laughing, and teary-eyed.  I am by no means sitting on my couch with a soured frown and permanent crease between my eyebrows. Thank you.

I think I gave up on making resolutions in high school.  Why make more goals (read rules) for myself when I struggle and then fail to keep them? Why, yes, I think I’ll start my new year off by setting myself up for disappointment. (Okay, I don’t really feel that strongly about it.  But, in all fairness, I think there are enough self-help articles about actually keeping the New Year’s resolutions one didn’t manage to keep last year to support my point here.)

Getting new planners is nice, but the empty pages will invariably fill with same busyness of last year.

I see friends on social media getting “excited about what 2015 will bring”. Like many people, I’m still blinking in sad disbelief at what 2014 “brought” and can’t even begin to try to guess what could happen in the next 365 days.

To be honest, I think my lack of enthusiasm over a new year is a combination of fear of the unknown, lack of thankfulness, the fact that life is hard (and often sad), and the desire for something new when every year is filled with so much old.

Now that I think about it, I may be more of a New Year’s Charlie Brown than a Scrooge.  In the movie ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’, Charlie Brown is depressed and unsatisfied with the popular, commercial meaning of Christmas.  My favorite holiday is Christmas.  I celebrate it for months.  But, switch out Christmas with New Year celebrations, and I understand him perfectly.

Really, what I love the most about Christmas is also the one thing I need for the incoming New Year.  To me, Christmas means joy and hope.  It means longings fulfilled.  I look at every nativity scene and see Christ come to earth. I sing along to my favorite Christmas songs:

Father in heaven,
You gave us reason to see past the pain of today
We celebrate…

Unending hope for all time
When the King of the ages arrived — Selah, “Joy”

Christ is come.  Even though this past Christmas morning brought news of a friend’s death (as did the Christmas morning before that), I know that Christ has come.  And I know that those friends are truly and perfectly whole and home because of Christ. In every aspect of Christmas, I see Christ.

Then it hit me: because that’s what New Year’s is all about, Charlie Brown.

It may not seem like a profound revelation, but it was for me.  The reason I don’t like New Year’s is because I don’t look into the new year and see Christ.  I don’t need to be the best me by losing weight, or running, managing my time more, or getting excited about a new year of possibilities.  I need to see Christ.

If I hope in resolutions, I will fall flat.  I can accomplish them and still feel empty.  My only hope is Christ.  The only redemption for the reoccurring old in the new year is that Christ is still at work, even if it seems things don’t change.  I need to not fear the unknown because I see the One I trust the most guiding me there.  I can evaluate the old year with thankfulness because Christ was in it.  I can set goals for the new year because I’m able to ask Him, “Lord, what would you have me do?”

So, I look into the new year and see that I will go back to the same classroom, write the same (but hopefully improved) lesson plans, try to maintain focus through the same evaluation and state testing stress, laugh off the same singleness comments, enjoy one last year in my 20s, read new books, try to prioritize better, hopefully eat healthier, maybe blog more, and meet with many happy and sad unknowns.  But, above all that, by the grace of God, I look into the new year and I see Christ.

“O to enter this new year with the realization that the one who loved me and gave Himself for me, accompanies me into it! Then why should I fear what may lay ahead of me? Whatever may be my circumstances, whatever changes I may pass through, whatever I may be called upon to bear – Christ Himself will be my constant companion! But only faith – not imagination or feelings – will be able to realize and appreciate His presence.”~ Arthur Pink, “His Presence”

Oh that the whole world would know this joy.