God is man, man to deliver

13 12 2010

Yesterday morning we received new members at church and had a few baptisms.  I really miss the Lord’s Supper the few random weeks we don’t celebrate it, like yesterday.  But watching the baptisms, I reflected on the baptismal water: signs of judgment (think the Flood, the Red Sea wiping out Egypt’s army), but also of salvation (cleansing, washed clean, drawing water from the wells of salvation, the river that flows from the throne, living water springing up in us by the Spirit).  Out of chaotic, dark waters God made all creation, and out of the waters of baptism, where the judgment was already poured out on Christ, new life and new creation is signified for us!

This gives me hope: God judges his people so we will know he is God, but he judged Christ at the cross so that we can have forgiveness.  As the Christmas hymn below reminds us, the Incarnation was for our deliverance, and is cause for great rejoicing, because it sets in motion the finishing of our redemption at the cross:

All my heart this night rejoices
As I hear
Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
“Christ is born,” their choirs are singing
Till the air
Everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.

Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe,
Sin and woe,
Death and hell, o’erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son
Now is one
With our blood forever.

Shall we still dread God’s displeasure,
Who, to save,
Freely gave
His most cherished treasure?
To redeem us, he hath given
His own Son
From the throne
Of his might in heaven.

He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away
And for aye
Full atonement maketh.
For our life his own he tenders;
And our race,
By his grace,
Meet for glory renders.

Hark! a voice from yonder manger,
Soft and sweet,
Doth entreat:
“Flee from woe and danger,
Brethren, from all ills that grieve you
You are freed;
All you need
I will surely give you.”

Come, then, banish all your sadness,
One and all,
Great and small;
Come with songs of gladness.
Love him who with love is glowing;
Hail the star,
Near and far
Light and joy bestowing.

That’s one of my absolute favorite Christmas hymns.  I wish more people knew it and shared in the songs of gladness that the Incarnation of Christ brings.





beautiful the story

6 12 2010

I found today’s carol confusing as a kid.  The opening lines, “Gentle Mary laid her child / Lowly in a manger” just didn’t fit: Jesus was her baby, not Lowly Worm from Richard Scarry’s books. Why was Lowly in a manger?  Where was baby Jesus?  Do you have a carol lyric that confused you as a kid?

Here are the full lyrics that I’ve grown to understand and love:

Gentle Mary laid her child
Lowly in a manger;
There he lay, the undefiled,
To the world a stranger.
Such a babe in such a place,
Can he be the Saviour?
Ask the saved of all the race
Who have found his favor.

Angels sang about his birth,
Wise men sought and found him;
Heaven’s star shone brightly forth
Glory all around him.
Shepherds saw the wondrous sight,
Heard the angels singing;
All the plains were lit that night,
All the hills were ringing.

Gentle Mary laid her child
Lowly in a manger;
He is still the undefiled,
But no more a stranger.
Son of God of humble birth,
Beautiful the story;
Praise his Name in all the earth,
Hail! the King of Glory!

The story is beautiful, because it is simultaneously true and yet seemingly unbelievable.  Seven-hundred years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah wrote,

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstruction from my people’s way.”
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:14, 15)

There is no other God like our God, the true and living God who came down to his people.  Perhaps one of the most amazing parts of the Incarnation is that God made himself lowly like us, that we might be holy as he is holy.  Milton captured some of the beauty of this story when he wrote that God “Forsook the courts of everlasting day, / And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay.”

Come, King of Glory!





new beginnings… almost

5 12 2009

Today is the second Sunday of Advent, and I am filled with anticipation. Since the day after Thanksgiving, I’ve been encouraged and excited by the depth of beauty and truth in many of the traditional Christmas carols. I love the familiarity and sturdy reliability of these songs: they’re like old, loyal friends who are there for me year after year. I love the joy of hearing them sung each year as reminders of God’s mighty coming 2000 years ago in Jesus’ birth, as reminders that He will come again in real history, to do away with evil and make everything beautiful, and as reminders that He comes in the present to all who call on his name.

I am also filled with anticipation as I consider that two and a half weeks ago I was approved as a missionary to Kiev, Ukraine, with Mission to the World. In Kiev I will work with a team of people who are helping the Ukrainian presbyterian church establish vibrant, Christ-centered churches in Kiev and throughout Ukraine. My hope is that I can use my musical abilities, my technical skills, my love of human cultures, and my passion for seeing people transformed by the grace of Jesus to help build up God’s people in Kiev and reach out to folks who don’t yet know Jesus there.

Its been a while since I blogged here, and once I’ve checked and configured a few things to make sure this site will meet my blogging needs, I hope to begin blogging on a regular basis. Consider this your announcement of new beginnings for this blog… almost.