Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Child in the Stars

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Mt. 2:10

What was it about this star that brought about such a response? Was it particularly bright? Was it somehow a pointer to the place? The context tells us that the star was in the east. And whether through their study of the stars or revelation this was the star that indicated where the Child was to be born. So many questions arise. Why at this point, when it was only the star was there this inner depth of joy? Yes, they knew this to be a special child, a royal prince that was unique among princes. But to provoke exceeding great joy? Then one must imagine an exponential rise in joy when they actually beheld the Child. What could be the only response but worship!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Farewell fair flower that for a space was lent...

Anne Bradstreet

This from In Memory of my dear grandchild, Elizabeth Bradstreet...

On coming across this line I was struck with the wisdom and the lack of what we have so come to know as entitlement that sweeps across our current collective psyche. In Bradstreet's time (17th Century) there was generally a sense that we did not own ourselves, no book would have been published as Our Bodies, Ourselves. Such a concept was foreign to the general mindset of the time and shown most succinctly and humbly by Miss Bradstreet. Yes, indeed we do not make ourselves. We do not manufacture such miracles. We do not set the specification of color hair, the pigments of eyes, the contour of cheekbones. We do not begin our heart's beating, we do not place in our DNA the destiny of what we see in the mirror. It is all a grand gift. As the Apostle James says, Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights, in whom is neither variableness nor shadow of turning. (James 1:17) May we encourage such a mindset in ourselves as Miss Bradstreet has; that we may see ourselves underneath the Giving Father who lavishly, extravagantly gives us all things needed. May we be in the habit of unceasing thanksgiving.


Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying Where is he that is born of King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Matt. 2:1,2

Worship. Do we really embrace the weight of this word? Here the journeying magi who do not know all the ramifications of this life have yet "come to worship". We on the other side of salvation history know much more: we know the teachings, the miracles, the cross, the descent of the dove, the indwelling of the Third Person of the Trinity. We know Calvary's forgiveness uttered with burdened breath. We know the thorns crowned Him with the weight of wickedness. We know the sour wine he tasted. We know the spear in the side. We know the final words "It is finished."

Certainly we are historically more privy to the wonder of the incarnation and its heavenly consequences than were the wise men. Yet they still knew by the stars and perhaps by a supernatural revelation that this Child was a king with otherworldly majesty. May we as well come to worship this King who is King of Kings and worthy of our ongoing and undivided adoration.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What Stirrings in the Stars!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

In the beginning. Such a telling phrase. It bespeaks of first things. The genesis of our existence, nay, of even the world's existence. We can't help but wonder: How long ago is "the beginning..."? Light years must even be meager measurements when looking at the beginning of things. And John talks not of the Logos as if He, the Logos, had a beginning---a time before which the Logos did not exist. Rather, "in the beginning" sets the stage for the making and the redemption of Man. And in the fullness of time a girl's fiat begins things, a babe in the womb leaps for joy, a birth happens in Bethlehem.
Now the womb is not so happy a place. How could such beginnings be burdens? Rama weeps and we seek to dry her eyes. How? Turn to Bethlehem, and behold. What shalom has settled there! What stirrings in the stars! What new light has broken upon the black! What new caritas cleaves the cosmos with candescence!

First published in Park Street Church's Advent Devotional 2006

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nigh Unto God

For the Law made nothing perfect, but the bringing of a better hope did; by the way which we draw nigh unto God. Hebrews

Everyone has hoped for something. Maybe a boy hopes for a new bicycle. Maybe a girl hopes for a tea set. There are things we can remember that we thought about, longed for on the night before Christmas. Hope is an essential aspect of our humanity. But our realized hopes don't seem to fulfill as we expect. We hope on Christmas Eve and by the end of Christmas Day we are left empty after all the giving and getting.

The author of the Book of Hebrews writes about a high priest that provides a better hope. And the locus of this hope is in this new high priest, who has been prefigured in the priestly order of Melchizedek. And this new high priest allows us to draw "nigh unto God." Imagine! Nigh unto God. Think about that. John says, "God is love." Who would not want to draw nigh unto absolute love? How is it we leave this gift untouched?

Should we open this gift, we will discover something remarkable---something so exciting, so unexpected that we fail to hear the wildness of it. Not only is this high priest one who lives to make intercession, but he is himself the sacrifice. Quite a divine irony.

The entirety of redemption is wrapped up in this. When we mediate on it, it will put the fast-paced , commercial Christmas in its proper place. It will give us a peace as we walk in the chaos. What a pity for those who don't know the great high priest that gives such a gift, the pearl that will not perish.

We indeed do have a better hope. And what can be better than drawing nigh unto God?

First published in the Advent Devotional 2004 Park Street Church, Boston MA

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Without God all things are permissable

Fyodor Doestievsky has one of his characters, Ivan Karamazov, say in The Brothers Karamazov: "Without God all things are permissable." This is something that should make us pause and take account of how we have exiled God from the modern culture and the consequences that such an exile will have.

We see the consequences of such an exile in regard to what we euphemistically call "reproductive technologies". There is a new fad that has come to be known as "selective reduction" which is the pretty phrase that is used for the elimination of one of the fetuses in a multiple pregnancy. Yes, Ivan you are so right. "Without God all things are permissable."

Here is the quote by Abraham Lincoln which underscores what is happening today...

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”—President Abraham Lincoln, March 30, 1863, Proclamation Appointing a National Day of Fasting