Sunday, December 25, 2011

Come, Lord Jesus

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.”

    My favorite Christmas song by far is “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” It captures so beautifully the sense of longing and expectancy that God’s people, the Israelites, must have felt waiting for the long-promised Messiah. I think of Simeon, who had been promised that he would see the birth of the Christ before death, and Anna, who had lived almost her entire life of eighty-four years in the temple, “worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37) waiting for this promised Savior. I can’t even imagine what sort of longing and anxiousness they must have felt, waiting with such great anticipation for the Messiah. I think that same sense of expectancy is captured in Romans 8:

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

    I’m reminded that just as Israel looked forward to the coming of Jesus, we too look forward to Christ’s coming, when he will take us to be with himself. We should look forward to that day with the same expectancy and eager longing with which Israel looked forward to the coming of the Savior. I so easily get caught up in the details and worries of life that I forget that this life is not the end or the ultimate thing. As believers in Jesus we look forward to something far greater, and the broken world that we live in will be restored. We will be delivered from death, pain, sickness, and suffering, and we will finally be perfected and made whole and new. Sometimes the longing for that day is exhausting and painful, as we experience the brokenness and hurt of this world. But even though the waiting is difficult, we can look forward to that day with hope and joy, trusting firmly that God will do what he has promised.

“O come, Thou rod of Jesse, free,

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny,

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory over the grave.

“O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer,

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.”

    So this Christmas as we remember Jesus’ birth and his coming to bring Salvation to his people, let’s also remember his promise to return. Let’s press on and look expectantly toward that day, when Christ will return in glory. Even in times of difficulty and pain, we can trust firmly in Christ, knowing that he is able and will do what he has promised.

   Merry Christmas.

“Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peculiarities and Philippians 2

    I am a music major. And like most music majors I’m slightly crazy and just a little bit, well, strange. It’s not abnormal to see me walking around campus with a metronome singing a Bach fugue or tapping the lunch table with my fingertips practicing a tricky rhythm. I have been known to analyze piano music simply for the fun of it and I will listen to the same two measures of a Beethoven sonata dozens of times to see if Alfred Brendel really made a mistake there or not. I often get strange looks from people walking down the street when they hear me clapping difficult rhythms and I have gotten exasperated eye rolls from passengers in my car when I suggest listening to classical NPR and playing ‘guess the composer.’ Most people who know me have accepted my peculiarities and write it off to the fact that I’m a music major.

    Several days ago I began to consider: some of my strange characteristics can be so easily pinned to my devoted study of music, but do people notice some of the marked peculiarities of a Christ-follower in me? Do my most defining traits reflect a heart devoted to Christ and a life dedicated to making him known? Do people see me living my life for Jesus and wonder what makes the difference in me? Most people know I go to a Bible college and that I’m a Christian, but do they look at how interact with others and how I react to the things in my life and see that I’m really different and maybe even peculiar because I follow Jesus? Difficult questions to be sure, and humbling answers to consider.

    “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1).

    Although my life does bear the image of Christ, that image is still severely marred and doesn’t reflect him as it should. But God is faithful and he’s in it for the long haul, molding and shaping my life to look more like Jesus each and every day. So I’ll press on and strive to live the life that God has called me to, a life that will look peculiar, backwards, upside down, and out-of-place in this badly broken world. I’ll fail and I’ll make a mess of things, and sometimes I’ll have to backtrack and take detours in order to get back on the right path. I’ll want to give up sometimes, but God will never give up on me. By his grace I’ll continue to grow, learn, change, and become more and more like Jesus. With my hand in his I’ll keep going. I’ll persevere and continue to pursue him. And I pray that as I follow him it will be evident to others, that my life will look just a little bit more peculiar each day.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.” –Philippians 2:14-16