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“My whole being shall exult in my God….”
Think about what it means for one’s “whole being” to get involved in exultation — most of us are from very word-oriented traditions when it comes to worship. We listen a lot; we sometimes think about what we’re hearing. And — occasionally — we actually do something with what we’ve heard (though we don’t want to be too spontaneous or obvious with our actions.)
Our holiness brothers and sisters may have one up on us here — Shakers, Quakers, Rattlers, Rollers, Pentecostals of all varieties, even “Amen!” Baptists. That’s probably a bit more of “whole body” experience when it comes to exultation.
Of course, there are some quiet ways to involve the whole being, as well. Prayer posturing (in the most positive sense of the word) such as kneeling, standing, or even falling prostrate would certainly qualify. (Not too sure about “Tebowing” here — but, maybe God likes it?) Incense involves a different realm of the sensual; visual elements in worship can help.
I don’t think Isaiah’s point is necessarily about trying to come up with “the next new thing” in worship in order to attract the masses. But I do think a bit of consideration about stepping away from our potentially over-Reformed, hyper-sensitive aversion to anything “bodily” as part of living out our faith might be in order. Is God the God of the senses as well as of the mind?
This psalm text has a whole lot of praising going on! The Bible is one of the first texts to promote inter-generational worship. Don’t you just love the image of v.12? ” Young men and women alike, old and young together!”
Talk about a “pregnant moment!” God’s timing was “full” — it was “ripe”– when Jesus entered the world as a human. The Christ was “born” to redeem us — actually, so that we could be “adopted” (a different form of birth) as children of God.
Gotta love the opportunity to call God “Daddy” — nothing sexist or exclusionist in this image. “Abba” is a term of endearment, a transliteration of the word spoken (or babbled) by children in cultures around the world. It comes through to us from the Aramaic term for a father…that moment of recognition that occurs with a grin and a stream of “abbababababa” gibberish from the mouth of a baby. Warms the heart, you know…as God’s heart must be warmed by our recognition and calling out for “Abba.”
Simeon and Anna speak for the “senior generation” concerning this child that has been born. Their words are both wise and warning. This one brings light and glory — but risk, danger and soul-piercing emotion, as well.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
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I always wanted my family to hear from Ed McMahon when I was growing up. You know, the annual Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes? Ed and his crew would show up at your front door with a giant, over-sized check made out to “The Fairless Family” for One Million and no/100Dollars!
That’s what I imagine when I read the line in Isaiah day about “as people exult when dividing plunder.” How thrilled would I have been to divide the “plunder” of an unexpected bonus with my family members? Is that how I feel about the coming of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?
I’m interested in the repeated admonition to “ascribe to the Lord” the glory due God’s name. Ascribing something generally means to give credit where credit is due. I like that.
But, of course the original meaning goes even deeper; scribere is “to write,” or even more literally, “to make a mark.” When it comes to praising God for the wonder of creation, of Christ — we need to write it down — “book it,” if you will. Mark this day — this holy day — as the day we give God all the glory for Christmas!
Paul reminds us, in his words to Titus, that we have been waiting for a blessed hope, a manifestation (an outward demonstration, a materialization of something that has previously only been imagined) of the glory of God. And now, that for which we have been waiting has appeared.
Salvation is actually here, right in front of us — all around us, actually. Open your eyes, see it, feel it, hear it. Know it to be true to the depths of your soul. Jesus Christ is God, with us!
Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)Cue Linus.
The Christmas speech from Charlie Brown’s best bud is indelibly burned in the consciousness of the Peanuts generation; happily, through the magic of DVD’s and Blu-Ray, the immortal moment lives on for new generations, as well.
Have you stopped to consider what a joy it is to continue to tell this story, year after year? We don’t want to let it ever become blase, just another story that we read.
Whether it’s the “terror” of the shepherds at the first sighting of the angels, or the deep pondering of the Holy Mother at all that was happening around her…may we recover some of the mystery and awe of the events described in the gospel in our own hearing and telling.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
After I finished laughing, I started thinking and realized that while that line sums up a lot of our thinking about how God works, it’s just not true.
Not just or primarily us as individuals, but us as the human race, us as humanity.
No, it’s not that we are individually evil; it’s that the world is in a mess, and can find no way out.
When Christ came, there was hunger and social injustice and war raged upon innocents, all in the name of such things as Truth and Justice and National Security.
And into such a world God sent the Son.
The message then and the message now is that we are not alone in the midst of the world’s evil,
God has come to us in the midst of our distress. In the middle of our loneliness and despair,
Christ came to be a beacon of light in a dark world.
Christ did not come so that we can have parties and give gifts.
When we realize that, we are ready to celebrate with somber joy and reverent jubilation.
Amen and amen.
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2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
by the Rev. Dr. John P. Fairless
I’ve always heard that “it’s good to be the king!”
You get to live in a palace, there are lots of people around to do what you say…they bring you food and wine and entertainment of all sorts. In fact, most everybody in your life is there to do pretty much whatever you want. After all, nobody outranks the king!
And so, we meet King David — the Shepherd Boy/Giant Killer/turned Warrior Prince and King. As Samuel records, David had no more worlds to conquer; God have “given him rest.” All well and good, correct?
As it turns out, the whole “given him rest” thing wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be — and David soon found himself restless. He needed something to do, some plan to conceive, some great deed to achieve. So, he cooked a little project up for himself. He was going to build God a house!
Oh, it would be glorious! David began to imagine the details in all their rich variety. One can almost feel his excitement as he shared his vision with his pastor — otherwise known as the prophet, Nathan. Brother Nathan liked the sound of the idea (remember, who’s going to tell the king, “No, that sounds really stupid?”) He gave David his spiritual imprimatur — “Go, do what you have in mind. The LORD is with you!”
There was only one problem with this awesome undertaking for God. Neither David nor Nathan had stopped long enough to ask God what it was that God wanted them to do.
So, Nathan gets a wake-up call around midnight one night; God has a message to be delivered to David.
“Do you think that I need you to build me a house? I’ve been doing pretty well for the last thousand years or so, in case you haven’t noticed — I got Moses and your great-great-great grandaddy out of a pretty tight squeeze there in Egypt. I managed to keep your whole straggling lot of ancestors together for forty years in the wilderness. I got them all here to the Promised Land and have been with all of you every step of the way.
“And in all that time, I’ve lived in a tent and a tabernacle and I’ve never, ever asked anybody to build me a house. What makes you think that I need you to build me one, David?
“Remember, I picked you fresh from the sheep shift, young man — I stayed with you, helped you, strengthened you — why, I made you, David! And I’m here to tell you, I didn’t grant you victory over Goliath and Saul and the Philistines and Me-knows-whoever-else just to turn you into a glorified building contractor!
“I have something else in mind — something greater that I have planned for you to do. So, what I need from you is for you to just settle down, take care of the business I have set before you — and get back to being a king who cares for his people. Is that too much for me to ask?”
I would imagine you could have heard the veritable pin drop after God finished that comeuppance with both Nathan and with David.
The gentle correction of God is sometimes not so gentle in our lives. God needed David to understand — as I’m sure God sometimes is trying to get us to understand — that God was building David’s life for a purpose. He was to be the progenitor of the family line that would lead to Joseph and Mary and to the baby in Bethlehem — the baby that was born to be the Savior of the world.
That’s a pretty awesome assignment!
As we bring the season of Advent to a close and prepare to welcome the Christ anew into our lives, perhaps we can hear the word of the Lord for us in the midst of David’s call:
- Be careful when you think you have finally arrived; it is often most difficult to live successfully right after our greatest victories have been won.
- Telling God what it is that you want to do can be a dangerous proposition. While God often works according to the desires of our hearts — and God certainly understands the ways that we are fearfully and wonderfully made — the basic commitment of our lives remains, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”
- Even preachers get it wrong sometimes! Nathan got ahead of himself, or got a little carried away with the ambition of his most powerful and influential parishioner. Ministers are not perfect (in case you haven’t figured that out) and shouldn’t be expected to be. But, both members and ministers should be people of prayer — and certainly willing to admit it when they are wrong!
- Whatever God has planned for you, you can trust that it will be better than anything that you may have imagined for yourself.
In his book, The Man God Uses, Dr. Henry Blackaby tells of reading the gospel story of the devoted friends who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus one day. They wanted Jesus to heal their friend so that he could walk again. And yet, Jesus’ response was, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (see Mark 2:1-12)
Why did Jesus not respond according the wishes/prayers/faith of the friends? They asked for healing; Jesus offered forgiveness. Dr. Blackaby says, “I began meditating on this passage…it was as if God said to me, ‘Henry, these men were asking for one thing but I had so much more to give them.’ If God had healed the man without forgiving his sins, he would have lost out on so much more God had to offer. Jesus not only provided for a physical problem, he provided for the spiritual one as well.
“When I realized this, I began to pray, ‘Lord, if I ever make a request and you have something better in mind for me, please cancel my request.'” (Blackaby, Broadman and Holman Publishing Group, 1999, p. 90)