Category Archives: Countdown to Christmas
Countdown to Christmas – Day Thirteen
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
I have never noticed the last part of this verse.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to menI am familar with, because that seems like a pretty reasonable thing to say. "Glory to God"is reasonablem especially since this is all coming from angels. And "on earth peace to men"seems ilke an inviting type of salutation.
But this is where it gets a little interesting…
"…on whom his favor rests."
"…on whom his favor rests."
So tell me…just exactly to "whom" were the angels referring?
Cause I have heard boatloads of theologians wrapping themselves as tight as can be trying to make sense of the whole pre-destined/free will thing and frankly I have trouble with all of it.
Cause there are passages in Scripture about "the chosen" "on whom his favor rests" and all that sort fo thing. But then there also verses about "free will" and God so loved the world…" that I just cannot figure out who's right and who's wrong on this one.
I just hope that I am part of the chosen "whom."
Countdown to Christmas – Day Twelve
"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying…"
As if the "angel" and the "sign" were not enough…ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for a "great company of the heavenly host."
The angel showed up and brought his (her?) (its???) teammates.
But I've gone on long enough about wanting just one itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny miracle.
Here the angel(s) show up and before they do anything they praise God. No saying "God, here is what we are thinking…we're gonna fly through the air and freak out the shepherds…could you please bless what we are going to do."
Their approach was the opposite. Before anything happened, before anything good or great or amazing or wonderful or bad or horrible or despicable they praised God.
No list of "God if you were really here and you really loved me you would (fill in the blank.)
(like maybe…God if you are there would you do a miracle for me…)
Countdown to Christmas – Day Eleven
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
So yesterday the shepherds got the midnight wake-up call from the angels. And today they get the "sign."
Oh were it be that I could get a chorus of angels and a "sign."
But no…the shepherds out in the field get they got a thousand-mega-watt angel and a "hey…you might want to drop what you're doing cause theworld as you know it is about to change" sign.
No wonder the shepherds scurry into town.
Frankly, I think this whole "faith" think would be easier if I got an angel and a sign. Maybe just once. I'm pretty sure that if I got an angel and a sign I would only need it one time. Not every week or even once a year. Just a one-off BIG HONKING MIRACLE AND GIGANTIC SIGN FROM GOD.
Not that I don't have a personal faith and belief in God and an understanding of who God is and what He has (and continues) to do. It's just that I think that I would find it much easier to grasp it all if there were something big and splashy to see.
Is that too much to ask…?
Oh…and one more thing…it's probably a good thing that the angels heralded Jesus' birth 2000 years ago cause if it happened now the shepherds would be too busy signing "I was an original shepherd" book deals and the field would be covered in satellite trucks with Geraldo and Greta wrasslin' over who gets the first interview with Shepherd #1…
Countdown to Christmas – Day 6
"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born"
"uhm…Joseph…I think it's time."
"Huh…what…time for what?"
"The baby…it's time for the baby."
I remember very specifically all three times The Beautiful Bide said "it's time for the baby."
Each time it was sentinel call, a declaration that IN JUST A MATTER OF HOURS OR MINUTES THINGS ARE NOT GOING TO BE THE WAY THEY WERE BEFORE.
With "the way before" meaning "the way I was happy and content and satisfied and mostly got what I wanted when I wanted." That is the kind of "way before" I meant.
That's what "it's time" really means…to me anyway.
I would assume that it was at least of the same for Joseph.
And his "it's time" was a lot different than mine.
"It's time" to be the earthly dad to the Son-of-God. (now where is the Seven Easy Steps book on that."
"It's time" to help your teenage-almost-wife be the mom to the Son-of-God.
"It's time" to try and run a business while much of the world is looking at you. (I wondered if his customers expected everything to be perfect since his Son was perfect.)
"It's time" for everything to change…and it all comes in the quietest words from his teenage-almost-wife
Countdown to Christmas – Day Five
"He went there to register to with Mary, who was pledged to married to him and was expecting a child."
Pretty non-descript verse.
The guy and the girl went to the town.
Just a road trip.
Just a guy and girl and a donkey.
And the Son-of-God in the belly of the woman.
I just can’t get past the logistics of the trip. The fact that Joseph would hoist an eight-month pregnant non-wife carrying the Son-of-God onto a donkey and head off on a three-day journey is simply crazy.
Not just the "carrying the Son-of-God" part but the "hoist an eight-month pregnant non-wife woman onto a donkey and head off on a three-day journey" is the part that has me completely amazed.
Perhaps it is simply that the "carrying the Son-of-God" part is mostly beyond my comprehension while I can at some level wrap my arms around the "hoist an eight-month pregnant non-wife onto a donkey and head off on a three-day journey" part. Because I have been in a car and driven to the mall with an eight-months pregnant woman.
And frankly, sometimes that 10-minute-trip felt like it took three days.
It would have been great to be a fly on the wall during that trip.
"So how do you feel?
"I’m pregnant on a donkey. What do you mean how do I feel?
"Yeah…well I meant…"
"How much further"
"About two and half…"
"What color should we paint his room?"
"I don’t know…blue maybe…what do you think"
"I think I’m hungry. Is there a rest stop up here anywhere"
"I don’t know."
"Me either what?
"I just meant I don’t know either."
"About the rest stop?"
"No about any of this…I don’t know anything about any of this. I do know that I need to go to the bathroom."
"So do you really think we’ll need to paint his room, Won’t he able to like snap his fingers and change the paint color anytime he wants."
"He’s the Son-of-God, not I Dream of Jeanie."
"Where’s the bathroom?"
Countdown to Christmas – Day Four
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David because he belonged to the house and line of David."
Now we’re getting to the good stuff…
Commentaries say that it was about a three-day trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. On a good day. I can say with great confidence that traveling with an eight-months pregnant woman in not traveling on a "good day."
And this is not meant as a slight against The Beautiful Bride or other women, it is merely a fact that women who are great with child requite a greater amount of time. And rest stops. And well, everything…
So I am equally certain that it was with great trepidation that Joseph began the conversation.
"So Mary…how you feeling? I’m sure you’ve heard about decree. Oh you haven’t heard about the decree…? Cause you’re busy being pregnant with God’s Son so you don’t have a lot of time to read decree’s. Fair enough. Well any-who…it seems that Caesar Augustus has issued this decree that everyone has to register for the census…Right…well…not exactly…see here is where it gets interesting. Cause you have to register in your hometown. And (he starts talking very fast here) since I am from the line of David and so forth we need to go to Bethlehem. Right now. Yes I know you’re pregnant and you could have the baby any day. OK…I’ll check the decree and see if there is any fine print about where maybe Caesar Augustus said that ‘for any woman who is about to have a baby they can just stay at the house…’ yeah, I’ll go check the decree for that."
Fast forward a few hours…
"Uhm…yeah…I checked the decree and there is really nothing about pregnant women not having to go, so I guess we’ll just…yes I know you’re eight months pregnant and no we do not want to have a baby in the middle of no where…but what am I supposed to do? I’ll take care of all the details and packing and we’ll be ready to go in the morning."
With no other option,Joseph begins to pack for the week long journey.
Donkey with the most padding? Check.
More blankets? Check.
BBQ chips and pickles? Check.
Hotel reservation in Bethlehem? Uh-oh….
Countdown to Christmas – Day Three
"And everyone went to his own town to register."
What no Internet?
Man have things changed over the last
2000, 200, 20, 2 years. Can you imagine the uproar now if the president of the United States said, "Alright, next month, I need you all to stop what you are doing for a couple of weeks, gather up your family, load up enough stuff, and head off to town here your family is from. And when you get there, make sure you sign up. Cause I want more money from you."
The place would come unglued.
But not here, in Luke 2, not now. Or at least as far as I can tell from the passage.
Oh I’m sure there were a number of people who had a duck fit and stomped around with their 1 B.C. version of the Blackberry and fumed that "I am too important to waste two weeks for this trip cause I have things to do and a business to run and people think I’m important" and blah, blah, blah.
But verse doesn’t say that, it just says that "And everyone went to his own town to register."
Sometimes it seems the Bible is really interesting for what it doesn’t say.
Cause I think that if this passage was written now we would have a thousand talking head reporters on TV trying to fill a :30 second segment with two people screaming about "the injustice and the tragedy and how the economy will suffer irreversible ramifications and oops now we have to go to break…"
And yes times were simpler and yes things were different, but it still a ruler telling people to stop what they were doing and travel (in many cases) a long way from home so they could ultimately pay more more money to the government.
I just think that if people had gone completely crazy about this Luke would have dropped in a sentence about that.
And so it’s interesting in what it doesn’t say.
Countdown to Christmas – Day Two
"(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)"
Yesterday in verse 1 we heard the famous start to Luke 2…"In those days Caesar August issued a decree…"
And today we have sentence in parentheses. A sentence that is not even strong enough to stand on it’s own, it is merely a modifier for the sentence before it.
Sort of a "in case you didn’t study up well enough on your Roman emperor history to know exactly the year when ‘Caesar August issued a decree…’" here is another clue. It was when "Quirinius was governor of Syria."
If I take the first clue….when "Caesar August issued a decree…" and add the second clue when "Quirinius was governor of Syria" I should be able to know when Jesus was born.
I’m guessing about 2008 years ago.
I hope my life is not relegated to a parentheses statement. I hope it is more than an historical comment ("Atwood was a guy who lived in the time of two Bushes and Obama") or geographical ("He lived in a brownish-looking house made of bricks and wood") or mathematical ("Four score and seven years lived he.")
I want to love a life that cannot be contained by parentheses, cannot be limited to an afterthought, or just provides context to another life or time.
But how exactly does that happen…
In the 25 days leading to Christmas, I am going to try and spend some time looking at the Christmas story in Luke 2.
So maybe each day, I’ll take a look at one verse and share some thoughts. (hopefully there will some thoughts…)
Luke 2:1 – The Birth of Jesus.
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." (NIV)
Hmmm….maybe I should have started a little further into the story. In the part that is really interesting where people are actually doing stuff.
But I didn’t…
The first thing that pops into my head when I read this verse is the great scene in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" where Linus stops all the silliness of the big Christmas play rehearsal when he starts reading the story from Luke chapter 2.
So maybe I guess I hope that is what this little exercise will do…stop
all, some, perhaps a small bit of silliness/craziness/busy-ness that is Christmas some 2008 years after Caesar Augustus put out a "y’all head to the house" decree. And focus on the story, the life, the hope that is shown in the first 20 verses of Luke 2.