The Manger Never Stops Being Amazing

baby

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“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” –Luke 2:6-7

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. –Luke 2:15-19

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I have written at other times on this blog about the circumstances surrounding the birth of my firstborn. God let my husband and I know He was with us in the midst of the frightening circumstances. I felt God's love more tangibly than any other point in my life.

That memory is always particularly poignant when my son's birthday comes around. But the story is no less powerful at any other time of the year. When we share it with others, they share our joy and hope in a God who cares for us.

Christmas Day was almost a week ago already. Time keeps relentlessly trudging forward. Some of us had holidays we will never forget, some had days they wish they could. The month of December, as all months, was likely a mix of joy and sorrow, stress and peace, despair and hope, busyness and calm. Some expectations were exceeded; some were never even got out the front door of our hearts.

As the month of December flew by, I had let go of many of my hopes, this series being a daily occurrence among them. We had more commitments than I realized, and it was so difficult to keep up. I wish there had been more peace, more quiet, and more space for contemplation.

I feel like I missed out on the way I wanted Advent to be.

But, the thing is, Advent reflections don’t have to fit inside the window of December 1-25. We never have to put end caps on our wonderment about the incarnation. The picture of God coming to earth in the form of a baby never stops demonstrating His love.

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Emmanuel, thank You for coming so many years ago and thank You for being here with us now. You are always loving, always filled with grace, and always beyond our expectations. Help us keep our sense of wonderment about who You are and how You came to us. Fill us with Your love, and let it overflow to this world You came to save. Amen.

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Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) – Chris Tomlin

“Emmanuel, Emmanuel God incarnate, here to dwell Emmanuel, Emmanuel Praise His name Emmanuel”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

 


Thank you for joining me for my Advent series! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas season! Please join me in 2014 as I pick back up with my Psalms Journey series, as well as reflections on the everyday life of faith.

Glory for the Outcasts

fireplace

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"To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain." - Exodus  24:17

"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it." -2 Chronicles 7:1-2

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" -Luke 2:8-12

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In Luke 2, when an angel appears to shepherds, we are not surprised they were terrified. That not only seems to be the common response to angels, but also the way we would likely feel in the same circumstance.

But I wonder if not only the angel scared the shepherds, but by the other thing the text mentions. The thing not pictured in our nativity scenes because there’s no easy way to depict it: the glory of the Lord.

The glory of the Lord surrounded the shepherds. Original readers would have been shocked by the scene that has become so familiar to us.

The glory of the Lord rarely appeared to people. And when it did, it was frightening in its otherness. When the glory of the Lord appeared in the temple, the priests dared not even enter. When the glory of the Lord appeared on the mountain, the Israelites compared it to a consuming fire.

And now this fire, this otherness, this glory, was surrounding shepherds.

Shepherds, who were considered religious outcasts. Whose profession made it virtually impossible to follow the oppressively detailed religious laws. Whose 24-7 in the field duties kept them away from religious festivals.

Shepherds, who were lowly.  Whose job kept them away from society and gave them little money in return. Whose responsibilities took ruggedness and grit.

At the birth of Jesus, God tore the curtain between heaven and earth and ripped apart human expectations of who was worthy to be in His presence.

God sent His glory to outcasts. His fire was no longer restricted to the mountaintop or the most holy place; it was sent to warm the hearts of all.

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Loving God, remind us how Christ broke through the divide. Bring us into Your presence. Help us know how we are loved and welcomed there, no matter what. May we embody that same kind of welcoming. May we bring those who are feeling on the outside this Christmas into our homes and churches so that they may see their place in Your story, too. Amen.

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Glory in the Highest- Chris Tomlin


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

An Overfilled Christmas

 full Christmas tree

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“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

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This year, I put my box of Christmas ornaments away with one full layer of decorations still in it. I just couldn’t find any more room on the tree. After so many years of accumulation, it was full.

My overflowing Christmas tree seems symbolic of the entire Christmas season. Despite my best efforts, the older I get, the more it seems to fill up.

It’s exhausting. And not reflective of the life Jesus came to give us.

Sometimes my response adds to the sense of things being overcrowded. I get worried that the fullness of this season is overtaking the fullness of Christ.

So I pack shame and regret and frustration on top of it all, wondering how I lost track of Christmas, worried that my kids will grow up without the sense of the true meaning of it all that I hope to give them.

But that response does not help take me back to the fullness of Christ.

One of the wonderful things about the life Christ offers us is He never withdraws His offer. It is always there. If we lose track of this Christmas, we will have another chance next Christmas, as well as all the months and days between now and then.

It’s true that life is made of moments, but is it also composed of a lifetime.

I’ve often heard stories of how the innkeeper missed his chance to partake in the miracle and wonder of the first Christmas. But I don’t know if that’s actually a helpful thought. Yes, he did miss that one moment. But he had the rest of his life to find Christ. He didn’t lose the opportunity forever when he missed the moment before him.

Maybe 30 years later, the people of Bethlehem heard stories of a miracle worker, teacher, and prophet who was born in their town. Maybe it triggered memories of how the sky shone unusually bright one night about that many years ago. Maybe someday they were able to find the peace, hope, and fullness of life with Immanuel. They may have missed it that night, but they might not have missed it forever.

Christmas comes every year. Perhaps this Christmas needs a do-over for you, but that’s okay. Christ is still here, and He will always be here, offering you His fullness and peace.

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Dear Jesus, replace our busyness with Your fullness. Replace our shame with Your love. Replace our guilt with Your forgiveness. May we never stop searching for You. May we never stop seeking what You have to offer us. Amen.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem- Sarah McLachlan

“Where meek souls will receive Him still the dear Christ enters in.”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.