The Majesty of Branches

branches

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A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him –Isaiah 11:1-2

The days are coming when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will do what is just and right in the land. –Jeremiah 23:5

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There is something special about the sight of a bare tree in the winter. The majestic branches once hidden behind flashy leaves now become the central showcase. The arms that worked to deliver nourishment the rest of the year, in this season are able to rest and flaunt their own artistry.

It is the branches that contain the life of the tree. Their veins and structure which hold everything together. It is suiting imagery, then, for Christ. He is but one branch from a family tree of kings, yet He is so much more. It is Christ who is the shoot, that new growth that brings with it the fruit of life.

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Giver of life, what a stunning creation you have made. Thank you for the way You use it to reflect Your character to this world. May we see the beauty of Your righteousness come to us in the form of Christ, the good King who reigns without flashiness, but with the life we truly need. May we look to Him for guidance, strength, and nourishment throughout our days. Amen.

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I have heard it said that Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics to the beloved “Silent Night” while on a walk in the woods of Austria during the winter. As he felt the stillness, saw the moonlight reflecting off the snow, and the noticed the majesty of the trees surrounding him, he was brought to worship. It was a silent and holy night, that made him think of that most holy night that had transpired so many years before.

 

Silent Night (Emmanuel) – Matt Maher


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.

Buts Really Get in the Way Sometimes

I’m not a very cynical person by nature. Most of the time, I’m pretty optimistic, actually. .I love to recognize the potential in the people around me. I enjoy dreaming about future possibilities. It doesn’t take me very long to see the good in the bad.

Yet sometimes, my pessimistic side comes out.

One of the places this can occur is when I am reading the Bible. Too many times, I read verses, and instead of enjoying their beauty and depth, I focus on the “buts” in my head.

You know, the “buts.” The voices that say things like, “But that’s not the way life really works.” Or “But no one really feels that way.” Or “But what about the other times?

These buts can be good. They can cause me to dig deeper, explore, and not take the surface answer as the best answer.

But these buts can also make me think I’m smarter than the Bible.

I forget to treat the biblical writers as intelligent individuals that also knew about these exceptions. Yet, the exceptions and the buts did not hinder them from expressing their feelings of praise.

Psalm 18 is beautiful and grand. It speaks of God’s dramatic rescue of His servant, David. Yet, sometimes when I read it, the buts get in the way of me seeing its power.

When I read this verse,

I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. – Psalm 18:3

I think, “But God doesn’t always save when we call. What about those times?”

Well, David knows that, too. In Psalm 13, he wondered how long God would hide His face. He pleaded with God to no longer let his enemies triumph over him.

David’s knowledge that God does not always rescue in the way and at the time we want Him to does not stop him from praising God when salvation does come.

Or what about these verses?

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. – Psalm 18:20-23

They make me think, “But David is not blameless. No person is blameless.”

Well, David knows that too. He writes many Psalms of confession, the most famous of which is Psalm 51, written after David has an affair with Bathsheba. Plus, this Psalm is an adaptation of 2 Samuel 22, which is clear about David’s sins.

David’s knowledge of his sinfulness does not hinder him from seeing himself the way God sees him: forgiven. He has sinned, but He has also confessed. He has sacrificed and sought God’s grace. He can leave those sins in the past and not dwell on them any longer.

So now, I want to leave some of the buts behind. Can I challenge you to do the same thing?

Try diving into this Psalm without cynicism. Work to praise God for what He does, without thinking about what He doesn’t do. Attempt to appreciate the times you see God moving in your life, without dwelling on the times He has seemed silent.

Do you ever let buts get in the way? How do you think we can let them go?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.