I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1Cor. 1:4-9)
This passage describes people living fully as they wait for Jesus to come again and “to be revealed.” How much do I really even think about Jesus’ coming again? Do you? Jesus hasn’t come back for 2000 years. Would he really come back in our lifetime? But it isn’t so much about when, as it is about the anticipation, isn’t it? In the Old Testament, they were waiting for the messiah to come, “waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.” In Hebrews 11, it talks about how people like Able, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, the judges and prophets and countless others lived by faith in the promise. (verse 39-40) “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”
What does that mean to be waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God?
If Jesus were born today, would we be among those waiting with eager longing, like those who did not miss his birth (Mary and Joseph, the shepherds who listened to the good news of the angels, the wise men who followed a star, Ana and Simeon waiting in the temple). They didn’t miss out when God did the unexpected: coming as a vulnerable baby, born in the poverty of a stable, not in safety (Shortly after his birth, Mary and Joseph were forced to flee for their lives with their new baby).
Is waiting for the promise, then, an anticipation in God to do the unexpected? Is it a willingness to go wherever he is leading us, even if it seems unsafe, uncomfortable or unfair?
Am I willing to be like Mary and the others, willing to go with whatever God puts before me? He will never leave me nor forsake me. Can I walk forward into that promise? Where is He going to take us this year?
On Dec 3, I went to a follow up appointment for the surgery I had had in September on a cyst on my back. I was concerned about a second cyst on my arm. This second cyst had started bothering me two days earlier, and felt similar to the first before it was removed. I showed my doctor and it needed to be dealt with. He got me into an MRI that day and scheduled surgery for the weekend. By Sunday, the day of surgery, the cyst was looking awful--angry, red and ready to burst..
I am thankful for God’s hand in the timing of this, even if it set back our work and other things I wanted to get accomplished before Christmas. Again, I had to let go and practice what I shared with you in the last two newsletters. This has been an opportunity to be still, to rest and reflect, and spend time with our family and to be thankful for God’s unexpected provision.
I pray for you as we finish this Christmas season and in the New Year. May Jesus come in unexpected ways to show you His love and grace.
Happy New Year.
In some of my classes this year, we explored the painting of the northern lights. I have only seen them a couple of times myself, but I know of others who have seen amazing ones. This fall we could see a faint wave of green in the sky in the field by our house. The movement of the green wave was slow, barely discernable. Years ago, when we were driving the Queen Elizabeth Highway (2) at night, we stopped to watch bands of red light weaving across the sky. What an awesome sight to behold! Imagine it with more colors streaming brilliantly across the dark night sky, like a "glorious multitude of angels" singing glory to God in the highest!
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Luke 2:8-14
I have added again some of my students work here with the northern lights to help you imagine the glorious multitude of angels.
There are a few videos of the northern lights, aurora borealis, on youtube. I selected one in "real time" by Ronn and Marketa Murray. The second is a time lapse one by Maciej Winiarczyk. Enjoy and think of angels singing "Gloria in the highest!"
I spend a lot of my quiet time with God, reading the prophets. In them, I hear God’s heartfelt cry for his people to “turn to him and live!” He speaks of what he does for his people and would do much, much more if only they would seek him, seek his face.
Isaiah 45:21b-23New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
There is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is no one besides me.
22 Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
Jeremiah 24:6-8New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
Jeremiah 31:33-34New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
Isaiah 7:14New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[b] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Matthew 1:22-24New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,
This time of year we can see how much he loves us, when he made a way to come down and be with us through his son, Jesus. This baby would grow up among us and show us the way to walk with God. He is Immanuel, God with us.
I love the phrase in Jeremiah “They shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Immanuel. I belong to him. We belong to him. He cares. He loves. He is with us.
May you experience the joy of God's love and Immanuel this holiday season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!