Let’s Get Loud. It’s Christmas!

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths 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, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:11-14, ESV

How very busy things get! Think of it, shepherds are meeting singing angels who are meeting people.  It must have been a bit crazy!  It’s verse 13 that, a very large group of angels made their entrance that night.  Human history is being made now, and the world has now been changed.

These are not quiet or stoic angels, rather they are a multitude of music, and they’re filled with incredible joy. A joy that can’t be contained.

And as happy as this ‘angel crowd’ gets,  it doesn’t phase them that God in heaven is now wrapped in human flesh and has been born in a manger.  Every angel and almost every person understands– this isn’t the place to have babies! 

(Angels being angels, I think they were not thrilled with this grim hospitality being shown to God.  They probably said some ‘un-angelical’ things under their breath).

But this doesn’t matter, you see this swarm of angels descend on the stinky stable. 

And they are ecstatic, belting out at the top of their lungs songs of worship and praise.  The squalid environment isn’t a problem for them.  The cow manure, sheep feces, and filthy straw can all be smelled, but that means nothing at this moment.

Friends, I must confess–my heart is very much like this dirty stable. 

Everything is so filthy, and the smell makes my eyes water, and the flies are thick and everywhere.  It is all so sad, and pathetic.  There are many others with clean, white hearts, why should He choose my heart to abide? He must clean me, wash me with His hot red blood. (1 John 1:9)

The choir is singing now, and all of them are in deep, wonderous worship.  They belt it out with the enthusiasm of rabid fans at a World Cup soccer game.  But I examine my heart I see so many issues, some things that are actually destroying me. I’m glad He’s all powerful and all loving–all the time and forever and ever.

But the angels, well, they just keep singing.

Perhaps (maybe) we need to take the hint?

“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”

Charles Dickens

 

Jesus is My Apple Tree

apple-tree

“Like the finest apple tree in the orchard
    is my lover among other young men.
I sit in his delightful shade
    and taste his delicious fruit.”

Song of Solomon 2:3, NLT

Jesus is my apple tree. He keeps my dying soul alive.

He is the subject of many different metaphors. We know him as a shepherd, a door, and bread. There are many other ‘pictures’ in Scripture, that speak of his ministry and life. There is one that strikes me today, that of Jesus Christ as a life-giving tree– an apple tree. Song of Solomon 2:3 and Revelation 22:1 are the ‘roots’ of this wondrous thought.

“On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”

Rev. 22:2

To think of Jesus as ‘the tree of life’ or an apple tree is both an honor to Him and a strength for us. We can swirl metaphors around all day and never exhaust their truths. Jesus (a.k.a. “the apple tree”) is seen imparting life and healing through his fruit. He is the source of everything good and grand in our lives. Eating his fruit is not only significant but encouraged. (Like most things in God’s Kingdom.)

The young maiden in Song of Solomon has given us her take on Jesus— her shepherd, lover, and king. She sees him as the finest in the forest. He provides shade to her, as she eats the fruit of his branches.

Oh, what a worthy picture of Jesus our savior. We can look at this all day. As we come to him we can see the One who is gifting each of us his blessings. We do well to consider him this way.  The first few lines set the tone for us.

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.”

The song, based on an anonymous poem, first appeared in a New England hymn collection by a New Hampshire preacher in 1784, so it has a history. Many people sing this as a Christmas carol, although there is nothing in the words that refer to Christmas. Go through each stanza. See if it fits you. Perhaps it will cause you to see Jesus in a new way. Here is the poem in its entirety:

Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.”   

John Piper

Some Christmas Advice

Christmas

 is my favorite time of the year. 

I grew up in the northern part of Wisconsin, and my most valuable and tenderest recollections are my Christmases.  I was raised in a Norwegian Lutheran church, (Think: Lutefisk.). Many memories flow from that; the cold, the snow and the tree, and the presents.  I’m a ‘wealthy’ man through all of these great memories.

Even when it was bad, it was still very good.

I remember our annual Nativity play at Church. I fondly remember the sticky, caramel-covered ‘popcorn ball’ each one of us would get from the church ladies’ aid.  I also remember a very bleak Christmas when there was no money to be had for presents. A local charity came through at the last minute with gifts. I was profoundly touched by all of this, and more. 

But I have no real way of instilling any of this in you. 

However, I do exhort you to go out of your way to minister to the young hearts you have contact with.  Help them believe.  Make it easy for them to touch the miracle of the manger.  Let them leave your company yearning for  God’s presence in their day. 

It won’t take much, maybe keen imagination on your part and humble prayer.  But those things you do may spark, ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives.  Be kinder than you need to be. Purposefully do something that will impact them, even small things often carry an astonishingly strong influence.

You may be in the thick of it.

Just maybe you have lost the purpose and meaning of this day. But I’m pretty sure any failure isn’t permanent. But at least, try to do as much as you’re able. Let Linda and I pray for you this season. Email us, please.

A Lutefisk History – Lutefisk Recipe 

 

The Smiles of God

sun-1443875842olr

“Heaven is where the unveiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we forever sun ourselves in the smiles of God.”

Ezekiel Hopkins, “A Puritan Golden Treasury”

 

Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the groom is with them, can they? As long as they have the groom with them, they cannot fast. (Mark 2:19)

This was Jesus’ idea.  He was bringing correction to the lives of those who were very serious, and especially those who felt the most religious.  Often, our native tendency is asceticism.  We evaluate ourselves religiously by our prayers and our fasts.

For serious people, we have a serious religion, and we focus on doing a serious religious activity, for that is what our serious faith demands.

Jesus pointed out that mournful faces are not indicators of a pious life.  How can His disciples mourn when Jesus the bridegroom is nearby? His disciples are going to a wedding, not a funeral!

Without question, the New Testament believers are to know repentance and self-examination.  We should grieve over our sins, but that grief is to be based on hope and joy.  Jesus changed everything.

If you are saddened by sin, that sadness must be tethered to joy and not to despair.  

The disciples could not mourn and fast while Jesus was present.   He does not wish His disciples to go mourning and fasting when they have no occasion for such exercises. His words are a defense of Christian joyfulness. Christ wants His friends to be glad. There is an utter incongruity in a sad and mournful Christian life.  It does not make sense in light of what Jesus has done.

Our sins have been forgiven–erased, cleansed, and washed away.  We have been dipped into the righteousness of the Son of God.  The fierce enemies of our souls have been eradicated by Jesus.  All of this is to bring out a song from a grateful heart.  We revel in the smile of Jesus and walk under the banner of beautiful love.  We have His forgiveness and have been given His favor.  We should be radiant!

 I pray that you will rejoice in this wonderful day He has made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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