19 December 2006

Advent: Zachariah's Song (Luke 1:67-79)

His father Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,

by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."

I love this set of verses, because these are the words Zachariah spoke after being unable to speak for nine months as he waited for the birth of his son John(Luke 1). Some beautiful poetry made in all of that silence and waiting, some understanding and wisdom and trust in these words. I wonder if Zechariah's initial laughter in reaction to God's promise that he would have a son is because of fear and unbelief. I mean it makes no sense; Elizabeth is barren, and he is old. The world doesn't work that way, right?

It is similar to the story of Sarah & Abraham, who both laughed at separate times when told they would have a son in their old age. But God says to Abraham because he knows Sarah has laughed in disbelief (and subsequently denied it like a little kid):

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:13-15)

Here's the scene, but the time from when God promised Abraham he would make him into a great nation to the time that Sarah conceives is something like 25 years (Genesis 12:18, Genesis 21:1-6). Way to make them wait on the fulfillment of the promise, huh? So when the baby is finally born, they name him Issac, which means "he laughs."

Likewise, Zachariah and Elizabeth are past their prime, to say the least, and God chooses to make a promise to them, use them as vessels, and surprise everybody around so that it was clear he was the one who did this thing so that the way would be prepared for his Son's coming (which is another bizarre story: God in the form of an infant, born to a young virgin in a time of political turmoil). What on earth? Why this way, why these circumstances? It is everything seemingly preposterous and impossible to us.

I see it happen in my own life and in the lives of others. The whole redemption story is about battles with ridiculous odds; battles won by confusion and trumpets & water jugs, marching and yelling to overcome a city (Joshua 1--yet again--do not fear), army generals holding up their arms as the magic potion for the army to succeed for goodness sake. You get the picture. God's "senseless" methods are really for our benefit. Using tiny armies, wastelands, deserts, impossible situations, barrenness, lack & slavery, intentionally choosing the flawed, the scoundrels and manipulators (David, Jacob, Peter, to name a few) he shows us who is actually fighting the battle, who the power belongs to, who is King.

In the meantime, we gasp in fear, we laugh in disbelief. And then suddenly, we are surprised. God, what is this thing you've done for us?!?! We know that the victory (the baby, the miracle, the healing, the manna, the oil & flour, the forgiveness, the mercy, the salvation) is not from us. We didn't even have the faith to believe it could be done, yet what he promises, he fulfills.

As Zechariah said, God's method is for a purpose: "to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days;" and "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God."

We walk away shaking our heads and laughing in awe and love rather than disbelief and fear, thinking, indeed: "Is anything too hard for the Lord? "

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Come, Lord Jesus.

14 December 2006

Advent: Waiting

Waiting is essential to the spiritual life. But waiting as a disciple of Jesus is not an empty waiting. It is waiting with a promise in our hearts that makes already present what we are waiting for. We wait during Advent for the birth of Jesus. We wait after Easter for the coming of the Spirit, and after the Ascension of Jesus we wait for his coming again in glory. We are always waiting in the conviction that we have already seen God’s footsteps.

Waiting for God is an active, alert -- yes, joyful -- waiting. As we wait we remember him for whom we are waiting, and as we remember him we create a community ready to welcome him when he comes.

Henri Nouwen, In Joyful Hope: Meditations for Advent

12 December 2006

whoa--christmastime is here!!! my feet smell like pine!!!

First of all, Nelly loves pumas. And his new record is called "Sweatsuit". Just thought you should know.

This weekend was GREAT! Kristin visited from Calcutta and hip hip hooray, I didn't have to work all weekend and got to have lots of great conversations and fun chill time with her, Court & Jess.

Court, Kristin & I went to "The Holiday" on Friday and decided that romantic comedies are for women as porn is for men: unrealistic expectations, longing for something that doesn't really exist except in a scriptwriter's mind, etc. It was a pretty cute movie, but did leave you with that gnawing feeling that your life is sorely incomplete and that normal people do not have "cute-meets", nor do they look like Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.

We hit the thrift stores in search of a wild stallion t-shirt (it's a long story involving the alternatives of submission or the glue factory) and came up empty-handed. It was a tragedy of sorts, assuaged only by the unexpected appearance of my alternate personality Rhonda. There were photos, but I do not have them. Hm. This could be a problem.

I've realized that when guests come to town, it's like a progressive meal the entire weekend. We go from one establishment to another caffeinating and talking and consuming tasty things and talking some more. It's great. I love that my friends love this. Then again, I give them no alternative. I will not be suggesting a trip to Dave & Busters anytime soon. That's, as Nelly would say, derrty fo sho.

Kristin & I did make a chilly pilgrimage to see the whirly twirly pink cheeked ice skaters in Forest Park on Saturday afternoon. It was lovely, romantic, like a movie (ok, maybe real-life people do have cute-meets, I take it back). Saturday also included hanging with friends and discussing, among other things, the differences between Shakers, Quakers, Amish, and Mennonite communities. It was rather involved and inconclusive. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

Two Christmas parties were thrown in there somewhere, I got to meet and hold sweet, chubby cheeked Gabrielle on her second and a half day in the world, and I had a tearful goodbye at the airport with my dear friend, which is bittersweet, and holds in it hopes that I will see her again soon. How ya like them run on sentences? Too much. Too MUCH.

Right now I have pine needles stuck to the bottoms of my feet. Our tree decided to shed the needles from the three bottom layers of branches. He's quite well-behaved other than that though, beautiful even, so we're willing to put up with his premature balding and the piney feet syndrome. There are worse things you can step in. Believe me.

11 December 2006

Advent: Mary's song

And Mary said:

"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
or the Mighty One has done great things for me—

Holy is His name.

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."

Madonna & Child from Serbian monastery, 12th C.
Text: Luke 1:46-55

01 December 2006


"we will walk on a hill
red hats and blue coats, and everything still
snow cover until
we can't tell the sky from the ground.
where does the time go?"*

"red tree, go on.
red tree, go on.
you've waited a long time.
you've waited a long time.
red tree, go on."*

"this day is coming in my room,
is coming through my door.
oh i have not seen this day before..."*

"some winters are harder than others
we are going to take our cameras
and look through black trees with empty arms
sled tracks wandering as we are.
to see him, to see him happy."*

"where we going tomorrow
where are we going?
oh i can only say
we will be found.
something will shine in the backyard
blue lanterns or Saint Gerard
who was lost in the snow."*

*all song lyrics from "birds of my neighborhood" by the innocence mission