Category Archives: Advent
J.K. Rowling first dreamed up Harry Potter in 1990, while on a train from Manchester to London. She finished the story in 2007 with the final book in the seven novel epic. Now, that’s a long story. Those who followed it all the way to its conclusion were held in suspense until the very last pages. We were all surprised by the ending — all of us, that is, except J.K. Rowling. She clearly had planned it all from the very beginning; she always knew how it would end.
This is the wonder of a great story and the gift of the great storyteller. They plot everything precisely and then make us wait for the surprise ending. While we wait, our anticipation grows, preparing us for the BIG finish! In the end, what we couldn’t possibly have imagined happening surprises us, and we’re completely gob-smacked by the satisfaction we feel. If we had skipped ahead to the conclusion, it would be empty. We’d have an ending, but no resolution.
It’s tempting in today’s world to want to fast forward things. Our technology and consumer conveniences make it possible to skip the lines, avoid the traffic, and tape the game so we can fast forward through the commercials. Stories aren’t meant to be experienced this way. They take their time, just like our lives do. That’s a good thing, right? Who wants to rush to the end?
But really, why not? If what God has promised is so much better than what we’ve got, why not fast-forward us to the good part? Perhaps because the God who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine (Eph 3:20), is still working on us.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20
God, the great storyteller, is telling His story by His power that is at work within us. For the satisfying resolution to make sense to us, we have to read all the way through to our last page.
We’re not meant to jump to the end of our lives without reading the middle parts. Something of God grows up in our lives as we learn to lead them. It will allow us, with all the Lord’s holy people, to stand before the love of Christ that is so much more than anyone could ever ask or imagine and find ourselves completely filled by it. (Eph 3: 14-20) Hard to believe, right?
Definitely. Yet, if Ms. Rowling had told me in Book 3 how Harry’s story would end, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed it either. It took four more books to develop the breadth of things which ushered me into the only ending that made sense.
So, even though from my vantage point on this side of my life story, the path to a happy ending may look narrow and perilous, to the God who conceived, wrote and is still writing it, it’s a broad expanse. It’ll take a lifetime’s filling of His Spirit for me to see and believe just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for me. Surprise!!
Perhaps this is what the late Steve Jobs saw on his deathbed as he uttered his last recorded words: “Oh Wow. Oh Wow. Oh Wow.” Can you imagine what would make an inventor, creator, and visionary like Jobs say that? Yeah, me neither. Guess we’ll just have to wait.
What if Christmas isn’t the “most wonderful time of the year”?
What if it’s lonely?
What if I’m missing someone?
She’s gone away,
He’s gone to heaven
They’ve passed to I don’t know where?
What if it’s smothering?
They don’t understand
Won’t accept me back
This is as good as it’s ever gonna get?
What if I’m waiting?
It’s not looking good?
Christmas isn’t wonderful then.
Not like they promised
Not like they sing
Not like the song says
Let NOT the bells ring.
Christmas is not wonderful.
But Christ still is.
Born again in us, this day.
The spirit of life,
That overcomes sickness,
finds us in our losing,
breathes life into our suffocation,
understands, accepts, keeps,
and never leaves.
Even when Christmas is not wonderful,
Not what we want,
but what we so dearly,
Merry Christmas, friends.
We live in a world where new and improved is always better than old and decrepit. Of course. New has the benefit of advanced methods, complete research, and dedicated study applied liberally over all that has come before it. Old, well that was just a starting point. Those were the blocks we stood in to give us leverage when the race began.
One of the things that new has ushered in is statistical…accuracy. We can fact check, provide proof, cite our sources, justify our positions. We can qualify, and oh boy, can we quantify! We know exactly how many people would vote thus and so, believe this and that, trust him or her. We know. We are new and improved people. We are reasonable.
So, it’s a bit alarming to read in the morning paper that “Recent polls show that 29 percent of Americans and nearly 45 percent of Republicans say he (President Obama) is a Muslim.”
How do we say this? We tell a pollster who reports it, I guess. Do we know this when we say it? Have we asked Mr. Obama about his faith? Have we read deeply concerning his opinions, positions, actions and responses? This would seem reasonable before we say anything.
What we report in the media is, perhaps, what we believe to be true. Given what we think we know, this is what we conclude. Perhaps those numbers reflect what people believe about President Obama, but that doesn’t make it so. (The article actually goes on to debunk this belief.) Just because we think it, doesn’t make it so. Any more than thinking I am President makes that so.
If we think we can do make something true, right, happen, reasonable, or real, just because we think it, we are mistaken. That isn’t ours; that’s God’s. God thinking something actually does make it so. When we think something, we move in its direction, but we’d do well not to presume that our thinking it actuates it. That would presume we are God, which has very grave consequences, indeed.
Fleming Rutledge, an Episcopal preacher that a friend has me reading, writes concerning what she calls the battle of the billboards. “Upon entering the Lincoln Tunnel you stare at a billboard showing a Nativity scene and the words ‘You know it’s a myth.’ When you come out of the tunnel you see a billboard with a Nativity scene and the words ‘You know it’s real.'”
She goes on, “The atheist billboard says, “This season, celebrate reason.” I revere reason as much as the atheists do—up to a point. But what faith knows is that although reason is a gift, it is not a god. Reason cannot explain everything. Certainly it cannot explain the purposes and promises of God.”
Our believing, remembering, repeating or tallying does not make something so. But setting our minds on the things of God may bring them nearer.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil 4:8)
When God remembers His mercy, He is not calling it again to mind. He is taking action on our behalf. As Rutledge puts it, “God’s mercy is not static. It goes forth from God as a promise already becoming a reality.”
We can pray to be like-minded. That’s as old and original as it gets.