Tag Archives: Advent

Do Not Fear

My wife and I have a tradition of celebrating a “Jesse Tree” as part of our Christmas season. Each night, we read a passage from the Bible which refers to a member in the family line of Jesus Christ (Jesse was the father of King David) or a significant event of the work of God in the salvation of the humanity. My wife made ornaments which represent each of these readings and we add one to our Christmas tree each night.

A few nights ago, we were reading about the giving of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy. A lot of people are familiar with all of the “Thou shalt not” statements, but there is a little preface which really caught our attention.

Moses says this to the people of Israel: “I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain” (Deut 5:5).

God wanted to speak to the people from a mountain, and there was fire and other severe weather accompanying His presence there. The people were afraid to go into the presence of God, so they asked Moses to go for them, and promised to do whatever he said when he came back from listening to God (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-21).

The people were afraid, and that fear kept them from coming into the presence of God.

“Do not fear” (or “fear not” or “do not be afraid”) is perhaps one of the most repeated phrases in the Bible–from God’s interactions with Abraham (Gen 15:1) to His final appearance (Rev 1:17). Nearly every angelic encounter is accompanied by these words, and the words come up in the Christmas story as well, when both Joseph (Matt 1:20) and Mary (Luke 1:30) are informed of God’s plan, and also when the shepherds are accosted out in the fields (Luke 2:10).

In each case, there is a warning: fear will cause you to miss God. If the shepherds cowered in fright out in the fields, put their fingers in their ears trying to ignore the angels’ message, they would have missed out on the Savior in a manger. If Joseph had given into fear, he would have abandoned Mary and missed out on raising the Son of God.

The people of Israel, at the foot of the mountain with their leader Moses, gave in to fear and missed out on a face-to-face meeting with the God of the Universe. They were afraid, and gave up their right to personally engage with God, instead choosing to use an intermediary. And so it continued, for generations, centuries, and millennia…most Hebrew people only experiencing God through the words of someone else.

Christmas is about God coming to have an encounter with us. He’s not afraid; He didn’t remain far off. He came to be here, to be near.

And now it’s our turn to respond. Will we tremble at the thought of relating to God? Will we fear judgment, condemnation, uncertainty, life change, ridicule and seek instead to remain at a distance from Him? Or will we, like the shepherds, overcome our fear and proclaim, “Let us go and see this thing which has happened”?


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Posted by on December 20, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Coming? He’s Here.

Appropriately enough, I’ve been thinking this season about celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ.

Certainly, this idea of the Incarnation–of God becoming man in order to reveal Himself to us and to remove the barriers to relationship between us and Him–is a significant one for Christianity. The fact that God would humble Himself so that He might relate to us is rather incredible; the fact that He would suffer and die for that relationship even more so.

But while this certainly is a season of celebration, it raises a question for me.

Christians believe that, although Jesus has ascended and returned to His Father’s side, God the Holy Spirit continues to dwell among us, within us. Jesus heralded this as a significant state of affairs, stating that it was better for Him to leave and for the Holy Spirit to take up an abiding place with us here on earth (John 16:7).

I absolutely think that we should rehearse and celebrate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; that’s Easter. But why do we make so much of Christmas, of His birth as a baby? It was indeed significant that God came to earth, but Jesus is not now with us in the same way, and instead the Holy Spirit is with us–which is apparently (by Jesus’ words) even better. Why don’t we instead celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit? (Some churches do, at Pentecost, which is 7 weeks after Easter.)

This is a season about coming and our preparation. He has come; let’s be grateful and consider the impact of the life and resurrection of Jesus on us. And He is coming back.

But He’s also here right now. God is with us right now.

We love the name of God, “Immanuel“–God with us. But when we use that name, we tend to focus on Jesus, that He came to be with us. But God is still with us, and not just in the sense that He cares about us from a distance and supports us. He is with us now in a way more intimate and near than when Jesus came to earth in a manger. The Holy Spirit has taken up His residence in us. Where’s the holiday to celebrate that?

I’m not a Grinch or a Scrooge; I enjoy the celebration of Christmas, and I am grateful that God took the necessary step to come here Himself and to sort out our mess. But if we only ever look back at the time 2000 years ago when God was coming, when He was present with us, and never reflect on that fact that He’s here today in an even more significant way, then I think we miss something.

Let this time of Advent, of Christmas, remind us that Jesus came and that He’s coming again, but also that God is present with His people even now. We needn’t only look back or look ahead; we can look right here. We are not a people who have only experienced God in history and who only hope to see Him again in eternity.





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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Welcome to…This is My Father’s World

I was thinking about a song this morning, and then I heard it played (don’t you love when that happens?).

The song is called Welcome to Our World, originally by Chris Rice, but it’s been performed by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, among others. It’s a song of invitation, asking–and realizing the need for–God to come and exert His influence amidst the trials of our lives.

Kind of an odd thought, when you think about it. Welcome to our world?

“Hello, Creator of the Universe, welcome to this planet, from we who are of the dust of the earth.”

It made me think of another song, a classic hymn: This is My Father’s World. It’s a statement of the comfort to be had in acknowledging that God reigns supreme, that all of creation declares this truth, and that although there are evils and trials now, His rule is not mitigated.

We are in the season of Advent, anticipating the celebration of Christmas, which is now just two weeks away. At this time, we are often encouraged to poise ourselves to welcome our Lord. “Let earth / receive / her King!

What kind of a welcome are we laying out? Is there a red carpet? A cocktail reception with more focus on the hors d’oeuvres and open bar than on the guest of honor? A feast with guests who come mainly for the food? A party jam-packed with people so that one can barely move and mingle? Are we meeting Him at the airport and bringing Him to our homes in pomp and circumstance and spectacle? Or is there merely an unlocked door and we’re okay if He just lets Himself in whenever He arrives?

This season is not actually about us permitting Him to enter into our space; this place is His. He’s not returning home, either. Rather, He’s coming to a place that He created and entrusted to us. We should be inviting Him to come and put His stamp visibly, undeniably onto this world, onto our lives. “Thy Kingdom come on earth (as it is in heaven).”

For Christians who believe that Christ is coming back again someday, Advent should be even more significant. The birth of any noteworthy historical figure can be acknowledged, appreciated, celebrated even. But there is only One whose Second Coming can be anticipated.

Jesus came the first time with a rather meager welcome. As Welcome to Our World says, “hope that You don’t mind our manger” and (ironically) “how I wish we would have known” (that You were coming). What if Christians today viewed each Advent season as a practice, a dress rehearsal for our response to His coming again? As we recall His first arrival, we have the chance to consider how we are welcoming Him into our lives today, and also how we look forward to His return.

And, we can also contemplate how we’re doing with His world, the planet and the lives and the people and the things that He created, but that He has given into our care while He’s been away. Have we done well? Are we excited to have the Master take up residence with us once again? Or would we sheepishly prefer Him to stay away, as we’ve been negligent, ignorant, or ungrateful in our duties?

So, what tidings of welcome are we offering to the King of Kings this Christmas? And what are we hoping He’ll do once He gets here?

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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


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