Advent: Where Are You?

     Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
     He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
     And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
     The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
     Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
     The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
     So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:8-15

Christmas treeI sit here in the chaos of the morning having fought through standstill traffic to drop my husband off at work an hour away and listening to my girls who right now are dancing on the edge of anger in their words and their actions and I desperately seek the Truth that too often seems elusive in the day-to-day living of this life.

When life is at its fever-pitch of crazy and chaos and so many moments testify to the messiness of living in the world, I sometimes lose sight of the Truth. In fact, that tends to happen to me more readily during December with its busier schedule and hustle and bustle. I tend to lose sight of the miracle of God with us and find myself seeking God more desperately, often crying out, “Where are you?”

And then I read the words of Genesis and I pause to consider how these can be part of an Advent journey. This reminder of sin and deception and the enemy that prowls around seeking to steal our God-delivered joy, our Christmas joy. I contemplate these words and this scene and know that this is the very reason for Christmas. If not for this moment, there would not have been the years of God’s people asking, “Where are you?”

But what strikes me even more than this obvious connection of the Garden and the manger is the connection of Jesus and the serpent. Not the one mentioned here, where Jesus will crush the enemy, but the one from before the existence of the garden, of the man and the woman, of the world itself.

The enemy, the serpent, knew Jesus before the creation of the cosmos. This serpent was an angel who gathered around the throne of Jesus praising Him with singing and glorifying Him with all the Heavenly Host.

Did Jesus foresee the moment of the enemy’s departure? Did He notice the enemy’s voice missing from the Heavenly Host gathered around His glory? Did He mourn the loss of this once-beautiful creature who chose to leave His presence for darkness and lies and his eventual demise and defeat?

And what of this enemy who sought to be equal to God? Did he understand the words the Lord spoke to the woman in the Garden, the prophesy of the coming of Jesus and the victory that Jesus would have over him? Surely this lowly serpent realized the Truth for God’s plan for redemption was put into place before the things ever went wrong in the Garden.

In the shadows the serpent slunk, enjoying the breaking of the bond, the relationship, between God and His creation. How he must have reveled in the moment when the man and the woman hid from God, beginning a history of hiding and darkness and of God calling out to mankind, “Where are you?” And all the while God’s people answered with their own plaintive plea, “Where are you?”

Until at last another man and another woman of God’s choosing journeyed through the darkness to reveal God’s great Love. Until at last as God’s people cried out, “Where are you?” God replied, “Here I Am.”

The great I Am born in Bethlehem to bring the final answer that burning question of our hearts, “Where are you?”

Victory proclaimed in the cries of a babe in a manger. No more hiding. No more darkness. No more fear. No more having to cry out, “Where are you?” because He is here.

Advent: I Know Him

O Zion, messenger of good news,
    shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.
    Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
    “Your God is coming!”
Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isaiah 40:9-11

Christmas treeFor as long as I can remember, part of my Christmas celebration during December almost always involves favorite stories and movies. We read an Advent Storybook each night before bed to our two girls who are almost seven and almost five. My husband and I like to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas and at least one version of A Christmas Carol.

In recent years, we’ve added a new favorite that we try to watch at some point, Elf. I don’t know if you’ve seen Elf starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, but there’s a scene in which Buddy is working at Macy’s during Christmas and his supervisor announces that Santa’s coming to their little North Pole set up the next day. Buddy just about explodes with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival (if you haven’t seen it, you can watch the clip below):

Buddy’s reaction makes me think about the above verses in a whole new way. Think about it, God’s people have been waiting for Him for a long time. Anticipating Him, looking for Him, waiting for Him to show up. And then comes a prophecy about a messenger who appears, a messenger of good news shouting from the mountain tops, “Your God is coming!”

Imagine the sense of shock and expectation that this prophecy must have brought with it.

“Your God is coming!”

But then, for them, there was more waiting. More waiting and more wondering. When? When is He coming?

We don’t have that same long wait. In fact, we get to celebrate His coming each year all the while anticipating His returning, His coming again.

But in the meantime, Advent is that time when we celebrate the end of the waiting the Israelites endured and anticipate His coming. Advent says, “Your God is coming!”

How do you respond to that? How do I?

Honestly, for me, much of December tends to get swallowed up in the doing and the planning of lots of things: planning meals, baking cookies, wrapping gifts, trimming the tree, making memories. In fact there tend to be more things to do than there is time to do them. Advent becomes a December of squeezing things in and rushing from one thing to the next in order to fit them all in. And one of those things I end up trying to squeeze in is Jesus.

This year, I don’t want to just squeeze Jesus in.

“Your God is coming!”

This year, I want to be like Buddy the Elf; I want to embody and display that absolute abandon and joy at the announcement, “Your God is coming!”

I want my response to echo loudly: Really? God? He’s coming? Here? To this place right here? God is coming? Wow!

But even more than that, I want to exclaim with even greater conviction: “God? I know Him. I know Him.”

And I want to celebrate with great joy the Good News that Jesus isn’t only coming, He’s staying. He’s here. He’s ruling and He’s leading and He’s guiding and He’s feeding His sheep. In Him is hope and love and mercy and grace and victory. In Him I live and move and have my being.

“God? I know him!”

And that is definitely worth shouting about and celebrating.

Advent: Cries of Victory

How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who brings good news,
the good news of peace and salvation,
    the news that the God of Israel reigns!
The watchmen shout and sing with joy,
    for before their very eyes
    they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.
Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song,
    for the Lord has comforted his people.
    He has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has demonstrated his holy power
    before the eyes of all the nations.
All the ends of the earth will see
    the victory of our God. Isaiah 52:7-10

Christmas treeGood news shouted, celebrated, sung with great joy and enthusiasm. Can we even imagine such a thing today? In this age of heart-wrenching news stories and anger and protests and hatred and poverty and conflict and disease and death. I don’t know about you, but I can barely imagine a fleet-footed messenger bringing news of comfort and peace and salvation.

But it’s what I desperately crave. And it’s what this world desperately needs.

It’s what this world has desperately needed throughout its existence, from the moment that Adam and Eve left the Garden and life became messy and broken and filled with darkness and pain. And it’s the very need for which God planned even before the beginning of the world. Comfort, peace, good news. His Good News.

Not something temporary. Not something that would appease only for a short while before the world caved in around us once again. Not something wrought by the hands, or the minds, or the strength of men.

This Good News is confined by neither time nor space and was wrought through the hands of Jesus. And it is a gift.

But can we truly grasp that? Do we want to?

Or does it feel like utter nonsense in the midst of a world of hurting and hatred and pain and anger?

At first glance, I admit, it seems ridiculous. Absurd. Abstract in a world of concrete needs.

But consider the Truth of it. Consider the Truth that He embodies: hope, redemption, love, victory. Absolute and complete victory.

This is something for which I yearn. Victory. Not just for myself, but for those I have never met. For the struggles they face and the circumstances that threaten to oppress the, even bury them in the cracks of our culture until their needs and their lives become invisible.

How is possible to rejoice?

Because He comes. And their needs, their lives, their hearts are not invisible to Him. In fact, it is why He comes.

And so I will be a watchman upon the walls of this world and its circumstances who brings good news and comfort and hope. I will be one who shouts with the songs of joy and victory raised for a hurting world to hear and to know.

Despite the messy brokenness of this life, I will wrap myself in the comfort of the Holy power of the Lord whose mercy and justice I do not recognize but for which I yearn and in which I trust.

Here, in this place, the breath of heaven brushes my ear with a promise that God will enter this fray and reveal Himself to those who seek the miracle of heaven here in this world. For it is here. Indeed it comes each year at this time if we but journey to that little town of Bethlehem in search of our King and Creator who entered our world as helpless as we too often feel.

We have not been left alone.

We have not been abandoned.

Yes, this world will wrench us to our cores and will incite us to anger and sometimes hopelessness; the world can seem as if nothing will ever change and that nothing matters.

But God says otherwise. And He said it pretty powerfully with the birth of a baby on a cold dark night to a young teenage mother. Angels sang. Shepherds fell on their knees. A Savior came. Watchmen shouted and sang with joy because hope was born and victory was proclaimed with those first cries of a newborn babe in a stable.