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Further Along My Passage

December 2014
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Indian Creek River Walk


Browsing clip art online I found this scene of what might have been Christmas time at perhaps an 18th century country farmhouse.  Certainly it must have been at a far more innocent time before noisy horseless motor cars, commercialism, and hoopla defined the season. Mennonite homesteads here in our valley still hold something of the mystique with their horse drawn sleighs, buggies, and carriages and old fashion ways.  We wave and greet one another each Sunday morning enroute to our respective rural churches.  I pray for them, too, that their time of worship may be deeply felt and meaningful, asking the same for myself as I storm the Holy gates.  Recently I found a marvelous paragraph in A. W. Tozer’s testament, The Crucified Life, which resonated a theme in my soul:

We are not living for this world but for the world to come.  The economy we are bartering in is not of this world but of the world where Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us.  We have the awesome privilege of exchanging worldly success for favor with our Father which art in heaven.  The crucified life is an expensive proposition.  Whoever is willing to pay the price is the one who will go forward in absolute victory and joyous fellowship with Christ.  Christ paid the price for our salvation; we now pay the price for our full identification with Him and our walk and pilgrimage...” That statement seals the message of the Incarnation with the Resurrection. Perhaps that may define the Christian mindset of my Mennonite neighbors as the same I would want for myself, albeit grateful for the comforts and conveniences of the 21st century.  Well a number of them nowadays also have automobiles, some painting the chrome bumpers black, a price paid as one of many subtle testaments of their faith in the living Lord who left the glory of heaven and began His pilgrimage on earth as a tiny babe in Bethlehem. 

Out to the Fields

 

Once more I have turned to James S. Stewart for a meditation on this Advent Season....I think you will find it profoundly meaningful.  Enjoy and God Bless Us Everyone!  Glory to God in the highest and Peace on Earth good will to all men is what the angels still sing.

 

An Advent Meditation

“Teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.”  Judges xiii, 8.

 

This is the season of Advent.  Advent, properly understood, has three dimensions, past, present and future.  The past – Christ’s historic coming to Israel at Bethlehem; the present – Christ’s constant coming to the Church, and to you and me, in the here and now: the future – Christ’s final coming to all the world at the end of the age....

            There was a day – so the old chronicler of the Book of Judges records – when an angel of the Lord visited Manoah and his wife.  He told them they were to expect a child.  He told them that the child would be a great leader and deliverer of his people.  He would ransom Israel from its captivity.  He would break the hereditary enemies, the Philistines.  He would be agent of the divine strategy....So the child Samson came into the world.  So he grew up, and lived and loved and warred and died, and was gathered to his fathers.

            Centuries later, the angel of the Lord returned.  God was now to send another Deliverer to His people.  He, too, would come as a Child.  He, too, would ransom captive Israel.  He, too, would fight and smash the Philistines: only, His Philistines would not be the warring tribe that bore that name, but the world, the flesh and the devil, the powers of darkness that corrupt and shackle human life with chains and slavery, the ruthless forces that rot man’s soul and bring his brightest visions to the dust.  It was a marvelous divine strategy that laid this Child, Immanuel, upon the doorstep of the world’s heart; and immense the responsibility of those who had to receive this gift into their midst.  The character of every man and nation, every society and culture, would stand revealed by their attitude to this new act of God.  It was indeed – though they might not realize it – the critical, decisive question:  “What shall we do to the Child that shall be born?”...And still at Advent He draws near, and still at Christmas time He comes again, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, God impinging on the human race in Christ – and still the challenge is renewed.  It is a momentous responsibility for our world, our Church, ourselves to face the challenge of His coming.  Historically, there have been three answers to the question....We shall find three different sets of people giving three conflicting answers.  And these answers have persisted across the centuries, and still represent the three conflicting attitudes of our contemporary world to the fact of Christ.

            Herod’s answer:  the answer of hostility, the answer that grew and swelled and multiplied for thirty years till one day it became a mad mob’s terrifying roar – “Away with Him!  Away with Him! Crucify Him!  ...There was another question ought to have been asking. ‘What shall the Child that is born do to me?’  This the blazing paradox of the Gospel story.  This is the blazing irony of the incarnation.  Across these lovely hopes of Bethlehem, the shadow of the tyrant loomed vast and ominous and terrific, and the Babe seemed weak and helpless.  But history bears witness that when the proud tyrant in his might struck out at Mary’s Child he was striking – unknown to himself – at the elemental force of the universe.  He was pitting himself against the drive of the purpose of Almighty God.  And it broke him utterly.  This is the eternal fact.  To repudiate the moral values of Jesus Christ is not to join issue with a dim dead Figure of a distant past:  it is to take arms against “the everlasting right” for which “the silent stars are strong”.  And that is always hopeless warfare.

....Therefore:  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts” - try me in the light of Bethlehem, search me with the judgment and mercy of Immanuel – “and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

            The Bethlehem innkeeper answered...the answer of preoccupation...inattention and unconcern – secular priorities inducing apathy.  And when His days on earth were over, what was this Messiah to the majority of His race?  Neither an object of fervent devotion, nor a target of passionate animosity – but less than the dust beneath time’s chariot wheels.  He just did not matter at all.  He could be ignored....Here is the illogicality of indifference.  Christ refuses to be ignored....He haunts the human race... But irresistibly and inexorably, He comes back, our Judge and our Redeemer, our Tormentor and our Saviour, the pressure of Almighty God on your life and mine.  He is there now – this Advent season – and He will not be ignored.  “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

            Simeon...the old saint of God who took the Child into his arms answered it.  The answer of commitment.  The answer of complete devotion... This is no time – when atheism is militant and the spirit of denial is passionate and missionary – for any follower of Jesus to be vague and dispassionate in allegiance.  Simeon embraced God’s Messiah.  He took Him to his heart.  Do we?

From a sermon by James S. Stewart, “The Challenge of His Coming”, published in his book The Wind of the Spirit.




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Yellow Leaves




Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.  (Isaiah writing five centuries before Christ was born.  Isaiah 53:4-5)

Tundra Swans in Flight

 

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