Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks unto the Holy One , Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His
now let the weak say, "I am strong"
Let the poor say, "I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us."
Once more the
calendar turns to the year’s last leaf as cold winds blow. My bird
feeders are filled now while my feathered friends are making frequent visits. Stillness
reigns here on Piney Mountain, hushed with expectancy of our first snowfall and waiting pensively with Bach’s oratorios
flooding my soul in anticipation of Christmas. Thus the Advent
season arrives here in my wee corner of our unfathomable Milky Way.
My thoughts are borrowed this season from a sermon
by James Stewart preached in Edinburgh, Scotland sometime early in the last century.
Marked by a spirit of yearning, expectation, and longing, Advent goes back centuries to when Israelite slaves in Egypt
cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the same cry of those today who
experience the tyranny of a broken world seeking justice, righteousness, and peace.
“And there are brave faces which hide sore hearts” wrote Stewart, “and secret wounds that ache, and
a restlessness new every morning; and life is terribly much harder for some than any who see them can imagine….but sometimes
through the darkness shines a light, and the troubled heart grows calm again.”
Somehow, knowing deep in one’s being that Jesus came to abide there forever brings assurance that all gloom has
been vanquished and deep abiding joy settles in. “Rejoice, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!” Welcome,
then, this Advent time and O come let us adore Him!
“Immanuel means ‘God with us’,
with us in Jesus, God going through the darkness with you…The word Immanuel means that when you feel nobody wants you,
God does…. that God is right inside…. with you and in you, God making the pain a sacrament, the conflict a crusade,
and the broken dreams a ladder up to heaven. But there is one comfort we need more than any other - the forgiving of our sins. The glory of this great word Immanuel is that it means even that….if things
have happened and left their mark, and we know they ought never to have been; if
the shades of the prison-house of habit have come closing in around us; if we
have tasted shame, and self-despising and have lost the morning freshness of our souls; ….then this is the thrill of
Advent…to find every barrier broken down by the love of Christ and the old dear intimacy restored, to know that you
can enter… into a new world of light and joy and liberty.” So these
words from Stewart written and spoken nearly a century ago come as a gift I can take with joy and gratitude into the New Year.
When St. Augustine lay dying, he begged one of
his friends and disciples to paint on the wall opposite his bed these words from the thirty-second Psalm: ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. ’ As his end neared, Augustine lay gazing at those words, steadying his soul with the blessed assurance
of God’s grace and benediction on his life. Hence, though weak and poor, he was ushered into the Presence of God both strong and rich ‘because of what the Lord has done for us.’“O come, o come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel, … Until the Son of God appear… Rejoice! Rejoice!
Shall come to thee…O Israel.”