Every Knee Will Bow

We sat at a table surrounded by stacks of boxes, shelves of books, and cartons of gifts. The Christian book store had graciously created a space in its warehouse for this meeting of a writer’s group.

I admit to being bored, and my eyes roamed around the big room, taking inventory. On a high shelf, one box advertised its contents with a large picture attached to one side:  Santa Claus.

There was no backdrop, no setting, nothing in the picture except a red-clad figure, bent in worship, hands clasped in prayer. The artist had captured a spirit of reverence, a soul kneeling before the King of kings.  The epitome of the world’s Christmas bowed down to the God of all creation.

No matter what the world thinks of God, He alone rules! No matter that many have turned Christmas into a mere “holiday”, someday every knee will bow to the Baby born in a stable. 

“… For there is no other God but me,
a righteous God and Savior.
   There is none but me.
Let all the world look to me for salvation!
    For I am God; there is no other.

Every knee will bend to me,
    and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.”
  
             (Isaiah 45:21-23 NLT)

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
             
(Philippians 2:10-11 NLT)

These days, when Santas dance in windows and perch on housetops and wave from snow-covered yards, the Spirit reminds me of that kneeling Santa and the Scripture’s promise:  Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess — There is only one God, and He is King! 

 Turn on your audio, and worship the Lord of all creation:

It’s Always Christmas

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in the dark streets shineth
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight. *

 

In the dark streets of Bethlehem, a child comes into the world and brings the everlasting light. Immanuel. “God is with us.”

Albert Edward Day says, “God is present in reality no matter what unreality our practices and our ponderings imply.” **

And my youngest grandson, who just turned three, told me yesterday that “It’s always Christmas.”

God is here. Although every one of us has turned away from Him, has forgotten Him, and has looked to other gods, yet He has come. Come to save us and destroy our enemies. Come to heal us. Come to meet “the hopes and fears of all the years.”

He is here. The everlasting light shines in the dark streets of Bethlehem and of our world today. You and I may forget that He is here, but He does not abandon us. He waits for us to seek Him so that He can heal us and meet all our hopes and fears.

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him
     so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
    Blessed are those who wait for his help.

Remember, and come to Him.

Immanuel. It’s always Christmas

*

Scripture: Isaiah 30:18 (NLT)
* “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, Phillips Brooks
** The Captivating Presence, by Albert Edward Day

Preparing a Manger

The book of Isaiah contains some of the most cherished, most quoted, most triumphant promises about God coming. Coming into our world, into our lives. Healing our brokenness, lighting our darkness. It’s a book of hope.

But I had forgotten about the first half of the book. The first thirty-some chapters are preparing my heart this Christmas. And the preparation has been hard.

Almost every chapter portrays people who have turned their backs on God, despise God, laugh at God. They worship things their own hands have made. They congratulate themselves on what they’ve accomplished, on the security they’ve built into their own lives, and even think they’ve found a way to cheat death. They believe in lies, because the lies are more pleasant to the ear than the truth.

In His anger and judgment, God repeats two words again and again, and they stay long in my mind … arrogance and pride.

Because He alone is God. He is sovereign.

God says the arrogant and proud are fools. I have a plan for the whole earth, He says, a hand of judgment upon all the nations. It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.

Yet, we think we are in control. We think we have accomplished, and we’ve decided our plan is better than God’s plan. We worship what we create; we look to human alliances to protect us and give us power. If we have not yet conquered death, we at least think we can evade it or deny it for quite a while.

God even has a bit of a laugh at this picture. Such people have made their bed, He says, but lying in it will not be as pleasant as they think:

The bed you have made is too short to lie on,
    
the blankets are too narrow to cover you.

He alone is God. He is sovereign.

The sober warning to rebellious hearts is this:

Because you despise what I tell you
     and trust instead in oppression and lies,
calamity will come upon you suddenly —
     like a bulging wall that bursts and falls.
In an instant it will collapse
     and come crashing down.
You will be smashed like a piece of pottery —
     shattered so completely that
there won’t be a piece big enough
     to carry coals from a fireplace
     or a little water from the well.

A grim picture: The folly of anchoring to something other than God. The futility of scrambling to order and control our own lives. The hopelessness when we build on anything other than the foundation God placed when Mary laid a baby in a manger.

Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
     
a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
    
Whoever believes need never be shaken.

There is our answer and our hope. There is the One we can cling to. There is the Rock to build upon that will not collapse. There is true security and stability.

He alone is God. He is sovereign.

My heart is pounded as I read and He forges His new creation. Daily, I must give Him my pride and my arrogance to shatter and pulverize.

Because Christ came to the stable. He did not come to a powerful palace or the proud temple. He could not enter the inn, full of the world’s business. He came to the manger, to the lowly and the meek, the broken and the humble. I want to prepare just such a place for Him now.

Scripture: Isaiah 14:26; 14:24; 28:20; 30:12-14;28:16 (All NLT)

Christ’s Birth: Hope

Okay, I was admonished today. I’ve been focusing too much on my own hunger this season. Now it’s time to look outward.

The prod came from something I wrote last year about this time in response to a sermon on Matthew 3, the story of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, preparing people for the arrival of Jesus. Pastor Don talked about the preparation that takes place in all of our lives, preparation for finally “getting it” and understanding the true message of Christmas. “I finally got it,” he said, “when I realized Christmas wasn’t all about me.”

Ouch. I heard it then, I hear it again this year. Yes, at Christmas we celebrate our rescue, our redemption. But Christmas is also about those who still need to be rescued. Christmas is the good news that freedom is possible. Hope for those enslaved, help for those who feel helpless, God for those who have been separated from Him.

John the Baptist was talking to the Pharisees about their false religion. Don’t be too smug, don’t feel too secure, he said. Unless your lives show true repentance, God will chop you down and throw you into the fire. You are not safe just because you are descendants of Abraham.

Then these words of John jumped off the page and grabbed my heart: God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. (v. 9)

John the Baptist may have been pointing to river stones as he said this, but to me, in 2011, the Spirit says … God can create children of faith from hearts of stone.

Is there a person you care about who has no reason to celebrate a real Christmas because he/she has not been rescued, does not see, has had no room for Christ? Have you sometimes despaired of that heart of stone ever being redeemed? Are you tempted to think it’s improbable or, even worse, impossible?

Yet, here’s the statement: God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.

It’s the redemption story. It’s what Christmas is all about — God, bringing life where there is no life, bringing light where there is darkness.

Hear the message of Christmas hope … Christ was born for hearts of stone.

Christ’s Birth: Immanuel !

I want a fresh Advent every day of this season. 

I do not want to commemorate a historical event. I do not want to get swept away by the commercial blitz. I do not want one short Christmas Eve service or children’s program or holiday concert to be the only occasion to think about a birth that changed my life and my hopes.

I want Him to come into my life now, today, every day, alive and powerful. I want the Spirit to birth new things in me.

And the good news is, that is exactly what Jesus said would happen!

Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” 
   (
John 14:23)

What hope, comfort, encouragement — and awe — there is in this promise: The Father, the Son, and the Spirit will come and make their home with each child of God.

For those who long to know the Father better, this promise alone is enough to dwell upon today ….

“…we will come and make our home with each of them.”

Come, Father, Jesus, Spirit into all of my days.