Waiting for the Promised One

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior …
just as he promised
Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.”
(from Luke 1)

This is what we have just celebrated: God, coming to us and rescuing us from the enemies of our souls so that we can serve Him without fear.

Those lines could be our Christmas song of praise and gratitude. But they come from Luke 1, Zechariah’s prophecy. Zechariah had been unable to speak for nine months, from the time a messenger angel had told him he would have a son who would prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. Now, on the day his infant son John is named, Zechariah suddenly bursts out with this praise and prophecy.

The main characters in the scenes of the opening chapters of Luke were all waiting for the time when God’s promises would be fulfilled. They longed for rescue from the oppression of their enemies. They had waited for generations for God to fulfill His promise and send someone who would set their nation free.

And then the Promised One came!

The promised rescue was even larger than God’s people had dreamed: This Messiah saves from those who can kill the soul. And God, in His kindness, extends that rescue beyond Israel to anyone who desires it.

And so, in one sense we celebrate what we know right now, at this moment in God’s history: Jesus can rescue us from the enemies of our souls so we can serve our God without fear and in holiness and righteousness.

Yet we too still wait and look forward to the final, all-encompassing rescue—when Christ appears again on the earth and sets up His kingdom and ALL of life is redeemed and restored. I suspect the fulfillment of this promise, too, will be far beyond anything we dream of now.

He is the Beginning and the End and we wait, here in the middle,  for the Promised One to come …


Birth of Hope

Now what?

We have just paused in our year to commemorate the birth of the one we say is King.

Now what?

After that night in the stable, Mary and Joseph still had to tend to the business that had brought them to Bethlehem. Could Mary rest while Joseph reported to the census officials? Did they find a room somewhere for a few days? Or were they faced the next day with a long trip home? We know the shepherds returned to their flocks (although they were telling everyone they met about what had happened), and I’m sure the innkeeper was busy with all his other guests and the constant traffic in and out of the town. Life went back to …busy life.

And today we go on with our daily lives.

Last year, I wrote about our “ruined” Christmas. Through everything that happened, I  caught a glimpse of the real story of Christmas—Christ the Light coming into our darkness and Christ our Hope coming into our hopelessness.

This year, the message of good tidings of great joy that has been with me all month is that Christ the Answer comes into my every day.

Prophecies foretold the destiny of the child who would be born:

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6 NLT).

While those prophecies were given to a nation and spoke of one who would rule on a grand scale, they are also meant on a very personal level for each one who believes God’s promises.

The government will rest on his shoulders. This transforms our view of the world and our own lives. He is the King! Our allegiance is to one who has authority over all of heaven and earth. Our lives go far beyond earthly realms, worldly principles, and political systems. Our King rules all!

He is Wonderful Counselor. We jump from recognition that the universe is under our King’s command to this comfort of a very personal, intimate relationship with the King. He knows us, through and through. He holds all wisdom and truth. His counsel can be trusted to be wise and loving. Don’t we all need just such a Counselor?

He is Mighty God. I need a mighty God. I need to know that I can trust in something mightier than human effort and influence. I need to know my God goes beyond all natural, social, and political “laws” I observe at work in this world. I need to worship Someone greater than our own man-made idols.  

He is Everlasting Father. I just finished a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize. I read as a writer; that is, I was fascinated at the skillful techniques the author used, especially to develop characters. Yet I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and flat. Why? Because the book held so little hope. There was not even a whisper of God. Characters grew old and some died. And what hope did they find in life? Only a greater “self-awareness.” Sorry, that’s not enough for me. I need eternal and everlasting. I need hope in a loving God who says “Come to me, and I’ll give you life. All of life, as I intended you to have when I birthed you.”

He is Prince of Peace. Whether it’s on a world-wide scale or private and personal, we all crave peace. Jesus said, “I give it to you.” The world knows nothing of peace—not how to create it, give it, or maintain it. The Prince of Peace holds the key, He is the only Way, to the peace we all seek.

And so this Christmas season, the old prophecies have rung in my ears to tell me this baby born in a stable came to bring me everything I need, every day of my life.

Another of God’s promises concerning Jesus is that He is “a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken (Isaiah 28:16).”

Good tidings of great joy! We have a precious cornerstone on which to build our lives, and we need never be shaken.

That birth in Bethlehem was the birth of hope for all of us.

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)