It’s been two days since the first Sunday in Advent, so it’s not too late to share once again a video series of short daily reflections that I found to be a cornerstone of family devotions one past Christmas season and whose benefits, I believe you will find, linger through the year.
The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics has put out a series of daily reflections for advent which provide a beautifully meditative context for our individual prayers and reflection. Each medit…
What holds you back, O my soul,
that you stand in the shadows
wavering in the crossroads of doubt
then in the outer courts of unbelief
now in the halls of mistrust?
Why cower in shame when you are robed
in the righteousness of the King?
You have the seal of the Spirit
deposited in your bosom,
the first-fruits of your riches,
that you may approach boldly
the throne of grace,
the throne of your Father
to whom you have been reconciled
forever and ever more.
What troubles you, my soul?
Why hide in defeat when the victory is won?
The Savior King has come into His kingdom
and brought you in with songs of delight.
Because of Him, you are no longer an outcast
but a child of God, His Father and yours
as the Spirit testifies.
So come, my soul, take heart and enter
the chamber of the eternal holy God
and say, “Father.”
Come, my soul, with faith to light the way
His word the lamp to your feet
and say, “Father”
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
She was dead she thought
The leaves gone gray with frostbite
Fullness of life pinched like the last rays
Of twilight and the seed rotten
In the grave of her heart where it lay
Thick corpse unlooked for, unhoped for.
Then the recrudescence of the unseen cloaked –
Birth pains preceded by incredulous laughter
Behind three visitors, welcome yet sorely
Testing her faith that after all these years
The barren belly and breasts hanging loose
Like the flaps of Abraham’s tent would swell
With child and milk and passion flailing
In her arms in cries of longing.
Still yet would the muted prayers of her heart
Confuse a blind priest and escape like drunken speech
From a spirit overburdened with years of enduring
Whispers interspersed with “poor Hannah”
And taunts hastily stifled between pursed lips
Escape the earth to a listener in the heavens
Beneath the frozen stare of endless reeling stars.
Oh, birth that fell upon the girl betrothed twice:
First to the gallant, plainspoken carpenter by trade
Then to the shame that lay as heavy upon her as the child
Ripening within, immortal Savior, promised to a broken remnant
Who had almost ceased to believe their barren vineyard –
Stripped, plundered, bruised under heel of pharisee and emperor –
Would find its fruit at last in the promised seed of God
Eternal hid here in the virgin’s bespoken womb!
Now to ready the still beating heart beneath the flesh
That spawns decay, loss, grief, hate, pain and misery
Unbroken by relentless time, but that time itself stoops
To enter into a stable wherein lies a gurgling babe,
The hope of every longing heart
The joy of bright expectant eyes
The peace of life newborn where once there was none
Now in this advent of his return.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
What do I have to offer You, my God?
My self? A nightmare, this wretched thing that like a silly sheep
has gone this way and that, astray and beyond, and that
just today. This sin-encrusted self is too paltry a thing to offer
my God. Yet it beats with a heart that You have turned
from stone to flesh by the sweet breath of Your Spirit,
an altar made acceptable by the blood of Your Son
where You, O God, Father-Son-Spirit, one God,
holy Trinity, abide to save, rescue, cleanse, protect
this heart of mine to love, adore, worship and praise You.
Of my self I possess no love that is not weak and tainted.
You know, O God. You know, my Father. By Your Word,
flood, melt, devour me with Your love.
Give me the love I thirst to love You with.
For if I cannot love You with Your love
overtaking my self,
O God, I am nothing.
If you asked me which part of the worship service on the Lord’s Day is my favorite, I would have to confess myself torn between three choices: the preaching of the Word, the music and singing of hymns, and the closing benediction or prayer. I suppose the reasons for the first two are obvious.
Ah, Lord Jesus, Author and Word,
Speak into me Your eternal Light that I may see light,
May see You and seeing, be enthralled by Your gaze
Of love unbounded from eternity,
Yet stretched upon a tree by my crimes,
Then laid in a tomb in death’s cold embrace
Till it cracked and crumbled to contain
One by whom and through whom and for whom
All life sprang into being.
Ah, Lord Jesus, speak daily Your word of life into me:
Lest I be entombed once more by self,
Break through the self-drawn darkness of each day
And turn upon me the light of Your countenance
That I may live as You have willed, abundantly.
For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 63:9)
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)
Maybe you’re like me and have no New Year’s resolutions given our past record on such resolutions have been rather abysmal. So, knowing myself, these thoughts from John Bunyan, written while he was in prison suffering for his faith, are ones I take into the New Year, so that I may be humble, vigilant, and faithful to my Savior Jesus Christ, through whose suffering and death, I have been made a new creation.
The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics has put out a series of daily reflections for advent which provide a beautifully meditative context for our individual or family prayers and devotions. Each meditation begins with a passage of scripture read by David Suchet and then a five-minute exposition by Amy Orr-Ewing which places the scripture within the framework of God’s unfolding design of salvation. The reflections “dwell on God’s preparation of people and events in history, which made the incarnation possible,” with the focus being on how God works in chronos time to achieve his kairos purpose, the coming of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. The introductory video does a good job of explaining the Biblical use of the two Greek words for time, chronos/kairos, kairos being used by the New Testament writers to “communicate the idea of God’s time; it is eternal reality breaking into the now.”
“Great art thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is thy power, and infinite is thy wisdom.” And man desires to praise thee, for he is a part of thy creation; he bears his mortality about with him and carries the evidence of his sin and the proof that thou dost resist the proud. Still he desires to praise thee, this man who is only a small part of thy creation. Thou hast prompted him, that he should delight to praise thee, for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.¹
There are so many things to see here – to learn – from just these opening lines to Augustine’s Confessions, but three ideas stand out.
To tell you the truth, it’s the lyrics by Stéphane Bordèse that hit me before the music, which is unusual, at least for me. Not that Gabriel Fauré’s “En Prière” (1890) isn’t a beautifully poetic piece of music. I’ve heard it performed recently with harp and voice but Kathleen Battle’s performance below is just as exquisite with piano.
“En Prière” (In Prayer)
As the voice of a child can reach You,
O my Father,
Hear my prayer, on bended knee before You!
As You have chosen me to teach Your
laws on earth,
I will know how to serve You, noble
King of kings, O Light!
On my lips, Lord, place the salutary
In order that he who doubts should with
Humility revere You!
Do not abandon me, give me the
To ease suffering, to relieve sorrow,
Reveal Yourself to me, my Father, in whom I
trust and hope:
For You I wish to suffer and to die on
The cross, at Calvary!