Tag Archives: redemption

The Passion of Christmas

24 Dec

I love listening to Christmas music – not just because it puts me in the Christmas mood, but also because it floods my heart with the meaning of Christmas. This year, I am captivated by the passion behind historical Christmas hymns. The authors of these songs exhort us to adore Christ, fall on our knees before Him, and praise His name forever. They write of a world, weary under the burden of sin and guilt, that sees a new day, filled with hope, dawn with the birth of a simple babe. The Savior has come, the catalyst of God’s plan of redemption.

I like to imagine what it would have been like the night Jesus was born. Four hundred years had passed since God has spoken to His people. But God had promised a Messiah, a Redeemer. All of Israel was waiting for the Christ. And on that night in a little town of Bethlehem, a town “too little to be among the clans of Judah,” the long-awaited Messiah was born. Humble shepherds were at work in the field, watching their flocks in the moonlight, straining to stay awake. All of a sudden, they are blinded by “the glory of the Lord” and an angel tells them,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…”

So what did they do? They went “with haste” to where the angel had indicated – to Bethlehem to find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This is what I find interesting: the Bible doesn’t say anything about them locking their sheep up first, or arranging for their care, or one of them staying behind. It seems that they just leave their flocks in the open field because they are so amazed and excited about what they were just told.

Does that go against common sense? Do I doubt that’s what actually happened?

Yes, because it seems so impractical, so irresponsible. I am challenged – what would I have done in that situation? Would I have been so consumed with responsibilities and practical concerns that I would think it foolish to abandon all and sit at my Savior’s feet? Would I be so captivated by Christ’s coming that I’d be willing to drop everything – abandon even my livelihood – and seek Him?

It’s easy to rest when there’s nothing pressing, nothing urgent. It’s easy to take a moment to breath when life’s tight grip on your schedule relaxes for an hour. But what about resting and breathing in the midst of the chaos? That’s what Christ came to bring us – His rest, a deep soul rest that can’t be touched by circumstances. What does it mean to have a deep soul rest in Christ?

Embracing the messiness of being human. Jesus Himself was born in a stinky stable surrounded by loud animals (not the serene night of perfect harmony pictured above). He slept on itchy, pokey hay and grew up as a pretty normal kid. Christ didn’t just experience what it meant to be human during His ministry. He lived his whole life as a human. He grew up with brothers and sisters as a human. He learned to walk, to talk, to laugh. He loved, he cried, he gave. “In every way he was tempted just as we are, yet without sin.” I love how Jesus embraced humanity – not just by becoming a baby (though that was big enough) but by also engaging in life. He wasn’t just alive – He lived. He didn’t view the basics of human existence as beneath Him – rather, He embraced those constraints. Instead of them getting in His way, He turned them into a source of blessing.

And all this, when He was the Son of God, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, Author of Creation.

Pondering these truths, how can your heart not fill to bursting with the truth of Christmas? Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!

These wonderful songs celebrate that truth:

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

“What Child is This?”

What child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus:

This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
come, peasant, king, to own him;
the King of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Have a blessed Christmas!

A New Family Member

10 Apr

Last Friday afternoon, I took Katy to the vet at PetsMart to get a comprehensive exam and heartworm test. While I was standing in line, I saw a flier for an adorable 7-month-old puppy who had been rescued from an Indian reservation in New Mexico and needed a home. She was very sweet and gentle, had heartwarming puppy dog eyes, and just happened to remind me a lot of our dog, Katy, with the short hair and tan and black coloring.

Travis and I had been unofficially discussing getting Katy a friend to play with so when I saw Charlie, I asked the vet techs about her. One asked if I would like them to bring Charlie into the exam room with me and Katy so we could see if they got along. After hesitating a little, I said ok. Katy pretty much ignored Charlie the whole time, except for a momentary growl when Charlie backed her into the corner.

Before dropping Katy off, I took a couple of photos on my phone and then called Travis. “I found the dog we should adopt,” I said. “She’s so cute and sweet.” I told Travis I would send him the pictures. After I picked Katy back up and headed back home, Travis was back from work and I sort of jokingly asked him, “So do you want to go look at Charlie?”

“I kind of do,” he replied honestly. So I filled out the adoption application and we returned to PetsMart. We took Charlie out on a walk and then talked to the vet techs about her medical history and what the adoption arrangement and fees would be. We planned on talking to the office manager, who would know more of the financial specifics, the next day before we made a decision. But I left our application with the clinic just in case.

The  next day, while I was painting our front door (again!), the vet who had picked Charlie up called. After answering our questions and doing a little interview, the vet offered us the chance to adopt Charlie. They wouldn’t charge an adoption fee, would waive the membership fee for signing Charlie up for a vet plan at their clinic, and would spay her and get her up to date on her shots for free. It was an offer we couldn’t pass up.

So we have a new family member – Charlie. Travis and I talked about a lot of different names, including Stella, Scout, Brooks, and Sienna. Finally, we decided to do what we did with Katy: keep the name she came with. She looks like a Charlie and even though at first, I didn’t like the name for a girl, it has definitely grown on me.

About Charlie, she is estimated to be 7 months old. She is a hound mix – her bark sometimes tends toward the howl that hounds are notorious for. She has had a hard life. She was about 15 pounds underweight when the vet found her, her ears have been bitten up by bugs, and she had ehrlichia, which is caused by ticks, giving her a slight limp in her left hind leg (which has since been treated and disappeared).

She’s not quite potty-trained yet so that’s been an adventure for us. There have been quite a few mishaps but I think we’re starting to get the hang of it. I’ve definitely learned that you cannot underestimate how much dogs need to go to the bathroom.

Even though it will take a while for us to bond with her as much as we have with Katy (who we’ve had for a year and a half now), I think it was a good decision to get her. She’s the sweetest dog, very mellow, and Katy and her already love planning with each other (although it gets a little too rough at times).

Rescuing a dog is not like getting a newborn little pup right from their litter. They’ve been beat up, scarred and a lot of times, abused. They are “broken” dogs. I’m not sure if Charlie would have lived much long had she not been rescued. I like to think of rescuing dogs as analogies of the gospel. God didn’t choose the people who were easy to love, the cute ones, the tidy and well-kept ones. He chose the ones who were beat up, living on the streets, and in need of some serious help and care. It’s not easy to love a rescued pup right away, when their coat is matted and they don’t know proper dog etiquette and they bark and growl and want to raid the trash. But they are worth redeeming.