Happy New Year: Make a Joyful Noise

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Image: “Joy-Psalm 100:1,” by Richard Rice (Saatchi Art)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Advent Reflection 4: Real Love

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10

 

It’s when we face for a moment

the worst our kind can do, and shudder to

know the taint in our own selves, that awe

cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart:

not to a flower, not to a dolphin,

to no innocent form

but to this creature vainly sure

it and no other is god-like, God

(out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts,

as guest, as brother, the Word.

 

LOVE. The word is over-used that it has taken on various shades of meaning. So often we hear expressions like ‘love is a many splendored thing’, ‘all is fair in love’, or ‘love conquers all’. “I love you to the moon and back,” is a popular social media post shared among friends.

We use the term to describe something we very much enjoy doing (“I love skiing”), to express admiration (“She loves Josh Groban’s songs”), and how we feel about loved ones – our families and friends. I love you.

What is love, real love?

The apostle, John, teaches us that love comes from God for God is Love.

That God sent His one and only Son to stubborn, ungrateful, adulterous people who had no love for Him, to bear our sins upon Himself, to be so shamed and wounded, to wash our sins away by His blood, to suffer and die so we can have life in Him forever – that is real love. This Love is God Himself who comes to us in Jesus Christ.

Have we received Jesus Christ? Receiving Christ calls for a response on our part. If Christ truly lives in us and we claim to be His followers, then we ought to love one another. We love because God first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). Apart from God real love is not possible because real love can only flow out of the ultimate source of a life of love – the triune God Himself.

There are times when it is not easy to love. Paul pleads that we lead a life worthy of our calling for we have been called by God, and to make allowance for each other’s faults because of our love (Eph 4:1-2). “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (vv 2, 31).

Knowing God who out of sheer love has given us the gift of new life in Christ, may we learn to love as He did: to humble ourselves in obedience to Him, giving our lives in radical service so that others might experience real, unconditional love that comes only from the one, true God who is Love.

 

Marian Nacpil

Music: “Love Came Down at Christmas,” from  Behold That Star (CD Collection of Christmas Songs and Carols), produced by David Huntsinger, Discovery House

Poetry: “On the Mystery of the Incarnation,” Denise Levertov (1923–1997), The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (New York: New Directions, 2013).

Posted in Advent 2018 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Advent Reflection 3: Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

 

Now the sun will rise as bright,

as though no sorrow had fallen in the night,

this sorrow fell on me alone,

the sun, it shines on everyone.

Do not wrap yourself around the night,

bathe it in eternal light.

My tent is dark, the lamp is cold,

bless the light, the Joy of the World!

The neighbourhood Christmas light displays are all aglow and most stores open on extended hours. At this time of year, the usual gloomy streets and public squares have been transformed into festive marketplaces and winter wonderlands. However, not everyone buys into such display of fun and frivolity. My friend, Roland, is one of them.  Even with two jobs, he tells me that he’s more than two months behind on rent and often struggles to make ends meet. His ailing mother lives outside of the country and wonders when he’ll be able to visit her. Other than fleeting gladness, none of the more commercial “good tidings” messages offers him a meaningful way out of his predicament.

The hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” speaks of Israel in mourning, seeking the fulfillment of the promised Messiah who will deliver them from exile and brokenness and reign over them forever. The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God will fulfill His covenant: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14). There is good reason to be glad, for He will come to be with them.

Indeed, in Jesus Christ, God gave us Himself to be with us now and for all eternity. When we remember God’s gracious act on the cross, uniting all people to Himself (Eph 2:14), we begin to understand that true joy is possible because of what Christ has done and continues to do for and with us. It is joy that springs from faith in the One who loves us immeasurably and shares our burdens.

God is with us. It’s the glad tidings I am called to share with Roland, the good news for us to embody before others. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:10). Thanks be to God.

 

Carl Friesen

Music: O come, O come, Emmanuel by Steve Bell with Malcolm Guite, SignPost Music

Poem: Now the sun will rise: “Nun will die Sonne so hell aufgehn,” Frederich Rückert

Image: Manny Baldemor, Nativity

Posted in Advent 2018 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent Reflection 2: Perfect peace

“You will keep in perfect peace

those whose minds are steadfast,

because they trust in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord,

the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Isaiah 26:3-4

 

In perfect peace, I am kept,

when my mind is stayed on Thee

I trust You God for my strength

and the power You instill in me.

Justice kissed my stony heart,

Your mercy I have met joy fills up my weary soul

on You, my eyes are firmly set.

My mind rests in You Lord,

in quietness I hold on to my hope

I give You my earthly woes

for I know no other way to cope.

Grace now has found a home,

inside this shell of a life

filling up the lonely spaces

where once lived only strife.

In perfect peace, I am kept,

for I trust in only Thee

it’s only by Your power Lord

that I have any strength in me!

 

Deborah Ann Belka

 

Music: Peace Has Come, Hillsong Worship

Poetry: In Perfect Peace, Deborah Ann Belka (2013)

Image: Winter Time Winter Snow, Pinterest

 

Posted in Advent 2018 | Tagged , | Leave a comment