"can't anybody tell me what christmas means?!"

{isreal. by rachel.}

"In the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to 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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." They went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. All who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told...[they] returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen..."

What would've it been like to be those shepherds? Imagine living in Old Testament Israel. Just another night keeping an eye on the village sheep. The usual companions, the same stars. Then a bright light pours from the sky...You hear unearthly voices, singing about 'peace on earth'? The Messiah??!! The promised one your grandparents and great-grandparents spoke of? Imagine the shock of hearing that HE had arrived!! You'd almost forgotten...after all, this Messiah had been "coming" for how long? Isaiah's long dead. Israel has been to Babylon and back...yet he is real...and he's in Bethlehem, of all places! Dazed by wonder you follow your friends to town. Their excited chatter is lost in your swirling emotions. All expectations are shattered by the angel's words. You never dreamed of the Messiah as a baby. You'd imagined a warrior, raising an army and wiping out the Romans. Or maybe a great king, becoming more powerful than Cesar. A hero! Calling down fire from heaven to free his people. But a baby? Wonder of wonders...
You could never imagine this helpless child 33 years later; beaten, torn, and bloodied...Dying on a cross for your sins. Becoming the final atonement foreshadowed by the old testament sacrificial rituals. Satisfying the Holy God's wrath against sin. Yet, offering the greatest proof of the same God's mercy and love--destroying forever the veil before the "Holy of Holies".

Merry Christmas.
the start of the end, that was the beginning.


building a sorrowful lovliness

When the morning breaks
When the evening fails
I will write Your word upon my heart, oh Lord
When the fires burn
When the rain comes down
I can feel Your grace flow through me
Without a sound

Nothing is certain, but I'm certain of You
Pull back this curtain, let Your light in this room
And all that's true, I find inYou
The more I drink of Your word
The more I thirst for You

When the world dissolves
And the sun just flickers out
I will write Your word upon my heart, oh Lord
When the stars crash down
At the end of the age
I can feel Your touch
As You wipe my tears away

Building a sorrowful loveliness
Out of the darkness
Out of this furnace
I find You

Excepting the second verse (last I checked the sun was still shining behind the clouds) this song describes what God is doing in me right now. Better than I could. HE is constant, faithful, sustaining. I'm learning to love being sustained by Him. Not as if there is ever a time when I'm not sustained by Him-far from it! And that is not to say I have to learn to love it because I don't like it. It's because the times when I feel sustained the most, are the times I'm wondering how long I'll be "stuck" in circumstances I'd rather not walk through. Yet at the same time, the harder it is, the more dependant I am; the more dependant I am, the more I grow; and the more I grow, the more I love Him; the more I want to grow...Part of me is grateful for darkness. It's the same part of me that longs for home. It's what shows the Holy Spirit to be living and active in my life. It goes back to that old, old story...All of this would be impossible without the cross.


{photocredit: rachel claerbout, via emial from isreal}

"Remember these things, O Jacob, and Isreal...I formed you, you are my servant; O Isreal you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! FOr the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Isreal." Is. 44:21-23