God Was Here: What He Has Done

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“‘We would have healed Babylon,
but she cannot be healed;
let us leave her and each go to our own land,
for her judgment reaches to the skies,
it rises as high as the heavens.’

10 “‘The Lord has vindicated us;
come, let us tell in Zion
what the Lord our God has done.’
Jeremiah 51: 9-10

 

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Does anyone have the foggiest idea of what sort of power we so blithely invoke?
Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?

The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets,
mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.

It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church;
we should all be wearing crash helmets.
Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares;

they should lash us to our pews.
~Annie Dillard from Teaching a Stone to Talk

 

 

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During Advent there are times when I am very guilty of blithely invoking the gentle story of that silent night, the sleeping infant away in a manger, the devoted parents hovering, the humble shepherds peering in the stable door.

The reality, I’m confident, was far different.

There was nothing gentle about a teenage mother giving birth in a stable, laying her baby in a feed trough.

I’m sure there were times when Mary could have used a life preserver.

There was nothing gentle about the heavenly host appearing to the shepherds, shouting and singing the glories and leaving them “sore afraid.”

The shepherds needed crash helmets.

There was nothing gentle about Herod’s response to the news that a Messiah had been born–he swept overboard a legion of male children whose parents undoubtedly begged for mercy, trying to cling to their children about to be murdered.

There was nothing gentle about a family’s flight to Egypt to flee that fate for their only Son.

There was nothing gentle about the life Jesus eventually led during his ministry: itinerant and homeless, tempted and fasting in the wilderness for forty days, owning nothing, rejected by his own people, betrayed by his disciples, sentenced to death by acclamation before Pilate.

Yet he understood the power that originally brought him to earth and would return him to heaven.

No signal flares needed there.

When I hear skeptics scoff at Christianity as a “crutch for the weak”, they underestimate the courage it takes to walk into church each week as a desperate person who can never ever save oneself. We cling to the life preserver found in the Word, lashed to our seats and hanging on. It is only because of grace that we survive the tempests of temptation, self-doubt, guilt to confront the reality of the wrath of God.

It is not for the faint of heart. There are times it is reasonable and necessary to be “sore afraid.”

And not forget our crash helmets.

 

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photo by Julie Garrett

 

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born
The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox’s stall
Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born
With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife
There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.
~Traditional Irish — the Wexford Carol 12th century

 

6 thoughts on “God Was Here: What He Has Done

  1. Amen and Amen, Emily! Crash helmets–i.e, the full armor of God–should be viewed as required, not optional by all who would follow Jesus! The poet Denise Levertov, in her poem “To Live in the Mercy of God”, speaks of “God’s love for the world: “Vast flood of mercy–flung on resistance.” May we embrace God’s mercy, not resist it! May we pray for God’s vast love to break through all resistance to Himself. Come, Lord Jesus~please, come~into our hearts and those of all the world you came to save~

    “Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    ‘Be strong; fear not!
    Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
    with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you'” (Isaiah 35:4)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully, succinctly said, Emily. No blinders or ear plugs here. Just telling it like it is! To any doubters, I would say, ‘Come and See.’

    Like

  3. amen and amen! crash helmets, indeed, and seat belts, too. love alison krauss’s rendition with yo-yo ma….thank you!

    Like

  4. Love

    Twas Love who filled the virgin’s womb
    Until, with swaddling bands around
    His newborn limbs still tightly curled,
    Love slept above the blood-stained ground.

    Twas Love who filled their hearts and ate
    With those whom others still decried
    Until the day, his body pierced
    By nails, flesh torn, blood spilled, Love died.

    Twas Love who rose to fill our hearts
    With longing that we learn to see
    Through grace, unbounding and unearned,
    Love in the womb and on the tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is a messy life indeed, and so very often distinctly unGentle! Just today at breakfast during our spiritual read and reflection time my teens and I were discussing the fact that Joseph *didn’t* “divorce Mary quietly”, as he first thought to do … a blessing — the hard choices are so rarely easy to make. So many good lessons for us to learn and relearn here in this blessed season of Advent ….

    Like

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