Waiting for my Delivery

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Just one more gift. That’s all I’m waiting for. I ordered it so that it would arrive by Christmas, but its not here yet. The confirmation email says it will arrive by 12/24, but every day that passes I begin to doubt.  I keep clicking on the tracking number hoping that I will see those three little words “out for delivery”. I pause at the sound of every passing truck, hoping that my awaited package will arrive. It’s December 23 – Only 2 days left for it to arrive. Waiting is hard.

In Luke 2, we meet Simeon. A devout and righteous man who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the promised Messiah. We don’t know how long he waited, but it appears it was a long time. But one day when led to the Temple by the Spirit, Simeon met a young couple who had brought with them their new born son. Simeon knew this was the one. The one he had waited for.

Simeon faithfully believed that that which was promised would come. A Messiah, promised deliverance and salvation. He rejoiced and blessed the child saying:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

What have you been waiting for this year?

A restored relationship?

Physical or emotional healing?

A new job?

Getting out of debt?

finishing school?

pregnancy?

As you wait, rest in the promise of God’s salvation. Rest knowing that our Emmanuel, (God with us) is here. Rest in the truth that our Prince of Peace sustains us. Rest knowing that the end of the story has been written. God’s timing isn’t always our timing, but His timing is always perfect.

Wait is that a UPS truck I hear?

Steve Dallwig

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Knit into a Family

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Every year for Christmas my extended family, all 28 of us, gather together on Christmas Eve for soup, sandwiches and a white elephant gift exchange. Having lived and grown up in a city (Atlanta) where my extended family put down their roots was actually pretty cool. Having all those family members gather for one night always brought about fun times.

It’s been thirteen years since my wife Becky and I have been a part of those gatherings. In that time, I’ve gone to seminary, graduated, moved to Baltimore, and had three children. A lot of life has happened. Early on, we wanted to establish our own traditions as a family, so we rarely travel anywhere for Christmas – and while I am happy for this I often feel the sting of the loss of those family connections that were so strong growing up. Aunts, uncles and cousins all gathered in one house making an incredible amount of noise, and some incredible southern food!

The truth is that I may never get to experience those times in the same way again. But there is good news – because Christ was born into this world and was forsaken for a time, I have been brought near to one who completely understands the sorrows of my heart. It is in this sorrow that I actually am made whole again through Jesus. So for us as a family, Christmas Eve at Chapelgate is a new reminder that we have been knit into a larger family – one that is equally as messy as my own. And as we light those candles I pray you are reminded of that as well! Emmanuel – God is with us!

Patrick Allen

Children of the King

It’s A Wonderful Life is my favorite Christmas movie. Hands down. No competition. I absolutely love it. My wife and I watch it every Christmas Eve and it never fails to deliver. Some of the affection I hold for it is admittedly nostalgic, but it’s an all-time great movie (#11 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Movies list), and Jimmy Stewart’s portrayal of George Bailey is brilliant.

As the story goes, George is an eminently likeable, affable, and all-around good guy who spends his life mostly helping others succeed. Because of this, he misses out on college, traveling, and becoming someone ‘important’, to his way of thinking.

This leads to frustration, anger, and even self-pity, all of which eventually boil over when $8,000 of company money is misplaced. The loss appears to put him out of business and a warrant is issued for his arrest on embezzlement charges, leaving George understandably despondent.

It’s at this point in the movie an angel named Clarence enters and, through a series of encounters, helps George gain the perspective he so desperately lacks. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch it this Christmas season — it will be time well spent.

Before his experience with Clarence, George believes his life will be worth something only if he is able to, as he says, “shake the dust of this crummy little town off my feet” and do something really big. He fears that he’s living the life described in Thoreau’s famous quote — “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

In the end, George has an epiphany. He realizes all of the longing for something bigger and better has been replaced by the longing to once again love those who love him. He finally understands that he is loved simply for who he is — a husband, father, son, brother, and friend.

This Christmas season, my hope is that we experience a similar realization. May we be confident there is no amount of doing or being that can add one ounce of worth to who we already are in the Father’s eyes. May we truly live as sons and daughters of the King, rather than those forced to perform for affection or approval. And finally, may we rest in knowing that God sent us his Son at Christmas for one reason only — because he loves us — and that’s reason enough.

Right On Time

For when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son….

Galatians 4:4

As a young boy I remember waiting with great anticipation for certain events in my life. My dad would always tell me, “don’t wish your life away,” but that made little sense for his impetuous son whose thoughts were focused on something far more exciting than what the present had to offer. Christmas morning was number one on my “Can’t Wait” list (followed by April 1, the first day of trout season – the only time my mother would deem it acceptable for me to skip school). Being told by my parents to go to sleep on Christmas Eve and remain in my bedroom until the following morning was pure torture. Seconds seemed like minutes and minutes felt like hours. Time appeared to stand still, but Christmas morning came and went (quickly I might add) each year – right on time.

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul wrote that Jesus came to us when the “fullness of time had come.” Many of the people we read about in the Old and New Testament knew in advance through prophecy that God would one day send His Son to rescue us. In Luke 2 we are introduced to Simeon who was fixated on the advent of Jesus. Simeon was not only versed in the prophecy of the Old Testament, but had also been enlightened by the Holy Spirit that he would one day meet the promised Messiah. He lived in great anticipation of that day. Scripture tells us that when Simeon met Jesus face to face and held Him in his arms, he was overjoyed. He must have felt the same kind of excitement that I felt rushing downstairs at my grandparents’ house on Christmas morning. His response was, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.” Simeon’s great hope was fulfilled in seeing and touching the incarnate Christ and he was now ready and content to die.

So what does it mean that Jesus has come? Jesus’ timely arrival to earth and later giving his life satisfies God’s wrath for my sin and the sin of all those who believe. God’s forgiveness ushers in freedom and peace. It provides freedom from the guilt of sin, freedom over the power of sin, and one day will give us freedom from the presence of sin. I think of William Wallace in the movie “Braveheart” who screamed “freedom” as he was tortured by his enemies. In a very real sense, Jesus cried “freedom” for us on the cross when He said, “It is finished.”

God sent His Son at just the right time in history to set his plan of redemption into motion. He gave us a visible representation of Himself and later sent His Holy Spirit to indwell our hearts. Part Two of the redemptive plan is yet to come, but we can be sure that when the fullness of time has come, Jesus will return to gather His people and redeem His creation forever, making all things new.

In the fullness of time, Jesus came (and will yet come again). Thank you, Father, for sending your Son right on time.

Rob Van Ness

 

I Need A Silent Night

6a00d8341c90b153ef019b0392fe8f970cI fell out of bed this morning and went to the grocery store in my husband’s sweats and with uncombed hair. The reason being, I had a list a mile long of things to do to get ready for Christmas. I had to finish addressing the cards, put the garland on the banister, wrap the gifts I got in the mail this week, get a white elephant gift at CVS and still write a blog for Advent that I had no ideas for. As I stumbled through the aisles of the grocery store, I got a text from an old friend telling me that she was surprised she had not gotten my kids’ Christmas picture yet. One more thing to add to my list, I guess. When I got to the car, I had to laugh as I noticed the windshield was so dirty that I wondered how I had managed to drive there safely. Guess I’d better stop at the gas station and get a carwash on the way home. Then I backed out of the parking space and turned up the radio.

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise

I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here

To end this crazy day with a silent night

– Amy Grant – I Need A Silent Night 

God who is ever so faithful met me right where I was. The music filled my car with His compassion and understanding. He knew just what I was feeling and what I needed. This was not a song that often played or that I was familiar with, which made it even more remarkable.

I got home and I looked up the lyrics and sat down to listen to the song on YouTube. I still had a lot of things I needed to get done but I knew I had a Heavenly Father who was there to help me muddle through and I wanted to make sure I slowed down to listen to Him. This seemed like a great place to start.

Tonya Cherry

A Child on Christmas

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“There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” Erma Bomback

We can use children on Christmas to help understand what God was telling us when He said that we need to change and be like little children to enter heaven.

Matthew 18:2-4 says. “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

This word humble means lowly, forgiving, loving and trusting. When Jesus used the child as an example of how we are called to be, I think of a child on Christmas morning. There is nothing more endearing than a young child at Christmas. They anticipate it with great excitement and it creates such joy in them as they look forward to its arrival. They believe the stories of Santa and flying reindeer and trust that he will visit their house with promised gifts.  They wholeheartedly believe in and accept the wonders of Christmas.

I think that this is how God wants us to respond to his promise of eternity with Him. He wants us to be thrilled at the prospect of His kingdom. He wants us to talk about it endlessly. He wants us to trust that he has a place for us better than we can imagine.  He wants the wonders of his love to consume us. He wants his children to wait for him, long for him and desire Him, the same way we do Christmas.

Tonya Cherry

Our God has Come

Our God, mighty and all powerful.

Did not come with pomp and pageantry.

His birth was not celebrated with feasts and extravagant celebrations.

Rather born in crude stable,

Attended by animals, his parents and some shepherds.

Yet here He was.  Our God had come.

As a baby, vulnerable and in need.

And as Mary comforted the one who came to comfort the world,

Heaven rejoiced.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Steve Dallwig

 

Christmas Card

My kids are hugging and laughing on our family Christmas card this year. Based on the card, friends will see that I have picture perfect kids. They will see that happy moment. That picture is not our life though. It is a glimpse. It is a snapshot. It is a time when things were good. People won’t really know our story by looking at this Christmas photo. They won’t see the argument over what to wear or how to stand that day. They also won’t see the days in May when our house was in an uproar or the long night we had full of tears in October. They will just see that one, captured moment when there was joy, and be uninformed of all the turmoil that surrounded it.

This makes me think about the trials in our lives. When we are in the middle of a crisis, they are all we see. We lose focus of all the blessings that came before and all God has in store for us to come after. Just like that happy Christmas photo is not the “whole picture”, neither are our trials. God does not want us to find our identity in life’s struggles. Our hard times are just that, a time, a glimpse, a moment, a snapshot and one scene in a much greater story.

When we are in the midst of a crisis, we can’t let it define us. Doing that would be as inaccurate as letting that photo define my family. As you look at those beautiful Christmas photos this year, let them be a reminder that as you face hardships in 2014, those too are just snapshots in a much bigger picture that God is in control of.

Tonya Cherry