I will open rivers on the bare heights,
Monday, December 25, 2017
It's Christmas morning: Bach's Christmas Oratorio is playing in the living room, a coffee cake is in the oven and the family is scattered around the house quietly for bible study before the day begins. But there is such a different feeling in the house than any other quiet family day. There is an expectancy in the air. The treasured traditional meal. The post-meal time of fellowship around the table in which we feast again, this time in worship. Then of course there is the tremored excitement of giving gifts (especially for those of us who are keen on surprises) a bit later in the day.
All these traditions are yet to come. But the most monumental moments of Christmas have already occurred. Last night, my family and I attended a midnight service at which I was playing, and at the stroke of 12, the bells pealed out into a silence which, despite fatigue, held the weight of hope. Immediately following, we feasted eagerly on "the gifts of God for the people of God" and then, with our own small candles lit from the Christ Candle, we sang out into the darkness of our hope. It is a hope too full for words: a hope that rests and exults in fulfillment while setting its face towards a day yet to come. It weeps for joy and it yearns for "the Fullness of Time" to come, once and for all. It celebrates the advent of the One who would inaugurate a new covenant in his own flesh, and cries out with an inexpressible ache for that One to come again in power and glory to make all things new.
The pang of this kind of hope is everywhere. It is present when we find solace and peace and elation in the aspect of a glorious sunset and yet find the giddy inexplicable impulse (as my pastor said yesterday) "to climb inside it," to bathe in it, to become one with it rather than just stand on the outside and observe it. There will be a day!
It is there between lovers who find that as their souls are knit together, there doesn't seem to be a hug long enough or snug enough to express the joy and peace and safety they find in one another. It is almost as if the presence of two bodies rather than one becomes a nuisance: a barrier for the oneness which the soul longs towards.
There are a thousand examples of this sort of solid hope which rests but also strains forward. The coffee cake is nearly ready, however, and Bach's cantata just finished so I'll stop here for now. May we rejoice today because our redemption has come! Hallelujah! But may we also hope with unshakable expectancy towards a day when Christ will return to marry His Bride, when the taste of what it means to be "in" Christ will become a full oneness with him, and when we will see his face (oh what a thought!) in new bodies able to climb into His glory.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery. We retain the child in us to the extent that we honor the mystery. Therefore, children have open, wideawake eyes, because they know that they are surrounded by the mystery. They are not yet finished with this world; they still don’t know how to struggle along and avoid the mystery, as we do. We destroy the mystery because we sense that here we reach the boundary of our being, because we want to be lord over everything and have it at our disposal, and that’s just what we cannot do with the mystery…. Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world; it means passing over our own hidden qualities and those of others and the world. It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.
Ascension joy—inwardly we must become very quiet to hear the soft sound of this phrase at all. Joy lives in its quietness and incomprehensibility. This joy is in fact incomprehensible, for the comprehensible never makes for joy.
I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. God Is In the Manger. Westminster John Knox Press.
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm.
He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things.
And the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel
as he promised to our forefathers Abraham, and his seed forever.