Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Light...

" the land where death has cast its shadow, a Light has dawned."
(Matthew 4:16)

As I took my morning walk (after a delicious Christmas breakfast!), I listened to Matthew's account of the Christmas narrative. This of course doesn't last very long so I listened a few chapters on and came to the verse above. It struck me with such joy and poignancy that it brought me to tears. Perhaps this is partly because I and several of my dear friends have felt Death's bitter sting more deeply this year than some other Christmas's. I felt it most sorely last night when my family and I attended the annual Christmas Eve celebration with my Dad's family. This was the first Christmas without my Grandaddy, and it is this time of year that I hold my most precious memories with him. It just wasn't the same without him. 

There was extra country ham left on the platter. There was no Christmas Eve football game rumbling in the background. His chair sat empty half of the night, still situated opposite the blank TV screen. There was no rib-cracking hug in greeting and farewell. I didn't even bother bringing my was him that I had played for every year since I was 8. No one asked the questions he always leveled at us grandchildren about our grades at college. He would have been proud of the answer this year. He would have been so proud of the job opportunities that are opening up back in Wheaton...a pride he would have shown with a smirk around the left corner of his mouth, a raised eyebrow and a nod. 

I miss him. But it is not merely his absence that stings, is it? It is this whole world - this life itself - over which Death has cast its shadow. As the Scripture says, "the sting of death is sin," and with the first disobedience, Death flung that shadow thick and dark over all creation. Bitterness and pride and lust and self indulgence grow rank and fester beneath our superficial veneers which still display evidence of pre-fallen splendor. It is into this darkness that the Word descended. He took on just such a veneer, with all it's constraints and weights and weaknesses. But instead of cloaking evil, this tattered mantle concealed God himself, the Triune Glory in created flesh, the Equal Son of the Almighty Father, our Emmanuel, the Light of the world. 

My mind is overwhelmed at this image of light. There are so many examples in literature of battles between Light and Darkness. The relief is always immense when Light finally penetrates Darkness. And it always does, for "After night, comes Day!" Darkness is indeed the weaker foe. The absence of a thing cannot wage battle indefinitely against the presence of the real article. With Advent, the Real Article did appear. In the words of Milton: 

And though the shady gloom 
Had given day her room, 
The sun himself withheld his wonted speed, 
And hid his head for shame
As his inferior flame
The new-enlightened world no more should need;
He saw a greater Sun appear
Than his bright throne or burning axletree could bear. 

The Light has dawned. He has conquered the sting of Death, but he has not yet dealt it the final blow. We have a hope which is stronger than any pleasure and more stable than any earthly security or comfort. And yet the shadows linger, and will continue to cloud and sicken and snare until that final day of Justice when all will be made fully new. That day, our Almighty Judge will mount His throne and say to Death and the shadows of sin, "Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!" And He will be right, and sin will be no more, and the shadows will be gone forever. Until that day, we have the immense privilege of carrying the Light of Christ ever deeper in to those shadows. May we be the Evenstar of Truth and lead, in beauty, many towards the great Light. With Him there there will be no need for any sun, and there He will wipe every tear from our eyes.  

Monday, December 23, 2013


"My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come. Arise my beautiful one, and come away." 

 I've been thinking a lot lately about a very familiar but not so universally embraced idea: what it means to be the beloved, the bride of Christ. There are lots of reasons why we need to be careful with these analogies as we apply them to God, but it is an analogy presented by scripture so we are right to consider it. Tell me: when you first started falling in love or when you think of your family hundreds of miles away at home, or when you sorely miss a friend who has passed away - do you not feel an urge to see their face again, to hear their voice - just one more time, to share one more conversation?  Do you not ache to bask in the light of their smile and rest, if only for a moment, in their warm and loyal embrace? 

Maybe all this is too mushy for you. You aren't in love and don't want to be. You've steeled yourself to the realities of death. Home and family are places full of hurt and distrust. At the risk of sounding harsh, I'm realizing that since such things are only whispers of a deeper longing, their absence is sad but not fatal. You may not wish to dance with your beloved. You may not know the deep rest of home. You may not be able to think of a single face you ache to see. But you long for joy. You long to be understood truly and respected deeply. You long for solidity. You long to be a part of something real and bigger than yourself. Or at least these are things that I long for. We long for eternal wonder. We long for perfection. We long for order and adventure and rest - all at once and in infinite quantity. 

So are we willing to encounter the fulfillment of these longings in their daunting Reality? Are we ready to absorb the full weight of the knowledge that such eternal wonder and perfection and power and loyalty and respect and truth and solidity and rest and joy find their source in Christ...and that this God has chosen you as his bride. He made His love to you indisputably clear by laying down his life to purchase your freedom. And he calls to you, "Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away!" Come away and find all that you need and all you truly desire! Are we willing to wait with eager anticipation for this final fulfillment which His love promises? And in the meantime do we seek to know Him better with the exuberance we pursue our earthly loves? Do we wake in the morning saying, "Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely." Can we declare truthfully, "I sought Him whom my soul loves"? And do we lie down to sleep, evaluating the difficulties of the past day and the responsibilities of the days ahead in light of the reality that "my Beloved is mine and I am His"? Through His grace in us and His righteousness over us, may we learn to be lovers worthy of such a Beloved!

(All Scripture from the English Standard Version, Song of Solomon 2 & 3)  

On the Morning of Christ's Nativity

Before bed last night I found myself puttering about my study looking for my copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. The last author in this volume is John Milton, and included in the collected poems is his "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." The entire poem is wonderful, although I can't say I fully understand it all yet! But here are a few of the lines that I have begun to grasp and which especially struck me: some because of the powerful way in which they capture advent and others simply because they are so beautiful. (If you have the time, stop reading this post now and just go read the whole poem! You can find it here.)

This is the month, and this the happy morn
Wherein the son of Heaven's eternal King 
Of wedded maid and virgin mother born,
Our great redemption from above did bring;
For so the holy sages once did sing, 
That he our deadly forfeit should release, 
And with his Father work us a perpetual peace. 

That glorious form, that light unsufferable, 
And that far-beaming blaze of majesty 
Wherewith he wont at heaven's high council-table
To sit the midst of Trinal Unity, 
He laid aside; and here with us to be, 
Forsook the courts of everlasting day, 
And chose with us a darksome house of mortal clay. 
Only with speeches fair 
She [Nature] woos the gentle air
To hide her guilty front with innocent snow, 
And on her naked shame, 
Pollute with sinful blame, 
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw, 
Confounded that her Makers eyes 
Should look so near upon her foul deformities. 
Such music (as 'tis said) 
Before was never made, 
But when of old the sons of morning sung, [Job 38: 4-7]
While the Creator great 
His constellations set,
And the well-balanced world on hinges hung, 
And cast the dark foundations deep, 
And bid the welt'ring waves their oozy channel keep. 
So when the sun in bed, 
Curtained with cloudy red, 
Pillows his chin upon an orient wave, 
The flocking shadows pale 
Troop to th' infernal jail; 
Each fettered ghost slips to his several grave; 
And the yellow-skirted fays
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013 last.

My packing always seems to start with books: I never go on a trip without my bibles and this book. Such a treasury of beauty and truth. 

And I pretty much never go anywhere without a stack of music too. 

Sweet southern sunshine at last. This weather is "simply sublime"


Burtons Grill for lunch with my Mum and both brothers - what a real pleasure!!

We split this beauty to finish off the meal. Wow is all I can say

Dinner at home...

Living room mantle dressed for Christmas.

Cookies by candlelight

With a cup of cream tea of course

Mum reading our nightly christmas story. One of my favorite advent traditions.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Just one more push!!"

Finals week is in full swing. Tomorrow at 8 am is my last final. Tomorrow at 6pm I hand in my last assignment. Tonight? Study party at Pratt Central!! Can't say I mind when it involves good food and great company!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Real Winter and Sleep...

The weekend was incredibly busy and culminated in an equally full monday. Our first real snow came Sunday night, covering everything in a purity which Monday's clear blue skies and bright sunshine would set to sparkling like the ocean on a summer's day. I love snow and I love the crystal clear night skies which follow these winter storms. And last night I loved the chance to slip into bed very early and finally rest. Today started a full 12 hours later....certainly a gift of tangible grace from my Merciful Savior.

This evening I had the pleasure of dinner with a dear young woman and friend at Suzette's in Downtown Wheaton. It was a truly refreshing time and I simply can't wait to do it again soon!! 

And this one's for yesterday: I just love the way shops look at dusk during Christmas time. The intense cold and early darkness makes me look more eagerly into the warmth of indoor spots. The happy smiles of customers and the soft light and the rich reds of Christmas decorations make me almost chuckle out loud with happiness and anticipation: that holy theme of Advent.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Too many lasts, and yet so much joy!!

Those first few notes on stage with the orchestra. The chill in the air as we all rustled to and from dinner in our concert black. The bright stars sprinkled through the night sky, shimmering from behind the quivering mist of our breath. The smiles shared across a stage filled to capacity with friends and collegues. These are memories I won't forget....a night I'll always remember.

Of course we had to end the evening with food, so we rounded up two cars full of friends and headed to The Bank in downtown Wheaton. An excellent way to round out the day :)