Think About These Things – Pt. 3

I don’t know how long this series will last, but this is what I wrote yesterday. I didn’t post this to the Facebook page, so hopefully this isn’t redundant:

“Psalm 116:13 – ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord…’

This verse comes from a larger passage, in which King David is thanking God for delivering him from an illness that had him close to death. The first thing I saw once I had read today’s sermon passage a few times–especially this verse–was a COVID-19 patient in bed. They had no one to visit them, and they really wanted communion. So they used what they had: a little piece of bread and a cup of juice from the meal that they were having. Holding the bread in one hand, they recited: ‘On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took bread, and, breaking it, said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”‘ I didn’t see anything past that, because that’s when I exited the daydream–or vision, if that’s what it was.

I immediately thought of Isa. 53:5 – ‘But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises (wounds or stripes) we are healed.’

I know a lot of people have been talking about pleading the blood of Jesus over this virus, but what about His body? His broken body, His beaten body, which the prophet Isaiah has said holds the key to our healing?

I’m not going to focus on the act of communion as a panacea of healing, but rather the faith behind it. And I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, because many people have had faith, yet were not healed. However, I believe that in our ‘remembrance’ of Jesus, this is part of what we should remember. We not only remember His death, but we also remember the significance of His broken body.

‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In our consumption of the carb of our choice, we remember that it represents–or actually becomes (depending on your tradition)–the body of Christ, of Jesus.

When King David refers to “the cup of salvation” and says that he will “call on the name of the Lord,” while we can’t be 100% sure that the cup of salvation refers to the blood of Jesus, I do believe it is a model of what we can do in our times of suffering and sickness, knowing that these elements are more than just a memorial. What if it also portrays the reality of the nearness of the Kingdom of God? That it is as close as the very bread we eat and wine we drink, and that in those elements are the powers of healing and salvation for all who believe?”

Think About These Things – Pt. 2

This is the second post in my Facebook transfer series. This one is from Saturday, April 24, 2020.

Psalm 46:10 – ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’

Stillness. Letting Go and letting You do what You do. Don’t rush, don’t work, don’t panic. Be still. Trust in You. 

To exalt means to lift up. You don’t say You will be exalted. You say You already are exalted.

‘Be still, for I am exalted. Physically, I am at a great height. I can look down and see everything. You’re not alone or ignored. No one is. Nothing that happens on the earth escapes my notice. Spiritually, My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than yours. You will never understand the whys and the hows in this life. But trust that I know what I am doing. You see through a glass dimly, but soon you will see clearly and you will see as I do (1 Corinthians 13:12). But much must happen before that time comes. Just be still and know that I am God. Ineffable (too great to be described in words), unfathomable (incapable of being fully explored or understood), immeasurable. Do not worry; just be still. Be still and I will work. Be still and you will see me work things out for you. Because I AM and I can.'”

Think About These Things – Pt. 1

Hey…so long no see!

(That looks weird, even though I’ve been hearing it as a greeting all my life…)

I want to share a couple of meditations that I posted on Facebook that should really be recorded here–at least for my own records. So if you’ve read these already, they’re pretty much redundant.

The first (this post) is from Friday, April 24:

“Acts 2:21 – ‘Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (NRSV)

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in (that Son) (that He–Jesus the Christ–died for our sins and was resurrected) would not perish, but will have everlasting life.” — paraphrase

Isn’t that a Reckless Love? To sacrifice your own child? To kill them for the sake of humanity? It’s like saying, ‘I created you, and I love you, and I want to be your Father/Parent, but I can’t tolerate such sin. How can you be made in my image, yet still be so sinful? I’m not like that. 

You know what? Normally, your priests would have to make a sacrifice on behalf of your collective sin, whether a lamb or another creature. I am going to send my Son into the world, clad in human flesh. He’s going to be just like you. He’ll experience hunger, thirst, pain, trauma, betrayal, passion. He will be like you in every way, except with the inability to sin, because He is also divine. He is a part of Me. A part of Myself I am sacrificing for you. 

Therefore, He will be the final sacrifice. Your sacrifices of lambs and turtledoves have to be renewed year after year–in some cases, every time you sin, you have to make atonement. However, this is the final sacrifice. The sacrifice to end all sacrifices. I will send my Son. He will take on all of your sin. He will suffer. He will be alone. I will have to leave Him–to remove Myself from Him–because, like I said, sin is just not in My nature. It’s not a part of who I am. I love My Son, and it grieves Me deeply to do this, yet He must die so that you may live–an abundant, grace-filled, guilt-free life. 

And all you have to do is believe. His death put your sin to death, and His resurrection means that it will never have power over you ever again, So come, receive that grace. That gift. You are no longer estranged or separated from Me. You are My child. Your sin has been replaced by My righteousness. Celebrate that this Easter. And rejoice, for I have sent you My Spirit, so you shall not fear or worry about your salvation. For I am also within you, ever renewing and transforming you to reflect My nature. So do not fear. I am with you. I have called you by name. You are Mine.”

A Litany for COVID-19

Hi everyone!

I wanted to share a prayer for everyone affected by Coronavirus COVID-19, which is pretty much everyone. Whether we or someone we know has contracted the virus, or our schools and workplaces are closed, this situation probably touches us in some way.

A Litany for the Coronavirus COVID-19

For hope in the midst of despair, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For calm within the storm, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the healing of those who are ill, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the wisdom to balance compassion with social distancing, and to understand that social distancing is also a form of compassion, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the safety of health care workers, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the protection and preservation of the vulnerable and immunocompromised, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For those in need of company and fellowship, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the poor, homeless, abused, and all with nowhere to go, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For leaders of governments, workplaces, schools, churches, and other organisations, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For international students who can’t return home and children for whom school lunch is their only guaranteed meal, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

For the Church to be our Churchiest best to all in need, in as many creative ways as we may need, Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Blogmas Day 25: The MIXTAPE

Here are all the songs I wrote about (or mentioned) in one place. Some of these are on a Spotify playlist.

  1. “The People Who Walked in Darkness” – Mary Louise Bringle
  2. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Traditional
  3. “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout/Canticle of the Turning/Star of County Down” – Arr. John Ferguson
  4. “Holy Is His Name” – John Michael Talbot
  5. “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” – Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
  6. “Wait for the Lord” – Taize
  7. “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Traditional (Charles Wesley/Felix Mendelssohn)
  8. “Jesus, Jesus, O What A Wonderful Child” – Mariah Carey (to the best of my knowledge)
  9. “O Come, All Ye Faithful” – Traditional (Wade/Oakeley)
  10. “While We Are Waiting, Come” – Don Cason
  11. “Soon and Very Soon” – Andrae Crouch
  12. “O Holy Night” – Traditional (Dwight/Adam)
  13. “Agnus Dei” – Michael W. Smith (again, to the best of my knowledge; also very shaky on the whole “Christmas” thing)
  14. “Alpha and Omega” – Israel and New Breed
  15. “Joy to the World!” – Traditional (Isaac Watts/Handel)
  16. “Hallelujah, Salvation, and Glory”– Stephen Hurd
  17. “Hallelujah Chorus” – Handel, Messiah
  18. “O Come, Let Us Adore Him”– Traditional
  19. “Emmanuel” – Norman Hutchins
  20. “Let Us Adore” – Elevation Worship
  21. “Holy” – Kim Walker-Smith
  22. “Keep Your Lamps!” – African-American Spiritual
  23. “The Night that Christ Was Born” – Kirk Franklin
  24. “Like You Promised” – Amber Brooks
  25. “Como Dijiste” – Christine D’Clario
  26. “Days of Elijah” – Robin Mark
  27. “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” – William Mathias
black cassette tape on top of red and yellow surface

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Blogmas Day 24: “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates”

“Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” is one of the last songs I learned in seminary. This song was composed by William Mathias. The version I linked to was performed by the St. Albans Abbey Girls Choir and released in 2016.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates 
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.
And the King of Glory shall come in,

Who is this King of glory? x3

The Lord, strong and mighty! x2
The Lord, mighty in battle!

The Lord of Hosts. x3

He is the King of Glory! (Glory x3)


This choral anthem is a rendition of Psalm 24.7-8, 10: “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle…Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory” (NRSV).

This psalm is divided into three parts. The first part discusses God’s vast dominion: “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (24:1).

The second part describes righteousness. Who earns the right to encounter God’s holiness in God’s temple? “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation” (24:4-5).

The final part (verses 7-10) is the focus of the anthem. In my bible version (the New Revised Standard Version), sections and chapters are usually titled. The title of Psalm 24 is “Entrance into the Temple,” so I would guess that this psalm is a sort of anthropomorphism of the temple gates.

For some reason, I see a clearer path from the discussion of God’s dominion to that of God’s glory and then to our response. It’s like saying:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The Lord God has dominion over the whole world. The Lord is the King of Glory, the God of angel armies. All who are righteous, all with pure hearts, shall be able to enter into God’s holy temple and stand before the presence of God’s holiness.

Even Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Yet, the concept of lifting one’s head alludes to a joyful anticipation. “Lift up Your Heads!” Rejoice! Chin up! The Lord is coming! Although the psalmist describes God as having high standards, they are only proportional to God’s glory. Yet, we have nothing to fear. Sure, we will fear God and stand in awe of God’s glory, but we have no need to be afraid of Him. After all, as believers, the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing us and transforming us from the inside, so that we will have clean hands and pure hearts. And when God brings heaven to earth, we will be able to dwell in God’s presence forever.

gold and black metal fence

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Blogmas Day 23: “Days of Elijah”

I was halfway through writing a post about “Holy Is His Name”by John Michael Talbot when I realized I had already written about another arrangement of the Magnificat.

So, I shall reluctantly change gears. Today’s song is actually going to be “Days of Elijah” by Robin Mark.

These are the days of Elijah,
Declaring the word of the Lord
And these are the days of Your servant Moses,
Righteousness being restored.
And though these are days of great trial,
Of famine and darkness and sword,
Still, we are the voice in the desert crying
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”

Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

These are the days of Ezekiel,
The dry bones becoming as flesh,
And these are the days of Your servant David,
Rebuilding a temple of praise.
These are the days of the harvest,
The fields are as white in Your world,
And we are the labourers in Your vineyard,
Declaring the word of the Lord!

Behold He comes riding on the clouds,
Shining like the sun at the trumpet call,
Lift your voice, it’s the year of jubilee,
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes.

There’s no God like Jehovah x15


This song is more “future Advent” than “past Advent.” It’s all about looking ahead to what will happen when Jesus returns.

Elijah was a prophet in the Old Testament. His “job,” so to speak, was to declare to the people of Israel the messages that the Lord was giving him (1 and 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles).

Through Moses, God gave the people of Israel His divine Law, a Law that was meant to help the people live in a righteous way that pleased God (Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy).

The “days of great trial”: We live during a time of violence, hunger, and various sins. Revelation 3:10 specifically speaks about trials relating to the end times: “…the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth” (NRSV). Jesus also says that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matt. 24:7, Mk. 13:8, Lk. 21:11 — not all verbatim, but the same phenomena).

Ezekiel had a vision from God that God would infuse Israel with hope and strength again. The image of Israel was a valley of dry bones, but God promised to rebuild the bones with muscles and nerves and skin and breathe life back into them. God would infuse the people with His Spirit and make them live again (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

King David had a desire to build a temple for God, a house where God’s presence could dwell. However, it was not God’s plan for David to build the temple, but his son, the future King Solomon (2 Samuel 7:4-17).

Finally, Jesus talks about a harvest that is soon to take place, but there aren’t enough workers to reap the harvest: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38, NRSV). The harvest refers to people–all the people who need to know the Gospel.

If we are allegedly currently living during the “Days of Elijah,” this means that:

  1. Our role is to mimic the prophet Elijah by preaching and prophesying and proclaiming the word of the Lord, and encouraging people to prepare for Jesus’s second coming.
  2. Our role is to, specifically, encourage and exhort people to live righteously, to love God and one another, and to pursue justice and mercy.
  3. We should be aware of what is going on the world.
  4. We can look forward to God reviving His people.
  5. If we think about ourselves as dwelling places for God’s Spirit, in a way, we ourselves are “the temple of praise.” Living lives of worship and consecration are ways to give praise to God. Also, note Romans 12.1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
  6. Our responsibility is always to be evangelistic with the gifts that we have been given. There are so many people who don’t know Jesus, and we should always be thinking of how to show them God’s love.

So, in this Advent season, I think we can look ahead to Jesus’s second coming and prepare others through a) proclamation and prophecy, b) discernment, c) hope, d) worship and consecration, and e) evangelism.

clouds dark dramatic heaven

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Blogmas Day 22: Fourth Sunday in Advent: LOVE

Today’s song for the fourth and final Sunday in Advent is “Like You Promised” by Amber Brooks. I think this is a great song for an Advent that looks ahead to Christ’s coming and the promise of the Holy Spirit. It’s one of those songs that remind us that not only is there an Advent that commemorates Jesus’s first coming, but we also have something which we can anticipate. (Christine D’Clario also sang a Spanish version, which I also love).

Like You Promised:

Stir these stagnant waters of my soul
Merge me with Your river which springs life
I don’t have all the right words to say
That will provoke You to want me
Anymore than you already do

So won’t You come
Come like You promised
Pour out Your Spirit
Pour out Your Spirit

Come into my darkness where I hide
Pull me into Your arms Your arms of peace
Reaching past my hiding
Oh, reach out to my running
Oh, Lord, come fill my soul with Your love

You love like a Father
You love like a brother
You love like a Lion
Fierce Like no other
You violently chase me
Down, to embrace me
Engulf me
In who You are

———————

In my tradition, one of the most important concepts is REVIVAL, and that’s where my head would first go when listening to this song: Holy Spirit come! But, although this is very much an invocation of the Spirit, it is within the context of LOVE. The writer of the song is pleading for the Holy Spirit to come with love. And that is the theme of the fourth Sunday in Advent.

This song reminds us:

  1. We find true life and acceptance in Jesus.

When our souls are “stagnant,” Jesus is a river flowing with life. When I am apathetic and just not feeling much excitement or passion or joie de vivre (joy of living), even when I’m completely burned out, I need the reminder that I can drink from this river and be refilled. Jesus told a Samaritan woman–around the water cooler, because clearly that’s where all the deep convos take place–that He was the source of living water, and anyone who drinks from His water would never thirst (John 4:10-14, NRSV).

Water is one of the main sources of life. The majority of the surface of the earth (60%-80%) is covered with water. Similarly, about 70% of our bodies are filled with water. If we become dehydrated because we have not consumed water for a long period of time, we could die. Yet, Jesus says that the water that He has to offer is greater than the water that we drink here.

Revelation 22 gives us an image of the River of Life, which flows through the New Jerusalem:

Then the angel[a] showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life[b] with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:1-2)

The water that flows through the city (New Jerusalem) flows, as water does, through the ground and down into the roots of the trees. However, when this water seeps into the roots, it results in healing. The fruits that grow from those trees, having absorbed the nutrients (well, more than just nutrients–divine healing) from the water, result in healing and restoration for all people who eat them.

In addition to the healing and revival–of our souls, that is–that comes from Jesus, we also find unconditional love and acceptance. God loves us and wants us more than we can imagine. We don’t have to convince God to love us. We don’t have to strive to make ourselves worthy of God’s desire. God loves us because He is our parent and we are God’s children.

Intellectually, I know that you love me. I know that it is not dependent on me or anything I do. But sometimes I just need reassurance. Send Your Spirit to me. Fill me with life again, because sometimes I don’t feel like I can make it, and I can’t tell that You’re there.

2. God is capable of finding us wherever we are, even if we try to hide.

I’m one of those people that will–quite unproductively, I may add–intentionally hide when I’m feeling at my worst because I don’t want to talk to anybody. It’s extremely unhealthy and unwise, but I will smile and make small talk and get all my work done, all while hiding whatever is bothering me. And unless someone is particularly inquisitive–incessantly so–no one will ever know.

But it’s different with God. And deep down, we know this. That God is just waiting for us to let Him into our hiding places so He can heal what’s broken. Brooks pleads with God to break into her hiding place, to shine His light in her dark places; to embrace her with His arms of peace.

Isolating ourselves doesn’t change anything. It isn’t helpful. It doesn’t bring healing. We find health and wholeness in God’s presence, whether that’s at the altar or among trusted friends who bear God’s image.

God, help me to break down my walls and to let You in. You know that when I’m hiding, or not praying, or choosing to check out and withdraw from my chosen community that that is when I need You the most. Let the light of Your Spirit break into my darkness.

3. God’s love is furious and insistent.

Weird words to use to describe a good God–especially the One we’ve been calling the Prince of Peace this month. But our multifaceted, complex God is insistent on loving us, even when we don’t want it. God loves us like a father is supposed to love us. Tenderly, providing for our needs, protecting us. God loves us like a brother–playfully, with levity and lightheartedness, yet also defending us fiercely. (I’m just guessing here; I’ve never had a biological brother, but I do have a best friend who is very much like a brother to me).

God also loves us like a lion–which reminds me I really need to either watch or read The Chronicles of Narnia to do a better characterization of Aslan. But, lions, especially lionesses, are known for the ferocity with which they love and defend their cubs.

God, thank You for loving me. Thank you that Your love is not only familiar and comforting, but also insistent and even violent. You’re the Shepherd who will leave the 99 sheep in the pasture just to go back and find the one that is lost. You break down my walls and shine into my dark places with Your all-consuming love. Come. Pour out Your Spirit and fill me again with Your love.

acorn advent blur bright

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Blogmas Day 21: “The Night that Christ Was Born”

I sang this song, “The Night that Christ Was Born,” in college, when I used to be in the gospel choir. This song was written by Kirk Franklin and arranged by Cliff Duren. It’s a classic African-American gospel Christmas song. The lyrics are as follows:

[Verse 1:]
Listen to the angels
Rejoicing e’er so sweetly
Receiving heaven’s glory
The night that Christ was born

[Verse 2:]
Can’t you see the people
Coming from every nation
Pleading for salvation
The night that Christ was born

[Chorus]
Oh such a wonderful savior
To be born in a manger
So that I can share His favor
And my heart be made anew

[Verse 3:]
Listen to the trumpets
Shouting through the darkness
Crying ‘holy, holy’
The night that Christ was born

Part of me worries that this post won’t be as theologically robust as I would like, but there’s only one way to find out. Let’s explore it together!

Luke 2 discusses angels in conjunction with the story of Jesus’s birth:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,[b] praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” –Luke 2:8-14, NRSV

So, on the night that Christ was born, yes; there were angels. And yes, they were rejoicing.

Next up: the people from every nation “pleading for salvation.”

I know that Revelation 7:9 says that people from every nation will surround the throne of God. I also know that the wise men were the only people from another geographic area who came to see Jesus.

Matthew 2 discusses the visit of the wise men:

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalemasking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” –Matt. 2:1-2, NRSV

Two things here: First, this did not take place the same night of Jesus’s birth. The wise men arrived to Jerusalem after Jesus had already been born. Second, these wise men came from the East, likely Persia. While this location may be a microcosm used to represent a greater whole, i.e. Persia being used as a symbol for other nations, we really can’t assume that is the case.

Was anyone pleading for salvation? Not literally. But Luke does tell us that when the apostle John was born, the prophet Zechariah saw that he would “be called a prophet of the Most High…go[ing] before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77, NRSV). In the next chapter, a man named Simeon says, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation; which 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, NRSV).

I believe that the prophets were pleading for salvation, because they knew it was coming. They knew Jesus was coming because Isaiah and the other prophets had written that there would be a Messiah coming to save Israel spiritually and literally/historically. But I don’t believe the average person even knew they needed salvation, let alone was pleading for it.

I wrote about Christ (Jesus) being born in a manger before, and the significance of His humanity for our salvation, so I’ll skip the chorus.

But the last verse refers to trumpets. I see no evidence of a relationship between trumpets and the birth of Jesus. The trumpets are “shouting through the darkness; crying ‘Holy, Holy'”. That language sounds more apocalyptic to me. In fact, all of the scriptures that connect trumpets with holiness or a proclamation of holiness in some way are in the Old Testament:

  1. Holy convocations and high holy days (Leviticus 23:24 and Numbers 29:1): A trumpet is sounded and a day of rest is declared.
  2. The “day of the Lord” and the relationship between God’s holiness and Mt. Zion, God’s “HQ,” so to speak: Isaiah 27:13 and Joel 2:1.

(It’s extra funny–in a “Wow” sort of way– when we think of the images of angels blowing trumpets that are so present in the Christmas aesthetic. Unless I’m mixing this up with somewhere else, I’m pretty sure such angels are outside Rockefeller Center).

I think it’s nice to imagine that angels with great big trumpets let out a great fanfare up in heaven when Jesus was born.

 

 

Blogmas Day 20: “Keep Your Lamps!”

(Because I already started working on this post last night, I’m going to pretend it’s still December 20th. Don’t tell anyone–Shh…)

1 Keep your lamps trimmed an burning,
keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
for the time is drawing nigh.

Refrain:
Children, don’t grow weary,
children, don’t grow weary,
children, don’t grow weary,
for the time is drawing nigh.

4 Christian, journey soon be over,
christian, journey soon be over,
christian, journey soon be over,
for the time is drawing nigh. [Refrain]

The first time I sang “Keep Your Lamps! (Trimmed and Burning)” was, yet again, in seminary. This song is an African-American spiritual. A version of it happens to be hymn #350 in the Glory to God hymnal. (Gee, I must really love that hymnal!)

One scripture that this spiritual refers to is Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the ten bridesmaids (or virgins, depending on your tradition). Five of them were considered wise, and the other five foolish. They were all waiting for the bridegroom. However, while they were waiting, they fell asleep and their lamps went out. The wise bridesmaids brought extra oil for their lamps, but the foolish ones did not. When the foolish bridesmaids asked for some extra oil for their lamps, those who had brought extra oil refused to share with them, saying that there wasn’t enough. When the five went to buy more oil, the bridegroom arrived to let them all into a wedding. Because the five foolish bridesmaids were not there on time, they were not able to enter the wedding.

“Keep Your Lamps (Trimmed and Burning)” is really a cautionary metaphor. If you live in the city like I do, you probably don’t use oil lamps–maybe a flashlight. However, imagine that flashlight. It likely runs on batteries. Batteries that should always be in stock in case of an emergency. So, think of this song as saying, “Always have a flashlight and always have spare batteries on hand.”

The reason for this is because we are expecting our bridegroom. In the New Testament, especially in the book of Revelation, Jesus is referred to as a bridegroom and the Church is referred to as His bride. The lamp (or flashlight, if you will) is a metaphor for staying ready. Jesus tells us “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son (i.e. Me), but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:35-37, NRSV).

During “the days of Noah,” people were going about their daily routines when all of a sudden, it began to rain. And it didn’t stop. And the whole earth flooded for forty days and forty nights. Similarly, when Jesus returns, it will be a very ordinary day, up until that divine interruption. We have to be prepared because we do not know when that day will be.

Similarly, the next verse (or refrain), “Children, don’t grow weary,” is an echo of the verse “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right (or well-doing)” (Galatians 6:9, NRSV). Doing what is right means doing what God commands us to do, which is to love God and each other. This simple commandment is mentioned many times in scripture and using different words. It is in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 6:5 (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”) Jesus adds to it, in Matthew 22:39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In Micah 6:8, this is phrased differently: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (NRSV). Therefore, doing what is right means seeking the welfare of all people, being kind to others, and being humble (i.e not prideful vs. not proud). Remember that you are not any better or greater than the person next to you.

Finally, the next verse I include, “Christian journey soon be over,” is a reminder that our lives are short. However, we will have to give an account to God of how we have spent our lives, even up to the words that we say (Matt. 12:36, 1 Peter 4:5). Not only that, but I believe it can refer to the Christian journey in general. The journey of Christians in this world will come to an end when Jesus returns to reunite heaven and earth.

In the meantime, are you trying to stay ready?

antique board burnt close up

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