Georgetownrose

…from glory to glory

Archive for the category “Winter Holy Days”

Always Christmas; Never Winter…

Jesus Christ has come in the flesh! (John 1.14, 1 John 4.1-3) Glory Be to God!

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Praying you are all staying well amid the frantic flurry of seasonal activity.

For some of you there might have been an empty chair at your table this year. For those who read this for whom that is the case, I am praying that God is showing you how able and ready He is to fill the empty place in your heart with His magnificent love. Many in our country are struggling with loss of home, belongings, livelihoods and loved ones from fire, storms, floods and mass shootings. As I consider the devastation in the wake of these sorrows, I pray that those among the suffering who know the Lord Jesus Christ will demonstrate their hope and faithfulness to trust in the God who provides for our needs in all circumstances and by their quiet and thankful trust, will strengthen and encourage others. I pray that everyone who benefits from all avenues of humanitarian assistance will realize that it is by the mercies and Providence of God that they receive it—and be thankful to Him: for “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the Name of the LORD.” (Job 1.21b).

Speaking of Job 1.21b, I took some time off from teaching children’s Sunday School in November, thinking I would have time to just chill out a bit. I felt plenty guilty about asking for some Sundays not to be teaching the children; and I had a sinking feeling in my kishkes (yiddish: inner parts) that the separation would be painful–a new twist on “separation anxiety.” I had no expectation of how busy my heart and soul and mind would be in the stillness. God does some pretty extensive work in a person’s life when she sits down and stops the busy preoccupations with trying to keep up her momentum in ministry. It’s not that I neglect daily time in the Word of God and prayer. Everyone who has known me since I came to faith 30+ years ago knows that the Word of God and prayer are like breathing for me. However, when a time of transition comes to call, it takes some extra time to be prepared for it and to learn courage and discipline to face it and follow through.

One of the aspects of the time of transition was a reluctant and somewhat surprising change in congregations. After 14 years at my church, this change has been painful–increasing my “separation anxiety;” but God is using it to bring about growth in my life.

Be careful what you pray for; I had been praying for growth, and God is answering it “in spades.”

I am learning more and more in this time of transition into a new, larger church body that Christ’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12.9). Those who know me and correspond with me regularly via e-mail know that my signature line most often includes the quote from Scripture: 

I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus my Lord, that I may gain Messiah and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings…”

–Philippians 3.8-10

This time of stillness and transition has been a test as to whether I truly do count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3.8-10). And it has all come at the advent of the Christmas season…

The Christmas season has always been a challenge for me for a variety of reasons, none of which I can describe to fit the post-modern reader’s tolerance for words. I will summarize by saying I owe it all to the Word of God. My studies in the Word of God this year have changed my Christmases forever; this year I have been mining deeply into the truth of Jesus’ coming in the flesh. As a result, the impact on my mind and heart has made my celebration of the incarnation of Christ impossible to contain in one season of the year. The Scriptures say,

“But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!”

–2 Chronicles 6.18.

Well, that’s how I feel about trying to hold the enormity of Messiah’s coming in the flesh to one binge season. The declarations of John 1.14 and 1 John 4.2-3 are greetings that can be shared every day of the entire year. Of course, if you want to say, “Merry Christmas!” along with the words of one or both of those passages, that works, too: because, in Christ it is always Christmas and never winter…

I am praying that the “smorgasbord” of seasonal sensations will not have eclipsed the length, height, depth and breadth of the love of God through His good and perfect Gift of Christ in the flesh.

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I’m always ready…

…for Christmas…

Everyone around me is bustling to “get ready for Christmas.” Being ready for Christmas in this culture is a matter of stocking up on the right decorations, the richest festive foods, and the perfect gifts for our friends and relatives. “Being ready for Christmas” is retail oriented…

“Are you ready for Christmas?” is a question I often hear at the check-out line in the grocery store. If that cashier only knew the passion for Messiah Jesus roaring behind the floodgates of my soul, she would think twice before asking me that question. Nevertheless, having the invitation to share my readiness for Christmas, I go gently but boldly… I am always ready for Christmas…

My question is, “How can anyone not be ready for Christmas?” We allow the culture to eclipse our consciousness of the sacrifice of the King of glory who set aside His joys in the Heavenlies to dwell in an earthen vessel for our sake… “Christmas” worship focuses exclusively upon that event in history—when the Son of God, who is eternal, everlasting, and outside of time and space, subjected His life to the confines of our mortality—our temporary-ness… And we must never forget this magnificent event; but the manger scene of Bethlehem’s Tower of the Flock was only the beginning of the Incarnation of the King of kings …

I love this season as much as every other warm-blooded disciple of Messiah Jesus. I am particularly “undone” this year, overwhelmed with the awesome weight of His glory—and I am finding it difficult to confine the passion of worship into the typical Christmas routine of the putting up of the tree and setting up the Nativity scene. It’s not that I feel jaded or cynical at all… Far from it… To be sure, we could not have the whole Incarnation of Christ without the great moment in Bethlehem; but I am changed in the way I view this season and the ways it is viewed by my contemporaries this side of Heaven… Aside from the fact that I will soon be 70 years old—I am told that aging changes one’s perspective—I believe that something else has finally had its way in my heart—something that only the King of glory could do…

For the greater part of the year prior to this season, my heart, soul, mind and strength have been immersed in the Word of God in a systematic study of the years of Jesus’ Incarnation which followed His infant birth in Bethlehem…

The written record of His Incarnate life and ministry for our sake…

To declare the glory of the Incarnate Christ to our children in our church family…

Beloved, I cannot articulate everything I have seen and understood with new understanding of the weight of glory revealed in the whole written record of His Incarnation…

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

–John 1.14

…for our sake…

I am undone by His revealed glory in all His incarnate life and ministry…

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written… but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…

–John 21.25; 20.31

It’s easy to adore the little baby in the manger of Bethlehem, because an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes poses no apparent threat, no immediate challenge to our secret thoughts and our autonomous posture toward a Holy God—unless we step back and view the panoramic evidence which awakens us from our Christmas lullabies to the true identity of this sweet little Baby Boy…

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your Salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

–Luke 2.25-35

In the phrase of a popular Christmas carol: “Do you see what I see?”

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Do you see what Simeon saw? He saw it before the Holy, Incarnate Bundle in his arms walked out every stroke of the Father’s revealing work in the dust of Galilee, Judea and Samaria… Simeon saw it long before the record of the Incarnate glory of Jesus was written down for us in the Word of God… And if you glimpse even a fraction of it, would you still adore Him Who challenges all your secret thoughts and your autonomous posture before a Holy God?

“In Him was Life; and the Life was the light of men.”

–John 1.4

Would you always be ready for Christmas?

The Heart of St. Valentine

heart-of-st-valentine2There’s a lot on my mind about this special day…

It’s special for me in multitudes of ways…

I remember my mother on this day. Once, when we were celebrating my birthday, she told me that when she was carrying me she hoped that I would be born on St. Valentine’s Day. Alas, God had other plans; I was born shy of that date. But that did not discourage my mother. When I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church at age 12, it was the custom for confirmands to take the name of a saint and martyr of the faith. My mother encouraged me to take the name Valentina, a feminine variant for St. Valentine. Being the obliging child that I was, I saw no problem with this, and took the name gladly…

I had very little knowledge, and less understanding at the time, of the true life and joy of St. Valentine…

Another way that this day is special to me is that I have another opportunity to bless my husband of 48 years with extra gestures of love and gratitude. So very thankful to God for giving me a man who loves me and makes me a better woman than I would be on my own…

In recent years, I’ve come to be more aware of who this man Valentine is. He was so committed to upholding Christian marriage that he prepared couples for their covenant vows and consecrated their commitment in a day when it was dangerous for the Church to do so…


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And now, in my senior years, I understand more of the heart of a man who desired to leave the legacy of a love that can never be shaken or lost; this love can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. While Valentine was committed to preserving Christian marriage in the face of the emperor’s military recruitment agenda, he did so knowing that such a sacred bond was the type for the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Church. And he was bold to speak out for the love of Messiah Jesus…

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There is another thought that I want to express to all the dear ones who read this blog–all the ones who are not married. If you are in Christ, this day is a special day to remember His love for you and to pass the message of Messiah Jesus on to others. Because this is the heart of St. Valentine…

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And as one who has been confirmed in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, having taken the name of this witness for my Lord and King,  here is my prayer for you on this commemoration of the life and ministry of St. Valentine…

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…for such a time as this…

Out of the Shadows of February…

Every year on this date, we moderns anticipate the verdict of that fuzzy critter called a groundhog, thinking his emergence from his chilly hidey hole will comfort us or encourage us to know that spring cannot be far away…

I cannot fault anyone in the Northern Hemisphere, for whom winter is less than comforting, for wishing there would be no February. But I found out something today–in this country that has given a groundhog newsworthy status and a name known nationally in America as Punxsutawney Phil…

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What I find highly newsworthy on this date in February has to do with one of my favorite passages of Scripture; in it is the historical  record of an encounter between an old Jewish man and a little Jewish boy child in the Temple in Jerusalem long, long ago in our corner of the galaxy…

I am sharing a piece written by the Rector of my church, a piece that gives me great encouragement–something to remember and to celebrate as February begins…

Here it is:

About that Groundhog… 

by Rev. Peter Frank, Rector – Church of the Epiphany, Anglican – Herndon, Virginia

Have you ever wondered why we try to tell the future by asking ourselves whether or not a groundhog sees his shadow every February 2?  It’s a bit of a winding road, but if you follow it all the way back, you get to a Christian celebration called “Candlemas” that marks the presentation of Jesus in the temple 40 days after his birth, (December 25 – February 2 is 40 days).

There were, of course, no groundhogs at the temple, when little Jesus arrived.  Northern European settlers in Pennsylvania are the ones who drafted the large rodents into Candlemas celebrations in the 19th century.  We don’t know if it was sunny or cloudy that day in Jerusalem and what connection if any that had to winter that year. All we do know is that Jesus’ parents made the customary offering, and simply presented Jesus to the Lord, as Exodus 13 commands for all firstborn sons.

But there were those at the temple who knew what they were seeing and what it meant for the future.  Luke particularly mentions an old man, a prophet, named Simeon, who was looking for Israel’s savior.  And when Simeon saw Jesus, he knew he saw the light.  “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation… a light for the revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2.29-32).

Friends, do we like Simeon know who we are seeing when we see Jesus?  As we make the final turn out of our modern holiday season and start the long journey through the year, my hope is that like Simeon, we can “depart in peace,” knowing that Immanuel, the “God with us” at Christmas in fact walks with us the whole year through.

That is most certainly true this February 2.  As for whether or not we  will have six more weeks of winter.  I have no idea.  And, sadly, neither does Punxsutawney Phil.

I pray you find a renewed joy as the winter month of February begins, and as it reminds us in the  Northern Hemisphere that God knows how uncomfortable living on this fallen planet is. Out of the shadows of February may your eyes see your Salvation! His Hebrew Name is Yeshua; and the nations call Him Jesus…

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