Category Archives: Advent

A prayer at Advent to God in the flesh

See the source imageGod in the flesh, who reigns from a lowly manger, not draped in fine robes but wrapped in milk rags, who calls into question our lavish lifestyles, our lust for power and the images we create of it.

God in the flesh, who came not flanked with angels, who brought not the might of heaven but the strongest, truest and deepest of loves, a love that coos us and woos us to Your side, a love to be held and nurtured.

We honor You.  God in Christ- child, we praise Your name.  We bow our heads and scratch them because we cannot comprehend Your commitment to us or this love that never fails.[i]  We don’t understand how You could get that close to us and we are so grateful that You would come near to us.  Our praying hands beckon You to come closer.  We invite You to lean in and to listen to our heart’s cries:

God, come into the prayers that we offer.  Step up and into times when we need You most, where we expect You are least likely to be and would not see You coming.  Do what we believe that You cannot, would not, have not, should not.  Break the commandments that we have for You.

God, come and see.  Get up close to us, Your Spirit peeping, peering into our lives.  Show us what You are so excited about, that You left heaven about, that You have no doubt about us.

God, come and see about me, her and him.  We put our hands together and ask that You fight for us, make right for us this human condition, that conditions us to believe that we have to be bigger and better than our neighbor, even our sister and brother.

Finally, give us the grace to lay down our burdens and measuring sticks so that we can see Your face in our neighbor as if our next of kin.  Help us to meet this challenge with praying hands.  In the name of Christ, we pray.  Amen.

_____________________

[i] First Corinthians 13.8

A Prayer at Advent to the Shepherd- King

See the source imageShepherd- King, who tends to our souls, our deepest selves, our most pressing needs, who leads us and yet followed our entry into the world through a woman.

Able to part the clouds and ride on the wings of the wind, You join us in pulling mother’s skirt, holding her hand to walk and we are all thumbs at the thought of it.  Thousands of years later, we are still unable to grasp this reality. Not just God in the flesh but God face- to- face on a daily basis.  No high horse or throne.  Surely, we did not see this coming; the God who would share our face.  Forgive us then for looking away from our neighbor, the immigrant and the stranger— because they do not bear resemblance to us.

Dirt mixed with Imago Dei, the divine image is not pristine but will need to be wiped clean, will spit and babble like we do. Will fall and spirit will skin knees.  The hands that hold the whole world will need to be picked up and cleaned up.  Forgive us for not raising our hands when we need Your help.

This is the God who rolls sleeves up and gets hands dirty.  Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for us (cf. Second Corinthians 5.21).  We confess that only You could have answered this calling.  Still, we stutter when You call us.  We cry, “We are just sheep” when You call us.  Because You know our deepest selves and still, You call us to love, to forgive, to serve, to fellowship and to pray, to keep the conversation going no matter where we find ourselves and no matter the time of day.

And we pray for more time with You, more time to talk this life through and for ears to hear.  Because You do return our calls.

We ask that you call us still.  Call us until Your voice is ringing in our ears.  Call us until we wake up singing Your praises.  Call us until Your name is on the tip of our tongues, ready to dive into the deep that is calling us.

Remove the life jacket and let us sink into Your presence.  More than ankle deep, lead us to the place where the cup overflows, where the sheep are fed from hand to mouth, where there is no distance between Your face and ours.

Remind us that You not only came through a woman but that You will come to women and men today and in the days to come because You are the great Shepherd- King, who tends to our souls, our deepest selves, our most pressing needs.  Amen.

When God comes to town

See the source imageGod is not a superhero.  Cape exchanged for swaddling clothes, he does give us the image of strength.  He cannot leap over tall buildings.  His parents can’t even find a place to give birth to him.

He will cry out for help before the crowds do.  He will not be waving, taking pictures and signing autographs.  He will not be kissing babies– because he is one.  He will need to be held while we sing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

Our praise doubles as a lullaby.  This is the God who can be sung to sleep, who gets fussy without a nap.

But, what kind of God is this?  What kind of God does this?  Using a woman instead a phone booth.  No gadgets, no fancy car. Just her swollen feet, Jesus travels by way of a waddling woman.  He does not make an entrance but instead, waits to be born.

He is not faster than a locomotive and he cannot stop one if you find yourself tied to the tracks.  Many complained that he could not stop the Roman Empire.  He is not who they expected, not who they’d hoped for.  When they thought of the Savior, he is not who they had in mind.  “There must be some mistake.  Let us look for another.”

No x- ray vision, the self- proclaimed “light of the world” will squint when he enters it.  And people will not see him coming.  Because when God comes to town, God is not aiming to merely save the day– but the world.

A Prayer on Christmas Eve

img_0109

I am so grateful for the days when we remember that God is with us, when we realize even for a moment that God is here to stay. I shared this prayer tonight at our Christmas Eve service with the sacred fellowship at Village Baptist Church. Let’s pray together.

God, Who keeps company with us, Who didn’t send a divine representative but put on flesh and left the gated community of heaven to send a message: “I am with you.” “What are human beings that You are mindful of (us), mortals (lit. son of man) that You care for (us)? (Psalm 8.4)” Who are we that You tied Yourself to a woman just to reach out to us, that You moved into her womb just to get next to us, that You settled for a manger so that You could make room for us in heavenly mansions?
We offer our thanks and give You praise because we could not have created a God so merciful. We could not have imagined a God so good. We could not have a hand in the making of a God so powerful. So, we have come to applaud Your works. We have come to join our hands with Yours. We have come to raise our hands and bear witness that You have been with us today and throughout the year. We have come to declare, “God is with me.”

We confess that Your presence is very much needed in our world and outside of our windows. Without Your hands, we would throw ours up in despair. You are our hope for “some take pride in chariots and some in horses but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20.7).  As fears increase, we pray that our faith would increase. As anxiety rises, we pray our awareness of You would become palpable. As terrorist attacks are mounted and panic spreads, we pray that we would be reminded that “Your name is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and they are safe” (Proverb 18.10).

We confess that the world will not fall apart because it remains in Your hands. We confess that our confidence rests with the God who is so powerful that even as an infant, governments are threatened. As we worship, strengthen our faith in the God who works from the womb and bolster our conviction that You are with us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

God is with us?

Image result for God is with us image

During this Advent season, I am challenging my young adult Sunday school class to think through our seasonal declarations.  God is with us.  We are retelling the dream of Jesus’ stepdad, Joseph.  We are repeating the pronouncement of an angel (Matthew 1.18-25).We are testifying that God made good on the promise declared by the prophet Isaiah (7.14).

More than season’s greetings, these are holy words.

God is with us.  Like the neat nativity scenes we put on our tables and lawns, it is said oftentimes without a full appreciation for the reality.  We say it because it’s what we say.  Like asking for God’s blessing when a person sneezes, it is polite to say (in some circles, at least).

God is with us.  But, what does this mean?  What do we mean?  Has there been a God sighting and if so, where?  Where is God with us?

While we ask the question most often and much easier during seasons of suffering, I invite you to look for God now.  And we must be sure that we are looking for God and not our creation.  N.T. Wright shares in Following Jesus:

The longer you look at Jesus, the more you will want to serve him in his world.  That is, of course, if it’s the real Jesus you’re looking at.  Plenty of people in the church and outside it have made up a ‘Jesus’ for themselves, and have found that this invented character makes few real demands on them.  He makes them feel happy from time to time but doesn’t challenge them, doesn’t suggest that they get up and do something about the plight of the world. Which is, of course, what the real Jesus had an uncomfortable habit of doing.[i]

Is God with us because we feel good and we are happy with our lives?  Is God with us because everyone else is saying that God is?  Have we made up this testimony?  Or, are we carrying around our made up Jesus, our cardboard Jesus?

While you are considering the answer to these questions, consider whether we are following Jesus or if Jesus is following us around.  Because if God is only with “me and mine,” then this is a made up Jesus that Wright talks about.  If God can’t be with them, then who is this God who is with us?

 

____________________

[i] N.T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), xiv.