Advent at the Chapel: Saved

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We Are Saved Through The Most Ordinary Means

by Nate Gibson

When Jesus began his ministry with the call to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn near”, there was no shortage of misunderstanding about what kind of kingdom he was referring to, and how, exactly, that kingdom would be initiated.  The zealots, a faction of radicals to which several of Jesus’ disciples belonged, longed for a revolutionary leader to drive out the Romans and re-establish a politically independent kingdom of Israel.  Those familiar with Jewish history may remember the story of Judah Maccabee, the Jewish priest-turned-warrior who led a rebellion against the ruling Seleucids several centuries before Jesus was born.  Certainly, the zealots and others chafing under Roman rule during Jesus’ lifetime would have remembered, and this shaped their image of who the Messiah would be.

With the benefit of two millennia of hindsight, we may well be tempted to shake our heads, click our tongues, and chuckle to ourselves.  Of course that wasn’t who Jesus was!  How could anyone have possibly made that mistake?

However, we’re more like the zealots than we realize.  It’s all too easy to for us to imagine Jesus in ways that suit us best.  We focus on teachings that are palatable, or which align neatly with a particular political agenda, and either ignore or attempt to explain away those tough teachings that do not fit.

The Christmas story reminds us that even as Jesus fulfilled ancient prophecies, he defied popular expectations.  The promised Messiah was also the Prince of Peace.  The King of Kings was born in a manger, in a stable, to the wife of a carpenter.

Our savior is not a demigod who uses his superpowers to vanquish evil with billions of dollars worth of special effects, nor is he a guerilla warrior who seeks to overthrow one earthly kingdom and replace it with another.

On the contrary, through Jesus, God stepped down into our lowly condition to face the same trials and temptations which we face.  He spent his ministry as an itinerant teacher, challenged and despised by the established authorities of the day.  He died on a cross, executed in a manner reserved for criminals.  The aspects of the Christmas story, and of Jesus’ life in general, that seem so ordinary are in fact what make it extraordinary.  Our Sinless Savior knows what it is to be tempted and resist.  Our King knows what it is to be poor and homeless. Our Lord knows what it is to be a humble servant.

Paradoxes may make our mortal minds spin, but once the vertigo passes, let us rejoice that we have been saved through the most ordinary means!

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

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Advent at the Chapel: Our Great Hope

Jesus is our Great Hope!

 

by Steve Joostens

It was so from the beginning of time. Christ Jesus was placed in the middle of history…HIS story!

We were created in His own image, set in the garden of Eden. We had fellowship with the Living God Himself and Adam even walked and talked with God! Can you imagine? Yet, even as we were created in His own image, we were created rational, moral, creatures, placed at the top of the pinnacle of all creation, but made lapsable and able to fall and we chose to disobey the One with whom we walked and talked with, plunging ourselves into sin and disobedience with the ultimate result being one of corruption, death and decay. Many have asked the question why were we created so by God? In times past and in conservative christian realms we have held to the belief that God did so according to His eternal counsel and for His glory. When we look at a diamond we only see its true beauty against a black background. In shines in all its beauty and the beholder can see the gems true beauty. Take it away and it looses its luster, its appeal, its beauty. But how much more do we appreciate its radiance when we put it on the black cloth?! So to it is with us. When we see our sin, our darkness, how much more will we see the greatness of our deliverance? How much more will we in thanksgiving for that deliverance shine to God’s glory for it? Even forevermore praising Him into all of eternity!

Many of us have seen or buried our loved ones…the ultimate result of our sin and disobedience, death. We go to the cemetery and look into that hole in the ground and true reality sets in. Corruption. Decay. Death. A cold, deep, hole. It is sobering to say the least. A reality we all must face sooner or later, yet one most are uncomfortable thinking about and for sure talking about! Nevertheless a real result of our sin and disobedience! But…..God, in His perfect plan set His love and affection on us as He sent His Son to earth to save unto Himself a church. You and me! We confess it even in our creeds. God the Son comes and stands in human flesh and gives us salvation as He walks the way of the Cross. His salvation is known to us in His Son’s name Jesus! This name is so significant and important! In the old testament Joshua had to lead the people into the promised land Canaan and God revealed His promise to the people in Joshua. His name meant “he saves” and he was essentially named after Christ. If only he could have given the people the eternal rest. But we have to talk about Christ who is the only one that can give this eternal rest! The power is found in that name Jesus and God calls Jesus the first begotten among the dead and through Him He saves! God calls His name Jesus because His name is what He does and what He is called to do. He is the head of the church and essentially calls the whole church in His name and in the blood of the Lamb! Our Lord Jesus Christ is the complete Savior and we need nothing else! We can document the completeness of His salvation throughout all of scripture. Is this NOT the heart of the Gospel?!

It is complete and done! The only one that can take away our sin. Very God yet very man in the flesh as the soul that sins must die according to God’s justice. The sweetest name we know! Even as His Son is called a Savior so are we called and saved into glory in His name and those who have Him, have complete salvation as it is the truth of the Gospel. God called His Son Jesus and we confess Him to be our salvation. Your salvation! My salvation! As we stare at the hole in the ground that one day you and I will be buried in we can look up, knowing that Jesus came, was nailed to the cross, died and was buried also. BUT, He rose again victorious after suffering an eternity of hell for us, making the grave, (the end result of our sin and corruption,) a mere portal into the eternal. We confess Him to be our salvation as He will one day also raise us to Glory! The graves will blossom forth, and we will praise Him into all eternity forevermore knowing the darkness of our sin, the greatness and beauty of our salvation given. Our great deliverance as a gift of His grace!

I submit to you, Jesus is not only our great hope, but our ONLY hope! Not a hope as it means today. No wishful thinking here. Something that has been accomplished. It IS sure. He conquered sin and death to save us and will one day come again to take us unto Himself. We hope, meaning we look for it in anticipation!

I ask you all, do YOU know a name more sweeter that Jesus???!!!

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: Jesus Causes Conflict Within People

Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
~1Peter 3:4

Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.
~Augustine of Hippo

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! Wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
~Madeleine L’Engle “In the Darkest Hour”

Jesus Causes Conflict Within People

by Emily Gibson

Advent anticipates the arrival of God on earth as a helpless newborn, and when He comes again to save this sick and sorry world.

His first arrival was in the midst of great distress between people whose faith was eroding into legalism and gods of their own making, along with interminable conflict between nations. We still fight over the same land and same issues today.

Our old selves want what we want and want it now,  in direct conflict with our “new selves” letting God be God in His own timing.

Into such mean and gloomy darkness comes a great Light.   As stated by modern martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer,  God’s coming to earth is “frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.”

We find ourselves at war within – how shall Jesus change the world through changing us at the core of our souls? This is love in action and we are called to respond.

As Jan Richardson writes in Night Vision, 

“That’s just how Advent works.  What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you.  And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s hindquarters fade in the distance.

So stay.  Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder.”

And to this I would add: Be Changed.

 

Advent at the Chapel: Jesus Causes Conflict Among People

Jesus Causes Conflict Among People

 

by Ben Gibson

If I have learned anything from Christmas movies, it is that Christmas is when people are brought together and relationships healed. George Bailey rushes home and finds that everyone has contributed money to cover the debt of the Building and Loan. Ebenezer Scrooge brings a Christmas goose to celebrate with the Cratchits. Kevin McCallister learns a valuable lesson about the importance of family after defending his house against two bumbling burglars. I could go on. Anything that has gone wrong can be made right through stockings, mistletoe, carols, and a healthy dose of eggnog. We often shoehorn Jesus into this Christmas mythology. He is made palatable to society at Christmas time: a well-washed baby lying in a manger, a gleaming star settles above, angels declare His praise, and a host of unexpected guests crowd within the stable.

The truth, however, is that nothing is more divisive than the incarnation. Choosing to follow Jesus is a choice to follow the most controversial figure in earth’s history. Because all of humanity is broken we are programmed to hate the holy, to hate God himself. The incarnate Christ, full of God’s glory, reveals the inadequacy of all our coping mechanisms. He exposes the brokenness of relationships we thought whole and the fracturing of communities we thought to be strong.

We do a disservice to the incarnation when we make Jesus into another “feel-good” Christmas movie in which everything resolves by the end. To be a Christian is to choose life with the Savior who is despised. Even while Christmas unites, we cannot overlook the ways the baby Jesus illuminates how much the world is torn asunder.

Paul says in Galatians “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Do we feel like the world pleased with us? If we are content with this state of affairs, something is wrong. To be satisfied with pleasing our family, friends, and acquaintances is to stop short of true reconciliation. Christmas reminds us that we are co-laborers with Christ. But this labor is not to cultivate unity and happy endings ourselves. We are invited to reveal and love all that is broken so that we can point toward Him who will make all things whole.

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: Mary Ponders

 

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But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

 

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by Emily Gibson

There are times when all we can do is sit back and wonder at what is happening around us. It may make no sense, it may seem completely foreign or irrational. We have a choice to either back away from what is completely beyond our understanding, or plunge in head first in faith, trusting that what counts is that at least it makes sense to God.

Mary was exactly in that position as a new mother. She treasures up, she marvels at and she ponders all that she hears and sees, knowing but not completely fathoming that she herself delivered the Deliverer.

We need to spend time in wonder too. We are stunned and amazed at the depth of the Father’s love that brought Him into our arms only to be cruelly rejected just as He pays our debts in full. This is the kind of story that makes no sense at all except to God. We couldn’t have made this up, not in a million years, no matter how hard we tried. It’s just as well–because we are not the Word, and He is.

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.

~Madeline L’Engle

 

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: The Threat of Christ’s Kingdom

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The Threat of Christ’s Kingdom

 

by Dan Gibson

 

I suspect that we who pray “your kingdom come, your will be done” with increasing urgency seldom think of that kingdom as a threat to ourselves.  But as we come to a clearer understanding of the nature of the kingdom that Christ has inaugurated and is inexorably bringing to its fulness, and perceive more clearly our own natural lack of fitness for that kingdom, we may be able to grasp why this kingdom threatens us.

Consider with me the chief anti-hero of the Christmas story: King Herod.  I have attended many Christmas programs in which children of the Church re-enact the Christmas story.  Shepherds, wise men, and angels are regular and reliable participants in the story.  Children volunteer eagerly for a role as shepherd, wise man, angel, Mary, or Joseph.  King Herod, on the other hand, seldom makes an appearance at all, and when he does, no small child relishes the opportunity to play Herod.  One must be a boy of junior high age at least to embrace the Herod role, and even then he does so with a comical malevolence.  For what kind of person would truly act to slay an innocent child in its crib, and not only one but a host of helpless baby boys in order to insure the death of just the one who would be king?  So we think of Herod as an evil outlier and portray him as such.

But is not Herod everyman?  Does he not in his lethal fickleness foreshadow the mob who demanded that the King of the Jews, the babe full-grown, be crucified?  And were we not also there as our Lord was crucified?  Herod saw with demonic clarity that the baby of whom the prophets spoke would overthrow kingdoms such as his, and his deadly, chilling response arose from the real threat posed to him by the Prince of Peace whose rise marked his demise.  We may fool ourselves for the moment with sentimental revelry around the manger, but when the creche is securely tucked away to await another season of commemoration and celebration, we must in the midst of our lives choose our posture — to kneel in humble repentance and adoration before the King, or to take up whatever weapon is at hand to slay him who will accept only our unconditional surrender to his everlasting kingdom of light, who calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.

 

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

Advent at the Chapel: Weakness of His Kingdom

 

The “Weakness” of Christ’s Kingdom

by Danyale Tamminga

 

In our Trinity hymnal there is a Christmas hymn by Martin Luther called “From Heaven High I Come to You.” A few of the lines go like this:

 

“To you this night is born a child of Mary,

chosen virgin mild; this little child, of

lowly birth, shall be the joy of all the earth.”

And then,

“These are the tokens ye shall mark: the swaddling

clothes and manger dark; there ye shall find the

infant laid by whom the heav’ns and earth were made.”

 

Sometimes, especially in those first days and weeks of my life with a newborn baby, I felt terror at the thought of this little child being so dependent on me to nurture and provide for him. This baby was needy for the care of mother and father to see him through those first days, weeks, months. That tiny little creature was weak and vulnerable.

Thinking about our Lord in this position of vulnerability and weakness is mind-boggling. Especially when you square his position in the manger with the beautiful opening of the Gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

Christ’s life from beginning to end was one lived in a posture of humility, and so his kingdom follows in that strain. His kingdom is so entirely antithetical to our natural notions of what a powerful kingdom ought to look like. Rather, Christ ushers in his kingdom “through the weakness of the Word preached and the sacraments administered.” (C. Trueman from Luther and the Christian Life) It strikes one as painfully mundane and ordinary; one might even say, weak. But it seems as though that is our Lord’s way and the way of his kingdom. And the way to glory.

 

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12.9

 

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

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