December 23, 2012

A Twinkling of the Kingdom

Every year around Christmastime, I write a post that embodies the sum product of the entire year's trek. It is a summation of the entire year's learning. It is an aggregation of the entire year's trials and pain that has put me in a position to do so. I feel the Holy Spirit has indeed made enormous strides in not only my life but my wife's and even possibly my children's. I can visibly see the change on the surface this year, not just feel it internally. The following is the encapsulation and summation of another year of sanctification to take us home to eventual glory in Christ Jesus. I pray it moves you, as it is as deep and heartfelt as I can muster on the eve of Jesus' birth celebration. 

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you abundantly in the coming year and turn his face kindly toward you in this coming year's journey

Sometimes the Kingdom of God breaks through in the subtlest of ways

So I listen to the children (including my own) ringing bells in Pottstown Bible Church & Mission this morning in accompaniment with the Christian hymns/carols being sung. Each child had a wreath of silver garland around their heads to mimic halos. The tinsel from the wreaths was falling to the floor like snow as the children manically ring their bells the best they can to keep time with the music being played by the worship band. The children depart and leave behind only individual strands of silver needle-like tinsel lying on the floor. 

I later sat and listened to the pastor speak about being reconciled to God while we were still sinners. Pastor John heralds the Gospel [κηρύσσει ἢ εὐαγγέλιον] and tells us that there is nothing within us that merits salvation. He tells us that we were given a gift that we are to freely accept for our salvation…or deny to our own condemnation. While we rebelled against God and flipped God off, He reached in and pulled us out of our sin. John speaks of the alcoholic and of drug addiction in a room that contained former alcoholics and addicts (like myself) and in some cases current addicts. 

As he speaks I look at the ceiling light reflecting off the garland strands lying on the floor where the children had stood minutes before. From a distance the effect of the garland strikes me odd. It dawns on me that the light plays on fallen garland like so many used drug needles strewn carelessly on the ground. But now…the needles or garland are harmlessly trampled underfoot by the power of the One that we celebrate with these garland wreaths and bells. In the garland or tinsel I see good intentions gone awry and now redeemed, I realize this is the story of all mankind. I also realize that we can  freely trust in the message rung by the bells and heralded by the words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

…and I hear the bells of the Kingdom and I see the glimmer of the streets of gold.

…and I see the blinding Shekhinah like a million silver diadems glittering in the garland of joyous children two days before Christmas. Like countless star bursts in our King's crown.

It is in this image that I see the Kingdom of God. I see that it is indeed in deliverance from greed and the love of shiny coins and money that gives the surface of the King’s crown its luster. It is in the redemption from the shame of an overtly sinful and fragmented life that the Gospel is heard most wholly. It is indeed in the drug addict’s deliverance from his addiction and from those glimmering and beckoning needles that the sparkle in Jesus’ crown gains its brilliance. It is in the perfect crimson blood that is drawn by the nails driven into Him that bound Him to the cross that the addict is freed from the needle that they drive into themselves and weep their own blood.

So...I look at the children as they go upstairs and I look past the adults in that room to watch them go. When my eyes come to bear on these adults I see someone's child also. Not just God’s child but someone’s flesh and blood child. A child that parents had dreams and hopes for becoming great things. I see a child at one time that might have rung bells in a Christmas service. A man and woman's child that grew into an adult and somehow lost their way, one and all bar-none including myself. All fell away, all reaped the reward of a sinful life. It is such a deadly recompense for sin that inexorably draws us all breath by breath and sin by sin towards the teeth of an open grave. I see men and women who at some point, somewhere, turned to the right or to the left and stepped off God's well-marked path. 

It is then that I realize that it was indeed for these people (me) that Jesus came as a child. Just like the children that stood before me. Jesus came as a child, like all these battle-worn people once were. And like these battle scarred people, so to would Jesus bear scars from life. Just like our sin will put us all in our eventual grave, it put Him in a grave also. The difference though lies in the fact the sin that put Him in His grave was not His own, it was ours and that grave could not hold Him. Sins perpetrated even when we were, of all things, children…because we acted as sinful fallen children that rebelled against our Father.

It was for these He came as a child and this is why my children stood before me today heralding the miracle of His blessed foreordained birth. Jesus’ birth that would lead to a flawless life, a planned death and glorious Resurrection from the grave.

I suppose most do not think on these things in a church service two days before Christmas, but having watched a man die unexpectedly last night after a motorcycle accident, I did think on these things. Having prayed over a life and seen its fragility, I realize humans are such brittle and transient beings. Every single day we have above ground and are vertical, is a gift from the One that breathes life into our souls. Every time we are offered another chance to hear the Gospel and we accept, is a gift. Every breath that turns to laughter as we see our children unwrap Christmas presents that celebrate Christ’s birth, are a gift. Every moment we ponder the shimmering glory that is the Kingdom on earth in our fellowship, is a gift and a promise of what is to come in God’s Kingdom.

All gifts, all given freely because God truly does love us…even when we do not love Him. The same love I feel for my brethren not just this time of year, but always because God’s love has been poured out into my heart through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to me.

So enjoy your day as it is God’s gift to you this Christmas, as are all your days…and do not forget to look for those subtle glimmers of the Kingdom that break through into the now for you to see this time of year. Those small glimpses of the Kingdom of Heaven, like the one I saw sitting next to my wife in Church today. Sitting with these broken children…broken…just like me. A glimpse of the Kingdom, like the laughter of children 6 and 60 years old and in the ringing of bells that are a herald of the age that is to come…but is already here in part.

It is in our brokenness that the Kingdom comes most sharply and pointedly into focus. 

μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι ὅτι αὐτῶν ἐστιν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν. 
Blessed-the-poor (ones)-to the-spirit-that-of them-is-the-Kingdom-of the-Heavens
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Merry Christmas Brothers and Sisters In Christ. Shine on like the diamond He is shaping you into.

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