Peace

Peace, Jesus's Lullaby, 12-1-13, Upside Down Christmas 1, Philippians 2, 5-11

Philippians 2:5-11

Christmastime is upon us and with it comes the familiar barrage of materialism and consumerism that defines American culture. Something is not right, but we’ve become so desensitized to the social backwardness of this time of year the question that stares us all in the face is easily avoided. Who is this Jesus everyone (everyone being the conservative, right-swinging Christians, these days) keeps talking about? When you trace the word back to its Old English roots, Christmas means Christ’s Mass and deliberately celebrates the birth of Jesus. The actual date and year of the Jesus’s birth are subject for debate (December 25 is likely NOT the day Jesus was actually born upon), but those details are not the point. Christmas, X-mas, Crimmus, whatever you want to call it, there’s no escaping the purpose of the season, or the question it asks, Who am I to you?

The short answer is, Jesus is the self-expression of God. God manifesting Himself in human form to relate to us on a physical level that leaves absolutely zero room for misinterpretation. The literal answer to this question at Christmas is not the one people avoid. Everyone who is even remotely familiar with the name Jesus recognizes the fundamental definition of the person of Jesus. Even an Atheist would be able to answer that Jesus is considered the manifestation of God, but much in the way that Jim Carrey was the manifestation of the Grinch in 2000. Accepting who it is said Jesus is, that is not difficult.

The second part to this question is the one many choose to dodge. It is the side of Christmas that requires something of us. Who do you say I am?

Some take the position that Jesus was a masterful teacher and great leader, but nothing more. Others will argue Jesus never claimed to be God with His own tongue, so the idea of being God-like was something placed upon Him by His followers and is a likeness He never intended. Our position on these points are what separates Christians from the rest of the world. To propose that Jesus never came out and said He was God is a very ludicrous suggestion, given the violent end to His life. The government of the day would have no grounds upon which to execute the man, had He not claimed His deity equivalent. Did He bluntly say “I am God”, verbatim? Those exact words leaving His mouth are not recorded, but His claims to literally be God in human form were readily documented.

John 5:16-18 – Jesus claims God as His father.

John 8:54-58 – Jesus sheds light on the timeline of His existence before human birth. “Before Abraham was, I am.”

John 10:24-33 – “The Father and I are one.”

John 20:19 – Post-crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples and addresses them a blessing of peace, the familiar opening line from every angel who appeared to anyone, anywhere.

The poetic and lyrical description of God manifested in the human form of Jesus in Philippians took my mind down the path of song for today’s drawing. The immediate representation of the Christmas birth and sound of a capella voices lands on a mother singing her newborn to sleep. The baby celebrated during this season is not just any baby, a human singing their creator to sleep does not seem an adequate way to represent God “emptying Himself by taking the form of a servant”, as Paul eloquently penned.

Peace was the overwhelming theme I read into these verses, and the atmosphere of Christmas. Physical peace, spiritual peace, emotional peace; the overrunning characteristic of the God of love manifesting Himself for us is peace. So I asked myself, what does peace look like? As a father of three, the answer I kept running back to is the image of a sleeping child. Pure intentions, soft skin, gentle breathing, this is peace. Jesus was born to bring the world peace. What better way to show a baby sent to cover humankind in a blanket of peace than by gently stroking His mother’s hair until she sleeps.

Peace is Jesus’s lullaby to the world.

Who do you say He is?

John 1:12-13

But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.

 

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O Come Let Us Adore Him

NR, 12-23-12, Carols 4, O Come Let Us Adore Him, Provision

 

For our last carol for the Christmas season we’ve selected the old staple, O Come All Ye Faithful; written in 1844 by John Francis Wade.  With much delicate grace given recent events in our nation, Matthew 2:13-23 is today’s focus passage. Jesus is now born and the wise men have visited and paid their tributes to the child king. Herod the Great reigns as king over Judea and has paid close attention to the presence of so many important figures travelling on his territory. He commanded the wise men to bring a detailed report back to him so that he too can go worship Jesus. Seeing through his plan, the men return to their homeland by a different route. Herod learns that the wise men disobeyed his command and acted as he often did during his reign, with rash violence. To protect his throne from a child who was prophesied to become king over the Jews, Herod commands his soldiers murder every boy, two years old or under, living in Bethlehem.  At days end, Herod’s regime murdered 15-20 children in his kingdom that day. Herod’s actions, though violent and terrible, fulfilled the prophecy made by Jeremiah.

In the midst of this beautiful season when Christians celebrate the birth of our savior, we find a horrible account of families being torn apart and lives being destroyed. The pain inflicted on these families is the result of a damaged world which Jesus was born to redeem.With the notion of God’s provision in mind, I used a hand as the basis of today’s image. I borrowed the style from many of Scott Erikson’s pieces, creating a geometrical stained glass appearance and inserting words into the shapes. At the center of the palm is a new born child, representing Jesus and placed in the center of the palm as an allusion to His crucifixion. Along the top of the palm is the word ‘presence’. The presence of God brings the attributes on each finger and the physical presence of God in Jesus is our reason to celebrate. The thumb holds the word ‘hope’ because the thumb is used to give a universal sign of positive approval. ‘Redemption’ is on the pointer finger because the arrival of the Messiah brought the opportunity of redemption to you. The middle finger contains the word ‘freedom’ because it is the finger used by medieval  archers to draw their bows; freedom does not come with out a fight. Whether internal or external, there will always be a struggle to obtain and keep freedom. On the ring finger you see the word ‘salvation’. Christ is the bride of the church and individual salvation is contingent upon our commitment to that relationship. Last, the little finger represents life. I have no deep symbolism for placing life in this finger, I wanted to include the word ‘life’ and chose the pinky finger by default!

This Christmas, despite the terrible events of the last few weeks that have impacted our nation and our communities, O come, let us adore Him. Christ the Lord.

Emmanuel – The King is Here

NR, 12-9, Carols 2, Emmanuel - The King is Here

After a two-week hiatus, I finally have a new spontaneous drawing to share! At least one person in our household has fought an upper respiratory virus, but it’s finally out of the house.

We’ve started a new series for the Christmas season at North Ridge, Carols. The theme focuses on common Christmas carols, their origin and their meaning. Our study of carols will take us through the book of Matthew.

The carol of today is ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ 12th Century, translated into English by John Mason Neale 1851:

O come, o come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel

Read full lyrics here.

Verse one was our main emphasis, leading into Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus in chapter 1.  O Come Emmanuel is a carol that summons the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the blood exchange for our souls.

Matthew 1:18-25 covers an early part of Jesus birth. Mary had learned of her immaculate conception and the significance of the child she carried. In today’s passages, Joseph learns of the coming child and must make a decision; stay betrothed to Mary and adopt the baby as his own or cut his losses and leave Mary to raise the child on her own. Joseph’s character guided his decisions through the process and, like many men hearing his fiancée was pregnant and it was physically impossible for the child to be his, decided to end the relationship. Engagement in this early culture carried with it the weight of legal marriage today. The only detail separating the betrothal period from full marriage was physical consummation. To end a betrothed relationship was to file for divorce. Adultery, in this culture, was also treated much more seriously than it is today. Any woman caught in adultery could face execution by the state. The decision Joseph makes at this point either establishes or eliminates Christianity. Joseph decides to balance justice with mercy and divorce Mary quietly, breaking his responsibility to the relationship but saving Mary’s reputation (and most likely the life of both her and the child).

Obviously, the story does not end here. God understands the importance of a two-parent family and will not allow his son to grow up without a physical father present. An angel visits Joseph in a dream and explains the situation, confirming Mary’s story (v.24). Hearing the supernatural circumstances of his situation from a supernatural source, Joseph decides to remain committed to Mary and effectively adopts the son of God as his own flesh and blood. The imagery here speaks significantly to our relationship with God, where we make the same decision as Joseph to adopt Jesus or not and Jesus, in turn, adopts us as his by stepping in as the ransom for our sins.

My initial inspiration for today’s drawing came from the title of the message, ‘Our King is Here’. I first wanted to visualize what the arrival of a character as significant as Jesus looked like, from an abstract point of view. I chose light to represent the arrival of the Messiah. My next step was to choose the setting. I tossed around ideas of a neatly wrapped Christmas gift, a simple star, or a secluded shack but none of these felt right. Dave Matthew’s Band’s Christmas Song floated into my mind and supplied the inspiration I needed for the setting. One phrase from this song specifically generated the mist of light creeping through the streets of a dark city:

His heart was full of love, love, love

Love, love, love

Love, love is all around.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.

The word originally used for ‘birth’ here is the same word used to recount the creation of the universe, genesis. This word is not being used coincidentally, Jesus was as alive at the creation of earth as he was at physical birth and as he is now. Jesus’ main emphasis throughout his ministry can be summed up in one word, love. His heart was, and still is, full of love and his goal is to fill each of us with that love. Love, love is all around.

The light that represents Christ drops into the middle of the city then proceeds to seep its way in and out of every street, every corner, down every dark alley, slowly filling the city with its presence and replacing darkness with light.

This is why we celebrate Christmas. Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’, the King is here.