Day Twenty Two: Home

2 Samuel 7:1-11,16
Luke 1:46b-55
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

This year was a tumultuous one for my family and I as we sold the house that we had dreamed of, built, and lived in for fifteen years; packed a lifetime of memories into 52 boxes; and immigrated to an unfamiliar land with the hope and the promise that God would go ahead to prepare a place for us ….

In the midst of all the uncertainty and anxiety lay this grace: that we had a home to go to, a place of our own where we would be sheltered and safe while jobs, schools, church, furnishing etc. slowly fell into place.

Home. Our home. From the moment we inserted the key in the lock and opened up a welcome space, all of the unfamiliarities and inconveniences and heartaches suddenly seemed manageable.

Home.

King David had found one in the conquered city of Jerusalem. All settled in, he was suddenly conscious of the fact that while he enjoyed the comfort and protection of his cedar house, the Spirit of the Lord had been residing in a plain tent since the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in the land of Egypt.

Yet even as he ponders building a dignified sanctuary for the Lord, God declares:

“ I shall build you a house.
I who took you from leading sheep to leading my people,
who raised you from a humble shepherd to a conquering king;
I who have been with you and gone before
and granted you victory after victory over your enemies –
I will appoint a place for my people
and ensure that your family and your royal kingdom are permanently ensured”
(2 Samuel 7:11-16, paraphrased).

Home.

A home worthy for a king: the King of Creation, our Prince of Peace.

And so God sent the angel Gabriel to a small village called Nazareth, in Galilee, to a young virgin named Mary who was engaged to be married to a man from David’s line.

And Gabriel appeared to her and said:

“Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you,”
(Luke 1:28, The Message).

Mary was perplexed – and probably more than a little shaken – to receive such a greeting from this divine messenger.

As we may well be when we realise that God does not want to be housed in an ornate temple that we visit on sacred days or even relegated to the mysterious heights of heavens …

but God chooses to make God’s home with and within us.

God is with us:
settled into the ordinary and the everyday of our routines,
present  for our wonderings and our worryings,
sitting in on our questions and our conversations,
welcoming the visitors to our door
and walking with us through the neighbourhood …

… God is home

… we remember and we celebrate – particularly this night.

Light a candle or leave a light on this night as a symbol of welcome and invitation to God who longs to make home with you.

Day Twenty: Heroes

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
2 Samuel 6:12-19
Hebrews 1:5-14

One of the questions that I’ve most enjoyed asking young people – both within church and school settings – over the years is to identify their heroes. The answers always follow the same pattern:
a few joking proclamations of “I’m Batman” or Wonderwoman or even Spongebob Squarepants (often accompanied by the theme song which gets stuck in my head for days);
followed by the names of a few famous people like Beyonce or Tyra Banks (or anyone who has recently won Idols);
followed by a few “right-sounding” answers – Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Maya Angelou –
and then there’s an awkward silence and a shifting in the seats until some brave soul blurts out,
“my mom,”
“my gran,”
“my best friend,”

followed by a long and breathless explanation as to why someone so ordinary counts as a hero ….

And suddenly everyone has a name to offer, a story to tell, about an every-day, ordinary, real-life hero whose faith or love or sacrifice or integrity or perseverance in the face of unbelievable adversity has inspired them and made a permanent impression on that young person’s life.

King David was a great hero to Ethan the Ezrahite, and, indeed, to the whole nation of Israel.

Psalm 89 is a song of remembrance:
of his special calling and anointing,
his prowess in battle,
his servant heart,
his close walk with God;
of the glory days of the kingdom
which should have endured forever in accordance with God’s promises –
‘I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations’ (verse 4).

Yet we know of at least one person who most certainly was not a fan: Michal, the daughter of Saul who “despised him in her heart” as she witnessed his triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the ark of the covenant, leaping and dancing before the Lord in a linen ephod (2 Samuel 6:14-16).

The reason for her contempt – besides the obvious hatred for the man who had succeeded her father – was this symbolic act of exchanging his kingly garments for a dress worn even by the young servants of a priest’s family; an undignified declaration that though he was Israel’s anointed king, he was one of the people and a simple servant of God.

In a similar fashion, Christ, in clothing himself in fragile human form, reveals that he is one of us and a servant of the Father.

Yet, as God brings his firstborn into the world, he proclaims that even the angels must worship him:
for his throne will last forever
and he will rule with fairness;
when the earth and skies he once fashioned are worn out,
still he will remain –
the same –
in his love of good and his loathing of evil
(Hebrews 1:5-14).

The reason why heroes are so important is that they inspire us to become heroes ourselves. They influence our values, set us goals to aspire to, and – in the way that they have transformed the world for us – invite us to consider how we will transform the world for others.

As we move ever closer to Christmas and welcome the firstborn of the Father into the world, I wonder what his example teaches us to aspire to.

Today, reflect on the role models and heroes that have been present in your life. 

Give thanks to God for their example and influence.

Consider how you may be a hero of the faith in the coming year. 

Day Nineteen: Love Song

Psalm 89:1-4,19-26
2 Samuel 6:1-11
Hebrews 1:1-4

“Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world”
Psalm 89:1-2 (The Message).

Love is the first and final Word in our story:
in love we were knit together, intimately known even before we were born;
for love we were made – love of family, love of friends, love of lovers, love of the Lord;
and through Love we are set free from the bonds of sin and death and claimed for the eternal.

In the days of the prophets, there were words of warning and promises of restoration; exhortations to return to God; calls to repentance and fasting and sacrifice, cautions to remain faithful to God’s covenant with his people …

… so many times, so many ways … God reached out, redeemed, liberated, forgave, opened up the way ….

And then Christ came, the last and final Word:

the radiance of God’s glory,
the exact representation of his being,
the sustainer of all things by his powerful word –

Love.                                           (Hebrews 1:1-2)

While you’re revelling in this love song of God always reaching out for you, let’s interject with another story ….

The people of Israel are having a party. David is king. He has captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and defeated the Philistines and is bringing back the ark of the covenant to his new capital. There are songs of celebration; people laughing, pushing, dancing as they make their way in the procession.

And then the oxen stumble and a young man, unthinkingly, reaches out to stabilise the ark – this holy and sacred chest which housed the ten commandments and was a sign of God’s presence with them – and is struck dead in accordance with the Lord’s warning in Numbers 4:15b:

“But they must not touch the holy things or they will die.”

David is perplexed, afraid and angry, and puts aside the ark in the house of Obed-Edom for three months – where it a source of blessing to Obed and to his whole household.

Love.

The love of God is a fearsome gift;
the presence of God-with-us a precious thing.

Though the Good News of Christ’s coming may be cause for joyful singing and laughing and celebrating and dancing, the love of God for us is not to be taken forgranted or treated lightly …

… and the One who Loved us so much that he took on our form and entered fully into our life, suffering and death for us remains
the radiance of God’s glory,
the exact imprint of his nature,
the one who upholds the universe by the power of his word.

This is no little love but LOVE.

A Love to be in awe of.
A Love to cherish.
A Love to treat as sacred and holy.
A Love to take seriously.
A Love to honour and obey.

Today, consider a posture or a symbol of reverence that you can incorporate into your prayer life or Christmas celebrations … like Moses taking off his shoes on holy ground … kneeling in prayer … sitting with open, outstretched hands etc.