Archive for March, 2013

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

Wow. What a verse for Easter Saturday!

Emmanuel – God with us.

That’s what we celebrate at Christmas – the arrival of God incarnate.

And eventually that is who the disciples came to know

We have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God! (John 6:69)

In a way we cannot fathom, God was with them. In the flesh. Walking, talking, eating, healing…

Until He wasn’t.

Easter Saturday the body of Emmanuel lay dead in a sealed tomb.

You know, every year – in an effort to not just skip from celebrating Palm Sunday to celebrating Resurrection Sunday – I try to imagine what it would have been like. How they must have felt. At the Last Supper… in the garden… in the darkness and silence and grief…

But the fact of the matter is, I can’t fully feel what they felt. Oh, I can imagine and sympathize and, to varying degrees, even empathize. But I cannot un-know what I know: Jesus didn’t stay in that tomb.

On this side of the empty tomb and through the grace of God in my life, I have no cognition of what it is to be without Emmanuel.

God with us.

Oh, what grace!

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Spring brings its usual moodiness. Cold and warmth and wind and rain and sun all shuffled about and seemingly fighting for predominance. There is longing for the longer, warmer days of the growing season. Yet some days the dreary gray seems to win out over hope. Even the political climate, though leaders have changed, is still very similar and still very bleak.  It’s always the same. But it wasn’t always the same… I thought something had changed…  Hey, well, at least it’s Passover. Perhaps something to look forward to? Perhaps this year…?

But no. Nothing changes this year, either.

Now imagine that I didn’t just write the above paragraph. I could have. I really could.

But imagine it was written 2,000 years ago.


Well, almost.

Okay, for the sake of argument let’s say that the year “0” was the birth of Jesus. And because we know that Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25th and it was warm enough out for the shepherds to be in fields, let’s use a date sometime between Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles – How about August?

So in August in the year of 0 something exciting happens. Well, at least for those who got word about it…

Like the shepherds. They received an angelic announcement, proclaiming good news of great joy, the promised Messiah had been born! They went and saw and spread the news and were filled with joy!

So where were they on a cold March day nearly 13 years later?

And then there’s Simeon. Led into the temple by the Spirit, he sees the baby Jesus and proclaims, “Now, Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace… for my eyes have seen Your salvation.”

Did he die shortly thereafter? Or was he around nearly 13 years later and, if so, what did he see when he looked around? How nothing had seemingly changed? How in many ways things seemed to have gotten worse?

After all, it’s a cold March day nearly 13 years later…

Do you remember what you were doing in August of 2000? Doesn’t it seem like ages ago?

If you’re American, you probably remember what you were doing on September 11, 2001. Just as the Bethlehemites surely could have described exactly what they were doing when Herod’s soldiers arrived to slaughter all the baby boys aged 2 and under…

Yet even that was more than a decade ago now…

And it’s just a cold day in March…

Each year our church calendar – and rightly so, I think – takes us from Advent to Christmas to Lent to Easter. And yes, there are periods of darkness and longing and waiting and expectation and fulfillment and fasting and repentance and reflecting and celebration.

Yet it occurred to me as I walked with the characters of the Christmas story during Advent and then again as certain names of God/Jesus have come up in lectio over the past couple of months… it occurred to me that for them that first Christmas, the fulfillment and the birth and the celebration was just the beginning. A seed, if you will. For after the shepherds returned to their work and Simeon and Anna gave their prophecies and blessings and the magi took the long route home… after that life rather returned to normal, didn’t it? Most of the gospel accounts don’t mention Jesus again until he begins his ministry at age 30.

Except Luke.

Luke tells us that when Jesus was twelve and he and his parents went to Jerusalem for Passover, he got caught up in deep discussion with the teachers in the temple.

I wonder, was Simeon still around? Or Anna? Did they hear of this boy-wonder who was stumping the teachers? Did they remember another special day in the temple nearly 13 years before?

But here’s my point. Here is where I want us to go:

If the year 2000 is the year 0 and this is a cold March day, nearly 13 years later… then the boy Jesus is sitting in the temple this Passover.

There are still some 18 years before he begins teaching, healing, discipling…

And some 21 years yet before the events of the Passover during which Jesus was arrested, tried, sentenced and crucified.

Until the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom.

Until the final sacrifice was made.

Until God’s plan of redemption came to fulfillment.

Where will you be in 21 years?

Could you wait that long?

Because this is what gets me: The shepherds rejoiced at the good news of a Savior even though it would be 33 years until it was known what that would really look like… And Simeon could die in peace seeing “the Lord’s salvation” even though that salvation wouldn’t fully be worked out for 33 years…

One of my favorite theological terms I learned in college is “already/not yet”. The shepherds rejoice that the good news is here! Yet the fulfillment has only just begun. Simeon has seen the Lord’s salvation, but it is not yet finished (until Jesus says it is)…

Maybe sometimes we rejoice because we see or taste or experience glimpses and moments even though the final, full fulfillment is yet to come?

Oh, to have the faith of those in Hebrews 11 who “did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it.”

After all, sometimes it seems to be just a cold March day, nearly 13 years later…

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