Tag Archives: Christmas

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Gloriously Dependent

‘The incarnation has forever hallowed the flesh.’ Charles Williams (as quoted by Leanne Payne in The Healing Presence)

Today we rejoice in God assuming baby flesh—the Father and Son’s choice for the King of glory to become as small and dependent as we are. It’s weird: here I am on the crest of my 60th Christmas and I feel smaller than ever, reduced to utter dependence upon Jesus. Our spiritual life is not like our psychological journey in which we master one stage in order to proceed onto the next. In Jesus, we are continually reduced to His greater Life until we, aging fetuses all, launch into the Life for which we ache more today than yesterday.

It helps to revisit what happened on Christmas: ‘God really came down. He became an infant and placed Himself in a state of vulnerability and total dependence, which is the condition of a newborn human being. The Creator who holds the world in His hands, on whom we all depend, became a little child in need of human love’ (Dom Jean-Charles Nault). God depended on love.

That gives me hope. He gets the longing in our hearts for connection and communion, the ache for the full breast and strong chest, a yearning much deeper than survival or sexual needs: it is the ache to be enveloped and infused by the Creator. And here is the mystery of Christmas. The humble babe has never ceased to be Almighty God who declares to us today: ‘I am Jesus, and I will love you better than the best mother or father or friend or lover or spouse!’

God in humility entered into our dependency; in majesty, He offers Himself as the Source to whom we can cling. I don’t cling to people any more. But I linger longer in His Presence than before. The winds blow harder on my thinning skin. Over the last few weeks I have broken down on several occasions and just wept, His mercy priming my heart to feel the burden of those I love and to know somehow that Jesus is enough for them. Tears release my distress and draw me near the One who took on baby flesh in order to reduce me to utter dependence. Gloriously.

He upholds me for the sake of pure joy. Yesterday I dangled my grandson on one arm while throwing balls to our two labs. He loved it! His head bobbled as he tracked the dogs racing around the yard. What better than a laughing babe, rejoicing at creation for the first time? Jesus, Jacob, us. Merry Christmas.

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Home

The next few weeks beg the question: ‘What is home to me?’ Holidays highlight our origins and our goals surrounding home. In the countdown to Christmas, some forego reflection for a cyclone of activity; surrounded by love, we worry only that we will forget to give love to deserving ones.

Others dread the quiet of remembering what did not happen this year. Will our place at the table this year confirm our progress in forging family or remind of us of the gaps?

I write this on our last morning in a tiny rental house; we move on this freezing morning to a new house we bought three months ago. Now mostly refurbished, this new tent awaits as we pack poles and fold up canvas.

Home. Is it a place? A memory? A goal? I consider these questions in our yearend newsletter that I submit to you here. Might you take a few minutes and reflect upon it? Each member of the Desert Stream/Living Waters leadership team took time to consider their take on the subject of ‘home.’ I hope you are as pleased with the outcome as I am.

I pray for your clarity in defining your version and vision of ‘home.’

Click here to read the Desert Stream/Living Water Year End Newsletter.

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father-figure

Father-Figure?

‘All I wanted, something special, something sacred in your eyes; I will be your father-figure…’ George Michael

The pop singer died on Christmas, the day Christ was born afresh in the hearts of faithful ones. Michael’s broken heart gave out as Jesus offered us broken ones the Father’s heart. ‘When you were children, you were slaves under the world’s system. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son…so we could receive our full rights as sons and daughters. Because we are now His children, He sends us the Spirit of His Son, who cries out “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer slaves but sons…’ (Gal. 4:3-7)

Few represent enslavement to the world’s system better than George Michael. He gifted us with infectious pop hooks and videos, while slowly taking his own life in homosexual addiction and drug use. Some claim that homophobia drove him to cruising bathrooms and smoking crack but I say it is the nature of the world’s system itself; the holy longing for Father twisted into enslavement to eroticized ‘father-figures.’

Guilty, sure—sensitive people ‘get’ dehumanizing practices. But bad feelings do not break chains. Drugs dull the ache but cannot take it away. Neither do ‘gay-affirming’ laws (spoiler alert: male ‘gay marriages’ make few if any claims to monogamy) or the likes of Madonna and Elton John whose effusive eulogizing of George Michael suggest their own guilt.

In the glare of a man struck down by a world that enslaves estranged sons of God, we are all a little guilty. We choose to no longer even use the language of slavery to describe the divided life Michael lived. We fear that the ‘gay feds’ will brand us ‘haters’ or worse, ‘reparative therapists.’ Even churchmen qualify the truth that Jesus transforms the ‘gay-identified’ into sons and daughters of the Father.

So we mute the power of Christmas. We turn down the relevance of Jesus’ descent into the muck in order to reclaim children of dignity, who summons what is real and true from the rubble of our lives and who stokes His refinement of us by His Spirit. We are now artful dodgers; we so nuance St. Paul’s words that we reduce the Holy One to a ‘father-figure’ rather than the Lord of all.

George Michael postured himself as a ‘father-figure’ in a vain effort to secure the love he needed. But his world was a cruel, unforgiving one that tempts men only to torment them. His light burnt out. May his tragic end bring us to our knees and provoke us to manifest the One who makes sons and daughters out of slaves.

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Birth Pains

‘This child will be a stumbling block, causing some to fall and others to rise in Israel; He will be a sign that divides and reveals the hearts of many. Your heart, Mary, will be pierced as well.’ (LK 2:34, 35)

Simeon prophesies the piercings incited by the Prince of peace. Perhaps this is why the day after Christmas we celebrate the Church’s first martyr, St. Stephen; having barely mediated upon Jesus’ birth, we honor the cruel death of one who embodied Christ by forgiving his murderers as they pelted him with stones (Acts 7).

What further unites this birth and death is the angelic countenance shared by Stephen in his witness (Act 6:15) unto death and Jesus in His birth. The crib points always to the Cross, Jesus’ and our little ones, His Presence our radiant hope amid suffering endured for and through Him.

A particular suffering increasing among faithful families at Christmas is the ‘coming out’ of members who now insist upon their ‘gay’ self or marriage (or some gender-bending variant). That is often the ‘gift’ these ones offer their bewildered loved ones on holidays. A friend described the devastation wrought by a lame relative who now insists that he is a woman; he showed up for Christmas dinner in drag and disoriented all present, especially his 90-year-old grandmother. Another friend shared with me mournfully how his entire family-of-origin refused to speak to him (let alone gather with him) at Christmas due to his refusal to attend his mother’s ‘gay’ wedding. Yet another, a father of four children just discovered he is sharing his wife this Christmas with another woman, a relationship she has no intention of giving up.

I have only mercy for persons in sexual conflict, and believe that all must exercise free will in regards to what they do with those conflicts; that, however, does not make every choice good. I have mercy mixed with holy fear for persons who resolve their conflicts by asserting an identity, and exercising versions of friendship and marriage that defies the Creator and Redeemer of all.

However, my greatest ache lies for the family members who are given a brittle ‘embrace me or else’ verdict by loved ones who come under a dispensation distinct from Christian orthodoxy. These families are being asked to exchange their views on creation, redemption, and love for alien beliefs. Justice for all? ‘Coming out’ may be better described as a profoundly selfish act.

Christian love means we agree with what is honorable, and have the courage to disagree with poor decisions our loved ones make while mercifully bearing with them. Many of my friends are not even free to bear with their members, having been written off as intolerant, haters, etc. They are experiencing a new kind of stoning, a fulfillment of Jesus’ words when He said: ‘From now on, there will be five in one family divided against each other…father against son and son against father, mother against daughter…’ (LK 12:52, 53)

Jesus is willing to breaks hearts in order to heal them; He may even divide the faithful from members who are offended by Him. May we welcome His peace in our pierced hearts.

T.S. Eliot writes in the last stanza of ‘Journey of the Magi’:

Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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Courage and Creativity

‘A woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown to twelve stars on her head…was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth…then an enormous red dragon stood in front of her …so that it might devour the child the moment it was born…she gave birth to a son …who was snatched up to God and to His throne…And there was war in heaven.’   (Rev. 12: 1-7)

Mary believed God. Her consent to bear new life brought forth the Deliverer who delivers us from sin and death. Her ‘yes’ contested hell. Yet in spite of provoking Herod and demons and dragons, Mother and Child created Heaven on earth—Christ the Living Temple–the sole refuge from our chaos and despair.

Creating new life requires faith. Only in surrender to the One under whose shadow we create can we find the courage to bring forth something new and life-giving on the bleak landscape around us. Like Mary, we must be virgin, single-eyed and attentive to only One.

And be prepared to fight for the life emerging in and through us. Like Nehemiah and those he summoned to restore the wall around Jerusalem, we stand as healers, repairing the damage with one hand while fending off the enemies of new life with the other. (Neh. 4: 15-18)

From the start of our married life, Annette and I faced dragons seeking to extinguish our creativity. More than one well-meaning saint warned us against marrying on the ground that this ‘gay’ dude could not pull it off. Over the next 32 years, activists have not ceased accusing us of ‘living a lie.’

Gratefully, Jesus and Mary did not go the distance simply to confirm my faith in the ‘truth’ of homosexuality! They did so to open wombs and activate loins to bring forth new life. My four amazing kids testify to the fruit of Mary’s ‘yes’: the Deliverer who makes us new in the very depths of our being so that we can offer ourselves to one another in authentically creative ways.

Annette’s courage surpasses mine here. She believed God, not only for our children’s well-being, but also for many children that might be created from those destined to be ‘gay’. Today we are surrounded by those who believed God for more. We know their good lives, made virginal through attentiveness to the One. And we behold their fruitfulness: single lives made pure, marriages restored, sons and daughters born and raised by parents whose integrity was born of their ‘yes’ to God.

Casualties? Of course: dragons prowl and devour hope by promoting ‘gay’ as good and beyond God’s reach. Like Mary, we smash his head by saying ‘yes’ to God and the creativity that comes only through faithful surrender to the fruit of her womb.

‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman, than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord. (Is 54: 1)

‘Now have come the salvation and power and kingdom of God…for our accuser has been hurled down. We overcame the dragon by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.’ (Rev. 12: 10, 11)

 

 

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