angels2

these two angel ‘drafts’ are, in my quite different. They are part of the Advent, wonder series. We published on the stewardship blog http://www.stewardship.org.uk/blog/blog the second one. Please comment-which one works for you? Cheers

Angels’ adoration

The word ‘angel’ in the Greek means ‘messenger’ and whenever angels appear we usually expect them to fulfil this purpose as messengers of God. One of the subtle wonders of Advent is that this is not their only role in the narrative, neither is it their primary role.
One Angel visits the shepherds and announces, “A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” This sparks a chain reaction: the shepherds run immediately to Bethlehem, see the baby and it is they who deliver the message of the Messiah’s birth to everyone they meet. So, if the shepherds are the messengers, what is the primary role of angels in the Advent story? Wikipedia describes the angels of the Nativity as ‘messengers’ and shepherds as those who ‘adore.’ It is in fact the reverse. The messenger job belongs to the shepherds in the field. So what is the angels’ role?
Adoration. Adoration of the message: the good news that the Saviour is born. They adore the gospel, the Word made flesh. This is what they long to see and sing of. Let’s look at their song:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2, 13-14 NIV
It is a simple chorus, a few words. But not a few raise their voices, ‘a great company’ appear and sing.
Picture a clear night; the shepherds are together in a field. One angel appears, then more angels, too numerous to count. They need space, lots of space to arrive in what had to be glorious light. Picture this great angelic choir singing in adoration and glory to God for the Incarnation, the Word coming to earth in the form of a baby. 1Peter1:12 describes the longing of angels to ‘stoop and look into these things’ (Weymouth New Testament). These ‘things’ are the gospel, the words of the prophets now made flesh as a baby and later in the flesh of a crucified Saviour.
‘Stoop’ is what the angelic choir does in Luke chapter 2: angels come from the highest heaven, to an earth’s manger to see a child in swaddling clothes born. ‘Stoop’ describes Jesus’ journey from heaven to earth. God’s message stoops to an animal shed as it enters our world. Psalm 18:36 states that God ‘stoops down to make us great.’ God, as a loving parent, stoops into our lives. He places his gift in the mangers of our hearts. This is God’s plan: to make us great through belief in the gift of Jesus, His son. It is a gift for all. Angels sing their adoration to the people who are lowest on the social ladder, shepherds, because that is the message; a Saviour born for all; the highest has come to seek and save His lost. Angels adore this message, this indescribable gift.
How will you adore Him?

Advent wonder, published post follows:

angels: abundant in worship

The word ‘angel’ in the Greek means ‘messenger’ and whenever angels appear we usually expect them to fulfil this purpose as messengers of God. One of the subtle wonders of Advent is that this is not their only role in the narrative, neither is it their primary role.
One Angel visits the shepherds and announces, “A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.” This sparks a chain reaction: the shepherds run immediately to Bethlehem, see the baby and it is they who deliver the message of the Messiah’s birth to everyone they meet. So, if the shepherds are the messengers, what is the primary role of angels in the Advent story? Wikipedia describes the angels of the Nativity as ‘messengers’ and shepherds as those who ‘adore.’ It is in fact the reverse. The messenger job belongs to the shepherds in the field. So what is the angels’ role?
Adoration. Adoration of the Word made flesh; the good news that the Saviour is born. This is what they long to see and sing of. Let’s look at their song:
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” Luke 2, 13-14 NIV
It is a simple chorus, a few words. But not just a few raise their voices: ‘a great company’ appear and sing. They are united, generous and abundant in their adoration and worship.
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In your journal…
In his essay, This is Water, David Foster Wallace says that “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”
Where do you invest the best of your energy and adoration? If we’re going to think about what it means to be generous, we have to look at where we already devote our resources. Write a paragraph answering the question: what am I worshipping today? Consider whether you need to refocus your priorities with a more generous lens.

the wonder, mary

This is the 1st draft of ‘Mary: surrenders her future’
The final bit is posted beneath

Advent wonder, a mother’s generous song
The two most visible characters in the Advent narrative, Mary and the Jesus, are, on the face of it, the ones with the least to give: a baby child and his mother. What could they give? Mary was probably about fifteen years old when the Angel Gabriel approached her with the news of a child’s birth. At the time, it was hardly welcome news. She was engaged to Joseph but not married. In a moment she became an unwed pregnant teenage girl, open to gossip and speculation. According to the Torah, she could be stoned. The destiny of her child would provoke jealousy from earthly rulers such as Herod. So how does Mary respond? She gives her body and her soul. To her, giving her body represents her future: her planned future with her betrothed, Joseph, now ended; her economic future, her whole life plan is changed. All is uncertainty.
Yet, in the midst of great unknown she composes a soul-filled song, the first song ever composed about Jesus’ birth. It is a song of generosity. It is a song that speaks of her understanding of who her son is. She surrenders her future, her body and her soul to glorify God. Mary is the first person to experience a life-saving salvation, the ‘good news.’ It begins, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ Her song proclaims the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus and she sings to God, the Father. The world of Mary’s time called the Emperor Augustus, ‘Saviour; Son of God; Bringer of Peace’. At Augustus’ inauguration the whole of the empire heard the official Roman proclamation of ‘Pax Romana,’ or peace and ‘good news.’ The Roman world longed for salvation. Mary’s body and soul sings of the coming of that salvation.
I wonder if she sung this same song to Jesus after his birth? I wonder if she told him of her closing thoughtful response to the Angel Gabriel, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.’?
Years later, in a garden, the man Jesus was asked to take on the sins of the world. He prayerfully said to the Father, ‘Not my will. Yours be done.’ Jesus, the son of God, does the Father’s will. And he echoed his mother’s words. Her song.
What songs will you sing at Christmas time? Will your voice echo Mary’s, remembering and rejoicing in the ‘Mighty things’ He has done for you and surrendering to his plans?
This is what Mary gives: her body, her life and she gives them in joyful song. She sings ‘the Mighty One has done great things for me.’ Mary sings for Him. For us. She teaches souls to sing.
Reflect: what will you surrender?

And below is what we posted on ‘Stewardship’ web site for Advent Wonder

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Mary: surrenders her future

“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Mary was probably about fifteen years old when the Angel Gabriel approached her with the news of a child’s birth. At the time, it was hardly welcome news. She was engaged to Joseph but not married. In a moment she became an unwed pregnant teenage girl, open to gossip and speculation. According to the Torah, she could be stoned: her life, and her unborn child’s life, were in Joseph’s hands. Physically, her body would never be the same again after the rigours of pregnancy and childbirth. The destiny of her child would provoke jealousy from earthly rulers such as Herod. Her life had been mapped out with Joseph creating a family with economic security, but now everything hung in the balance. So how does Mary react? Her response is generous. She surrenders her plans and her future and plunges her life into uncertainty.
Yet, in the midst of great unknown she composes a song of praise and worship: the first song ever composed about Jesus’ birth. It is a song of generosity. It is a song that speaks of her understanding of who her son is. It begins, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.’ (Luke 1:46)
Mary is the first person to experience authentic salvation – the good news – and she proclaims it extravagantly.
What songs will you sing at Christmas time? Will your voice echo Mary’s, remembering and rejoicing in the ‘mighty things’ (Luke 1: 49) he has done for you? Are you surrendering to his plans?
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In your journal…

Mary held nothing back – she gave everything that she had when the call came. Are you holding anything back? What prevents you from being generous? For some, it might go beyond financial limitations. It might be an emotional thing – a fear of not having enough yourself. It may be a relational thing – perhaps those closest to you don’t share your views about giving. Whatever your reasons, take some time over the weekend to grapple with them, and surrender them to God.
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the wonder, begins with Magi

This week Stewardship is publishing ‘Advent wonder’ an eight part series looking at Advent through the prism of eight personages of the Nativity story.

Directly below is one of my drafts on this piece. Beneath it is the link to the series and the final posted bit. Please read, and if desire, comment on the process from the draft (drafts2) to the finished project. Wonder at Advent; Him; and His gift, our gospel message.

the Magi – Advent’s purpose: wonder

Why are we beginning our Advent wonder with the Magi?  We begin with the Magi because they are our guides, our feet and our eyes as we journey. They saw the end at the beginning. They saw first; they see for us. Who were the Magi? The Magi were priests: skilled interpreters and seers of dreams and stars.  They looked to the skies to see heaven, to glimpse an unknown, yet true God. Like the Levites in Israel, the Magi functioned as priests in Persia. Each, in all probability, came from a family of scientists and priests. For centuries their families had studied philosophy and medicine; science and the stars. Vital knowledge was passed down for safe keeping to and through them. For the Magi to leave their homes, their nations and their cultures and world, they had to have a driving sense of purpose and commitment. What their families had long awaited appeared in the skies:  a star. And not just a star, but ‘his’ star. The star had appeared.  History was being completed. No more studies.  Now was the time to journey, to follow. The Magi’s eyes opened wide and wider and they were compelled by what they saw to start their journey to find the new-born king of the Jews before anyone else. They weren’t observant Jews eagerly awaiting the Messiah.  But the Magi saw what others who were looking did not see. They opened their hearts and followed with full and generous time and gifts. They were in wonder. And their purpose? Their end -point? Worship.

Seeing the unfamiliar light in the sky, they knew it had a historic significance and believed this star pointed to the birth and appearance of a great king of the Jewish people. Heaven was pointing their eyes to earth and they followed the star, its light, fire or flame. What do we know about them and their journey?  Tradition points to three Magi because of their three gifts, but we do not know how many Magi there actually were. Neither do we know exactly how old the child Jesus was when they visited; only that he was under two years old.  And where? Probably not a manger, but Mary and Joseph’s home. But what we do know, what we can be certain of, is their purpose, what their ‘destination’ was. When the Magi came to Herod’s court in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2: 2)

We share with them the same purpose as we begin this season of Advent. They prepared precious gifts: gold and incense and myrrh, and plotted the star to follow. Our destination today is the same: it is to worship. Jesus is our ‘bright morning star’ (Rev. 22:16).

Reflect: What is your journey? Where have you been; where are you today; where do you desire to go?

http://stewardship-news.org/P3Z-20PE2-7D8VQG2QC9/cr.aspx

The Magi: generous on purpose

“We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” Matthew 2:2

We start our Advent journey with the Magi because they are our guides.

They saw the end at the beginning. For centuries before Jesus’ birth, the Magi studied the skies – looking for a sign that he was coming.

They studied the prophecies; they passed down ancient wisdom from one generation to the next; they watched and waited. Long before the manger in Bethlehem, these scholars searched for a single star that would lead them to the one who had been born King of the Jews. A voyage was inevitable. But it wasn’t going to be an effortless journey. 

What might it mean for you to give up your home and your livelihood, and pursue God for months – maybe even years – across whole nations?

With drive, purpose and conviction the Magi left their world behind and journeyed generously. They gave their time and they prepared thoughtful and precious gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

We don’t know how long the journey took. But what we do know– what we can be certain of – is that the Magi journeyed with purpose.

By carefully studying a rich history of knowledge, they were able to plot their future journey with purpose and passion. And what was their end-point?

Worship.

 

We share with them the same purpose as we begin the season of Advent.