What Child is this?

Bob over at Gratitude and Hoopla has kicked it into high gear lately, coinciding nicely with my Christmas Season writer’s block of the past few days (which hit me in ironic synchronization with a nice compliment Bob recently gave me on his blog regarding my Christmas posts).

His latest offering, reproduced in full here: What Child Is This?. Read this, meditate on it. It’s good.

Into this fallen-down, broken-backed, misused world came you, a pure and simple child. Your coming caused the rage of kings and the trembling of ancient empires, while the meek, the weak, the hurt and hardened, stumbled into the flickering stable of your birth and fell to their calloused knees. No one understood quite yet; you’d set a mystery in motion, and questions were the order of the day. “What child is this?” is all that anyone could say. Now many years have passed, and we have seen much evil and much good since that still moment under an unlikely star. What child is this, destined to pierce humanity’s heart? What child is this, the glory of God in a thimble of flesh? What child is this, servant of a thousand-million sinners? What child is this, born to change the destiny of men and shut the mouth of the accuser? This is the one who put off every particle of power, took on the form of new-born, that light might dawn in a dark world. What child is this? The gift and the Giver all in one. Long foretold, now come. Yes, the time of fulfillment has begun. The day has dawned, after a long night. Come, all you faithful, worship and adore him!

“. . . the loud drizzle of the llama’s indefatigable stream . . .”

Inspiration for new posts has temporarily left me. Thankfully, Bob has posted this: The Night the Llama Peed in Church.

I find llamas funny in all cases, ever since I watched The Emperor’s New Groove. Combine that with this all-too familiar story of the well-intentioned but not always well-executed Christmas “pageant”, and Bob’s got a hit! 🙂

A small orchestra was even cobbled together for the occasion. Balky farm animals, fat guys in vaguely Roman-soldier-ish attire, and tuxedoed musicians surrounded the sacred space that was the altar. We in the congregation, our disbelief cheerfully suspended, each year tucked another Christmas Eve service under our belt, proud of our “realistic” show.

Anyway, as I say, there were sheep, a small pony, and a seriously recalcitrant llama. Year after year we watched this ritualized homage to 1st century squalor, heard the monotonous intoning of Isaiah 9, etc. And yet the single “moment” that dominates our memory of these times, Laurie’s and mine, was the year the llama peed on the floor. Yes, the stream was so steady, so extended, so vigorous and yet so non-chalant, and meanwhile all the actors so determined not to notice, even while the less disciplined children and adults in the audience/congregation sniggered with barely-restrained glee . . .

Well, it sticks in my memory. Afterward, some of the elders said, “Never again, no more animals in the sanctuary.” But the pastor, since it was all his idea from the first, argued that the urinating llama added verisimilitude. I don’t know about that. All I know is, all the other Christmas-eve services I’ve ever attended have blended together into one single tableau in my mind’s eye. There are it seems, in that picture, all the children I have ever known, some with cardboard wings on their backs, some dressed as Roman soldiers reading proclamations from clumsy scrolls, and others as Mary and Joseph, beaming over a cherubic baby-Jesus. The music of the orchestra swells, and then there is a brief dramatic pause before the final flourish, intended as a moment of reverent silence, but this time all we can hear is the loud drizzle of the llama’s indefatigable stream.

Thank you, Lord, for so memorably puncturing our seasonal pieties. My prayer this morning is that this Christmas, you do it again.

New Christmas Theme

In the spirit of the season I’ve created a new theme called Bloo Christmas. It will be the default theme for the rest of this month. If your current theme isn’t a Christmas theme, it’s probably because you’ve chosen a theme already sometime in your long association with this blog :-). You can pick the Christmas theme if you like by selecting it from the “Select Theme” dropdown in the navbar.

One other minor change: I created a new SnapOn called PostDateCalendarPageDisplay. It is only active in the Christmas theme and is used to display the little “calendar page” date on the posts. This SnapOn inherits from the PostDateDisplay SnapOn that is part of the base set of SnapOns for Bloo. I shamelessly ripped this nice little date display idea from the excellent Pursuing Holiness blog.

Merry Christmas!

The crucial word

“And they will be thrust into thick darkness.” – Isaiah 8:22

Isaiah 8 is a dark chapter, with its promise of a coming Assyrian invasion of the nation of Israel and its warning of thick darkness coming.

Thank God, the next chapter, chapter 9, begins with a very crucial word.


But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shined.

– Isaiah 9:1-2 (ESV)

“But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish . . . .

There is a glory in the word “But”. In the King James version the word is “Nevertheless”, and, as Matthew Henry states in his commentary on Isaiah 9: “In the worst of times God’s people have a nevertheless to comfort themselves with, something to allay and balance their troubles.”

It is with that word that the text of Isaiah 9 begins, and allays the despair with which Isaiah 8 ended.

“But” . . . Something wonderful is going to happen. Yes, beginning in the lands held in contempt: Zebulun, Naphtali, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,

on them has light shined.

God redeems the darkness in our lives. He provides the “but”, the “nevertheless” that saves us. For we were a people living in thick darkness, without hope, invaded, destroyed, and dead. But at Christmas we who have lived in darkness have seen a great light: Jesus Christ, the light of the whole world.

I may post more on Isaiah 9 later. For now, I’m just thanking God for the chapter’s first, crucial word.

A day of unlooked-for gifts

Today was a day of unlooked-for gifts. This morning Quaid handed Jill two tickets to the Texans game. He had been given them by someone else but couldn’t use them. They were good seats (50 yard line, 3rd level). We decided that Blake and I would go, although we would be late as I had church-duties until noon, which was the game’s start time.

After grabbing some McDonalds Blake and I took off on our road-trip to Reliant Stadium, and we arrived as the 2nd quarter was ending. Being that late was a bit of a perq; our second gift of the day was not having to pay for parking.

As we were walking into the lot one of the tailgaters gave me two tickets. He asked me if I wanted them. Thinking him a scalper I replied “no thanks, I already have tickets”. “Not as good as these”, he replied. They were fifth row, field-level, endzone. Playing along, I said “how much?”

“I’m giving them to you. Thought your kid might like them,” he replied.

Sweet! That was gift three. I’d never sat so close to the action.

The final gift? Nearly a miracle. The Texans won!

It was Blake’s first professional football game (and he’s totally into the NFL right now).

Good day!


“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

– John 10:27-30 (ESV)

So says our Good Shepherd.

As humans and as believers, all of us (well, I assume this is true of you, it’s certainly true of me) experience some occasional FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). We wonder: will God really make all things right in the end? Does he really know and care about me? Will those I know and love who are identified with him stay with him, forever?

These are the questions that occupy my prayers. I think about the just-graduated high schoolers I know who are now navigating the waters of college. I think about my children and their friends. As human beings we are often, frankly, a mess. We are, like Peter, unstable as water, and the wheat and the tares both grow tall in our churches.

So I commit these concerns to God in prayer. More and more, lately, his still, small voice reassures me. We may all quake at the siftings of life. Some of us face situations that make us want to run, screaming, even from the Lord, in our foolishness. But he speaks to me, and he tells me “Fear not. I am in control.”

God is not afraid. Neither does he spend time worrying about our circumstances or what we will do. For his children there is the safety and reassurance in his strong hand. No one can snatch us away from him. Who would dare try? He is the greatest of all. There are no “snatch” plans that will work against him. His hand is strong.

As my mind continues its slow, almost imperceptible renewal and transformation toward thinking thoughts that please my King, I am increasingly comforted by this. There are people that I fret over and worry about; especially those from my student ministry past that I no longer have direct influence over. And it is dumb worry. I never really had any control in the first place. God has the control.

And if they are his, his they will remain. That’s the promise of the one who sees the end from the beginning. They are unsnatchable.

I’m so glad he’s in control!

“This one was born [in Zion]”

– Psalm 87:6b

Angels Fall Down

I saw angels fall down

at the glory of the Lord

the hurt and the broken find rest here

I saw angels fall down

at the beauty of the Lord

and as I kneeled I cried to know Him

And I fall down

afraid and shaking here

And I fall down

I’m perfectly safe in here

– Skillet, Angels Fall Down

That is one worship song I never get tired of.

I was thinking about angels today. They are mysterious creatures to me; bearers of tidings and warnings, ministers to God’s servants and to our Lord himself in his incarnation, ceaseless worshipers of God – the one who commands their countless hosts.

Someday we will fall down before the Lamb with them, in utter awe and wonder but completely safe in his presence. And we will sing, along with every creature in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, the praise of the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.

Amazing . . .

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

– Revelation 5:6-14 (ESV)

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many . . .”

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

– Luke 2:22-35 (ESV)

Simeon is a favorite of mine, and I’ve written about him before. I’m amazed at the faith and faithfulness of this man, for whom the crowning joy of his life was simply a glimpse of Jesus. Thus was God’s promise fulfilled to him, and so he was ready to die in peace.

I once had a New Testament teacher claim that Simeon probably told every beaming new mother that he met in the temple that their son was the Messiah. In other words, Simeon was just a kindly and amiable old man. At the time that seemed “off”. Now it seems preposterous. Read Simeon’s words to Mary; they were not words of comfort.

Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.

Simeon had wisdom from the Lord, and his words recorded in Luke carry great import. During Christmas we often marvel at the wonderful event of the birth of Christ, and with the angels we sing “peace on earth, good will toward men upon whom his favor rests”. It’s easy to forget that the price of our peace was Calvary.

The birth of Jesus was the pivotal event in the history of the universe up to that time. And it was not an event that allows us to remain by the manger cooing at our infant Lord. Jesus came to accomplish a great salvation; the great salvation of a race blinded, bent and broken by sin so grievous that it took the incarnation of God himself to remedy it. This salvation cannot be ignored; Jesus came to earth and the result is the rising and falling of many, the revelation of the thoughts and intents of our human hearts, the final identification of each one of us. In the end, we stand either with our Lord, identified with him and his cross of suffering, or we stand with those who rejected him and put him on the cross and killed him. There is nowhere else to stand, no middle option.

If you don’t know him, may Christmas be a time of new birth for you. May it be the time of your rising!

Merry Christmas.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah . . .

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose origin is from of old,

from ancient days.

Micah 5:2

Join me today in praise of the one who chooses the weak, the small, the insignificant things of this world to become mangers – humble vessels for his glory.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .

– 1 Corinthians 1:25-28 (ESV)


I saw it tonight, on a daddy-date with my sweet daughter Bethany.

It was beautiful. Beautiful and magnificent. The makers of this film have lifted C.S. Lewis’ imagined world right off the page.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged