The Art of Advent
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About: A 24 day collective journey of anticipating the birth of Jesus.
Art of Advent Day 1 Luke 1:1-4

…so that you may know the certainty…

May this be a journey that brings you to a place of certainty.
photo credit: An Unexpected Journey

Art of Advent Day 1 Luke 1:1-4

…so that you may know the certainty…

May this be a journey that brings you to a place of certainty.

photo credit: An Unexpected Journey

Art of Advent - Day 28 Luke 2:16-20

Luke 2:16-20 “Ponder” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. The wait is over! Christ the King is born! Glory in the Highest! The Savior of the world, in flesh, laying in a stable in Bethlehem, a humble birth, visitors from afar, a promise from God for generations to come. The journey experienced was different for each person in the Christmas story, but each person was led to the same place: a small baby. Those who saw Him, spread the word about what happened and all who heard were amazed. Mary treasured and pondered her journey, while the shepherds glorified God for all they witnessed. How will you respond to this news? We pray that as you’ve been on this advent journey with us, that God has spoken to your heart with a fresh revelation. It’s been an honor to share the words from Luke with you as well as our thoughts. Merry Christmas and may you spread, ponder, and rejoice in all that you’ve seen and heard about the Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Art of Advent - Day 27 Luke 2:13-15

“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 favor rests.’
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’”
— Luke 2:13-15 (NIV)

Have you ever asked who is “a great company of the heavenly host”? Until today, I hadn’t really thought about it. While I am no theologian, I would suppose they are, in a very general sense, beings that have never experienced and manifested sin as you and I have. They do not “need” a Savior, in the sense that we do. There is no need for them to respond to an alter call, say the sinner’s prayer ™, or do whatever it is one is “supposed to do” to become “saved.” Still, they praise — they celebrate! They are excited to simply worship God because he is that great, in and of himself, apart from anything He has done for you and me. Isn’t that awesome?! A King that garners the praise of angelic beings loved us enough to become the propitiation for our sins. A King that wanted for nothing chose to be in relationship with you and with me, and to make us (and all things) new in Him! If this company of the heavenly host found Him praiseworthy, how much more should we!

And what about the shepherds? Who were they? My understanding is that these guys were the sort of folk that would have lived largely in isolation, outside of the towns, sleeping under the stars with their animals (as such, I am guessing there was also a trademark smell). They were a suspicious group and I am told that their testimony wasn’t even admissible in court. A pastor I heard once said that “shepherd would not have been a job you shot for, shepherd was the job you ended up with.” And yet, these are the people to whom the angel appears, proclaiming the good news. Strange, isn’t it?

These verses remind me that God’s glory is not confined to the story of my personal salvation, and that His grace extends to places that may seem very unlikely to me. As we near the birth celebration of our Lord, then, let us stand in awe of a glory that we can only partially comprehend, and give thanks that Grace reaches the forgotten and unlikely. “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”

Art of Advent - Day 26 Luke 2:8-12

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2: 8-12

There was no talking Him out of it; nothing would shake His resolve. The Word became flesh and made His home among us. Hope kissed an unsuspecting world, and we had no idea how to deal.

Have you ever had wonderful news to tell? Or ever had a surprise for someone who didn’t see it coming?
A few summers ago, I met up with some family at our lakeside cabin in Northern MN. Before I arrived, my cousin had lost a diamond engagement ring somewhere in the watery abyss while skiing. Crushed and dejected after hours of looking, the search was called off.

Early next morning, emboldened by what I believed to be a prompting from God, I found myself at the end of the dock shivering… “Lord, please lead me to that ring.”

I found it in 2 minutes.

Can you imagine what I felt? Walking up the stairs leading up to the cabin, clutching the treasure like my life depended on it? I could barely hold it in! I wanted to sing and dance!
My cousin was stunned. And for a moment time itself stopped, startled by the miraculous.

That story is a pale example of God’s greatest gift to us. How much more of a treasure was that baby, wrapped in swaddling and lying in a manger? The savior King had finally come. A new era has begun.

Art of Advent - Day 25 Luke 2:1-7

"At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancee, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them."

 - Luke 2:1-7

Just imagine… crowds of people bustling around trying to complete the requirements of this new decree. No rooms available for purchase, not even for one night. Not even for a very pregnant young mother. I vaguely remember a teaching I heard about the importance of God’s people taking care of strangers and foreigners. It’s interesting to apply that to this passage. Joseph’s family was apparently MIA, maybe because they received word that his fiancee was prego and that was a huge no-no in those days. Can you imagine how different it might have been had Joseph and Mary been given some hospitality? But then again, God has a funny way of doing things and showing up in the vulnerable places, almost to truly and blamelessly say, “I know what it’s like. I can identify with you.” 
So amidst the insanity of traveling, fulfilling government regulations and probably avoiding some harsh criticism from fellow citizens, this young couple must resort to childbirth in a stable. Unclean. Smelly. Uncomfortable. This is how our God enters our world. Mystery. Humility. Chaos. Poverty. 
This re-telling is one of my favorites from Max Lucado. I hope it entices your imaginative side and blesses your heart. He has made the way. Oh, how He loves us.
"Vagabonds and ragamuffins all, He saw us before we were born. And He loves what He sees. Flooded by emotion, overcome by pride, the Starmaker turns to us, one by one, and says, ‘You are my child. I love you dearly. I’m aware that someday you’ll turn from Me and walk away. But I want you to know, I’ve already provided you a Way back.’ And to prove it, He did something extraordinary. Stepping from the throne, He removed His robe of light and wrapped Himself in skin; pigmented, human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He who angels worship nestled Himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into the cold night, and then slept on cow’s hay. Mary didn’t know whether to give Him milk or give Him praise, but she gave Him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy. Joseph didn’t know whether to call Him junior or father. But in the end called Him Jesus, since thats what the angel said, and since he didn’t have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms… 
'Can anything make me stop loving you?' God asks. 'Watch Me speak your language, sleep on your earth, and feel your hurts. Behold the Maker of sight and sound as He sneezes, coughs, and blows His nose. Look into the dancing eyes of the kid in Nazareth; that's God walking into school. Ponder the toddler at Mary's table; that's God spilling His milk. You wonder how long My love will last? Find your answer on a splintered Cross. That's Me you see up there, your Maker, your God, nail-stabbed and bleeding. Covered in spit and sin-soaked. That's your sin I'm feeling. That's your death I'm dying. That's your resurrection I'm living. That's how much I love you.”

Art of Advent - Day 24 Luke 1:76-80

And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.
Luke 1:76-80 The Message

This is the beautiful story of the Gospel. A Savior that steps into the messiness of His people. Who offers salvation and forgiveness, and does not demand it. Who draws us out of dark places, and walks with us on this journey that we’re each on.

There was a time when I thought that being a Christian was based on a moral scale, each action either earning praise or drawing judgement. The work to keep this scale balanced was exhausting. But this isn’t the Gospel at all.

We’re messy, broken people in need of a Savior. One that sees our cracks, our imperfections, our darkest places - and draws us out. Desires relationship with us. He calls to us in the darkest of places, finds us hiding in the shadows, and doesn’t leave us there.
He gently takes our hand and tells us that He loves us, that nothing we can do or say is going to change that love. And that He wants to heal us. Draw us into the light. He wants to see dawn come into our dark and hurting hearts.

This is why the Advent season is so exciting, as we prepare with anticipation, the birth of our Savior. The Giver of true Peace. The One who has come for each and everyone of us - no matter what place we are sitting in at this very moment. That is the beauty of the Gospel to me. He’s walking with each of us - one foot at a time. Because sometimes, that’s all we can do.

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