Star High, Baby Low

24 12 2013

Star high,
Baby low:
‘Twixt the two
Wise men go;
Find the baby,
Grasp the star–
Heirs of all things
Near and far!

George MacDonald

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Garbage, Gifts, and Grace

23 12 2013

When I came home, I noticed the garbage was still at the curb. Normally the collectors make their rounds much earlier in the morning. I had just bought a box of chocolates to pass on to our faithful garbage person next week. But seeing an opportunity to get that done early, I wrapped the candy quickly, wrote a card, and placed the gift in shallow, sturdy cardboard box and stuck the gift on top of the garbage.

Within a few minutes, I saw him pull up into the neighborhood. I took my place by the window to wait and see his surprised face.

However, all I saw was a man in a hurry, who grabbed my garbage can, whipped it around, and dumped the whole thing in the front of his truck. My heart sank. I ran toward the door and started to wave. I made it to His truck just in time to see the load getting chucked into the big bin in the back.

I could tell he was annoyed, since I was holding up his already late run. All I said was, “I had a Christmas gift for you in there… I’ll have another one next week. Just look for it!” He smiled slightly confused and nodded.

It occurred to me that it takes a lot of skillful communication to make someone see gifts, when all they are used to seeing is garbage.

“Lord, help me to do my best to remove distractions and hurt
before I leave gifts.
Help me to show others how much I love them –
and in that point to Your love for them.
Show me how to love like You do.
Teach me humility and give me a servant’s heart.”

Heidi Viars (reprinted by permission)





The Christmas Star

22 12 2013

It’s Advent, the season in which many people all over the world celebrate Christmas. Even those who aren’t Christian can’t ignore the season completely because it’s so popular. Indeed, many non-Christians participate anyway because the holiday has become so famous as well as festive. (Consider the observance of Christmas in Japan, for example.) 

A hallmark of Christmas is the giving of gifts, and that’s not just an inheritance from the legends of Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was later morphed into the fantasy figure Santa Claus. Much earlier, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the infant Jesus on that first Christmas. 

First Christmas? Wait a minute. Didn’t the Church two or three centuries after the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus establish a holy day called Christ’s Mass on December 25th in order to preempt, if not redeem, celebrations either of the Roman bruma (the southern solstice) or the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti? The history of the Christian holiday is a fascinating study. Still more fascinating, however, is the prospect that the Magi may truly have visited Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Bethlehem on the day we now designate (using the Roman name, not the Jewish) December 25th.

To read more about it, go to www.bethlehemstar.net. There, you can consider the 21st-century historical and astronomical research conducted by F.A. Larson in solving the riddle posed by the Biblical account: 

Matthew 2:1-11, taken from the American Standard Version (ASV).

1  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him.And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born.And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet,And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come forth a governor, Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel.Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared.And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him.And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.10 And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.11 And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Larson has employed Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion to look back, with the aid of modern computers, and identify what astrophysical phenomena fulfilled all nine of the details of the star presented in the Biblical account. His charts reveal the triple conjunction (think Trinity) of Jupiter, the planet of kings, with Regulus, the star of kings, in the constellation Leo the Lion (think Lion of the Tribe of Judah) between September of 3 BC and June of 2 BC. His charts reveal the constellation Virgo rising in the sun with the moon at her feet that same June. His charts reveal Jupiter coming to a full retrograde stop in the sky south of Jerusalem and, as it were, over Bethlehem on December 25, 2 BC. Larson explains the meaning and significance of all this in non-technical language.

The deduction?

  1. Jesus may have been conceived in the early autumn of 3 BC. (Could it be this occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles? Consider 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 with Revelation 21:3 and John 2:19.)
  2. Jesus may have been born in the late spring or early summer of 2 BC.  (Could it be this occurred on Pentecost, the Feast of First Fruits? Consider Revelation 1:5, 1 Corinthians 15:19-24, and James 1:18.)  
  3. Jesus may have been visited by the Magi in the early winter of 2 BC (what became Christmas).

Larson provides plenty of details, to include a refutation of the commonly-reported year of Herod’s death in 4 BC. Larson gives evidence that Herod died in 1 BC.

This Advent season, try following the star yourself and see where it leads!    IMG_0791





Echo of the Angels’ Song

20 12 2013

The birth day of the Christ child dawneth slow
Out of the opal east in rosy flame,
As if a luminous picture in its frame–
A great cathedral window, toward the sun
Lifted a form divine, which still below
Stretched hands of benediction;–while the air
Swayed the bright aureole of the flowing hair
Which lit our upturned faces;–even so
Look on us from the heavens, divinest One
And let us hear through the slow moving years.
Long centuries of wrongs, and crimes, and tears,–
The echo of the angel’s song again,
Peace and good will, good will and peace to men,
A little space make silence,–that our ears,
Filled with the din of toil and moil and pain
May catch the jubilant rapture of the skies,–
The glories of the choirs of paradise.

The hills still tremble when the thunders cease
Of the loud diapason,–and again
Through the rapt stillness steals the hymn of peace;
Melodious and sweet its far refrain
Dying in distance, as the shadows die
Of white wings vanished up the morning sky,
As farther still–and thinner–more remote–
A film of sound, the aerial voices float–
Peace and good will, good will and peace to men!

Kate Seymour Maclean

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This Advent Moon

15 12 2013

This Advent moon shines cold and clear,
These Advent nights are long;
Our lamps have burned year after year
And still their flame is strong.
‘Watchman, what of the night?’ we cry,
Heart-sick with hope deferred:
‘No speaking signs are in the sky,’
Is still the watchman’s word.

The Porter watches at the gate,
The servants watch within;
The watch is long betimes and late,
The prize is slow to win.
‘Watchman, what of the night?’ But still
His answer sounds the same:
‘No daybreak tops the utmost hill,
Nor pale our lamps of flame.’

One to another hear them speak
The patient virgins wise:
‘Surely He is not far to seek’ –
‘All night we watch and rise.’
‘The days are evil looking back,
The coming days are dim;
Yet count we not His promise slack,
But watch and wait for Him.’

One with another, soul with soul,
They kindle fire from fire:
‘Friends watch us who have touched the goal.’
‘They urge us, come up higher.’
‘With them shall rest our waysore feet,
With them is built our home,
With Christ.’ – ‘They sweet, but He most sweet,
Sweeter than honeycomb.’

There no more parting, no more pain,
The distant ones brought near,
The lost so long are found again,
Long lost but longer dear:
Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,
Nor heart conceived that rest,
With them our good things long deferred,
With Jesus Christ our Best.

We weep because the night is long,
We laugh for day shall rise,
We sing a slow contented song
And knock at Paradise.
Weeping we hold Him fast, Who wept
For us, we hold Him fast;
And will not let Him go except
He bless us first or last.

Weeping we hold Him fast to-night;
We will not let Him go
Till daybreak smite our wearied sight
And summer smite the snow:
Then figs shall bud, and dove with dove
Shall coo the livelong day;
Then He shall say, ‘Arise, My love,
My fair one, come away.’

Christina G. Rossetti

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