Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Advent People

We are the Advent people. -Unknown

I shamelessly listen to Christmas music throughout the year.  No, not jingling bells and snowy sleigh rides and all that jazz.  That would just make me thoroughly discontent as I'm sweating under the tropical sun.

I'm talking about the old carols, the ones rich with hope and joy and longing, the ones that take our theology and the Incarnation story and put them to music.

O Holy Night was my favorite as a little girl, when in dramatic Rachel fashion, I'd literally fall on my knees.  (If you don't believe me, ask my parents.)  I still love that song, but there's another that's definitely becoming a favorite.  It somehow captures the spirit of the season yet seems equally appropriate for...well...always.

O come, o come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

O come, o come Thou Lord of Might
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel...

I sit here and mull over those words, the notes weaving their way through my mind.

The longing.  You can't miss it.

Longing for relief in a sin-torn and wearied world.  Longing for justice and victory and home.  Longing most of all for the coming of the One who would bring peace, break chains, free captives, restore souls.

That was more than two millennia ago.  The Promised Deliverer has come.  He has brought peace, broken chains, forgiven, freed, and restored souls.

And yet...the longing expressed in the song still echoes, both through the halls of time and in my own heart.  Why?

Because the story isn't over.

Because we're still waiting.

Because we still live in the same sin-torn world, this world that can never be our true home, and because there are promises still unfulfilled.

"...I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3)

"This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)

"The Lord Himself will descend from heaven...and we who are alive and remain shall be caught meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) 

"Surely I am coming soon." (Revelation 22:20)

We are His people because of Advent - His first coming - and as His people we look forward to His second coming.

We don't merely celebrate Advent, lighting candles or opening gifts or counting down days until December 25th.

It's more than a seasonal celebration, it's the essence of who we are.

We are the Advent people - the waiting, longing, hoping-for people.

Here, at the end of the year 2014, we're living between two brightly shining truths.  The first - God with us.  He came down and lived among us, felt our pain and took our sins.  The second - us with Him.  One day, He'll come again, snatching us up from this world and bringing us to be with Him forever.

This is our hope today, right now.

And just as the believers did all those centuries before Jesus's birth, we hope not with wistfulness but with certainty.  God will keep His word.  He always has.

So we wait.

Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly...

Friday, December 5, 2014


No more trip pictures to post, but here are some other recent shots for your viewing pleasure.
This was an inadvertently brilliant purchase: sand-colored running shoes.  You can't tell if they're dirty or not!  (Which is handy here, because keeping shoes from getting dirty is like trying to keep the sun from shining.)
This was a little surprise at the bottom of the egg carton.
This is deetak, a fruit that tastes vaguely reminiscent of kiwi and melon of some sort.
This is what it looked like after I sucked the pulp/flesh off.
This is a science experiment gone bad.
Just kidding.
It's really juice made from deetak.
(What, you mean my mad scientist face didn't fool you?)
This was my only taste of Thanksgiving - a friend brought mini pumpkin pies to class that day.
(And no, that's not supposed to make you feel sorry for me.  Really. :))
This is a failed attempt to get Mom, my package, and me all in the picture.
These are the contents of aforementioned late-birthday-early-Christmas package.  So many fun things!
This is a party favor from Sarah's shower - they saved one for me, and you better believe those M&M's were gone in a flash!
This is because Sarah is Sarah.
This is because Beck is Beck.
(And I'm pretty happy I have both them as sisters.)
This is next year's planner.  Planners, you know, are my one weakness.
This makes me laugh.  Read it.
This is a fataya - a meat-and-onion turnover, served with a fried egg, French fries, and ketchup. 
This was at Haurell's birthday party last Saturday night.
This is Janel, Benedicte, and Michaela.
This is Ruth, Patricia, and her petit ami (I forget his name).
This is the "appetizer" table...but it was really all sweets.
This is because no party here would be complete without music and/or tv.
This is the birthday boy himself.
This is because he thought we were done singing and he could blow out his candle, and then we start "Happy Birthday" in yet another language.

This is my song of the week.  Hallelujah for the cross...Hallelujah for the war He fought...Hallelujah because love has won and death has lost and we are free.  We. are. free.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

E2 Trip, Part 5

And to finish things off, here's a bunch of scenery pictures (some more interesting then others).
Near the one village, there were a lot of "fields" with rocks scattered all over them. 
Follow the herd!
I think this was some sort of salt flat or...something.
It almost looks like tumbleweeds along the edge of this field, doesn't it?
Look at how red that dirt is!  And look how the plants and trees next to the road are all red, too.
Who doesn't love dusty plants, right. ;)
I can't say I thought all of the scenery was stunningly gorgeous.  No place will ever be as gorgeous to me as California, after all.
But there's a kind of raw, untamed beauty: miles and miles of land stretching out towards the horizon, almost untouched (or only lightly touched) by humans.
It was a relief to be away from traffic and city sounds, to smell dirt and plants and sun instead of exhaust and garbage.
Look!  A lion!  See it?
Just kidding.  We didn't see any lions.
However, the missionaries in the village told us they sometimes hear them.  (Eeek!)
Oh, to be able look all around and see nothing but the hills and the trees and the open space...

And good night, Africa.  Sleep tight.  Don't let the mosquitoes bite.  Or the bedbugs, or the tsetse flies, or the no-see-ums, or...