Morning Star Rises

“The morning star is so perfectly marvellous these days.  It hangs in the dawn like a great globe of silver fire.  Of all the images of Christ it seems the one that is almost more than an image – it is so utterly like Him in its pure glory. And it sets one’s heart crying for the promise ‘I will give him the morning star’ – the revelation of Himself to the watching ones.”                                                                                16 January 1899

First Sunday in Advent.  The church had been “greened” for the season and the first candle had been lit to focus on the role of the prophets in the preparation for the coming Messiah.  Children gathered on the steps of the platform for their story before departing to Junior Church.

“Does anyone know what a prophet is?” the story-teller asks, pointing to The Prophets’ Candle on the Advent wreath.

One boy eagerly raises his hand. “It is what you make when you sell something and get more back,” he answers.

Needless to say, his guileless mistaking of “profit” for “prophet” elicited laughter from the congregation!  But many of us commented, as we walked out of the sanctuary that Sunday, that he may have been closer to the reality of the season than we might want to admit.

The initiation of the four-Sunday Advent Celebration at our church was the legacy of  W.O. Ragsdale, who concluded decades of ministry with a two-year stint as minister-of-visitation in our Lake Wales’ church.  He shared his growing frustration as the Christmas season was launched earlier with each passing year.  His spirit recoiled at the expanded commercialism with businesses peddling their products before the Thanksgiving dinner was cleared away. He related his thwarted efforts to counter this trend by preaching against the consumer mentality triggered by this supposedly sacred day.

Then he was introduced to the concept of The Advent Season – preparing one’s heart the entire month of December, focusing each successive week on a unique aspect of the Christmas account.  Instead of focusing on the negative – the futile attempt to suppress the secular trappings of the holy-day – he was liberated to focus on the positive anticipation of the long-awaited Messiah.  All month long.

His challenge resulted in our congregation’s Advent Celebration, corresponding with four candles – Prophet, Bethlehem, Shepherd, Angel – representing significant elements of the Christmas story and culminating with The Christ Candle to be lit on Christmas Eve.  While there are a variety of approaches to this commemoration, all have this in common:  increasing light, week by week, candle by candle, illuminating hearts as the church anticipates the wondrous event of the coming of the Christ-Child to earth.

“What is the meaning of the Prophets’ Candle?” asks the minister.  The congregation responds, “The Prophet’s Candle stands for the light of the hope of the prophets.”  As we light the first candle we see the first flicker of hope – light in a dark world.  At first the prophets – even the angels! – were mystified by the exact nature of that “hope.”

Progressive revelation was God’s chosen means of making His purpose clear.  The gift of a Messiah, a Redeemer, was revealed bit by bit – like pieces in a puzzle – each added element of information a clue to the unfolding “mystery” which we now know to be Jesus Christ.  Early “clues” – or prophesies – were deliberately vague but each shed greater light in a world darkened by sin:  Genesis’s cryptic promise of the ultimate defeat of Satan; promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that through their offspring “all nations would be blessed;” prophets revealing ever more details of a Messiah King – even to the very place of birth.  Over the centuries, clue upon clue, light upon light, a pattern emerged until the world was ablaze with light:  the birth of Christ!  Light of Life.

This is a busy season, commercialism notwithstanding.  There are houses to decorate, cards to write, presents to buy, wrap and send, programs to attend, food to prepare, people to host.  But we do have a choice:  to counter the busyness (craziness!) by deliberately preparing our hearts during the Advent Season.  We can join with believers weekly to focus on the coming Christ through liturgy, prayer and song.  We can continue that commemoration through daily readings – perhaps even the lighting of ones own Advent candles.

“Profit” or “prophet”?  Commercialism or commemoration?  Holidays or holy-days?  The choice is over to us.

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain…

a light shining in a dark place…

until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Painting:  fragment from Diary  16 January 1899

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2 Responses to Morning Star Rises

  1. Bobb Biehl says:

    If
    I could sit down and ask Jesus three questions today face to face …
    they may be,
    “Jesus, exactly how would you like ME to celebrate this Christmas season?”

    Secondly,
    “Jesus, exactly how would you like OUR CHURCH to celebrate this Christmas season?”

    Thirdly,
    “Jesus, how exactly how would you like OUR NATION to celebrate this Christmas season?”

    It would be interesting to see
    the distance
    between
    and
    our current practices
    and His actual answers.

    Once again Miriam, you have stretched our thinking!

    Bobb

  2. Vinnie Coconato says:

    2Corth 4:6For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shown IN OUR HEARTS to give the LIGHT of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.{Rom5: 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Phil 1: 9And this I pray, that your LOVE may abound still more and more IN real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been FILLED with the fruit of righteousness which comes through (Abiding in, walking same as 1John2:6)Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God}
    7But WE have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of GOD and NOT FROM OURSELVES; 8we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
    10always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus(Death to sin Rom 6:10), so that the LIFE of Jesus also may be manifested IN our body. 11For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death (To self) for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested IN our mortal flesh. Eph 3: 16that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through HIS Spirit in the inner man, 17so that Christ may dwell IN your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in LOVE, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be FILLED UP to ALL the fullness of God. Col 1: 9For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
    11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Col 1: 26that is, the MYSTERY which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this MYSTERY among the Gentiles, which is CHRIST IN YOU, the HOPE of glory!!! 2Peter1:19So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises IN your hearts!!! Merry Christmas!!!!

    Miriam, Dee and I want to wish You and Dave (And all your Family a Very Merry Chritmas
    Love Vinnie & Dee

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