I saved my second favorite Christmas carol until the last day, the 12th Day of Christmas Carols & Scripture. For me, the song’s message is not just for Christmas. It evokes the kind of praise we should have all year long. Many of us are certainly ready to receive our King when he comes again! In the meantime, as we find ourselves in the day to day grind, how do we keep our praise alive?
Joy to the world! the Lord is come; let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.
We have probably all wondered a time or two during our lives (or maybe even on a daily basis) if we’re living in God’s will for us. Certainly, he has the greatest vision of all. He can see our whole life and knows our potential. Living inside us, giving us power beyond our comprehension, he has great plans for each of us. It’s only when we get in the way that his plans take a nose dive.
So how do we know what God’s will is for us? That is the best question of all time. It certainly should be one that we are asking on a regular basis. Today, Paul’s counsel to the Thessalonians gives them insight into what that can mean. It’s not the whole story, but we can be certain of this. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
So much praising going on. It is such a delight to picture faithful ones singing and dancing while giving glory to God. Why is it that we don’t see more of that in our culture today? I’m not saying it’s not there at all. We’ve all seen how some groups and churches go all out with dancing, praise banners, and musical instruments.
What does your praise look like behind closed doors? Do you have a tambourine hidden in your closet for those moments when you go all out? “Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.” God honors the faithful. That is certainly something to put joy on our lips!
The next few chapters (24-27) will be what are known as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse.” You can see why from the doom and gloom described. Yet, there are some technical things missing to truly be apocalyptic in nature. For instance, we are missing the words calling this out as a “vision.” There are also scholars who question if Isaiah wrote this, and if he did, shouldn’t it be at the end? These are details I share with you, but let’s not let them keep us from hearing God’s message to us today. After all, the purpose of this is to “reflect” not figure out the who, what, where, and how!
I have to admit this wasn’t the most uplifting of readings today. There was the glimmer of hope in verses 14-16. We’ll come back to that. But what this reading says to me overall is that God is in control. If he wants to bring destruction to the world, he will. We saw what he did with the flood in Noah’s day. He promised he would never do that again. In the descriptions were read in Isaiah, there is no mention of water covering the earth.
Surprise! Well, it shouldn’t have really been a surprise, but it was. It was early in the morning. The women had prepared the spices a day ago. Jesus’ body would be starting to smell already, so they had no time to waste. But when they arrived, Jesus body was not where it was supposed to be. What happened? The confusion, the fear, the anger, the surprise. What would you have been feeling if it had been you to happen upon the tomb that morning with a purpose in mind only to have your world turned upside down?
Then it happens: the a-ha moment. While they were cowering in fear because of these strange, dazzling looking men that appeared, they heard the message of reassurance. “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” It may have taken a moment or two to really sink in. What had they just heard? Talk about a pivot!