Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow and Manna

"And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground."  Exodus 16:14

I have mixed feelings about snow.  I've always loved watching the snow pile up outside, smoothing out all the rough edges and painting a fresh new world on the landscape.  As a kid, it gave me courage because falling down, making a soppy wet fool of yourself and acting crazy are all perfectly acceptable and painless in a deep cushion of snow.  But one of the things that has always bothered me about snow is how temporary it is.  Even when snow sticks around, after the second or third day the fresh lightness morphs into worn-out, cold, soggy piles.  To truly appreciate a good snowfall, you've got to get out and enjoy it while it's new, or the ideal opportunity will be lost. Today's snow is only good for today... and who knows whether tomorrow will bring a fresh layer or not?

What in the world does any of this have to do with the verse from Exodus?  Exodus is talking about manna, God's heavenly provision of bread for His people while they wandered in the desert.  Each day the children of Israel woke up to a fresh batch of food provided directly from God's hand, especially for them.   Each morning they were instructed to gather enough food to feed their family that day before the sun grew hot enough to melt the manna.  And each night, any extra manna that they had greedily gathered would rot and breed worms.

I always picture manna as a light snow blanketing the desert.  In many ways, I think snow, like manna, can be a powerful illustration of God's provision and our response to His grace.  Like snow, like manna, God's  compassions toward me are new every morning. He evidences His mercy and lovingkindness in ways that are unique and special for me.  He covers the harsh edges of my old nature with the pure white robes of His righteousness.  He purifies me by graciously overlooking my sin, which has been conquered by the cross, looking only on the righteousness His Son has given to me and calls it mine.  How can it be that I am considered righteous?  This is just one of the wonders that should astound me every day.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." Isaiah 1:18

If I truly recognized the ugliness of my sin I would have a deeper appreciation for this undeserved righteousness that I call my own.  But just as the Israelites scoffed at the bread from heaven, so many times I scoff at the provision of my Bread of Heaven (Jesus Christ) without realizing it.  I ignore the potential power and joy, like those Israelites who slept in past the manna-gathering time or like the children who stay inside watching people enjoy winter on TV while the snow outside melts away.  I get lazy in my spiritual life and the gifts that God has prepared for me for this day slowly fade.  

Other times, I express discontent at the provisions that God gives me, wanting something new, different, or more exciting.  Sound familiar?  It sounds just like God's people when they complained about the miraculous things God did for them.  I long for something more, something other, but God knows exactly what He is doing and He is kind enough to give me what I need rather than what I ask for.

Snow doesn't last forever, but new blessings come in its place.  Each season is important to the health, beauty, and vitality of the created ecosystem.  In the same way,  God's provision for each day is different , tailor made for this season of my life and preparing me for the next.  Will I ignore His goodness and power?  Will I ask for something else?  Or will I respond to His gifts of love and righteousness by getting out there and exploring all the facets of what He has done for me... making His holiness real in my life by exercising it? I want to appreciate and put into practice the resources He has lavished on me... one day at a time.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Karolina Sandellburg

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wild and sweet the songs repeat of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

          Every year at Christmas I ask the Lord to help me see the Christmas story in a new way and to meditate on some particular aspect that will make a difference in my life.  One year I was awestruck by the role that Mary played in the coming of the Messiah, and last year God used the homelessness of Jesus to comfort me during a difficult transition.  This year, as I have been struggling to balance my attention between Christmas-themed events (parties, programs, and endless shopping), it has taken a while for God to get a hold of me and teach me once again what His birth really means.  On the way home from a long busy day, a line from a song struck me.
        "Hallelujah, the King is here, given for all men."
Given for all men? We talk about how Christ is God's gift to the world, but what exactly did he bring?  What did He promise?
          The angels declared, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good will to men."  Is this the gift of Christ? If the Prince of Peace came to bring peace to all men, where is it?
          "Then in despair I bowed my head, 'There is no peace on earth', I said.  'For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men." Longfellow
           Jesus Himself said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matt 10:34)
         And yet, as I wander through a hushed white world, feeling the earth around me stop turning for a few moments while I watch the dance of the falling ice stars.... peace on earth doesn't seem that far out of reach.

This is the truth God wants me to learn this year.

This is my assignment to meditate on this Christmas.

This is my meaning of Christmas.

"On earth PEACE, goodwill to men."