How Six Geese inspired Worship

How Six Geese inspired Worship
On the sixth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me “SIX GEESE A-LAYING”. 
It was an obediently fertile mind that, looking upon the common goose of the Medieval world, saw a means of observing and preserving for instruction in righteousness, the six days of Creation. 
And how fitting for us in the season of the celebration of His Incarnation, by whom it was all made and by whom it all consists, to revisit and devotionally consider how He did it.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:16-17 NIV
From days one through four He spoke the light, the sky, and celestial bodies into existence. Then He commenced creating living things — marine-life and birds on day five. He continued on day six, creating land animals — wild and livestock. Then finally, bending down, He lovingly formed Man with His own hands and breathed life into him.
What painstaking attention was paid by the Divine Creator to fashion, for us, the boundary of the dwelling called earth, “…in the hope that we might grope (search Him out in all the works of His hands) and find Him since He is not far from each one of us”. Acts17:26-27.
My own biggest find, this reading of the Creation account, was that our Heavenly Father created the heavenly bodies for the express purpose of letting them “serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,”
Genesis 1:14 NIV
Here’s to marking the sixth of the twelve days of Christmas as a day fit for magnifying and worshipping our great Creator.

"FIVE GOLD RINGS!"— Heirlooms, Cheers & Prayers

“FIVE GOLD RINGS!”—Heirlooms, Cheers & Prayers
“On the fifth day of Christmas, my True Love sent to me FIVE GOLD RINGS!” — this portion of the well-known, though not- so-well-understood carol, is arranged musically as the climax. The notes, highest of the song, are grandly slowed and extended, connoting a rousing cheer being raised in a room full of Christmas revelers with mugs of wassail held high.
Such a picture is fitting when one considers that the ‘five gold rings’ represent, in this encrypted catechism, the first five books of the Bible’s Old Testament, The Pentateuch. What would the Christian Faith be without Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy?
These 5 books, chronicling Man’s beginning as well as the origins and unique place of the Jewish people in history, also record the process by which they received the designation, God’s Chosen People. Their Holy Writ forms the firm footing of the Christian Faith and are among the Scriptures Jesus read and referred to in presenting Himself to us. He is the Messiah they pointed to, pre-figured and demonstrated our desperate need of.
Representing this treasured heirloom, gifted to us as it were, through  our Hebrew spiritual forebears, the musical capstone of  ‘five gold rings!’, is a fitting response. Yet, ironically, thanks has not been the response over the centuries to the Jewish people. 
My own meditation on this verse this Christmas season was colored in somber shades by the even more jarring irony of current news out of the United Nations — the vote and condemnation of  the tiny modern Jewish nations’ right to build new settlements in land rightfully  theirs and necessary for securing themselves against the entities which hate their existence and thirst for their annihilation. 
To our shame, this decision went un-vetoed by America, previously Israel’s main supporter and defender in the UN, Israel being the only democracy in the entire Middle-East.
As I write this piece the church bells of the nearby Methodist church are chiming over our neighborhood the tune of another much-loved Christ as carol invoking Israel,
“Oh come, Oh come Emanuel,
 And ransom captive Israel
 That mourns in lonely exile here
  Until the Son of God appears.
   Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel
  Shall come to thee oh Israel”
As you enjoy the ” five gold rings” of our faith this Christmas, remember those who delivered it to us. Yes, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Happy Fourth Day of Christmas!

I was robbed of at least twelve days of my Advent observations this year. Due to busyness and unavoidable demands I, too easily, fell prey to three vices common to man—fear, pride and coveting. In fighting back, I have determined to celebrate all twelve days of Christmas, which only begins on Christmas Day (as my dear mother-in-law is careful to remind us) and continues to Epiphany when the arrival of the wisemen is celebrated. 
I wrote the story WHEN MAMMON CAME TO CHRISTMAS and read it to the family ( captive audience in the car on the way to Christmas Eve service). I kept my poinsettia earrings in, rearranged displaced decorations, kept Christmas lights on and even wore a festive crochet vest over my brown turtleneck sweater to work on day three.
The concept of the twelve days of Christmas is probably best known to most through the familiar carol of the same name. The Carol and the story of its origin, which can be read here, is said  to have been composed by persecuted Catholics in England in the 1600s, forbidden to openly practice their faith. The symbols for each day,  encrypted teachings of the church,  seem like good fodder for a twelve day observance. So I am going for it! Today, on my Bible app  I will  listen to the sound of the FOUR CALLING BIRDS,  the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. 
Happy fourth day of Christmas! 

My Heart, His Manger

The first nativity set I bought for our fledgling family, did not have a manger with the baby Jesus, or so it was thought. Ten dollars provided this bargain because someone did not search through all the packaging sufficiently before labeling it defective, for re-sale. Imagine my delight when, upon unpacking and trying to figure where I would find a ‘manger-and-Jesus-in-porcelain’ to match my new set, I found it neatly wrapped and buried at the bottom corner of the emaciated box, the fact that the characters were all cast in Euro-centric features not even vaguely being an issue.
That experience is something akin to the emotions that prompted my writing the poem, ‘Jesus, Pretty in Me’*. It was my first piece, written in verse, that sought to be faithful to the rhythm, idioms and phonology of Jamaican Creole speech. Still primarily an oral language at the time that I studied it, at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, the Jamaican patois reflects the geo-political history of our island, using English words yet employing West African syntax (grammar), and seasoned liberally  with vocabulary and idioms reflecting our rich cultural mix. Despite the national treasure that it is, those who know the Jamaican Creole as their only language are often looked down on, as it marks one as uneducated, as standard English is Jamaica’s official language.
‘Jesus, Pretty in Me’ found me determined to celebrate all Christ had made me to be, stirred up as I was at that time, by the storms that accompany cross-cultural marriage and migration. Writing it afforded me a chance to explore some of the ideas with which every non-Caucasian ethnicity, introduced to Christianity in context of white Western culture, has had to grapple: Raising questions such as, Does God look like me? If He doesn’t, does He still care as much? If He does care, am I a sample of my type worthy of His regard and of significance in His Kingdom? And, an even more daunting  query, Though I might be counted among the Redeemed, can He really be reflected as well through ‘me’? Me unedited by society’s or my own sharp, re-defining pen? The answer to this last, I found to my great relief, is an eternally resounding ‘Yes!’.
It is the message of the place of the Nativity—Bethlehem, ‘the least among the cities of Judah’ , the animal shelter, the rejected, the devalued, the set aside—the manger. This is the place The Eternal delights to reveal His glory, to proclaim and parade His Redemption plan, among the least of these. But the ‘least’ also need to embrace and walk out what He has worked in, living incarnationally.
The phrase ‘incarnational living’ might be fairly new terminology on the evangelical Christian landscape, but is an idea at least  as old as the Creation itself. God’s willingness  to not only dwell with mankind, but also in us, requires our participation. It is Biblically sound Christian doctrine that regeneration happens immediately,  at the point of conversion. Yet how we struggle to believe it, between the now and the not yet, as we confront ourselves daily in the Mirror of the Scriptures, the mirrors provided by society  and even in our physical mirrors. Yes, the one on the bathroom wall.
It is amazing, the meaning with which we load the shape of head and eyes, texture and length of hair,  prominence or breadth of nose, height, weight and yes,  skin tone or shade, seeking to assay each other’s value by external features. The conclusions we draw or transmit can help or hinder our progress in sanctification. Wrestling in prayer through some of these issues this Advent, the words of Watermark’s  song ‘Come and make my heart Your home’, flooded in;
“Come and make my heart Your home; 
Come and be everything I am and all I’ve known; 
Search me through and through 
‘til my heart becomes a home for you…
Let everything I do open up a door for You to come through..”
Twenty years ago I had gratefully, but with some anxious doubt, taken home what I thought was an incomplete Nativity set but God was in it. Jesus was nestled down, wrapped securely in a corner of the buffeted packaging. It took just a little careful unwrapping. Just as His coming was prophesied, He wrote about us in His book, before even one of our members was formed, said the Psalmist -Ps.139. 
The intricacies of our make up were given expression and boundaries by Him. Yes, our forms also evidence the brokenness of sin, yet even those become fodder for His glory as they are yielded to Him in trust. As the light at Advent searches  through the wood, hay and stubble of our hearts this year, and as we look in all the mirrors, may we know truth—He did not purchase us by accident. When He paid the price, He knew what He was getting, and considered the manger of our heart a fitting place for His abiding. May we allow His Spirit to carefully unwrap us this season and reveal Jesus, ‘Pretty in us’.
* See blog post by the same name, ‘Jesus, Pretty in Me’, on this site, along with audio performance and translation.

Podcast Interview on Culture and the Christian Writer

I was afforded the opportunity to be interviewed by a wonderful sister in South Africa on the subject of ‘Culture and Writing’ for the Christian. It aired this past Sunday and I thought I’d share it with you. Enjoy!  Denise

http://laurenjacobs.co.za/podcasts/

Father’s Coming

The massive white marble statue of Mary, with the lifeless body of Christ draped over her lap, came immediately to mind in response to Susan Forshey’s  Advent chart invitation to 
“Spend time with a favorite piece of art”.
Michelangelo Buonarotti’s famous sculpture, Pieta, (pee-ay-tah) intrigued me the moment I stumbled on it  in my college years. As a student of African-American Literature, I had found it useful as a metaphor for  the burden of  motherhood and the pain of fatherlessness. My reflections then, had inspired a triad of poems titled ‘Pieta in Black’ which captures  these themes.*
Revisiting Pieta this Advent, however, has me appreciating the promise ‘of the Father’ coming ‘through the Son’, ‘by the Spirit’ – Trinity. In considering the Incarnation, my focus had always only been on the second person of the Godhead, Jesus. But it was the Father whose power overshadowed the Virgin Mary, and it was the Holy Spirit who came upon her  in order for Jesus, our Hero, to arrive. Lk 1:35
 So rightly, Advent should also be a time to celebrate the Father’s initiative in our redemption story. He authored the whole thing, bringing and delivering His greatest Gift to us through the Virgin’s womb – let’s make room in the Nativity for the Father!
 The ‘coming of father’, in any language, can evoke diametrically opposed emotions : dread, guilt and fear, on one hand, and joy, exultation and expectation of blessings – gifts! – on the other. Many a child has been brought up short, from inappropriate behavior, by the threat “When your father comes …”. Yet I find myself wondering if the longing for Father-presence ( no disrespect to Joseph) in the Christmas story, is not what birthed and feeds the spirit of Santa – a longing to please father and be rewarded for it, motivated to be nice by the threat of the twice-checked list – a striving to earn grace.
Several years ago, FourSquare pastor and founder of The King’s College & Seminary, in Los Angeles,  Jack Hayford, cautioned  church leaders in a Christmas message, to not be exceedingly disparaging of the idea of Santa, as it speaks to the longing for pleasant associations with fatherhood at a time of year when fatherlessness can be most painful – a longing that just might lead many a wounded ‘child’ home. My meditations this season compel me to agree.
So palpable was the pain of fatherlessness, as I experienced it in the Literature of my college days, I was tempted to put it aside – to reject its pain for more romantic (idyllic) and beautifully themed material, but somehow the martyr in me won. I felt an odd responsibility, having seen the wound, to do something about it, even if only to make others aware. My conscience, shaped no doubt by memories of the persona in Christina Rossetti’s children’s poem ‘The Snare’,  dictates that if I can hear that ‘there is a rabbit in a  snare’ then  I must ‘search everywhere’ or else communicate the dreadful fact to as many as I can, who may be able to help search and rescue. In Pieta, Mary, by her  fixed gaze,  bids  everyone make eye contact with the pain born of sinfulness, if we would also behold the Innocent One sacrificed for us.
Her slightly upturned left hand was also a new focus for me this season of Advent meditation: was she intended to be gesturing accusingly to the world whose sins had slain him? Or was she offering Him, surrendering Him a substitute for our propitiation?- fulfillment of that same gesture when, as her younger self, freshly delivered of her Holy Burden, she had offered him to shepherds and Kings alike. Only, then, it was for their adoration of Him in His infancy. Or maybe, just maybe, the gesture is  intended as a re-presentation of Jesus back to the Omnipresent  Father, who, having  so prodigally  given, waited  in readiness, for the appointed time, to turn again, and raise Him back to life.
 In this, Pieta is the picture of Ultimate Hope! Let every faithful mother-heart, surrendered, like Mary’s, wait expectantly this Advent for the coming of the Father who alone can raise up sons, however badly wounded, to life again. 🙏🏿
* ( Pieta and other of my poems will be posted in the new year with accompanying audio – Deo Volente – as the Lord allows)