Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Silent preparation


There are some of you who are asking some big questions of God right now.  

Maybe you have a lot of unanswered prayers like Zechariah and Elizabeth did.  Check out their story in Luke 1.  It's a beautiful telling of God's answer in the middle of their mess.

When we read the wonderful stories of the Bible, especially the pretty story of Christmas we forget that these people are just ordinary people living their lives, regular Janes and Joes doing life, doing the work that God has called them to.  

We forget.  Until we take another look at their story behind the veil of words.  That's just a fancy way of saying, reading between the lines of the unwritten part of their hearts, the parts that the Holy Spirit teaches to your spirit.

I would be unprepared if I ignored the words that weren't written.

We pick up the story in the middle of those days where priests had it all together, and took their turn at living holy lives in the the middle of their doubts, fears, and tears.

Yes, I said tears.

What does that have to do with preparing for Christmas?  Well, I don't know about where you are in this preparing season of Advent but today in the middle of these days, God has some undoing to do.

I just had one of the biggest emotional confessions before a dear friend and God that I've had in a while.  I realized something in my tears.  

One..that our tears sometimes fill in for the silence of our hearts and no matter what, how many or how long, God understands and catches each and every one.

Two...when God calls you to show up to the calling He has given you, there is some preparing that needs to be undone before He can bring new birth into your doing.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were quite the model couple of strength through all these years of service to God.  On this certain day recorded in Luke 1, Zechariah's ministry was at an all time high.  It was his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to offer sweet incense at the altar, laying before a Holy God the concerns of his people.

Zechariah had prayed for this day.  I would venture to guess that he even dreamed about how this day would go down his own prayer journal.  What an honor to pray for the problems and concerns of the people, and that he would have all the right words flowing from his compassionate heart.  His big break came, at last he was before God, and behind the veil of prayers.  

Elizabeth, his strong-supportive-solid-prayer-warrior-rock, was on the sidelines praying too.  With confidence, he enters the secret place of the temple, prepared with just the right gumption in his heart.

I haven't even addressed the unspoken needs relating to Elizabeth's barren state that might have been on the forefront of Zechariah's heart.  Think about this, if you knew you were going to meet God with your most raw and open prayers, knowing by the public approval that your prayers would be heard by a Holy God, be honest, wouldn't you say a little prayer for your deepest need too?

Or is that just me?

Zechariah was unprepared for what was about to happen.  Something holy occurred as the cloud of incense made way for an angel.  The holy host brought the element of surprise and alarm to his mix of utterances.  Zechariah's response was captured in words of "deep emotions." 

Is it just me or does the suggestion of deep emotions not evoke the presence of tears?  Face to face with a holy messenger would certainly bring a heart felt wave of emotions, including tears.  

Even though Zechariah was a priest, please don't tell me he never cried.  Pastors aren't machines with cold hearts that never cry.  Haven't you ever cried when you were afraid?  Or confused? or bewildered? 

Here the man was going into the Silence to pray some of the most heart felt prayers of his life, and before he could get every request out through his simple words, he was face to face with God, the Giver of all words and emotions.

What could have prepared him for that?

"Fear Not!"  "Why do we fear the worst from God, when he loves us completely and always gives us what is best."  ~Liz Curtis Higgs. 

And...."why are we so eager to pray away the very life circumstances that teach us the most about who God is?" ~ from my unspoken place.

The angel then proceeds to make a holy delivery of good news, the-once-in-a-life-time-prepare-your-world-to-be-rocked-to-the-core good news.  "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John." ~ Luke 1:13

Blinking, without words, Zechariah gasps, his very breath is stolen before he could get to his request on the list.  His eyes were brimful of tears by this time, with shock and awe in his heart.  Then the angel goes on to describe all the awesome and life impacting ministry that God would soon birth.

"He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord."  There's that "word" again...prepare....for the Lord's work.

Which brings us back to this ordained time behind the veil.  What is God preparing you to do?  That's the good news of Advent, that God prepares our hearts to receive Him.  Some of you, you need to admit it for the first time, and you know by reading this, that's it's time that you accept Jesus as your Savior.  

Let this preparation time in this Christmas season begin with the gift of salvation.  The rest of you...what is God calling you to now?  And how are you preparing your unspoken parts of your heart for more room for the Savior to work during this Christmas season?

And these are the hard life questions that I am also asking myself, those unspoken parts, the exciting parts of where I need God on a daily basis, to undo what has been done to be all that He wants to do, in me and through me.

The season of preparation looks different for each of us.  But might I write a little hope for you?  When you pray for God's wholeness in this season of preparation, give Him room to work His wholeness in this Christmas season.

God want's to do some incredible preparations through your undoing, your broken relationships, your messes, the whatever need in your life that will speak to the unspoken parts of someone else.  God is a God of His words and He holds our hearts.  

He is the Hope for the broken world we are in the middle of.

God has heard your prayers, He has not tarried in answering them.  In this time of advent, as we prepare for the celebration of the Savior's birth, may we all gather in our prayers, our hearts, our tears, and our belief in the miracle of Christmas.  In the miracle of the birth of Christ as a tiny baby, who came to earth as a gift of God's grace, to bring a hope and healing to our hearts and our hurts, to our lives.

God promises hope in this time of preparation.  Receive it with graceful silence and awestruck wonder.  

Let Heaven and nature sing...

My prayer:  Oh God, helps us see the wonder of your miracle birth, Jesus, in this time of preparation, to bring hope alive in our hearts and hurts, again.  Remind us of the wonderful story of your Words.  And in the silent nights, the lonely hours, the dark times of our problems, God may you meet us here with the hope of Jesus.  Each and every time.  Today.  Tomorrow, and for all eternity. Lord, Jesus come.

Let Heaven and nature sing in our broken and unspoken places.
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