This time of year is flooded with superlative lists and television programs containing "the best of 2005." I seem to like these little lists and programs, highlighting the past year before we anticipate a new one.
So, since I have read dozens and dozens of books I thought I would include the "Broken Stained Glass Best Books I Read in 2005" list. (Links to each title have been provided should you want to learn more about them).
Recently I received an email from my old roommate Jonathan from my semester in Israel (fall 1999) with this picture attached.
It's a picture Jonathan took of me watching the sun rise from the top of Mount Sinai (Jebel Musa -- 'the mountain of Moses' -- in Arabic) in Egypt. The picture doesn't do the sunrise any justice...trust me. On this trip, we spent the weekend riding down by bus to Eilat (the southern tip of Israel), walking across the Egyptian border and hailing a taxi to Mt Sinai. At Mt Sinai we hired out Egyptian "camel cowboys" who rented us their camels to take us almost to the top. We then hiked the rest of the way before sunset and camped on the top. It was cold and noisy and we didn't get much sleep, but the view at about 4:30 that next morning was the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen in my entire life.
This picture reminds me of what Christ did when he was born. Israel had waited in darkness and silence for centuries for the messiah. And then, all of the sudden, the light of Christ burst forth onto the scene of history.
Light came in the midst of the darkness. And because of it, there is hope that is still alive and present in our reality.
The light is rising in the midst of the darkness: Halleluia. Christ the Savior was born.
This morning I sat listening to a high school emsemble sing Christmas songs and hymns for our church staff. Between one of the songs a young women stepped to the mic and read the story from Luke 2.
Though I've heard the story a million times before, for whatever reason the story grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. Tears began streaming down my face. I can't think of the last time (or ever) the Christmas message took my breath away and brought joyful tears to my eyes. The message was clear: the power and significance of the story hit me in a fresh, overwhelming way was this blonde hair high school senior read the familiar account -- lightning bolts through my soul. Like a ton of hopeful, familiar, yet refreshingly new, bricks.
But I sat there wiping tears away wondering why this is so odd for me, why emotional responses are so few and far between, why the story hasn't hit me like this for years and why the wonder is often lost this time of year.
Regardless, the story of the gospel in flesh is life-altering and my mind and heart could hardly take it all in this morning.
Have you ever noticed the words to this old hymn? The lyrics are so rich. My favorite verse is the first one.
O come, O come Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
The most powerful line in the entire hymn -- "and ransom captive Israel." He came as a ransom for many. We lie in lonely exile waiting for someone to free us from our captivity - until the coming of the one who is called "God with us."
Oh, if we could only understand that we need that ransom as a captive generation just as much as Israel did at the time of Jesus' coming...
Boy, this week was really hard to choose our winners of contest #4. There were about a dozen entries that were extremely witty and hilarious. It was so close I had to expand the amount of judges on the official BSG Create a Caption judging panel to two -- Megan helped me pick the winners this week.