Today I have the honor of introducing Dr. Linda Vogt Turner the author of the following post.
Dr. Linda Vogt Turner is a lay theologian, writer and faith based speaker living in Vancouver Canada where she was born and educated. Linda has written extensively on faith and justice themes. She received the Doctor of Humane Arts degree for The Ecumenical Affair in recognition for excellent written communication as related to palliative care reflecting Heartalk® –mediated Pilate Syndrome™. As of November 1, 2019, Dr. Turner is an appointed Professor of Practice in Creative Writing for the INTERCONTINENTAL OPEN UNIVERSITY. http://www.iou.edu.gr
O Holy Night – Nine Lessons
On this Christmas Eve 2019, is your hope at an all-time low? Does peace seem an impossible dream? Has divisive political rivalry come like a thief in the night and stolen the love, joy, peace and hope of Christmas?
I remember a time when the faithful would go to church on Christmas Eve or make sure they were home to celebrate the gift and wonder of God’s LOVE coming down out of the midnight sky. Many people would go to church on Christmas Eve and children would re-enact Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, the city where David was from.
At the midnight service, people would gather at 11 o’clock to hear the Nine Lessons of Christmas read from the Bible and sing Carols such as O Holy Night.
THE FIRST LESSON
Genesis 3: 8-19
Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
So the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you? I heard Your voice in the garden,” he replied, “and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
“Who told you that you were naked?” asked the LORD God. “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?
And the man answered, “The woman whom You gave me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied, “and I ate.”
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! …”
To the woman He said: “I will sharply increase your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children. You will desire your husband, and he will rule over you.”
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you…”
Wow! The LORD God sounds angry. I wonder. Is disobedience the primary cause? Or is “hiding themselves”?
THE SECOND LESSON
Genesis 22: 15-18
And the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time, saying, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will multiply your descendants like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the gates of their enemies. And through your offspring all nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Did you catch that? The LORD says “Myself I have sworn…I will bless you because you have obeyed My voice!” So “obedience” appears to be one key to being in relationship with God and “Not withholding or not hiding” what God values” is another key. For as in the beginning, hiding oneself and the truth…withholding something God values from God would bring curses, not blessings.
THE THIRD LESSON
Isaiah Chapter 9:2; 6-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.…
WOW! a great light…a mega torch to shine for people in the dark. Did you know that the Greek name Helenē…means bright torch? And did you know that the Hebrew name David means “beloved”. Did you notice how the words a child and a son are wedded together in the phrase “for a child has been born for us, a son given to us”?
I wonder if the name Magdalene later given to Mary centuries later was originally a combining form of the Latin word “magna” meaning great and the Greek name “Helenē” meaning torch? MAGNA Helenē, does sound like Magda Helenē. I also wonder if the name Jo Seph is also a combining form of the two names Jo and Cephas that many people overlook?
I wonder. Is the Light shining in the Dark, The Divine Female?
Isaiah 11: 1–3a; 4a; 6–9
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Careful now. Why would the spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, and the spirit of the Lord’s knowledge and fear bring this “branch” delight in the fear of the LORD?
Imagine…a world where a feared lion would starve himself to save a lamb and where a lamb would offer her very body to save a feared lion from starving.
Is this 4-fold Spirit SACRIFICIAL LOVE?
Luke 1: 26–35; 38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. “Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” “The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The Angel’s message perplexes Mary. She says how can this be? I am a virgin.
What is she really saying? Listen closely…bring her into your heart. Hear what she is saying.
“Joseph was born to be my Cephas…my Rock and my Lord. He and I were betrothed ages ago. He is the STAG of the Hebrew Song of Songs. I know this in my heart. Yet…I am a virgin to him. When I greet him with glad tidings and a hug, his woody branch remains flaccid? Why is he withholding his love and desire, his hunger for me? Is he afraid?
Luke 2: 1; 3-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
This is a faith story. Think about what kind of child Mary conceived of and delivered?
Let the EVERLASTING LOVE Mary has conceived in her heart and in the womb of her soul bring you closer to God. See her LOVE for her Jo Cephas come alive and see how her love and faith in God and neighbour transforms Jo Cephas into a Saviour full of love and desire who redeems Mary in the fullness of time to bring her delight and Great Joy to the World.
Luke 2: 8-16
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.
The Angel of the Lord stands among the shepherds and they see the Glory of the Lord. Their terror and fear subside as a multitude of heavenly host praise God and they see the child lying in the manger, wrapped in bands of cloth for themselves.
Matthew 2: 1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Herod is the King and he is not about to pay homage to the birth of Mary’s divine conception. Kings in those days did not marry for love. Their marriages were all about preserving the King’s male blood line. So the wise men were afraid Herod would kill this Divine Couple and the newly born child the Angel and the Prophets predicted they would raise as God’s SON—before HE was of age and could speak for Himself.
Do you see the newborn ONE? Or has Herod and his cohorts killed HIM and convinced you this newborn ONE is a single male? Do you see what the angels and the shepherds see?
Do you see the glory of the Lord, the Don, the long-expected Bridegroom with his Glory…the Bride, the Madonna…come to life as CHRIST the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful Counsellor and the welcoming Innkeeper and his Wife as the Prince of Peace?
Do you see the ETERNAL LOVE growing stronger within and between this couple witnessed and testified to by their neighbor with each breath, each kiss and communique they share?
John 1: 1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
The name John means the Grace of God. John takes this name and gives his main characters names to reinforce his testimony. These names are like grace notes. They embellish the story and lead you to the heartbeat of the story. John also alludes to other well-known stories. This is the tradition of story-telling. So listen carefully. Each name John chooses is to help you hear and feel the heartbeat.
Don’t let Herod and his cohorts convince you Jesus Christ is a single male!
The WORD comes alive. The Spirit that hovered over the waters at the beginning of time is inside Mother Mary’s heart, body, soul and mind. As Mary speaks the very Word that caused the universe to come alive comes to John.
As John’s testimony unfolds in the following chapters, his followers learn how he loses his head, spends the night with the Spirit and how he becomes born again.
John’s disciples call him Lord Jesus and Rabbi and indeed his Testimony makes him the Son of Christ and the Son of God.
John and his beloved wife worship and adore the Mother of God and they receive Christ, the Bride and Bridegroom as the Mother and Father of God—and shelter them in a room set apart, yet attached to their INN. It is a very dark night. The couple need time to themselves. The Bridegroom has lost faith in himself and questions the Bride’s love for him. He does not feel godly or eternal. He has lost faith in humanity and kings. Racism, and humanity’s inhumanity to humanity has convinced the Bridegroom to hate kings and his life. He denies even knowing John with whom he has shared bread and wine.
When Mary is charged with blasphemy, Cephas mocks the idea of Mary being the Woman Jesus and him being the Christ. He sees himself as Mary’s male escort, not her intended. Doubt and fear grip Mary’s heart. John, his wife and the staff at the INN are afraid too and a pall of deep silence falls over them and the Inn.
As Christians discover with the conclusion of John’s Gospel, the darkness does not extinguish the light. Love brings a new and glorious morning. The Bridegroom reinstates himself and John and his beloved wife become the first reborn Son of God and give everyone who receives John and his gracious wife’s testimony, the power to become children of God and to live together in peace and harmony as ONE HOLY SON
Thus John says in Lesson Nine of the Christmas Eve Reading. “[W]e have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”
We, my beloved wife and I have seen Christ’s glory. We have seen the glory of Christ the Everlasting Father and the Wonderful Counsellor embracing each other in LOVE, becoming one Flesh and giving birth to their ETERNAL SELF and to my gracious wife, to me, and to ALL LIFE.
The FALL blinded and crippled us that day when we all ate from the tree of good and evil. In the dark, we became enemies of our godly selves and our neighbours. We lost our divinity. We were afraid to let the Truth, the LIGHT, come out. We were afraid confessing the Truth would reveal our nakedness and show us to be unworthy of love.
Reversing the FALL—let us repent and confess the Truth. We are God’s human family. Let us quit blaming and condemning one another. Let us put our divisive and contemptable ways of believing in ourselves, each other and our neighbours behind us. Let our love for one another show and when the night gets dark, remember how John the Innkeeper and his wife found a room away from the crowds for Mary and Joseph so that they could work things out and give birth to the ETERNAL LOVE and Peace planted in their hearts. When the night is dark, it’s easy to get caught up in blasphemy…denying, or doubting the promise and expectations of God.
Remember the Nine Lessons of Christmas Eve. As the Christmas story unfolds in your heart this year. Feel the heartbeat of God. Receive Christ as a Divine couple giving birth to their Eternal Love for each other and the Prince of Peace—John and his gracious wife. Let John and his wife’s hospitality and testimony fill you with the hope, peace, joy and love of God. So be it this Holy Night—Emmanuel. Let there be peace on earth!