Credible Faith

Bulbs, Breaches, and Bonne Nouvelle

Some thoughts of Christmas and good news, shared in a July 2012 email newsletter.

Text Publication: July 2012

Author(s): Paul Larson

Strings of hastily packed Christmas lights are stuffed into boxes with one of life's greater lessons, stowed away until the festivities of a new season demand an encore. Only then, this stowaway teacher of truth emerges from his hiding in a snarl of wires and bulbs. One of the bulbs does not work, but it takes the lot with it. All go on strike until the artifice of the electrician corners the culprit. The strikers will not leave their own, but they will certainly mingle with others, and the anticipation of the happy holiday is lost in a web of interlocking strings. Where do I start? How slow is this business of toppling such pillars of solidarity! Is this a knot? With itself or another? The questions come fast and quickly, and long it takes to dispose of them. The work is slow. The joy of the season aloof. How long will this take? One asks, and lumbers on. For a time, even a long time, the tangles and questions linger near, proud in their longetivity, secure in numbers. But they do fall. Oh, not at once. One here. Another a little further on. Still the line seems to hold well enough - a new twist, a successive snag, filling in where busy and hopeful hands have felled a comrade, repelling hope of resolution. Is there no end to reinforcements? One unraveling of a knot, and a new one appears. Wires again interlock, as a cord of two strands is stronger than the two on their own. But at last, reserves are spent. The line thins, and the eyes of prying hands spot the weakness in the ranks. Quickly new holes appear, and the path to victory emerges clearly from the mist.

A friend once said that life is marked by death, and also by death's knack for turning up unexpectedly early. It arrives sooner than you think. It is true not only of death. It is packed tight with Christmas lights. At the outset, the task is slow, but the climax quickly unravels the jumble of cords and lights. So too, I presume in war. The line breaks. The wall is breached, and chaos rushes to resolution. I have now come to think that some academic works may follow the path of these unpleasant facts of life. Maybe not so harsh, but one still wades into the chaotic crossfire of opinion. So did I around eighteen months ago into Matthew's characterization of God. Simple on one level, and yet when pressed to detailed arguments on small questions seems like pulling hastily packed Christmas lights out of the box for a new season. Twenty-eight chapters. Over a thousand verses. And a host of questions. But they fell, many of them. One here. One more farther on. On and on. Question after question. There's more to go. Much more. But the enemy line is now pocked with holes. Reserves are spent, and the unrelenting barrage dwindles the resistance. Victory is in the air. So I like to think, at least. I have been found by what I want to say, and it whisks me away, bound for border with greater speed.

And thus I hope that the end will come by sometime late next year, 2013. By then, I would have hit my thirtieth birthday. Three. Zero. Wow. One more time of that (and a half, if the Lord permits), and I may be in eternity. In youth, it seems that one year is replaced by another, as if the reserves do not tire of appearing again. But I can count the years now. Four seasons I leave behind, and as many bulbs. A year plummets to the past, and a new one does not take its place. The reinforcements are spent. Holes in the line appear. Hope is kindled. There! There is the path to victory! Onward! The breach in the defensive wall grows wider amidst a storming of an army of exultation. The rush of a year heralds the return of festive joy. 'Let Christmas come!' says the newly festive reveler, jubliant that the strike of the lights has ended, the rebellion of knots put down. So it comes. And leaves, clutched in the arms of merriment and celebration. Only waiting remains. Christmas flies north for the year, gone until the cold breeze of time sends it back to the warm air of waiting.

I, too, wait. But I wait for a Christmas that does not end, when the cords of life are all uncoiled, and the last breath has fallen. The quality of one's time, short or long, is dependant on one's company, and that makes the excited anticipation of the advent of Jesus a true analogy for the arrival of the eternal anno domini. Christmas on earth celebrates my Savior's arrival into this temporary mess of ours. The unending Christmas in heaven will celebrate my birth into the unending life of his. With kids who eye the presents, with the frantic hands of a sleuth of strings and lights, I wait for the holiday of heaven. And like any true child of the holidays, I will be caught up in the spirit of the season. I will speak of Christmas. To who? Well, who will hear? Where are those who have never put gleeful gaze upon an unopened box of ornaments? Them, I shall invite them, and the merriment will be the more.

I came to Edinburgh with a vision, of preaching the gospel in the future, of being a first-rate intellectual. "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men." (Proverbs 22:29 of an NIV version). Doors open to the man skilled in his work, but skill is a long time in the making. I am in that period of preparation. If God allows, and if my thesis succeeds, the last leg of the journey of formal education may conclude next year. Towards that end, I ask for your prayer, that I would be diligent and productive, that my work would be of sufficient quality, and that I would finish my thesis and pass the defense by late next year. If I am successful in that endeavor, my hope would be that much of the rest of my life would be spent recruiting and encouraging others in the earthly expectation of the celestial season.

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