calvary’s hill on the horizon

It snuck up on me, in between all the Thanksgiving plans and while I concern myself with living in the moment. The season of strung lights and sleigh bell music and egg nog descended on this city before I could clear away the thanksgiving plates.

Last night at small group, someone shared a prayer request against distractions in this season – that she would be able to focus with her family on celebrating the simple message of Christ coming to earth. New York City does a really great job of distracting even without the help of a consumer-driven season of overspending and dress up parties. So, I’m trying to take it slow. I’m trying to let the Advent readings marinate and linger so I’m anticipating the right things – the best things – and not the hollow things of empty boxes and returned sweaters. And this morning that anticipation led me to Calvary.

“There’s a place for focusing on the stable, the shepherds, and the wonder of the incarnation, but to appreciate the depth of what is happening here, we must keep Calvary’s hill on the horizon.” – David Mathis in “Let a Little Lent into your Advent”

Because this season is not waiting for a baby. We are not anticipating the coming of a birth, not merely anyway. Jesus came to earth in a miracle of miracles, but then he lived life full through and ended up at the cross. That God knew all of this before sending His son, and even ordained it, is part of what makes this season magical.

God inserted Himself into his very ugly and and desperate creation so that He might be our redemption.

Christ’s birth is beautiful because it is the earthly beginning of the story of salvation on the shoulders of the God-man. Everything about the birth is as unbelievable today as it was when the angels declared it to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds in the fields. Still crazy, still beautiful, still miraculous. But, what makes Christ’s birth ever deep is that his life culminated in Calvary – that He died a shameful death on a cross and then rose again to conquer death altogether and purchase pardon for sinners.

The salvation story is not seasonal.

As we anticipate the coming of the Savior King this Christmas, may it be inside the wonder of a greater miracle. How wide can our eyes be to fully take it in? How deep can our joy reach to fully revel in it? How far can our laughter roll to feel the weight of it?

Come, Lord Jesus. Come and live the life of a Messiah. Come and purchase our pardon and come to set us free. Come and do for creation what only You can do. Come and be magnified by the miracle of salvation. Come.

Come to this earth with Calvary on the horizon.

living risen on Monday

It had its own paragraph, tucked away on page 117 in Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson and this one sentence struck a chord that has been resonating ever since,

If suffering was good enough for Him, shouldn’t it be good enough for us?

Well, wow. What to say here… We all say “yes” because it would seem so horrible to say anything else. Our Savior, Christ the Lord who holds all things together died. He held all things together as fully God while walking around as fully man. And then…

He allowed Himself to be undone unto death so that we might rise and be held together in Him.

And Christ was never less than perfect. Though he died the death of a criminal, He never lived less than perfectly. The God of all creation became like us (whoa) and then became sin for us (wow) and suffered every temptation for us (oof) and endured death on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God (oh my).

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

The resurrection swell of Easter was still spilling over yesterday, burying again the death of Jesus with the triumph of his third day victory. The Easter season, according to the church calendar, has really just begun and I want to observe the fullness of it. Because resurrection changed everything, not just a food-packed Sunday selected by the lunar calendar. EVERYTHING. And, I think it’s good to have a season set apart to reflect on the weight of “everything.”

Even a full season won’t condition my heart as it should, but God has promised to complete the work He has started and to make perfect (in Christ) my imperfect attempts to believe. And so, I stand in the swell of the Easter season asking what it looks like to live risen on Monday… and Tuesday – Friday.

What happened in the living, dying, and rising of Jesus happened in real time – the clock measured His footsteps up to Calvary and the three days after he died. The light broke the dawn on Sunday, marking the morning and Jesus’ day of resurrection.

But the glory of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is not contained on the calendar. Before the foundations of the world (Romans 8:29) – before the light broke the first morning and before the ground felt the weight of any feet – God planned to lavish love on His chosen through the person and sacrificial work of Christ.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that He would give His only Son,
and make a wretch His treasure
(How Deep the Father’s Love, Stuart Townend)

The beauty of God’s love for us runs as deep as eternity stretches long. We know from Psalm 115:3 that God acts out of His pleasure, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”

Just let the weight of “whatever He pleases” sink in deep. He was pleased to plan before the dawn of time for our redemption. He was pleased to send His Son, who emptied Himself and died in our place. He was pleased to bring reconciliation through the resurrection. It was God’s will to crush His Son so that we could be counted righteous.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

What does it mean to live risen on Monday and Tuesday and Saturday? It means believing that God’s love was not constrained to a weekend nor the power that it produced. God was planning in the forever past for our redemption and prepares a place for us in the forever future.

Christ’s suffering did not take away from God’s glory, but revealed it. In Christ, God pulls back the curtain so that we can gaze on His glorious character and find it is nothing like anything we know. What we see and savor in Christ will allow us to endure the suffering the same way – revealing the glory of God.

Living like I’m risen means believing God planned all along for me to rise and trusting God to keep His promises.