Categories
Commentary Life

The Feast of St. Lucia

Yesterday, December 13, was the Feast of St. Lucia, a festival of lights celebrated in honor of St. Lucia (or Lucy), a martyr who was killed by the Romans in AD 304.

The name Lucia/Lucy comes from the Latin root lux which means “light.” Celebrated in the darkness of winter, St. Lucia Day reminds us that the true Light of the world has come.

It’s celebrated primarily in Sweden and Norway, but also in Italy (where Lucia was born) and in parts of Finland.

It’s also celebrated in our house.

My wife has quite a bit of Scandinavian heritage and richly embraces it. So much so that I’ve embraced it, too, and now consider myself an honorary Scandinavian. Our children love traditions, especially ones with significant meaning. So St. Lucia Day has become tradition in our home.

St. Lucia’s feast calls for breakfast in bed. With a 1-year old, we start at the table. As we gathered in the darkness with only our dim, white Christmas lights lit, I read this:

In the liturgy of the Church, Saint Lucy has held, and still holds today, the inspiring position of a saint whose very name reminds the faithful at the middle of Advent that her own “light” is only a reflection of the great “Light of the World” which is to start shining at Bethlehem on Christmas Day. It is as if she would say: “I am only a little flame in Advent showing you the way: 

Behold, the Lord will come And all His saints with Him, And on that day There will be a great light. Alleluia.

Lucia is one, small candle in the night pointing to the Great Light, who lights up the entire world. And whoever follows that Light will never walk in darkness again.

Here’s a brief insight I had from the day. I couldn’t help but think that Protestants would benefit from intentionally celebrating more feast days like this. It was fun. It had purpose. And, ultimately, it points us to Jesus.

The problem is that when we Protestants hear anything having to do with a “saint” we don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Dealing with “saints” smacks of all-things-Roman Catholic and idol worship. So we just avoid it altogether and, for the most part, forget those who have come before us. And we are poorer for it. (Remember, of course, that Lucia lived in the third century AD, well before the formation of the Roman Catholic Church as you know it today.)

The Scriptures tell us that celebrating a day or a religious festival is a matter of conscience because they are just a shadow of the things that were to come (see Col. 2:16-17). So no judgment at all if you or I abstain. Period.

But a feast like St. Lucia Day, while just a shadow, is still a shadow. And shadows can help us to see and experience the Substance.

We have a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us–ones we read of in the Scriptures and ones we read of outside the Scriptures. These witnesses don’t point us to themselves, but to Jesus. Otherwise, they aren’t true witnesses.

Maybe you are a Christian, of any tradition, who feels like you aren’t connected to your spiritual heritage. Maybe you are a parent who wants to structure your holidays and year with meaningful traditions. Maybe you just want to learn about those who have gone before you.

Then celebrate a feast day.

I’m not asking you to pray to or worship saints. I’m asking you to remember that you are a part of a great, spiritual family tree that spans generations and geography. Our history is rich. And I hope you to use that history to help you see and worship the One to whom the saints, like Lucia, point.

Categories
Life

“Hands”

I have a goal to write and post something for 90 straight days. I’m on day 4 and today was a packed day. My wife and I also recorded a new podcast episode tonight that just released a few minutes ago.

Whew.

So here I am at 10pm to write something.

But I’m cheating. I’m not writing something new or original.

I’m reposing a Christmas poem I wrote a few years back. It takes the perspective of Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ adoptive father.

I hope you enjoy it.


“Hands”

Open on your mother’s chest
or after a bellowing belch.
Taut when you’re tired.
Slurp slurp, tick tick,
your tongue tackles
each knuckle and cuticle.
Somehow that helps you fade
away to never-never-land.
Mine are calloused, crusty, tired.
Splinters are their wages.
Blue veins bursting.
Palm lines peeling.
Bleeding.
Grab the balm and bandage.
I’ll too visit never-never-land soon,
only after watching you there now.
For a moment I remember
the memories we will make.
Brush and comb. Throw and catch.
Shave and wash. Swing and saw.
Eat and write. Push and pull.
Mine will train yours?
That baffles me.
Yours built clouds and stars,
birds and seas.
Mine build yokes and stools,
locks and keys.
Yours rest so peaceful,
so perfect, so calm in your crib.
I reach in. A twitch.
Yours clutch mine
with a tiny might.
I worry one day you’ll be
ashamed to do the same.
Frail, weak, scarred mine are.
Made from and destined for dust.
Yet yours now
fit in mine.


This poem was originally posted on December 24, 2015 at https://jamespruch.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/a-christmas-poem-hands/

Categories
Theology

Becoming Truly Human

In his work On the Incarnation, the 4th century church father Athanasius of Alexandria wrote, “He [Jesus] became what we are that we might become what he is.”

At first glance, it might be easy to think Athanasius means we become god–or a god. Certainly theologians over the years have argued that.

But that’s not quite right.

When we trust in Jesus, we don’t get to become a god.

We get to become truly human again.

You see, we were created in the image of God. That’s what it means to be human. But because of sin and its destructive effects, our image bearing is marred.

We were created to live in perfect, sweet fellowship with our Father in heaven. But we don’t. We can’t.

We are like cracked mirrors reflecting God’s glory and beauty. So, we are still image bearers, but the reflection is far from ideal. In a way, we can say that we are functionally operating as “less than human.” That’s what sin does.

Enter Jesus.

The Second Person of the Trinity took on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and lived a perfectly obedient human life, always walking in perfect, intimate fellowship with his Father in heaven.

When God gives someone new life by his Spirit, he begins to transform them to become more like Jesus–the perfect Human. The horrible effects of sin are being undone, as it were, and we learn what it means to truly be image bearers and live before God in constant fellowship.

This process isn’t ever completed this side of the grave. The cracks are still there.

But God is working (slow as it seems to us). And we’re becoming truly human again.

I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The full life is lived with, under, and before God. It’s what we were made for. It’s what it means to be truly human. And it’s only possible because the Son took on flesh.

Categories
Life

We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

I’m happy to share with you a little devotional I wrote for Advent, We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for AdventThere are twenty-five readings with related Scripture passages and questions.

I pray it’s a blessing and that it helps you worship Christ this Christmas!

Categories
Life Ministry

Day 23: Christmas: A Mission to the Nations

[Through Jesus we have received] grace and apostleship to bring about
the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (
Romans 1:5-6)

The first Christmas was a mission trip. The mission trip of all mission trips. Jesus left the comforts of his home in heaven to come here, a foreign land. Why did he come? It was for nothing less than to inherit the nations as his own possession, drawing all men to himself. In the opening words of his great letter to the Romans, Paul says as much. Jesus “was descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3)—reminiscent of the angel’s announcement that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in the city of David. And for what purpose? Nothing less than “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom. 1:5).

At the beginning of Jesus’ life, the nations, represented by the magi, came to worship him (recall Day 18). At the end of Jesus’ life on earth, Jesus said to the disciples, “Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations!” (Matt. 28:19). And at the end of history, this will come to completion as the nations are gathered together to sing praise to Jesus (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

We rightly think of Christmas as a time for good-will and generosity to the poor. But what if we saw Christmas through a missional lens? Jesus left the comforts of his home. He became like the people he wanted to save. He preached hard truths to these people. He showed compassion and love to them. He sacrificed everything, even his own life, for them.

He’s the ultimate missionary who now calls his saved people to join and imitate him in reaching the nations. The question is not whether the mission will be completed. It will. The only question we face is whether or not we will be a part of it.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Romans 15:8-21

  1. Read vv. 9-12. What do you make of these Old Testament passages that predict the Gentiles/nations will come to know Christ?
  2. Are you passionate about the renown of Christ among all the peoples of the world? If it passion is not as high as you’d like, how can you cultivate it?
  3. What opportunities do you have around you to spread the gospel? How might you engage with the spread of the gospel to the unreached?
  4. How can you orient your prayer life around God’s mission? What are some nations/peoples/missions that you can be praying for this Advent season and beyond?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent