Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Come Immanuel

As we come closer to Christmas Eve I am reminded of a hymn we sang in church this past Sunday.

Indeed, the song hasn’t really left me except for the moment I was singing “It’s Wonderful Neighbourhood” in response to how cold it was yesterday (I had to – in the face of such cruel adversity it’s a frivolous means of creating some cheer).

The hymn has such a memorable tune that beckons to be whistled. Of course, a certain power is found in the refrain:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

I recall while singing it to finding the baritones notes and the parsing in the last words, “come to thee, O Is-ra-el.” In the instant my spirit was lifted up.

There is a history to the composition of this hymn, which unfortunately I currently cannot afford to research (perhaps later).

However, whether there is bearing to the following Scripture, Philippians 4:4-7, I do find a parallel in these words:

4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Advent is of course a time of waiting. We are encouraged to not draw faint in our hopes for the return of our LORD. Paul writes that we should take heart that through good year and bad, God is willing and able to hear your prayers. He is near. He will save you through the Christ Jesus. He will come to thee.

In this year I have had both portions of good and bad. It seems when you do an accounting of progress, the bad scrapes tend to have prominence. Oh well: a failed relationship and a loss of a parent. Perhaps I did not re-create as much as I wanted, either. My body is breaking down in places I would rather it did not. On the other side of the balance sheet some of my friendships have strengthened and I feel a greater confidence in myself through my involvement in my local church. In spite of everything, I can declare I feel my understanding of God has grown. I am inclined to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit more often, which means I am more cognizant of it in my daily walk. Therefore, the words, Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel, has more pertinence.

I hope you who read this can say the same of your relationship with the LORD. If not, take heart and be encouraged, for He is near.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.¶

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.¶


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.¶


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.¶


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.¶


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.¶


O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.¶


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.¶


Monday, December 22, 2008

A Joke PM Stephen Harper Might Know

Here’s a joke Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper might know:

A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job.

The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks, “What does two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks, “Four exactly?” The mathematician looks incredulously and says, “Yes, four, exactly.”

Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question, “What does two plus two equal?” the accountant says, “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.”

The interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question, “What does two plus two equal?” The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the window shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal?”

(if you didn’t know, Mr Harper is an economist)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Don't Run For Trains Anymore

So, isn’t this about the tenth inch of snow received in the last week?


Like much of the rest of the Prairies this week Calgary has been socked into a cold front that has seen temperatures falling into the minus twenties. I don’t usually complain about the weather. Being a flatlander I have grown up to understand that the weather we have is a fait accompli. You just have to work around it. Yet, today as I was waiting for the walk light to change at 9th Avenue SW and 11th Street SE in Calgary, for what seemed like forever, the seeds of a complaint were starting to form. The northwest wind was blowing snow around me, and it didn’t seem to matter that I had my back turned toward it, I was cold. Streams of traffic were going by, and I began to wonder if there wasn’t some controller with his finger on the button dictating when the walk light would change who was taking delight in our cold huddled group on the corner.


I was on my way to catch the downtown train that runs through the core. In doing this routine for some time I have observed many people doing the same thing as me. Each approaches the event of riding to work a bit differently. There are those who stare off through the windows lost n in some iPod-filled acre of their existence, deliberately avoiding the gaze of other riders. There are those who can read a book while walking down the street or hitting the exit button on the train without having to re-read a paragraph. There are those who refuse to sit. Instead they crowd near the doors. Perhaps they are afraid of not being able to get off the train.


There is much diversity to be found in the ridership on the C-train. People from Eastern Africa, who have adapted well to our culture, but still find warm days to be cold and wear parkas. There are the Sikhs who come into the downtown from the northeast at the end of the day. They make up the component that clean the office towers. They wear the preferred costume of their homelands, saris and gold jewellery, and tell each other funny stories in Punjabi, and laugh. Remarkable are the old women who we think would want to be at home wit their feet up instead of cleaning. These are just a few of the cultures I have observed.


There are the homeless too. On the really cold days they ride the downtown train that is free so they can stay warm. Several days ago a small group were congregated in the back of the lead car. These few were addicts.

The precursor of their presence was the unpleasant acidic odour of too much booze mixed with other toxins and sweat, and hardly any taken showers.


I walk by the transit newspaper hawkers everyday. One in particular interests me. Everyday, regardless of weather, at the same spot he is there handing out the free tabloid. He talks to himself incessantly. It’s not a mumble. I often wonder what the conversation is about. He has a colleague whose role is “environmental.” His job is to scour the train cars for discarded newspapers. When he is done he takes a seat and nods his head to a rhythm only he understands. Then at the right moment before the train departs the depot, and how he knows when to leave I don’t understand, he gets up and leaves the car.


Lastly, there are people who being a half a block from the terminus run for the trains. I emphasize the plural here. It’s important. I can understand if there is only one train visible, and you’re anxious about being late for work that one would run for the train. But two trains, that baffles me. With two you have a 50-50 chance of arriving at your destination either on time or a little later. I watched a young gal wearing some boutique high heel boot darting across the road, stopping traffic, so she could catch her train. Once again, two trains in, what is the rush. Would it had been worth it had she slipped on some ice and fell, maybe injuring an arm?


I don’t run for trains anymore. Either I am getting lazy or old and lazy. The difference being that my knees complain too long afterward to justify the effort, and thus I am old. In contrast I have time for trains. I will hang back to watch a freight pass in front of me giving me the pleasure of wondering where each come has came from, what’s in it and where is it going. Life is too short to not take notice of life’s delights.


Stay warm.




Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Three things which do not come back

William Barclay writes on Romans 12: 9-13 with emphasis on the verse 11: “Seize your opportunities” (NSRV) also trans. as “Never be lacking zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.” (NIV):


“In a section so filed with practical advice, it is more likely that Paul was saying to his people: ‘Seize your opportunities as they come.’ Life presents with all kinds of opportunities – the opportunity to learn something new or to cut out something wrong; the opportunity to speak a word of encouragement or of warning; the opportunity to help or comfort. One of the tragedies of life is that we so often fail to grasp these opportunities when they come. There are three things which do not come back – the spent arrow, the spoken word and the lost opportunity. (my italics)”


Source: Barclay, William. The New Daily Study Bible. The Letter to the Romans, c 1975, 2002, p 195.