Steve Macchia Blog

New Year Reflections: Remember and Give Thanks

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One of the pillars of the spiritual life that we encourage leaders to consider is the discipline of reflection. Accompanying our personal and community time in the Scriptures and in prayer, reflection is best seen in the ways we “remember and give thanks” to God for the life of abundance he invites us to embrace each new day.  On our soul care retreats and in our spiritual formation groups we teach the importance of reflection, specifically through the ancient practice of “Daily Examen.”

 

As you anticipate the start of a new year, it’s good for your soul to look back with gratitude on 2014 and ahead with anticipation for all that awaits you in 2015. Here are a few suggestions to consider as you spend a few quiet moments with the Lord in the midst of your New Year celebrations…

 

1.  Spend some quiet time with the Lord and simply become aware of God’s presence. Quiet your hurried heart and ask God to bring clarity to your reflections.

2.  Review the past year with gratitude, recalling the gifts God gave to you in 2014. Gifts from God might include new or renewed relationships, special events or experiences, etc.

3.  Pay attention to the emotions that these recollections evoke; what remembrance of this past year brings fear, joy, anxiety, sorrow or elation? Note these in written form.

4.  What one major event of the past year stands out among the rest? Pray through and process how it has shaped you either positively or negatively.

5.  Look ahead to 2015. What are your expectations, hopes and dreams for the New Year? List them in your journal and pray over them on the first few days of the New Year.

 

God bless you as you partake of this prayer-filled, year-end Examen.



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O Antiphons – Welcoming the Miracle of Christmas

 Christ is Born

O Antiphons – Welcoming the Miracle of Christmas

By Stephen A. Macchia

 

Advent waiting, watching and wondering

Embracing the coming of the Christ child

Prophetically, humbly and gloriously

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel!

 

Rod of Jesse, freeing us from Satan’s tyranny victoriously

Dayspring, dispersing gloomy clouds with cheers on high

Key of David, opening wide the path to our heavenly home

Lord of Might, holding firm the Law in majesty and awe

Wisdom from on high, inviting order on the way to knowledge

Desire of nations, binding all people in one heart and mind

 

Our hymn of praise exalts the heavens and blankets the earth

O come, O come, Emmanuel…your prophets foretold the truth

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

 

Emmanuel has come, is with us now, and will come again once more!



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O Antiphons – Day 7, 12/23

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O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the heart of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, and be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

As King of all nations, we now anticipate the arrival of genuine peace. In fact, our hearts cry out for such peace each time we celebrate another season of Advent. Why? Because every year of our lives there are wars that hinder our peace…somewhere in the world, and even in our country, community, church, neighborhood, and among family and friends. Every division, whether large or small, is sad…simply sad. There is nothing we desire in times of strife more than peace. Jesus is the author and perfect example of reconciliation…in Him there is peace.

Christmas is coming and our hearts are growing in loving anticipation and joyful celebration. The season of Advent reminds us to simply wait…in due time, in God’s time, He sent His Son into the world in an unlikely way through unconventional means and in an unglamorous place. We wait with prayerful hope that once more the worshipful celebration of the coming of Jesus in a humble stable will draw us back home…into the arms of God. And, eventually back home into the arms of others, even those with whom today we are not in peace.

Rejoice, dear brothers and sisters in Christ…Jesus has come in a lowly manger and will come again in triumphant glory. Rejoice! Rejoice! Alleluia! Amen!

A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us at Leadership Transformations and the Macchia household too!



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O Antiphons – Day 6, 12/22

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O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine Advent here,

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Dayspring is literally “dawn,” the physical light of the sun at the start of a new day. At the dawning of light, we welcome Christ into the world to shatter the darkness that had previously plagued the people of God. At long last, the promised One has come to light up the world and cheer our waning spirits. With the dawn, the clouds of night are dispersed and new life emerges from below the horizon…come dayspring, come quickly, so our darkly shadowed world can find freedom and joy in the light of day.

What is the darkness over your heart and life today? What are the heavy concerns that weigh on you, hold you back from the abundant life, and follow you like a dark cloud above? The coming of Emmanuel is a tangible reminder that our dark shadows are put to flight…set free to be released…no longer are you held down in bondage to those heartaches. In Jesus, you are free to live and breathe and have your being fully released in him. Are you willing to hold looser or fully release those dark shackles that tie you down? Freedom in Jesus will transform your soul and will invite you into a deeper trust this Christmas. May it be so.



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O Antiphons – Day 5, 12/21

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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.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

The Key of David reference signifies kingly authority; holding the keys to that control of domain that David once held in a geographical and historical setting would now have worldwide influence in Christ. Found in Isaiah 22 and Revelation 3, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and the head of the Church in Philadelphia.

So we cry out once more, “Come, yes come even more, Emmanuel” and be with us, guiding, protecting, sustaining, and ruling over our hearts and lives this new Advent season. With prayerful and joyful anticipation, we await your coming once more in the humble manger of hay, and having risen miraculously from the dead, we look forward with heavenly intent to the time you will come again and usher us into glory with you forever!

In response to that life-changing truth…Rejoice! Find joy in God alone…Rejoice! No matter what life delivers today…Rejoice!



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O Antiphons – Day 4, 12/20

 

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O come, O Rod of Jesse free, Thine own from Satan’s tyranny,

From depths of hell Thy people save, and give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

In alternative hymnals, the opening line is changed to “O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, from every foe deliver them that trust thy mighty power to save…” Either way, the rod or root of Jesse signifies the stem from which Jesus would come would be through the lineage of David, the youngest offspring of his less famous father Jesse. The humility of this reference is striking indeed…mentioning Jesse rather than King David. Jesus came in all humility as well, born of a teenage mother, birthed in a simple manger, but with power, majesty, and offering a salvation only He could provide.

Consider in your prayers today that the thought of sending Jesus to earth wasn’t a last minute BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of God…it was God’s plan from the beginning, foretold in the prophets, and enacted through a very humble lineage. As you pray today, thank God for how intimately acquainted he is with every hair on your head, every concern of your heart, every thought in your mind. Allow the Lord to reign victoriously in your soul, yes even today.



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O Antiphons – Day 3, 12/19

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O come, O come, thou Lord of might, Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times didst give the law, in cloud and majesty and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

In Exodus 3 we see how the angel of the Lord came to Moses in the burning bush, invited Moses to lead the people of God out from their slavery in Egypt and give them the Law, both of which would set them free. The Lord works mightily in their midst and behalf, all of which resounds with shouts of rejoicing and praise. In the Incarnation, Jesus Himself fulfills the Law and comes to set us free!

Let your heart cry out to the Lord today, inviting his strength to reside within you as you face various trials, tribulations, and temptations. Look for the burning bush of his presence there to guide, protect, lead and sustain you. Be free from the inside out as you offer prayers of majesty and awe to Almighty God.



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O Antiphons – Day 2, 12/18

 

 

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O come, O Wisdom from on high, who orders all things mightily

 

To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

 

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

 

The second “type” of Christ is as Wisdom, also predicated by Isaiah in chapter 11, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.”

 

We cry out to the Lord, “Come” – “Yes, come even more!” we pray. Come alongside us and abide “with us” and offer to us “wisdom” from on high, and teach us to walk the well ordered path of your will.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

 



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The O Antiphons – Day 1, 12/17

 

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Advent hymns speak to the longing in our hearts for the coming of Christ. We sing them each year during this holy season, embedded with rich and deep significance for all. By far one of the most popular, and my personal favorite, is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with 7 grand stanzas. Each verse known as one of the “O Antiphons.” Each of the 7 “antiphons” depict 7 “types” of Christ presented to us prophetically in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the first Advent of Christ’s incarnation recorded in the New Testament.

The term “antiphon” literally means “opposite voice” or “responsorial voice” as would occur between a choir and congregation, a call and response. From one to another, the voices call out from side to side, back and forth, to and from. The Antiphons in this hymn are filled with “alternating” voices of meaning, from the Old to the New Testaments, from the prophecies foretold of Christ to the fulfillment thereof. From the prophetic not yet to the present already and onward to the future not yet…a groaning of sorts in anticipation of Christ’s coming, in His incarnational arrival as a child, and in His future coming in yet-to-be-revealed glory.  The antiphonal voices of the prophets are joined responsively by the king himself, Jesus, and his faithful disciples then and now.

This ancient hymn was originally penned in Latin in the 12th century (Veni, Veni Emmanuel). The version most often used today was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale and includes three more verses than Sufjan sings.

The hymn was inspired by the traditional O Antiphons sung at Vespers services during the final seven day stretch of Advent. An antiphon (from the Greek anti + phon meaning opposite + voice) refers to a call and response mode of singing. The seven O Antiphons are comprised of a title for the Messiah from the prophet Isaiah: O Sapienta (Wisdom), O Adonia (Lord), O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (Key of David), O Oriens (Rising Sun, Morning Star, or Day-Spring), O Rex Gentium (King of Nations), and O Emmanuel (God with us).

A fascinating fact from the O Antiphons is that the titles for the Messiah in reverse order Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonia, Sapienta form an acrostic ERO CRAS in Latin, which is translated “I will come tomorrow.” Those monks who wrote and arranged the lyrics to the O Antiphons married theological and artistic creativity in a fabulous way.* We will consider one of the antiphons each day prior to Christmas Eve.

December 17 – Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

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

This first “type” of Christ, foretold in Isaiah and revealed in the gospel of Matthew, is Emmanuel. The “with us” God is prophesied and fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He came to us in the flesh as a baby boy, and He comes to us and abides with us as Emmanuel. His coming sets the captives free, provides companionship for the lonely, and ongoing hope for all who mourn in places of exile and wandering from God.

Invite Jesus to come into the inner recesses of your heart today to set you free, provide intimate companionship, and convert your anxiety into hope.

*Special thanks to Kevin Antlitz for his excellent blog insights on the O Antiphons (in the introduction above) which can be found at transcendentalish.com – check it out!



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Note to Self: Beware of Advent Noise

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Wow, I’m shocked how many “Advent devotionals” are available this year…many more than in years past.

 

In addition to the many written options available in book format, I’m noticing on Facebook, via numerous e-mail lists, and for whatever reason I’m even auto-subscribed to several more coming into my inbox either daily or weekly between now and Christmas Day. Some I can see already will be excellent; others rather mediocre. Some are by individuals I admire or organizations I support or published by churches I’m connected with or ministries I know and follow. Everyone has very good intentions: helping their reader engage more meaningfully in the Advent and Christmas season. A few have pretty obvious ulterior motives: asking for a donation.

 

But, my fear is that these very devotionals – and their ancillary web pages, resources, events, etc. – will provide so much additional noise to an already over-cluttered, over-committed and over-saturated season of the year that they will contribute more to my/our seasonal exhaustion rather than my/our spiritual invigoration. It’s already feeling a bit like the Black Friday and Cyber Monday chatter of retail…just sayin.

 

My counsel, for what it’s worth…don’t try to do it all. Limit your intake. Focus on what seems most soul-satisfying and relationship-building (as in between you and God, and you and your faith community). Collect and then collate; don’t attempt the status of super Christian in one short month. Instead, and in the midst of all that’s already on your holiday calendar, purpose to focus – yes, really focus – on the true meaning of Advent and Christmas. Which, by the way, is about waiting and wondering, watching and hoping, listening and praying, anticipating and expecting, all wrapped up as one holy season. If you’re in a rush now, you might end up turning the page into the New Year and scratching your head, amazed how quickly it all slipped away amidst the noise and confusion.

 

You can’t enjoy the full beauty of Advent and Christmas if you think you need to do or read or attend or know it all…it simply might be too noisy for your soul. Watch out if you’re more interested in knowing more about Advent than you are experiencing the fullness of Advent. Be sure to behold the coming of the Lord in the love of the Christ Child, and then become what you receive.

 



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