Steve Macchia Blog

Blessings and Resolutions

Over the next few days, you and many others may be making resolutions for the new year. Some of those resolutions will be about weight loss, others about financial gain; still more will concern relationships and many will be about exercise. Those who are Christians might make a commitment to “read the Bible through in a year” or “pray more often” or “finally make that trip to the Holy Land.” What’s on your list for 2014? One hint: keep your list specific, manageable, and achievable!

However, before you determine your new years resolutions, I’d like to make one suggestion…first take prayerful stock of your past year blessings. Consider the question, “In what way(s) have you seen God work in, through and around you that is especially noteworthy in 2013?”

Sitting with the gospel of John chapter 1 in my prayer chair this past weekend, I noticed a verse that jumped off the page as I read it for what must be the gazillionth time. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16).

Looking back on the past year, I’m confident there have been countless blessings offered to us from the hand of God. The Lord has given us blessings…one after another…all from the fullness of His grace. And, all are to be received with a heart of gratitude and joy.

Blessings from God come in all shapes, forms, and sizes. They arrive in tangible and intangible ways, forming within and around us a seedbed for God’s redeeming work to be fulfilled. They arise from out of nowhere and even in the mundane of daily routines. They are as large as a blazing sunset and as small as a whisper of love. Blessings are uncountable, they measure up to much more than we could ever ask, dream or imagine. Blessings are what God delivers generously and indiscriminately and simply – all because of His loving grace.

So, unless we take the time to count our many blessings they will flee from our memories almost as quickly as they are delivered. To count our blessings on a daily basis is to live reflective lives of noticing the handiwork of God all around us. To recount them at the end of a year is to foster a heart of gratitude to Almighty God, the giver, sustainer, redeemer, and transformer of the abundant life we’re offered each new day.

Receive both the blessings and the recollection thereof…all are to be seen as gifts from the hand of a loving, grace-filled God. Then, with blessings all around us, let’s lean into a new year with clear and conscious resolve to notice God as we make commitments to deepen our affection for Him. Another year is dawning, may it be dedicated to the Lord as we continue to receive the fullness of His grace. Glory to His Name – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and a blessed New Year to all!

O Antiphons – Part 3

In the ancient and majestic Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” we are greeted by 7 beautiful “Antiphons” which point us to Jesus as the fulfillment of all prophecies spoken of Him in the Old Testament and among the people of Israel. Already we have reviewed the first 5 “types” of Christ: Emmanuel, Wisdom, Lord, Rod of Jesse, and Key of David. The final two are “Dayspring” and “Desire of Nations.”

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” as in 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.

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.

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

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

O Antiphons – Part 2

In the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” we discover 7 “antiphons” that 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 antiphonal voices of the prophets are joined responsively by the king himself, Jesus, and his faithful disciples then and now.

The first two antiphons are “Emmanuel” and “Wisdom” which we covered in the previous blog. The next three are “Lord” and “Rod/Root of Jesse” and “Key of David” – expressing Jesus’ lordship and power.

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!

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 they 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 on He could provide.

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!

O Antiphons – Part 1

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.”

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 not yet to the already and back to the not yet…anticipating Christ’s coming, His incarnational arrival as a child, and His future coming in glory yet to be revealed.

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.

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!