High Priest in a Manger: The Nativity As Seen Through Hebrews 4

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so they say.

To exalt why we exist, to know freedom abundantly…

…yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.

But if you’re like me these days…drained, disoriented…wondering when and where you are…unsure of most things status and standing…lend an ear.

‘Cause while I don’t have all the answers, I’m also not one to hide what I find. Even if it means going back to certain wells time and time again.

That said, a few weeks ago, I was glancing through Hebrews 4 when it hit me: While verses 14-16 are often attributed to genealogy and lordship, they also hold value in light of Christmas.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s read together…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Upon first look, it’s fair to say there’s not much Bethlehem and Messianic prophesy referenced in this passage. Granted, one could say the “great high priest” achieves the latter, but either way, odds are you’re not thinking Luke 2 when reading Hebrews 4.

However, when we take a deeper dive, we begin to see the significance of what “great high priest” means for us today. For instance, after emphasizing Christ as Word and the trust/rest dynamic in v. 14, note the critical turn in v. 15. As the Message translates, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.” Rather, He is able to understand our weaknesses and temptations because He not only conquered them but experienced them!

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From here, we begin to see how this passage pertains to Christmas. Before the Son of God could bear our sin in His body, the Son of Man had to be born into it. Before He could redeem us from the curse of the law, He had to establish His plan of grace. Before He could save us through the Cross, He had to love us through the manger. You get the picture.

Yet, even before the manger, Christ had to be our high priest relating to us before the beginning of time. In this way, His sovereign authority could craft a divine pathway for our eternal relationship and our fearless approach beforehand. After all, nothing takes God by surprise.

Of course, the theological layers run deeper, but for now, consider this. When we celebrate Christmas each year, we’re essentially saying…

… “Lord, I’m taking hold of your mercy, I’m entering your rest, I’m accepting your help, I’m renewing my mind…all because you loved us to know our flesh as flesh. And from that relatability, I can receive you in confidence as the center of my ability, humility, stability, tranquility, etc.

I love how the Amplified breaks this down…

Therefore, let us with privilege approach the throne of God’s gracious favor with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy AND find His amazing grace to help in time of need…an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.”

Ahhh, at the right moment. Isn’t that what we’re always searching for? The right time, a right moment, the right one, even? And yet, so often we miss the fact Jesus is all these things. A perpetual reality punctuated by the incarnation, Jesus was our hope as a high priest before He became hope as a baby. Now we can live with Him in heaven forever all because once upon a time, a hope once deferred became the hope we cling to today.

Accordingly, for all you in despair, in a rut…a funk, whatever it may be, know this: Jesus came at the right moment so He could intervene for you at the right moments. Past, present, future…He never stops being a shining light of David directing our hearts to where His rest lies. As Paul states in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” All the more so, His light could enter, penetrate the darkness, and shatter the mold.

And so…as we wrap up another year, my prayer is that you’ll embrace this season and boldly enter into God’s best, His rest, and His next. For when you see the Cross behind the manger, you understand Christmas; however, when you see the priest in the manger, you’ll know the courage that can be yours as you invite into your weakness. How awesome it is to know Christ made Himself vulnerable so we could be vulnerable back? Not to mention with each other as we share the good news of His love in all we say and do.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Love you guys…

~ Cameron

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Cover photo creds: Renovare

 

3 Underrated Life Lessons from ‘Home Alone 2’

As mentioned last December, when it comes to memorable Christmas movies, it’s hard to leave ‘Home Alone’ off the list. The charm, the music, the shenanigans, stir in some holiday vibes and family flavor, and it’s no surprise the film has stood the test of time.

Yet, while the success of Home Alone would ultimately inspire a carbon-copied cash cow sequel, having recently revisited Home Alone 2, it’s worth noting the life lessons embedded in its baggage (pun intended).

Thus, in the spirit of extending tradition and diving into yet another Chris Columbus movie, here are three underrated life lessons inspired by ‘Home Alone 2’…

  1. Keep your heart [pure]…

In this exchange, Kevin and the pigeon lady are in a loft above Carnegie Hall where she explains her mid-life crisis following her lover’s departure.

After admitting relational apprehensions, Kevin suggests she starts trusting people again. Having confided in her, Kevin then shares of past misbehaviors before accepting the pigeon lady’s advice to create good tidings in their place.

For a movie needing to convey a universal message yet remain politically correct, I’m not opposed to this moment of improbable dialogue. That said, if I’m in Kevin’s shoes, I’m not saying, ‘keep you heart open’; rather, I’m likely substituting something less vague like ‘clean’, ‘pure’, ‘vigilant’, etc.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” ~ Psalm 51:10

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone* from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26

Keep you heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” ~ Proverbs 4:23

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

To be fair, the way Kevin uses ‘open’ here is worth some benefit of the doubt. Generally, when we use the word in similar fashions, we’re encouraging someone not only to take inventory of fear, but to count the cost of courage. Still, while Kevin’s advice is admirable for a ten-year-old, I submit had he been more specific and defined certain truths she should be open to, he would have better helped the pigeon lady move on from her past…

…which brings me to my first point…

…if we’re going to employ goodness, why superficially deliver it fearing we may be wrong or intrusive? Not to suggest we disregard decency and modesty, which organically come as we’re led by the Spirit; however, if we’re content in preserving shallow forms of goodwill, are we not reflecting a subtle version  of what we long to see people free from?

As one can relate to the pigeon lady (i.e. the paralyzing effects of crushed dreams and unpruned fears), all I know is whatever love I give or receive…I want it to pierce something…be it pain, confusion, anxiety, whatever. After all, God will take care of my options, but as for you, I just want to see you be brave and, at least, consider telling me something I may not know and/or need to straight-up hear.

Bottom line: If you’re going to encourage someone to keep their heart open, don’t end the sentence with ‘open’. In this way, you’ll charge your encouragement as a springboard rather than a sugarcoated fortune cookie.

*Bonus points to Kevin for this line: “If you’re not going to use your heart, then what’s the difference if it gets broken?” A heart of stone, whether intact or shattered, is still stone.

  1. Know why you battle

It’s hard to ignore your favorite scene in a post like this. Even if it wasn’t, you got to admit the first 36 seconds of this clip, as ex machina they may be, pump the adrenaline.

Yet, before the movie’s climax can commence, consider how the scene starts…

Interesting, how the clip starts with the Star of David. Granted, this makes sense given the song’s lyrics…

Distant stars, at home up in the heavens.
Wonder what they see, are they watching me?
Christmas Star, you spin your strands of silver.
What a sight to see, are you there to guide me?

Star light, shine bright.
See me through the dark night.
Light my pathway;
Guide me home for Christmas Day.

Still, it’s refreshing to see how a symbol of Christ’s birth helped ignite this sequence.

First, you have a Star of David helping harness Kevin’s attention onto an ill peer. From there, Kevin is reminded while he’s still lost in the most populated city on earth, there are others less fortunate worth fighting as confirmed by his battle-cry…

“You can mess with a lot of things, but you can’t mess with kids on Christmas!”

To sum up this scene, if we stop and consider the broken around us, it’s not long until we’re reminded why we battle against evil schemes (Ephesians 6:11)…why what we protect is worth protecting. Kudos to Columbus for somehow capturing it all in only half a minute!

Bottom line: Perspective matures our vulnerability into mobility. If we want to fight the good fight and overcome evil with good, don’t just ponder the good, bask in it.

  1. Dove the one you love

For this one, I’m not so caught up in the actual clip as much as I’m reminded how much deeper turtle-dove significance is in the Bible. A quick systematic overview reveals turtle-doves are more than sentimental emblems. Rather they demonstrate the beauty of sacrificed innocence (Old Testament), passionate devotion (Song of Solomon), imminent healing/thanksgiving (Hezekiah), and prophetic divinity (Gospels).

If you ask me, turtle-doves are underrated when we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. True, we sing of them frequently every time we come to the second day of the ‘Twelves Day of Christmas’ carol; however, if we zoom out and consider why turtle-doves have any Christmas connection at all, we find reason in their physical and symbolic splendor represented in Creation to Noah…all the way to the Cross. In essence, they are a genuine reminder that Jesus is the reason for the season and in Him, a) God is pleased and b) we can know true peace and goodwill.

Bottom line: Doves capture the sweet aroma of incarnational love.

Selah.

Cover photo creds: The Daily Edge

 

3 Underrated Life Lessons from ‘Home Alone’

When it comes to my top 10 Christmas movies, it’s tough not to include ‘Home Alone’. From John William’s score to Kevin’s elaborate booby-traps, it’s no wonder the film has long been heralded a Christmas classic.

Yet, while it’s easy to remember Macaulay Culkin’s signature scream and home security alarm system1, it’s also worth noting the movie’s moral fiber laced among its memorable moments.

Thus, in the spirit of going behind the scenes1, here are three underrated life lessons inspired by ‘Home Alone’…

1. Don’t believe everything you hear

Imagine being a falsely labeled murderer for over three decades, estranged from family, frozen in accusation. Hard to relate, right? Unfortunately, for ol’ man Marley, his reputation had fermented such stains. Once an innocent family man, now a salty, suspicious loner with a checkered past.

Yet, for Kevin, who like any impressionable youngster buys the gossip initially, his fear ultimately fades when confronted by Marley at a local church service.

Posed with tangible truth, Kevin not only accepts his misunderstanding, but ‘captains’ the conversation into two of the movie’s driving themes:

  • Togetherness is a vital ingredient to family life.
  • Never judge a book by its cover.

By exchange’s end, Kevin reminds us not only to weigh our judging impulses, but how doing so can build unexpected bridges with people we never imagined.

2. Reconcile your differences

As an adult, it’s interesting to observe movies you frequented as a kid. For instance, with ‘Home Alone’, it’s appalling how much word cursing and finger pointing occurs within the first five minutes.

Megan McCallister: Kevin, you’re completely helpless!

Linnie McCallister: You know, Kevin, you’re what the French call les incompetents.

Jeff McCallister: Kevin, you are *such* a *disease*!

Frank McCallister: Look what you *did*, you little *jerk*.

Buzz McCallister: I wouldn’t let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my [butt].

I mean…if I had family like that, I probably would want them to disappear too. No wonder my parents started the movie after these scenes!

Of course, as we eventually find, Kevin, not realizing he’d been inadvertently abandoned, learns to value what his parents provided him while Kevin’s parents learn to press through guilt into doing whatever possible to get home.

By the finale, not only do we see Kevin’s rejuvenated appreciation of family, but Kevin’s family realizing the type of person they’d been abandoning long before leaving for Paris.

Granted, it would have been ideal had humility and forgiveness being more directly exchanged. Yet, in the world of cinema, beggars can’t be choosers so we learn to live with backhand affirmation (Buzz: “Hey, Kev. It’s pretty cool that you didn’t burn the place down.”), hugs speaking for themselves, and a mother’s ‘sorry’ covering for the entire family2.

3. Don’t just conquer your fear, stay ahead of it

Remember the scene when Kevin goes down to the basement and encounters the furnace (apparently voiced by Sauron)?

Upon further review, Kevin does right in downgrading his foreboding to imagination, but as we later see, once the furnace opens, it’s game over.

Fast-forward twenty minutes and we find Kevin, having since conquered a pestering clerk, a stereotypical police officer, and a klutzy pizza delivery man, revisiting the furnace, flexing his new found confidence (see 1:18-1:27 in the clip below).

Yet, while Kevin is able to ‘defeat’ the furnace,  he knows to beat the wet bandits, he must not only brace his fear, but embrace it by tackling each hurdle in stride as evidenced by my favorite scene in the movie…

Thus, as Kevin reminds us, if we want to better confront our challenges, we need to anticipate and see ourselves rising above them. Only then can we stand strong, hold our ground, and defend the faith as we were made to.

Bonus: Be careful what you wish for.

As a kid, this line constantly sailed over my head…

…but now as a married father of two, I get the joke.

Obviously, Kevin is too young to understand the full contrast between independence and relationship, especially in a family where neither is modeled well; however, for older viewers like us, his tantrum3 can remind us to be careful what we say, what we wish for, and how we interpret hidden cries for help.

In Kevin’s case, not only did he feel left out, but ridiculed and scorned when attention was given (hence his level of frustration; see word curses above). Yet, while his comments on the surface seem to indicate a craving for solitude, his ‘when I get married‘ slip up clearly confirms a much deeper-seeded desire for meaningful/functional connection.

As for us, let’s learn from Kevin by making sure we don’t defer our hope in the face of disappointment while keeping a steady ear, eye, and hand out for those in similar struggles4.

Footnotes

  1. In more ways than one
  2. Though quick side note: while Kevin’s parents lived their ownership, as we’ve talked about here on His Girl Fryday, full reconciliation of relational soul/spirit hurts can only occur if repentance is confessed
  3. Shout out to Joe Pesci whose reaction makes this scene)
  4. Which interestingly Kevin does with old man Marley during the church scene

Bible Verses

  1. 2 Timothy 1:7
  2. Romans 8:37
  3. Psalm 23:4
  4. Isaiah 41:13
  5. Deuteronomy 31:6
  6. Psalm 27:1; 34:4
  7. Psalm 115:11
  8. 1 Peter 3:13-14
  9. 1 Corinthians 16:13
  10. Proverbs 13:12

Photo cover: Film & TV Now

The Season of Perpetual Hope

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so we’re told this time of year.

But let’s be honest: how many of us feel remotely close to Yuletide bliss?

I know for me…as the fall sun sets into what should be the happiest season of all, the stress of it not being so sets in as well.

What if December is blue, not white. What if this and that are not right.

I’m sure I speak for many when I say the anxiety can be overwhelming.

And yet, as valid as our tensions may be…as easy as it is to yield to negativity and strive for positivity, it’s worth noting we were made for the other way around.

But Cam…how do I get there? 

Well, that’s why I writing this.

‘Cause truth is: this Advent season can feature some of the roughest crossroads of the year. For instance, what do you do when you want to sing joy to the world, but feel too ‘Charlie Brown’ to care? Or what do you do when Christmas is coming on too fast for one limping among shattered dreams and broken goals on way to another yearly finish line?

To help answer these questions, I want to cut away to one my favorite Christmas movies: Home Alone.

Remember the scene when Kevin’s mom is desperately pleading with the Scranton ticket agent?

And I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike! If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.”

Well, it just so happens prior to her ‘Momma Bear’ unleashing, she leaks out one of the most profound definitions of Christmas in cinematic history.

This is *Christmas*! The season of perpetual1 hope!

Now it’s worth pointing out a couple things:

  1. Kate McCallister, like many of us this time of year, is tired, frustrated, yet determined…knowing what she wants but unsure how to get there.
  2. Kate admits a profound truth as a means to justify a personal end (i.e. getting home to her son’)…as opposed to letting that means be the end she needed to persevere.
  3. Kate’s response reminds us of the potentially beautiful relationship between resolve and desperation (Note I say ‘potentially’ since unguarded desperation can mislead our resolve away from what we believe).

In short, Kate had the awareness of what was right: Christmas is the season of perpetual hope2; however, in her frantic state, she lacked the application of what was right as the only thing she wanted perpetual was herself.

Yet, while Kate could have saved herself some stress, we can learn from her mistake by discovering what the Word says about  ‘perpetual hope’. ‘Cause when we talk ‘perpetual’, we’re not only talking about the immutability of God – the reality of an unchanging God timeless in nature, but also the quality of hope we internally long for.

Ask yourself this: why do so many nations celebrate the secular symbol of Santa Clause…or represent their holiday spirit with illumination? Is it not as Bryan Bedford stated from “Miracle on 34th Street”, “to create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made…”?

If yes, then I submit we’re not only hard-wired with an innate drive to hope in something, but to hope in something perpetual. Granted, it’s easy this time of year to put foot to gas…hoping to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’…hoping to feel good about ourselves…hoping enough satisfaction can be derived from momentum…as opposed to resting in our perpetual Provider; however, if you’re sitting there worried the joy of Christmas has to be earned or is going to take off without you…I have good news for you:

You don’t have to carry the load anymore!

Rather you can relinquish fear, release control, and receive a fresh hope centered in the always abiding, ever enduring love of the begotten. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about: remembering the “light of the World” who came not only to make a way, but a perpetual way (Isaiah 43:16)…even when we feel no one can reach us3.

Thus, if anyone needs some perpetual hope this Christmas, consider it’s always been Jesus…

…God from God…

…Light from Light…

…Strength of Strength…

…Hope of [Perpetual] Hope…

…breaking through the darkest of nights to save…

…you.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Perpetual = Never ending/changing, everlasting; occurring repeatedly
  2. Honestly, how many people around her could have come up with a better summary of Christmas in six words or less, especially under those circumstances
  3. Desperation Band – “Make a Way