EVEN BEFORE I KNEW THE LORD, I LOVED CHRISTMAS.
BUT WHAT I LOVED WAS THE GIFTS, RATHER THAN THE GIVER.
Food, glorious food.
And indeed, these are all given to us by a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. But as good as these gifts are, they are, as C. S. Lewis said: “Only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.”
Christmas, as beautiful as it can be, fills our hearts with a longing for something more.
So this Advent, I want to do something that will help you sense His presence, for as good as His gifts can be, we must not, as Lewis said, turn them into “dumb idols that will break our hearts.”
Family will fail us
earthly beauty will fall apart,
and food cannot satisfy our deepest hunger.
Let me tell you where we are going, and I am praying it will light a fire in your heart.
This fall I had a stirring conversation with my friend Twila, who does not want this to be about her, but is the fragrance of Christ to me and to so many. Twila memorizes Scripture because it helps her experience the presence and power of Christ. Last year she memorized Romans, Ephesians, and James. This year she is memorizing Hebrews. She also keeps reviewing so she won’t lose what she has hidden in her heart. She used to memorize while she walked her dog, Amos, in the morning. Then when she walked Amos at night, she would listen to audible books. But now she memorizes both times, because she says, with her eyes pooling, “It makes me feel like I’m coming home.”
Hmmm. Coming home. To that far-off country that Lewis spoke of? Could it be that when we hide God’s Word in our heart, that we are actually experiencing Jesus in our hearts? Psalm 119, the longest psalm, the psalm that exalts Scripture, sometimes sounds like the psalmist is actually worshipping the Word, for he is lifting up his hands, an act of worship, to the Word.
Tim Keller says that is because Jesus is the Word. The Word become flesh.
So when we memorize the Word, we are being wrapped in the arms of Christ.
EVEN IF YOU HAVE JUST LOST A JOB, A HOME, YOUR HEALTH, OR A LOVED ONE.
EVEN WHEN THE RICHEST GIFTS OF THE GIVER FAIL TO SATISFY.
WITH THE HELP OF GOD, WITH WHOM ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE,
AND WITH THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF ONE ANOTHER ON THIS BLOG,
WE ARE GOING TO MEMORIZE, THIS ADVENT, JOHN’S FAMOUS PROLOGUE:
IT IS A PASSAGE OF SUCH FLOWING BEAUTY, THAT IT IS AN EASIER ONE TO LEARN. IT IS ALSO SO PACKED WITH RICHES,
THAT IT WILL LEAD TO IRON SHARPENING IRON HERE ON THIS BLOG.
TWILA IS GOING TO HELP US, STEP BY STEP AND
THERE WILL BE JOY IN THE JOURNEY!
Directions to Newcomers on this Blog:
If you are just joining us, please click on the “Getting Started” and read the directions. There’s also a simple video. Your first comment will need to be approved, but then you can just get on each day after you have logged in. If you forget to log in, I will need to approve you again — but I don’t mind — just be patient. We are so glad to have you, either just for Advent, or if you choose to stay longer! We do have a big group, so don’t feel like you need to read all the comments.
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. If you are new, tell us who you are and why you’ve come!
We are going to start with the biggest piece of memorization this week, and each week will be a shorter piece, but you will always be reviewing, so though your memorization this week might be a bit rough, over the weeks, it will get as smooth as butter! There are five segments in the prologue, each getting shorter, and the last segment, which will actually be the Sunday following Christmas, is just one verse.
Twila has a system that I know will help you. This is directly from Twila:
1. Print off the whole piece you will memorize this week in large font. Do the translation of your choice, or do Dee’s choice: ESV. Print off John 1:1-5 and put it in a plastic sleeve or on photo paper so it won’t get smudged — for it will be in the kitchen, the bathroom — and everywhere! (Print it, in preparation, today.)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5)The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
2. I work on a paragraph at a time, for it is easier to memorize in concepts than to just choose a number of verses. Dee has divided this into five concept paragraphs. Learn as much, daily, from this week’s portion as will stick in your head. If the sentence is “normal length,” it is pretty easy to take the whole sentence. Verse 1 might work that way for you. If a sentence is too long, (think Paul!) just learn a phrase or two. When you have repeated the first phrase of the sentence until it rolls off your tongue easily, add the next phrase.
3. Keep adding phrases or sentences until you reach the end of the paragraph. Not everyone memorizes with the same ease, so don’t worry it it takes awhile, or if some paragraphs seem much harder to retain than others. Review, review, review. It will eventually stick in your head. You will be surprised, in time, how much easier it gets for you.
4. I get a paragraph down well enough before I walk — and then I practice it while I walk, checking accuracy when I get home — but you could easily take a card with you.
Since reviewing is key, once you get it down, you can review while you exercise, while you bake cookies, while you wrap presents, and while you drive. You will be held in His arms all through the busyness of the season.
Monday: Begin memorizing. Hopefully John 1:1-2 today.
3. What initial contemplations do you have on John 1:1?
4. What are some possible reasons that Jesus is called the Word? (Sermons will teach you more, if you have time to listen, but give your thoughts here before you listen.) In the Greek, it is “logos,” and it is packed and rich with meaning.
5. What thoughts do you have on John 1:2?
TUESDAY: Prepare your heart with this:
Keep memorizing John 1:1-5. Review 1:1-2 and add 3.
CONTEMPLATING JOHN 1:3
My friend Debbie, before she became a Christian this year, came to our study on John. How I remember her in that first study saying, “I cannot understand how Jesus began at Christmas yet has always existed. I have a headache!”
6. What contemplations do you have on John 1:3?
7. Compare this to Genesis 1:1-3 and see if you can identify each member of the Trinity.
WEDNESDAY: Keep memorizing John 1:1-5. Review 1:1-3 and if possible, add 4.
I love the part at the end of O Come All Yet Faithful when it says “Word of the Father,” now in flesh appearing. Here the singers say, “Son of the Father,” but I still chose this selection because it is acappella, and because man was the pinnacle of the Word’s creation, I still think the human voice is unmatched in beauty when compared to other instruments.
8. What contemplations do you have on John 1:4?
10. How is the memorizing so far going? If it is going well, what tips do you have for those struggling?
Thursday: Keep memorizing the passage. Review 1:1-4 and add 5 if possible.
Greek scholars tell us that the word translated overcome or comprehended or extinguished contains all of those thoughts — because Greek is richer than English.
12. Before you were a believer, how did you not “comprehend” the light? Now that you are a Christian, how has the world not “overcome” ythe light of Christ in you?
Friday: Review John 1:1-5 and listen, if you like, to this optional and amazing free Keller sermon. Share thoughts.
Saturday: Review John 1:1-5.
13. What is your take-a-way and why?