Resonance

Wes Carrington

In physics, resonance means that an object vibrates most strongly when subjected to impulses at a specific frequency that is closest to that object’s natural frequency – which depends on the size, shape, and composition of the object.  In this way, objects have their strongest natural reaction, or resonance, when hit with vibrations that align with that object’s own natural frequency. 

I think we humans also powerfully demonstrate the principal of resonance.  When we receive information or experience events, we are quick to judge based on how well it resonates with our pre-existing beliefs, our inclinations, our experiences, and our opinions.  Recent political events have shown that even when presented with the same data, those in different political camps draw vastly different conclusions.  We filter facts, make assumptions, and generally judge the validity of information by whether it resonates with our pre-conceived notions.  And increasingly, our filtering and judging is further distorted when we only listen to those on our side, to those in our tribe.

The problem with this is that we are fallen, sinful people.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “None is righteous, no, not one . . . All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  Sin has distorted and corrupted us. 

This means that what resonates with us is not always what is good or true.  Our “natural” frequency is off-kilter.  Because of this, it’s dangerous to judge the world by how it resonates with us.  In fact, returning to the physics of resonance, perfect resonance can produce increasingly strong vibrations that lose control and eventually shatter the object itself – like the ear-splitting soprano at the opera shattering glass.

Thankfully, we have a source of objective truth that stands outside of our own distortions and fallible frequencies.  God is perfectly true, perfectly righteous, and perfectly good.  Through study of God’s Word, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can – by His grace – seek to live not by our own decayed senses, but toward God’s perfect standards.

A classical Christian education like that at Morning Star Academy can be especially helpful here: Recognizing God’s primary authority and revelation in the Bible, as well as a child’s natural curiosity about the world, classical Christian education can – in the words of MSA’s philosophy – “train a student’s reason to bring him/her in harmony with the created order” – not the other way around (bringing the created order into harmony with a student’s reason).

How else can we seek to live by God’s standards and not our own?  We can find our identity in Christ rather than treasuring our self-expression.  We can find our communal identity in our church and as God’s people rather than clinging to our individual autonomy and personal liberty.  We can focus our energy on loving and serving others based on their needs rather than gazing inward and expecting people to meet us on our terms.  As the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)  And we can encourage one another through fellowship and prayer – “build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and exhort one another “that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).

May God’s power be at work in our lives and may the word of Christ “dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) – even resonantly.   

Wes Carrington is an attorney at John Deere, specializing in the area of global trade and compliance.  He enjoys music, reading, travel, and Hawkeye sports.  Wes and his wife Anna have two sons at Morning Star Academy.

The things I’m learning.

Brenda Porter

David Letterman’s Late Show was famous for its top ten lists. In keeping with that excellent tradition, I share my list. Here are the top three things I’ve learned from the pandemic.

Number 3: God’s World Is Medicine for the Soul. I now look forward to my regular walks along the Mississippi River, and even now that summer is long past, I pull on my boots and head out for a sunset walk two to three times per week. By the time I get home, I feel refreshed, relaxed, and able to keep things in perspective. As research is showing, spending time in a natural environment can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Corrie ten Boom wrote in The Hiding Place that she would look out of a high prison window each day just to enjoy the beauty of the blue sky. How much more I’ve been able to enjoy—the freedom to walk the river, hike wooded trails, and walk in the sand on the Florida coast.

Number 2: People Can Adapt and Learn. As we headed into the early days of the pandemic, some students and teachers were familiar with Google Classrooms; others were not. I remember the sinking feeling I experienced when I looked at a blank Google Classroom page and realized I had to fill it with accessible, user-friendly content. Students likely felt the same when they looked at the first week’s assignments and wondered how they were going to do it all! One day at a time, we found our way through. We have not often faced such dramatic challenges in 21st century America, so it is great to know that we can adapt. How exciting to realize that God has equipped us to meet challenges, think flexibly, adjust, and learn new things. Instead of asking why, we can ask what. What can we learn?

Number 1: “I Choose the Gandalf Option.” One new source of learning for me this year has been The Trinity Forum. Their mission is “to cultivate, curate, and disseminate the best of Christian thought, to equip leaders to think, work, and lead wisely and well.”  A Trinity Forum talk given back in July featured Alan Jacobs of Baylor University. A listener concerned about the challenges facing our country asked Jacobs, “What option might you propose that would best tend and mend our collective brokenness towards integration, unity, and shalom?” Jacobs’ answer surprised both him and his listeners. “I choose the Gandalf Option.” He goes on to describe it as the choice, despite difficult circumstances, “to nourish and care for and strengthen, to feed and water the gardens that we hope will produce fruit for our children and our grandchildren.” I love being a part of the Gandalf Option at Morning Star, where we continue to “strengthen the things which remain” (Revelation 3:2) by teaching our students to seek truth, appreciate beauty, and practice goodness.

It won’t be COVID-19 next time, but there will surely be a next time. By God’s grace, students at Morning Star will receive an education that equips them to be life-long learners, ready to find beauty in God’s orderly world, ready to adapt to unexpected circumstances, ready to ask God what they can learn from the challenges they will face.

Brenda Porter teaches English, writing, and rhetoric at Morning Star Academy. She and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three grown daughters. 

What Am I Learning? Expect More

Gregory Bradford

“Then give it up, Crito, and let us follow this course, since God points out the way” (Crito 54 d-e).

As I prepare to discuss the final section of Plato’s dialogue, Crito, I notice four hands shoot up into the air. All four students have the same exact question. “Was Socrates a Christian?” It’s an impressive question. Even more impressive is that it was asked by four 7th graders.

I confess that I did not read Crito until I was in my freshman year of college’s history class. However, given the length and themes of the dialogue, I felt it would be a good example of how the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle spoke and thought. Short version: Crito is attempting to convince Socrates to escape Athens, where Socrates had been sentenced to death. Several students repeatedly asked the same questions that Crito asked of Socrates. Why is Socrates “ok” with dying? Why doesn’t he try to escape? And the classic 7th grade question: Did the poison taste good? All great questions…well, maybe not all great questions…

As we continued through the text, the students slowly shifted from Crito’s perspective to Socrates’ perspective. They realized that Socrates’ arguments, which were centered on standing on the ground of his principles and respect of the rule of law perfectly parried Crito’s more selfish appeals. This shift reflected Crito yielding control of the dialogue to Socrates. Socrates’ logic was flawless to the point where Crito gave up arguing and meekly agreed with the great philosopher. Crito’s simple agreements annoyed my students.

As I reflected on the themes of Crito and the discussions we had as a class over the course of three days, I discovered much. First, I was able to confirm that Biblical truths can be found in many places beyond the Bible. Just as Socrates gave up his opportunity to escape death in the name of God’s way, Jesus Christ gave up an opportunity to escape death to die for our sins that we may be saved. Secondly, I found that our students have a great capacity for understanding and discovery when given the opportunity. Finally, and most importantly, I can confidently expect more of my students. Too often, students will underestimate their capacity to truly grasp the things that they are learning. Sometimes, we as teachers and parents may lower the bar for them. That way, they will more easily hit the mark and not suffer failure. However, that sells our students short. They are capable. They can achieve excellence. It may take a longer amount of time to grasp a concept, but they can achieve a depth of understanding that would make anyone who knew them proud. Some of the best learning occurs through questions and conversations geared towards seeking understanding.

What have I learned? Ask questions. Take the time to engage in good fruitful conversations. Expect more from your students than they or you may think possible. As Socrates said, “let us follow this course, since God points out the way.” Let us help our students discover the way God has laid out for them in our expectation of excellence.

A 2017 graduate of Hillsdale College, Greg Bradford teaches 7th and 8th Grade World History, American Government, Economics, and Consumer Math. Additionally, Greg serves as the Athletic Director for the Morning Star Academy Mustangs.

“Consider my servant, Job.”

“Job Rebuked by his Friends”
William Blake

Mary Sievers

Job. The story of a man of great prosperity falling into deep poverty. The story of a father to ten children, for whom he prayed continually – to have them killed by a great windstorm. A man that went from highly respected to widely ridiculed. From the picture of health to a man ridden with the filthiest and most painful diseases of his time. 

On January 1st, I entered into a plan to read the Bible in one year, chronologically, with a group of women. The first half of this month has been spent in the book of Job. When Satan told God that believers reject God if they lost their prosperity, God takes the upright and blameless man, Job, and asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8). Here is what I’m learning from God, through Job’s story: 

  • In grief and suffering, we do not need to doubt God’s goodness (2:10). In fact, we should worship Him (1:20).
  • Ours is not the task of “figuring out” what God is doing with suffering, ours is the truth that God will work all things for His glory. We have no idea what the scene in heaven is, we could never comprehend the glory that God has in store (28:23-24). “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and see everything under the heavens.” (28:23-24)
  • There is wisdom in silence when the people we love experience deep grief and suffering (4:6). Job calls his friends “miserable comforters”. We don’t need to try to explain God’s ways, because they are not our ways and His majesty is unsearchable.
  • Even in our present sufferings, God’s is good and He is great. It may be reasonable for us to complain, but it is not reasonable to question God’s goodness. (5:9-16, ch. 26, ch. 38, etc.)
  • The Old Testament consistently and constantly points us to our deep need for the Savior. “There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both. Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me. Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.” (9:33-35) “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.” (14:4) “If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.” (14:14)
  • God is wise, He is mighty, and He is sovereign. “He is wise in heart and might in strength – who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?… Who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number.” (9:4, 10)
  • We should remain faithful to God and our salvation, even amidst false accusations (ch: 22). 
  • Even when we don’t feel the presence of God, He is there. We can press in obedience to God’s word (ch: 23).
  • God will humble us in our pride and call us into a time of confession and repentance (ch: 42).

In the past eighteen months, I have many times entered into an attempt to discern what God’s bigger picture is; to find an earthly explanation. Watching my father suffer in his last months of life, grieving the loss of a parent, and then entering into a global pandemic, I’ve mourned experiences I knew to be good, yet no longer available to me. I have at times entered into a temporary posture of hypothesizing: “if this is happening, then God must be doing _______.” I am learning, from my time spent in Job, that it’s not about hypothesizing. It’s not “if this, then this”. It is the gospel truth that God is sovereign and all things work together for His glory and the good of His kingdom, of which we have citizenship through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

I am learning that while our circumstances are ever changing, our sovereign God is unwavering. Though our complaints may be justified, doubting the goodness of God is not. In the short book of Job, we get a close and intimate glimpse of the gospel. We observe that God created Job as a man of great wealth and riches, and then we witness him fall at the hand of God. We watch God sanctify Job through his grief and suffering, and then we see Job’s call to confession and repentance, his redemption and beautiful restoration; “and the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” (42:12). 

Mary Sievers, and her husband Jon, raise four children on an acreage just west of the Quad Cities. Their four children attend Morning Star Academy. Mary enjoys being outdoors, great coffee, and is a “work from home mom” as a co-owner of a women’s boutique, Caty + Rose Market, in the Village of East Davenport.

Pears, or Asparagus?

John B. Thompson

After much holiday feasting (including pears and asparagus), it’s fun to feast one’s mind on big questions, such as “what is human nature?” Carl R. Trueman, in his recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, expands on such questions. Are we creatures of a fallen world, sinful in our being and in need of redemption? Or are we innocents, basically good and only corrupted by societal influences? Contemporary culture, in its multiple forms and forces suggests the latter, but this is not a new idea—this aspect of anti-Christ thinking has been in the works for a few generations of thinkers from the early Enlightenment period to the present.

With that in mind, let me introduce our players for today: 4th century theologian and bishop, St. Augustine, and the 18th century philosopher jean-Jacques Rousseau. Both were thieves in their younger days and both later confessed their wanton behavior and the life-lesson learned in written memoirs. Augustine, in a youthful misadventure with his friends, decided that it would be fun to steal the pears from a neighbor’s tree. They had no intent on eating or sharing them, just the thrill of stealing itself, and no doubt the fun of throwing them around and having a good time at someone else’s expense. And what did Augustine learn from this event? Upon reflection he recognized the corruption in his human nature—in other words, sin. He enjoyed stealing and the rebellious acts of destruction. Augustine’s was a rueful reflection in which he recognized his need for redemption that could only come from Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Rousseau, centuries later, also a produce thief, stole some asparagus at a friend’s behest. But his life lesson was rather different: having rejected Christ, Rousseau determined that he was innocent (for who needs a savior if there is no sin). And with regard to the absconded asparagus, ‘society made him do it.’ Rousseau reasoned that his human nature was pure, and it was only the need for food paired with the influence of friends that led him to steal. More generally, he figured that it is only our need for recognition, competition, and perhaps a dose of resentment for those more fortunate than ourselves, that leads us to such things as throwing pears or stealing asparagus (or what have you). Sin was irrelevant: it is not a corrupt human nature that leads to bad behavior, it is a corrupt human society that leads otherwise innocent individuals to ‘bad’ behavior.

So what am I learning? From the sea of increasingly aggressive secular culture and media that we all swim in (which is also infecting churches these days), I am learning that the idea of sin and the need for a savior is being elided (that is, not just denied, which requires an idea to be presented and negated, but ignored, eliminated, erased…). The intent to dismantle what would become Christianity has a long history dating back to the very beginning (think serpent, sin…), and more recently in the supposedly enlightened thought of folks like Rousseau (and Marx, Nietzche, Freud, etc.). Over the past several decades, numerous anti-Christ philosophies (e.g. postmodernism) were mostly just the abstract play things of academics. But that time has passed and these ideas have gone mainstream, including eliding Christian concepts such as sin.

So what should we do about it? Many things to be sure (Rod Dreher can help with details), but for now I will say that we must be vigilant consumers, whatever the source (TV, film, books, news, social media, etc.). and we must not just be reactive, or negative, about this phenomenon, but instead be positive (not Pollyannaish)—we need to reintroduce and reiterate the  authentic, historic, biblical Christian worldview, whether about sin, salvation, resurrection or otherwise. Above all we should do this with the kindness of Christ, sharing the hope we have in Him in our attitudes and behavior. And of course, we must critically consume media (and the culture in general) with our children, and teach them to recognize the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that secularism seeks to undermine truth, beauty and goodness, and  instead supplant those ideas with faith, hope and love.

John Thompson is a seminary graduate and associate professor in the school of social work at St. Ambrose University. His teaching and research focus on social and economic justice from a biblical Christian perspective. He and his wife Kendra are the parents of two Morning Star Mustangs. Joe who is 6 and Andi, 4. 

His Poverty, Our Riches

Rob Spykstra

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.”

2 Cor. 8:9

On this Christmas Day consider His riches.

He made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth. He does not live in temples made by mortals, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives all mankind life and breath and everything.

Consider His riches. His companionship was and is with the greatest Good. He does all that He pleases. Everyday goes just as He imagined it. He laughs. He is deeply happy.   

On this Christmas Day consider His poverty. 

The King of the universe is conceived in the womb of a young woman into a world where life is cheap. Two years later, a worldly king, grasping the deception of the Magi, did not blink an eye at the slaughter of male infants in the very village He was to be born nine months later. 

Consider His poverty. He was dependent upon the care and protection of a young couple new to this responsibility of parenting. He was born into a home without much means. When he was brought into the temple to be presented to the Lord, his father and mother offered a sacrifice appropriate for the poorest of the poor. 

Consider His poverty. He is questioned by His own family, rejected by His own people. He is betrayed by His own friend. He is mocked, hit and spat upon by those He came to save. 

Consider His poverty. He sets aside His rights as God and takes the form of a servant learning obedience to the Father, dependent through prayer, living the life we ought to live. His trust in the Father leads Him to an obedience to suffer the shame of the cross. 

Consider His poverty. He becomes spiritually bankrupt. The Father rejects Him pouring out His wrath on His Son for sin that is not His; for sin that is ours.

On this Christmas Day consider your riches.

In Christ, You are adopted by a Father who asks you to call Him, “Daddy.” You have a brother. His name is Jesus. You have His Spirit within you for navigation through this world. You have an inheritance that is untouched by this fallen world. You have a hope and a future. 

On this Christmas Day, consider this. He who was rich became poor so that you might be rich.

Rob Spykstra has been part of the classical Christian movement for nearly twenty years, first as a homeschool dad, then as a fundraiser, and now as a headmaster. Rob is married to Tamra. They have four children, all classically trained. He serves as an elder at Sacred City Church. Tamra and Rob enjoy hiking and walking particularly in Rob’s home state of Colorado.

Blessed Anticipation

“For unto you a child is born, unto us a Son is given…”

                                                                                                -Isaiah 9:6a

Reid Walters

Christmas is a season that is steeped in anticipation: the anticipation of seeing loved ones, the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts and, most importantly, the anticipation of celebrating the birth of the Messiah. However, the anticipation of a coming savior is one that has long preceded the season of Advent as we know it. The tribe of Judah, who Isaiah was addressing in chapter nine, were also anticipating the coming of the Messiah but in a way we can scarcely understand. Judah at the time was torn between warring nations, Israel and Syria to the immediate North and the reigning Assyrian empire which encompassed all three nations. The king of Judah, Ahaz, was afraid to challenge the mighty Assyrian empire and so he sent word to the king of Assyria, warning him of the coming uprising in hopes of receiving protection from the retribution of Israel and Syria. This was a bleak time for Judah, whose dread was only compounded by the repeated prophesies given by Isaiah foretelling the coming destruction and suffering of God’s people. However, amongst all the turmoil, Isaiah offers the prophecy we see in chapter nine verse six: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These words filled the people of Judah with hope and anticipation. They now know that despite their present suffering God will be sending a blessed child, who will redeem His people and deliver them from suffering and exile.

While the Jews of ancient Judah were expecting a mighty warrior and commanding ruler to come as their Messiah, certainly not a helpless child, there remains much we can glean from their anticipation of His coming. The people of Judah felt lost and abandoned in their present circumstances. They were afraid of what the future would hold for them and whether God would ultimately redeem and restore them as He promised He would. Correspondingly, the time in which we currently live is uncertain and adverse to say the least. However, in uncertain times anticipation can play a powerful role in our lives, just as it did in the lives of the Judeans. Anticipation calls us forward, to things yet unseen. It calls us to depart, even if it be momentarily, from our present circumstances and live in a way that is characterized by a blissful expectation of what is to come. This is one of the most remarkable beauties of the Advent season: taking the standing opportunity to pause and look upon Jesus with anticipation, excitement, and joy. While we may not know precisely what the future holds, we can, as the people of Judah once did, turn to the words of Isaiah and be filled with blessed anticipation for the coming of our savior in this season of Advent.  

Reid Walters graduated from Morning Star Academy in 2017 and now is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University. Reid majors in philosophy with minors in biology and chemistry with the hope of going to medical school after graduation. Outside of school Reid is an avid reader, rock climber, and photographer.

“On Faith”

David McIntosh

“Mary, have you even started to think about what you need to take?” Joseph might have asked, hesitantly. If the Christmas account were taking place in real time in our western culture, now would be the time to be asking these types of questions. Consider and imagine how a woman who is in the last days of full term pregnancy might respond – not forgetting she’s facing a journey of over 80 miles without reclining seats and air conditioning. Anyone glad that the angel didn’t visit your house with the same proclamation given to the Virgin?

Tradition and history tell us that Mary was a moral young woman when the unexpected visitor to her house brought the unbelievable and miraculous news that Mary was with Child (Luke 1:26-38). After the expected question of “How…” (v. 34) the attention turns toward her announcement to her Aunt Elizabeth, who was also expecting a baby known as John the Baptist. There’s much joy and celebration shared between these two expectant mothers as they journey through pregnancy together.

Have you ever stopped to ponder what Mary did during the hard days? A young unmarried woman in the family way wasn’t condoned or celebrated. Her soon-to-be husband contemplated divorcing her (Matthew 1:19) to protect his good name. It wasn’t Mary’s words of pleading that changed his mind (Matthew 1:20). And imagine the laughs and chuckles when she insisted an angel had appeared and told her this was all designed by God to bring Hope to the world. Mary’s pregnancy wasn’t filled with baby showers and shopping for nursery decor. It seems there were times when Mary had to keep faith in what she knew.

There are a lot of moving parts in the first twenty verses of Luke 2. A verse that has caused me some wonder and meditation is verse nineteen. What was Mary keeping and pondering? “All these things” (Luke 1:19). Is it a stretch to agree that Mary would’ve been replaying all that God had done in the last ten months and now it has come to pass? Mary keeps her faith by reminding herself of God’s promises and provision.

But what about us? We’re receiving an invitation, too. We can use this Advent to help bolster and increase our faith. To say that 2020 wasn’t the year we hoped for is a colossal understatement. But we can’t let the uncomfortable nature of the times change how we view God. We’d do well to remind ourselves of God’s Power and Sovereignty. “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” asked the old southern preacher A. Rogers. When life gets extremely complicated, we can take time to ponder what God has done and accomplished. Gather family around the tree this year and reminisce. Tough times can be fertile soil for a growing faith if we remain focused on what God has done on our behalf.

David McIntosh met his college sweetheart during their freshman year and after graduation, Dave and Susie married and began working in the wholesale supply industry. They also welcomed Will and Lauren into their family. During 2004, God called Dave and his family to the ministry. Pastor Dave and family moved to Muscatine in February 2012 to serve at Hillcrest.He comes to Muscatine via a great church in rural Jones County Iowa. Dave is a board member at Morning Star Academy.

Arriving at Our Origins

Joanie Mercy

Etymology, or “the origin of words” is a natural study for a student of ancient languages.  Latin is especially fitting to study since it is a root language of our modern English.  Many words we use every day are actually Latin words.  Many more are derived from Latin ones.  Looking at the origin of words is not only interesting, but uncovers layers of meaning and builds connections between us and our own origins.

The season of Advent has its own ancient past, not just in ceremony but in the word itself.  Observance of Advent in the Church started in France in the 5th century.   However, the term “advent” came into popular use in Germany in the early 1800’s.  Advent calendars were printed to aid in the count down to Christmas. 

The word “advent” comes from a Latin root word that was used long before the birth of Christ.  “Advent” as a noun comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival.”  As a verb, it is derived from “advenio” meaning “come to.”  “Advenio,” in fact, is two Latin words in one.  “Ad” is the preposition “to” and “venio” is simply “come.”  Another root of the same word can be found in the Latin Christmas carol “Veni, veni, Emmanuel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel). 

Other English words that come from the advent word family can help give richer meaning to this season.   How do these words and their definitions enhance the meaning of Advent and the Christmas season for you?

Advance –       v. to move forward in a purposeful way

                        n. a development or improvement

                        adj.  done, sent or supplied beforehand

Adventure –    n. an unusual and exciting experience or activity

Advantage –    n.  the opportunity to gain something

When I sat in deep thought over these words, the aptness of the word “advent” for this time in the Christian church calendar rang true.  The birth of Christ was no coincidence, but a purposeful gift to the world, a Redeemer, a Savior, that was planned “beforehand” for our salvation.  And, what more unusual (I would actually say “unique”) and exciting event than that of his coming?

Synonyms for “advent” are equally revealing. 

Approach –      v. coming nearer from a distance 

Emergence –   n. coming into view after being revealed (Christ’s coming had been revealed in the Old Testament through God’s word and prophecies.)

Also, I found this synonym surprising, and probably the most edifying of all:

 Origin –           n.  a beginning

Since Jesus Christ is the Son of God, He being our origin is not surprising, but the idea that His arrival is one and the same with our origins set me deeper into reflective thought.  But, back to the etymology, the “origin” of the word, “Advent.”

Merriam-Webster gives one more definition for “advent.”

Advent –          n.  a coming into being or use (in other words, an origin)

Imagine that.

Joanie Mercy and her husband, Frank Drew, are both musicians. Their daughter Angelique is in 7th grade at Morning Star Academy. Mrs. Mercy graduated form Augustana College, attended University of Iowa College of Music, and formerly performed in regional orchestras including the Quad-City Symphony, Knox-Galesburg Symphony, Muscatine Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra. Mrs. Mercy teaches K-6 Latin and K-8 Music at Morning Star Academy and also conducts the MSA String Ensemble. She currently has 15 private students.

Pausing for Poetry in Luke’s Gospel

Rembrandt “Simeon’s Song of Praise”

Anna Carrington

One of my favorite distance learning opportunities in 2020 is a disruptive practice I call “pause for poetry.” My sons really enjoy this seemingly random occurrence; it means a break from worksheets, and the alliterative repetition of “p” makes it fun to announce.

“Pause for poetry” is simple: we just take a few minutes to read a poem. Both of my sons tend to be analytical and linear, and poetry doesn’t follow patterns they would expect or choose. But they have solid reference points: participating in liturgy at church and reciting poetry at Morning Star have both helped them experience poetry in community.

As we step into the light of Advent, I wonder how we might “pause for poetry” as we encounter the story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Luke. When telling the story to children, we often skim along familiar plot points like the terrified shepherds and the smelly stable. The people in the story matter of course—but so do the things they proclaim. The praise of Mary, the prophecy of Zechariah, and the prayer of Simeon all reflect God’s promises to his people.

With John the Baptist’s arrival, God ends 400 years of silence (a pause!) to fulfill the words of Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.” Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon all recognize God’s faithfulness, and they respond in faith, recalling the Old Testament poetry in which they were steeped. This included the Psalms, the Song of Moses (Exodus 15), and the words of Isaiah.

Take Zechariah’s prophecy: Filled with the Holy Spirit after months of being mute, Zechariah proclaims a rich tapestry of Old Testament promises—and how Jesus fulfills them. His words link us to God’s Big Story and to the generations that came before. Suddenly we see why the manger is the moment, the cross the hinge, the resurrection the beginning.

How can we consider—and cling to—these weighty words in Luke 1 and 2? Here are a few ideas: Pick one of these three poem-prayers to read aloud each week leading up to Christmas. Reflect on it with your family, and dig deeper into the Old Testament verses it references. Stage your own Christmas pageant in the den, with your older children reading the longer verses. Listen to one of the innumerable settings of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat. Pray Simeon’s prayer with your younger ones as you turn on nightlights. Pray that Emmanuel, God with us, will come light our hearts.

Anna Carrington is a graduate of Wheaton College (IL), a freelance editor, and an avid reader. She teaches children’s Sunday School and Bible studies for women who speak English as a second (or third) language at Christ Church in Moline. Anna and her husband Wes have two sons at Morning Star.