Advent Animals Series: The Lamb and the Serpent

In this series of Advent animals we now come to the Lamb of God and the Serpent. Both are in Bethlehem–along with shepherds, wisemen, Mary, Joseph, donkey, sheep, and camels.

Perhaps the Ancient Deceiver, disguised as a snake, doesn’t pick up immediately that something BIG is happening in this insignificant sheep town. Then, he hears angelic hosts singing, “Glory to God.”

A serpent's head

Such singing really stings. The Serpent, aka Satan, has stopped cow-towing to God long ago and prefers feasting on violence and death. It doesn’t take him long to slither his thoughts to King Herod. Soon, all Bethlehem boys, ages two and under, are slaughtered (Matthew 2).

Hanging by a Thread

Although our salvation hangs by a threat, the Lamb of God is completely safe under God’s will. Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt with enough Christmas gifts to keep them comfortable until they return to Nazareth after Herod dies.

Joni says, "Infant Jesus painted in oils in the center of a tree slice that shows age rings. I wanted this to show the significance of the birth of Jesus to all generations."
“Jesus, born for all Generations” by Joni Ware. Joni, my friend, says, “Infant Jesus is in oils in the center of a tree slice that shows age rings. I wanted this to show the significance of the birth of Jesus to all generations.”

“Behold the Lamb of God”

From Genesis to Revelation, the story of the Lamb of God is a connecting thread. Also, throughout scripture, is the thread of the Serpent: this Ancient Foe, who does everything imaginable to keep the Messiah from entering the world through King David’s line.

In the Old Testament it is the blood of lambs that protects the Israelites  in Egypt while the Angel of Death passes over each house. Families whose door posts bear no blood mark suffer the death of their firstborn sons (Exodus 12). For centuries thereafter, the yearly Jewish Passover requires many sacrifices of spotless lambs. It is into this context John the Baptist announces Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

The Serpent Has a Bible Thread Too

In Genesis 3 we read that God says to the Serpent, “Because you have done this [deceived man and woman to disobey], cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The crushed head is more than your typical snake-rake killing. The promise to Adam and Eve is one of hope and rescue. But it is costly. God himself must leave home to become a baby and make us holy and wholly healed.

What an incredible story that turns rationality upside-down! God stoops to be a baby and experience what we experience—growing up, with its good, bad, and ugly. He is tempted as we are tempted, but he does not falter–ever. The perfect lamb is sacrificed for us. We are the “joy set before him” that compels him to the cross. Now, life and resurrection await all who believe. Our good God just can’t help being good and rescuing his wayward little folk.

Bible Story for Grown-ups

If you desire a more grown up version of the Christmas story than Luke 2, read Revelation 12. In this metaphoric depiction of warfare in heaven and earth, Satan is called a dragon, which comes from the Greek word “drakon,” to look; fascinate.

Lion and lamb

Of course, Revelation is scary, fascinating horror, unless the reader zeroes in on the Lamb of God. As John struggles to capture this vision he writes: “I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll.…I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain….And he went and took the scroll…and the elders fell down before the Lamb singing a new song.

John doesn’t miss a beat morphing a slain lamb with a resurrected lion. He records:

The New Song

Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation….

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” (from Revelation 22, ESV).

This story has a happy ending and is our Merry Christmas. Baby Jesus grows up to be the Lamb of God. Some day, He promises, earth’s troubles will be rolled up like a scroll. The Lamb will return to rule, and that Serpent gets thrown into a lake of fire.

John concludes:

The Lamb in Revelation 22

“Then the Angel showed me Water-of-Life River, crystal bright. It flowed from the Throne of God and the Lamb, right down the middle of the street. The Tree of Life was planted on each side of the River, producing twelve kinds of fruit, a ripe fruit each month. The leaves of the Tree are for healing the nations. Never again will anything be cursed.

The Throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center. His servants will offer God service—worshiping, they’ll look on his face, their foreheads mirroring God. Never again will there be any night. No one will need lamplight or sunlight. The shining of God, the Master, is all the light anyone needs. And they will rule with him age after age…” (Revelation 22:1-5, The Message).

Stained Glass Lamb

I Am Thankful for You!

It’s getting busy in the Boyll household as we rev up for Thanksgiving and Advent. My thoughts are more on a cranberry recipe than deeper musings. But since thoughts are whirling, it seems the perfect time to say, “I am thankful for you.” Trust me. I am not trying for a Hallmark expression here. I just really am grateful.

Thankful for Family and Friends

Baby looks at happy Grandpa
I am thankful for experiencing moments like these!

Life is rich with family, old friends, and new friends. There is at least one baby coming in the spring, who I gratefully look forward to holding for the first time. There are so many joys and sorrows from the yesterdays that are now part of my tapestry.  I am grateful for all the work behind me, as this handiwork keeps expanding as it is spun. My life, like most, has some remarkable patterns, but often it is so ordinary. Still, I believe all of it is valued by God. For his mindfulness and care, I give thanks.

Thankful for the Harvest Table

I am also grateful for the harvest table. Friends Keiko and Jeanine in the lead picture above actually do harvest cranberries in southeastern Massachusetts. But they harvest like I do—as visitors to a family farm. For this farmer’s daughter, who never liked dirt on her hands, I am grateful for the bread and pasta that come from grain cultivated in our country’s Bread Basket—especially in North Dakota where my brother, two nephews, and several cousins farm. Their work requires lots of planning, equipment, labor, and expense.

Thankful for All Those Invisible Faces

A nicely roasted bird sits in its blue roaster ready for carving.
A properly roasted turkey out of the oven is a challenge I rarely accomplish, but we consistently gobble up leftovers.

This labor applies to all of our Thanksgiving foods. Sometimes, at our table, we serve wild rice casserole or stuffing. Native Americans in Minnesota provide this special rice. Via factory, train, truck, and grocery store, Libby’s pumpkin and corn come to our home from many contractors across the U.S. There’s a jar of apple butter from Yates’ Apple Farm in Michigan that soon will be opened.

The turkeys that hit the market at this time of year is a mind-boggling gobble. At our house we consume organic and generic poultry.

Dancing turkey on stilts.
To me, this Colorado Springs’ sculpture looks like a dancing turkey on stilts.

What they have in common is that I am very grateful someone else did the butchering! I am also grateful for a great glass of wine on Thanksgiving. This year, most likely a California vintage will be the host’s choice. There are so many people involved in bringing the food to our table! I appreciate and thank God for all those hundreds of invisible faces.

Generous Spirits and Pie

Of course, there are many other blessings I am privileged to enjoy. I pray I won’t be stingy with sharing my bounty—not just on Thanksgiving, but every day. Jesus said in Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” May I, and you, respond wisely with what is placed in our hands and hearts. May we have generous spirits, even as we enjoy our pie!

Happy Thanksgiving! I am grateful for you!

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Below is an interesting five-minute You Tube selection on how cranberries are cultivated, which includes a berry sauce recipe!

 

Cow Flies and the Naked Lady

Have you ever experienced nature’s violent turn, just when you thought all was tranquil in the great outdoors? I am thinking about cow flies and a naked lady. Here’s the story:

Beginning on a Country Road

It started on an isolated highway along the Rocky Mountain Front Range. I zoomed by a herd of 50 cattle, noticing that all the mommas were black and the calves were brown. They were lying contentedly in the corner of a pasture, near a watering hole, with no bull in sight.

The herd looked so darn cute, and the color contrast struck me as unusual. Photo op? With no other car around, I made a U-turn and parked along the ditch.

All eyes were upon me as I got out of the vehicle, leaving the door open. The cows chewed cud as I clicked and thought, Wow, their manure sure smells potent for meadow cattle.

Eight-year-old blond-hat Macaulay Culkin's holds hands to face, eyes wide and distressed, and mouth opened in an "ah" sound on the dvd cover of the movie Home Alone. Smaller images of the two burglars are behind him.
Eight-year-old Macaulay Culkin’s unforgettable verbal “aaaaahhhhh” in the 1990 movie Home Alone.

I tromped back to the car, and then I noticed them. Tiny flies ornamented my clothes and many dotted the window. I didn’t scream outloud, but have you ever had a primal Aaaaaahhhh in your thoughts? Yep! That was me.

What to do?

Driving Like a Maniac!

I jumped into the car and slammed the door. I touched my hair and was grossed out to feel hard, little flies. Aaaaaahhhh!

Flies on flowers
Imagine hundreds of these little flies in your car and on you!

Quickly, I turned on the ignition, fastened the seatbelt, and pulled onto the road. I accelerated in panic and opened all the windows as black specks went spinning for the ride of their lives.

Meanwhile, I flicked my hair with one hand and tried not to drive like a maniac into the ditch. It felt like a scene from a horror movie where a crazed old lady head-bangs in a death dance.

For 15 minutes, I drove with one hand while the other hand squished bugs with a tissue. Oh, why did these creatures have exoskeletal plates that reminded me of soft shell crabs? To make the driving more distracting, the little guys kept crawling in and out of car crevices. I rolled electronic windows up and down, up and down. Aaaaaahhhh!

How Now, Cow Flies?

Finally, I could sigh, seeing only a few bugs around me. Visible survivors had migrated to the rear window.

But this ordeal was not over. I had to figure out how to let myself into the house without a gang of flies. Surely, subversive one were still on squirmy me! It took the rest of the drive home to figure out what to do.

Here is the protocol, just in case you ever need it:

>Drive into garage.

>Close garage door.

>Strip to birthday suit.

>Run quickly into house and throw clothes into washer.

>Run quickly to bathroom and get in shower.

>Finally, dress and have drink of choice.

Moral of the story: Nature has a dark side. Pay attention or pay the consequences.

And by the way, the cow pictures were crap and went spinning into oblivion–just like those cow flies.

The Ends

The Ends