Pregnant with Life!

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… 18And … he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.  Colossians 1:15, 18-19

Advent is pregnant with anticipation. It is the season of expectancy. 

This feels freshly true for Robin and me this year. Our first grandchild will be born in 2022! There is great excitement for his birth. Through the technology of apps, we get weekly updates on the baby’s development and growth. One week, the baby’s nose, mouth and ears started to take shape. The next week, he doubled in size to that of a blueberry, as his arms and legs began to grow. A month later, he was kicking, stretching and even hiccupping. As I write this, he is now the size of a head of cauliflower, sleeping and waking on a regular schedule with a very active brain. We are so proud of that little guy! 

Every birth is miraculous, but none more than Jesus. There was a deep longing and expectancy. Anticipation built. Then it happened. Jesus, “the firstborn of creation” not only entered his own creation, but his mother’s womb – miracle of miracles. “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Every week, the infinite God grew. He came for us by entering fully into our humanity. 

The incarnation of God through Jesus can be called the greatest miracle of all. Even Jesus’ resurrection has meaning for us only because he was born in the same way we were. The prerequisite of a bodily resurrection is a bodily birth. The infinite God entered fully into the finite limitations of your life and mine in order that we can enter into the fullness of his eternal life.

Jesus’ birth announcement didn’t stop at his first “birth.” Paul reminds us that Jesus was also “the firstborn from among the dead.” Our birth became his birth so that his resurrection can become ours! As C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “The Son of God became (hu)man, so we can become children of God.” Jesus was born like us, so that we can be born again, like him.

Pregnancy ignites joyful anticipation, even though other challenges and circumstances in our lives remain. It gives us a new perspective. Our grandson’s life is a present reality we celebrate, yet we are also filled with expectancy for the fullness of his arrival. We can’t wait to meet him. We can’t help wondering what he will be like. We are excited for our children as they enter parenthood. Life as we have known it has changed and takes on a new dimension. We live with an active, engaged expectancy.

It is this same kind of wonder and awe we enter into this Advent season. It is a season of expectancy, pregnant with joyful anticipation. Jesus’ birth changed everything. The reality of his first birth invites the anticipation of our “new birth” through his resurrection.  Peter wrote, 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). 

The season of Advent invites us to look back at Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem like ours, so we can live every day now in the joyful anticipation of our new birth – and that of all creation, like his. Christmas not only celebrates Jesus’ birth like us in the past, but ours, like him, now!  Like a baby in the womb, our lives our pregnant, developing and growing in anticipation of becoming like him. Our challenges and circumstances may remain, but Jesus’ birth renovates our perspective. This new birth is a present reality we celebrate, as we live in the joyful expectancy of the fullness of eternal life we were born for. Life as we have known it changes and takes on a new dimension. We live with an active, engaged expectancy. 

I wish you great joy this advent season, as we live into the celebration and pregnant anticipation of his birth – and ours. 


Welcome to Jesus Jazz

Welcome to Jesus Jazz!

Why Jesus Jazz?

There are unique features of jazz that set it apart from other genres of music. Music transforms. It engages the listener. As true as that is of all music, jazz is distinctive. It is dynamic and interactive. You will hear the same song, but you will never hear that song the same.

For example, we’ve all heard Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, or Pachelbel’s Canon in D (whether we know the name of the song or not). We know what song it is because the notes are carefully followed. Move away too far from the notes on the page, and audiences will push back. “That’s not the way the song goes!” someone might complain. The same is true of more contemporary pop, country or even rap songs today. Musicians offer the song the way it is written, even if with their own artistic take. In a sense, the music is powerful and moves us because it remains the same. It is engaging, but static.

Jazz is different. Jazz, by its very definition, is interactive on different levels simultaneously. It is interactive between the musician and the music. It is interactive between the musicians while playing. It is interactive between the musician(s) and the audience. The notes on the page create a framework within which the musician interacts. The progression of notes creates a space, like a room where the musician can move. Unlike other genres where the music must be followed as written, in jazz, there is room for creative interaction. As Captain Jack Sparrow famously said in the Pirates of Caribbean movie, “the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” The music gives definition, but the spirit of it gives freedom for playful, honest interaction.

First, jazz is interactive between the artist and the music. How a jazz musician feels in the moment will affect how they interact and perform the song. That is unique to jazz. It creates a raw honesty that comes out through the music. One way that’s experienced is through syncopation and rhythmic choices by the artists. Secondly, jazz is interactive between musicians. Unique to jazz are the gifts of improvisation and call and response. Unlike other genres, every song becomes its own because of the unique moment the interaction of artists creates. Lastly, jazz is unique because there is an intentional interaction between the musician(s) and the audience. How an artist performs the song engages the audience. How the audience responds, affects the artist. It becomes a musical conversation that involves everyone. In that way, jazz requires relationship and engagement.

I sometimes hear people say they don’t really like jazz. When asked why, they often say it isn’t relaxing like other forms. Jazz requires something of us. Unlike other genres where we can just listen as an auditory spectator, jazz invites us into a dynamic conversation between the musician and the audience. You might hear the same song (and know what it is), but the song is rarely the same, and neither are we.

Jazz is a refreshing paradigm for life and faith. Faith is not static religion, where we can pick the “genre” we like most with passive pleasantries and attendance. Faith is our dynamic interactive engagement with God, the Artist of creation, life and all that exists. Jesus uniquely makes it possible because he entered into the reality of our life. His life, death and resurrection are the ultimate expressions of dynamic engagement and love. Faith is the call and response of our relational engagement with God and one another that we were created for. God is love.

Many today try avoid this kind of faith that engages the truth of who we are with the truth of who God is. Some do it by reducing the Christian gospel (and the Bible) to rules and lists. They evaluate themselves and others by how well we follow the notes on the page. Others, however, throw out the music all together, minimize the importance of the composer’s work or institutionalize it through rote religious motions. Either way, they are attempts to control the music by letting it play in the background without genuine engagement.

Jesus shows us what this “jazz” life is all about. He lived the music with dynamic engagement. He never strayed from the notes on the page, but continually offered new expressions of syncopation, improvisation and, call and response. His life was played out like a song in front of those who were strict note followers, raising angst and curiosity. Yet it was also played out in front of those who had rejected the notes all together, attracting them by the stunning music his life offered. Jesus offered to both, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). The Spirit offers freedom for joyful, honest interaction.

Jesus’ invitation, and, because of it, that of this blog, is to dynamic, interactive, relational “jazz” lives of faith.