A blessed Advent season to you and yours! I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and were able to find at least a little time to enjoy the peace and presence of God. Reality is such that sometimes, large extended family gatherings on holidays can be rather stressful experiences. I was with our university ministry interns yesterday, and many of them expressed that the week was anything but easy and refreshing. One young couple was dealing with a severely depressed sibling who was speaking of ending her life. Another person had a difficult time with warring parents. Still another had a close family member going through a difficult divorce. Several had parents or grandparents suffering from serious illness. Other friends of ours are struggling through the first holidays since they lost a loved one, and these days are not quite as joyful as they once were. The list goes on and on - people are hurting and broken, just like the world we live in.
But, thank God! During these four weeks of Advent, there are some amazing things that we can and should take time to ponder and remember daily..
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
This beautiful passage of scripture was written many long years before these events came to pass. Imagine what it was like to live in the years before that blessed child was born. Certainly terribly dark, and without much hope at all. The world was no less broken then than it is now, and sin and rebellion ran just as deep throughout the earth then as now. Just one tiny nation in the midst of the wide world knew of God anymore. Somehow all understanding of the True God had been lost over the centuries, and just Israel remembered. God had made a covenant with Abraham, promising…
I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
But even they, who were God’s chosen people to bring His light and hope to the nations, often forgot Him, or just disobeyed His law and commandments for years on end. It was during one of those times that Isaiah delivered his beautiful and hopeful prophecy about the coming King, who would right all of the wrongs in this world.
This side of the cross, and having experienced the grace of God in Christ, it is difficult to imagine what it must have been like not to know about the cross. Of course, there are still billions of people living without the knowledge of what Jesus has done for them, but there are billions of us who do know. The point is that Jesus really did leave glory to come here to save us! The words of Isaiah were more than just a dream; they were reality. During advent, we take time to remember exactly what that means.
One day long ago, a young couple really did stumble into a crowded little town and realized that yes, the baby really was coming right then. They really did have to put Him in a manger out there with the animals because all of the rooms in the entire town were full. That blessed child really was named Jesus, and really was announced by angels and visited by kings. He really did grow into the most unusual and wonderful person ever to live: fully God and fully man. He really did teach and preach and heal and encourage, everywhere He went. He really did confront the religious status quo, and bring Good News of a Kingdom of love and relationship, not endless rules and regulations according to man’s ideas. He really didn’t overthrow any earthly government by force, but instead took the way of suffering, and gave HIs life for all of us. He took the punishment of our sin on Himself, so that we wouldn’t have to be separated from God forever. He really was crucified on a Roman cross, died, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
But, of course we know that that wasn’t all. Jesus really did rise from the dead, conquering death, hell, and the grave! He really did show Himself alive and well to people for 40 days, before the amazing day that He ascended back to Heaven. He really did pour out the Holy Spirit ten days later, and to this day offers this amazing gift of power to any who will receive it. He really is sitting at God’s right hand right now, acting as our advocate. His words still give life and hope to countless people every day. His healing presence is right now moving across the world through His Spirit and His people; the Good News of His Kingdom is being spread by believers everywhere.
Better than all of these wonderful things, HE REALLY IS COMING AGAIN! This time, to rule and reign as the rightful King of all of Heaven and earth forever. The apostle John saw a glimpse of this in his revelation…
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” -Revelation 21:1-5
Take courage this Advent. This is a special four weeks to remember the amazing things that God has done, and the amazing things He is still doing and yet to do. The entire world calendar divides on the time before Christ came, and after. Try as any nation or people might, His reality and presence cannot be erased or wished away. We live in a world that is currently enemy-occupied territory. But even that wicked enemy knows full well he has lost it all. The war is over, and Jesus won the victory. The great power of God has made a way for everyone who will to be with Him forever. This time of waiting is God graciously giving His Church time to gather all of HIs lost lambs back into the fold.
As we wait for His return, we can remember how wonderful Jesus is, and we can bring HIs light and hope to everyone in our lives. We can recall that all of the promises of God are true, and that He is faithful. Rather than being overwhelmed by the problems of life, we can be emboldened by all that Jesus has said and done. I encourage you to set aside time in your daily routine these next few weeks to contemplate these things deeply. Let the truth and reality of God’s generosity and faithfulness sink deeply into your heart and mind. I pray that God’s peace and presence fill you with strength. May your heart and home be full of His hope and joy. May the Holy Spirit fill you with wisdom and grace as you interact with your family, coworkers, and friends during this holy season.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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