Revelation 22:8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me,9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”
10 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”
12 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
John saw many things of what is to come, including catching glimpses and hearing soundbites of Christ Himself. At times we must focus to figure out Who is speaking, and even who, what, and how we are to respond. But it is very clear the last paragraph above is Christ speaking: He is the Eternal One, Worthy of Worship, and qualified to judge. And He is coming. That demands that we be consistent in how we live, that we keep His words, that we "still be holy," and that we worship now in preparation of someday worship Him. It's more than a New Year's resolution. It's a way of life. It is life - found in Christ alone.
Revelation 3:7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Advent: Celebrating Christ's Coming, is not just looking back, or to the present, but to His coming again. When He left, that's what He promised. Just as His first coming kept God's promise, His coming again is something we anticipate. The Call is to be ready when He opens the door. Being ready requires patient endurance, faithful obedience, unwavering trust - the same characteristics we saw in the lives of Simeon and Anna. We wait for Him to make all things new: a New Jerusalem, a new name, a new life to walk into. He will write His name on all that is, because it belongs to Him. So, in preparation for that, we are to allow Him to write His name on us, acknowledging we are His, and that no one can seize us, or our crown, from His almighty hand. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’”
The last place we look for the "Christmas Story" is the Gospel of Mark. In rash fashion, typical of Peter's perspective, looking back to Christ's coming had to do with when He met Christ, being introduced to Him by his brother Andrew, who has been following John the Baptist, the one sent to "prepare the way." In other words, Andrew helped prepare the way for Christ coming to Peter, and Peter coming to Christ. This is much of the real "Christmas story". God comes to us, often using others to "prepare the way" for us to receive Him. When we do, it then becomes our part to "prepare the way" for others to receive Him too. The "good news" came to the shepherds; they went and shared it. Simeon and Anna waited to witness His coming; when He came they testified to it. Andrew and Peter were waiting for the Messiah; when he came to them; they told others. It sounds so simple, yet we make it so hard. That's what Advent does: it reminds us that Christ came to us, and as those who have received Him, we need to "prepare the way" for others to receive Him still.
Luke 2:36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin,37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Anna is a symbol of commitment. She spend most of her life waiting, fully trusting that she would see their "Redemption" come. Her actions proved it. Prayer and fasting, as well as her presence at the the temple. But she was not just "watching and waiting"; she was a prophetess. She was speaking the truth of God, so that, when the Redeemer did finally come, she already had an audience - those used to hearing her speak truth. Commitment is more than just attendance and "doing the right things"; it is living and speaking truth, so that people will trust you as much as you trust God. If we truly believe Christ is coming again, it will show in our presence with God's people, our talking of God's truth, and our living out Grace and Truth, just like Jesus did, while we wait.
Luke 2:22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”)24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Joseph and Mary had already been through a lot: the angelic visits, the scorn of public opinion, the journey, the manger, the shepherds, and now another trip to Jerusalem. Now, here they are, doing what all good Jewish couples did, going to the temple for the purification of the mother and presentation of the firstborn son, and they draw this unsuspected attention: references to their son with terms like salvation, revelation, glory. But wait, there's more: opposition, piercing, deep thoughts. This is no romance novel being written or revealed. it is a much deeper read. We must not just skim and then put it down, dusting it off year after year. We must involve ourselves in the story, let it reveal what is in our hearts, even allow it to pierce our souls, and change our lives. It is that monumental of a work. This week after Advent is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning of what happens next. Let's not rush on unchanged.
Luke 2:16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Christ came to draw people to Himself and to the Father. When the shepherds were told of His birth, they did not stay at a distance; they sought Him, just as the Magi did. Mary herself was unable to just have this child and let Him go. She keeps reappearing throughout His life, and death, pulling him closer to her heart. It is a recurring story, as we find God calling the first couple to come closer in the garden, as Moses is called to come to the burning bush. As we have looked upon the manger scene once again from a distance, once again Christ calls us to come closer - to not just be a casual observer, but to be a part of the unfolding story. May we not just come and see where He lay, in the manger and in the empty tomb, but pursue Him day by day in the coming year.
Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
"If God would only send me a sign..." How often have we heard that statement? Yet, we know the reality is that most of us would miss it or dismiss it. When we look at individuals in scripture to whom God came and spoke or sent a sign (Abraham, Moses, Gideon...) they had a hard time believing what God was saying. When God sent His Son, He also sent His angels, to confirm to both Mary & Joseph, to a group of shepherds, to a team of Magi, so there was not one individual, or even a million individuals separately, witnessing the event. He had them appear and tell his message to US, plural. We have a tendency in our society to think so individualistically, so when something significant does come our way, we have no support system with which to wrestle with truth. "Is this really happening? Did He really say what I think He said?" When people came into contact with Christ, it was often by twos and groups, or before a group of people, at least His disciples - all of whom could confirm what was said or happened. So today, and while we are still thinking about Christ's Advent, let us remind one another of what He has said and done, and let us rejoice!
Luke 2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.2 This was the first registration whenQuirinius was governor of Syria.3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town.4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Whenever God has come to earth to encounter man, there is a stated or implied question: "Is there any room for Me, in your life, in this land, in this world?" Does He fit in with our plans?" That, of course leads to another questions: "Are we willing to have our plans changed?" Mary, Joseph, the Innkeeper - just about everyone involved in this account had their plans changed, in order to accept and live out His plans. Most made room, which makes this a "happy" story. But some, many, maybe even most, did not. They saw it a someone else's story, maybe even an inconvenient coming, of which they wanted no part. In order to really "make room", changes must occur in how we think and what we do. As He comes this Advent, and asks us to change, will He find any room in us?
John 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Light. We all need it. It makes all the different in being able to see things as they really are. Yet we hid from it so readily. We seek to hide under the covers, close the door, run to the far corners of the room of our lives to escape its truth. Advent means saying: "Christ, I'm tired of the darkness, the lies, the death, the stumbling in the dark and hurting myself and others, breaking things and people, and failing to live the life you made me for. John's Gospel is very reflective, looking back on things after much time and thought. Take the time, this Advent, to do some deep thinking, praying, reflection, and let the light in.
Luke 1:26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Christ was coming, and He was coming through Mary. What an overwhelming thought. The Lord was with her, to comfort her and give her courage. Christ was going to be in her, as share carried the Son of God within her. He also would be over her, and all others, as the King Forever. We really do need Christ to be all our prepositions: with us, for us, in us, over us, beside us - everything but away from us. That is where we are without Him coming - far, far away, and it's no place to be. So as scary, intimidating, and overwhelming as it is for Him to be in us, it is exactly the right place for Him to be, for us to be. This Advent, may His presence be known to us, in us, with us.
Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
I am sure that Joseph, like many faithful Jews, was anticipating the coming of the Messiah. I am also pretty sure he envisioned it happening some other way - a way that did not include him so personally. Like many of those God has come to and called through the ages, it was tempting to step back and say, "Thanks, but no thanks." Of course, that was not an option. Yet, so many of the times and ways Christ comes and calls on us to be part of His coming into people's lives and the needs of this world are ignored, rejected, and overlooked by us. We get a glimpse, catch the gist, and realize the enormous potential involved, yet we are too afraid or faithless to think God can/should/would use us in the process. We take a pass. When we say "Come, Lord Jesus, Come", if we are begin sincere, we will let it be His time, His way. Like Joseph, may we chose to respond in obedience.