Advent waiting

Advent is an ancient custom of the church. It is a time of waiting and anticipation. During this time we are invited in the readings from Isaiah to remember the Old Testament waiting for the messiah to come to rescue God’s people. We also find ourselves joining with Christians around the world as we eagerly anticipate the return of Christ on the Day of the Lord.

Since the fourth century, Christians have been observing this time of Advent as a period of fasting and penitence. As the darkness of winter crushes the spirit, I seize this moment to also be reminded that my sin is crushing me. Humanity is filled with a darkness that we cannot find our way out and so we need a new light to shine in this darkness. This time of preparation in Advent is a time to remember our need for the divine promises of God to be filled. The candles of the Advent wreath gradually are lit during this season and the fullness of God’s promises are anticipated.

It is in the midst of the winter darkness and my own sinfulness that I marvel that God would take upon himself our humanity. Jesus is the incarnation, the coming in the flesh, of our Lord God. As dark in death our sin has brought us, we are invited to rejoice that God has become flesh and dwelled among us. Even as I remember during this time of preparation my own sinfulness, I also rejoice that God has come to dwell among His people and rescue us lost and condemned sinners.

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Epiphany–Matthew 2:1-11

January 6 we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany. This feast rejoices that Jesus Christ is the light of the world. To me Epiphany is the revelation that God’s love in Jesus Christ is for all the world, even in a time of fear and self-serving grips on power.

The wise men saw a star rising and came looking for the king of the Jews to worship him.

Maybe these magi were familiar with Numbers 24:17,

I see him, but not now;
   I behold, but not near;
a star shall come of out Jacob,
   and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
  and break down all the sons of Sheth.

We do not know how many wise men there were or what their names File:Cologne Cathedral Shrine of Magi.jpgwere, but the cathedral in Cologne has a shrine to the three kings, Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchoir. This shrine reportedly holds the bones of three men. I think the shrine is a beautiful piece of art, but it misses the point. The light of the star did not come to shine on these three men, but to shine for these three men to see Jesus.

Scripture does not record details of the names of these magi. I think that Matthew could have found out the names of these men and included these details. By not including the number or names of these men Matthew helps point us to their mission. Their mission was not to make a name for themselves. There mission was to see and to worship the one born King of the Jews.

The wise men went to Jerusalem. They went to the people of Judah, but found in Jerusalem fear instead of blessing. In Genesis 12 we can read about how God had blessed Abram and his offspring so that they could be a blessing to all the nations. In Isaiah 56:7 we find the reason God had given the people of Israel a place of worship and prayer was to be a light to all the nations, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Led by Herod the King, the city instead became a place of darkness and fear. The priests and scribes knew the answer of promise found in Micah. But the hope of Micah and all the prophets remained elusive because they were filled with fear. The people were experience the painful truth that in the darkness of our sin, we will not see Jesus with our own eyes.

I love how Matthew 2:9-10 says that when the wise men left Jerusalem they saw the star rising again and were rejoicing with very great joy. When we are seeking hope and finding only fear, we are filled with exceedingly great joy when God graciously guides us to hope.

I know that people are in dark times and look around finding that their lives have become a bunch of broken pieces. They want to put their lives back together but in the darkness of their shame and fear they do not know how to live with any joy or hope.

I pray that we continue to find light shining in our lives, even in times of deep despair. Because God is gracious and full of mercy, he sees the times of our despair. He sees us struggling to put all the pieces of our lives together and amazingly he sends his amazing grace to dwell among us.