Anticipating Advent: Something Greater to Come

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art by Bonnie Patterson

The Lord Himself will give you the sign, ‘Look!  The virgin will conceive a child!  She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means “God is with  us”)’.
Isaiah 7:14

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art by Bonnie Patterson

“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come.”
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

 

Anticipating Advent — The Gift I Needed

The world wanted something very different than what we were given on that first Christmas day. We can no longer imagine life without that Gift, and it is only through receiving It we understand anything about the world around us.

I can’t even remember most of my Christmas gifts as a child, but I distinctly remember the year I didn’t get what I wanted. A remote controlled car. And I wanted it badly. There was never much extra money growing up in the house of a Christian school teacher so there was no reason to think that it would happen, but somehow I was convinced it was going to anyway. And when the presents made their way to the tree, there was the package. The exact size, shape, and heft of the longed for car. There was no name on the box but, of course, this was for me. I visited that box often in those days before Christmas eve.

And then it was finally time. I can’t remember if the box was handed to someone else, or if it was just an empty decoy, but I do remember feeling overwhelming betrayal. A larger box emerged from the bedroom for me. It was too big, too heavy, too everything to be that car, but I’d seen enough cleverly disguised gifts to give up hope. I instantly allowed myself to soar again to the heights of anticipation. But what emerged was an aquarium.

Years of conditioning had instilled in me a sincere desire to be thankful for whatever I got. To be that kind of kid. Years of knowing that others consistently got bigger, better, more valuable presents should have allowed me to put on a better act. This was not only the biggest gift I had ever been given, but more expensive than the car I had coveted. Yet the disappointment was so overwhelming, the anticipation had gone on so long, that I mumbled thank you, then went to my room to process a grief that should have been reserved for the loss of something more. My mom came to tell me how disappointed my father was, and I reached deep into my sixth grade self and rejoined the family. I set up the aquarium in the study and afterwards lied that I truly was delighted.

Over time I would come to love the wonder and discovery of that aquatic world as I spent countless hours developing relationships with the inhabitants. While my brother was in Vietnam we kept a map in that same study, and I would wander between the mysterious contours of an unknown place and the familiar tank. That was the year we found out my father had cancer and for the next three years until it finally claimed his life, the tank was a diversion. I fixated on every nuance of lives in the tank I was responsible for while my own life often seemed untended and unnoticed. That gift was exactly what I needed.
~Brian Vander Haak, Taipai, Taiwan

Anticipating Advent: So None Can Boast

Micah 5:2 –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Stories about people who lived at the time of Jesus’ birth have always fascinated me. One of the reasons I loved Max Lucado’s book God Came Near is because it starts with wondering about what a Bethlehem innkeeper may have said or thought the morning after Jesus was born in the stable. It always surprises me that such a momentous event as the birth of the long-promise Messiah was just … missed – missed by so many people who were right there.

For some reason, as soon as I was approached about the Advent writings for this year, the town of Bethlehem and the above prophecy about it were the first thing that came to mind. Maybe it’s because I know the verse notes that Bethlehem was so small. Maybe it’s because I have been feeling “small” and hang onto the fact that God uses “small” to do His work.

Probably, it was because I needed to read John Piper’s comments about why Jesus was born in Bethlehem:

“God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, “He chose the comfort of my inn!” God chose a manger so that no wood worker could boast, “He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!” He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, “The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!” And he chose you and me, freely and unconditionally, to stop the mouth of all human boasting.”

It’s true that God honored Bethlehem by using it. It’s true that an insignificant town got to play a part in changing history. And it’s true that God chose that small, unimportant town not to make it “feel” important, but to show that His actions really were all about His MERCY. And it worked! Because of the way God worked this miracle, the people of Bethlehem not only didn’t claim fame, most of them missed the event altogether. None could boast.

And so it is with us. Any significance God chooses to work through us is His business for His glory. So that none can boast.

~Tricia Hitchcock

Anticipating Advent – From the Beginning

GENESIS 3: 1-15

This chapter is perhaps as sad a story as any we have in the Bible. In the forgoing chapters we have had the pleasant view of the holiness and happiness of our first parents. All was very good; but here the scene is altered. We have here an account of the sin and misery of our first parents, the wrath of God and the curse against them. We have here the fall of mankind and all creation.

OUR HEARTS NEED TO BE DEEPLY AFFECTED AS WE READ THIS ACCOUNT!

We are all concerned in it. In this account we have [Romans 5:12] “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned.”
Satan here draws our first parents to sin, and so separates them and us from God.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit [and we continue to do so] as the devil continues to cause us to question God’s divine law as uncertain or unreasonable. We desire what is forbidden. As did our parents and the wages of that sin is death. That sentence of death take us captive and brings a gulf of separation from God that we cannot span.

Then the gracious words of Genesis 3:15. Our ADVENT text:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her SEED; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise HIS heel.”

Oh the wonder of God’s mercy and grace. He converts the death sentence that sin had brought to Adam and Eve to Himself.

The fruit of this enmity is a continual conflict between grace and sin in the hearts of God’s people. Satan continues to attack us and seeks to devour us. There is also a continual struggle between the wicked and the godly in this world. Here we have the gracious promise of Christ the deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan. What here was said was addressed to the serpent, yet in the hearing of our first parents, who took the hints of grace and saw a door opened to them. A door of hope from death. This text, the promise of Advent, is the dawning of the Gospel Day. By faith in this promise our first parents were justified and saved.

Here we have three things concerning Christ.

  1. In the incarnation God honors the woman to call Christ her Seed, beguiled by Satan and blamed by Adam; God herein magnifies His grace. Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of the time had come. God sent forth His Son, born of a woman born under the law, to redeem us.” Promise fulfilled! The Seed of the woman was made sin and a curse for us.
  2. His sufferings and death pointed at in Satan’s bruising his heel. Satan tried to destroy the Savior, to ruin salvation’s plan, but on the contrary it was by death that Christ destroyed him that had the power of death. Christ’s heel was bruised when his feet were pierced and nailed to the cross.
  3. His victory over Satan. His death and resurrection. Christ was raised in the fullness of time, the seed of the woman trampled upon Satan, lead him captive, and triumphed over him. Christ rejected Satan’s temptations and rescued souls from Satan’s hands, by his death the sin offering of our redemption. Christ gave a fatal blow to the devil’s kingdom a wound to the head of this beast, that can never be healed.

SING, MY TONGUE, THE GLORIOUS BATTLE

  1. Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle; tell the triumph far and wide; tell aloud the wondrous story of the cross, the crucified; tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer, vanquished death the day He died.
  2. God in mercy saw us fallen, sunk in shame and misery, felled to death in Eden’s garden, where in pride we claimed the tree; then another tree was chosen, which the world from death would free.
  3. Tell how, when at length the fullness of the appointed time was come, Christ, the Word, was born of women, left for us a heavenly home, blazed the path of true obedience, shone a light amidst the gloom.
  4. Thirty years among us dwelling, Jesus went from Nazareth, destined, dedicated, willing, did his work and met his death; like a lamb he humbly yielded on the cross his dying breath.
  5. Faithful cross, true sign of triumph, be for all the noblest tree; none in foliage, none in blossom, none in fruit your equal be; symbol of the world’s redemption, for your burden makes us free.

FORTUNATUS VENANTIUS HONORIOUS CLEMENTIANUS. About 530 A.

“Christ is a tree to be desired to make one wise. Col.2:3 I Cor.1:30. Let us, by faith, feed upon him, that we may be wise to salvation.”
~Matthew Henry

PRAISE THE SAVIOUR! Have a blessed Advent season.
~Nick & Diana Laninga

Anticipating Advent 2016

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Advent’s the poetry.  Advent’s the strange deeds that led up to the Great Deed.  Advent is the power of the mystery that from the beginning stretches through the immortality of Elijah straight out into time, into Transfiguration, into Easter.  Advent is all these things.

Ultimately, Advent is the grand narrative.  It’s the one that makes us Christian.  It’s the one that ties it all together.  This is what we wait for.  This is what comes.  Amen.
~Phyllis Tickle

 

For a fifth year in a row, Wiser Lake Chapel folks will be sharing here the anticipation we all feel as we prepare our church body, our homes and our hearts for Christmas.  The first Sunday in Advent is November 27th so please consider this a call for writings to be posted here beginning that day, averaging 150-200 words each.

This year the theme is “Anticipating Advent” — share a special Bible verse that helps you prepare for Christmas, perhaps an Old Testament prophecy, or a hymn or carol that is meaningful to you, or a poem or quote or a story from your own life.  Please let me know you want to reserve one of the 29 days of Advent and send your writing to emilypgibson@gmail.com

Anticipate!