It is very easy to think of Advent as a time when we have Advent calendars and light Advent candles these traditions are good in themselves if they help us to remember the true meaning of Advent but so often they are just empty traditions. If one turns to the readings set for Advent one can be a bit surprised because this is not what we expect because as well as salvation they talk about judgement, repentance, the second coming of Christ as well as the Saviour. The readings bring to the forefront themes that we would rather forget or at least play down. So let’s look at some of those passages briefly.
1st Sunday in Advent
ZECHARIAH 14:1-9 A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.
2 I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
6 On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. 7 It will be a unique day—a day known only to the LORD—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.
8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
9 The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.
This passage reminds us that the Christian hope embrace’s not only the coming of the incarnate Son of God as the messiah to earth but the also the Second coming of the Messiah, the chosen one, uniquely anointed by God to accomplish his purposes. The end of this passage reminds us of that beautiful passage in Rev.22 where John is describing the New Jerusalem. But before all of that we are reminded that he is coming as the King who will bring god’s Holy judgement to earth. The second coming of Christ is a day of rejoicing for the believer but a day of sadness and eternal ruin for the unbeliever. This emphasises the urgency of the mission of God’s Church.
2nd Sunday in Advent
Luke 3:1-3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The second passage introduces us to the ministry of John the baptist, John like Jesus when he preached the good news always preached repentance, turning from sin to a life submitted to God. We simply need to say sorry to God for those things which we have done wrong. repentance seems to be toned down these days but we need to repent of our sins both at the beginning of our Christian lives and whenever we fall into sin. In these days where hyper-grace is stressed, we must combat that with the teaching of the scriptures which throughout call God’s people to repentance. Repentance is the pathway to cleansing, but we find that our forgiveness is always the free gift of God in his graciousness.
3rd Sunday in Advent
14 Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
15 The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
18 “I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
19 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
20 At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the LORD.
This passage shows the greatness of our salvation in song form, but it is packed fulled of God’s truth about the lavishness and the wonder of the salvation that we have received in Christ. This passage emphasises the fact that it is God that saves. He is the one who solves every problem and removes every obstacle to our salvation and our walk with God. He is the mighty warrior who cannot be defeated and thus we can be sure of our salvation.
Fourth Sunday in Advent
Micah 5:2-4 “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.”
3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
Now we seem to be on more familiar territory here is a prophecy that our Lord Jesus would be born in Bethlehem but notice how he is described as ” one whose origins are from of old from ancient times” the Israelites were not to expect someone from a normal background to be their Saviour. yet because he is the one whose origins are ancient, he will be able to shepherd his sheep he will do in the strength of the LORD and his people will be able to rest in security and the Lord’s greatness will reach the ends of the earth.
As we spend this time of Advent in anticipation of celebrating our Saviours birth, we also will be looking ahead to his second coming, how should this affect our lives?
Do we stress enough in our teaching and more importantly in our living the importance of repentance?
And can we because of God’s grace join Zephaniah in his song of praise to our great Saviour?
Lastly do we know and trust in the Saviour who came to Bethlehem so that he could be the good Shepherd?
Heavenly Father we come before you acknowledging that you are the Holy one who is the judge of the whole earth. We thank you that as repentant sinners we have received your gracious gift of salvation in Jesus. We thank you that we can rejoice in your salvation. We thank you that we can live in the security of knowing that Jesus the good shepherd is watching over us and guiding us. Amen