Advent Again

It’s beginning to look like Christmas, everywhere but here… Well, actually it is if millions of lights hung on fire hazards means it looks like Christmas. My block is glowing.

The unfortunate thing about Arizona is that the sand in the desert isn’t white enough for snow. You can’t even roll it into balls for snowmen, and if you throw it at people they don’t get into the same, fun Christmas spirit and throw it back. We don’t have a tree yet. That’s probably what will make the psychological difference for me to “feel” Christmas 100%.

This is always how the Christmas season is for me. It grows, buds, and blooms like a winter flower. There is preparation at the beginning, anticipation at is it progresses, then the most beauty comes at the end. It’s a perfect illustration of waiting expectantly. The excitement increases as the day nears and Christmas never comes by surprise.

My family celebrates Advent on all twenty-five days. We light the four candles and read portions of Scripture nightly starting with the prophets through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth and the surrounding events. Every time I hear the prophecies about Jesus I’m amazed that Israel missed it–missed Him! I can sort of see how some of the leaders and common people could have missed His birth… if the story from the shepherds didn’t get around too far. Still, then He was in Egypt for a while and came back into the country into Nazareth so nobody really knew He was from Bethlehem.

The funny thing is, how did three Gospel writers tell the story? Okay, maybe Luke talked to Mary for some of it, but this stuff wasn’t a secret. It was making disturbances on the political stage with Herod’s personal instability. We must remember that he wasn’t even Jewish, he was a Hasmonean king who by lack of birthright was an imposter to the throne. He was naturally waiting for any threat to himself so he could quash it. He knew the prophecy about the Messiah, he was told by religious leaders exactly where the Messiah would be born, his murderous actions fulfilled prophecy themselves.

The eastern sages (aka. wise men from thataway) came to Herod’s courts. I can imagine the stir among the watching citizens, wondering what the mission of these rare visitors was and why they continued on to Bethlehem. Herod tipped off the religious leaders as to exactly why the camel dudes were there.

No one got it.

Well, two people did. Simeon and Anna. Side note: I ship them. They’re both gonna die soon, but still, two old people who prophesy in the temple? Actually, she might be like twenty years older than he, but when you’re that old, how much does age matter? Side note complete. Anna spoke of Jesus to all those who looked for redemption. Simeon was waiting earnestly for the consolation of Israel, but interestingly, when he holds Jesus in his arms he doesn’t call Him the deliver from oppression. Simeon calls Him God’s salvation. He recognizes, in his own words, that Jesus is “a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles.”

That’s what the rest of the Jews were missing. Over the four hundred years of silence, they had misinterpreted all the passages that spoke of Jesus, creating in their minds a militant leader who would cast out the invaders and reign from Jerusalem. If the Messiah’s plan included the Gentiles it was to make them pay tribute to Him in His capital city.

I think the religious leaders should only get half blame for not interpreting Scripture correctly. The full measure of guilt was earned when they continued to reject Jesus even as more and more prophecy was fulfilled. They had been wrong and God gave them a chance to admit it by showing them the true interpretation of the Scripture, but they wouldn’t listen.

So here we are on the other side of Christmas, on the other side of history, looking back at the time Christ came to buy us out of slavery and pay our debt.

Now I look forward to the fulfillment of ancient prophecies.This is Advent again. The word advent means coming. Christ the Lord is coming. For the last 1,984 years(?) we have been in the advent of Christ’s return and the consummation of history as we know it.

We must not repeat the blunder of Israel. Israel had four hundred silent years without prophets… just waiting for the Messiah. We have had thousands of years, waiting… but it’s just as sure to happen. Wait for the consolation of God’s people.

Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”

Let’s wait together for His coming and celebrate the anticipation. Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, and ta-tah for now!

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