Advent reflection - week 1
Advent week one – Prophecy.
Ask the average person on the street what they think about Christmas and you might get a mix-mashed answer about joy, goodwill, family time and no doubt something about presents.
Ask a Christian what they think about Christmas and you should expect to hear similar things, except the basis for that joy and goodwill is the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus.
It is easy in the West to somehow separate the Christmas story from the rest of the Christian narrative. It may be the nature of the special holiday season that seems to set it apart, or perhaps it is the apparent disconnect from the rest of the gospel stories. What baring does the Christmas story have on the future life of Jesus and what relevance does it have for us as we seek to live our lives as Christians today?
Maybe that is why the Christmas story continues to be celebrated by many who do not claim a faith and reproduced in various forms in school plays across the country: because it doesn’t conclude in an obvious moral imperative that would challenge the way we live now. There are, of course, many lessons to be learnt from the Christmas story, but at face value it is a mystical story that captures the imagination.
The story of Jesus’ birth is, however, not an Island surrounded by vast seas of interpretation from which one can fish out any feel good meaning one likes.
The Christmas story is part of a much larger narrative. It is part of the story of the coming Kingdom of God. This is a story older than any other, and the birth of Jesus is a key corner stone in its plot and development.
In the Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah, the theme of a future deliverer known as the Messiah is a prevalent one. Isaiah prophesies about this deliverer throughout the 66 chapters of the book, portraying the deliverer as the glorious King yet to come (chs. 1-37), the servant of the Lord, the sin-bearer and saviour of the world (chs. 38-55), and the coming conqueror who exacts vengeance and brings salvation (chs. 58-66).
These prophecies give us a taste of the expectation that the people of God had for the future and it thus gives us an understanding of what they were experiencing at the time. They were suffering under exile, they had lost their status and Kingdom, they had been unfaithful to the Lord their God. The prophesies of Isaiah and others have been seen by many to be simply an articulation of a wider hope, that one day the Kingdom of Israel as it had been under King David would be restored. Indeed it was just that, but people of faith through the ages have recognised that in the coming of Jesus, these hopes and expectations were fulfilled.
In another week we will look at the type of Messiah Jesus turned out to be, but it is important as we think about those prophesies that ultimately pointed the way to Jesus’ life and ministry, that we consider the hopes and expectations we have today.
Like Isaiah, we have hopes and dreams for our nation and our shared world. We want to see people thriving, living in harmony with each other and our shared environment. We want to see an end to conflict and true peace. We want to see a change in our culture of greed and unsustainable living, which only leads to inequality and poverty. These are just some of our many hopes for the world we inhabit.
As we work towards making them a reality, let us not lose the humility and faith to bring them before God who hears our prayers, our hopes and our fears and who acts. God was faithful in providing the long hoped for Messiah in the person of Jesus, and he wasn’t satisfied with simply restoring the nation of Israel to its former glory. Instead, Jesus the Messiah changed the world forever.
What ever our hopes and dreams, let us remember, God’s plans are far greater and He is both willing and able to bring them to pass.
Motyer, Alec, Isaiah
, IVP, p28.