This Sunday marks the fourth Sunday of the Advent season. Though historically neglected by many evangelicals, Advent has made a resurgence in recent years. To that end, we are going to be offering Advent meditations throughout the season here at Mere-O. They will appear the Friday before each Sunday.
“Look!” The voices across the ages and across the great chain of being cry out to all who have ears and eyes to notice the mighty event that will soon send its effects rippling across the Milky Way and on into the furthest reaches of the cosmos. From the beginning of recorded history there have been witnesses pointing towards Christmas, calling upon mankind to prepare for the coming of God among men.
The first witness is the indubitable word of God, saying, “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Here, just when the glory and goodness of God was quickly fading from tangible and overwhelming expression in the garden of paradise is the promise that the curse placed upon earth and man for man’s rebellion is only temporary. While all the horror and doom of man’s sin hangs over his head and threatens to undo him, he is reminded to look ahead, with hope.
The second witness is found among men. From nearly the beginning God, though removed from intimate fellowship with mankind, spoke to His people and all mankind through the voices of His prophets—those men whose particular duty it was to declare the word of God to mankind. More often than not the prophets declarative task involved a great deal of condemnation of sin and dire warnings of impending doom if sins were not repented for. However, mixed in and throughout these bleak pronouncements came promises of hope; firm words of encouragement to look up towards God, the One Who Redeems His People. “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.”
The third witness is worked into the very warp and woof of the handiwork of God. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” As the ages rolled on and the voices of the prophets faded into the oral and written traditions of the Jews, the earth and heavens continued to faithfully speak of the nature and character of God. Perhaps it was for this reason that God chose to use a star as His messenger, guiding a group of magi to the place where the Desire of Nations was born. Perhaps it also was that God was making explicit His call to men outside the nation of Israel to look up: to look up from their burdens and sin and see His glory.
The fourth witness is especially resplendent by way of contrast. Couriers and heralds of kings are often sent from one court to another and, as royal mouthpieces, come with all the fanfare and glory of the potentate who the represent. Not so with Gabriel or the heavenly host. Kings, rulers, and the strong men of the world are conspicuously absent from the Bible’s record of communications between angels and men. Instead, they are most often found appearing to shepherds, nomads, prophets, and commoners. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were worthy recipients of a royal message because the message of hope goes out to even these, especially these men and women caught up in and defined by the world systems they lived under. Look, it is even to such as these that the kingdom of God has come—the meek, the mourners, the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the spiritually hungry and thirsty all have a place in God’s economy.
Finally that of which the witnesses spoke finally was—and is. The Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How fitting, then, that from the beginning it was the word of God that was spoken to man giving the promise of redemption and, at the fullness of time, the child born to Mary was the very Word of God, the reality of the promise manifested in the flesh, in-carnation, in our time and space. The hope of the ages looks forwards and backwards to this moment in the history of the cosmos.
With the celebration of Christmas just days away, look up and see that of which the angels sang and the prophets foretold. Look up and see the witness of the stars, and hear the Word of God, saying,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”