Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve Jones here… The word “Advent” means “coming”. The coming of the Lamb of Jehovah (first Advent) who will later come as the Lion of Judah (second Advent).
Some estimate that 40 billion people have lived on earth since creation. Currently, over 6 billion people populate the planet. Sociologists, anthropologists and other “gists” categorize humanity in endless categories. It is a sobering truth that our Creator categorizes humanity in only two categories: the saved and the unsaved; the sheep and the goats; tares and the wheat; children and enemy of God.
Only one Baby, the Christ of Christmas, can change this:
Between the covenants, one truth remains true: humanity is in desperate need of a Shepherd, One who will save us from our spiritual need.
The church through the centuries has developed a rich liturgy surrounding the “coming” Christ. The Advent season is a time to get ready for His appearing. A time to celebrate His coming.
Historically, the Advent season is celebrated over four weeks. Week one emphasizes HOPE.
Three Hope-filled announcements before Christmas
Three people are given “Announcements of Hope” in the Gospels.
First Advent Announcement: Luke 1:5-25
The priest, Zechariah, would receive an announcement full of hope. He would have a son, his name would be John, and he would be the forerunner of the Messiah.
Vs. 7: It was a miracle as his wife, Elizabeth, had been barren.
Vs. 8: It was providential that Zechariah’s priestly division was on duty that day. Priests were so numerous that many would never officiate at the altar. The roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, wrote that 20,000 priests lived at the time of Paul. King David had divided them into 24 divisions (1 Chron. 24). Zechariah was a part of the division of Abijah, which would number approximately 850 priests. They were assigned by casting lots. By chance or by providence, Zechariah’s lot is cast. He is placed in the right place at the right time to hear God’s supernatural announcement of hope.
Vv. 11-13: The announcement wasdivine as an angel appears telling Zechariah not to be fearful. Verse 19 later identifies the angel as Gabriel. This is the first spoken message from Heaven in 400 years, a message of hope.
Vv. 13-17: The announcement wasprophetic as Gabriel shares a six-fold announcement:
Vv. 18-20: The response to the announcement is unbelief followed by a rebuke. Zechariah can hardly believe his barren wife, now past child-bearing years, could have a baby. The angel rebukes Zechariah, making him silent.
Vv. 21-22: The result of Zechariah’s misfortune is that people immediately knew a spiritual encounter had occurred inside the temple. Many friends, family and the devout waited for him to exit and pronounce the Levitical blessing.
“The Lord bless you and keep you…” (Num. 6:22-27).
They all knew this would be the only occasion in Zechariah’s lifetime to do this important priestly duty. He had waited decades for his lot to be cast. They so wanted him to complete his priestly duty well. He exited and they awaited his blessing.
Instead, the old priest exited confused, dumb (silent) and in wonder. His wife was going to have a baby!
Vv. 23-25: The first Advent announcement closes in an atmosphere of rejoicing. Elizabeth celebrates her pregnancy.
Christmas is a time to rejoice, a time to celebrate. The second Advent announcement (Luke 1:26-38) finds Gabriel visiting Mary, who will be blessed among (not above) women.
The third Advent announcement (Matthew 1:18-25) finds the angel telling a “righteous” (vs. 19) and “obedient” (vs. 24) man to marry Mary and complete the Old Testament fulfillment of prophecy (Is. 7:14).
Three Announcements… One Objective
Three Advent announcements. Three supernatural encounters with an old priest, a young peasant woman, and a humble carpenter.
The common objective for each announcement was an attempt to prepare the way of the “coming” Christ… the Saviour of the world. May all of us take up this same attempt to prepare for the coming Advent season. A season of hope. A time to share the Good News that Jesus came to ensure salvation and a hope-filled future for humanity.
May this Advent season be an occasion to speak a hopeful “word in season” to a loved one, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger.
Have a blessed week,