John 15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I ended my last post, Love Story, with this statement “His [Jesus] own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.”That reality of Advent explains John 15:13 too.But wait, there’s more to the story.
Culturally those connections are of great interest today.We’ve “discovered” DNA [a self-replicating material present that’s the carrier of genetic information] that confirms connections that have been lost in our lives.I know because it’s happened to me both on a real life level and spiritually.Jesus entered a world He’d been part of creating.In that long ago moment He surrendered His place of intimacy with God to choose companionship with humanity in the flesh.The cradle was where Jesus willingly laid down His own sovereign authority to become the “perfect” rebirth of God’s genetic connection with mankind for the second time.“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus’s birth is our annual reminder that same redemptive DNA has been replicated in each of us.Within us lies the power of Jesus to transform and save those who will abide with Him.
John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in [accept and act in accordance with] my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. [NRSV]
This year my Advent posts are going to be like one of those mystery TV shows that begin with the solution and then proceeds to lay out the evidence.My advent begins with the assumption verse 10 is the solution. I plan to continue searching verse-by-verse for evidence that reveals why Jesus Christ deserves the repeated annual observation we call Advent.It shouldn’t be too difficult to find.We have this book of His-tory and John is the recognized expert on Christology [Christian theology relating to the person, nature, and role of Christ].Expert witness testimony is an important part of the solution to every mystery.
What are the commandments Jesus is referring to?There’s a long list you can find with an internet search but John 13:34 has recorded this from my first witness, Christ himself; “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
My second expert today is the Apostle Paul with evidence that supports Jesus’s new commandment. “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:4
There’s more than beauty to the Advent story that makes it important.God provided a solution to the mystery of life in that cradle that could remind us every year He offers so much more than what we know to expect.Jesus is the reality of our salvation, growth and “abiding” in His and God’s love.My third witness today is John Piper from Come Thou Unexpected Jesus: “Jesus was long expected. But when and how and where and why he came were all unexpected…He did not come to meet [our] expectations but to love [us] in the ways [we] most desperately needed…[that’s] the place [we] are most likely to really adore him.” [edited]
I’m diverting from II Corinthians because at the moment you’re reading this I’m on the high seas for a 3-day cruise but thanks to WordPress I can schedule this story and at the appointed time [I hope] it will be told.
Thank you Lord for the image of “your” new life, your Son, lying in a Cradle of circumstances. This time of preparation shows us how important this annual pilgrimage is to our celebration of that birth and that Cradle. It was your own preparation for us that made Advent a celebration at all and Jesus your special gift of access for us.
We all enter the Kingdom of God through that same Cradle: another “new” life born in the midst of a broken world. The Cradle still contains the memory of God’s preparation. It still holds the promise of what new life can become through the stories of wise men, shepherds and angels, even in a still-broken world.That Cradle is the shelter of God’s provision for us when there doesn’t seem to be room for us anywhere else. This annual journey shows us one more time where we’ve come from, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.There will be emotional and physical joy and hardship involved in that journey but…
• We have wise men today that have found their special path to that Cradle to offer their treasure and then share their story with us so we can follow and find our way too.
• We have shepherds today who despite their own fears rise and boldly share your Story.
• We have angels in our lives who sing your praises and share your promises of renewal, restoration and grace that prepare us to recognize and receive your gift of forever…again this year.
44b…If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
1 Corinthians 15
Remember this saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression? Our first impression of life happened when God picked up a handful of dust and “The first man Adam became a living being.” It was a dramatic miracle of life that became a dramatic loss when broken and banished became “natural.” Fast forward to a much later time; a world filled with people who carried that same first impression of loss. “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural.”
God placed The Advent in that cradle long ago as a sign of faith in his creation and to reveal his plan to restore the miracle of that first creation. A baby would show the reality that new life is dependent on time, growth and nurture. This baby, “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” would be our second chance to overcome that first impression of broken and banished…”and after that the spiritual.”
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
We celebrate Advent as a season of Good Tidings of Great Joy, but there’s more to that reality. God purposefully chose to send his only son, Jesus, to live among us knowing the dark and painful realities that lay ahead. There would be no reason to celebrate at all if weren’t for God’s intervention – the birth of “The” Advent – into a world full of broken, “weary and burdened”…and desperate people.
That came back full force when I decided to look back at past journal entries for December 14 and found this startling and heartbreaking event from Advent, 2012.
“The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children between 6 and 7 years old, as well as six adult staff members.”
Sandy Hook broke many hearts then, including mine. I wouldn’t have chosen the memory of that massacre for this Advent but sometimes it’s the gaps in a broken heart that make room for remembering the reality of why “The” Advent still matters today. Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
It’s easy to forget scrolls, letters and even a prophet’s words but God had a new plan for the safekeeping of his law and his word. A place of convenient and reliable access; “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” It would be like muscle memory for the mind and heart. It might still be forgotten, misused and unused for a time but it could not be lost. The treasured information had been protected…and then came the Advent.
That long-ago cradle was how God revealed his application to us…the Safekeeper…his son Jesus, the Christ…born to teach us how to live real lives based on the treasured information kept safe in our minds and hearts.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8 is encouragement “for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s a good plan, designed to redirect our focus away from the necessary consequences of God’s disapproval because of the rules we could not keep, to “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” to become the living example of a new option.
That Advent changed our focus completely. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of God’s promise to redirect our focus so “the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” It’s more than celebrating the historical birth of Christ “His”story has become our story too. That’s worth celebrating year after year!
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Luke 15:21-24
There’s the truth of Advent in Luke’s story of the son who came home. It’s a revelation of the heart of God that shows his desire to welcome and celebrate the life of those who bear his image if they will just do that one thing, come home.
That’s God’s promise to a world filled with needy people like us really, convinced we can figure out life if given the chance. God has gone beyond chance to provide for our need. Advent is the celebration of His promise in the flesh. It’s our reminder every year of why He sent a baby in a Christmas cradle, ready and waiting.
After all what else can a baby do but wait? There’s no forced compliance at the cradle, no persuasive words, no clearly laid out “do it this way” doctrine, but a waiting baby…an invitation…to come home to the celebration of an unexpected and undeserved reality of new life that triumphs over circumstances.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
“Let us…our image, in our likeness;” are phrases of the reality of Christ’s presence, not just at our Christmas or Advent celebrations but at the beginning of all life. He was there when the stage was set for mankind: water, light, sky, vegetation, stars, living creatures…and finally…Adam. He saw firsthand what a new creation looked like and it was good.
It was a perfect preparation for that future day when he would open his eyes in a very different place, a cradle, and a new beginning. Even though people might not recognize him, he would still see the likeness of their creator in them and in that image they bore the possibility of a new beginning…and it was good.
Those images we see of that divine baby during Advent remind us we are image bearers of our creator but that likeness always starts with a new beginning. While our eyes are focused on him, he sees that likeness in us and that is good!
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
I love advent. I love taking the time every day to think about how the story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of life for so many of us. It’s as if remembering all the long-ago events that led up to his actual birth is God’s way of refreshing us. I love Advent Calendars and wreaths. This year I’m going to create a digital version of a less-well-known way to remember these days leading up to Christmas, the Jesse Tree, the branch Isaiah 11:1 mentions. There’s a lot of information on the internet about that if you want to know more.
On this first day of Advent 2016 I can’t help but think of the effort God put into preparing what we are here to remember again this year. Isaiah is a perfect place to begin. Out of the root of that stump of a great tree that seemed seemed only to be lost, there came Jesus, the branch who began at the very moment of his birth to bear fruit that you and I are living proof of.