But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Micah 5:2
ethlehem means the “House of Bread” in both Hebrew and Aramaic and thanks be to God, because Mary and Joseph’s hearts were obedient in the less-desirable details of life, Jesus began His earthly life born in the House of Bread just as Micah had forecast in “the distant past.” I hadn’t purposely planned to be baking bread today because of this post but as it turns out I’m sitting here at the table waiting for my batch of dough to rise. I’m watching it climb up the side of the clear dough-mixing bucket and enjoying the yeast’s aroma as I write. It’s satisfying, but it’s the bread I’m really waiting for. This simple choice to make bread today seems too relevant to this Advent post to be anything other than a homemade picture of God’s recipe. His recipe had the right ingredients, the right place, the right timing and the right baby to reveal His own identity as the Bread of Life the world was really waiting for. God’s own recipe would satisfy the “aroma” of the prophet’s word and Jesus, the Bread of Life, would rise up and save many souls. ‘Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 NLT PS: Today’s bread turned out good too.
Romans 8:3 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. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. NASB
This week an interesting discussion about the word “likeness” became the catalyst for fresh look at Romans 8 and part of a previous Advent post from 2015. We all know what the “Law could not do.” It couldn’t change us and even those first two people couldn’t manage to obey it.
“What a surprise to find myself in my favorite chapter from the whole Bible for my Advent reading today. If you remove the “religiousity” factor of laws you have to admit we can’t live without them. We need laws to create order and some level of security in our society. I’ll bet I’m not the only one that’s broken some of them: ever rolled through a stop sign? That’s an easier-to-swallow version of “weak as it was through the flesh” to own up to. Now that our minds are in the right place maybe we can face the issue of “sinful flesh”…and “in us.”a
Eden was where “weak as it was through the flesh” became a reality. There was only one law but the bad choice to violate it was where the separation between man and God began. [BTW that’s not unlike that stop sign.] The amazing truth of Advent is God chose new birth to fulfill something that one “first” law was unable to accomplish.
Advent is pretty dramatic evidence of the second time God created perfection for all mankind to experience. The birth of Jesus revealed God’s determination to redeem and replace what had been lost in Eden. This time perfection was a person, not a place. That first Advent God chose a baby, His Son…God with us…Jesus, to restore His own “Image” within “the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin.” Advent is our annual reminder that Jesus is the reality of God’s promise to unite the likeness of our sinful flesh with His own Image “in us.”
a Click here to read that original post
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. [NIV]
I’ve mentioned before that words spark thought for me. Today was an interesting variation on that. I read verse eight several times before I realized I’d been subconsciously adding the word [IN] before the word “darkness.” Dropping the [IN] and reading “you were once darkness” changed my whole perspective on what I’d read. It has reminded me this Word is not only timeless but it’s still alive and well. Darkness is not a place I was “IN” but the far more ugly reality of “what I was.” It says it right there but I missed it.
I re-read those verses thankful for the specific words of hope I found there, words like “now you are light in the Lord” and “the fruit of the light.” The emphasis on “WHAT I was” [darkness] has now been dramatically changed because of God’s intervention through Jesus in my life to “what I WAS” [past tense]. “Once darkness” was changed to “the fruit of the light” and that is the joyful connection to Advent I share with you in December, 2020.
That first “Advent” in Bethlehem was God’s intervention in the world He’d created. His choice was to make Himself visible once more to redeem His people and free them from their dependence on their own best efforts to dispel the darkness that plagued their lives. Jesus was born to reveal God’s promise to ordinary people who were “once darkness.” The “Advent of Light” could forever change their emphasis from knowing “there was GOD” [hope] into the new reality that “God was THERE!”
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
John 15:15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. [NASB]
Moving from slave to friend is a progression. Long before I was even aware of a thing called a “personal” relationship with Jesus, I believed Jesus was God’s son and I was a faithful church member. Faithful in the sense I was there and I was active. There were very good reasons to be there. Church was a place where people put their best face forward. The activities were at an obvious level of insulated kindness and integrity. It was a place we went every Sunday as a family without question. I was a willing, and content, “slave” to religion. Thankfully that was enough to keep me there because as it turns out “religion” is the very busy place the Spirit of God often chooses to reveal the truth that Jesus was born for slaves in the midst of religion!
That’s the progression of how my friendship with Jesus became a reality. Friendship is what connects John 15:15 and my Advent celebration this year. It was friendship that revealed the Cradle as more than the destination of an annual Advent celebration. That long-ago Cradle is where God revealed His desire for our future: Jesus, God in-the-flesh, born to be our pathway from slavery to salvation and friendship.
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]
II Corinthians 7: 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2018. I have often used a list of Advent readings and explored this season through the eyes of those Scriptures other people chose. This year I’ve made the choice to look for Christmas preparation with my own eyes as I continue exercising my mind in II Corinthians and see where my heart takes me. Today it begins with Paul’s words “we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…” That reality has made the Bible an enduring treasure that still comforts us in our response to the realities of life and provides transformation along with information. Experience has shown me every part of the Bible supports the choice God made on our behalf long ago: the birth of Jesus. Faith in God’s choice changes our choices.
Advent reminds us transformation came in a “small” package to provide a lifetime of therapeutic doses of comfort [grace] that will fill the gaps left by wrong choices and ultimately overcome the accumulation of fatigue, stress, conflict or fear, so our “joy” will be “greater than ever.” That’s my choice for this Advent season.
I hope it will be yours too. Read whatever Scripture you pick with your eyes, your mind, your heart AND your experience. Let’s take God at his Word that Christ is his choice made on our behalf for our transformation and choose to find our Christmas joy in His choice