Advent

Light in the Darkness: A Series for Advent Part Four – Dayspring

Read Part 3.

Light is essential for life, and light is a central subject in the Bible. It literally bookends the storyline, from its creation (Gen. 1:3-4) to the point where it becomes obsolete—aside from the light that emanates from the Son of God Himself (Isa. 60:19-20; Rev. 21:23).

In between, He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5; see 12:46). As such, He is “the light of men” (John 1:4), and “the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9).

The word light is found 180 times in the Old Testament and 98 times in the New Testament—with 20 of those uses appearing in the gospel of John. Truly, we could sum his gospel up in this one verse, which has been our theme in this series: “The light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5).

As God’s people waited for centuries in darkness (Isa. 8:22; 9:2; Matt. 4:16), they often experienced fear and hopelessness (Ps. 88:1, 6, 18; 143:3). Oh, there was certainly light available, as we have seen. At times, it was even brilliant and blazing (Ex. 33:18-23; 34:29-35). The nation of Israel found light for guidance in the law that God had revealed (Ps. 119:105) and in the presence of God Himself (Ps. 27:1). Still, in the grand scheme of history, the darkness was palpable. All of the centuries before the Messiah came were a time of waiting and watching “for the morning” (Ps. 130:5-6).

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Light in the Darkness: A Series for Advent Part Three – Starlight

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

I have never been a stargazer, at least not in the sense that some are. I have known people who will brave any kind of weather and stay up all night to watch for the appearance of some unique star.

But, while I admire their beauty and am amazed at their nearly incomprehensible qualities, stars have never been my hobby—to say nothing of my passion. Suffice it to say, I would need another lifetime, and greatly increased interest, to become any kind of an expert on the stars.

It is necessary, however, that we recognize the importance that the Bible places upon the stars. The description of their very creation demonstrated the vital role that they would play all throughout history (Gen. 1:14). Stars were at the center of the episode that once and forever demonstrated the significance of the covenant that God made with Abraham (Gen. 15:1-6). This same event bears a critical role in our understanding of the central Biblical concept of justification by faith (Rom. 4:1-25).

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Light in the Darkness: A Series for Advent Part Two – Shadows

Read Part 1.

As the darkness gives way to the daylight, we notice long shadows—perhaps moving directly upon us.

Shadows have the capacity to unnerve—even frighten us. Sometimes the shadows may be mistaken for something real. At other times, something real may be hiding in the shadows.

Shadows make us uncomfortable. They represent incompleteness and uncertainty—”variation or shadow of turning” (Js. 1:17).

Shadows create a sense of darkness. In reality, however, the shadows prove the existence of the light—although it is hidden from view.

As the Old Testament saints looked ahead toward the ineffable brilliance of their Messiah’s first coming, they saw enormous signs between it and them, casting shadows back upon them.

There were gigantic figures like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. These men, and others who followed their examples, pointed—albeit in a very finite and limited way—to the coming of the One that God had promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, the “Seed” of “the woman.”

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Light in the Darkness: A Series for Advent Part One – Darkness

Darkness, to our sight, corresponds to silence, in our hearing. It is the absence of any stimulus to inform, direct or encourage us.

But darkness also entails a moral component. Darkness, by its very nature, spreads a covering over sin (see John 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35, 46; Eph. 5:11-14).

Furthermore, darkness is symbolic of Satan and evil, as Jesus stated during his arrest in Luke 22:53: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”1 The Apostle Paul also referenced this theme regarding the depravity of the human heart in Ephesians 5:8, stating: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Other passages that use the same imagery include Isaiah 5:20, Matthew 27:45 and Acts 26:18.

Beyond that, darkness may picture hell itself—even the eternal lake of fire (see Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).

The word darkness appears 99 times in the Old Testament and 42 times in the New Testament. Darkness represents ignorance and frustration—even despair (see Isa. 42:6-7; 58:10: 59:9). Darkness is ominous and threatening—indicating impending danger (see Isaiah 8:22; 45:7; 60:2).

The declining daylight at this time of year reminds us in a tangible way of the darkness that God’s people felt as they waited for their Messiah to arrive. This was sensed most keenly during the 400 silent years that followed the last utterance of true, Biblical, prophetic revelation that was given before Christ.

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Advent lessons in a genealogy: Jesus Is for Gentiles too

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

The gospel of of Matthew was the first biblical book to be written in over 400 years. And Matthew breaks the centuries of silence with…a genealogy.

He has a strategic reason for doing so—the goal of his book is to persuasively argue that Jesus is the Messiah, and so he starts by tying the person of Jesus to the history of the Jews, and particularly to the lines of David and Abraham.

Matthew is aware of the end of the story before he pens the beginning. He knows that Jesus was the Messiah, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. More importantly, he knows why Jesus was rejected. In fact, the seeds of Jesus’ rejection were already sown in Jewish history. The very reasons the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, et. al., rejected Jesus were already evident in the ancestry of the Savior.

Last week we saw that the Jews rejected Jesus because he taught a salvation by faith apart from works, even though that is the consistent testimony of those in his genealogy. Today, we see a second reason Matthew opens with a genealogy:

The Jews Rejected Jesus because of the global nature of his message.

Jesus intentionally brought his message to outcasts. He preached “the gospel of the kingdom” to sinners, tax collectors, adulteresses, and zealots. But he also brought his message to Gentiles.

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Should We Celebrate Advent?

© 2015 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc. Used by permission.

“We’ve never done that here before.”

That brief statement was intended to provide a comprehensive resolution to my introduction of an Advent candle into the services of the church I pastored several years ago. I had asked each of the deacons to begin one of the morning services during the four Sundays of Advent by lighting an Advent candle and sharing a two-minute testimony regarding the importance of the season.

I thought that the mounting popularity of Advent calendars, candles and wreaths within evangelical (i.e., non-liturgical) churches would allow our small fellowship to enjoy this simple ceremony—possibly forging a meaningful new tradition. At least it would be better than two more minutes of announcements, I surmised.

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Still Waiting

Christendom just wrapped up its official season of waiting. “Advent” (from the Latin, adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival”) is a nearly month long liturgical celebration marking the long-awaited arrival of Messiah some 2,000 years ago.

But coupled to this retrospective, celebratory focus, there is also to be a prospective, anticipatory disposition. To be sure, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was born in a Bethlehem stable two millennia past. But this same Jesus will come again and Christians are called to await his second advent with expectant hope (Titus 2:13).

It is worth noting that the disposition of awaiting Messiah’s coming binds God’s people together across the millennia. From the first cryptic prophesy (Genesis 3:15), thousands of years of increasingly unambiguous prophesies encouraged a spirit of keen anticipation of Messiah’s first advent.

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Advent and Christmas

NickImage

Any Christian discussion of holidays must begin with the recognition that we observe them in the absence of any biblical requirement. Does this mean that it is wrong to celebrate holidays? Not as long as the holiday is simply a focused instance of something that Christians have a biblical obligation to do anyway. Christians ought to ponder the incarnation, so it is not wrong to have a day or even a season regularly set aside for that purpose. Christians ought to exult in Jesus’ resurrection, so it is not wrong to set aside a day to focus especially on that event. Observances such as Easter and Christmas are allowable as matters of circumstance, but they must never be treated as required elements of our worship.

What complicates the discussion is the large number of cultural and commercial accretions that tend to attach themselves to the holidays. Holidays can even become occasions of vice. Something like this has happened within American Christianity. Evidently, the liturgical calendar of modern America includes seven principal holidays, each of which is devoted to the pursuit of a deadly sin: Thanksgiving (gluttony), Christmas (greed), Valentine’s Day (lust), Easter (envy), Independence Day (pride), Labor Day (sloth), and Halloween (vengeance).

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