(A) At advent, joy and light came into the darkened world (Is 9:2-7)
The country was wealthy, powerful and prosperous during the time of Isaiah. Yet Isaiah proclaims in Is 9:2 that the people were "dwelling/walking in deep darkness". Isaiah spoke of a time of great spiritual darkness, with the people not being aware of their spiritual emptiness, and a complete lack of repentance.
Does that remind us of anything today? We are blessed with so much, but we are dissatisfied and unhappy with where we are and what we do not have. When we take a step back and examine our world, the "land of darkness" that Isaiah describes is not all that foreign to us.
And yet to us a great light is promised (Is 9:2-3). Light has now entered this darkened world because God has come, and He will removed all pain and suffering. Isaiah foretells the birth of a Child, one who will be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Through this Child, this broken world will be fixed, ushering in the end of all wars, pain and suffering. Conflict within man will be resolved, and peace will reign on earth. Governments and systems will still be relevant, but now made perfect in Christ. This Child is the fulfillment of the long awaited king, the one to establish and uphold perfect justice and righteousness forever and ever.
How do we live today, knowing of this brilliant light that is Jesus Christ? Salvation can only come when we recognize our sin, just as light can only come when we recognise the darkness. In this time of Christmas, be reminded that we live in a world where Christ has already come - and with Him, so has Salvation.
(B) At advent, there was no room and no prestige for His coming (Lk 2:1-8)
Similar to last week’s study, the style of writing in Luke is descriptive as opposed to the declarative nature of Isaiah’s prophetic language. These details show that Luke’s account is in reality historical and factual, and the story of Jesus is traceable in history, just as this decree of Caesar in Luke is traceable in Roman history. (Lk 2:1-5)
The nativity scene is glorified today - we picture a well lit manger with clean hay for Mary and Joseph to lie on, and for baby Jesus to sleep comfortably in when in reality, the manger was dark and filthy, with animal food and waste all around. Jesus had to be delivered and housed in that same manger, because there was no space for Jesus and His family at the inn. That someone so proclaimed, so awaited, so glorified, is found in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths - it simply does not make sense. His welcome is ironic on one hand in what He was wrapped in - the swaddling cloths point to poverty, and people in those days would wonder how the long-awaited king was not born into an affluent family. On the other hand, even the inn did not have space - those same people were not prepared for the birth of Jesus, the almighty King that was to save them all.
Is this irony still true today? We fail to prepare a space for Him today in our hearts, even after we know and recognise His amazing grace. We get so caught up with things of this world, and still live like how the Israelites lived in darkness. Do we have room for Him in our lives today?
(C) At advent, angels sang comfort, peace and joy for all men (Lk 2:9-21)
God sent an angel to an unexpected group of people (shepherds) to tell them of the birth of Jesus Christ (Lk 2:9). The sense of God first appears to the shepherds by the angels, when the great light and pure glory of the angels strike fear into them. The overwhelming presence of God is seen once again, and yet, again, God says "fear not”. The angels’ message (Lk 2:10-14) contained:
- 3 things to Man: Good news of great joy for all the people. A Saviour is born to them. Peace and goodwill.
- 2 things about the Child: Wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. (Contrast to the blessings to man, that all these would come through this child.)
- 1 thing to God: Glory to God through this child. (The ultimate purpose of Jesus' coming is to glorify God.)
These shepherds went to Bethlehem with haste, saying “let us go” (Lk 2:15) to see for themselves this Christ that was made known to them. Do we encourage one another to see Christ for ourselves today? Do we care to listen and find out what The Lord has made known to us? And after they saw, they made known the saying abroad, even beyond Bethlehem. How urgent and to what extent do we go out to tell people the Good news?
We see two contrasting responses to the good news here - the shepherds who traveled to see Jesus, as opposed to the people who simply marvelled and wondered at what the shepherds told them and did not come to see for themselves. What is our response today?
At the end Mary is painted as one who is tired and overwhelmed, having gone through a lot (pregnancy by a supposed scandal, JUST gave birth, no space in the inn, in a dark and dirty manger.) And yet she ponders and treasures - because of her faith and belief that this baby is the one to save the world, despite the circumstances.
As we think about Christmas, we remember that salvation was ushered in by a Child who was born into poverty, with no prestige at all. What kind of Saviour do we worship, and what kind of kingdom do we belong to?
We live in a fallen world, and yet also in a world where Christ has come. Sin has been paid for, and we are saved.