From Seasons of the Christian Church Year
We keep track of time and seasons of the year by using calendars that provide us opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The changing seasons of the year also provide us with recurring opportunities to celebrate the Christian Faith in worship. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals and holidays, sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.
Beyond Christmas and Easter, many churches in the Protestant tradition do not celebrate the various seasons of the church year in any deliberate or sustained way . However, the observance of the seasons of the church year has a long history in the life of the Christian Faith. When most of the people in the church were poor and had no access to education, the church festivals and the cycle of the church year provided a vehicle for teaching the story of God and his actions in human history. Even in the Old Testament, the concept of sacred time became a vehicle for teaching the faith (for example, Exodus 12-13). Planned and purposeful observance of the Christian seasons and festivals can become an important tool for education and discipleship in the Faith, as well as a vehicle for spiritual growth and vitality.
The History of Advent
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist , and his first miracle at Cana. During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
Today, the Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. The time before Christmas is Advent, a season of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.
This year 2017 Advent began on Sunday December 3rd and ends on Sunday December 24th, Christmas Eve.
This blog series will be posts on the themes most often used for the four weeks of Advent, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The first post in the series is Hope,
The Hope of Advent.
Hope (a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen)
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate.” It is not a blissful ignorance or wishful thinking but an attitude that refuses to let circumstance triumph over courage, doubt overcome faith, or adversity over compassion. This is not our nature. When we hit brick walls, the first emotion that naturally arises is generally not hope. Hope requires a strength that comes from focusing on a greater vision than what is wrong. We may not have every problem figured out, but we serve a God who loved this world enough to join us in it. We trust that when Jesus said, “Behold, I am making all things new,” he meant it.
Hope is two-dimensional.
Advent teaches us to not only to expect hope for eternity, but we can expect hope for today. If Jesus could remain obedient to death on a cross, surely we can get through what seems hopeless for us today.
If we keep focusing on the lowly conditions in which Jesus came into the world and on His painful death on the cross, then we, too, can have hope for the days ahead of us. Remember, what you are going through today is not to harm you but to strengthen you for what's ahead for you (See Don’t Be Discouraged)
Isaiah 9:1-2 (HCSB)1 Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.
Here Isaiah was talking about the gloom in Israel because they had been captured by Assyria but in the future, (in this case the distant future from the time of Isaiah’s prophecy) honor would come through Jesus who would headquarter His ministry in Galilee. This is a prophecy of the Messiah. So there was hope for the land.
1 Peter 1:3-5 (HCSB)3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.5 You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Psalm 80 is an expression of grief or sorrow of Israel. They were in trouble because of their rebellion had been rejected by God. They wanted God to rescue them because if He did, and when He rescues us, nothing can stop us. This psalm was around when Mary and Joseph were alive and living in Palestine, but this time under Roman occupation. The nation was in decline and trouble again, had not heard from God in about 400 years.
Psalm 80:1-7 (HCSB)1 Listen, Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock; You who sit enthroned ⌊on⌋ the cherubim, rise up2 before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Rally Your power and come to save us.3 Restore us, God; look ⌊on us⌋ with favor, and we will be saved. LORD God of Hosts, how long will You be angry with Your people’s prayers?5 You fed them the bread of tears and gave them a full measure of tears to drink.6 You make us quarrel with our neighbors; our enemies make fun of us.7 Restore us, God of Hosts; look ⌊on us⌋ with favor, and we will be saved.
The last prophet to the nation of Israel was Malachi and here is what ends his prophecy and the Old Testament:
Malachi 4:5-6 (HCSB)5 Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes.6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to ⌊their⌋ children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Most theologians and historians believe that was about 430 BC.
When the New Testament opens with the announcement of Jesus birth we know that the King was Herod the Great who reigned from 37 to 4 BC.
Matthew 2:1-3 (HCSB)1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem,2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
So the Jews were waiting for the one who would deliver them. In fact they mention Him in their prayer of grief in Psalm 80
Psalm 80:17 (HCSB) Let Your hand be with the man at Your right hand, with the son of man You have made strong for Yourself.
God had promised That Man (The Messiah) would come and save and rescue them and He did. He didn’t come to save just Israel but all the lost. That included us.
Luke 19:10 (HCSB) For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
With everything that’s going on in this country and the world we may feel like the nation of Israel felt. We’re in decline, we’re in trouble, we need a revival and restoration. We can and should pray this same prayer as Psalm 80 but the reality is that the promised One has come and all power is in His hands;
Matthew 28:18 (HCSB) Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Because He did come….nothing can ever stop us not even death.
Matthew 16:18 (HCSB) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.
We can have hope for a successful future.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (HCSB)11 For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
We can joyfully anticipate something better ahead if we maintain hope. Then we eagerly await something beyond what we could ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (HCSB)20 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us--21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
While things may seem hopeless we should be reminded that the promised One has come in glory and power to rescue, revive, restore, and save.
There is HOPE!
Hope For Each Day
- A devotion written by Billy Graham
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. — Isaiah 7:14
I never come to Christmas without thinking of the thousands of people who are lonely and troubled at this time of year. I have had psychiatrists tell me their schedules are overloaded with people who find the Christmas season almost more than they can bear because of their loneliness and isolation.
Christmas is God’s reminder that we are not alone.
God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus a reconciling love that rescues us from separation and loneliness. We are not alone; God has come down from Heaven to tell us He loves us! At this Christmas season you can be assured that Jesus Christ is here. He is here to give us hope, to forgive our sins, to give us a new song, to impart faith, and to heal our spiritual wounds if only we will let Him. The Christmas message has not changed after two thousand years. Christmas still reminds us that God is with us. If you are lonely this Christmas, welcome Christ into your life. Then ask Him to help you reach out to someone else who is lonely, and show that person His love.
~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day
Excerpted with permission from Jesus, The Light of the World, copyright Thomas Nelson.
The Hope And Savior Of Israel
Judah experienced a terrible drought that greatly affected both people and animals. Wells dried up and the land, parched and cracked, would not produce food. Jeremiah asked God to mercifully intervene even though the people had sinned.
Jeremiah 14:7-8 (HCSB)7 Though our guilt testifies against us, Yahweh, act for Your name’s sake. Indeed, our rebellions are many; we have sinned against You.8 Hope of Israel, its Savior in time of distress, why are You like a foreigner in the land, like a traveler stopping only for the night?
God’s silence in their situation felt like God’s absence from their lives. Jeremiah prayed with informed faith, acknowledging that God was “the hope of Israel” and “its Savior in times of distress”. Many times before, God had proven his power by rescuing the people from trouble. Jeremiah asked him to do so again.
Between the days of the Old Testament and the era of the New Testament, some 400 years went by without a word from God. The people longed for the spiritual drought to end — they were desperate for God to speak or move.
Luke 2:25-32 (HCSB)25 There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him.26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah.27 Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law,28 Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:29 Now, Master, You can dismiss Your slave in peace, as You promised.30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.31 You have prepared ⌊it⌋ in the presence of all peoples--32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people Israel.
Jesus came into these dark and dry times to bring light and life.
John 1:1-5 (HCSB)1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning.3 All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.4 Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.5 That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.
He was and is the answer to the hope of all nations; a Savior who brings the possibility of grace and eternal life to all people
2 Timothy 1:9-10 (HCSB)9 He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.10 This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
- From YouVersion The Jesus Bible Reading Plan