Day 7: At Just the Right Time

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

It’s obvious that we live in a culture averse to waiting. Self-check out lines. Two-day shipping. Fast food. Microwave dinners. Netflix. The Christmas season is no different, at least for most of us. We easily get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Before we know it, December 25 has come and gone and we never took a moment to enjoy it.

When we pay attention to Advent, it affords us the opportunity to more intentionally meditate on God’s deliberate and meticulous plan. It’s during Advent we are reminded that “when the fullness of time had come” God sent Jesus. The Apostle Paul told his readers that before Messiah came, we were imprisoned under the law. That is, the law showed how sinful we were. We needed a deliverer and God couldn’t come soon enough! The people of Israel probably thought, Where is Messiah? We’re tired of waiting already!  If only God had rush-delivery!

But God wouldn’t be rushed. At the right time in human history, when peoples and nations, shepherds and kings, paupers and priests, had been prepared for Messiah, his words, and his actions, Jesus came. Not a minute too soon or too late.

When was the last time you slowed down? When was the last time you, with unhurried delight, met with the Lord, your spouse, a friend? Perhaps you are dealing with a “delay” right now and you wish God would hurry it up. Take heart. He sees you and cares. But he also sees the bigger picture. If he can be trusted with the right moment to send Jesus, he can be trusted in the smaller delays in your life. This Advent, let God’s deliberateness in sending his Son in the fullness of time give you pause, calm your rushed soul, and turn your eyes to worship him.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Galatians 4:1-7

  1. Do you feel rushed this Christmas season? Is there something you need to stop or say “no” to?
  2. Read v. 25. How does the freedom you have in Jesus free you from the hustle and bustle of the season?
  3. Is God currently making you wait for something? How does Jesus’ arrival at the right time in history give you reason to pause and trust God in the meantime?
  4. What practices can you integrate into your life this Advent that might help you better reflect on God’s deliberate and meticulous plan of redemption?

Day 6: The Word Became Flesh

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The unique thing about John’s Gospel is that it predates the birth narrative of Jesus. Not just by a few years or decades. It goes back before the foundation of the world, into the annals of eternity.

John introduces us to the Word—logos in the Greek language. Logos does not really mean “word,” as we know it in English. We simply don’t have another word that expresses its meaning. In Greek philosophy, logos carried with it the idea of a central, divine, organizing principle of the universe. What John does is connect this idea to the beginning of creation (“In the beginning…”, Gen. 1:1) to convey the notion of God’s divine self-expression. Thus, John goes beyond the Greek philosophers who came before him. The logos is indeed central to the origin and purpose of the universe. But it’s not an impersonal force or an idea. This Word, this logos, this self-expression has found fulfillment and completion in a person. John identifies this person as the “the only Son from the Father” (v. 14), the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

God’s solution to the brokenness of this world was not to ignore it, start over, or let us fend or ourselves. He entered. The God who created the universe and everything in it, took part in his creation. It’s like Shakespeare entering Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth and participating in the story he’s writing. Can you believe it? A Creator who lives not only among created things but partakes of flesh and blood, skeleton and muscle, tendons and ligaments? One who gets hungry, stubs his toes, enjoys sunsets, and, yes, even goes to the bathroom? It seems to good to be true.

But it’s not too good to be true. It’s the miracle of the incarnation. Advent means the end of vague spirituality, it also means the beginning of God-in-the-flesh spirituality. Christmas is the celebration that God has acted in time and space. And this changes everything.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read John 1:1-18

  1. How should the fact that God enters creation in flesh and blood change your outlook on the physical and material?
  2. Read v. 11. Who are Jesus’ “own”? Why didn’t they receive him? How is that a warning to you?
  3. Have you received Jesus and become a child of God? If not, what’s holding you back? If so, how should your life be different?
  4. If you know grace and truth through Jesus, how then should you live today?
  5. Read John 14:9. How can you cultivate a desire to look at Jesus, and therefore God, more and more?

Day 5: Hoping for Another Advent

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (Isaiah 65:17)

One of the greatest lines in J.R.R Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings comes when Sam Gamgee awakes after the ring was destroyed at Mount Doom. Waking up a bit fuzzy, he thought the great wizard Gandalf was dead and that the hope of defeating evil was all but lost. Yet when he saw that Gandalf, dazzling and bright, was alive, Sam rejoiced, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?” Tolkien goes on to write, “[Sam] himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.”

This is a beautiful picture of what awaits everyone who hopes in Jesus. Like Sam, we recognize that this world is not what it should be. This world is a sad place and we long for it to be changed. The Christian hope is that when Jesus returns, he will bring a new heavens and new earth. He will make everything sad come untrue. He will wipe away our tears and well up our souls with laughter.

Can you imagine? No murder. No cancer. No bankruptcy. No tornadoes. No earthquakes. No floods. No car accidents. No rape. No blindness. No deafness. No speech impediments. No genetic disorders. No miscarriages. No infertility. No hunger. No thirst. No theft. No paralysis. No divorce. No lust. No orphans. No widows. No selfishness. No addiction. No drunkenness. No suicide. No child abuse. No pride. No exploitation. No fraud. No greed.

Yet this is not yet. Just as Israel awaited the advent of Messiah’s first coming, so we await his second coming. Advent provides intentional time and space to cultivate in us a desire for a redeemed world where everything sad will come untrue. There is a simple prayer that expresses this longing. May we learn to pray it in earnest this Advent: “Come, Lord Jesus! Come!”

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Revelation 21:1-8

  1. Do you pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”? Make that your prayer now!
  2. What frustrates you about our current world? What excites you about the new creation?
  3. Read v. 4. What do you anticipate it being like when Jesus wipes away your tears?
  4. How can the expectation of a new world where the sad things are going to be done away with change the way you live in this world?
  5. Have you been able to slow down this Advent to appreciate the glimpses of the new creation? Why or why not? How can you today?

Day 4: The True King

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
     and the government shall be upon his shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6)

Every four years in the United States we are reminded that no one leader will rule forever. Even in countries where there are dictators or monarchs, they eventually die and someone else comes into power. Human government, while good and ordained by God, is not ultimate. It’s easy to forget this. Sometimes, here in America, we think if we only had the right president, then we’d be able to stop terrorism. Then we’d solve racial tension. Then the economy will bounce back.

Human government, at its best, does bring safety, security, and enjoyment of freedom. But government can never bring us ultimate safety, security, and freedom from the enemies we fear most: sin, death, and Satan himself. When we put too much confidence in human government, we find ourselves devastated that our country and world are not what we hoped for. Israel wasn’t what it hoped. So they asked God for a human king (1 Sam. 8). Eventually what they found is that all those men failed. And Isaiah promised God’s people that, one day, a son would be born who would be a true king, a forever-king. This son, of course, is God’s own Son. Jesus is the only King who can bring this world into order and conquer the only enemies can really harm us.

It’s not hard to discern if we trust in human government or Jesus government. A few simple questions can help. Do you often find yourself tuning into your favorite cable news program with angst or anger? Do most of your conversations turn political? Do you most of your social media posts have to do with defending or lambasting a particular political ideology? Do you feel devastated or crushed thinking about what would happen if the “other” party wins? If you answered “yes” to those perhaps you have your eyes on the wrong king.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Isaiah 9:1-7 and Psalm 2

  1. When are you tempted to put your trust in human leaders?
  2. What do you think your desire for justice and righteousness in nations and world leaders says about your need for a true King?
  3. Read Psalm 2:8-9. How can Jesus simultaneously be a king who both draws all people to himself and conquers the nations? What does this say about his character and mission?
  4. How does being a citizen of a kingdom that will never end impact the way you live in this world?
  5. Is Jesus your Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace? How might you trust him today and this Advent to be these things for you?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent

Day 3: When the Stump Blooms

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
     and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1)

Think for a moment about your most helpless situation in life. You probably felt like God had forgotten about you or, worse, that he never cared in the first place. God’s people in the Old Testament were well acquainted with this feeling and it made them long for Messiah even more.

It’s hard to determine when Israel’s anticipation for Messiah reached its height. Year after year after year, it seemed that God’s kingdom would never fully come as promised. Kings died, the people worshiped idols, and Israel was at odds with the nations around them. Finally, because of their unrepentant sin, Judah, the southern kingdom, saw their worst nightmare come true: exile. (Israel, the northern kingdom, was exiled to Assyria more than a hundred years prior.) The hope of a God’s kingdom on earth seemed all but lost when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and took Judah’s survivors as prisoners of war.

Isaiah promised that exile was coming a century before it happened. God’s beloved people, whom he had planted, cultivated, and grown tall and strong, would be cut down to a stump. Stumps bear no fruit, provide no shade. They are useless (unless you need a chair). How could this be? Didn’t God see? Didn’t he care?

In the midst of judgement, however, there was hope. From that seemingly hopeless stump “a shoot” would arise from Jesse, the father of King David. The descendants from David’s line failed as kings. They, along with the kingdom, were cut down. But God remembered his promise, the promise he made to David that not all would be cut off. There would be one. One branch of the family tree would survive and he would rule over a kingdom that would never end. This One is Jesus.

When it seemed that there was nothing but the stench of death and the darkness of despair, God intervened: he made a glorious flower bloom from a stump.  As the old carol goes, “This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.”

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Isaiah 11:1-16 and Jeremiah 23:1-8

  1. What seemingly hopeless situation are you in now?
  2. If Christ has brought you ultimate redemption from sin and death, how can you trust him to lead you through the seemingly hopeless situation(s) you are enduring now?
  3. Read Isaiah 11:1-9. What parts of this did Jesus fulfill in his life on earth? What parts still need a complete fulfillment?
  4. Read Jeremiah 23:6. What does it mean that the Jesus’ name is “the LORD is our righteousness”? What does that mean for you today?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent