A Message for Advent
David Devenish brings us a talk titled A Message for Advent.
THE SCRIPTURE: Matthew 1:18-25
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Advent is the latin word for the arrival of Jesus. It means looking forward to Jesus coming. Advent is a celebration where we as Christians look forward to Jesus arriving into the world. We are looking forward not just in desperation, but in hope too. It's a season of hope!
In the Bible, hope is looking forward to a certainty. Hope is certainty. Those that wait on the Lord will renew their strength. Waiting is expecting. This is a time of hope, expecting and knowing that Jesus is coming to put everything right. It's knowing that in his first coming, he has already laid the foundation for things to be right in our lives. Advent is an opportunity to look in more depth at some of themes of Christmas, which is what I want to explore today.
Reading our Bibles is a cross-cultural experience. Don't look at this through the spectacles of our own culture, look at it from trying to understand what this meant to the people of the original day. Shame-honour culture: you bring shame on your family and that's what this pregnancy would have done.
Why did God do it this way?
God chose to introduce his Messiah to the world through a virgin birth but in a way that brought embarrassment to this engaged couple, why? Because his ways are not our ways. In bringing Jesus into the world broke all kinds of unrighteousness and so that they would trust only God. Just like when Jesus grew up, the people that he healed were the people that wouldn't be allowed into the temple, because he was breaking that system and showing that his mercy was to all! That's how God worked.
Already we are introduced into a different type of righteousness which is just and merciful. Righteous in this scripture is someone who does right things but in doing right things shows mercy to those that may have offended. Christians often think of righteousness as doing the right thing. Biblical righteousness is showing mercy to those who are afflicted.
- He carried our shame in the most shameful way possible. In Roman culture, the cross was used for slaves and outcasts and in Jewish culture, cursed is everybody who hangs on a tree. On the cross, Jesus took our shame, just like Joseph took our shame when Jesus was born. Jesus has taken the shame for us and now we are honoured! We are part of the family, the people of God. God will save his people from sin. We are saved as individuals, but honoured by being part of the people of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ.
- Emmanuel means God with us. I am with you all the days. He is Emmanuel at birth, he is Emmanuel when we gather together and he is Emmanuel as we go in our mission. He is with us!
- Obedience was necessary. Joseph obeyed the angels messages. In the birth of Jesus, there were two obedient disciples. Despite the cost, despite the disgrace, despite the shame, both would have had to endure disgrace from their culture. Sometimes we will have to endure shame from our culture. That's what Joseph and Mary did, stood up against their culture. We have to be prepared to be shamed by our culture, but know that we will be honoured by the Lord!