The Name Above all Names
Welcome to the season of Advent, a celebration of hope that traditionally spans the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent begins this year on Sunday November 27.
Advent simply means arrival – in the case of Christmas, the first arrival of Jesus, the greatest gift ever given to the world. For on a chaotic night in the little town of Bethlehem a miracle happened. Down the slope of a hill, in a cave carved out by the wind and rain, a place where animals took shelter in the storm, a Savior was born who would take away the sins of the world.
But Jesus didn’t arrive without a wait. While you and I simply turn the page, moving effortlessly from the end of the Old Testament promises to the opening of Matthew’s Gospel, it wasn’t quite that easy. Four hundred years of silence spanned the gap between the final prophecies spoken in Malachi (the last OT book) and the birth of Christ.
Imagine four hundred years without a word from God – no voice, no prophet, nothing. Imagine the agony of waiting, and the struggle to keep faith in the promises given long before. You can almost hear the questions being passed from one generation to the next. Was God gone? Was he ever really there? Was faith in him just a waste?
Suddenly, when the time was right, Bethlehem’s fields lit up like noonday as angels proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men on whom his favor rests.
The wait was over. The silence was broken. Heaven unleashed thunderous applause. And in a messy manger, Jesus was born. God in human flesh! The Son of God had become the Son of Man, Emmanuel – God with us!
From the beginning, the Christmas story has been one of fulfilled longing. It reaffirms our faith and gives us reason to celebrate the goodness and nearness of God. As we struggle with our own sense of silence and strain to see God at work in our messy lives, Christmas urges us on by reminding us that God will come through on his promises.
Sadly, the frenzy we call the holiday season is a mad dash of tinsel and toys, driven more by consumerism than anything else, and creating a perfect storm of anxiety that can easily cause us to miss God’s voice. Ironically, the season that marks the arrival of the Prince of Peace has somehow begun to leave us feeling frantic, stressed, alone, and peace-less.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Christmas is about waiting and hoping in God. If we are willing to ask him, God will give us the grace to slow the pace. And he will help us remember how loved we are and how faithful he is. If we wait expectantly for him, God will lift our eyes and draw near to us. He will remind us that waiting is not wasting when we are waiting on the Lord.
My hope is that this Advent season you will hear the cries of the baby in the manger and the words of the Messiah on the cross. I pray that you will be encouraged and your faith fortified so hope may bloom again.
To guide our thinking, we’ll work our way through Philippians 2:5-11. It’s a famous passage, sometimes known as the “Carmen Christi,” the “hymn to Christ.” It was probably sung or used in some way in the apostolic churches, and Paul is quoting it in the context of his letter to the Philippians as an apt summary of the message about Jesus’ person and His work – who He is and what He came to do. And our plan over the next several weeks is to work our way through this glorious passage captivated by the glory of God in Christ once again.
Come and join us during this Advent season as we pause and think once again of the person and work of Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. This time of year is a wonderful opportunity to invite your family and friends to come along with you. Remember, Advent begins this Sunday.
Waiting in Hope,