I loving the word “Advent.” The Arrival.
Rome ruled Israel. Taxes were high and people anxious, wanting the promise of Messiah to be fulfilled as it had been prophesied multiple times in the Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and other books of the Old Testament.
And Herod, who officially ruled Galilee and Perea as a client state of the Roman Empire…well, he knew he could be thrown out of power at any time if he didn’t align himself with Rome.
Chaos was rampant as Israelites and Romans clashed in the streets. Crime was up. Waves of revolt were often led by two sects: the Zealots who sought Jewish independence, and the Sicarii, a Zealot extremist group whose name means “assassin.” Hostility was high. Roman occupation included oppressive taxes, physical abuse by Roman soldiers, and the repugnant idea that the Roman leader was a god. Repeated efforts at gaining political independence went nowhere. Whether in the city or country, Israelites were oppressed by Rome.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it! (I’m not making a political comment, just saying their culture and ours parallel in a number of ways.)
But the Israelites expected a Messiah Ruler; a leader who would vanquish Rome, set captives free, and give them peace and freedom and victory celebrations!
Instead, Messiah came as a baby, born in a humble stable. Not even a room in the inn. He had to be laid in a manger, probably filled with straw. This isn’t the way one would expect a King to enter the world. Pastor Tim used a statement last week that “The infinitely high became incomprehensibly low so we could be seated with him in the heavens!” God’s Son gave up everything, even the Oneness he shared with the Father, when God turned his back on the sin laid on his Son’s shoulders on the cross. Jesus gave up everything so we could have everything!
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)
With Mary, I proclaim
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.Luke 1:46-48 (NIV)
This has been a difficult year around the globe. Uncertainty, hostilities, pandemic, floods, natural disasters, loss of loved ones, and isolation have taken their toll.
And, while Jesus wasn’t born into a palace, surrounded by servants, rich damasks and silks, and the finest of infant foods, he did come as our Lord and King, the only one who could take on himself the penalty for our sins. Eight days after his birth, the elderly Simeon, a righteous man who had been awaiting the arrival of Messiah, held Jesus in his arms and prayed:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.Luke 2:29-32
So as we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s remember the God who holds the world in his hands and sent his one and only Son, the exact likeness of God, to become nothing, so we could have everything!
I wish you and yours a joyous Advent, celebrating not only the babe in the manger, but our Lord and King!