by Bruce Gilberd
(Based on Luke 1:39-45; Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 10:5-10)
Today we are completing the church season of Advent and are poised for Christmas. We wait in anticipation for a birth of ultimate significance.
How extraordinarily accurate was the prophecy of the Old Testament book of Micah.
- The reference to Bethlehem
- Israel subject to “enemies” – read “Roman Empire”
- The Coming King is alive from everlasting ages, and “greatly honoured all around the world”
- There will be a spiritual rebirth
- The King, the Good Shepherd, will feed his flock – yes, and he still does
How enlightening and accurate all that was, and is!
Then the New Testament reading from the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that the old system of sacrifice in the Temple was totally ineffective in deleting Israel’s sin. It was a mere faint shadow of the reality of Christ’s self-offering, his cross and resurrection, that dealt with sin, once, and for all nations and people. Only this re-establishes God’s undying relationship with humanity. Jesus’s own words sum it up: “Here I am. I have come to give my life.”
This Hebrews passage focusses even further Micah’s prophecy.
Now we go to that touching scene in Luke of the cousins meeting – Mary and Elizabeth – both now pregnant. Purposeful pregnancies of great and ultimate significance. John and Jesus, second cousins – cuzzie bros – will bring joy, perplexity, tragedy and, finally, triumph to their mothers. And for many down the centuries to now.
Elizabeth’s and Mary’s sons would both die turning the world upside down.
There is in this intimate scene of the meeting and greeting of Mary and Elizabeth, above all, anticipation. Something altogether new is imminent!
So, as we ponder the transit from Advent to Christmas we ask ourselves,
- Do we have a disposition of anticipation in our church and in our lives; of God doing something entirely new?
- What new and transforming reality, truth, is being birthed in us?
I have had two conversations recently on what Jesus came amongst us to do. We covered many reasons for his coming. I offer a few here this morning:
- To offer forgiveness and liberation to all. It is always possible to make a new start.
- He taught us how to pray, and, amazingly, address the living God as Father.
- He was really clear that discipleship is costly. What happened to him can happen to us – and does in some countries.
- He shows us what God is like – undying love.
- He shows us how to live. Truth, and love of God, and others, are absolute priority.
- He initiated his Kingdom – his reign of healing, forgiveness and transformation among us.
- He founded his church, his community of believers, to bring in his reign of love.
- He overcame death and dwells amongst us as our wounded risen brother and friend.
All this we both embrace and anticipate.
Perhaps you can add to these reasons and outcomes of Jesus’s birth and life among us. Above all, let us ponder and embrace these many faceted expressions of the love of God in Christ, as the future unfolds in a turbulent and uncertain world.
As with the lives of Elizabeth and her son John, Mary and her son Jesus, there will be joy, there will be perplexity, there will be sorrow.
But, finally, there will be the triumph of: Hope and Love, Joy and Peace.