“Abounding in Steadfast Love”
As we come close to the end of Advent, today we read a celebration Psalm. Psalm 145 is about praising the wonderful greatness of our God. As we have read through the story of Jesus’ birth, we have seen how God is faithful to all of His promises in the sending of Jesus as our savior and redeemer. This Psalm gives voice to how great God is in all of HIs works and how worthy of praise He is in His character, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Last week we read a poem from Isaiah about a messenger bringing good news to a broken and confused people, “Your God reigns!”. Today we read a poem praising the glory of God’s Kingdom. His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion endures throughout all generations. This was brought to full manifestation in King Jesus. What we celebrate at Christmas is the coming of a savior and king in Jesus Christ. We can have hope, peace, and joy because we celebrate God’s steadfast love revealed in the first advent of Christ. This helps nurture hope, peace, and joy as we are waiting for the second advent, the coming of His kingdom in its fullness and the redemption of all creation. This is the coming dawn we wait for as watchmen. It is truly a moment worth waiting for!
“A Light for the Nations”
When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are not primarily celebrating a baby boy being born. We are celebrating our Savior, our Redeemer being born. But even more than that, we are celebrating the birth of the one true Anointed King, the one who will bring righteousness and justice into the brokenness of the world. This is the good news.
Psalm 2 speaks to the fact that this good news is not good news to everyone. Many in darkness resist Jesus, the “light for the nations”, out of pride. The kings of the earth, out of the darkness in their hearts, appear to rebel against the Anointed King and cling to their sense of power. And what is God’s response to such arrogance and rebellion? He laughs. The reality of the matter is that King Jesus rules over all! We can choose whether we receive His love, His salvation, and His justice as the light in our darkness, but it does not change His authority.
There is still much that is wrong with the world: grave injustice, crippling fear, horrific violence, corruption, darkness and death. Celebrating Jesus does not mean we turn a blind eye to that brokenness. In actuality, we can see it with eyes wide open, but with the hope that Jesus is King and that He will make everything right. We anticipate that day by worshipping Him and submitting to Him. We trust Him and obey Him, and in some small way, we become vessels of His kingdom, slowly but surely shining His light into the darkness of this world.
“Waiting for Redemption”
Following the story that we read yesterday, the scene becomes very serious. Simeon sees something prophetically in this baby boy. He sees that this child carries a heavy purpose. He will be responsible for the downfall and rise of many, and will be a sign that is opposed.
The redemption that Jesus brings requires those who hear it to make a decision: do we humbly receive His love and salvation or do we pridefully choose our own way? One option leads us to redemption and freedom; the other to our destruction. Choosing our own way inevitably leads to our downfall. But there is hope for those who receive His love and salvation! By humbly admitting that we have sinned and turned away from God, and recognizing that Jesus bore our iniquities and sins on the cross, we are redeemed from them.
The good news of Jesus is that God loves us and has done the hard work to redeem us. Jesus is what the world has been waiting for! As we celebrate His birth, we also recognize His destiny was to redeem us all at the cost of His own life – we see God’s steadfast love for us in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. You are loved, you are enough!
“Waiting for Consolation”
This part of Jesus’ birth story is fascinating. It describes a man who had been waiting and longing for the “consolation of Israel.” Simeon was a man who was aware of all the hopes and longings of his people. He had nurtured the hopes of the coming Messiah, immersed in the promises of God – especially in the book of the prophet Isaiah. He was waiting to see God fulfill all of His promises to redeem and restore His people. He recognized the brokenness of the world and longed for God to act. Somehow, he knew by the Holy Spirit that he would see God at work. And that day finally came. He saw the Messiah as just a baby boy in the Temple.
Simeon’s story can be our story. We, like Simeon, need to nurture the hopes and longings of Christ’s return. We need to be immersed in God’s promises of faithfulness and steadfast love so that our eyes are open to see God at work. Just because there is darkness and brokenness in the world does not mean God is not present. Jesus proves that even in difficult and confusing circumstances, God is present and at work!
This season is an opportunity to have our eyes open and our hearts ready to see Jesus. Just like Simeon, we need to be ready to be led by the Spirit to the place we can see Jesus more clearly. And when we see Jesus, may we praise God like Simeon did, our “eyes see your salvation.”
“This is Love”
The defining characteristic of God is love. God is love, it is who He is, not just what He has. This is what it means for Him to have “steadfast love” (chesed), it means that He will be faithful to His promises with tenderness, compassion, mercy, and care because it is His very nature to be that way. This is not just a statement that gets repeated over and over in Scripture without proof. Jesus is the proof that God loves us enough to do the hard part, take care of our sins.
There may be times where you are unsure how God sees you. No matter what you have been told, or what you are feeling right now, the life of Jesus is proof that God loves you and wants you to know Him. This season of Advent is about paying enough attention to Jesus that we can see God’s steadfast love revealed through Him. Recognizing this love comes with a calling though: to love one another. Just like God revealed His love to us in Jesus, so we are to reveal that same love to each other.
In the season of giving and celebration, let’s remember what this is all anchored in. Celebrating Advent, the time leading up to Christmas Day, is about being amazed by the birth and life of Jesus that transforms us to be people who show that same love to those around us. May we be the people who reveal God’s love to a dark and hurting world.
“Light Shines in the Darkness”
Have you ever been in a moment of complete darkness? I am sure there may have been several times with all that has gone on during this year. You most likely get nervous or afraid and reach out your hands to grab hold of something solid. This is often the state of our world: darkness. But the life of Jesus is described as light, light that shines in the darkness. The light of Jesus, which is specified as His life, is a light more powerful than any darkness and darkness cannot overcome it.
You may feel like you are in a season of darkness, anxious or afraid, groping around trying to find something solid. Jesus is the light that shines in that darkness. His life is a testament that God did not stand apart from the darkness of the world, but went directly into it, bringing light into the world – the “Word” was made flesh and dwelt among us. God loves us so much that He came into the world in the person of Jesus to reveal His steadfast love that brings light to our darkness. We may be groping in the dark, but the steadfast love of God is what is solid in the midst of dark times. Let’s take this season to be reminded that God is still present with us and focus on the light of Jesus that shines even if it feels like we are in the dark.
“Shout for Joy”
In Luke 2:13-20, the angel that announced the good news of great joy is joined with a “multitude of the heavenly host” who praised God together saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” What a moment in history! The angelic host bringing the songs and praise of heaven to earth, celebrating that God has participated in the brokenness of humanity by coming as a baby, born in a stable among the animals.
There is so much we can point to in the world and be angry or afraid. There is so much we can despair and lament over; so much brokenness, so much darkness. The temptation during this season is to distract ourselves from such brokenness and pretend to be happy with fabricated feelings. This is not what it means to be a follower of Jesus – to pretend and fake it. Yet we do not have to be overcome by anger or fear or despair, either. How do we live with joy in the midst of pain without being overcome by it or pretending our way through it?
We remember that God has come into our broken world and fully participated in our brokenness in Jesus. His coming into the world was celebrated by the angelic host, not because everything got instantly better, but because they knew God was at work to heal our brokenness. We are invited to join in the song and celebration. We can shout for joy, not because we feel like it or everything becomes instantly better, but because we can trust God. He has worked in the past, He will come again to make all things right, and He is at work now, despite what we can see or feel. We can trust His steadfast love which gives us joy in the midst of brokenness.