Advent Stories – Joy

In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me”. Psalm 71:2

In the book of Exodus, God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt and established them as His covenant community by giving them His Law. (Exodus 20:1-19). Over and over, they would remember and recite their story, refusing to forget the joy of rescue. Through every trial and test ever after, this story reminded them of what was possible through their compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love. 

In this covenant, God outlines what it looks like to be His people. The covenant with Abraham was designed to be a blessing for the whole world and not only Abraham, and this covenant is designed as a ripple effect of redemption. By following these commands, Israel would become a powerful image of God‘s heart on display. 

As beautiful as the 10 Commandments are, they are but a glimpse of the Great Commandment that Jesus will outline in His ministry to come. Jesus summarizes the covenant law given to Moses in one Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbour as yourself.” 

While the covenant law given to Moses shaped the daily life of the people of Israel, the story behind that covenant shaped their identity. The preface to the commands reminds them of where they have been and who brought them on the journey. It was core to their understanding of themselves and God. It shaped how they saw their past, present, and future. 

Like the people of Israel who awaited another deliverer and liberator like Moses, we know that longing is satisfied by the arrival of Jesus. We must remember our story and how we were once enslaved. Not in Egypt with physical chains, under the brutality of Pharaoh. But we were once enslaved to sin. It was our exile, bound by its oppressive grip and strength. But Jesus faced down the empire of sin and proclaimed, “Let my people go!” 

Jesus is the long-awaited arrival of liberation. He overthrew the power and plagues of sin and became the Passover lamb of sacrifice so that we could be set free! He is our New Exodus! Because of him, we can know the Joy of Rescue. 

The people of Israel often retold their rescue stories. 
What is yours? 
What is your testimony of Joy and Rescue? 
How and when did Jesus rescue you? How did that change your life? 
Look for an opportunity to share that joy with at least one other person before you celebrate the Joy of Jesus’ birth. 

Advent Stories – Peace

Read Genesis 15:9-21

This passage appears to describe an Old Testament ritual of sacrifice. In the ancient Near East, when two parties entered into a covenant, they would seal their commitment similarly. They would cut animals in two parts and place them on the ground with a path down the middle of the two halves. Then the lower and lesser party of the agreement would pass between the halves, reciting the terms of the covenant. The ritual served as a visual reminder of the severe nature of the commitment. The lesser party essentially said they would end up like those unfortunate animals if they broke the covenant terms. 

In this covenant account, it is not Abraham who passes between the animals, but God’s presence symbolized as the blazing torch and fire pot. It should have been the lesser party, Abraham, putting his life on the line if he ever broke the covenant. But it is not. It is God who takes that upon Himself. 

In choosing Abraham as His representative, God entered into a covenant for the sake of all of humanity. In promising to bring Peace through Abraham’s offspring, God puts His own life on the line. Knowing that Abraham would fail like all the others and that

God would be faithful like He always is, God gives us an image of the future. The promise of Peace. Jesus will lay down His life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking on the judgment that should be ours and shedding His blood on the cross for our salvation. 

According to the scripture, the Peace of God, “which transcends all understanding,” is the harmony and calmness of body, mind, and spirit trusting in the power and grace of God. As we draw close to Christmas, it’s comforting to know that the promise of Hope and Peace was fulfilled in the birth of Christ.

Advent Stories – Hope

Advent means ‘arrival.’ It is a season of waiting, where Christians around the world celebrate the arrival of Jesus’ birth at Christmas.

While the culture around us rushes ahead to the celebration, we intentionally join in the practice of waiting, retracing our steps in the great Story, remembering how humanity longed for the hope of Immanuel, God with us. During this Advent, we will retrace some steps, through short articles, going all the way back to the beginning, because the whole story of Scripture has been pointing ahead to the hope of Jesus. 

In the Old Testament, God makes five core covenants with these people:
1. Adam & Eve 
2. Noah & Family
3. Abraham & Sarah 
4. Moses & Israel 
5. David & The Kingdom 

They are more than marks on a timeline of chronological events. They are an outline of salvation history, fulfilled and completed in Jesus. Together, they give us a context for understanding the Old Testament but even more, they prepare us for the Advent arrival of Jesus. Without them, we can’t see the whole picture. 

It is anticipated that through these articles on the covenants, we can gain a deeper understanding of Jesus’ Advent. 

Genesis 1:1-2 

Though Christmas is called the season of lights, we should remember that our story starts in darkness, longing for the light to come. Genesis 1 opens with an image of chaos, darkness, void, and the Spirit hovering over the waters. Yet out of that chaos, God brings creation.  

The first chapter of the Bible describes the work of his Creation. And the pinnacle of his work comes in verses 26 and 27, the forming of humanity in the image of God. 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27
All of Creation bears his glory. But only humanity bears his image. With that privilege comes a mission. God placed Adam and Eve in his garden, as his representatives, entering into a covenant partnership with them. “He will be our God; we will be his people”. And this covenant involves a commitment on our part to embody his character, his will, his way of being in the world. 

However, the story seems to have come apart before it even had a chance to start; the fall, and humanity sinking into depravity. But again, God shows his covenant love to humanity and chooses another representative. Like Adam and Eve, God selects Noah and enters into a covenant with him, on behalf of all of us. He raises up Noah to proclaim the rescue of grace, even in the throes of judgment. 

Adam, Eve, Noah, and his family, are chosen as representatives of God’s covenant with humanity. Even though they fail in their covenant mission, God is still faithful to His promise. Genesis 1-3 reminds us that what went wrong in the garden is set right through Jesus.

Genesis 6-9 reminds us that even though sin is judged, grace provides the rescue. And the ultimate fulfillment of this is found in Jesus, who takes upon himself the judgment of sin and becomes the expression of our rescue on the cross. From the start of the story, he has been our long-awaited hope. 

Scripture shares that time and time again, sin breaks relationships, the curse creeps in, and the downward spiral continues on. And God continues to plant a seed of hope, and we reap the harvest of redemption. Notice the way that the Advent wreath is without light, until the Hope candle is lit. As we continue in this Advent journey, we remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of every covenant and the Hope for Creation.