The Nature and Necessity of Advent

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This year, December 2 marked the beginning of Advent. Advent is a period of four weeks in December that many Christians observe to prepare for the celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. While it is commonly known that Jesus was not born on December 25, His birth is traditionally celebrated on this day by many. Advent is the Latin word for “coming”, which makes Advent preparation to commemorate the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Lk. 2).

However, it’s obvious that all who celebrate Christmas are not celebrating the birth of Jesus. For non-Christians, the Christmas season is merely a time for winter trips, shopping, parties, decorations, exchanging presents, etc. For the retail industry, it is usually a time when businesses recover from financial deficits throughout the year. This profit surge usually starts on the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday. Corporate budgets typically shift from red (deficit) to black (profit) due to the increase of demand for their products. Certainly, Christians contribute to retail and travel industry profits during this time of year, but at large, the culture is not seeking to genuinely glorify Jesus Christ. For many, He’s a mean to a great financial end. This is just one of the reasons why Advent significantly matters and is so desperately needed.

Why the need for Advent?

As stated, the Advent season is a time to commemorate the coming of Jesus Christ. The most significant person ever to be born was Jesus Christ and part of what validates that claim is understanding why there was a need for Him to be born.

Everyday all across the globe we see and hear of terrible and tragic events. All one has to do is tune in to their local news or national news channel or social media outlets to see or read about various tragedies occurring non-stop, as it seems. Tragedies and sufferings are experienced by all of creation. These tragedies and sufferings are what the Bible calls the groans of creation longing to be free from the curse that it was subjected to.

Romans 8:20-23 says –
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

While Romans 8 is arguably one of the most encouraging chapters for the believer, it does explain why all of creation, including you and me, suffers. Let’s observe what this text says as it pertains to the present condition of creation, our response to these conditions and why this condition exists.

Verse 21 tells us that creation is in bondage to corruption. Though there is much beauty to behold in all of creation, it is marred by corruption. This corruption expresses itself in physical corruption and moral corruption. Every tornado screams corruption. Every stillborn baby screams corruption. Every cancer diagnosis screams corruption. Strife and deception among humanity screams corruption. Man’s rejection of his Creator screams corruption. Corruption and its effects are pervasive physically and morally.

Verses 22 and 23 tell us that all of creation, including humanity groans, but is awaiting an emancipation from our corrupted state (See v21 & 23b). These groans serve as a witness that all is not right and there is a deep desire for an emancipation from corruption.

However, verse 20 seems to be the most provocative verse in this passage. It says “creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it…..” The original word for futility means that which is devoid of truth or appropriateness or perverseness and depravity. Creation was subject to that which is devoid of truth or depravity, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it. Someone subjected creation to a condition of corruption or depravity. There has been some debate about who him is in this verse, but Genesis 3 settles that debate.

After transgressing the clear command of God to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God curses Adam, the woman and the serpent. With respect to the curse pronounced to Adam, creation would work hard against man’s rule and cultivation. All that man had dominion over would be subject to futility. Due to Adam’s sin, man’s relationship with God, with his wife (and all other human relationships) and with creation was broken. This was God’s judgment for Adam’s sin – futility. God subjected all of creation to futility as a form of judgment. Creation groans because of the curse we’re under and the corruption we experience every day. In fact, this is the whole point of Ecclesiastes. All of life without God is vanity or futility. Also, futility is our natural state (Ps. 51:5, Eph. 2:1-3). Due to Adam’s rebellion, we’re born in a state of moral corruption.  Our sinful nature is incapable of pleasing God in any way and only fit for His just wrath. We need liberation from sin and from God’s wrath. 

Thankfully, Romans 8:20b-21 reminds us that that futility is not the end. God subjected creation to futility “in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom….”.

But how? How will creation be set free from its bondage to corruption?

Genesis 3:15 gives us a small hint of the one God would send to set man and the rest of creation free from His wrath and from the bondage to corruption to obtain freedom. The rest of the voices of the Old Testament grows progressively louder concerning the coming of this appointed emancipator.

May our Christmas season be a joyful gratuitous expression for the Christ who has come and brought freedom!





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Christmas: God’s Grace Through the “Insignificant”

20171225_150202One of the reasons that grounds my assurance in God is His deliberateness. All that God does He deliberately does with purpose and intention. There are no accidents or happen-stances with God. Even when our minds can’t fathom how or why God chooses to work in particular ways, what we need to do as finite beings is trust in the wisdom and goodness of the Infinite. This is part of what it means to be human and what it means to be God.

One of the reasons why I like Luke’s gospel is his Holy Spirit inspired attention to detail. I often remind myself when I start to wonder why so much seemingly insignificant detail is mentioned, that God has a reason for including the particularities in Scriptures. They are for our good and our worship. God is in the details. In Luke’s account of the birth narrative of Jesus, every detail is important and the detail about Jesus’ earthly parents must not be taken lightly.

In Luke 1:26-38, Luke records the annunciation of Jesus’ conception and birth by the angel Gabriel to Mary, a virgin, who was betrothed to Joseph. However, verses 26-27 contain a great deal of important information. As I stated earlier, every detail of Scripture is significant, and these first two verses are pregnant with significance that we cannot afford to miss.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.

According to this text, Mary was a virgin betrothed to Joseph, of the house of David and they were living in Nazareth in Galilee. Nothing seems unusual about these details on the surface, but let’s consider this information more closely.

The “Insignificant” People

Scripture reveals that Mary was merely a pre-teen or teenage Jewish girl who received this angelic annunciation. Except for one questionable lineage account, the Scriptures are silent concerning Mary’s lineage,which doesn’t give us any reason to assume she was a person of significance or importance in society. Mary, very well, was an ordinary Jewish girl of her times.

Verse 27, however, gives us a bit more detail about Joseph. Luke records here that he was of the “house of David”. Two other instances of Joseph’s lineage are mentioned in Luke 3:23-38 and Matthew 1:1-16, which both tie him to David. In addition to this familial detail, we also know Joseph was a carpenter by trade (Matthew 13:65, Mark 6:3). As a couple, Joseph and Mary were of meager financial possessions. Luke 2:22-24 records that after Jesus was born, they presented Him at the temple according to the Law and offered two turtle doves or two pigeons as a sacrifice to God. The book of Leviticus tells us that in the event people couldn’t offer a lamb or bull as a sacrifice due to economic inability, turtledoves or pigeons were acceptable.

Based on these truths, it is reasonable to conclude that both Joseph and Mary were ordinary working class citizens of Israel. By worldly standards, there was nothing significant about them.

The “Insignificant” Place

In addition to their ordinary statuses, they were residing in Nazareth of Galilee. Archaeological and historical discoveries have revealed that Nazareth was an ancient agricultural village that had between 200-400 residents in the first century. It was situated 65 miles north of Jerusalem and about 71 miles north of Bethlehem. While Jerusalem was the religious center of the Jews and Bethlehem was known for being the birthplace of David and eventually Jesus, Nazareth was not a significant place in the first century. In fact, one of Jesus’ disciples, Nathanael, couldn’t believe that the Messiah would be associated with Nazareth. In utter disbelief, Nathaneal uttered, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?(John 1:43-46). By worldly standards, nothing was significant about Nazareth.

The God of the “Insignificant”

Mary was a young Jewish girl. Joseph was a poor teenage carpenter. Nazareth was small non-respected agricultural village in upper Galilee. Yet, God purposely chose all of these elements to accomplish His redemptive plan in Christ. As Luke records, Joseph and Mary were betrothed and he was from the “house of David”. The significance lies in the fact that centuries before God made a covenant with King David stating that a king from his line would have an eternal kingdom (2 Samuel 7:8-13). From a worldly perspective, the seemingly insignificant are profoundly significant in God’s redemptive plan. We must have eyes to see and ears to hear the profundity.

May Christmas be a reminder that our God deliberately accomplished His significant plan of redemption in Christ through seemingly insignificant people or circumstances so that He alone will get the glory and praise that He rightly deserves.  Rejoice in the fact that God extends grace through the insignificant and to the insignificant to accomplish His eternally significant purpose. 

Merry Christmas!

d.

Christ Appeared

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

There is so much important truth packed into this one sentence. Three obvious truths are:

1. He (Jesus) appeared
2. Jesus took our sins away
3. He is sinless

His appearing is a reference to the incarnation. There are many religions that seek to deny the humanity of Jesus and they do so at their own peril. The incarnation of Jesus is absolutely necessary for Him to accomplish,
as a man, what no other person has been or will be able to do – obey the law of God perfectly as a human. Jesus is the perfect man and He is also divine. Let this be sweet to us!

We are not perfect. We are sinners. We deserve God’s wrath because of our rebellion against Him. We sin because we are sinners by nature. We are sinners by nature because our federal head, Adam, transgressed a clear command of God (Gen. 2:17, 3:1-13). Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, sin and death entered creation (Rom 5:12). We must not only think of the act of eating fruit as sin. We must also think who was sinned against. Adam and Eve sinned against holy God. The offense was cosmic because of this reason. This is why the wages of sin is eternal death. Sin against eternal holy God deserves eternal righteous condemnation. Jesus’ humanity was necessary because as a man, He lived the life that we could never live and died the death we deserve. This is what the Apostle John meant when he said Jesus appeared to take away sins. It’s not that Jesus’ righteousness erases the sinful acts we have done. Rather, for those who cast themselves on God’s mercy and place their faith in Christ, their sins have been atoned for and the penalty for sin no longer remains. Christ has removed our guilt and our condemnation by becoming the guilty and the condemned one in our place. That was what the cross was all about. He became sin who knew no sin that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)!

Only Christ is qualified to do this because He is perfect! His perfection is what John meant by in him there is no sin. Under the Old Covenant, the Law required a perfect sacrifice to be slain for the guilty and offered to God by the high priest. Innocent blood for guilty blood has always been God’s way of forgiveness. This preserves His holiness and magnifies His grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. Jesus is our sacrifice and our high priest (Heb.10:1-18) and He clearly proclaimed that He is the way to the Father (Jhn. 14:6).

Jesus came to die so that those who are dead spiritually might live. Jesus came to undo the works of Satan and redeem a people for Himself. This is why He appeared. This is why we have and celebrate Christmas.

Let us rejoice!

Grace & Peace,

d.

Remember When…. (Flashback Friday)

Remember when Christian Hip Hop was primarily about Christ?

Reaching urbanites by teaching through His servant’s mics?

I remember when cats had a heaven’s mentality, not just put on church clothes

Their goal – REP THE KING and “I Love You Jesus” was the song they would sing

I believe the passion was real, but soon a gang of “stars” had mass appeal

Now cats feel they’re worth massive deals worth half a mil…..JACOB

Cats need a great awakening because it’s all about the atonement

Killing sin is the  occupation. To die is gain should be our focus every moment!

d.

FLASHBACK – CHH’s Better Days