advent 2015 — 4

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8

Many of our homes, inside and out, are highly decorated at this time of year. Some are so gaily lit up, it is almost like day in the dead of night.

Our Christmas trees too are littered with lights, baubles, stars, angels, candies and small gifts. Under the tree, larger gifts aplenty are eyed off by impatient younger family members.

Christmas is a fun time, especially in Australian homes.

Jesus’ first ‘home’ on his birth day was not so. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger. In Aussie parlance, he was born in a shed and laid in a feed trough.

My nearest Australian experience of a ‘stable’ would have to be a shearing shed in which I worked as a shed-hand for several years in a former life. The shed was usually constructed of corrugated iron and wood. In the summer, the shed would become extremely hot and in winter, very cold. The air-conditioning was an open door and the hot waft of air, or freezing gale, depending on the season, coming up through the chute where the sheep were shoved after being shorn.

And one does eventually get used to the smell of sheep dung and the more than occasional fly blown, maggoty rear ends of the sheep.

Not a place I would take a new-born baby.

Jesus is God. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Mighty God of Isaiah 9 and the creator of all things. His domain is the glory of heaven in which all creatures fall before the living God saying “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!”

Yet he emptied himself; he left all of the above and was brought low in humiliation, born into a poor family – from Nazareth of all places. Can anything good come from there? Born in a dirty shed, laid in a feed trough – no four by two brick and tile home in the suburbs with a decked out nursery.

Born into the poorest and meanest of situations. No tinsel, no fairy lights, no glitter.

He identified with all of humanity by becoming like the majority in our world: poor and lowly in station. And Christ’s humiliation continued though his life until his substitutionary death on the cross taking the penalty for our sins so we might share with him in his heavenly home.

Hark the herald angels sing Chris Tomlin

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advent 2015 — 5

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” Galatians 3:13

Only five sleeps ’til Christmas and counting down.

And only yesterday did one of my daughters buy a very small but beautiful Christmas tree for my home. I have not had one for several years. But with family staying over for Christmas this year, a Christmas tree does make it ‘Christmassy’.

Why do we decorate trees at Christmas time? What is the point? If I google it, I’m sure I could find various stories and ‘good’ reasons why we should have one.

The Bible does not mention a tree, or trees, in the narrative of Jesus’ birth. I’m sure there were trees around somewhere, but they don’t get a mention. A star does. A manger does. Swaddling cloths do, and so does an inn and a stable. And of course, we should not forget the gifts from the wise men from the east… but no tree.

Trees are, however, mentioned in other parts of the Bible: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life of the Garden of Eden and Revelation, the trees that are recognised by their fruits symbolising the good works of God’s people, and the tree of Psalm 1, also in reference to God’s people and their spiritual lives.

There is also the tree on which criminals were to be hung in Deuteronomy chapter 21 and Galatians chapter 3 with reference to Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the law by being hung on a tree as a criminal – even though he was no criminal.

Perhaps we should call the criminal’s tree the Christmas tree and have a wooden cross in our sitting rooms or adorning our front windows. Would we decorate the cross with tinsel and Christmas baubles and lights?

And yet the tree of the cursed is so much closer to God’s Christmas truth.

What is the point of the decorated Christmas tree then? There isn’t one. They are just pretty to look at.

The old rugged cross Anne Murray

advent 2015 — 6

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Six days until Christmas and as one drives around, the streets of the cities and towns are alight. There are lights, lights everywhere. They look so beautiful and some displays are very impressive.

There is something about lights that draw us and make us gasp in delight, especially when contrasted with the darkness of the night.

The Father of lights, however, has done something far more impressive than the efforts of our citizens, as beautiful as they are. He created the lights in the heavens that declare his glory.

But an even greater work than this: he has given us the most beautiful of gifts, the Light of the world, in the person of the babe of Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem Evie

advent 2015 — 7

And coming up at that very hour [Anna] began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:38

The idea of redemption is peppered liberally throughout the Bible. A redeemer was a male relative who was obliged to come to the help or rescue of one who was in trouble, danger or in need of vindication.

Because the human race has been mired in the ‘slough of despond’ since the fall in the Garden of Eden, we have been in desperate need of rescue.

Jesus was born a baby into the human race and is thereby related to us. He, as our kinsman, has the means by which he can rescue us: his perfect body and sinless life.

Anna spoke of the baby Jesus to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul said of Jesus Christ: ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…’ (1:7)

And Job said, ‘For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth.’ (19:25)

My Redeemer lives Nicole C Mullen

advent 2015 — 8

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

Good news is always worth repeating.

Imagine…we are in dire straits and in desperate need of help. We see help on the horizon and we know we will be saved. What a sense of relief. How our hearts would thump at the thought of salvation.

Who would we praise? Who would we tell?

Anna was very faithful. She had spent the majority of her life in the temple, devoting her time to worshipping the living God. As a prophetess, Anna had a very good understanding of her need for redemption and waited, along with others such as Simeon, for God’s salvation.

After seeing the Christ child, Anna gave thanks to God and spread the word to those who were waiting for their Saviour.

A few weeks earlier, shepherds had sought the baby in the manger to see for themselves the things the angels had told them. After seeing baby Jesus, their joy knew no bounds. They praised and glorified God and spread the good news about the Saviour, Christ the Lord.

Here and now, with the advent of Christmas Day, the good news is repeated: Jesus Christ is born!

Go tell it on the mountain

advent 2015 — 9

Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:22-35

There are only nine days until Christmas Day. That many?

Many are waiting with great anticipation for Christmas Day – mainly in the hope of receiving gifts aplenty.

Simeon, an old man who was “righteous and devout”, also waited with great anticipation for Christmas Day, the day of God’s gift, the “consolation of Israel”. God had told him he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.

Christmas Day for most comes and goes, year in, year out. The joy of receiving and giving presents is often short-lived, along with the goodwill. Christmas Day can turn out to be all anticipation, but little fulfilment.

In his prayer of thanksgiving to God, Simeon acknowledged that he had seen with his own eyes God’s salvation in the baby Jesus.

Simeon’s anticipation did not disappoint. It brought him peace.

Do you hear what I hear Third Day

advent 2015 — 10

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:12

There is no one in this world more helpless and vulnerable than a baby. Babies are unable to feed, clean or do anything for themselves. They are utterly dependent in every way on those around them, particularly the parents.

The baby Jesus was like any other baby – completely reliant on his mother and Joseph for all his needs. When Herod ordered all boys under the age of two years to be killed in an effort to be rid of any threat to his rule, Jesus depended on Mary and Joseph to obey the angel of the Lord and flee to Egypt for refuge.

From his position of helplessness and vulnerability, Jesus grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. He was twelve years old when he was found in the temple where everyone was amazed at his understanding of the things of God.

We then read of the man Jesus who began his ministry at around the age of thirty. His words were gracious and he taught the people with authority, unlike the religious leaders of the day. Mark 1

Now, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion. (Ephesians 1As Zechariah the prophet (14:9) said: The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.

From a helpless baby to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Who would have thought?

Joy has dawned Keith Getty and Stuart Townend performed by Kristyn Getty