Join us this Advent season in remembering what God has done for us by sending his Son Jesus! Every week, you can discover the story with us through readings, a devotional, a carol and a prayer. This is for anyone of any age!
New items will be added each week leading up to Christmas.
Promise (Luke 1:5-25)
The Old Testament ends with a weather forecast. Malachi says ‘Count on it that a dark and black day is coming for all the arrogant people who do evil things! But for those who honour God’s name, on that day the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. And you shall go out leaping like calves from the stall on the first day of spring. It will be a day of justice and healing and victory. And one like Elijah will clear the way for that Big Day of God.’ The only thing is that God said this, and not the weather man. It wasn’t a calculated probability, but a glorious promise.
About 400 years went by. Then we find Zechariah, a priest, on his one turn in life to enter the temple of God and burn incense. Zechariah and Elizabeth are old and don’t have children, it hadn’t worked for them. Back then this was a big thing, it meant no heir, no social security, and a lot of frowning from the neighbours. Although he was a priest and they were godly, by no means they seemed likely candidates for leading roles in God’s Redemption Play.
As we said, Zechariah. He is there now, in the temple. And then, out of nowhere, appears Gabriel. And Gabriel brings God’s message that Elizabeth will conceive, and leaping joy will come with it, that baby John will grow to be like Elijah to clear the way for the Big Day of God, to get the people ready for God. God has seen their pain and he has not forgotten his promise! And God’s answer brought the two together.
Zechariah’s surprise and unbelief make him likeable and like us. Many things of our faith are mind-boggling, not in the least the fact that God particularly and deeply loves the unstable, the overlooked, the wounded, the simple, and the outcast. God chose you, and he says:
‘Don’t fear. I have heard your prayers. I have seen your waiting. I know your struggle. And I want you to know firsthand that the sun of righteousness has dawned with healing in its wings, because the Day of Christ is now. Your part in my Redemption Play is important to me. My promise is peace and it is for you.’
Do you believe it?
O come, all you unfaithful
Come, weak and unstable
Come, know you are not alone
O come, barren and waiting ones
Weary of praying, come
See what your God has done
Christ is born, Christ is born
Christ is born for you
Father, thank you for your faithfulness and your faith in us; the rather unfaithful and struggling ones. You have kept your promises over hundreds, even thousands of years. Whatever the weather, whatever current affairs, Christ’s birth is unbreaking news and the cross is the promise fulfilled. God with us now, you have chosen us, and this makes us leap with joy! Thank you, God, for your promise of peace!
Listen to ‘O come, all you unfaithful’ by clicking on the video below:
Miracles (Luke 1:26-38)
A message from an angel. An old lady getting pregnant. A priest suddenly mute. And now, the angel again, and again a birth announcement, again impossible. The second being even more impossible than the first. There are so many miracles here that it is hard to keep track of what is happening. The virgin Mary getting pregnant, that seems the one that distracts most people. But God becoming man is pretty miraculous, too, don’t you think? So, what is happening here?
Gabriel announces to not-yet-married Mary that she will conceive supernaturally, and that her son, Jesus, will be called Holy, Son of God, the King of God’s everlasting kingdom. A virgin giving birth to the Son of God. And this is important to believe, because:
- The virgin birth shows that salvation ultimately comes from God. It is an unmistakable reminder of the fact that salvation can never come through human effort, but must be the supernatural work of God.
- The virgin birth demonstrates that Jesus was truly human and truly divine. If Jesus had not been born of a human, we could not believe in his full humanity. But if his birth were like any other birth, we would question his full divinity. This means that the virgin birth is necessary to secure both a real human nature and a completely divine nature. And that is essential 1) because fully identifying with God and with man means Jesus can be the mediator we need, 2) because only God himself could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him, and 3) because only a human being could have died to pay the penalty for human sins.
- The virgin birth makes it possible for Christ to be truly human but without inherited sin. Every son or daughter is born with the sin nature of his or her father. We may not understand really how this works, but this is the way of the world after the fall. If Joseph had been the real father of Jesus, Jesus is not spotless, not innocent, and not perfectly holy. And as a result, we would have no mediator, and Christ would have no righteousness to impute to us, thus no salvation.
So, yes. Miracle upon miracle. Nothing of our faith is man-made and at the heart of our faith is God made man. Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.
Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come; offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald-angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King”
Lord Jesus, thank you for Christmas, thank you for becoming fully man whilst remaining fully divine, and for all that this means. Our response is like the angels in the hymn: “Glory to the newborn King!”. Freshly reminded that nothing is impossible with you, we ask you for the miracle of salvation for our families, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. May many come to see and treasure you as their Saviour!
Listen to ‘Hark! The Herald Angels sing’ by clicking on the video below:
Mercy (Luke 1:39-56)
‘Mercy’ is one of those words we hear so often that it is easy to forget its meaning. What is mercy? God revealed himself to be merciful in Exodus 34:6, it is in his character. Theologians have discerned that God’s mercy is that aspect of his nature which moves him to relieve suffering and misery. Mercy is the impulse that makes us sensitive to hurts and lacks in others and makes us desire to alleviate them. God’s heart to see suffering and misery relieved is evident throughout the whole Bible.
Mercy is not a fluffy thing, the kind of relief we read about is radical. Check Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 which is in harmony with Mary’s. Courage is needed in order to act with mercy. Because it is about stepping up to kneel down in the mud and going against the grain. God’s kingdom is about the poor and the hungry being lifted up and the proud and powerful being put down. Yes, it is about peace and compassion, but also about equality of humankind and justice for all.
Here we find Mary being overjoyed carrying the Son of God in her womb, she knew that God’s kingdom was near now. Mary celebrated that God had remembered his mercy and that justice would follow suit. Liberation is at hand! This is what she sings about. It is revolutionary. And it was printed in the Bible, for everyone to see. Have you ever thought about how controversial and dangerous her song was? Rulers being put down from their thrones, the rich being sent away empty. These are political, economical, and ethical issues. A lot of people would not have been happy with that sort of subversive talk.
Have you noticed that the two messengers of mercy both also experienced mercy? Elizabeth, a woman whose dignity had been despised because of her barrenness, and Mary, a virgin of questionable reputation walking around with a premature pregnancy. And if that was not enough, it was also in a time in which women were regarded as clearly inferior. But these two ladies are given prominence in God’s story! Lifted up, healed, blessed, filled with the Spirit, honoured.
God remembered his mercy and sent his Son. Jesus challenges our proud and powerful selves and is ready to let his mercy flow in wave after wave when we humble ourselves and express our need for him. So that like Mary we may sing: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” And then, moved by mercy like Mary, we will boldly pray and stand for his kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven!
Oh come let us adore Him
Oh come let us adore Him
Oh come let us adore Him
Christ the Lord
Father, thank you for remembering your mercy and sending your Son! Thank you that the arrival of his kingdom is good news for the poor. We humbly come to you and ask firstly for mercy for ourselves and secondly for us to be moved by mercy like Mary. Will you give us courage and wisdom and strength to be Christ’s hands and feet there where you have placed us, to love our neighbours? May your kingdom come!
Listen to ‘O come, all ye faithful’ by clicking on the video below:
Redemption (Luke 1:57-80)
Baby John is born. The forerunner of the fulfillment of God’s promise is here. Surely this means the end of suffering and oppression. God has come and visited us. Redemption is round the corner. We will be freed!
Maybe more than ever before does our generation recognise the sentiment of longing for freedom. The Jews were occupied by the Romans. We are occupied by and with a pandemic. We now understand affliction and suffering a bit better. Like the Jews who were brooding to overthrow the yoke of the Roman occupation, we have called the pandemic our enemy and recruited combat language. We want freedom and are willing to fight for it!
And it seems that Zechariah is prophesying this kind of freedom: “Deliverance from our enemies so that we can worship God without a care in the world”. Well said! That’s what we need, right? Revolution, just like Mary’s song. But then Zechariah, addressing his baby boy and inspired by the Spirit, continues and gives more detail about what it means for us to be redeemed by God: “You, my son, will be speaking God’s very words, and you will prepare the way for Jesus, by helping people to understand that we need to be freed from the sin in our hearts, because that is the real enemy”.
This is truly revolutionary, this is incendiary, the real enemy is inside of us, it is our sin. This is why Jesus faced opposition and ended his earthly life on a cross. In an oppressed society, Jesus showed unbelievable courage by proclaiming that all are sinners and that all must repent, both oppressors and oppressed. Our real need is that we need to be freed from our sins. And that is what Jesus’s death did. His death ransomed us from the curse of the law and the punishment and power of sin. This is redemption. And this is why Jesus was born to die.
Our longing for freedom is a noble desire. Our yearning for release from suffering is central to human existence in a fallen world. The good news John announced and Jesus brought is that the yoke indeed can be broken, the yoke of oppression can be lifted. How? Not by fighting but by surrendering. Jesus said: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Jesus is our King and we may only know true freedom in our deep hearts when we kneel and he is crowned there as Sovereign and Supreme and treasured as Redeemer.
Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
Lord Jesus, the freedom you bought for us is beyond our wildest dreams! We surrender again and acknowledge our inability to save ourselves. Thank you for the cross, thank you for setting us free from sin and setting us up to serve you without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you all our days. Thank you that we may enjoy your liberation even in the midst of trying circumstances. May this joy within us be shared with those without!