The story of Advent

Isaiah 53:1–12

God has a strange way of working. He does not follow human logic. You may have noticed this in your own life. You know that if you were God you would do something one way, but our Lord God does it a different way.

The Christmas story is like this. It is a peculiar story. It is a wonderful story. It is a story of how God works in strange ways to save his people. This may be why the people of Jesus’ own time mostly missed the arrival of the Messiah. The Jews are still waiting for the Messiah.

Puppies and kittens are cute and lovely. People naturally adore them. It is said that just looking at photographs of cute puppies can dispel gloom and bring some joy. Maybe that is why it seems at times that the internet is full of photos of puppies and kittens.

Babies are at another level of cuteness. They are precious and adorable. It seems to be a universal fact that all babies are naturally lovely. We all want to cuddle them. If you are the parent of a baby, you will protect that baby with your life. You will fight for that baby.

That makes it really strange to see someone take a baby and abandon it. It breaks our hearts. Christmas is when we remind ourselves that God gave away baby Jesus. We remind ourselves what an awesome thing our God did when he gave his baby to someone who you wouldn’t have trusted if you had known them. We wouldn’t do this with our own baby, but for the sake of the world it is what God did. God’s baby was given to a powerless couple of sinners.

God did not choose rich or powerful people who could supply all that a child needs. God did not choose highly educated people who would be able to raise a child well and teach him all he needed to know.

When God sent his son to earth, he chose his parents. God chose a couple who although they were sinners, were also humble, obedient and loving. God chose two people who knew him and would listen to him.

Today God is still looking for people who will humble themselves and listen to him. God is looking for people who although they are sinners will trust and obey him.

Moses was born to a slave woman. David was a shepherd boy. But Jewish people at the time did not expect the Messiah to be born this way. Their ideas were not the same as God’s and so they missed the Messiah. They still do.

The Jewish view is that the messiah will bring about the political and spiritual redemption of the Jewish people.

He will bring them back to Israel and restore Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government for Jews and gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1). He will rebuild the Temple and resume worship there (Jeremiah 33:18). He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).

A man born about a century after Jesus came far closer to fulfilling this distorted Jewish messianic ideal than Jesus did. His name was Shimeon ben Kosiba. He was known as Bar Kokhba (son of a star), and he was a charismatic, brilliant, but brutal warlord. Rabbi Akiba, one of the greatest scholars in Jewish history, believed that Bar Kokhba was the messiah. Bar Kokhba fought against the Roman Empire and captured Jerusalem. He resumed sacrifices at the site of the Temple and made plans to rebuild the Temple. He established a provisional government. This is what the Jewish people were looking for in a Messiah. Jesus clearly does not fit this description. The Roman Empire crushed this revolt and killed Bar Kokhba. After his death, all acknowledged that he was not really the Messiah.

Jewish people are still waiting for a person of power to come and restore Jerusalem.

Christians know different. At Christmas we remember how God works. We also remind ourselves why. Christmas is the time for us to recognise who wrong we can be when we try to walk in our own understanding. The Messiah is not a political figure like King David. He is a person who knows the heart of God, like King David.

God’s baby, Jesus, was born into a dark and evil world. God sent his baby into a hostile world, into enemy territory. Almost at once the enemy tried to kill the baby. This world was not a welcoming place for the son of God. This world was then and is today filled with struggle and violence. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Jesus was born into a world that was hell. Koreans these days call this country hell on earth for the same reasons.

It was then and is today, as Galatians 5 says, a world of sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

The baby whose birth we celebrate was born into this world not to build up great political power as the Jews thought. He was born into this world to experience the reality of hell as we experience it daily, and to overcome it. Jesus came to bring love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Jesus came to overcome hell and inaugurate the new kingdom, not to replace a worldly power with another power. He rejected that path when tempted by Satan in the desert.

We who follow Jesus will know all the same struggles he knew, and we will have the victory because he had the victory. God became like us so that we can become like him.

The world is against us, and men of violence control this world. We live in another world, where men of peace rule.

Jesus was born in a world of law. He established a kingdom of love.

I think you know that the world ‘holy’ means set apart.

Jesus was holy. We are called to be holy as he was holy. We are a people set apart from the world. We don’t have the same standards as the world. We are different. It is important for us as Christians to remember we are supposed to be different, we are supposed to be holy.

At Christmas, one way for us to be set apart is the way we celebrate this holiday. It is named after the Messiah. That is why it is called Christ Mass. Mass was originally an old Latin word. Today it means ‘Holy Communion’, but originally it was misse and meant ‘sent’ as in the word missionary.

Christmas is a Christian holy day (holiday). Don’t you think that the way Christians mark this special day should also mark us as different from the world.

The world enjoys Santa and Christmas trees, but they have nothing to do with the story of Jesus. The world enjoys shopping and eating, but what do these have to do with Christmas?

Next Sunday, on Christmas day, what will mark us out as holy people who are celebrating the birth of the Messiah. Will our symbols and our words show that we are set apart, or will we look just like the people of the world?

It’s not the actual day that Jesus was born, but it’s the day we have agreed to set aside to mark Jesus’ birth and celebrate the coming of our Messiah. It’s a day to remember the life of hardship and struggle that ended on a Roman cross with death and victory over the forces of evil.

It’s a day to decide to be set apart to live the same life as Jesus and share in his victory. It’s a day to reject the thinking and lifestyle of the world and embrace the way of Jesus. As we prepare our hearts and minds for our celebration next Sunday, let’s spare some thought for what Christmas really means.

Amen 아멘

About Pastor Simon

Pastor at Jinju International Christian Fellowship. Formerly of Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK. I am Simon Warner of Jinju Church. We speak English at Jinju Church, South Korea.
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