We have heard with ours ears, O God; our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our fathers; you crushed the peoples and made our fathers flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory. It was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
Three candles are now lit on our Advent wreaths, and they symbolize the fact that our hope in God, and the love He shows us are accompanied by the great joy of knowing and walking with Him. It’s a joyful thing to celebrate any birth, but we look forward to the coming celebration of the birth of our Savior — the very one who makes it possible to experience the joy of knowing God at all.
It is Christ’s presence in our lives throughout the good and the bad, the ordinary and extraordinary circumstances, that gives us a joy that the world could never offer. The world tries to give us happiness in the form of shiny gizmos and gadgets, or success or wealth. The advertisements all around us are all trying to sell us their little piece of what they believe to be joy. But the riches will fade, the success will not last, and the treasures that people store up on earth will be of no use to them once they are dead.
The true joy that Christ offers us can be seen in countless memories and stories that have happened since the beginning of time through today. Money given from a stranger or friend, survival from illness or accident, or simply the right words or a hug in a time of despair — all of these are examples of God’s presence in life’s most desperate places. We have a God who loved us so much, He wanted to come suffer with us in this fallen world. We have a compassionate God who didn’t come just to die, but to walk with us through life. So when everything is going well, or when your world is falling apart, it is a joyful thing to have a God who is willing to walk with you through it all. And it is a joy to know that when He returns again, he will make everything right and good. Let’s joyfully prepare for the celebration of this wonderful, compassionate God, Immanuel, who has come and is coming again.1
Light the Advent Candles Gospel Reading: Matt. 24:15-31
WE CAN’T MISS THE JOY
Have you ever been anxious about missing something? When we were children, many of us wanted to wait up until the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve, trying to hear Santa coming into our homes. Probably because of the tales of Santa’s lists of good children and bad children, I often had a worry of “what if Santa doesn’t come?”
Or maybe you can relate more to being anxious about missing something like your alarm clock on a morning where it’s very important that you wake up on time. Whenever I’m leaving for a trip and need to make sure I catch my flight, you can be sure I have four to five alarms set, just to be sure I don’t miss it. On those nights before the trip, I often have a restless sleep, tossing and turning, often checking the clock to make sure I haven’t missed my awaking time.
The gospel passage for today is full of Jesus words telling about what it will be like when He returns for His second coming. He is talking to people who have known Him and walked with Him, who have learned from Him, and who are going to have to carry on His Father’s work without Him — they just don’t know it yet. And He’s trying to warn them — and us — about His second coming. He tells us plainly that Christians and non-Christians will begin to worry about if they have missed Him. But Jesus tells us one very comforting piece of information that we can take hope in and remember — when He comes, everyone in all the Earth will know it.
As joyful as Jesus’ first coming as a Christmas baby was, it will be even more joyous and even more triumphant when he comes again. Unlike the Shepherds, we won’t have to go to Bethlehem searching through all the stables for a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths. Unlike the wise men we won’t have to travel for years, following a star with blind faith, stopping into a murderous king’s palace asking for directions. When Jesus comes again, it will be as plain to see as the lightening in the sky.
We can joyfully prepare for the second advent, when Jesus will come again, knowing that it’s not something we can miss.
You come, the wide world’s King. You come, the true heart’s Friend. New gladness to begin, and ancient wrong to end. You come, to fill with light the weary waiting eye. We lift our heads and rejoice – redemption is nearby.2
1) Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.
2) Adapted from Thomas T. Lynch, “Lift Up Your Heads, Rejoice” (1865), Cyber Hymnal, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/l/u/lupyhrej.htm.