Read Isaiah 35 Here we find hope. What has been declared in Christ already, we look forward to. “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of advent.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Further reading: Isaiah 30:27-35:1)
Mark 1 (Men of a Certain Wilderness)
Read through Mark 1. It’s a long and hard read. Many things happen and your head is left spinning. But not many people would label as an Advent or even a Christmas Story. Let’s look at two terms to help us.
Advent: from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming”
Christmas: The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning “Christ’s Mass”. It is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse,a phrase first recorded in 103 “Cristes” is from Greek Χριστός (Christos) and “mæsse” is from Latin missa (the holy mass).
Notice that the terms do not really reference just the birth of Christ. Most think that December, Advent and Christmas are about a birth, but if you look at the terms and then look at the book of Mark, it’s more than a birth. It is an arrival. It is a King entering a Kingdom.
John the Baptizer came announcing the arrival. And then Jesus comes from out of no where, surprising the masses. It is not much different from Matthew in Week 1. Jesus comes, the Wise men announce it to King Herod and Jerusalem, and everyone is shocked and nervous. Herod even goes to great lengths to stop Jesus since he is so threatened.
And Jesus comes, is baptized, has his ministry affirmed by the Spirit of God, and then goes into the desert. That is a very interesting place to go. A place that the people of His day thought of as evil. A playground of demons for temptation and suffering. This does not include the story of the Jewish Exodus. Jesus’ entrance into the wilderness was an entrance into a place of pain, guilt, rebellion, and other sins Israel knew all too well.
Now read the very first four verses of Isaiah 35. In the midst of this poem that spans from chapter 30 – 35. A desert rejoices and becomes green again. And those who are slaves and have been driven to exhaustion will finally rest in God’s victory over the oppressors.
You may be sitting in a house hoping the authorities don’t find you,
Or on a sidewalk wanting the police to stop spraying the mace while you protest,
Or hoping your water is clean enough for you and your children,
Or giving a prophetic speech hoping your fellow politicians do not make you a martyr.
Read Isaiah 30-35 and realize the suddenness of God’s actions. We never expect His freedom to come. We may not even expect how it comes or where it comes from. But the door always opens. I even dare you to believe that the door has already been opened and has been open for a long time. Christians and non-Christians alike need to be saved from the things the trap us.
And one day, even today, because it was true yesterday, “no longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him.” (Revelation 22:3).
I find that listening to Handel’s Messiah may be a bit old fashioned, but I dare anyone to find a whole symphony of music that more fully reflects the hope of Christ. Handel’s Messiah is be far the most beautiful depiction of Scripture that if any man listens to these lyrics, he cannot help but sit and reflect on the full salvation that Christ brings.
Saw a children’s Christmas play once. Very neat stuff. Funny and creative and I like to see kids expressing themselves. There was one song in particular that they sang that caught my ears. They sang a song to the tune of “The First Noel,” yet they sang the words “No Room, No Room.” I could not help but laugh, but my amusement turned to epiphany as I noticed that this is exactly the temptation every Christian holiday. That poor inn keeper had to have been mortified to tell the couple to go to the downstairs area where the animals were kept. How many times do we send Jesus to sit in the lesser places of our lives without a hint of remorse? It’s always a question that bugs me, because at the end of the day, I can see that I am guilty of that everyday. At the end of the play, the characters were transformed by allowing Jesus to stay at their place, and one day, we will all know the renewal of our minds and our hearts (Romans 12:1).