Week Commencing 25th November 2018
Notes for our entire Advent series which runs through December
Next Sunday will be the first in our Advent series: “Christ(mas) is coming”. The whole idea is that Advent is actually more about preparing for Christ’s (second) coming than it is about preparing for Christmas coming! I have always argued that Christmas is about Advent, not Advent about Christmas. That is, in Advent we look forward to Christ’s second coming and then at Christmas we celebrate his first coming because it is the promise – the guarantee – the beginning of God’s plans for Christ’s return and all that that will mean.
So this Advent I want to explore some of what it will mean for us when Jesus returns and we celebrate the new creation – the new heavens and the new earth. For Jesus is coming back friends…
|02 Dec||And we shall see his face||Revelation 22:1-5|
|09 Dec||And we shall be like him||1 John 3:1-3|
|16 Dec||And we shall know fully||1 Corinthians 13:4-13|
|23 Dec||And we shall be without fault||Jude 24-25|
|Christmas||And peace shall reign||Isaiah 9:6-7|
Due to time constraints over the coming weeks – both yours and mine – I will provide one reflection per week for December. Dec 30 and Jan we will explore Ps 23, and I’ll do a reflection per week for that series too. Weekly reflections will recommence for February. I suggest you supplement these devotions by reading through Luke’s gospel where we’ll spend some time in Term 1 and Lent.
Week 1: Read Revelation 22:1-5 Christ(mas) is coming: And we shall see his face
The full glory of God has never been available to sinful humankind, for God’s fire consumes sin (Ex. 24:17; Num 16:35; Deu 4:24; Heb 12:29). Therefore, God has never been seen fully by people in the flesh (1Jn. 4:12). When God met with the children of Israel “face to face” on Mount Sinai, His presence was so terrifying that the children of Israel requested that Moses mediate between them and God (Deu 5:4-5). Even Moses, whom God later said He spoke with “face to face” (Ex 33:11; Num 12:8; Deu 34:10), was afraid to look upon God.
But as early as the book of Job, it has been the hope and dream of the redeemed to see God firsthand: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)
The psalmist also understood that one day, in a righteous state, he would see God’s face: As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. (Ps 17:15). Jesus himself promised: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt 5:8).
When Jesus returns and ushers in the new age, these promises will be fulfilled. We will see his face and we will live! We will see his glory for all that it is and not be consumed!
What a great day that will be! Christ is coming – and we shall see his face!
WEEK 2: Read 1 John 3:1-3 Christ(mas) is coming: And we shall be like him
We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. This passage reveals to us the sheer joy of becoming the people God has in mind. By adoption and grace, through the mercy of Jesus, we are made God’s children. It’s one of the reasons the world does not know us – because of the likeness to Jesus which we bear! Note though, that all the details about what we will be like have not yet been made known to us; hence we read what we will be has not yet been made known.
What we do know however, is this: that the Christian life is one of transformation. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, that we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another! That transforming work will be complete when Jesus returns and ushers in the new creation: we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. What was lost at the fall, shall be restored utterly and completely on the Last Day. We will be perfectly remade in the image of God and become all we were created to be!
What a great day that will be! Christ is coming – and we shall be like him!
WEEK 3: Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 Christ(mas) is coming: And we shall know fully
Our knowledge of God’s plans and purposes right now is limited. See Deuteronomy 29:29. We know enough now to trust God – to trust his character and his wisdom. But our knowledge is limited – like seeing a poor reflection in a dull mirror. There are some things of which we may be quite sure, others of which we must be content to remain in uncertainty. We may be quite sure that God exists, that He loves us, that He has sent His Son to save us; but if we attempt to speculate over some other matters, we will inevitably err!
However, that will all change when Jesus returns! We shall know even as we are known. We shall see God as directly as He now sees us. We won’t have the same perfect knowledge of Him that He has of us but we shall see Him as immediately and directly as He sees us. We will know him as fully and completely as finite creatures can know their infinite creator! Everything that currently impedes and distorts our understanding, will be gone. The veil, as it were, will be lifted! Now we can only discern things at a great distance, as through a telescope; but hereafter the things to be known will be near and obvious, open to our eyes; and our knowledge will be free from all obscurity and error. We will enter into all the mysteries of divine love and grace. O glorious change! To pass from darkness to light, from clouds to the clear sunshine of our Saviour’s face, and in God’s own light to see light!
What a great day that will be! Christ is coming – and we shall know fully!
WEEK 4: Read Jude 24-25 Christ(mas) is coming: And we shall be without fault
When you (believer) stand before God when Jesus returns or on the last day, you will be presented by Jesus to the Father ‘without fault’. What a beautiful and yet staggering reality this is!
The reason? Because: if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2. Jesus will be our advocate – our barrister – before the Father. And he will say to the Father not ‘look go easy on this person – I know them – they’ve tried their best’. No; he will say ‘I died for this person. My death covered over their sin. My death for them was an atoning sacrifice. Their sin has been utterly dealt with – removed’. And so, you will be presented ‘without fault’. Without fault – and ‘with great joy’. Great joy because you’ll be standing before the Father without fault! If you are anything like me, you are only too aware of your present faults and shortcomings. The obvious ones which your friends and family know well and see all too clearly! And your secrets sins about which you only know. But because of what Jesus has done for you, on the last day – and in fact – even as the Father sees you now – you are without fault!
What a great day that will be! Christ is coming – and peace will reign! we shall be without fault!
Christmas: Read Isaiah 9:6-7 Christ(mas) is coming: And peace will reign
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we will consider one final passage for this series – the well-known Isaiah 9. Our message at Christmas will lift our eyes from all the usual celebrations of gifts, food and family gatherings. It will even lift our gaze from Matthew and Luke’s passages of Jesus’ birth or from John’s passage of the Word made flesh. The Isaiah reading will point us to the reason that a child was born to us!
We don’t have to look far to know that the world is in a mess! But what Jesus came to do is to permanently eliminate the mess!! First, notice that the one born is in fact at one with God – the mighty God – the Everlasting Father. Second, notice that he will rule – of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. Third, he has come in fulfilment of all the Davidic promises of old. Fourth, his reign will be characterised by justice and righteousness! And God’s zeal, means we can count on this happening!
What a great day that will be! Christ is coming – and peace will reign!
By Mark Calder