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by ProfDave, ©2021 

(Dec. 9, 2021) — Are you ready for Advent?  “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).  Pastor Dan preached on this Messianic chapter Sunday and I came upon the same passage this morning in my quiet time.  As the prophet wrote, Assyria – the cruelest of ancient empires – was just mopping up the last of Judah’s fortified towns and Jerusalem was next.  We think we have it bad! They were facing starvation, torture, slavery in exile and/or death.  All they had was a prayer.  Judah was being judged, but judgment was not the end of the story.

Unfortunately, once again, repentance did not last and the whole scenario was repeated in 586 BC with Babylon – not to mention 70 AD with Rome.  Pastor asked: “How long does God allow us to walk in paths of destruction because we refuse to rely on Him?”

Are you ready for Advent?  “Comfort, comfort my people.”  Isaiah 40 has so many layers. We mentioned three – the answer to the prayer of King Hezekiah under Assyrian siege, the promise in the rubble of Jerusalem and to the exiles to Babylon, and in the ruin of Jerusalem by the Romans – “the time of the Gentiles” 70-1948.  But there are two more Messianic layers.  For 400 years after Malachi there had been no prophet, no word from the Lord.  Israel was not only ground under the iron heel of Rome, but under the heel of a corrupt and legalistic religious establishment.  Where was God in this mess?  “Comfort, comfort my people.” He was in a stable in Bethlehem.  What happened?  The establishment felt themselves threatened by Messiah and crucifying him – leading to Titus and “the time of the gentiles.”  But what of our own time?  Is Isaiah speaking comfort to us?  Is God coming?

Christ came.  Into this world of oppression and destruction came the Word, becoming flesh, becoming one of us.  He experienced it all.  Was He an illegal immigrant in Egypt?  He certainly was an alien on a cosmic scale.  And yet He was one of us.  He worked for a living most of His life – carpentry in that day was heavy manual labor – cutting trees, shaping stone, hewing beams by hand, construction work.  Then He lived a life of homelessness – “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  He experienced torture, humiliation and execution – for you and me.  Now He lives, seated at the right hand of the Father.  He came.

Are you ready for Advent? Jerusalem was not ready for the humble King riding a donkey. The religious establishment were not ready for the peace with God— the shalom — that He offered. Instead, Jerusalem went to war with the Romans and got razed to the ground. But peace with God spread like a virus around the world. Are you ready for the humble King?

Remember, Advent exists in three tenses.  Christmas happened.  It is an historical event.  The Jewish people were oppressed and miserable and needed a Messiah.  They thought their problem was political, but God knew it was their sin – separation from himself – that made them miserable.  It was their self-righteousness that kept them from being a “light to the Gentiles” and it kept them from receiving Messiah.  But Advent isn’t over.  Christ has come, but He still comes today.  Are you ready to receive your Messiah, your Christ?  He comes.

Christ comes. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not; but to as many as received Him, to them gave He the authority to become the children of God” (John 1:12). Messiah still comes to us, humble and riding on a donkey. Immanuel, God with us, lying in a manger. We do not yet see Him coming in glory. He does not force himself on us, but gently invites us to receive Him in our hearts – our inner being.

Christmas comes when you let Him in.  He forgives your sin – He paid the price to reconcile our wickedness to His holiness – you just have to admit it.  He heals your rebellion and its effects – you just have to surrender.  He takes upon Himself to give you a clean heart and to transform you, suddenly and gradually, into what He intended when He made you – you just have to sign the release.  He has done this for millions through the ages and He is doing in millions around the world today – but every hair of your head is known to Him and He loves you.  Will you receive Him?

Advent has three tenses.  Christ has come – the Eternal Son “asleep on the hay.”  Christ comes into the hearts of those who receive Him, making them – despite all their faults – children of God.  And Christ will come, to restore all things and vanquish the rebellion to outer darkness.

This world is groaning under the oppression of mankind – mankind themselves more than anything else.  We were left in charge of this planet and have made a mess of it, but mostly of each other.   We conquer and are conquered.  We enslave and are enslaved.  We kill and destroy and are killed and destroyed.  We deceive and are deceived.  Hatred and vice bind us.  We blame each other, but we all have the virus of selfishness and greed.  We need Advent to rescue us from ourselves.

Christ will come again.   He promised.  Like the ancient Hebrews, our world is a mess.  We are broken people living in a broken world.  It is filled with violence, oppression, alienation and want.  Even we who have received Him are suffering pain, injustice, and repression.  Those who have rejected Him are lost, hurting themselves and others indiscriminately.  Christ/Messiah has promised to return in glory and justice to restore all things – earth as He intended it, aka the New Earth.   

“The kingdoms of this earth will become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.”  The return of Christ will mean the healing of all hurts, the judgment of all injustice, the restoration of all that is broken.  All wrongs will be righted.  The dead will live again and the disabled will be enabled.  Those who have been forgiven look forward to seeing His face as Heaven itself – the ultimate Christmas.  For those who hate Him, of course, it will be the ultimate horror.

At the same time, Advent means coming.  Many of us have experienced His coming as only a sweet myth and an annual tableau, an excuse for feasting and exchanging presents.  Most Christians do believe it was an historical event.  Jesus-followers are certain that it happened to us.  We heard the call of the Holy Spirit, laid down our arms of rebellion and surrendered.  He has come to us, into us, and we experience His presence.  We look forward to His calling us home – to His home and our forever home – at the end of mortal life, to be united with Him and all the forever family that has gone before.  Unless –

There is another coming Advent.  When God made the universe and everything in it, nestled in  eternity, He called it good.  When the eternal God says something is good it is ipso facto eternally good.  At our moment in time, this earth – and its population – is emphatically not good.  Something is wrong with this equation.  No – wait for it!  Christ is coming to fix it better than new.  Not in a manger, wrapped in rags, this time.  Not on a donkey this time.  But in the full glory of the Godhead, dressed in white, on a white horse to clear the earth of evil by the sword of His mouth and present it holy to the Father.  The power of God is in His mouth.  I will be following Him in the vast host of His risen saints – or if I am still here below, I will greet Him and join them.  This is what is coming, according to the prophets.  Now that’s a Christmas to look forward to!

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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