We light the Bethlehem candle to honor the faith of Mary and Joseph. They made the difficult journey to Bethlehem perhaps not understanding but walking in faith.
There are many prophetic texts throughout the Old Testament. This year on the first week of Advent we focus on two verses from Isaiah 9, specifically looking at the names given to Messiah.
December 2nd will be the first Sunday of this year’s season of Advent. To read more about what that means and how we celebrate, try this article I wrote a few years ago for the local paper. It’s a good introduction to anyone new to Advent.
Our Sunday School literature this year is doing a series of lessons very similar to our annual Advent services. Each week in Sunday School we will follow a person or group of people as they encounter God and respond to the birth of Jesus. There will be one lesson Joseph and another on Mary while in our Sunday morning worship we will consider the faith of Joseph and Mary together; there is a lesson on angels but not one for shepherds. Again, the Sunday School lessons are similar but not exactly the same. We will certainly spend more time exploring the scriptures learning about all those surrounding the birth of Jesus than we have in years past.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I read more of the text than these three verses but this gets to the heart of the matter.
We’re about to wind down our year long series on the theme “God is Near” but I would like to do one more sermon, possibly in January, on the apocalyptic passages of Daniel. This sermon is about Israel in exile, particularly Daniel and his friends, and reminds us that no matter where we go God is near. There are many parallels between Joseph going down to Egypt and Daniel being taken into Babylonian captivity as well as Israel going into both empires. In both cases God could see and hear and they could hear from God. Something for us to think about no matter where we go.
It’s a shame we only think of Jeremiah as “the weeping prophet.” While he did bring a message warning Israel of God’s judgement there was a constant plea to repent and turn back to God. There is hope and encouragement in the book of Jeremiah as well as words of warning for those who continue to reject and refuse.
Isaiah 53 is a well known passage describing the crucifixion. Careful analysis of the text reveals that Isaiah is prophesying the birth, death and resurrection of God’s servant. We know that God has a plan, and his plans are sure, because he reveals what he is going to do ahead of time.
Even if we overlook birth prophecies is chapters 7 and 9 (we will return to those the first week of Advent) Isaiah 11 describes the shoot that will come up from the roots of the stump of Jesse.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
Isaiah is an Old Testament prophet. While he lived and wrote in a specific time period, God knew what his plan was all along. He revealed his plan to humanity over a period of time. Isaiah didn’t have a full picture but it was clear even by his time, 800 – 900 years before Christ, that God would be doing something new.
*I read Isaiah 1:12-17 and said that I would come back to verse 18. We did do that on Sunday evening but take a look at verse 18 and consider how the sermon points apply.