Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent 2016: Prince of Peace, Week 4 (Sun., Dec. 18/16)

Advent celebrates Christ’s first coming, but it also is a reminder to be ready for His second coming. We have completed three weeks of our Prince of P.E.A.C.E. themed Advent journey thus far. The first week we looked at the letter “P” for “Prophecy.” The prophet, Isaiah, noted that the Israelites were devoid of optimism, but the Light of the world broke through their despair and renewed their hope (Isa. 9:2). The second week we reflected upon the “E”, which symbolizes “Expectation,” noting that the Israelites’ political expectations of Messiah caused most of them to snub the holy child born in humble circumstances. The third week we examined the letter “A”, which stands for the angel’s “Announcement” to the shepherds. With such a spectacular Light-show, how could the shepherds not be excited and convinced?! Now we move forward to look at the “C”, for “Celebration” (the final purple candle in the Advent Wreath, which is the Angel Candle or Candle of Love).

Angels have long been associated with love and encouragement, and accounts about them are woven throughout the Scriptures. Furthermore, many individuals have had encounters with angels throughout history. But what does the Bible teach about angels? Most importantly, we do not worship angels; because they are not equal with God, but they are under His authority and follow His directions (Mt. 28:18). They are God’s messengers and act on His behalf (e.g., Gen. 3:23-24; Judges, chpts. 6-8). Some are ministering angels (e.g., 1 Kings 19: 5-7; Mk 1:13; Ac. 12:5-10). They also praise God (e.g., Ps. 148:2; Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8) and guard against evil (e.g., Dan. 10: 11-14; Rev. 12:7-12). [If you are interested in learning more about what angels do, there are many online resources available.]
Angels also played a major role in conveying God’s messages during the time and events surrounding Jesus’ birth. So of course it comes as no surprise that the magnitude and significance of God Incarnate—God embodied in the flesh, come down to earth—was a time of great rejoicing and of “Celebration.” The Christmas narrative is replete with angels and people celebrating the Good News, and with angel interventions. For example, an angel informed Elizabeth and Zachariah that they would have a son, John, who was both cousin to, and forerunner of, Jesus (Lk 1:5-25). The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and advised her that she had been chosen as the Saviour’s mother (Lk. 1:26-38). And when Joseph was upset that Mary was pregnant and was planning to quietly divorce her, another angel appeared in his dream to confirm that Mary had been faithful to him (Mt.1:18-25). After Jesus was born, an angel heralded the news to shepherds (Lk. 2:8-11). An angel also intervened to prevent the Wise Men from stopping at Herod’s castle on their return trip. Finally, an angel appeared in Joseph’s dream to warn him that his toddler was in danger from jealous Herod and that he needed to flee with his family to Egypt (Mt. 2:13). When Herod died, and the danger had passed, an angel advised Joseph it was safe to return to Israel (Mt. 2:19-20).
Additionally, angels celebrate certain events, such as when someone becomes a Christian, “Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God,” (Lk. 15, 10 MSG). One of the messages/sermons that I prepared when I was a Salvation Army Officer was called, “From the Cradle to the Cross,” because we can’t have one without the other. Advent is definitely a time of celebration of Christ’s birth, but it’s also a time of preparation for His 2nd coming. While we celebrate this holy season, and are thankful for our own salvation, we are challenged to expand the celebration. How do we do that? We share the Good News with others—and while we celebrate individuals joining God’s family, the angels are also partying and rejoicing in heaven.

Elizabeth Hayduk,
Former Salvation Army Officer

Suggested Daily Readings:
Sun., Dec. 18  A Childless Couple Conceives Luke 1: 5-20
Mon., Dec. 19  A Virgin Conceives Luke 1: 26-38
Tues., Dec. 20 Joseph’s Dream Mt. 1: 18-25
Wed., Dec. 21  An Event for Everyone Lk.2: 8-18
Thurs., Dec. 22  Magi Visit Messiah Mt.2:1-12
Fri., Dec. 23  Escape to Egypt Mt. 2: 13-18
Sat., Dec. 24  Return to Nazareth Mt. 2: 19-23

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