My church is doing Advent differently this year than we have in the past and my pastor asked me to write something each week as we read Scripture together. Since I love Advent and enjoy writing about it, I said yes. Feel free to join us each week as we read about Christ, as we reflect on waiting for our Savior, and as we learn to be like Him in our world today.
Sometimes I think hope is what Christmas is all about. I get caught up in imagining what hope Jesus was to the people of Israel and what hope He still is for everyone today. In a large part, I guess Advent is about hope. It is about having faith in God’s promises we cannot see. It is about waiting. But I think Christmas is about love.
After all the years of waiting, of hoping, of having faith, after all the years of his people crying, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” God decided it was time. He sent His Son, very God Himself, into this world. God, for the first time since the Garden of Eden, walked among His people. God was with them. God is with us.
Jesus came to earth as a human being—one of us—to fill the chasm standing between sinful humans and the holy God. He is fully God, but He made Himself fully human for us. That is love. There are countless stories of Jesus on earth. We’ll read of some of them this week. He taught, He spoke, He walked, He healed, He touched, tasted, and saw. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is John 11. I could write a book on every small aspect I love about this story, but I’ll stick to what we’re talking about here.
Jesus had friends on earth and one of them, Lazarus, got sick. L’s sisters sent word to Jesus asking Him to come and heal their brother. They believed that He was fully God and able to heal their brother from whatever it was that he had. Jesus, upon receiving this message, decided to wait a bit longer before going to them. Makes sense, right? No. My favorite moment #1 is when it says in verses 5-6, Jesus loved them so He decided to wait around a few more days before heading their way. But, because He is fully God, He has a plan. He always has.
Lazarus dies. And they had already buried him and were holding shivah before Jesus made it to their house. The sisters each have a moment with Jesus. Martha tells the God of the universe that if He had just been a little bit earlier, her brother wouldn’t have died. Can’t you just imagine Jesus having to hide a smile, knowing what was about to happen? He tells Martha her brother will rise again and she assumes He means in Heaven. He tells her He is the resurrection and the life and asks if she believes. She affirms that she believes He is the Son of God.
Then, Jesus talks to Mary. She repeats what Martha said, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She was still weeping and—favorite moment #2—Jesus is moved by her grief and weeps with her. Because He understands. He is God and He knows the end of the story. But He is also human and so He knows human grief. He weeps with Mary.
Jesus asks that the tomb to be opened. People protest, because it’s been four days of smelly, sweaty earth time and the body has probably begun to smell. Jesus essentially says, “Trust me.” They open the tomb and Jesus prays to His Father, thanking Him for always listening. Then He simply says, “Lazarus, come out.” The God who spoke life into existence in the beginning once again speaks life into Lazarus and he walks out of the tomb.
Because of this miracle, many Jews believed in Him. Favorite moment #3.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16
I love this story because it so clearly displays who Jesus is. He is God of the universe, and He is human. He understands us because He walked among us. We have a God who is with us. That is amazing. I just want to type it twenty times, because it is unbelievable. His plan—our hope, what we have faith in—was to be with us. From the Garden into eternity. Because He loves us. That is what Christmas is.
Our reading plan for this week, if you’d like to read along.