Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent 2012, Day 2: With Us, For Our Sake

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive
and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
- Isaiah 7:14, NKJV

   "We needed not only God for us, but God with us." That insightful observation came from Kelly Boyce, writing for the second instalment of Gordon-Conwell's Advent devotional. Contemplating the passage of 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, the emphasis fell on the latter half of verse 5:

"...as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake." - 1 Thess. 1:5, NKJV

   Noting the incarnational principle referenced by the Apostle Paul, Boyce reminded me that "...Christ joined our world, felt the full range of human emotion and experienced for himself our struggles and joys." Those words of comfort mean much to me this Advent, looking back on the sometimes winding and bumpy road that I have travelled this year. 

   Remembering the Child that was born, the Son that was given, the fire of God's word that would light the darkness [3], I am reminded that God did not treat His undertaking as a project to a nameless and faceless population. The coming of the Son, the "..glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14, NKJV) was not purposed and defined by much that marks our human endeavours - constraints of time and resources; efficiency; paperwork; numerical projections; bean counting; statistical and simulation models; profit-loss margins; return on investment. Rather, the sending of His Son is demonstrated as the loving act of a personal God who shows Himself as "Father", of whom it is said "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16, NKJV). And like His Father, it is written that the Son looked upon the hapless humanity that He had come to, and when "...He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Matthew 9:36, NKJV).

"..among you for your sake."
The presence, compassion and comfort of Jesus, who comes among us this Christmas.

   I am reminded of the words of A. W. Tozer, writing on the character of God in his book "The Knowledge of The Holy": "The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end. In Chistian experience there is a highly satisfying love content that distinguishes it from all other religions and elevates it to heights far beyond even the purest and noblest philosophy. This love content is more than a thing; it is God Himself in the midst of His Church singing over His people."
"..among you for your sake."
The love of God, personally present in the midst of His Church.

     John Piper, reflecting on "Mary's Magnificat" in Luke 1:46-55, reminded me of Mary's reflection of the personal occupation of God in the midst of directing history: "...for He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant" (Luke 1:48, NKJV). "The most important three decades in all of time are about to begin", says John Piper, "And where is God? Occupying himself with two obscure, humble women—one old and barren (Elizabeth), one young and virginal (Mary)." [2]

"..among you for your sake."
The Almighty God of history, who condescends to occupy Himself with the lowly and obscure.

   I was reminded of the following verse from the book of Hebrews, as I brought my second day of Advent devotions to a close: 

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."
- Hebrews 4:15, NKJV
- The Wisdom Seeker