Summary: God gave us His son and entrusted Him to the care of imperfect human beings. God would dwell amongst us and know us completely. He would teach us a better way a higher plane a greater truth than we had ever come to know.
Well today we start a new year; you may be surprised to hear me say this since today is December 2nd and not January 1, 2008. Today is the official start of the new Church Year. The church calendar starts with the celebration of Advent.
Advent specifically focuses on Christs coming, but Christs coming manifests itself among us in three ways--past, present, and future. The readings which highlight Christs coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem.
The readings which highlight Christs coming in the future focus on his second coming on the Last Day at the end of time. And the readings which highlight Christs coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.
The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation.
As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle.
The purple candles matched the purple on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King).
The pink candle was the third candle to be lit, the Third Sunday of Advent means Rejoice in Latin, which is taken from Philippians 4:4.
Rejoice! the Lord is near a pink candle was used to signify rejoicing.
Some also included a white Christ candle in the middle to be lit during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25-January 5).
The concept of giving each candle a name, i.e., Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherd and Angel, etc., is a relatively novel phenomenon
Years ago Advent meant we would start to fast just as we do for Lent but times change and so do waistlines. It seems we can not wait to celebrate the Advent season and so we tend to indulge ourselves rather than wait and fast.
Jesus was accused by the Pharisees that His Disciples did not fast during certain Jewish Holy days. Jesus replied that when the bridegroom is taken from them then they would fast.
Just what is fasting and why talk about it during the Christmas season when we know we are going to do anything but fast. Well fasting was a way to demonstrate that we were willing to make a physical sacrifice for God as we awaited a special day of celebration.
You see sacrifice needs to cost us something more than just dollars out of our bank account. It needs to cost us something personal. We need to be physically involved in the act of sacrifice.
God demonstrates this for us with the sacrifice of His son Jesus. Jesus leaves His throne in Heaven to become a lowly human being. Thats quit a demotion for the God of the Ages. He did not become an angel or a giant, or an earthly king even though he was meant to be the King of the Jews.
He became a baby, not a young man, not an old man, but a baby. Jesus allowed Himself to be cared for by creatures that were greatly inferior to Him. He allowed Himself to be born and raised as any other human being might be. How many of you grand-parents would be willing to sign over your financial affairs to your four year old grand-son? Thats kind of what Jesus did.
Jesus trusted Joseph and Mary with His protection, nurturing and care as he arrived as we all do helpless and dependent. You see God wanted to demonstrate that He was and is willing to trust us even with His life as a human being so that we too should be willing and able to trust Him with the care and protection of our lives and eternal souls.
It seems that through out history man has waited for a Saviour. If we trace back our ancient beginnings we can find culture after culture that sought freedom from the oppression of Kings and rulers as well as freedom of conscience and freedom of the soul.
Man has wrestled with his humanity and in so doing found that he was an imperfect being. He seemed destined to repeat the mistakes of past generations and man never seemed to rise to his full potential. It was almost as if there existed in man an innate flaw.
We in the Christian church have come to learn through Gods word that the flaw is sin and it is this sin that keeps us from being what God truly intended us to be. This underlying problem could not be solved by those who had the disease for they were already infected.
It would take a power that was pure, pristine and perfect it would take a sacrifice for only through the blood can a vaccine be made that could be used to inoculate the sick.