Summary: We look to the past for the promise of the future, how the great patriarch are pointers of the promise of the awaited Messiah.
Pointer’s of Promise
Apart from the first two years, all of my childhood and much of my early adulthood was spent in Dunscroft, a medium sized mining village seven miles north east of Doncaster. Though it was a mining village it was surrounded by fields and hedgerows, which were places I loved to explore with friends but very often I would just go off on my own just to be surrounded by nature. On family holidays, which were always taken on the east coast of England, I would disappear for hours just exploring the cliffs and watching the sea. I was totally in awe of the wonder and beauty of creation; it is something that has never left me. When I first came to Wales in the early nineties, I was awestruck by seeing the blue sky disappear from view in the windscreen of the van to be replaced by a blanket of green forest as we drove into Betws Y Coed and captivated by waterfalls that disappeared at the side of the road only to reappear at the other side.
On honeymoon in the Lake District I was held by the majesty of the mountains and lakes, on holiday in Cornwall it was the rugged coastline of Bude and Tintagel. On yet another holiday in Lanzarote it was the bleak and barren beauty of the volcanic landscape and now we live within a five minute drive of some of the most breath taking scenery these British Isles have to offer. Every morning I can look out from our bedroom window and take in the view of Aberdare Mountain and revel in the beauty and majesty of God’s creation and yet, as beautiful as all these things are, they do not compare with that part of God’s creation that was called Paradise.
Paradise originally meant an enclosed garden where the harshness and dangers of the world could be kept out, it was a place that in creation was intended by God to be our dwelling but because of our first parent’s sinful disobedience we now find ourselves exiled from.
You may be forgiven for wondering what all this has to do with Advent?
The word advent literally translated means “A coming”, we associate it with Christmas as the countdown to the day we celebrate our Lord’s birth, the first coming. Ever since the “Fall” and Mankind’s subsequent exile from the first Paradise, the Garden of Eden, God had opened the way to the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The first candle of Advent is for the Patriarchs- Noah, Abraham, Jacob & Moses. Heroic figures whose names are known to us through the history of our faith. These all too human figures with all their flaws and weaknesses are nevertheless wonderfully shot through with God’s presence and central to God’s story and his desire to draw all of his people back into a relationship with him. It is the glimpses of light that we can see in their very human lives that we can glimpse and indeed grasp the light of hope for our own lives. Over the next few minutes we’ll take a brief glimpse at two of these patriarchs, in particular the promises that God made to each of them and the significance those promises hold for us.
One of the first Bible stories most of us will have learned, would have been that of Noah and the Ark. After the fall, Earth was no longer the perfect paradise that God had intended, out of all the people of the Earth, only one man and his family still worshipped God, that man was Noah. God saw the wickedness of mankind and grieved of creating it, with a heart filled with pain he decided to wipe all mankind apart from Noah, who had found favour with God from the face of the Earth with a massive flood. God instructed Noah to build an Ark and to take on board “...seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Genesis 7: 2-3
In June and July 2007, flooding became a personal reality for myself and the people of Doncaster and indeed other parts of South, East and West Yorkshire. In the Doncaster area, the village’s of Toll Bar, Bentley and Sprotbrough were deluged by flood water after 18 days of relentless heavy rain. Toll Bar was the worst affected and in some areas was under ten foot of water, many were forced to evacuate their homes and well over a year after the flood waters had subsided were unable to return to them, having instead, to live in mobile homes. In the case of Toll Bar, the largest part of the flooding could have been avoided, had the local authority heeded the warnings given to them as early as 1990, when a drainage survey of which I played a small part, reported that all the storm relief drains were infact inoperable due to severe blockages caused by people dumping rubbish into the sewer chambers. I’m not about to say that the Toll Bar flood was God’s punishment but it is a valid illustration of what can happen when we ignore the warnings, just as the people in Noah’s time did by filling their lives with sin and wickedness and closing their hearts to God.