What’s your favorite holiday?
With Christmas right around the corner, you may already be feeling the excitement or possibly the stress of this season. How do you feel about this time of year? Why do you feel that way?
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be exceptionally crazy. Between family coming and going, Christmas shopping and decorating, and especially preparing for end of semester/end of year excitement (and Christmas Break), there seems to be a never-ending list of things to do.
Quick reminder: What do you still need to do to prepare for Christmas?
How is preparing for an event different from preparing to spend time with a person? Which one would you prefer?
The birth of a baby is sort of a combination of the two, right? You’re preparing for an event but you’re also preparing for a person.
The coming of Jesus is the same. We prepare for an event but we primarily prepare for a person. Here’s what the Old Testament has to say about this—
Isaiah 9:6: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Before we dive into this verse, what do you think about those titles for God? Which one do you resonate with the most?
Isaiah 9:6 speaks directly about the event and the person: the birth of Jesus. But is there anything in this verse that seems kind of odd or out of place to you? Jesus being born makes sense; even his titles make sense (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace); but then there’s the line about government, and, if you’re like me, that seems a little strange.
The government is the lawmaking body. They decide what is right, wrong, and who deserves justice. For the government to rest on Jesus’ shoulders means that he is the one who bears the law of God. Jesus said so himself in Matthew 5:17: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
As we know Jesus came to show us what God’s Kingdom— God’s Government— is really like. For the government to be on the shoulders of the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace… well, his titles should tell us everything we need to know about the type of Kingdom— the kind of Government— he was bringing.
But, before he could do that, a way had to be prepared.
Mark 1:1-8 tells us about John the Baptist:
“This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written: ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!”’ This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. John announced: ‘Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!’”
Why do you think God sent John the Baptist to help prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry to begin?
Let’s think about it like this. Have you ever had to get up in the middle of the night and turn on a light? It’s absolutely BLINDING. But if you were able to soften the light a bit, either by shielding your face, squinting your eyes, or having Google start with a low-dim setting, the light is much more manageable, and you might return to bed without a headache.
Verse 4 says, “This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.” By beginning this way, I think John acts as a primer, or a starting place. He’s an initial “shield” for the Great Light that was coming in the world. Later, John says that Jesus is coming after him— and Jesus is far greater than John. So God sent John in order that the people would be able to receive what Jesus was going to say and do without being overwhelmed by him.
Jesus not only brought a gift by way of his message of salvation and freedom now found in God’s kingdom; he himself is a gift, sometimes called “the greatest gift of all.”
So in your own words, what gifts could you and your family prepare to receive from God during this season?
What’s one thing you want to do this Advent season to learn more about God and the gift of Jesus?