Here He Comes!
Advent Messages To Prepare For Christ's Coming In New Ways To Our Hearts and Lives
If you wanted to communicate with someone of a different language, how would you try to communicate, if you could not use the vehicle of a common language? You probably would use a lot of so-called 'body language'. You might smile at the other person, or make a gentle bow to him, or use your hands to produce certain shapes or to point in certain directions. Perhaps you might, amidst your frustration, try to communicate through lip movements.
How does the infinite God communicate to finite man? The Bible says that God's ways and thoughts are higher than man's ways and thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth! So, how could God possibly communicate to puny creatures like man?
If God could not speak verbally to mankind, how would God communicate to mankind? What kind of so-called 'body language' do you think God might use in an attempt to get His message across to mankind?
God could try to communicate to mankind through Nature. Indeed, God does communicate to mankind through Nature. Listen to the Psalmist: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of His craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world." (Psalms 19:1-3, Living Bible)
God could try to communicate to mankind through man's conscience. God communicates a sense of 'right and wrong' even to those who are so-called heathen or pagan people. Romans 2:12 and following says, "He (God) will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God's written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God's laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them." (Living Bible)
Another way that God sought to communicate to mankind was through the Mosaic Law, written on tables of stone (Ten Commandments) when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai.
God further sought to communicate His ways and will through the God-inspired words and personalities of the Old Testament Prophets. No one can deny that God's communication to mankind through the great prophets was most wonderful. The ethical and moral teachings of he prophets are relevant to every age.
But as good and as helpful as God's methods of communication are through the wonders of Nature, through the dictates of conscience, through the commands of the Old Testament Laws, and through the ethical teachings of the Old Testament prophets, we must
acknowledge that all of these forms of divine communication are less than adequate. These forms of communication are rather like the communication of 'body language' between two persons of different races, neither of whom understands the verbal language of the other person! 'Body language' is helpful, but 'body language' without verbal communication is inadequate and sometimes misleading!
How could God communicate best to mankind? If God could come to earth and use mankind's verbal language! A daring idea! How could God possibly 'speak' man's language? Only if God could become a real human and learn to speak real human language! And that is what God did! "Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets (in visions, dreams, and even face to face), telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does mark him as God." (Hebrews 1:1-3, Living Bible)
"Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God." (Colossians 1:15 a, Living Bible) Just as a verbal word gives expression to a person's thought, so Jesus is God's thoughts and purposes and plans and will. Jesus is God's clearest communication to mankind, for Jesus is God's very Word! God no longer has to communicate through so-called 'body language' – i.e., through Nature and through Conscience and through the Law and through the Prophets. Jesus has come, and Jesus is God's direct communication to mankind!
Not only did Jesus – God's direct communication to mankind – make clear to a sinful race that God loves them in spite of their sin, but Jesus made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God! "For God wanted all of himself to be in his Son. It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood." (Colossians 1:19-20, Living Bible)
"Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory – the glory of the Son of the Heavenly Father." (John 1:14, Living Bible) Notes E. Stanley Jones, "This verse the 'Word became flesh" – is the Great Divide. In all other religions it is Word became word – a philosophy, a moralism, a system, a technique, but for all time and all men everywhere, 'the Word became flesh' – the Idea became Fact.. .. The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (The Word Became Flesh; E. Stanley Jones; page 5,8)
John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. .. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John1:14)
God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his Creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6: 5)
The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in great confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants so that they would know how to move in an organized method to carry their pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of their confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.
God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man!
The Incarnate Word was fully God. Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2: 9) Jesus' disciples, who knew Him most intimately in various circumstances, declared Christ as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "Did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2: 22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) It is very significant for a Jew to declare a man as sinless. Basic to Jewish thought and theology is the doctrine of the universality of sin. Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless.
The Incarnate Word was fully man. Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)
The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the purpose of the Incarnation. "Forasmuch then as the children (humans) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." (Hebrews 2: 14-18)
"You know how full of love and kindness our Lord was: though He was so very rich, yet to help you, he became so very poor, so that by being poor He could make you rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9, Living Bible)
Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe – all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Spirit – this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!
Says Bishop Sheen about Jesus' humility and earthly poverty, as compared to his eternal glory: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting like beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat … There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable … The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manager. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."
It is tragic that so many people "miss the Christ"! Even at Christmas Time, when everyone should be especially conscious of the coming of God to planet Earth, so many are preoccupied with the temporary and shallow concerns of "Holiday Celebrations" – filled with material pursuits and self-seeking pleasures.
This is a book on the Advent of Christ – God becoming a Man in order to seek and to save a fallen race of people. These messages were first delivered to the precious parishioners of the First Free Methodist Church in Fort Collins, Colorado – sometimes more than once- during the more than 25 years that I served as pastor of this one local church (1967 – 1994). Because the book is divided into thirteen chapters, the layout of the book is designed in such a way that it can easily be used for an adult Sunday School course. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could also well serve as material for small midweek study groups within a local Church. There are thought – provoking questions listed at the end of each chapter, to provide class participants an opportunity to review and to discuss the main content of each chapter. Teens, as well as adults, could well profit from the study of these Advent messages – for these messages have ever relevant and contemporary applications in the lives of teens as well as in the lives of adults. After all, because Jesus was fully Human as well as fully Divine (the God-Man), Jesus went through the normal stages of human development – infancy, childhood, adolescence, manhood. No one understands the challenges and pressures and temptations and changes which human beings go through like Jesus of Nazareth.
One dare not sentimentalize the birth of Jesus – saying endearing words about "the sweet little Jesus" in the manger of Bethlehem. For Jesus was born to live sacrificially, and to die a substitutionary death. Jesus was born to die, therefore the Birth of Jesus dare not be isolated as a sentimental event. His sacrificial life and His substitutionary death must always be looked at, along with His miraculous and heart-warming birth if we are ever to understand the true significance of Jesus' total identification with the fallen human race.
Jesus was God; therefore we know that God cares for us when we sorrow. In fact, God shares our sorrows. God knows what it is to suffer loss.
An embittered father whose son had died, asked a minister, "Where was God when my son died?" Replied the minister, "The same place He was when His own son died." God suffered the loss of His own Son, so he can share the heartache of every person who loses a loved one.
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song; As the burdens press, and the cares distress And the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when my way is dark With a nameless dread and fear? As the daylight fades into deep night shades Does He care enough to be near?
Does Jesus care when I've said 'good-bye' To the dearest on earth to me, And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks Is it aught to Him? Does He see?
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares, His heart is touched with my grief: When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Saviour cares.
Of Christ, it is written, "Surely he hath borne our grief's, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 53:4 a)
The sorrow and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Take a look at Jesus' involvement with suffering humanity. "The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it. The leper, the innocent, once joyful life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death – Christ could not bear it. 'I will: be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery – Christ could not bear it. And so He died to
free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion'.
'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, Pure, unbounded love Thou art; Visit us with Thy salvation, Enter every trembling heart.'
"But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life, Stewart; page 197)
There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Picture Jesus as He made His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the grave side of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. God is not only identified with us in our sorrows, but He is also identified with us in our sins.
An artist once created a most unusual painting of Jesus on the cross. The body stood out in sharp relief against a darkened background. But as one gazed at the painting, a second figure seemed to appear among the shadows. It was as if God could be seen behind the figures of Jesus. The nails that went through the hands of Jesus went into the hands of God. The nail that fastened the feet of Jesus held fast the feet of God. The crown of thorns was somehow on God's head, too. The artist had made clear his conception that it is through the experience of Calvary that we look into the eternal heart of God. What we see during those hours of torture is a picture of God's suffering, outgoing love.
It is not only Jesus but God himself who forever identifies with us. There is an infinite concern at the center of the universe for man, whether he be in joy or in pain. It enables one to say, "If I ascend to heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there." (Psalms 139: 8)
Jesus was called a 'Friend of Sinners' . Think of the people whom Jesus befriended: the despised Woman of Samaria, Zacchaeus the Thief, Mary Magdalene the woman of ill fame, the demon possessed man called Legion, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector Matthew who became one of Jesus' disciples and writer of one of the Gospels.
Of Jesus it is said, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
One Solitary Life …
He was born in an obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. He then became an itinerant preacher. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn't go to college. He had no credentials but himself .. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today, He is the central figure of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that ...
One Solitary Life.
REIGN OF CHRIST
All glory to God in the sky And peace upon earth to be restored; Jesus, exalted on high Appear our omnipotent Lord! Who, meanly in Bethlehem born, Didst stoop to redeem a lost race Once more to thy creatures return And reign in thy kingdom of grace! When thou in our flesh didst appear, All nature acknowledged thy birth; Arose the acceptable year And heaven was opened on earth; Receiving its Lord from above, The world was united to bless The Giver of concord and love, The Prince and Author of peace. would'st thou again be made known, Again in thy Spirit descend, And set up, in each of thine own, A kingdom that never shall end! Thou only art able to bless, And make the glad nations obey, And bid the dire enmity cease, And bow the whole world to thy sway. Come then to thy servants again, Who long thy appearing to know: Thy quiet and peaceable reign In mercy establish below; All sorrow before thee shall fly, And anger and hatred be 0'er; And envy and malice shall die And discord afflict us no more
by Charles Wesley