Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

christ-1618197_640_optAnother remarkable prophecy of Christ in the Old Testament (the study of which is a classic devotion for Advent), is Isaiah 9:1-7.  Not only do we learn that the Messiah will live in Galilee and will be the eternal Davidic King.  Verse 6 also establishes His deity and does so in Trinitarian terms:

    And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The child who is born to us will be called “Mighty God.”

We also have an intimation of the inter-relationship and the unity of the Persons within the Trinity.  The Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, but rather all three are distinct persons within one unity. And yet here the titles and the functions of the Holy Spirit (“Wonderful Counselor”) and God the Father (“Everlasting Father”), as well as the Son (“Prince of Peace”) are all ascribed to the Son who will be given to us. [Read more…]

And now, the commercialization of Advent

Adventkalender_AROne reason that many Christians are rediscovering Advent is that Christmas has become so commercialized.  Advent is a way to keep our concentration on what the Christmas season is supposed to be about, namely, the coming of Christ.  But now Advent is also becoming commercialized!

Alissa Wilkinson has written a good explanation of Advent for Vox.  She explains the history of the season and what it means.  She includes some interesting details that I had not realized.  (For example, that Lutherans invented the Advent Calendar.  By the way, Lutherans apparently also invented the Advent Wreath, according to another source that I stumbled upon, which says the wreath derives from the Scandinavian custom of hanging up a wagon wheel decorated with evergreens and candles.)

She then says that the theme of “anticipation”–specifically, anticipation for Christmas (rather than for Christ)–is for non-religious people too.  She focuses on the secularized versions of Advent calendars, which are built around candy or Santa Clausy things for children and product lines for adults.   [Read more…]

“They have pierced my hands and feet”

Crucifixion_Grunewald_optAs we contemplate the prophecies of Christ for Advent, we should turn to perhaps the most remarkable of them all.  In Psalm 22, we have a first person prophecy (not “he” but “I” and “my”), one which takes us into the consciousness of Christ on the Cross.

Here we have the manner of His torment (“they have pierced my hands and feet”); the bodily racking of crucifixion (“all my bones are out of joint”); His thirst (“my tongue sticks to my jaws”); the mockery (“all who see me mock me”); the taunting (“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him”); the soldiers gambling for His clothing (“they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots”).  And, most wrenching, His cry of being forsaken (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

I have heard it said that Jesus here was not really feeling forsaken, that He was expressing his faith by quoting this Psalm.  But it is more likely that the Psalm is quoting Jesus.  After all, the Psalm gives not only words that can be quoted but actions that were done to Jesus.

But of course there is faith here, even in this desolation.  There are even intimations of His resurrection (“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you”). 

After the jump, read the whole Psalm.  I’ve bolded the verses that most stand out for me.

[Read more…]

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”

cemetery-1138972_640_optStudying the prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament during Advent is a good exercise.  They tell us much about Him.

Consider Isaiah 53, which takes up deep into the life of Christ and unpacks the exactly what happened in His atoning death on the Cross, while also pointing to His Resurrection.

Especially striking to me is the truth it states that has strangely attracted less attention than it deserves:  Not only was He “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities.”  He also “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

That is, God the Son took into Himself both the sins of the world and the suffering of the world, atoning for them.  Remember this the next time you feel the force of the “problem of evil” and the “problem of suffering.”

After the jump is the entire prophecy of Isaiah 53, with some verses bolded for your Advent contemplation.

[Read more…]

Explaining Advent

photo-1421906375741-f6bda4abe433_optHappy New Year!  That is to say, Happy Advent, the beginning of the new church year.

Many Christians, including those from churches that haven’t usually done much with the church year other than Christmas and Easter, are discovering Advent.  (See, for example, this piece from the evangelical radio program Breakpoint.)

After the jump is an excellent explanation of the season from the website of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

The meaning of Advent has some specific content beyond just getting ready for Christmas.  As the website says, the season–in the Bible readings and the devotions for the days–the season reflects on the “advent” or “coming” of Christ in three senses:

  1. In the past (the prophecies of Christ’s coming)
  2. In the future (Christ’s second coming)
  3. In the present (How Christ comes today)

[Read more…]

He has come to you

The word “advent” derives from the past participle form of venire, the Latin word for “to come,” plus ad, which means “to.”  So the term literally means “has come to.”  The season of Advent, which we have now entered, means that Jesus “has come to” us, to you. [Read more…]