ADVENT: Fear’s Tension Conquered by HOPE’s Resolution

Hello, HOPE-lovers!

It’s December, which means it’s beginning to look, sound, taste, and feel a lot like Christmas!  This is truly your HOPEful Hipster’s favorite time of year and I wanted to attempt something new:

A running ADVENT post.  I know…I’m already behind!  But that’s the beauty of this format.  Each day, I will add a new Scripture and thought for the Advent of God in the Person of Jesus.

I had never done Advent until a few years ago, and it has blessed my family and I so much that I just had to share. I pray that you will be blessed in a similar manner.

What is ADVENT?

Advent is Latin meaning “coming.”  Within the context of Christmas, it carries the idea of anticipating Jesus, the expected One.

To signify the many years of anticipation mixed with agony endured by God’s people, in remembrance we sing lyrics like, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.

For thousands of years, God’s people waited with baited breath for the reality of Immanuel, “God with us.”  And like the people of former generations, we too long for the prophetic fulfillment of God’s direct, unhibited access permeating all of creation — the SHALOM of God.

More than ever, especially as I contemplate the political and overall cultural climate, humanity is yearning for its fears to be met with HOPE, the consummation of broken earth with healing heaven.

And so, it is in this suspended “moment” where we believe, dream, and HOPE — not because we already possess perfection but because we have received PROMISE of such perfection from the Person, Jesus Christ, through whom renewal, rescue, and release is possible and will be permanent.

The PROCESS of PROMISE

Do you enjoy the art of cooking?  How do you feel about suspense movies or literature?  Jazz music?  Or what about making puzzles?

Various activities of life carry an intended “tension,” a whetting of the appetite for resolution.  And although it is undesirable, this is healthy for humanity; it tickles our natural drives for achievement, knowledge, growth, progress, development and even intimacy.

People who flee from tension stop pushing, planning, growing and advancing. This is what we call “settling.” Comfort creates comatose creatures and convenience kills.

Let me be “DIRECT” in what I mean…

Like bread crumbs dropped throughout our days, God weaves together pieces of PROMISE, the HOPE of resolution, within our tension.

For each day of Advent, I will include a “piece” of PROMISE from the Scriptures illustrating how God has always (and will always) meet our fears with HOPE, our tensions with resolution.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Within the most tragic chapter of Scripture we read of the utter desolation upon God’s goodness within creation.  But immediately, God, the violated party, provides and promises HOPE to our devastation.

Satan, the great adversary, would be defeated.  The victory will be with God (“her offspring”) as He fights and wins back His creation.  The curse will be CRUSHED through the cross!

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Genesis 49:10

The scepter and staff were held by those in power.  Jesus, descendant from the tribe of Judah, will rule and reign forever.  The Lion of Judah, the perfect propitiation on behalf of believing humanity, will govern perfectly and we will find our ultimate HOPE satisfied under His rulership.  

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.  Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning.  For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you.  You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service.  And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord‘s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Exodus 12:21-27

Jesus, the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, died so that we do not need to face the curse of death.  By faith, we “pass” under the blood of the lamb and the HOPE of redemption is secured through the curse-crushing cross!

Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins… Leviticus 16:15-16

The “wages” of sin is death.  For hundreds of years, an annual animal sacrifice took upon itself the guilt of the people.  In so doing, both satisfaction for God’s holiness and mercy for the people’s wrongdoing were achieved.  This practice, however, never sufficiently paid the penalty of sin, hence, the yearly repitition.  Jesus, the fulfillment of this symbolic ritual, offers the HOPE in securing both a compensated Creator and a purified people.

And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever. 2 Samuel 7:16

Jesus, descendant of King David, is sovereign forever.  This is to fulfill the promise God made to King David, although David died and his kingdom withered away. Through the righteous “branch” of Jesus, God’s greatness will be evident for eternity — an enduring HOPE for humanity.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. Psalm 16:10

This is a recognized prophecy concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He would die in order to take away our sins, but He would not stay in that state.  In fact, HOPE would manifest so quickly that the power of God would not allow the body of Jesus to even see decay.  

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet  I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. Psalm 22:14-18

The beauty and amazing depth to Scripture is revealed here; very real struggle for King David also prophetically spoke of the Savior’s death upon the cross.  The Son of God, completely drained of vitality, suffered at the hands of scoffers.  The cruel evildoers crucified Jesus and then disrespectfully gambled for his leftover belongings.  This scene epitomizes what appeared to be history’s most HOPEless moment.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Jesus’ entry into our world would be like no other — it would be nothing less than miraculous.  And this miraculous “sign” would not just be found in His entrance but more so in His residing permanence — Immanuel, meaning that “God is with us.” Our HOPE is secured and suspended between the first and second Advent of Christ, but for Israel, these words could not have come at a better time! Facing looming extinction, God assured them that He has always had a plan for them. And through Him who was born of the virgin, the rest of the world can be benefactors of this God who sustains and remains with His people. No more lonely Christmases!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

This is probably the most well-known prophecy concerning Jesus. A child would be born and to us a son (Son of God, Son of Man) would be given. Because He is the son, the most perfect representative of His Father, He would be qualified to bring sinful people back to their holy God. And because of His success, He will be honored like God Himself. Following in the line of King David, Jesus’ kingdom will forever expand God’s perfect peace, justice and righteousness.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. Isaiah 11:1-5

Israel’s disobedience cut them down to a stump. But God’s mercy would emerge as a shoot from the stump of Jesse, an Israelite man whose lineage would bring forth the Savior of the world. This branch will live a distinct life, one unlike any other, He will bear the fruit of souls, and He will faithfully rule in righteousness.   

And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:7-8

The final enemy of a life-creating, giving, and sustaining God is death. In thrilling irony, the ancient Canaanite god of death, Mot, who was symbolized as a mouth, is ultimately consumed by the risen Christ! Sin, Satan, death, and all of their effects shall be swallowed up forever. The great “swallower” has been swallowed and through God’s victorious feast we will receive our ultimate healing and restoration. 

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53

This is probably the most compelling and compact foretelling of Christ in the Old Testament. Jesus was not the Savior any of us would pick; nothing would naturally draw us to Him. We see this clearly illustrated through the rejection He faced among His own family and countrymen. The good news is this: God, despite humanity’s deviation, comes down to us and bridges the gap. He would do what’s necessary to bring us back, even innocently suffering and dying without complaint. He would die among the wicked and be buried among the rich. This has been God’s will all along — to permanently redeem and reconcile His people through the sacrifice of Jesus. 

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:5-6

Jesus, the “righteous branch,” would descend from Israel’s greatest king. David was a man after God’s heart, but another descendant of out of Jesse’s stump, as prophesied by Isaiah, would rise up to execute perfect justice and righteousness. He would be His people’s source of salvation and security.

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. Ezekiel 34:23-24

God cares for His people. In times of despair, He watches closely and protects them. Like King David, God would be a shepherd to them to ensure their well-being and future standing.

…and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

Humanity’s Rescuer and Redeemer, King Jesus (son of man), shall one day receive His rightful place with the Father (Ancient of Days) to perpetually rule and reign over creation. The creator, sustainer, redeemer, and HOPE of humanity will stand in complete victory.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. Micah 5:2-5a

The Messiah was foretold to come from a small, insignificant town called Bethlehem, the same town King David was from. His birth would initiate the exodus home for God’s people. From strength, Jesus will shepherd them and bring majesty to the Father while securing peace for His people.

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

God is with us — this is the message of Christmas. He brings salvation, He adores us, He gives us rest, and celebrates over us. This is an unmatchable love. 

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